High-protein diets, low carbohydrate diets, liquid diets, dreary fast days. Forget them, there’s a much simpler way to be pretty and skinny. All you have to do is use your head, it’s the only thing that you need.

You probably have had the discouraging experience of going on a diet for two or three weeks and losing a couple of pounds and then going off it and gaining all the weight back again.

The reason for this is perfectly simple. You have not changed the underlying behavior patterns that made you put on weight in the first place.

Overweight comes from overeating, which is an acquired habit, and one you want to break. To do this, you have to tell yourself to change your ways. You have to think yourself thin.

Willpower is one thing you need. If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m going to do something about my weight,” there is no way anyone can help you.

But if you try to do it on willpower alone, you are likely to fail. You need an extra nudge, such as a practical program of thinking through your eating behavior and changing it. We offer you 10 strategies to help you reach your goal. Use them all.

STRATEGY

Plan a weekly series of meals – based on some good sound diet. Keep track of what you eat each day. Reward yourself if you stick to your diet plan. Punish yourself if you don’t.

Make the rewards something definite: an evening at the theatre, a dress you have had your eye on, a row of herbs for the kitchen or windowsill. You can also have small rewards along the way. If you skip a buttered roll and have black coffee or tea with lemon for your 11 a.m. break, use the money to buy yourself some little present.

Punishments, just like rewards, should be specific – like no meals out for a week.

This is probably the best strategy for weight control ever developed. You must make sure that the reward or punishment is proportionate to the effort involved and the results.

EXERCISE

Exercise is an essential component of any good weight-loss program. Do not believe what you hear about exercise increasing your appetite and therefore canceling out any loss it produces.

Exercise before a meal tends to reduce appetite. Furthermore, people who have a regular exercise program usually end up eating less.

So set yourself a regular exercise plan, and stick to it if you can. If you can’t at first, just keep trying.

  • Climb stairs instead of taking the lift whenever possible, if you live on the fourth floor and walk up four times daily, you will lose about 10 pounds a year.
  • Walk rather than take a bus every chance you get.
  • Take a brisk half-hour walk during your lunch hour, preferably before you eat.
  • Join an exercise class.
  • Exercise nightly for 15 minutes while watching the TV news.

HOW TO SHOP

Overeating starts at the supermarket. Don’t be a basket case. If you look at the shopping baskets of other people in the aisles, you will probably find that the people buying the most snack foods are the very ones who weigh the most.

  • Eat a plain yogurt and an apple for lunch each day.
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry.
  • Don’t bring more money than you need.
  • Don’t stay too long in the supermarket, browsing.
  • Avoid shelves with snack foods.
  • Don’t bring your children with you if you can help it.
  • Try making a list and sticking to it.

BEHAVIOR

It has been found that overweight people tend to eat not because they are hungry but in response to external stimuli – a heaped-up dish of ice-cream on the next table in the fast-food restaurant, the picture of a piece of chocolate cake in a magazine ad. So it’s important to change your environment in the following ways:

  • Find a continuing education course and get out of the house at prime stimuli time.
  • Join a squash club and play right after work every night.
  • Do things other than eat at lunchtime – one of the best ways to stall your appetite is to have a manicure. Bring a plain yogurt and an apple back to the office and eat at your desk (when your polish is dry).
  • Use smaller plates.
  • Stay out of the kitchen as much as you possibly can – admit it is the last place in the world you should be.
  • Never watch TV with any food at hand – least of all peanuts or potato chips. As a matter of fact, watch less TV.
  • If you eat too much at moments when you feel low, check with your doctor. People who are mildly depressed are very apt to overeat and the doctor can help you.

AVOID DEPRIVATION

Deprivation of various kinds causes eating problems. One is skipping meals – which often happens with dieters and often backfires by encouraging excesses at the next meal. Another is a lack of sufficient rest and sleep. And overeating can often stem from boredom, as well.

  • Schedule meals for specific times and stick to your schedule.
  • Get enough sleep and get it regularly.
  • Avoid boredom.
  • Make a list of activities you enjoy – and do them.
  • See friends.
  • Take in all the new plays.
  • Join a health club.
  • Take up tennis.
  • Go to tap-dancing class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
  • Learn French or Russian.
  • Walk.

BREAKING HABITS

There is a very important point about eating which many people do not understand. It takes at least 15 minutes from the start of a meal for the filling effects of the food to be felt. Slow down – and you won’t run as much risk of gorging.

  • Take smaller bites and chew your food thoroughly and slowly.
  • Put down your knife and fork between bites.
  • Carry on a pleasant conversation with your lunch or dinner partner – pause and talk for a couple of minutes before taking the next mouthful.
  • If eating alone, stop every so often. Do not eat like a nonstop machine.
  • Enjoy each bite fully. Give your body a chance to realize what you have already eaten.

PUT IT IN WRITING

Making a note to yourself to do something today or tomorrow or next Tuesday is a very good way of getting it done. By the same token, writing yourself a reminder of all the bad things that overeating does and the good things that will come of dieting will be a big help.

Now, taking the various points on your lists one by one, write them on separate index cards. Post the cards in places where you will see them – so they can become part of your daily routine and serve as useful willpower props. For example:

What will I look like without any clothes on two weeks from now?

After I lose 3kg I can buy a new dress.

Imagine going to exercise class and not being embarrassed by wearing a leotard.

FORTIFICATION

It is important to fortify yourself against temptation before it occurs by imagining that you can break your eating-problem behavior. Four or five times a day, go through the following routine.

Sit down somewhere by yourself, close your eyes, and imagine you are in some situation where a kind of food you crave is directly in front of you. Now:

  • Look hard at the imagined food and feel tempted.
  • Pretend you are reaching for the food.
  • Put it in your mouth.
  • Imagine beginning to eat the food.
  • But stop yourself from turning the dream into reality.

UNHOOK THE CHAIN

Modern food processing, the supermarket, and the refrigerator have made the non-stop eating of snacks and convenience foods a way of life. See to it that the whole matter of getting something to eat is more difficult and more time-consuming.

  • Do not shop once a week for the whole week. Shop each day – and buy only what you need for that day.
  • Stretch out the preparation of food. Instead of minute steak, buy fresh prawns and cook, clean and devein them. Instead of potatoes, eat freshly shelled peas (or lima beans, if you can find them). Or prepare carrots, cut paper-thin. Or eat an artichoke – with a little lemon, no butter.
  • Make apple sauce for dessert – strain it well. Or chop lots of fresh fruit (carefully skin the grapefruit sections) and keep in a bowl in the refrigerator with freshly strained orange juice to sweeten it instead of sugar).

TELL IT LIKE IT IS

The cheap modern tape recorder provides you with an excellent instrument for self-indoctrination in your reducing program. Put the instructions on a cassette, and keep your tape recorder in a handy spot. Make the instructions clear and blunt. For instance:

Stop. If you eat that, you will have even more trouble getting your figure back.

You may enjoy this for a second or two, but you will regret it for weeks.

What man is ever going to look at you if you can’t make yourself lose weight?

Follow a balanced diet program as well. But if you have any special health problem, be sure to check with your doctor before going on any diet.


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