By Dr. Alexander Chernev, Author of The Dieter’s Paradox: Why Dieting Makes Us Fat, the following is an excerpt from the book. Dr. Chernev is a psychologist who is studying how people make choices.
Our weight-loss efforts are often derailed by our focus on short-term results and lack of commitment to a particular course of action. Even when we are devoted to the idea of dieting, we seem to have trouble staying loyal to the chosen dieting plan. The following strategies can help curb this consistency bias.
Control Mindless Habits
Mindless eating has become ingrained in our lifestyle. Too often we eat out of habit, grabbing things just because they’re out there in plain sight, waiting to be eaten. To get a grip on these subconscious impulses, make indulgences less frequent, less prominent, and less convenient. Avoid temptations by banishing them from your daily routine.
Our myopic focus on immediate results makes us seek drastic solutions, downplaying the effect of incremental changes. We fail to visualize the long-term impact of our short-term actions and refuse to believe that skipping a 400- calorie muffin every morning could reduce our annual calorie intake by as much as 150,000 calories (equal to the recommended calorie intake for 60 full days). Over the long run, small changes produce big results.
Set Actionable Goals
Having the vague goal of “dieting” without a defined action plan can hardly help one lose weight. To be actionable, goals need be specific: they must pinpoint the desired outcomes and set a time frame for achieving these outcomes. Writing down goals makes them easier to share, which further strengthens our commitment and makes us more accountable for reaching them. Set actionable goals and fortify your commitment by writing down and sharing these goals.
Variety can both facilitate and hamper weight-management efforts. Abundant variety makes us eager to try all the different options available and in many cases leads to overconsumption. Not enough variety can lead to boredom and increased consumption because lack of novelty blunts satisfaction and delays satiation. Introduce variety into your menu while controlling total consumption.
Think Carrots Not Sticks
Diets based only on inhibition are short-lived: they produce short-term results and are often followed by a rebound. (This is why many crash diets create repeat customers!) The goal is not to conquer the indulgent urges but to pacify them with sensible rewards. Focus on what to achieve, not just what to avoid.
Thinking about food in terms of consumption episodes makes us vulnerable to the “what-the-hell” effect. Once we break our diet, we consider the entire meal or event “spoiled” and consequently overindulge in the very behavior we’ve been trying to avoid. Break away from the “what-the-hell” mentality.
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It really is a shame. Some of the best-tasting foods are actually some of the worst in terms of fat and calories. But it can be hard to avoid them, especially in places—like malls—where nutrition information usually isn’t available.
So we did the work for you; take a look at a list of foods you should skip—or pick—at a mall, restaurant, or grocery store.
(A 2,000-calorie-a-day diet should have no more than 66 grams of fat, less than 20 grams saturated; 2,400 milligrams of sodium; and 300 grams of total carbohydrate, including sugars.)
Fruit and yogurt can’t be bad, right? Wrong. Smoothies are often made with ice cream or milk and can be crammed with sugar. At least this treat gives you a heads up: It’s listed on the menu as a smoothie for people looking to gain weight.
But the calories are excessive—more than two Big Macs put together. And that’s just the small.
One 20-ounce smoothie: 1,044 calories, 35g fat, 120g sugar.
Choose this instead: Low-Carb Strawberry smoothie: 268 calories, 9g fat, 3g sugar.
2. Starbucks’ Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino Blended Creme with Whipped Cream
Sure it sounds bad, but how bad is it? This afternoon pick-me-up delivers nearly one-third of the maximum fat you should consume in a day, and over half a day’s saturated fat.
One 16-ounce Grande: 510 calories; 19g fat, 11g saturated; 59g sugar; 300mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Your best bet is a regular cup of coffee without all the bells and whistles. If you just can’t live without a Frappuccino, make it a Coffee Frappuccino Light Blended Coffee: 130 calories, 0.5g fat, 16g sugar
Chances are you already suspect that milkshakes aren’t all that healthy. But this particular shake, made with chocolate ice cream, milk, and peanut butter, is in a class of its own. This frosty monster delivers an entire day’s worth of calories and almost three and a half times the daily limit for saturated fat.
