In an ideal world: A woman eats only when she's hungry. She has no obsessive tendencies toward food. And her diet is 15 to 25 percent protein; 20 to 30 percent fat, of which no more than 10 percent is saturated fat; and 45 to 60 percent vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, with small amounts of white starches like pasta and sugar.
Let's get real: That woman is a rare species. So if you're not hitting all the marks, don't beat yourself up; at least you've got a lot of dinner companions. If you tend to feel really guilty when you eat a "bad" food (ice cream, chocolate) and maybe even punish yourself by doubling your workout or skipping dinner that night, Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF, suggests trying to develop a kinder attitude toward food—for the sake of your mind as well as your body. One strategy is to follow an 80/20 plan of eating. "If 80 percent of what you eat is the really good stuff—fruits, whole grains—the other 20 percent can be the foods you really want," Domar says. "In other words, one Krispy Kreme is nothing to feel guilty about. It's in your 20 percent."
Take a step: Domar suggests trying to make one change in your diet this month. That's one—not two or three. The idea is to make that change in increments, each week building on the last, so it's as painless as possible. Pick from the following:
- If you take cream in your coffee: Week one, switch to whole milk; week two, use 2 percent fat milk; week three, 1 percent; week four, nonfat.
To increase your grains: Go from white bread to sourdough or Italian bread, then to fortified bread, then to whole grain bread.
If you cook a lot with hamburger, switch from full-fat meat to lower fat, then lean, then mix in some ground turkey, and finally use the turkey with very little or no beef.
For ice cream addicts: Switch from your premium scoop to a supermarket brand, then low-fat ice cream or yogurt, then sorbet.
Instead of drinking soda: Fill a glass three-quarters full with your favorite juice and the rest seltzer; then mix them half and half, then one-quarter juice and three-quarters seltzer, and finally try no-calorie flavored bubbly water.