Diets may fail you, but these 10 nutritional strategies will ensure lifelong healthy habits.
3. Avoid Flubber Foods.
I recommend eating natural foods that your body can use - none of that processed, chemical- and preservative-laden, artificially flavored junk (including junk that has "diet" on the label). Olestra potato chips, diet drinks, diet candy and fat-free cookies are all flubber foods that are no substitute for the real thing and probably won't satisfy you anyway. Instead, make the healthy choice of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and even a bit of sugar and fat. In Diet 911, I wrote to all those who ask me how to lose weight once and for all: "Listen to me! Get rid of your diet sodas, your highly processed fat-free cookies, your fat-free mayonnaise. If you want to achieve and maintain your optimal weight, you can't be living on `diet' foods."
4. Keep the Fat in Your Diet Between 20-25 Grams Daily When Trying to Lose Bodyfat.
It's simple: Fat has more than twice the calories per gram than protein or carbohydrate, which makes it too easy to rack up the calories. Plus, it's already in a form easily converted into bodyfat, so your body doesn't have to work very hard to pack it into your fat cells. I'm not saying to avoid fat completely, because a healthy eating plan doesn't eliminate an entire food category. But if you want to lose weight, you do need to limit your daily fat intake to 20-25 grams (don't go too low or you'll miss out on some vital nutrients and end up craving fatty foods). I recommend not adding fat to what you cook, even olive or canola oils; avoiding mayonnaise, butter and margarine (even the fat-free kinds); and limiting nuts, seeds and avocados.
5. Drink Only in Moderation; Choose Wine or Light Beer.
Mixed drinks are high in calories, so limit them if you're trying to lose fat. The American Heart Association recommends that women not consume more than one alcoholic drink per day.
6. Use Nonfat or Low-Fat Dairy Products.
Choose fat-free or 1% milk over whole milk. If you can't make the switch to nonfat cheese, start with low-fat but pay attention to portion size.
If you're absolutely craving something, eating and enjoying a small amount of what you want is usually better than ignoring it or "eating around the craving." First, check in with your body. Are you hungry? If not, are you upset, bored, anxious or stressed? Try to figure out if what you really need is food.
If you're sure the craving is real, have a small amount and be sure to concentrate on each bite. It's easy to mindlessly chew on popcorn, licorice, chocolate - whatever - and realize the craving's still there because you weren't even conscious of what you ate. I also recommend getting the smallest size available of your crave food to eliminate the possibility of overeating it.
Eating around the craving basically means that though you're craving chocolate, you try an apple, some popcorn and a handful of crackers, only to discover you still want the chocolate. Only now you've eaten three times the calories you would have if you'd simply enjoyed a few Hershey's Kisses.
8. You Eat It, You Burn It.
Try to match what you eat with your activity level. If you'll be running around all day cleaning, walking and shopping, you'll probably need to eat more than during a day spent sitting and napping. Notice that I'm not saying you should match calorie for calorie. If you eat a 250-calorie muffin, that doesn't mean you should head to the stair-stepper for 55 minutes. Doing so could be an example of purging through excessive exercise; see "Scaling Down" on page 44. On the other hand, if you're about to go to bed, you don't need to fuel that activity with a large slice of lasagna.
And move, move, move. Don't panic if you can't go to the gym for your 30 minutes of cardio! Fit a little exercise in here, a little there and try to keep moving whenever possible.9. Watch the Calorie-Counting.
You'll notice that I don't give a hard-and-fast target number of calories or a meal plan in this article (though you'll find lots of recipes and snack ideas). Why not? Not only do our individual caloric needs vary wildly, our day-to-day caloric needs also vary. The guidelines I can give you are never to follow a diet that recommends fewer than 1,200 calories a day (unless you're medically supervised), and generally to keep your daily calories between 1,400 and 1,900.
But if you're an active woman, that number may need to increase! You can consult a nutrition textbook to determine your basal metabolic rate and caloric requirements of certain activities - or you can eat according to your hunger.
Believe me, if you eat primarily low-fat foods when you're hungry and stop when you're comfortable (that's the hard part for most of us), you'll get what you need without overeating. But that also means you won't be finishing your entire portion when you eat out, especially if you began with the bread basket.
10. Be Consistent and Take Your Time.
You can't have one of these tips without the other, so I've rolled them into one. Sure, you can lose 5 pounds by next Friday on the latest crash diet. But you'll pack those pounds right back on when you go back to eating normally.
I firmly believe that the body is designed to adapt to changes over a certain period. That's why nutritionists recommend losing 1-2 pounds each week rather than shooting for drastic weight loss in a matter of weeks. The body will eventually respond to what you're doing, but you can bet it'll be on Mother Nature's schedule, rather than your own. So when those inevitable plateaus hit, don't be discouraged. As I explain in my book Diet 911: "[Plateaus] are your body's way of telling you that it has accepted this new set point for a week, month, maybe even two months. When it's time to move on and lose the next round, it will let you know."
The original "Food Cop," Yolanda Bergman has been working in health and fitness for the past two decades. She wrote the best-selling books Food Cop and Diet 911 and has recently opened CLASS, an exercise studio in Southern California offering innovative workouts, a home-delivery meal program and sound nutritional counseling.