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Diet Tips from a Party Chick

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LESSON 4: Fill up to slim down.

It sounds clichéd, but drinking tons of water really helps me feel satisfied, especially when I'm about to go to a party. When I took a look at my food journal, I realized I was much more apt to overindulge on days when I had skimped on H2O. You're also way less likely to overeat after you've had food with a high water content, like soup, according to a study from Pennsylvania State University in University Park. By experimenting with recipes, I've learned to enjoy filling foods that release sugar into the bloodstream slowly and have few calories, such as apples (microwave slices with cinnamon), yogurt (sweeten it with honey), and frozen vegetables (stir-fry them in olive oil).

LESSON 5: Don't freak out over a plateau.

Sure, you'll have times when the scale doesn't budge. I discovered it was relatively easy for me to maintain my weight but difficult to lose pounds. So I decided to dedicate certain weeks to eating cleanly and having no more than three alcoholic drinks. I planned these times in advance so that I could mix some maintenance weeks, when I socialized and went out a lot, with some weight-loss weeks. But don't be too strict about it: I actually dropped four pounds the week of my sister's bachelorette weekend -- three days of cocktails and carbs galore!

LESSON 6: Think about your next meal.

Previously, when I sat down to eat, I had an almost panicked feeling that it might be my last feast for a while, so I would eat until I was stuffed. Now I find that it helps to look forward to my next meal while I'm consuming my current one. For instance, if you're having an omelet in the morning, pause for a moment to plan your lunch so that you don't overdo it. But while you're eating, it's helpful to focus on every bite. One study found that people consumed 44 percent more food when they ate while mindlessly watching a late-night TV show.

LESSON 7: Get a puppy.

When my husband and I first took home Elvis, our French bulldog, I barely sat down. Popping up to let him out -- not to mention walking him -- helped me burn mega calories. Incidental exercise definitely adds up; studies have shown that small spurts of regular exercise, even 10 minutes, can reduce stress and improve your overall fitness level. Research from Michigan State University in East Lansing found that women who own dogs and take them for walks were 34 percent more likely to exercise for the recommended 150 minutes a week. No pet? Fire up your metabolism by tidying up your house during TV commercial breaks, taking a lap around your office, or doing squats while you blow-dry your hair.

LESSON 8: Lose weight, not your lifestyle.

Despite my initial worries, I learned that whittling my waist didn't mean missing fun gatherings. A new study even suggested that socializing can boost your body's ability to torch calories by triggering a process that changes fat from the type that stores energy to the kind that burns energy. I still go out just as much, but I make small tweaks, like choosing either wine, dessert or bread and ordering two appetizers instead of a big entrée. When you combine several little strategies, the cumulative effect can be huge, and you won't feel as if you've given up your life to be slim.

LESSON 9: Don't high-five yourself with food.

My childhood memories of family vacays always involve celebratory splurges: huge burritos in San Antonio, a massive cheesecake in New York City; you get the picture. If you think about it, most holidays, birthdays, and social events treat food as a trophy. If you retrain your mind to look at food as fuel rather than as a confirmation that you're happy, you'll be able to eat less. Another surefire way to stay slim: Don't keep extra food in your house that you can use as treats. Other than microwaving oatmeal, I rarely cook. In fact, I used the oven in my last apartment to store beauty products. (Before you judge: I test products as if it's my job, because it is!) By picking up only what I need for the day, I'm not able to give in to late-night I-deserve-something-sweet cravings, and I eat fresher too.

LESSON 10: Raise the bar.

Weight training helps your muscles burn fat even after you stop working out, so you'll still be sizzling calories when your butt is parked on the couch. Studies showed that a doing mere 11 minutes of this sort of workout three times a week is enough to reduce your body fat and raise your metabolism. Plus, a pound of muscle takes up about 20 percent less space in your body than a pound of fat, so you look a lot slimmer. A tip I learned from Vernon: Don't forget to exercise your posterior muscles, such as calves, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles, which women often neglect. Getting these into shape is critical for preventing injuries and looking ultratoned. I mix in two days of strength training with three days of brisk walking and one or two Spinning classes a week at Flywheel Sports in New York City. One study showed that just 10 minutes of cycling can boost your mood and give you more energy.

Despite a few five-pound setbacks -- the result of boozy summer barbecues and the onslaught of holiday sweets -- I've kept off those pounds for more than a year now by mastering the delicate balance of how to eat and drink and not gain weight. It was so rewarding to look healthy and trim in my 30th-birthday party photos this year that I plan to stay fit and confident for the rest of my life. That's definitely cause for celebration!

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2012.


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