1. I Want to Stop Eating Fast Food
Nutrition expert and O, The Oprah Magazine columnist Dr. David L. Katz has a way to shore up your resolve.
Filling out a balance sheet on fast food
is easy. The overabundance of calories, sodium, sugar, and fat alone will give you enough reasons to quit. Fast food's only real benefit is convenience, yet even that is an illusion: If you typically go out for such food at lunchtime, packing a lunch at home is even faster. I recommend nutritious snacks like carrots, fruit slices, or a yogurt cup that you take with you each day. And even at dinner, research from UCLA has demonstrated that if you have the right ingredients in your pantry and fridge, preparing a meal takes only about 10 minutes more than making a trip to buy fast food, costs less, and is much better for you.
If forgoing burgers and fries would leave you out in the cold with your friends at work, see if you can get a few co-workers to sign on to your new plan. You'll find that in a few weeks your taste preferences will change. After a couple of months, you'll actually be hungry for more healthful food.
2. I Need to Learn How to Say No to Doughnuts
Assuming the doughnut isn't actually pleading with you (if it is, you have bigger problems), you simply need to work on avoidance. First, locate your motivation with a balance sheet; remind yourself about the evils of too much sugar, saturated fat, and calories, not to mention the lack of nutrients. Remember, too, that sweet treats can trigger swings in your blood sugar, priming you for energy crashes followed by more cravings for sweets.
Even if you're strongly motivated, though, doughnuts are tough to walk away from. Instead, try dodging temptation preemptively. Avoid the break room at work, don't let anyone in the family bring doughnuts home, and steer clear of doughnut shops. And focus on healthy alternatives. A whole grain bagel will meet your carbohydrate needs; a fruit salad has enough natural sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
3. I Can't Seem to Let My Kids' Leftovers Go to Waste
Too many of us are still struggling with the "clean your plate" mentality. We were raised to believe that wasting food is a crime. But eating food you don't need and barely want is an even bigger problem than throwing it away—U.S. obesity rates are a testament to that. Luckily for you, there's an easy way around this problem, and doing the right thing will not only help you but also teach your children healthy eating habits. Give your kids smaller portions, and let them ask for more if they want it. That way, there won't be anything left on their plate for you to finish.
4. I Must Resist the Home-Baked Goods My Co-workers Bring In
This seems like a golden opportunity. It sounds as if you have a great group dynamic, and your co-workers are obviously willing to put time into food preparation. All that remains is to focus not just on food you love but on food that loves you back. I recommend that you all get together and make a schedule to take turns bringing in food; that way you'll have a reasonable amount on any given day. Then see who can make the best ingredient substitutions to improve nutrition; applesauce for half of the oil, for example. (Visit AmericanHeart.org and search for "Tips for healthy cooking.")
You can share the recipes and help one another improve your repertoire of delicious, nutritious items. Who knows—maybe you guys will publish a cookbook someday!
5. I Want to Stop Eating After 9 P.M.
There is nothing holy about eating at specific times. For night-shift workers, 10 p.m. is breakfast, but I'm guessing that's not your situation. So I'd recommend trying to figure out why you are ravenous so late: Are you actually hungry? Are you bored? Or are you just looking for some day-ending pleasure? You could address your cravings with something other than food. Try listening to music, taking a warm bath, or getting a back rub. But if you're truly hungry, try adjusting your eating pattern during the day—larger breakfast, smaller dinner, more frequent small meals, etc.—so you don't wind up with an uncaged appetite at bedtime. Or go ahead and indulge at 10 p.m., but plan for it; fill your home with a variety of nutritious options for that time of night (fresh fruit, say, or air-popped popcorn) and limit yourself to one indulgence per day.
6. I'm Trying to Control My Stress-Related Binge Eating
Use your balance sheet to convince yourself to begin practicing a different method of stress release. My own preference is a good, hard workout, but tai chi, meditation, and yoga are all possible solutions. While it may be impossible to purge stress from your life, you can change how you handle it and how it affects you.
For the times when stress strikes and food seems like the only option, keep a stash of "eat these when crazed" foods handy. A square of dark chocolate—at least 60 percent cocoa—is very satisfying, and it's actually good for you. I like shredded wheat cereal; keep a little bag on hand so that you can crunch away the stress while getting some whole grains.
David L. Katz, MD, is director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and a medical consultant for ABC News.