The word "diet" isn't often used in its simple, pure form. A diet is what we choose to eat and should not be a synonym for restriction.
Once we're "dieting," though, everything changes. Now it's about measuring how much we eat, setting strict guidelines and likely not enjoying life.
No wonder so many of us fall into what I call the "yo-yo" diet: Holiday season, weight is up, it's back down after New Year's, up again with the February blues, back down when the beach weather approaches, and so on. Calorie flux means perpetual dieting failure.
Two factors cause most yo-yo diets. The first is sugar dependency. Second is the sense of failure that breaks your spirit. You need to be aware of both if you want to maintain your weight-loss plan.
Sugar literally is everywhere and some studies have suggested that it may be as addictive as cocaine. Often, it's listed in plain sight on food packaging, but it's also labeled as fructose, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and other disguises. It's added to breads, to salty foods, even to roast chickens. By the time we try to lose weight, many of us are -- no exaggeration -- sugar addicts.
What will happen if you try to survive on steamed fish and broccoli, especially when everyone else is digging into dessert trays? Your physical craving for sugar will overwhelm your rational determination to stop. You're not weak-minded; you're in thrall to a physical addiction!
So how do you detox? By taking baby steps. A bite less a day may help take the habit away. If you have a six-cookie-a-day habit, cut it down to five. Next week, cut it to four. Do not underestimate the power of little steps! You're learning how to walk on a balance beam. You can't just run toward the other end. You take careful, small steps until you get the hang of it.
As you cut down on sugar, you need to get into the right mindset to start a healthy diet. All diets work if they're followed (yes, all of them, because it's simple math -- the majority are based on calorie restriction). So what's the healthiest diet?
It incorporates plenty of vegetables (puree them, yum!), white meat (like chicken and turkey), fish (think salmon), nuts and juicy fruits. And water -- lots of water. But there's one more essential that only you know.
It's a free meal. One meal each week that includes your best-loved, highest-fat and -sugar indulgence. In that meal you must indulge your fantasy, and you must enjoy it.
The free meal won't make you fat. It won't undo all your good weight-loss work. It will keep you excited and free of the guilt traps that suck in so many people. It embraces your love of food.
So whether it's a family dinner, the company party at a swank restaurant, or a childhood favorite cooked by your mother, make sure each week includes a feast. The rest of the time, stick to your healthy routines. You'll lose weight, blunt your sugar cravings and enjoy yourself.
Here are a few tips for meeting the challenges that sneak up on you:
- Change your internal dialogue. Revise your old blame-game, "I'm weak" script. Start now. Instead of "whatever, I'll start a diet on Monday," say, "I'll just take a taste of something today, I'll taste everything during my free meal and I will prove to myself that I can do this."
Remind yourself, before you lose control, how great it will feel to wake in the morning knowing you didn't just say "who cares." You don't have to succeed every time. But after a few tries, you'll be surprised how you can own your new positive dialogue.
- Spoil your dinner. Never sit down to a meal hungry. Have few almonds, half a banana, or a small piece of brown bread before you arrive at the event.
- You do not have to eat everything that's placed on your plate.
- Drink plenty of water. It sates hunger pangs and may help your body metabolize fat! And did you know that sparkling mineral water is fine to drink? It's delicious and healthy, and much better -- and satisfying -- than sodas.
- Avoid mixed drinks like cocktails, which are full of sugar. Pure spirits -- vodka, Scotch, gin, even tequila -- taken straight or with sparkling mineral water are the healthier choice. Wine is fine, as long as it's organic.
- Move, move, move! You don't have to leave the family/friends dinner early to hit the gym. Just help with the dishes, play with the kids or walk the dog. If someone got a Wii-U game as a holiday present, initiate a family dance or boxing competition.
- Plan ahead so that your free meal comes up at the event of your choice. When there's more than one event on the calendar, seek foods that are everyday choices: Eat vegetables you like, fish, chicken that isn't fried or doused in gravy. Look more closely at the offerings; there's almost always a healthy option somewhere.
Yes, you can enjoy losing weight. I can show you how.
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