Why didn't the three women in our feature story, "I stopped dieting and lost weight" gain 20 pounds when they went off their diets? Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a nutritionist and author of The 90/10 Weight-Loss Plan (Renaissance Books, 2001), says it's probably because they no longer had the preoccupation with food that often comes with following restrictive eating plans. When a food is forbidden, explains Bauer, you crave it more. Straying, even momentarily, from a diet also can make you feel as though you've blown it -- and perhaps continue eating out of guilt or frustration.
An unrestricted eating style will work if your goal is to maintain your present weight without calorie-counting or obsessing over food. However, if you're looking to lose more than a few pounds, then you'll probably need a more structured plan. (Alas, you can't have pizza and ice cream at every sitting without paying the price later.) Bauer suggests these tips for successful non-dieting:
Try to follow the USDA's recommended nutrition guidelines (the food pyramid).
- Have at least two servings each of fruits and vegetables every day, and choose whole-grain bread and other products whenever possible.
- Don't skip meals, and have small snacks in between. You're more likely to reach for less-healthy fare when your blood sugar is low. Snack every three to four hours.
- Pay attention to your body's signals and ask yourself how hungry you are both before and while you eat. Sometimes we eat when we're bored, stressed or even thirsty, or keep eating long after our hunger is satisfied.
- Give yourself the option of having treats every day, but watch your portions. If a few bites of death-by-chocolate cake satisfy your sweet tooth, don't feel obligated to finish the entire slice. --Dorie Edelstein