two-thirds of American adults considered overweight, a lot of
people are trying to shed pounds. It can be a challenging
journey, and many folks find that they get tripped up by a
major obstacle: themselves. Here are some common ways dieters
sabotage their own efforts.
ourselves weíre either dieting or not, and we veer from
starving to overindulging. "The more you live in the
extremes of all or none, good or bad, the more likely thatís
going to get you into difficulty," says Gary Foster,
chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers International.
"The key is that this is a lifestyle. When itís an
on-or-off diet or a boot camp mentality, thatís a short-term
behavior. Itís destined not to work out very well."
when we overeat on a Friday night, we figure weíve blown the
entire weekend. This inevitably leads to a very remorseful and
grumpy Monday morning. Is there a better way? "I have my
patients picture meals as individual bubbles throughout the
day. Pop them as you go along. One isnít dependent on the
other, and you can keep your overall plan in place," says
Kelly Allison, associate professor of psychology at the
University of Pennsylvaniaís Center for Weight and Eating
chocolate chip cookies ever
itís a forbidden food, youíre more likely to overeat once
you do have it," says Foster. A different approach is to
figure out a way to incorporate that food into your life in
moderation. Keeping a stash in your kitchen may not work. Even
if, say, the cookies are double-wrapped in the freezer, theyíre
going to call out to you when youíre most vulnerable.
Instead, when a craving hits, try another tactic, such as
visiting the best bakery in town and savoring one or two
cookies with a good cup of coffee. "If you give yourself
permission, but in reasonable portions and frequency, thatís
where you strike a nice balance," says Foster.
dieting for a big event
nothing like a wedding or a school reunion to inspire a diet.
Often, however, as soon as the event is over, we go back to an
unhealthful eating pattern. "These short-term changes
produce short-term weight loss. Typically they involve more
extreme forms of food restriction that cannot be maintained, a
sprint instead of a marathon, which is what a healthier
lifestyle really is." says Allison.
the scale mess with your mind
doing all the right things, but when you stand on the scale,
the number makes you feel like a failure. The solution here is
simple: Weigh in only once a week. Your weight can fluctuate
for a variety of reasons, and checking it every day may not
give you an accurate assessment. Are your clothes getting
looser? Do you have more energy? These are positive indicators
that you are succeeding. "Let the scale be a guide, but
itís not a judge. Itís not an arbiter of your success,
especially in the short term," says Foster.
too little sleep
sleep-deprived appears to change how our brains respond to
food. "Judgment and decision-making brain regions become
blunted by sleep deprivation when making food choice
decisions," says Matthew Walker, a psychology professor
and sleep expert at UC Berkeley. He explains that with too
little sleep the brain structures that control our impulses
and desires get out of whack.
you donít like veggies
behind the old-fashioned notion of plain, steamed, undressed
vegetables as the best way to go. Thatís boring and borders
on punitive," says cookbook author Mollie Katzen
("The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New
Generation"). She advises being creative: Brush veggies
with olive oil and singe them on the grill or roast in the
oven. Flavor them with sauces made from pulverized nuts, herbs
or roasted red peppers. Add caramelized onions, fresh lime
juice, garlic or chile peppers for more flavor. "Food
needs to be delicious and desirable. If the emphasis is simply
on Ďhealthy,í people who are skeptical wonít be pulled
in," says Katzen.
drinking enough water
Davy, a nutrition professor at Virginia Tech University,
conducted a study with 48 middle aged and older adults,
dividing them into two groups on low-calorie diets. One group
was instructed to drink two cups of water before meals.
"We were interested in whether or not that would help
them eat less and lose more weight over 12 weeks. And in fact,
it did," says Davy. That group lost about 5 more pounds
than the other group.
the clean plate club
us were taught to clean our plates when we were kids, and the
pattern has continued into adulthood. A recent Cornell
University study found that adults eat nearly all the food
they serve themselves. At restaurants, ask for a to-go box
right when the meal is brought to the table and save half the
food for another time. At a buffet, sample mini portions of a
variety of dishes. At home, consider using a smaller plate.
You can fill it up and eat everything ó without guilt.
others steer you off-course
the people you live with and love are not thrilled when you
start losing weight. They might be afraid that your
relationship will change. If someone is tempting you with
trigger foods, you need to speak up, says Allison. "Is
there anybody who is bringing home doughnuts and waving them
in front of your face? How can you address that? If they want
those foods, they can have them outside of the house."
is some evidence to suggest that we donít want to be eating
a lot late at night, but that is very different from saying
you cannot have a snack," says Allison. However, she
cautions that eating after dark may lead to a slippery slope:
"Emotionally and physically, weíre tired at night and
weíre looking for comforting things. Weíre more likely to
choose the higher-calorie foods than we are during the day.
Thinking ahead and portioning them out becomes really