By Taylor Salinardi, MS
After weeks of feasting on delicious holiday treats, millions of Americans enter the New Year with a plan to get their diets back on track. As many as 40% of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions about dieting and weight loss. Yet, with so many new and seemingly innovative diets flooding the media, even diet experts find it hard to make sense of what is legitimate. With an endless number of diets to choose from – the Flat Belly Diet, the Detox Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the list goes on – it’s hard to determine the best way to get rid of those holiday pounds. Here are a few good tips to getting back on track.
- Repurpose your holiday leftovers. This will help to minimize your temptation to delay eating healthfully. By removing the holiday leftovers from your refrigerator (donate them, give them to friends, or throw them away) you will find this process less painful. Setting up your environment to promote healthy eating is critical to getting back on track!
- Never, ever go hungry. To successfully manage your weight, you must control your hunger. Going too many hours without eating will leave you ravenous and more likely to overeat, or to make poor food choices when you do eat. How can you control your hunger? A diet high in fiber helps a lot. Fiber will make you feel fuller for longer because it slows your digestion. Try to incorporate at least one high fiber food at each meal and snack. Good sources of fiber include: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
- Remember the 5 P’s: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. You may remember this saying from elementary school but it applies to dieting as well. Always carry healthy snacks with you – in your desk, your bag, your car, or in your pockets! My favorites are high fiber cereal, low-fat Greek yogurt, or a piece of fruit with nuts. When you are prepared, you will be less tempted by those calorically dense convenience foods surrounding you.
- Cook at home. When you cook your own meals, you can control how much and what goes on your plate. Restaurants often add unnecessary amounts of fat, salt, and sugar to enhance flavoring, and it can be hiding in even the healthiest sounding dishes! Without a doubt, those who are most successful at weight loss eat out less frequently. Experiment with fun new recipes that you haven’t tried. Also, when you cook, portion out servings into separate containers and put the leftovers away before you sit down to eat to avoid overeating at any meal. And, if you cook up extra food to have for the week, when you come home hungry and tired from work, you can simply heat up one of your home-cooked healthy dinners in minutes!
- Weigh-in. No one loves the idea getting on the scale regularly, but self-monitoring helps you assess both progress and setbacks. Research shows that those who weigh themselves regularly are most successful at maintaining their weight. Get on the scale at least once per week to keep track of your progress.
- Get moving – but not too much. Physical activity is excellent for your health, independent of weight loss; however, research suggests that exercise is more beneficial for maintaining weight than losing it. Levels of hunger hormones are elevated after exercise, signaling your brain that you are hungry. Many people don’t realize that they overcompensate with their food intake after exercise; thus, consuming more calories than they burned. Keep up your regular exercise routine, and if you didn’t exercise before, add it in slowly so your body can adjust.
Although getting back on track after a holiday season full of indulgence can be difficult at first, small changes can make a big difference and you’ll be on your way to better health in no time!
Taylor is a fourth year doctoral student in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition at the Friedman School. Her dissertation research focuses on obesity prevention and weight loss in worksites. She is also an avid runner and passionate about healthy cooking.