Outsmart Your Appetite
Sidestep These Diet Traps
You work out regularly, and you watch what you eat -- so why do you have to lie down to button your skinny jeans?
Things around you, from the candles on your dining-room table to those super-cute dessert plates, are setting you up to overindulge. "But if you understand the external forces that make you buy and eat more, you can avoid the pitfalls," says Brian Wansink, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and the author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Here's how to spot -- and sidestep -- 15 diet traps.Diet Trap: Eating Slowly
Mom's been telling you for years to stop shoveling in your food, and you know that this bad habit makes you consume more calories. But eating too slowly can also backfire. Research shows that the longer a meal lasts, the likelier we are to reach for a third glass of wine or dinner roll. "Just sitting at the table means a greater chance of nibbling on something, even if you're not hungry," says Sasha Loring, a psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher at Duke Integrative Medicine.
Sidestep It: A meal should last 45 minutes: long enough for you to enjoy it, but not so much that you'll overeat. Make a 45-minute playlist, and get up after the last song.Diet Trap: Low-Fat Labels
When a food -- even chips or cookies -- is labeled low-fat, we think it's healthy and tend to go overboard, research shows.
Sidestep It: Take a look at the serving size, and portion that amount into baggies, suggests Genevieve Smith, 32, a teacher from South Jamesport, New York. She prepares her own 100-calorie packs of baked chips and whole-grain crackers. A bonus: Smaller packages provide a stopping point, so you can decide whether you want to keep eating. If you think you've downed an entire serving, you're more likely to feel satisfied.Diet Trap: Meals in Front of the TV
Fess up: How many times this week did you dine under the influence of TV? Kids in a University of Toronto study who ate in front of the tube consumed, on average, 228 more calories than those who didn't. "If you're distracted during a meal, you'll enjoy your food less and lose track of how much you're eating," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Sidestep It: Can't give up a night with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin? TiVo 30 Rock and consider it your after-dinner treat. Or do what Jessica Downey, 31, an editor in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, does: "I eat during the commercials. I enjoy my food more because I'm not distracted, and the pauses help me recognize when I'm full."Diet Trap: Too Many Choices
Ever wonder why it's so hard to resist those pastries in the middle of the conference-room table, even if you had a hearty breakfast? Research suggests it's because a plate holding a variety of foods heightens our senses and turns on our taste buds. "Take away the choice and our senses get numbed, making a tray of the same type of muffin look less appealing," says Wansink.
Sidestep It: To help you say no to the bagels and doughnuts at your next meeting, bring a snack of your own, or pick a spot at the table where you'll have to leave your chair to take one. "You'll be more likely to think twice about it, since you'd attract attention getting up," says Taub-Dix.Diet Trap: Bold Color
Ever wondered why lots of fast-food joints use red in their stores and logos? It's because red is a stimulating hue, and it just may increase your appetite.
Sidestep It: In your kitchen, go for blue, which experts believe suppresses hunger. "Blue is a soothing, calming color that can subconsciously help you slow down and enjoy your meal," says Taub-Dix. Not ready for robin's-egg walls? Use blue place mats, or arrange a bouquet of hydrangeas as a centerpiece.Diet Trap: Family-Style Dinners
A serving bowl of fluffy mashed potatoes on the table is just begging you to take a second (or third) helping. Instead, put a full portion on your plate at the beginning of the meal and leave the rest on the kitchen counter; you'll eat less, according to Wansink.
Sidestep It: Make it harder to pig out. When Jill Roth, a 29-year-old therapist in Boulder, Colorado, makes comfort food, like macaroni and cheese, she puts the leftovers in the freezer immediately after she serves her meal. "Since it takes more effort to defrost the mac and cheese, I'm less likely to dip into it all week," she explains. Plus, no serving dishes to scrub!Diet Trap: Mouthwatering Aromas
Can't muster the willpower to keep walking past the bakery once you get a whiff of chocolate-chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes? Studies show that simply smelling a food can increase appetite and stimulate salivation, which will make you eat more if you do indulge.
Sidestep It: Distract yourself so you won't follow your nose. Penny Wrenn, a 32-year-old writer in New York City, takes out her cell phone and checks voice mail or sends a few texts when she walks by the yummy-smelling cafe on her way home from the gym. "It helps me ride out the craving, and more often than not, the urge passes," she says.
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