The 10 Commandments of Dieting, Debunked
Pages in this Story:
- When and What Can You Really Eat to Lose Weight?
- Do These Dieting Strategies Really Work?
Do These Dieting Strategies Really Work?Thou shalt focus on thy food.
I don't see the point of eating without multitasking. I'm busy! In the past week, I've had cereal at my desk, noshed on nuts while driving, and dined on steak with the Real Housewives (I don't think I ate any more than if I'd been watching my plate instead of the overprivileged). When I tried to focus on my meal, I was so worried about everything else I had to do that I carried my plate over to the computer. Fail!
Dieting Truth: The pros tell me I'm forgetting two keys to weight loss: (1) enjoying food and (2) tuning in to satiety signals. "You need to slow down and focus on what you're eating so you can savor food and recognize when you're full," Giancoli says. But how? "Practice eating without distractions for a few meals until you master the skill," says Judith S. Beck, PhD, author of The Beck Diet Solution, who recommends setting a timer for 15 minutes and taking that long to eat, or putting a note by my plate that reads, "Slow down!" Since incorporating her advice, which was agony at first but pretty easy now, I've quit the clean-plate club.Thou shalt track every bite.
Whenever I bust out the food journal, the pounds melt away. Trouble is, after a few days I figure I've mastered the art of tracking -- which, let's face it, can be a real pain -- so I start doing it in my head. "Sure, that looks like four ounces of chicken." "A wineglass is supposed to be that full." And just like that, when the accountability disappears, the pounds reappear.
Dieting Truth: Beck had just the solution: reverse tracking. "It's better to write down a plan in advance and check things off as you go," she says. "You can still be flexible -- for example, whole-grain cereal and fruit for breakfast, and lean protein, one roll, and vegetables with a little oil at lunch. But this reduces the likelihood of spontaneous eating." At first I was skeptical, yet once I started printing a checklist each morning, I was hooked. It's fun to mark off those boxes and see that I'm on track.Thou shalt ask the server to pack up half thy meal at a restaurant.
Here's what happened the first time I tried this: "I'll have the oatmeal. Um, could you split...never mind!" I chickened out. I already felt conspicuous because the rest of the table -- my dad's girlfriend and her family, whom I'd just met -- was having pancakes. But I was determined, so while out to lunch with a friend, I asked the waitress to box up half my eight-ounce swordfish. She didn't bat an eye, and even said people ask her to do this all the time. When the fish came, the portion looked small but only compared with a typical restaurant serving. I loved knowing that I could eat the whole thing guilt-free; plus, I felt satisfied, not stuffed, and had leftovers.
Dieting Truth: The experts give this rule a thumbs-up, but Fernstrom had another option in case embarrassment gets the best of me: Split an entree with your companion; this worked perfectly at dinner with my husband when we shared a filet mignon. Another day I came up with my own strategy and ordered from the kids' menu, one of the many upsides to having a pint-size person in tow.Thou shalt shop only the perimeter of the supermarket.
It sounds so sensible -- all those fruits and vegetables are right by the entrance -- but I discovered plenty of diet don'ts on the outskirts. On one recent excursion I progressed from celery and bananas right to snack cakes and booze! And if I hadn't ventured into the middle, I wouldn't have found frozen peas and broccoli or whole-grain bread.
Dieting Truth: "There have always been plenty of healthy options in the center," Giancoli notes. "We need to forget this rule because it doesn't hold water." Fernstrom gave me this tip instead: "To avoid impulse buying, stick to a list and don't go when you're hungry."Thou shalt eat thy fruits and vegetables.
I'm supposed to eat two and a half cups of veggies and one and a half cups of fruits each day (find your recommendation at mypyramid.gov). Fortunately, I love produce -- so much that I wash and prep it right when I get home from the supermarket, then store it front and center in my fridge for easy access. A typical breakfast of mine includes a cup of berries, and I fill up on raw or steamed broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans at lunch and dinner. I snack on cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, and oranges. But even for a produce princess like me, getting enough is tough when my routine is thrown off -- say, when I'm traveling or running errands.
Dieting Truth: Vegetable soup or juice is an easy way to squeeze in extra servings. Their salt content freaked me out, but Fernstrom gave the low-sodium versions of the single-serving portable containers her blessing (two to try: V8 100% Vegetable Juice and Campbell's Soup at Hand). Meanwhile, Giancoli blew my mind when she told me that hummus counts as a veggie, so now I dip my crudites in it. I just make sure not to eat the whole container.Thou shalt have 25 grams of fiber a day.
I'm a fiber fan, so I couldn't wait to tally the grams. Frozen berries (11 grams) with my oatmeal (4 grams) got me more than halfway to the target. I snacked on a Luna Bar (3 grams) and a slice of whole-grain bread (4 grams) with a tablespoon of peanut butter (1 gram); then I had a heaping helping of steamed veggies with lunch (4 grams) and a frozen beef tamale at dinner (4 grams).
Dieting Truth: "Produce, beans, and whole grains are your best bets," Giancoli says, "but in a pinch you can have oatmeal or a bar that's fortified with extra fiber. Some have as many as 12 grams." But when I tried one of those bars, I found that another reason to have them infrequently was -- TMI alert! -- room-clearing gas. I opted instead for popcorn (4 grams) and barley salad (6 grams). TMI alert two: It's made this whole pound-shedding process even more...productive!Have I been saved?
After two weeks of test-driving and tweaking the commandments, I was down four pounds. Being able to toss some rules and stay faithful to the rest makes me feel that I might actually become a dieting demigoddess myself. Can I get a witness? Amen.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2011.
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