The best way to lose weight is to combine a modest increase in physical activity with a modest decrease in calorie intake.
Thus, this program contains an exercise as well as a diet section. If you follow our suggestions faithfully for the next 2 weeks, you may be able to change not only what you eat but also how you eat. And this is the key to the most successful of all dieting techniques: behavior modification.
When you incorporate such an attitude change into your everyday life, one biscuit will not undo a diet. You’ll know how to meet your most acute hunger pangs and head them off at the pass with the right foods or with a late-afternoon stroll.
The behavior being modified, of course, is yours. Only you know when your binges come, or what specific foods your system craves – so the modification must come from you as well. Think of all of these modifications as temporary – as lasting a mere 2 weeks. When the 2 weeks are up, make at least half of them permanent.
1. Resolve to consume as few calories as possible in liquid form, skim milk being one exception
This is the easiest resolution of all to follow through on because artificial sweeteners make it possible to give up many beverages without giving up the sweet taste. So no alcohol of any kind, including wine. You can have tea and coffee, hot or iced, plain or artificially sweetened. Drink mineral water or low-calorie soft drinks during the day, and either tomato juice or grapefruit juice at breakfast (both are lower in natural sugar content than orange juice).
2. Eat nothing deep-fried
It is often difficult to regulate the amount of fat in food but it is possible to regulate the amount of fat used in preparing food. Onions are innocent of calories, for example, while fried onion rings are loaded with them. As a simple rule of thumb, remember that anything crumbed and fried has tripled original calorie value.
3. Choose your protein with care
Fish is less fattening than chicken, and chicken is less fattening than veal, and veal than beef, and beef than pork. Nothing is more fattening than cured meats and processed meat products. Grill or bake all meats to cut your intake of fats. Or pan-fry them in a non-stick pan seasoned with coarse kitchen salt.
4. Eliminate butter and margarine completely
Spread your breakfast toast with sieved cottage cheese, your midday sandwich with a mixture of equal parts of low-calorie mayonnaise and yogurt. Season vegetables with soy sauce or lemon juice.
5. Begin each dinner with a salad course, and begin the salad at least half an hour before dinner
A mixed green salad, tossed with a low-calorie dressing, allays pre-dinner hunger pangs. And by consuming it at least 30 minutes before you sit down to dinner, you will give your stomach time to send its laggard but vital message to the hunger center of the brain. It takes that long for the message to get through, which is why we so often eat past the point of fullness without realizing.
6. With your hunger under control, sit down to the same dinner everyone else is having
But have yours on a smaller plate, and have half as much. Take something of everything – except wine and butter – and leave something of everything. Every morsel you leave behind will reinforce your sense of control over your appetite.
Contradictory as this advice may sound, it makes good nutritional sense. The more often you eat, the less likely you are to feel uncontrollably hungry. The trick, naturally, is to snack properly. Popcorn (lightly salted and unbuttered) is perhaps the most sorely neglected of diet foods. It’s high in bulk, high in fiber, and virtually devoid of calories.
Another much-maligned snack food is raw vegetables – not just carrots and celery but shallots and radishes, zucchini spears and baby lettuce leaves, cauliflower and broccoli florets, tomato wedges and pepper rings. Dip them in yogurt laced with horseradish and lemon juice, or in low-calorie mayonnaise mixed with chili sauce and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
8. Fast for one day
You may discover that you have a far better fasting tolerance than you ever imagined, and you may also find it easier to go without food for a whole day than to work a new eating routine into an already hectic schedule.
In 24 hours, which is as long as anyone should fast without supervision, you can lose as much as 2 pounds of body fat, depending on your normal calorie intake and exercise level. If this suggestion works well for you, consider making it part of your regular routine – say, every other Wednesday.
9. Decline dessert
Chances are that if you have a weight problem, desserts are a major part of it. Sugar has no nutritional value but calories.
Don’t get excited. The kind of exercise we are talking about here is the kind that all of us do every day but none of us thinks of as exercise. No matter what our age, no matter what the weather, no matter what our professional or domestic situation, we all walk.
Spend an additional 30 minutes on your feet every day, walking at your customary pace. Just that extra half hour may help you burn off an additional pound of fat in 2 weeks. And you need not necessarily do all that walking in one shot. Here’s how to incorporate it into your everyday routine:
- Walk the extra meter or so. To the distant extension phone, rather than the one right next to you. To the foot of the drive to greet the postman. To the far bank of lifts, the copy machine in another department.
- Walk somewhere you regularly ride. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Walk home from school, or from the station, or from your Tuesday bridge game.
- Stop napping. Believe it or not, a half-hour walk is more refreshing and restorative than a half-hour nap.
- Invent a daily errand that requires walking. Walk to a small local grocery store for your yogurt. Walk the dog for longer each day.
- Walk whenever the urge to eat comes over you. Steal away for a short stroll around the block at your accustomed hour to snack. Take a walk when dessert is served – and let someone else do the dishes.
Do not weigh yourself until the 2-week period is over. Like all good diets, this one will produce a small initial drop in total body weight – followed by a “plateau” lasting for as long as a week.
During this time the body will be burning stored fat but retaining water – and your scale will tell you, falsely, that the diet is failing you. It isn’t, but you will not see the results until the end of the second week, when your body has shed the water and revealed the real weight loss – and the real, new you.