You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
"Stop focusing on calories and start focusing on the quality of the foods you eat. High-quality diet options are natural, whole, minimally processed foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds that offer a lot more nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. These foods help tame hunger naturally and nourish our cells at the deepest level so that we aren't left with constant cravings. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
"Alcohol not only contributes extra calories, but often keeps company with juice/tonic, slows metabolism, triggers hunger, and can lead to poor food judgement (drunk people order cheese fries, not salads). 'A glass of wine' (or two) 5x a week definitely adds up. It may behoove you to go cold turkey on booze temporarily and see if it makes a different. Plus, alcohol can be rather bloating." — Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition
Based on my experience in nutrition counseling, most of us tend to snack on foods that aren’t nutrient-dense, but are high in calories. For example, skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster. You don’t feel full from drinks — even the ones that do contain calories — so swapping those out for sparkling water or unsweetened tea and coffee is the best place to start. Other major culprits often come in refined grains like cereals, chips, crackers, and cookies.
It's time to focus on your lentil health. In one four-week Spanish study, researchers found that eating a calorie-restricted diet that includes four weekly servings of legumes aids weight loss more effectively than an equivalent diet that doesn't include beans. Those who consumed the legume-rich diet also saw improvements in their "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and systolic blood-pressure. To reap the benefits at home, work lentils, chickpeas, peas and beans into your diet throughout the week.
"Stepping on the scale frequently makes you aware of small changes and helps you quickly react to those changes. The National Weight Control Registry, a large group of people who have successfully lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for 5 years, found that successful 'losers' weigh themselves often and make adjustments accordingly. When you begin to understand that sodium, carb intake, hormones and alcohol intake can impact weight and that it isn't possible to gain 2 pounds of fat overnight, you will begin to better understand your body. The key is to pay attention to overall trends; don't obsess over day-to-day numbers! — Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.