These aren’t always unhealthy foods, either. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that as long as we avoid the “bad” foods, we’re making progress. At least, that’s what we like to think as we get up for our third serving of fruit salad, or finish a bag of pretzels in one sitting, saying that they’re healthier than chips. Remember that too much of anything is bad. Common culprits include soda, bread, alcohol, and fast food. Whatever your weakness is, cut down on it. If you cut it out completely, you’re more likely to binge. Buy only small packages of it and have it only once in a while. If cutting down doesn’t work, you might need to go cold turkey.
Whole grain pasta
Choose whole grains over a whole belly. If you switch out all of your refined grain food (white bread, food made with white flour) for whole-grain food (oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, whole-grain pasta, brown rice and barley) you won’t lose additional weight overall. However, you will lose more weight in the belly area, which will make you look thinner–at least, that’s what a Penn State study implies. Not only will your slimmer profile make you feel better about your progress, but by losing the VAT (visceral adipose tissue) you’re also doing away with a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, coronary vascular disease, and some types of cancer. Check those labels and make sure that any grain-based foods you buy are made up of at least fifty-one percent whole grain.
Limit your spending.
Some people have an easier time controlling their wallet than controlling their diet. Go ahead, cut up those credit cards, and build up your emergency fund, if you haven’t already (in its own account, and leave the bank card at home). Limit the amount of cash you have in your wallet, especially if you’re subject to spontaneous fast food indulgences. When you go grocery shopping, have a list prepared, and bring just enough money to cover those items (this might take a few dry runs). The embarrassment of not having enough money at the register will keep you from throwing a few extra items in the shopping cart. If you don’t do the grocery shopping, then offer to take on this monumental role. Your family or roommates might complain about the absence of junk food, but you’ll be doing them a favor by stocking the kitchen with healthy stuff. They’ll thank you…later…years later.
Set a digital watch to go off every two hours.
Eat only when the watch tells you to. Spontaneous eating sessions (those times when you feel those hunger pangs, those cravings, and you scour the cabinets or the streets in search of satisfaction) are your weakest points. This is why all weight loss books tell you to avoid skipping meals. If you eat every two hours, you won’t get so hungry that you gorge yourself when you do eat. You know how it goes: “Oh…I’m so hungry…the brownies are right there…I’d have to walk all the way to the deli to get a sandwich, but my stomach’s churning….” Of course, if you eat the equivalent of a cheeseburger every two hours, that’s a recipe for obesity, but again, you’re more likely to retain self-control and stick to your diet when you don’t have hunger pangs to cloud your judgment. It wouldn’t hurt, however, to plan out what you’ll eat (smoothie at 10, chicken salad at 12, a single piece of leftover cherry pie at 2, a slice of bread with peanut butter at 4, and so on).
This has the added benefit of increasing your metabolism. Extending the time between meals makes your body go into “starvation mode,” which will slow down your metabolism in response to the perceived threat of starvation. This is why fasting and skipping meals will only make things worse.
Another useful way to think about this is to use a “hunger scale.” Rate your hunger on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being so hungry that you feel weak and 10 being so full that you just want to curl up in bed and digest. Eat when you’re at about 3, which is when you’re just a little hungry, but not famished.
Trade weight for cash.
A study showed that the more you pay people to lose weight, the more pounds they drop over a three-month period. If there’s someone who keeps nagging you to lose weight, ask that person about paying you for every pound you lose. If your employer is self-insured, he or she might consider enlisting the services of a company that develops reward programs to encourage employees to lose weight. You can also sign a contract that forces you to pay up for every pound you don’t lose (or every pound you gain) and whatever money you pay (or gain) can be donated to charity.