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David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Don?t overthink your diet: 9 simple weight-loss strategies
By Amanda Pressner
Sun., Dec. 2, 2007

Let it slip that you?re trying to slim down and suddenly everyone you meet is a weight loss expert. Don?t eat white food, they?ll say. Drink gallons of water. Don?t eat after 5 P.M.

It may be impossible to avoid unsolicited diet advice, but with SELF?s help, now you?ll know what?s worth listening to. We put nine diet strategies to the test, recruiting 27 women to try one tip for three weeks. The results were impressive?one woman lost 11 pounds in only three weeks! We learned not only what works but also which habits stick. Incorporate the behaviors that work for you and soon people will start asking you for weight loss advice.

Skip all soda
At roughly 225 calories a pop, a 20-ounce bottle packs nearly the same calories as a chocolate bar but is far less satisfying. Diet soda is no body bargain, either. For every can you sip daily, your risk of becoming overweight rises by 37 percent, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio found. Other studies hint at why: Regular use of artificial sweeteners may interfere with the body?s ability to estimate calories you?ve ingested, so you eat beyond what you need.

The tester's take: After Kim Scott, 45, a sales assistant in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, canned her soda habit, she lost her taste for junk food?and 8 pounds. ?I?m used to certain flavors together, and potato chips don?t taste that great with water,? she says. Other testers struggled. ?Diet Coke is my only source of caffeine,? says Stephanie Davis, 29, a magazine editor in Atlanta. ?I was grumpy and exhausted.?

Pounds lost: 1 to 8 (average: 4)

Should you try it? Yes. Soda contains zero nutrients. Water, which aids digestion, is your smartest beverage bet. If you want fizz, sip plain seltzer; for a caffeine fix, try green tea.

Eat breakfast, even if you?re not hungry
Most people who slim down manage to find time to fuel up every morning, according to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks more than 5,000 people who have lost 30 or more pounds and kept them off for at least a year. Research indicates that women who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat at later meals.

The tester's take: Although reluctant to add extra calories to their diet, our breakfast eaters were won over quickly by their gain in energy and loss on the scale. ?I kept oatmeal at my desk and put it in the microwave first thing, before I turned on my computer or checked my messages. It helped me make it to lunchtime without feeling hungry,? says Jennifer Baggett, 29, a marketing manager in New York City.

Pounds lost: 3 to 8 (average: 5)

Should you try it? Yes. Start with something small, even if it?s only a few bites of whole-grain cereal, yogurt or toast. Then work your way up to 250 to 500 calories per morning, and include protein and carbs (try whole-wheat toast with peanut butter or cottage cheese and fruit). You?ll teach your body to adjust to A.M. calories, so you?ll need fewer later in the day.

Use smaller plates and glasses
Diners given smaller dishes serve themselves smaller portions, researchers at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, New York, found.

The tester's take: This trick forced Carissa Diest, 29, an actress in Chicago, to face facts. ?Once I started putting everything on small plates, I realized how much I had actually been eating,? she says. The downside: Some testers were still hungry, so they went back for seconds or added a mini snack to their day.

Pounds lost: 0 to 3 (average: 1)

Should you try it? Maybe. We eat about 92 percent of what we serve ourselves, regardless of the size of the dish, according to another Cornell study. The next time you order the nachos supreme, put a small portion on your bread plate and try to only eat that. Try packing leftovers before you eat. To avoid snacking and seconds at home, keep food out of your field of vision, says Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University lab.

Swap in lowfat, fat-free or sugar-free versions of foods you crave
With this strategy, you get to eat what you love without racking up unnecessary calories.

The tester's take: Many of the lightened-up products weren?t as tasty or filling as the originals. ?I hate sugar-free chocolate,? says Lindsay Moy, 23, a media buyer in NYC. Two testers said they could stick with lighter options long-term without feeling deprived, but Moy says she doesn?t want to: ?It would be like losing a little bit of happiness out of life.?

Pounds lost: 0 to 1 (average: 1)

Should you try it? Yes and no. It makes sense to trim fat from everyday foods such as milk and yogurt, because they don?t trigger cravings. But overall, lowfat doesn?t necessarily ensure a lower calorie intake. ?Lowfat or fat-free doesn?t mean calorie-free?sometimes these products can have even more calories than the regular-fat versions,? says Rachel Brandeis, R.D., of Atlanta. And a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that very restrictive lowfat diets may be harder to stick to than other plans. For indulgences like dessert, if you have a favorite brand, you may be better off serving yourself a modest portion of the real thing.

Banish trigger foods from your home
Cravings are often fleeting, and ?if you have to leave the house to go get ice cream, you?ll be less likely to do it,? says Roberta Anding, R.D., of Texas Children?s Hospital in Houston.

