Weight Loss ABCs: Tips To Help You Succeed (cont.)

Low blood sugar is often the cause of between-meal cravings, especially for sweets. Eating meals and small snacks that contain lean protein and fiber every few hours helps keep blood sugar levels steady. When sweets cravings strike, try to satisfy them with naturally sweet foods such as fruit (accompany it with a little low-fat yogurt for protein).

Mindful eating means taking time to savor every bite. Turn off the distractions, and concentrate on the aroma, texture, and flavor of food. Becoming more mindful when you eat will give you more pleasure from your meals. The bonus: You'll also be more in tuned with your body's signals of fullness, and you'll be less likely to overeat.


"Water is your body's preferred form of fluid."

Nighttime snacking, for most of us, is a habit that can undermine weight loss success. That's because the calories we eat after dinner tend to be empty ones, from chips, cookies, etc. Brushing your teeth after supper will help you make dinner the last meal of the day. If you need a little something at night, try to satisfy the urge with few calories -- have a stick of gum, one piece of hard candy, or a cup of hot tea).

One more scoop, one more cookie, one more glass of wine -- "just one more" can add lots of extra calories. Controlling portions is fundamental to weight loss success. You don't need to give up your favorite foods, but you do need to keep track of your portions. At home, use smaller plates and keep food at the stove instead of on the table at mealtime. When you go out to eat, order a soup and a salad instead of an entree, or take home half your meal in a doggie bag.

Protein is the "secret sauce" to weight control. Include a source of protein -- lean meats, low-fat dairy, beans, or nuts -- in all meals and snacks to help keep you feeling full for hours.

Quit those old habits that caused you to gain weight, and replace them with healthier ones. Simple changes -- like lightening your coffee with low-fat milk instead of cream, switching to light mayonnaise, avoiding fried foods -- can help create healthier eating patterns that foster long-term weight loss.

Rely on friends, family, and/or an online community to help you in your weight loss efforts. Your motivation is at an all-time high when you start a weight loss program, but after a few weeks, it often starts to wane. Let your supporters help you get through the rough times.

Supplement your healthy eating plan with a once-daily multivitamin for nutritional insurance. Despite your best efforts, it can be hard to get all the nutrients you need every day. Taking a multivitamin will help fill in the gaps.

Track your eating patterns and physical activity every day. One of the tips of the "successful losers" tracked in the National Weight Control Registry is the importance of journaling food intake and activity. Entering this information into your online journal or in a notebook is a powerful motivator to help keep you working toward your goals.

Uncle Sam's latest dietary guidelines promise to make us happier, healthier and thinner. Tips from the government's recommendations (the 2005 Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid) include:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat more whole grains. At least half of your servings of grain foods should come from whole grains.
  • Enjoy three servings of low-fat dairy each day (yogurt, milk, or cheese).
  • Limit saturated and trans fats, sugar, and alcohol.
  • Watch the sodium content of your diet. Eat less processed food to reduce sodium.
  • Get plenty of exercise -- at least 30 minutes a day.

Volumetrics is the art of eating foods high in volume, or high-water foods. Fruits, vegetables, and soups are all examples of high-volume foods that are super-nutritious, satisfying, and low in calories. Dieters should make sure their plans are full of these healthy foods so they can feel full while still losing weight.

Water is your body's preferred form of fluid. It is thirst-quenching and naturally delicious without one single calorie. You need some 6-8 glasses of water or fluids each day. Recent studies suggest that we should let thirst determine how much we drink each day. Foods that are high in water (soups, Jell-O, produce) also count toward our fluid requirements. Many dieters find drinking water helps keep them from overeating.

EXcuses should be excised. Do you really want to lose weight and improve your health once and for all? Then stop making excuses and just do it! Sure, that's easier said than done. But you need to stop finding reasons why you can't start moving a healthier lifestyle, and start listing all the reasons why you should. Don't put it off until tomorrow. Start today, by doing something positive -- just one small thing -- toward your health and weight loss.

Yogurt used to be thought of as health food. Now it lines the grocery shelves in a variety of forms. It's portable, convenient, full of nutrients like calcium and protein, and it makes an excellent snack or mini-meal. The French swear by it, and so should you. Low-fat yogurt is filling and nutritious, but keep in mind that it can be loaded with sugar. So read labels to make the best choice.

Zip in your step is what you'll get once you start eating more healthfully and getting regular exercise. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight can help you feel better and improve your health. Just think of the weight you'll lose as bricks in a backpack. Lightening your load a few pounds at a time can be invigorating and energizing.


Originally published February 26, 2006.
Medically updated May 28, 2008.


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