Can You Resist the Cookie Pusher?

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More Diet Dangers

Diet Danger: Freaky Friday

You've had a brilliant week and need to celebrate. Or you've had a lousy week and need to forget. Maybe your office celebrates every Friday with pizza, or your family kicks back with a feast from the local Chinese takeout. You know your diet is on the line, so you cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Solution: Don't hope; plan ahead. A healthy Friday will set you up to stick to your goals all weekend long. At work make judicious use of low-calorie snacks so you're not starving when the treats show up. Decide to have half a slice of pizza, and follow with a stick of gum so you won't be tempted to eat more. At home be the one who orders takeout and include something diet-worthy (steamed shrimp, not chow fun).

Diet Danger: The No-Dinner Dinner

You get home, exhausted and starving. You grab two chicken nuggets from your kids' plates, dragging them through ketchup as you go. Because you don't feel like cooking you decide to just have a bowl of nutritious cereal with some skim milk. So you do. And then you have another -- it's healthy, after all -- and maybe just one more shake of cereal to use up the milk. You get changed and settle in to watch some TV but you're still hungry because you haven't had a real meal. So you have a couple of sticks of string cheese and a few crackers -- and since you haven't really had a meal you treat yourself to three chocolate-chip cookies. From the time you got home till the time you fall into bed you've managed to consume a whole day's worth of calories.

Solution: As your mother probably told you, eat dinner like a normal person. Don't rush right into the kitchen and grab the first thing you see. Change out of your day clothes. Wash your face and hands. These simple acts create a transition that sets the stage for a real dinner. Stock the refrigerator with healthy foods you can prepare fast, such as prewashed veggies and boneless chicken breasts. For evenings when you really don't feel like cooking, stock up on healthy frozen dinners. One big benefit of a frozen dinner: no second helpings. Portioned foods also demonstrate what meals of 300 or 350 calories really look like and how you should feel after a meal: not stuffed, just pleasantly satisfied.

Diet Danger: Poppables, Pickables, and Dippable

You buy the gargantuan bag of chips at the warehouse store, overcome by the size of the bargain. Or a seemingly bottomless assortment is being presented to you at a party, along with other foods -- hummus, olives, dips -- that are way too easy to mindlessly pop in your mouth. So you do, again and again.

Solution: If you must eat chips, opt for single-serving bags of soy crisps. Keep other "finite" snacks on hand, such as whole fruits and individual yogurts. You can mix cereal into the yogurt, but if having cereal in the house is a temptation to eat it out of the box, avoid it. When you're at parties, make sure you're always holding a glass (seltzer, spritzer, light beer) and have two fiber crackers and a 20-ounce bottle of water before you go so that you won't be as hungry. If you know you'll be eating dinner later, fill one small plate or napkin with nibbles and stop there. If the food will be your dinner, limit yourself to three to four plates from the buffet. In either case, find the low-cal choices, such as vegetables, shrimp, sushi, or chicken skewers.

Diet Danger: Fattening Friends

You've been friends since forever and are really fond of each other. But this friend eats too much -- and too many of the wrong foods -- and when you're with her, so do you. Maybe you and she have gotten into the habit of doing things together that involve food. And maybe she's reluctant to change because she's overweight herself and she subconsciously doesn't want your diet to succeed.

Solution: You can't afford doughnut marathons. Tell her you're dieting and choose eateries with healthy options -- or meet for a movie or something else not involving food. If she's a real friend, she'll respect your choices.

Limit Diet Soda

In an effort to lose weight, it's natural to turn to diet soda. One study found that diet drinks, which contain sodium, caffeine, and artificial sweetener, were associated with increased weight gain, although it was unclear if the negative effects were the result of the soda itself or some associated behavior (for example, they make people feel freer to eat more). This supports a pattern I've noticed in diet soda drinkers who have difficulty losing weight despite a low-calorie diet. When they switch to water, they seem to drop pounds faster. If you really want a diet soda, have one only after you reach your water intake goal (64 ounces). After that much water you may find you're no longer interested.

Continued on page 3:  How to Bounce Back from a Diet Setback


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