By Tamar Haspel
From the instructions for some diets, you’d think losing weight was more complicated than calibrating a sextant against Orion on a cloudy night. The food diaries you need to write; the nutrition labels you need to read and pronounce and translate; the protein, fat, and carbohydrate grams you have to add up. It’s time to try an easier way. No math, no more squinting at the fine print and trying to decipher those words with no vowels. Instead, just 20 everyday tactics that will get you started on your weight-loss plan and then help you stick to it. Soon enough, your diet will simply become the way you eat.
1. Always eat dessert. Yes, always. “A small amount can signal that the meal is over,” says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. She ends her meals with a piece of quality chocolate and she’s a doctor.
2. Get help from a paper napkin. You can use it to blot a teaspoon of fat off a pizza slice. That may not sound like a lot, but multiply it by a slice a week, and that’s more than a whole cup of fat you won’t eat or wear this year.
3. Take the beltway. When junk food beckons, tighten your belt a notch. Not so you can’t breathe, but so you have a gentle reminder of the size you’d like to be. “The scale isn’t the only measure of weight,” says Roberta Anding, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.
4. Go public. Enlist the help of friends, family, and coworkers and know they’re watching. “The power of embarrassment is greater than willpower,” says Stephen Gullo, Ph.D., author of The Thin Commandments.
5. Go Nuts — Eat at least a handful a day. Nuts are an excellent source of healthful fats and protein. In the Iowa Nurses Study and three other studies, an ounce a day cut the incidence of heart disease by 20 percent to 60 percent. The best nuts (those highest in omega-3 fatty acids) are walnuts and macadamia, but all nuts are good for you.
6. Scrape by. Always order your bagel or burger with a plastic knife. Use it Rolls suggests keeping your glass in the hand you eat with. If you’re drinking with it, you can’t eat with it, can you?
7. Spice things up. Capsaicin, the substance that puts the hot in hot pepper, temporarily boosts your metabolism. Just make sure you’re drinking a yogurt lassi with that searing-hot chicken vindaloo. Dairy blocks capsaicin’s sweat-inducing signals better than water.
8. Case the organic section. That’s where you’re likely to find bread and cereal with fiber counts that put the conventional choices to shame. Thought you were doing well with your 3-grams-per-serving Cheerios? Nature’s Path Slim blows it away with 10 g. (And it really doesn’t taste like a shredded shoebox.)
9. Increase your a-peel. Speaking of fiber, a lot of it’s in the peel, whether it’s potatoes, apples, or pears. Even oranges don’t eat the whole peel, but keep the pith, that white stringy stuff; it’s packed with flavonoids. More nutrients, more fiber, less labor. It’s a win-win-win.
10. Spend lavishly on precut vegetables at the supermarket. Sure, they cost more, but you’re more likely to eat them. “Make low-energy snacks as easy as possible,” Dr. Rolls says. “Keep vegetables as near to hand as you can. Make it so you have no excuse.”
11. Upgrade your restaurant selection. Pick a place where you’ll actually want to linger. “When the meals are not hurried, the presentation is beautiful and the portions are reasonable so you can regulate your attitude,” Anding says. That means your body not the empty plate will tell you when to stop.
12. Eat a snack at 3 p.m., no matter what. “Have a 150-calorie snack, and it can save you 400 calories later,” Anding says. An ounce of nuts or two sticks of string cheese weigh in at about 170 calories.
13. Drink with your dominant hand. If you’re circulating at a party, Dr. Rolls suggests keeping your glass in the hand you eat with. If you’re drinking with it, you can’t eat with it, can you?
14. Plate it. Whatever it is, don’t eat it out of the container and don’t bring the container to the couch. “Part of satiety is visual,” Anding says. “Your brain actually has to see the food on the plate, and when you reach into the jar, or the box, or the bag, you don’t see it.” If it’s worth eating, put it on a plate. Eat what’s there, then stop.
15. Send back the bread. All it takes is a wave of the hand, a smile, and a “No, thank you.”
16. Start with salad. It’s the holy grail of dieting eat less by eating more. Dr. Rolls’s research has found that eating a salad as a first course decreased total lunch calories by 12 percent. Avoid the croutons and creamy dressings, which have the opposite effect.
17. Go out for ice cream. Or an eclair. Or even guacamole and chips. Just go out. Don’t keep your danger foods in the house. You can’t eat half of a carton of ice cream that’s not there in the first place.
18. Give yourself a hand. Find a way other than food to work off your nervous energy. “It’s behavior modification,” Anding says. “Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, you pick up your knitting. Art works, woodworking works anything that occupies your hands.”
19. Wait a minute. Well, 10 minutes. When your mind strays from your desk to the vending machine, it could be hunger or it could be boredom or irritation with your boss. If you’re still thinking about snacking 10 minutes later, then you’re probably hungry. Think of it as a chance to have one of the nine servings of fruits and vegetables you need each day.
20. Go wild once in a while. Deprivation won’t make you thin or happy. Designate a meal or two a week when you can eat absolutely anything you want.
Want to read more helpful tips like this? Join our monthly newsletter. It’s full of useful health tips with ZERO ads!