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4 Women Break Their Bad Eating Habits

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Stopping Sugar Rush Rituals

Name: Elham Safaei
Age: 25
Profession: Graduate student in health administration at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles
Height: 5'4" Weight: 124 pounds
What She Gave up: Sugary snacks

Elham is from Iran, where having a cup of tea with cake and cookies is a daily social custom. "When you go to someone's home, people offer you tea and something sweet to go with it," she explains. "At school, I drank about six cups of tea a day -- and by force of habit ate sweets, too." This meant cookies at breakfast and after lunch and the occasional ice cream at night with friends. "I knew it wasn't healthy, plus I really wanted to lose a few pounds," she says.

Nightmare...or No Big Deal?

For Elham, the biggest struggle was the social aspect of eating sweets. "I went to visit my family in Tehran and cheated a number of times. It's such an ingrained part of our culture I couldn't say no, and it was near impossible to resist my aunt's tiramisu." However, when she returned she followed the advice Blatner gave her and carried two pieces of fruit with her at all times, which calmed her cravings, even during tea breaks. "Once I was back in school and into my busy schedule I didn't miss them as much," she says.

However, Elham did start eating sweets again after 30 days -- she says she loves them too much to deprive herself forever -- but now feels satisfied with a bite or two of cake or a single cookie. The biggest bonus -- and motivator -- was the scale. "After one month I lost five pounds, and I'm determined to keep it off!" she says.

Cut It Out

As with caffeine, the more sugary foods you eat, the more you crave them, says Blatner. "It's not an addiction in the traditional sense, but sugar supplies your body with a quick burst of energy that's easy to rely on." To start cutting back on sweets, Blatner suggests that you first focus on what you're eating at regular meals. "A substantial breakfast that includes fiber-packed whole grains and some protein will help you stay fuller longer, which tempers cravings," she says. Try whole-grain waffles or reduced-sugar oatmeal with reduced-fat milk or yogurt. For a more savory breakfast, choose an egg-white and low-fat-cheese omelet on whole-wheat toast or a whole-grain English muffin with turkey sausage. If, like Elham, you associate sweets with ritual or reward, find a healthier substitute like fruit or sugar-free hot chocolate and a nonfood reward such as a new lipstick or a pedicure.

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