Can You Resist the Cookie Pusher?

Or the office party munchies? And then there's the "I'll just pick" dinner. A million mistakes and temptations can sabotage your diet, and it's so easy to succumb. Here, how to stay focused.
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Real-Life Dieting

Most busy people don't have the luxury of planning their lives around a diet. In fact, as I've learned in my 10 years as a nutritionist counseling New Yorkers with high-pressure jobs and almost no free time -- as well as a few pounds to lose -- the reason many diets don't succeed is that they only focus on spelling out the right food choices. They don't tackle the real-life obstacles that can make following any food plan the culinary version of the Whac-a-Mole game, with temptations -- think "help yourself" candy bowls or friends proffering chips -- popping up faster than you can bat them down. In the real world, even the best of intentions and most carefully laid plans will only get you and your diet so far. You need a plan to counter the saboteurs that are out to get you. Here it is.

Diet Danger: "Might As Well" Day

You start your day with a light, healthy breakfast, followed by a salad for lunch, only to be utterly undone by the cake at an afternoon office birthday party. You know the drill: "I'll just have a forkful" becomes a whole slice, and since you've blown it, you figure you "might as well" have two slices of pepperoni pizza at dinner. By bedtime you're so far out-of-bounds that maintaining your diet feels hopeless. That downward spiral can take days or weeks to recover from.

Solution: If you fall off track, count it as a mere slip and move on. Don't catastrophize the situation -- all-or-nothing thinking can set in motion a binge -- and don't delay getting back on the wagon. Tell yourself: "This is a one-time thing." That way 300 extra calories don't become 3,000.

Diet Danger: Sundown Snacking

All you want is a little something to snack on before bedtime. But before you know it, your late-night nosh has turned into an out-of-body omnivore experience leaving cracker crumbs and candy wrappers in its wake -- not to mention no leftovers for tomorrow's dinner. To top it off, you sleep poorly and nurse a food hangover all the next day.

Solution: Since nighttime snacking is usually more about habit than hunger, it's best to avoid even low-calorie snacks after dinner; they simply reinforce the behavior and risk triggering a food binge. But if you must eat something, use the turkey solution: Pre-apportion several quarter-pound servings of turkey breast (the low-sodium variety, if possible) into individual plastic bags and keep them in the fridge. Each serving has only about 150 calories. If you're hungry, plain turkey will take the edge off and is a good source of tryptophan, which can help you relax and sleep. Have more than one bag, if you like. I've yet to have a client binge on turkey.

Diet Danger: Celebrations

An office friend just got promoted. Or maybe it's Halloween or even Groundhog Day. It doesn't take much to get everyone in the office -- or at your church or in your book group -- in the mood to party. Of course, celebrations mean food, usually the high-calorie, high-fat kind. Just one generous glass of wine and a cracker piled with Brie can pack 400 calories. Somehow those calories don't really count, you tell yourself.

Solution: Chew a piece of sugar-free gum or suck a breath strip on the way to the party. Your mouth will be full and it may make the idea of eating less appealing. Grab a water bottle -- if you're sipping, you'll distract yourself. Or be the server: Grab the food platter and pass, pass, pass. Do the job well enough and it will be empty before you can even think of helping yourself.

Diet Danger: The Trojan Gift

A friend, in what she means as a kind gesture, gives you a fabulous chocolate assortment. A nibble on Monday, a taste on Tuesday, a chunk on Wednesday...even spread out over a few days, the calories add up.

Solution: Keeping edible presents around is a serious waistline hazard. If you're dieting, never let the sun set with a food gift still in your possession. Before the end of the day, figure out who will be the lucky "echo" recipient of your treat and deliver it.

The Water Cure

Many overweight people are dehydrated because they drink the wrong kinds of fluids -- coffee, diet sodas, diet fruit beverages and teas -- and not enough water. Consume 32 ounces by lunchtime and 64 ounces total per day. If this is too much at first, start by drinking a 20- to 24-ounce bottle by lunch and another of the same size in the afternoon. Don't worry about gaining "water weight." In one study overweight women who increased their daily water intake by about four additional cups lost an added 5 pounds over the year's course.

Continued on page 2:  More Diet Dangers


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