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Give Your Diet Willpower a Break

Give Your Diet Willpower a Break

D-I-E-T. It’s a deceptive word. But you probably already know that if you’re like the estimated 45 million North Americans on a diet right now and it’s the third, fourth or fifth time you’ve tried to lose weight and keep it off.

Wanna know why that happens, over and over and over? A study of 14,000 people reveals that when you go on a diet it piles on added stress, triggering overeating and weight gain. 

Researchers from the UK’s University of Liverpool reviewed the weight and eating habits of thousands of Americans and Brits. They discovered that people who thought of themselves as overweight were more likely to feel tense and anxious – and eat to soothe those feelings. As a result, they were more likely to gain weight than those who weren’t focused on the number on their bathroom scale.

Well, we’ve got a more effective way to achieve a healthy weight -- and there’s no better time for you to try it. The season’s abundance of mouth-watering, sun-ripened fruits and vegetables make creating deliciously healthy meals fun and easy.

Mind shift #1: Focus on healthy food, not the bathroom scale. Only weigh yourself once a week -- or less. Instead, say ‘good-bye’ to the Five Food Felons. Ditch added sweeteners and syrups, trans fats (often called partially hydrogenated fats or oils on ingredients lists), most saturated fats and white-flour foods like white bread, white crackers and white pasta. They boost risk for heart disease, diabetes and inflammation-boosting abdominal fat. Go for 100 percent whole grains.

 At the same time, aim for 2-3 servings of fresh or frozen, no-sugar-added, fruit and 5-9 of veggies every day. Make sure veggies fill half your plate. And sneak extras into soups, sauces and casseroles. Grate carrots, onions and red pepper into chicken burgers, slide spinach leaves and thick tomato slices into your sandwiches, start every dinner with a big garden salad. You’ll flood your body with vitamins, minerals and super-healthy phytonutrients that help prevent cancer, too. The bonus: Chunky, fiber-packed produce fills you up.

Mindshift #2: Put breakfast and lunch on automatic pilot. The less you have to think about, the easier it’ll be to eat more healthfully. That’s why we’ve “automated” our breakfast and lunch routine and think you should, too. Pick two to three healthy breakfasts and lunches you love, stock your kitchen with the ingredients and you’re good to go. You’ll never feel tempted by unhealthy foods at these mealtimes…or reach for less-than-stellar snacks to stop hunger pangs while you figure out what the heck you’re going to eat.

Research suggests it takes two to three weeks -- new habits get easier as you practice them -- to install a new habit into your routine. By automating two meals a day, you’re establishing healthy new habits and new habits are also something the brain really likes. Now you’re giving your willpower a break. Studies suggest that most of us have a limited willpower supply and it dwindles as the day goes on. Save yours for more important things than deciding what you’ll have for breakfast or lunch!

Auto-Breakfast Suggestions:  Oatmeal; scrambled egg whites with lots of veggies (cook extra veggies at dinner for a fast morning scramble), plus whole-grain toast; a smoothie with nonfat no-sugar added yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit; or a slice of whole-grain toast with a tablespoon or two of nut butter.

Awesome Lunch Options: A big veggie salad with skinless, broiled chicken and a little olive oil and vinegar; vegetable soup plus a salad or half-sandwich; or a veggie burger on whole-grain roll with lots of mustard, lettuce and tomato.

For dinner, choose a lean protein, a whole grain and two veggies that you love. Finish the meal with fresh fruit and tea, followed by an evening stroll. You’re living the good life! By the way, these tips all come from our bestseller, YOU: On A Diet Revised, The Owner’s Manual to Losing Waist.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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