You don't need a total overhaul of your eating habits to shed extra pounds. These science-backed, manageable ideas are all you need!
Food is not a trophy.
Ever think (as we do!), I deserve a brownie for that? "Many women aren't comfortable tooting their own horn; eating is a quiet celebration," says psychologist Melissa McCreery, Ph.D., creator ofTooMuchOnHerPlate.com. But the pleasure is fleeting and often followed by guilt and stress, which can trigger cravings and weight gain. "Pick a reward that will still seem like a prize the next day," McCreery says, such as putting money in your vacay fund.
Dessert is best on a full stomach.
We eat it last for a reason: We're supposed to fill up on nutrient-rich food so we won't hungrily down a hunk of cake without thinking. Start with a bowl of vegetable soup, a filling habit that cut later calorie consumption by 20 percent in a study at Penn State University in University Park. Doubling up on a veggie side can satisfy you further, leaving room for a few bites of a treat but not enough to overdo it.
"Diet" foods aren't always.
Manufacturers often shrink portions so they can make eye-catching claims such as lowfaton the box. But when was the last time you ate only seven potato chips? Eyeball the serving size. "If it's two tiny cookies, think, Will I really stop after two?" says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. No? Move on to a single serving of something that willsatisfy.
The oxygen-mask rule applies to eating, too.
"So many women put all their time and energy into making sure their loved ones eat healthfully but then make bad food choices for themselves," says Marisa Moore, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Witness the apple slices and organic peanut butter in your little one's backpack and the…well, nada that's edible in your bag. (Mints don't count.) While fixing your kids' snack or a whole-wheat wrap for your guy, take a minute to throw together an equally nutritious nibble for yourself, Moore says, such as a pear and 1 ounce of cheddar, or roll up a second wrap for yourself.
Swaying is for trees.
When a thin pal orders a big meal, her tablemates are likely to follow suit, the Journal of Consumer Research reports. Lock in your healthful choice, and when the waiter asks if everyone is ready, say, "I know what I want—mind if I go first?"
Splurges have a short shelf life.
Overdoing it on saturated fats (cheese, butter, beef) for three days straight may prime us to keep overeating, the Journal of Clinical Investigationindicates. "The excess fats might block the brain's ability to respond to hormones that tell us we're full," says study author Deborah Clegg, Ph.D. The occasional burger-and-grown-up-bevvies extravaganza is no biggie, but if you have an extended binge—vacation, long weekend—don't rely on your internal hunger cues when it's over. You may need to measure out portions for a day or two to cut fat and reset your hunger signals.
Menus are eye candy.
"Cumin-Flaked Crispy Chicken" is still fried chicken, which you might normally skip. Descriptive phrases on menus make us 27 percent more likely to order a food, a study at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign finds. Before dining out, scan the menu online, ignoringadjectives. Settle on a lean protein and a veggie side, or a salad with a starter, which is usually half the size of an entrée.
Free comes with a price.
A food that's "free" of something you don't want (such as fat) probably has more of something elseyou also don't want (like sugar or salt) to replace the missing ingredient. Trade a nonfat treat for a real-deal one that doesn't make false promises and satisfies your craving.
"Because it's there" is a fine reason for climbing Everest, not for eating a treat.
Before you reach for the stale bagel in the conference room or a cookie sample at the supermarket, ask yourself whether you truly want it. If not, skip it. Those spontaneous nibbles aren't making you happier or svelter. "We don't necessarily register these fly-by calories, but they can add up," says Lona Sandon, R.D., a spokeswoman for the ADA. To avoid knee-jerk noshing, create a personal policy about it—"I splurge only on dark chocolate" or "One sweet a day"—so you don't have to decide nay or yea on the spot.
If it's sweet but not fruit, it's not breakfast.
Danish, doughnuts and the like can deliver 500 calories but still fall short on energizing protein. Good old-fashioned eggs, however, helped decrease levels of appetite-stimulating hormones, a study at the University of Connecticut in Storrs shows. As a result, egg eaters consumed 17 percent fewer calories than if their A.M. meal came in bagel form. Love a sweet start? Have your scramblers with fruit salad!
It's no coincidencefad rhymes withbad.
Yes, trendy diets that promise jaw-dropping results (25 pounds gone in two weeks!) or promote a single food as a slimming miracle sound tempting. Whodoesn't want rapid, effortless weight loss? But deep down, we all know that sticking with something too strict or wacky lasts about as long as Lady Gaga's latest look. "A fad diet might work if you want to lose a few pounds fast and gain it all back," Sandon says. "To keep weight off, go with a plan that is easy to incorporate into your life and provides all the nutrients your body needs without making you feel deprived." A good rule of thumb: If you can't shop in a regular grocery store or order off a restaurant menu, the diet will be much too frustrating to maintain.
The more you sleep, the less you eat.
People who spent only 5½ hours between the sheets ate 25 percent more calories after dinner than when they tacked another three hours on to their sack time, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports. It makes sense: The longer we're awake, the more likely we are to get hungry or bored and start snacking. Unfortunately, postdinner hours aren't typically active ones (who chooses jogging over channel surfing at 11 P.M.?), so we often don't burn off those extra calories, and the risk of weight gain goes up. If you're a night owl, make a healthful dinner and save half of it or your side dish for a late-night snack, Moore suggests. Or DVR Jimmy Kimmel and hit the hay before munchies strike. Hey, when you snooze, you lose—weight!
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