One “Gotta Have It” (Coldstone speak for “large”): 2,010 calories; 131g fat, 68g saturated; 153g sugar.
Choose this instead: A better bet is the 16-ounce Sinless Oh Fudge! Shake, with the same chocolaty taste, but a quarter of the calories and only 2 grams of fat.
4. Auntie Anne’s Jumbo Pretzel Dog
Auntie Anne’s sells snacks, not meals. But this concoction—a Nathan’s hot dog wrapped in a pretzel bun—contains almost half your daily upper limit of fat and sodium.
One Jumbo Pretzel Dog with butter: 610 calories; 29g fat, 13g saturated; 1,150mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Go for the original pretzel without the butter and salt and you’ll whittle your treat down to 310 calories and only 1 gram of fat. Now that’s more like a snack!
The luring scent of Cinnabon is a mall staple. But just one of these decadent pastries means trouble. They deliver about half the calories and just about all the fat you should consume in a day.
One bun: 1,092 calories, 56g fat, 47g sugar.
Choose this instead: Cinnabon has no options that are particularly healthy, but you can try a Minibon, designed for smaller—and smarter—appetites: 300 calories, 11g fat.
6. Wendy’s Sweet and Spicy Boneless Wings
In June, Wendy’s launched this item, claiming it was “as far as it gets from fast food.”
Calorie-wise, this meal isn’t that bad if it makes up your entire lunch. But it has more salt than you should have in a day, let alone at one sitting.
One order: 550 calories, 18g fat, 27g sugar, 2,530mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Try the Ultimate Chicken Grill, a grilled chicken breast on a sesame-seed bun: 320 calories, 7g fat, 8g sugar. Still, with 950 milligrams of sodium, don’t make it a daily habit.
Muffins are often mistaken for the doughnut’s healthy cousin. But muffins can be surprisingly high in fat.
This one is particularly offensive; you’d need to eat about three glazed donuts to match its nutrients and calories.
One muffin: 620 calories; 25g fat, 7g saturated; 54g sugar; 93g carbs.
Choose this instead: For an alternative—but equally decadent—breakfast treat, one glazed donut is a better bet: 220 calories, 9g fat, 12g sugar, 31g carbs.
8. Olive Garden’s Grilled Shrimp Caprese
Shrimp are low-fat, low-cal, and high in protein and iron. What’s not to like?
In fact, the garlic-butter sauce in this dish helps rack up nearly two-thirds of your daily fat and about one and a half times your sodium limit.
One plate: 900 calories, 41g fat, 3,490mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Get a lighter version of this dish without the melted cheese and with marinara sauce on the side. The Venetian Apricot Chicken is another option; it has one-third the calories and 1/10 the fat, but still packs a good deal of sodium.
Diners and bloggers alike were outraged by the fried-onion Chili’s appetizer, the Awesome Blossom.
The unhealthy behemoth was removed from the menu, but its replacement is only a bit better. This appetizer is meant to be shared, but even one-quarter of the dish delivers an entire day’s limit for fat.
One appetizer: 2,130 calories; 213g fat, 31g saturated; 1,320mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Chili’s doesn’t have particularly healthy appetizers. If you must have one, try the Chips and Hot Sauce (470 calories). However, the chips’ sodium is 2,790 milligrams—500 milligrams over the maximum daily intake.
10. Macaroni Grill’s Kids’ Fettuccine Alfredo
Kids’ meals, in theory, are smaller than adult portions; children simply don’t need as many calories.
The average 10- to 12-year-old, the upper age limit for many kids’ menus, needs about 1,600 to 1,800 calories daily. This meal puts them at half of that, with more fat than a grown adult needs in a day.
