Rescue Your Diet! 7 Ways to Overcome Any Crisis
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Fitness

Rescue Your Diet! 7 Ways to Overcome Any Crisis

How to keep losing weight when life (pulled muscle, new guy, the siren call of the vending machine) gets in the way.

Athletic Injuries and Food Cravings

The Crisis: A pulled muscle sidelines your routine.

The Action Plan: With any injury, always speak to your doctor first. If you're hurt badly, ask for a referral to a physical therapist who works specifically with athletes; he or she may be more sensitive to your desire to get moving quickly. Next, view your setback as an opportunity to vary your routine. Hurt your shoulder? You can probably still ride a recumbent bicycle, says Ellie Krieger, RD, host of the Food Network's Healthy Appetite and author of Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life (Clarkson Potter, 2005).

If your doctor insists that you lie low for a while, be extra mindful of your diet. Because of your new exerciseless life, your calorie needs will decrease; go to mypyramid.gov for an updated tally. "Try not to use food to relieve boredom, anxiety, or other emotions that are bound to crop up with the lack of activity," says Joyce D. Nash, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the author of Binge No More: Your Guide to Overcoming Disordered Eating (New Harbinger Publications, 1999). Instead, find other beneficial activities to fill your gym time -- meditation, the movies, a knitting class, a book club, whatever your fancy.

The Crisis: Work is hell, and the vending machine and candy bars are your most trusted allies.

The Action Plan: Stock your desk with just-in-case healthy snacks. (We Fitness editors rely on individual packages of almonds.) If you have an under-the-desk fridge, keep a stash of protein-packed string cheese. To avoid the crisis binge, don't skip lunch (no matter what). "You need a meal midday to prevent hunger from overtaking your good sense," says Krieger.

The Crisis: Your new boyfriend loves to eat -- and you're matching him bite for bite.

The Action Plan: If you're always out and about, suggest a night in. "Cooking together is romantic, plus you can show him that healthy food tastes good," advises Anne M. Fletcher, RD, author of Thin for Life: 10 Keys to Success from People Who Have Lost Weight & Kept It Off (Houghton Mifflin, 2003). Often the best aspect of a new relationship is the openness you both have toward each other. (Hint: Now's the perfect time to get him to try tofu!) When you do go out, take charge of making the restaurant reservations and choose a place that specializes in lighter cuisine. Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese are all good bets. Or visit a tapas bar, where there are lots of different choices but everything is served in small portions. This will not only help slow down your eating but will also encourage conversation.

Comfort Foods and Eating on the Road

The Crisis: You just got dumped, and only Ben & Jerry understand.

The Action Plan: Depending on your personality, it just might be okay to eat it and weep -- for a limited time. "For most of us, comfort foods do provide a measure of emotional relief," says Martin Binks, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center. "That's natural and normal; it's why we have a fondness for the foods our mothers made. But it's important to realize that the effect is only momentary. If you overindulge, you run the risk of twisting those good feelings into guilt." Along with Ben, Jerry, and Mrs. Entenmann, make sure to include real, noncaloric people in your healing. A little advance planning can help prevent deep dives into despair. When you're feeling good about life, make a list of your favorite things, whatever makes you feel special (no food allowed). Fresh flowers? Facials? Hot tubs? Keep your list in a handy place and check it when you're feeling especially blue. Choose an item on your list to enjoy after you've put that pint back in its place.

The Crisis: You just got an exciting new job, but it calls for lots of travel -- making it difficult to exercise or eat right.

The Action Plan: Dieting while on a business trip is all about vigilance and planning. As Fletcher points out, nearly every restaurant, from fast food to haute cuisine, offers healthier options these days. "The key is to ask how the food is prepared," she says. "Get the broiled chicken sandwich, but make sure they're not slathering butter or mayo on the bread. Order vegetables on the side instead of potatoes, and be careful about your alcohol intake." The same goes for hotels -- before your departure, surf Web sites like Healthy Travel Network (healthytravelnetwork.com), which gives the scoop on hotel chains with the best gyms and healthy eating at the airport.

Vacation Weight Loss and Pregnancy Fitness

The Crisis: Your best friend's weeklong destination wedding extravaganza is coming up -- and you forgot to pre-lose 10 pounds.

The Action Plan: Manage your expectations. Aim simply to maintain your current weight, not gain or lose. "Develop a realistic mind-set to ensure that you get right back on the healthy-eating bandwagon once your friend and her husband are off on their honeymoon," says Fletcher. To control your eating at each event, Fletcher suggests inspecting all of your options before putting a fork in your mouth. "Decide ahead of time what's worth splurging on and what you can live without," she advises. For sit-down dinners, Linda Spangle, RN, author of 100 Days of Weight Loss (SunQuest Media, 2006), recommends simply eating half of everything. And don't forget that parties are not just about eating and drinking: Dance! Tickle the ivories! Mingle! It's much easier to talk when your mouth's not full. And never forget your ultimate wedding-weight-gain weapon: Shoes you can dance in.

The Crisis: You get pregnant.

The Action Plan: "Definitely consult with your obstetrician about your current diet and request a referral to a registered dietitian who specializes in pregnancy," advises Krieger. Your nutritional needs are most important in the early weeks of your pregnancy, when folic acid consumption is critical for preventing defects in a fetus's neural tubes, which eventually develop into the spinal cord and brain. In fact, getting pregnant presents the perfect opportunity to shift your food-choice focus from calories to overall nutrition. "Pregnancy teaches you to evaluate foods on their total nutritional benefit, not just on their fat-gram and calorie counts, which will eventually help you to make more healthful choices after you give birth," says Krieger.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, April 2006.

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