The tester's take: ?It was pretty easy to stick to,? one tester says. ?I only go food shopping once a week, so keeping unhealthy snacks out of my cart wasn?t a problem. When I wanted a snack, I had no choice but to eat more fruit and vegetables.? Still, she says ridding her home of all snacks is too extreme to stick with. ?Moderation would be better for me.?

Pounds lost: 1 to 10 (average: 6)

Should you try it? Yes. Studies show that out of sight is out of mouth, but there?s no need to swear off goodies forever. Depriving yourself of favorite foods could set you up for a pig-out. Indulge during one meal a week or on special occasions, or share a splurge with someone. And if you keep treats in the house, opt for those that come in single-serve portions. (Some are only 100 calories!) Stash pops instead of a carton of ice cream, and then have only one.

Rate your hunger before deciding to eat
Use a scale of 1 (so hungry you?d eat sand) to 10 (so full you can barely breathe). Dig in at 3, eat slowly, and stop at 7, and you?ll never overeat again. You?ll also avoid hunger-related bingeing.

The tester's take: Easier said than done. ?I?ve been weight training, and now I get much hungrier,? says Teresa Moran, 28, a kindergarten teacher in Pembroke Pines, Florida. ?I snacked on fruit to keep my appetite from dipping below a 3.? Overall, though, this strategy was a winner. Melissa Williams, 28, a magazine editor in Louisville, Colorado, says it made her stop at ?the perfect fullness? and she felt ?less bloated.?

Pounds lost: 0 to 4 (average: 1)

Should you try it? Absolutely. Preventing extreme hunger is as critical to weight loss as walking away from the table before you?re too full. Regularly checking your need for food will help you control how much you end up eating.

Start your meal with soup, salad or fruit
?These foods are loaded with water and fiber, which make you feel full,? Brandeis says. Eating 3 cups of green salad with fat-free dressing cut the number of calories people consumed at a meal by 12 percent, a study from Penn State University at University Park found. And dieters in another Penn State study who used two 10?-ounce servings of broth-based soup per day for a year lost 50 percent more weight than those who consumed the same number of calories from lowfat snacks.

The tester's take: ?I found it a little difficult mentally to add food to my diet,? says Nancy Houser, 44, an advertising manager in Aptos, California. But the tip helped testers close in on the recommended nine fruit and veggies a day.

Pounds lost: 1 to 2 (average: 1.5)

Should you try it? Sure. Keep your first course high in volume and around 100 calories, and you?ll likely shrink your total daily intake.

Dine out less often
Thanks to ballooning portions, ?restaurant meals usually have about 50 percent more calories, fat and sodium than the same dish prepared at home,? Brandeis says. Even options that seem healthy, such as grilled fish, can be cooked with oil or butter, adding hidden calories to every bite. And people consume a greater variety of items on average when eating dinner out (4.5 per meal) than at home (3.1 per meal), according to Wansink. ?The greater the variety of flavors in a meal, the less likely you are to burn out on one and stop eating. You get tired of salty and move on to sweet. That?s why you always have room for dessert!?

The tester's take: A stellar idea. Beth Frey, 29, an account executive in New York City, used to eat lunch out every day, and says she would grab burgers and pizza because they?re quick and easy. ?But I started bringing turkey sandwiches on whole-grain bread and having them with fruit, or heating up turkey chili. Having a ready-made meal eliminated the daily struggle with junk food at the deli.?

Pounds lost: 2 to 11 (average: 6)

Should you try it? Yes. You?ll lose weight and enjoy more nutrient-dense meals without all of the fattening extras, Brandeis says. Don?t feel pressured to prepare elaborate dishes; the simpler your meal is to make, the less likely you are to phone your local Chinese place for ?help.?

Eat your meals with no distractions
Focusing on only your food (no TV, no radio, no phone calls, no nothing) helps you detect internal fullness cues, such as a tightening of the stomach.

The tester's take: ?At first I couldn?t stop thinking about the other things I could be doing at the same time,? says Shula Neuman, 39, a media relations director in St. Louis. ?But ultimately, it forced me to pay attention to my food.?

Pounds lost: 0 to 5 (average: 3)

Should you try it? Yes. When you?re distracted, you mindlessly consume extra calories while your ?diet brain? isn?t looking, says Andrea Giancoli, R.D., of Los Angeles. Eat slowly, concentrate on your food?s taste and texture and check in with yourself after every few bites to see if you?re still hungry. By changing the way you eat, you may change how much you eat?and suddenly find your weight loss goal within reach.


Skipping the pop/soda is a good one. I really like the carbonation so have traded in the pop for low sodium club soda with Ribena or sweetened lime juice.


I heard a doctor on the radio talking about dieting and he had the best tip I've ever heard: Do whatever works for you.


That is not going to work for you though!! That is not good food!! If you must eat it, remember small portions!!
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