HEALTHY EATING: Staying slim requires vigilance


Losing weight is one thing. Keeping it off is another issue. Too many dieters end up back where they started: regaining the weight they worked so hard to shed.

So what are the savvy secrets for staying slim? Turns out it has more to do with what’s on your mind before you think about what’s on your plate.

Dr. John Foreyt, professor of psychiatry and director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said, “The keys to long-term weight control are problem-solving on a daily basis, predicting challenges and then planning for them. People may say they want a detailed prescribed meal plan, but what they need is nutrition know-how and the problem-solving skills to use any day of their lives.”

He concludes that it’s the power of mind that keeps the trim people trim — and, boy, do they work at it.
“They are eternally vigilant with daily or weekly weighing, they monitor calorie intake and they’re highly active, exercising at least 60 minutes a day,” he said.

The exercise of choice is walking — enough to burn 400 calories a day, according to Dr. Jim Hill’s research from the National Weight Control Registry, a database of more than 5,000 people who’ve lost more than 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year.

“The good news is small changes for all of us, things that take very little time and effort, like walking an extra 2,000 steps a day, about 15 minutes, can burn 100 calories,” he said.

Trimming 100 calories from what you normally eat each day can help, too. Skip the cheese on the cheeseburger, choose the low-fat mayonnaise, eliminate one tablespoon of butter, ask for club soda instead of tonic water in a cocktail, use nonfat milk in a latte.

What else does the slim set do to maintain their weight?

They eat until satisfied, not stuffed.

Try putting your fork down halfway through a meal and ask yourself, using a 1 to 10 scale, how full you are. Take a sip of water. Talk to your dining companions. You’ll give yourself time to gauge how hungry you really are. Eating slowly allows the stomach time to trigger the brain’s sensation of fullness.

They eat more fruits and vegetables.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, healthy weight women eat one more serving of fruit and eat more fiber and less fat per day than overweight people. And even though many people associate weight loss with high protein intake, the statistics from the successful dieters in the National Weight Control Registry don’t support the eat-all-the-steak-you-want diet. Their diets were on average 20 percent protein, 24 percent fat and 56 percent carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the best sources of healthy carbs.

They have a plan and stick to it.

Seventy-eight percent of successful dieters in National Weight Control Registry ate breakfast every day. They also consistently monitored their food intake.

According to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted by Dr. Rena Wing of Brown University, folks who lost weight and kept it off continued to be careful about consumption of lower calorie menu options and moderated their fat intake.

Beth Weitzman, editor in chief of Jezebel magazine, works with a personal trainer to keep focused on fitness and carefully edits her menu choices when dining out. “I order seafood and request that it be cooked clean (no butter, just lemon and/or olive oil) and a side of steamed veggies with nothing on them,” Weitzman said.

They’re smart about splurging.

Whether it’s chocolate brownies, french fries or lasagna that you crave, realize you love these foods and allow yourself to enjoy them in sensible portions. Feel the textures and smell the aromas to help you feel more satisfied with a smaller portion.

Registered dietitian Allison Beadle says, “Tex-Mex is my soul food, so I have to find smart ways to save calories, so I split chicken or beef fajitas with someone else, order pico de gallo to increase veggies, and when I have to have cheese enchiladas, I just try to make sure that I’m totally in the moment and aware of what I’m eating — enjoying the decadent cheesiness as much as humanly possible.”

Carolyn O’Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of “The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!” E-mail her at carolyn@

9 comments Add your comment


August 26th, 2009
10:56 am

When I eat out, I divide my dish, I stick to my normal consumption and request a to go box. I never over eat, and I have learned to enjoy walking and climbing Stone Mountain. I am over 50, the benefit is I can still wear a bikini and I always get compliments.

[...] HEALTHY EATING: Staying slim requires vigilance [...]

Dixie Darling

August 27th, 2009
8:25 am

Now I understand why I can not keep the weight off. But this is difficult to do — really it is!

August 27th, 2009
9:39 am

This is a great plan but I would like to suggest one more thing to the mix, add Xocai HEALTHY CHOCOLATE to your diet plan. Enjoy just one piece of Xocai 1/2 hour with a glass of water before eating meals will help curb your appetite. Or substitute a Xocai power bar with a piece of fruit for lunch. I did the power bar for lunch out of convenience, not because I wanted to lose weight, and lost 6 pounds in two months. Not only will you lose weight but improve your health with an abundance of antioxidants. For more information, see my web site. You have everything to gain but pounds!


August 27th, 2009
10:17 am

Dixie, it’s pretty simple. Replace the processed foods with fruits and vegetables, Eat out of a saucer 4 or 5 times a day, Drink water, No more sodas, park farther away from the entrance (plenty of good parking).

You can do it.

stacey grieve

August 27th, 2009
12:42 pm

Keeping the weight off requires more than just diligence…it requires complete reconditioning of your mind and thoughts, including updating your mind’s eye view of yourself to match the new outer view of yourself. The mind directs everything, EVERYTHING the body does, including what it weighs. If your internal view of yourself is overweight, the mind will direct you to do things that support that view, such as second helpings, choosing fatty foods and skipping exercise. (and then you think to yourself “why did I do that”…because your very powerful mind directed you to, that’s why) Likewise, if your mind’s eye view of yourself is of a slim person, the mind will direct you to do things that support that view, such as eating only to satisfaction, choosing healthy options, and wanting to exercise. (and this all happens without you having to have to convince yourself to to do it, it just happens.) Willpower will only carry you so far, and really becomes a battle of you against your mind, and like it or not, the mind will always win in the end. We’re human and that’s the way we’re built.
So how can you use your mind to work for you instead of against you? Like dieting, (re)training your mind takes dedication, time and some direction. Unlike dieting though, retraining your mind will produce permanent results, without you having to feel deprived. Once the retraining is done, it’s done, and you get to continually enjoy the benefits of that retraining without any effort at all. To learn how to do this, read a great book called “Why Are You Weighting? It’s Not the Food that’s Making You Fat!” which you can get at Take the time to get your brain working for you instead of against you…it can be your best friend or your worst enemy…it’s up to you to decide how to use it.


August 27th, 2009
6:42 pm

Stacey, I have to agree with this article and your post to a point. I appreciate both, and would like to add that keeping weight off is about more than what you eat, or even how you train your mind to view yourself.

It’s about dealing with the reasons WHY you gained weight or got fat in the first place. I lost more than 100 pounds quite a few years ago simpply by exercising and changing nothing else. I only focused on what I would look like, and did not even look at the why of my fat, or learning coping or mangement skills for those.

Well, when I started hitting emotional bumps in the road, the things that I know now caused me to eat, my weight went right back up and brought a few friends along for the ride.

So I wish that all of these medical and phychiatric experts would deal with THAT…and ot just the food.

August 31st, 2009
1:30 am

The best way to lose weight and keep it off, is by gradually implementing lifestyle changes and healthy eating habits. Here are some tips:
1. Eat regularly (5 small meals instead of 3 large ones)
2. Switch to healthy fats such as olive oil.
3. Eat low glycemic load carbohydrates like whole grains, and cut back sugary foods

Mark Eaton

September 9th, 2009
11:24 pm

Thanks Carolyn, great tips!
All this stuff corresponds with the Facebook movement that’s fighting for a healthier lifestyle and kicking junk out of our system: