Whittle Your Weight By Fixing 6 Common Eating Mistakes

If you?re like many people, your New Year’s resolve to eat better in 2009 may already be a distant memory. But don’t lose hope. Lasting weight loss?or maintaining your weight as you age?results from good eating choices made every day all year long. It may just take correcting a few common eating missteps.

Mistake #1: Going too long without food. This often starts with skipping breakfast then continues throughout the day. The result is constant nagging hunger. Little known secret? You should diet on full stomach. Sound counterintuitive? It’s not. Hunger is the death knell of any weight-loss diet; when famished, you reach for the first food that comes into view and probably too much of it. Eating often, however, keeps you in control of what you eat, instead of the food controlling you. It perks up your body’s metabolism, too. Plan to put something worthwhile in your mouth every three to four hours. Back to breakfast’the most commonly skipped meal: Studies show that most people who?ve lost weight and kept it off eat breakfast every day.

Mistake #2: Banking calories. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations may be over, but Valentine’s Day chocolates and Memorial Day barbecues are lurking. And birthdays never stop popping up. Face it. There’s always some event to test your dietary resolve. If you save up a few hundred calories here and there to splurge on a special occasion, it’s easy to convince yourself you have more calories in reserve than you actually do. Instead, before any celebration, blunt your appetite with a protein-packed snack, such as low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese or peanut butter on toast. Once at the event, splurge sensibly: Decide which one or two foods you simply must sample, then do just that?sample. You?ll find the first few bites are the most satisfying anyway.

Mistake #3: Skimping on protein. Protein keeps you fuller longer. A study from Louisiana State University found that people who ate a breakfast of two eggs five times a week took in, on average, 300 fewer calories over the course of the entire day, compared to those who noshed on a bagel breakfast that provided the same calories. In addition to satisfying like no other nutrient, protein builds and maintains muscle mass, which burns more calories than body fat. Up the protein ante at both meals and snacks, especially as you get older, to combat muscle loss. To help you gauge: three ounces of cooked meat, poultry or seafood=22 grams protein; ? cup soy nuts=17 grams; one cup yogurt=13 grams; two large eggs=12 grams; ? cup beans=9 grams.

Mistake #4: Drastically cutting calories. A very-low-calorie diet may slim you down fast, but scaling back too much allows hunger to gain an upper hand, causing even the most motivated waist-watchers to throw in the towel and retreat to familiar eating habits. The good news: It’s possible to trim five pounds in just six months (assuming your same activity level) by cutting back a mere 100 calories a day’that’s just a tablespoon of peanut butter or margarine or a slice of bread. The best part is that you won’t feel like you?re dieting, so you?ll be more likely to stick with it.

Mistake #5: Denying yourself treats. Deprivation is the Achilles heel of any well-intentioned eating plan, so avoid all-out sacrifice. It tends to backfire. Incorporate up to 100 calories of treat foods as part of your overall daily allowance so you won’t feel there are forbidden foods?as long as you can keep a lid on portion sizes. Bear in mind it’s easier to keep calories in check with 100-calorie treats like frozen fudge bars or ice cream cups and pre-portioned bags of chips or cookies. But to save money?and the environment (from the extra packaging)?make your own 100-calorie portions from bigger packages.

Mistake #6: Taking weekends off. Weekends spell trouble for weight control. Falling off the wagon on Saturday and Sunday means overeating 29% of the time. That can easily erase any progress you made Monday through Friday. Researchers tracking the food intake of 48 people in their 50s found they consumed 236 more calories, on average, on Saturdays than during the week. That adds up to nine pounds of body fat in one year. Jump on the scale every Friday night and again on Monday morning to keep you motivated to avoid weekend temptations. If you do indulge, don’t waste calories on foods or beverages you don’t absolutely love by mindlessly munching. Be aware that making small changes can help a lot; choosing a bottle of light beer or glass of wine instead of a creamy mixed drink, for example, can save up to 350 calories.

-Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

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