The Anti-Diet: How Not Dieting Is the Key to Losing Weight
Anti-Dieting Strategies, Tested"I can't keep cookies in the house."
Michelle Arteaga, 41, of Novato, California, wants to bake cookies with her kids. What's stopping her? Fear of gobbling up the whole batch. "I try to resist, but I end up eating them all," she admits. "I've even put cookies down the garbage disposal when I've felt really out of control. Why can't I eat just one or two like a normal person?"
Anti-diet strategy: Habituation Conventional weight-loss wisdom says that keeping trigger foods out of the house will keep them out of your mouth. But anti-diet proponents say just the opposite: that a food loses its power over you when it's available 24-7. "Some people actually discover they don't like it as much as they thought they did," says Evelyn Tribole, RD, the author of Intuitive Eating. To try this, keep your kryptonite in the house for two weeks. In Michelle's case, that meant stocking her cookie jar with homemade chocolate chip cookies at all times and baking a fresh batch whenever she ran low.
Real-world results: Michelle says: "I was sure I had an insatiable appetite for cookies. But the first time I gave myself permission to eat as many as I wanted, I was surprised that I was satisfied after just three. By day four the cookies were already less tempting. Now they don't seem as scary as they did before. Removing the danger sign helped me realize that they are just cookies and don't have special power over me.""I overeat at meals."
Gabby Meyerson, 29, of New York City, is a lifelong member of the clean plate club. "I'm generally a healthy eater, but I love food. I often don't know when to stop," she says.
Anti-diet strategy: Pace eating "When we eat, we tend to consume the entire portion. This doesn't account for the fact that it takes some time for the brain to register that the stomach is full," says Pavel Somov, PhD, a psychologist in Pittsburgh and the author of Eating the Moment. "So we end up eating beyond the point of pleasant fullness." The following technique is the perfect solution: Divide your portion in half, eat the first half, and then set a timer for a five-minute break. Close your eyes, tune in to your body and ask yourself, Am I still hungry? Am I satisfied? Next, open your eyes and notice the moment: What do I smell? How does the remaining food look? Then, if you're still hungry, eat the rest of the food. If you're satisfied, don't. If you're full but yearn for another taste, have a slow, mindful one.
Real-world results: Gabby says: "At first it was strange to just sit there with food in front of me, especially when I ate with my husband. But I got used to checking in with my body instead of automatically cleaning my plate. Turns out, I need much less food than I thought. Sometimes I'm full after the five-minute break, and I don't eat any more. Now I actually enjoy my meals instead of inhaling them. I'm eating less overall, and my pants feel a bit looser.""I multitask while eating."
Busy bee Amanda Betts, 28, of Vancouver, British Columbia, is always doing several things at once. "While I eat, I may be texting, working on my computer, reading, or watching TV," she says. "Even right after a meal, I often feel dissatisfied and still hungry."
Anti-diet strategy: Silent meal Once a week, guests at the Green Mountain weight-loss retreat have a 40-minute meal with no conversation, music, or distraction of any kind. The theory is that when you quiet external noise, it's easier to hear your internal hunger and satiety cues. "It's a profound eye-opener for many women, because they realize they don't listen to their bodies when they eat," says Meyer. Here's a quick how-to: First, warn your family so they won't think you're mad at them. Then, unplug from technology. Set a timer to go off every few minutes as a reminder to pause and check in with yourself; put down your fork and take a few mindful breaths, noticing if you're satisfied or still hungry. From there, decide whether or not to stop eating.
Real-world results: Amanda says: "I usually eat dinner with my boyfriend. Eating in silence was a bit weird because we're so used to chatting at supper. But when I tried it alone and focused on the food -- how it tasted, what it looked like, and how full or hungry I was -- I noticed that it seemed more flavorful, and it was easy to tell when I was satisfied. I still do a silent meal occasionally; my boyfriend does too. Even when I'm out with friends, I eat a lot less now because I check in with myself about whether I'm full."
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