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Being on a weight-loss program takes plenty of discipline, stamina, and motivation. If the pounds aren't coming off as fast as you would like to them to, it's easy to feel discouraged. But don't give up! With some small adjustments you can enjoy your new regimen and lose the weight, too. Here are nine simple ideas to lift your spirits and keep you motivated.1. Don't deprive yourself of dessert.
If you find yourself craving something sweet, give in. Lynn Grieger, a registered dietitian and certified diet educator, says it's okay to take a guilt-free moment to enjoy one or two pieces of candy or a low-fat cookie once in a while. That's because denying yourself a small treat could lead to an even bigger chocolate-cake-binge later. Plus, allowing yourself a small treat every other day is a more realistic way to eat and live -- which means you're more likely to stick to your healthy eating habits in the long run.2. Spice up your diet.
Tempt your taste buds by incorporating a variety of herbs and spices into your recipes. Grieger suggests sprinkling paprika over hummus or mixing dill and parsley into a vegetable egg-white omelet. These herbs and spices add extra flavor and color to two healthy foods, with few or no additional calories.
So many diets focus on cold salads and extra fruits and vegetables -- after a while you're just craving some comfort food. So sooth your stomach and soul with a comforting cup of herbal tea, hot cider, or low-fat hot chocolate. Grieger says warm beverages can act as appetite suppressants. So curl up on your couch and sip your way to serenity.4. Create a pretty presentation.
Sometimes the worst part about dieting is the repetition of meals. Here's an idea to make each meal special: Serve your meals on beautiful dishes. Instead of eating fat-free yogurt out of the container, spoon it into a parfait glass and top it with colorful berries. Or get out your best china for your morning bowl of oatmeal. After all, treating your body right is the biggest special occasion of all.5. Smile when you eat.
Research shows that the physical act of smiling can actually make you feel happier. We know you're wishing that handful of carrots were M&Ms. But forget about it. You should be smiling smugly with the knowledge that you're putting healthy fuel in your body that will ultimately lead to a happier, and probably skinnier, you.
Did you know that your low-carb diet could be making you feel depressed? Eating carbohydrates releases serotonin, the hormone responsible for feelings of calm and well-being. Depriving your body forces your brain to stop regulating serotonin. And eating high-fat, high-protein diets could make you feel irritable and sluggish. If you're really feeling down, you might consider switching your diet to one that incorporates complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits to give you long-lasting energy.7. Take a walk.
After your meal, replace your temptation for dessert with a breath of fresh air. Walking after meals aids digestion. And in addition to burning calories, a 10- or 15-minute walk can give you a pleasant feeling of calm and contentment. Be sure to pace yourself so that you don't get a cramp.
If keeping a food journal is part of your diet, consider turning the tedium of calorie calculations into a larger conversation about your state of mind. Fill your food journal with poems, your own paintings or drawings, your private thoughts, or even pictures you've clipped from magazines or catalogs. Getting in touch with your creative side is a therapeutic way to relax.9. Yearning for Yoga
There's something about the slow, even movements of yoga, combined with the focused, deep breathing, that leads to an inner sense of peace. Plus, yoga can help you build strength and tone your muscles. So find a yoga class at your local gym or yoga studio that fits your schedule. Or if you'd prefer, buy a yoga video that will walk you through a stress-relief or strength-building routine. Here's a yoga sequence that will elevate your mood at home or even at work.Step 1: Mountain pose.
Stand with your feet together and your palms pressed together over your heart. Inhale and exhale deeply through your nose. As you stand in this still state, allow whatever thoughts drift into your head to pass through, and let them go. Hold the pose for as long as you like.Step 2: Forward fold.
From a mountain pose position, dive your hands down to reach the floor in front of you. Press your palms into the floor, your feet or your shins -- wherever you can reach. Inhale and exhale for a few breaths. Release your back, allowing the tension to float out of your body. Hold this pose for three breaths.Step 3: Spinal twist.
Bring yourself to sit cross-legged on the floor. Slowly twist your upper torso to one side, using your hands to support your body. Breathe deeply as you hold the twist. Slowly change sides. Spinal twists are terrific for releasing tension, allowing positive energy to flow through your body.
Originally published on LHJ.com, February 2005.