One order: 890 calories, 67g fat, 1,480mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Coax your little ones into ordering the Grilled Chicken and Broccoli: 390 calories, 8g fat. It’s still high in sodium, so ask for sauce on the side and use sparingly.
Unhealthy salads lurk everywhere. They promise grilled chicken, leafy greens, and fewer carbs, but often deliver bacon, cheddar cheese, and high-fat dressing.
Don’t be tricked; this salad will cost you half a day’s calories. The dressing alone has 48 grams of fat, nearly your daily max.
One salad, dressing and bread included: 1,070 calories, 71g fat, 1,770mg sodium.
Choose this instead: The Cantina Chicken Sammie, a 205-calorie, low-fat, veggie-filled flatbread sandwich: 455mg sodium, 12g protein.
12. Pizza Hut’s Meaty P’Zone
The TV commercials for this 1-pound monster feature hungry dudes who don’t want to share. One chows down and tells another, who looks on longingly, to order his own. But these pizza-crust calzones should be shared—preferably with a crowd. Eating the whole thing is akin to consuming about six cheese slices in one sitting, and it delivers one and a half times your daily limit for sodium. One serving size is one-half of a P’Zone.
One whole P’Zone: 1,480 calories, 66g fat, 3,680mg sodium.
Choose this instead: One slice of the Natural Veggie Lover’s multigrain crust pizza has 190 calories, 6g fat, 380 mg sodium, and 9g protein.
Ideally, a lunch box should strike a balance between taste, fun, and nutrition.
However, an easy prepackaged solution like Lunchables may not deliver. The nutrition info is based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet—that of a grown adult. The processed food is too high in fat and sodium for the average 8-year-old’s daily recommended intakes.
One Fun Pack: 470 calories, 20g fat, 880mg sodium.
Choose this instead: For the same ease, try another variety of Wholesome Lunchables, like the Turkey and Cheddar Club, which comes with water and applesauce instead of cookies and fruit punch, and has 360 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium.
14. Ruffles’ Cheddar & Sour Cream Flavored Potato Chips
Ruffles don’t just have ridges, they’ve also have 17% of the upper limit of daily fat in just one serving. The calorie count is low, but chances are you’ll eat more than a serving, as most packages are the larger 1.5-ounce size.
The 1-ounce serving size: 160 calories, 11g fat, 230mg sodium. The larger size: 240 calories, 16.5g fat, 345mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Try Baked! Ruffles in the original flavor. The 1-ounce serving has 120 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 200 milligrams of sodium, plus 2 grams each of fiber and protein.
Frozen yogurt is often relatively healthy; even the most decadent flavors tend to have less fat than ice cream.
However, not all fro-yo is created equal. To be fair, this flavor does have 15 grams less fat than the regular ice cream flavor, but one serving packs 25 grams of sugar.
One serving (1/2 cup): 190 calories, 2.5g fat, 25g sugar, 35g carbs.
Choose this instead: Try a brand that offers no-sugar-added options, such as Edy’s. The French Vanilla flavor has only 100 calories, 3 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving.
16. Kar’s Yogurt Apple Nut Mix
Words like yogurt, apple, and nut make this snack seem healthy. But a serving size is 1 ounce. The tiny snack, often found in vending machines, contains nearly three times as much—2.75 ounces. Bags in stores contain five times as much.
Eat a whole 2.75-ounce bag and you’ve consumed 412 calories—the equivalent of one and a half Snickers bars.
A 1-ounce serving: 150 calories; 10g of fat, 2.5g saturated; 90mg sodium; 3g protein; 2g fiber.
Choose this instead: Select a healthier trail mix, like Peeled Snacks. A 2/3-cup serving of the Fruit & Nuts FigSated mix has 150 calories and 6 grams of fat.
Don’t fall for the “whole grain” marketing trick without knowing all the facts.
While “whole grain” sounds good, this product doesn’t have nearly the amount of heart-healthy whole grains as products that say “100% whole grain.”
