BY CAROLYN O’NEIL
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@ carolynoneil.com.