Two slices: 220 calories, 3g fat, 300mg sodium, 42g carbs, 4g fiber.
Choose this instead: Try two slices of Arnold’s Light line of breads, like the 100% Whole Wheat: 80 calories, 0.5g fat, 170mg sodium, 5g fiber. Or try the new Deli Flats from Pepperidge Farm. One 100% whole-wheat roll has 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber.
18. Reese’s Puffs Cereal
Starting your morning off with this bowl of sugary puffs may be worse than getting up on the wrong side of the bed. One serving of this breakfast treat has more sugar than an actual Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
A 3/4 cup serving with 1/2 cup skim milk: 160 calories, 3g fat, 12g sugar. (One Reese’s Cup has 7 grams of sugar.)
Choose this instead: For an organic and natural take on the peanut-buttery puff, check out EnviroKidz Peanut Butter Panda Puffs from Nature’s Path. The same serving size with milk has slightly more calories, but less sugar: 170 calories, 2.5g fat, 7g sugar.
At least breakfast cereals have relatively easy-to-understand serving sizes. Pop-Tarts, on the other hand, report nutrition information for one serving, but each package contains two—and is impossible to reseal.
Eat both, and this breakfast delivers a quarter of your daily limit for fat, and more than half your added sugar for the day.
Two pastries: 420 calories, 16g fat, 26g sugar, 66g carbs.
Choose this instead: Your best bet is to eat just one pastry. Or you can try Fiber One’s Brown Sugar Cinnamon Toaster Pastry: 190 calories, 4g fat, 16g sugar, 36g carbs, 5g fiber.
20. PowerBar Performance Energy Cookies & Cream
PowerBars are often shaped like candy bars and can taste like them too.
This particular PowerBar has only 1 gram of fiber and nearly three-fourths of the upper limit of daily added sugar, so there may be healthier options. (The USDA says to limit added sugar to 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons, per day.)
One bar: 240 calories, 26g sugar, 45g carbs, 8g protein, less than 1g fiber.
Choose this instead: Try the PowerBar Harvest line. Made with whole grains, 1 Oatmeal Raisin Cookie bar still has 250 calories, 43 grams of carbs, and 22 grams of sugar, but offers 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
This meal is better than a TV dinner, but there are healthier options from this generally trustworthy brand.
The calories are reasonable, but the meal is high in sugar and sodium, and it has more fat than most other Healthy Choice options—even the Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo and the Country Breaded Chicken!
One meal: 400 calories, 13g protein, 5g fiber—but 10g fat, 20g sugar, 500mg sodium.
Choose this instead: The Oven Roasted Chicken meal: 260 calories, 5g fat, 9g sugar, 520mg sodium, 15g protein, 6g fiber.
VitaminWater uses the old trick in which the nutrition information on the label is based on a serving size, but the bottle contains multiple servings—leaving you to do the math.
Each bottle contains 2.5 servings of the sugar-sweetened water, so a whole bottle delivers 33 grams of sugar (a can of Coke only has 6 more). That’s a lot of calories when plain water could do the trick.
One bottle (2.5 servings) of the Charge flavor: 125 calories, 32.5g sugar.
Choose this instead: New VitaminWater10 has only 10 calories per serving, or 25 if you finish the bottle. But it contains zero-calorie sweeteners.
Granola is tricky. Although the name is practically synonymous with healthy, some types—including this cereal—contain a startling amount of sugar per serving. One serving contains 18 grams of sugar, as much as a Twinkie.
A 2/3-cup serving: 210 calories, 3g fat, 4g protein, 3g fiber—but 18g sugar.
Choose this instead: A 2/3-cup serving of Health Valley’s Low Fat Date Almond Flavor Granola: 180 calories, 1g fat, 10g sugar, 5g protein, 6g fiber.
24. Bear Naked Chocolaty Cherry Grain-ola Bar
We love Bear Naked for its generally low-fat, low-sugar concoctions, but we just can’t get behind this bar.
It has almost the same nutritional stats as a Hershey’s Sweet and Salty Reese’s Peanut Butter bar. Or you could eat almost three Nature Valley Oats and Honey granola bars for the same intake.
One 54-gram bar: 230 calories, 10g fat, 14g sugar.
Choose this instead: Barbara’s Crunch Organic Oats and Honey Granola Bar; two bars have only 190 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 10 grams of sugar.
Generally we love anything from this vegetarian brand, but we have to draw the line at this soup. While packed with veggies and protein-powerhouse tofu, one serving has more than half of your daily limit of saturated fat and a quarter of your sodium.
One 1/2-can serving: 140 calories; 10g fat, 8g saturated; 580mg sodium.
Choose this instead: Lentil Vegetable, one of Amy’s low-sodium soups, is still chock-full of veggies and protein, but with less fat and sodium: 4g fat, 0.5g saturated fat; 340mg sodium.
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Our Lady of Weight Loss, the patron saint of permanent fat removal (she who guides me) is serious about weight loss, but not heavy!
She asked me to share the following 9 tips with you that she feels will surely up your energy, keep you focused, and help you to create a balanced and harmonious life.
9 Tips : Balanced & Harmonious Weight Loss
1. Balance & Harmony: Permanent weight loss is about living a balanced, harmonious life. It’s about looking at all areas of your life — physical health, mental health, relationships, finances, career, fun, creativity, spirituality, physical environment, time — and creating them so that they support you to have the best life ever.
Focusing only on weight loss will not serve you well. You may lose it; but without creating balance and harmony in all areas of your life, you will in all likelihood find it again.
We’re talking permanent weight loss here!
2. Commitment: Make a commitment to you, all of you, every aspect of you. Losing weight won’t fix what’s wrong with your finances. Gathering buckets of money won’t help you to lose weight. Commit to giving yourself the best life that you can. Do this for you and your body!
3. The Scale: Do not get hung up on the number on the scale. Do you know what the scale really measures — scientifically that is? Every object in the universe with mass attracts every other object with mass. (Some more massive than others!) Therefore, there is a pull — a force — an attraction between you and the Earth. Your bathroom scale measures gravitational pull!
Nowhere in scientific date — that I could find — does it state that the scale measures hideous fat. Nor does it say that you are bad!
4. Visioning: Envision your compelling future. What would you ultimately like your life to be like? See every detail. From where you would live, what you would do, what you are wearing! See, feel, hear and smell life! (Perhaps the honeysuckle in the air; or the slicing of a lemon.)
5. Safe Haven: Keeping your home clear of the Devil’s Food, red light items, things that send you off on a binge is essential! Making your home a safe haven affords you an opportunity to establish healthy, solid habits. It is essential that you create an environment that supports your permanent fat removal efforts; a place where you are as free as possible from excessive food thoughts.
6. De-Clutter. I’ve been both organized and disorganized, I can tell you the first way is the better way. Not only do you not waste time endlessly searching for stuff, but there’s a mysterious calm one finds in organization.
7. Be Imperfect. There is no need to be perfect. It would be unbelievably boring if we were perfect. So dry, unpleasant, Stepford Wife-like that we would seek imperfection. Revel in your imperfection.
8. Be Your Passion. Jump head first into the thing you love to do the most. Life will improve in ways you never imagined. You will be focused on what you love, feel less-stressed, be more productive, procrastinate less. The energy will shift dramatically. Can you feel it now?
9. Wake Up. You are 25 times more open to suggestion as you wake. Pay attention to what thoughts first surface, and if these first thoughts are not helpful, simply turn them around. Repeat your positive thought(s) a few times. Hold on to those good feelings for a moment or two. And then, ‘see’ the thought and imagine carrying this thought with you throughout the day.
Spread the SUNSHINE … NOT the icing!
Life & Weight Loss Success Coach
wise * fun * utterly useful
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