Two out of three women in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. That raises their risk for heart disease by 700 percent, since excess weight increases the risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a host of other heart-unfriendly changes.

But trying to lose weight through weight loss gimmicks doesn't get to the root lifestyle causes for overeating. They’re quick fixes that have nothing to do with the way women really live their lives.

That’s why it’s important to follow not simply weight loss rules but lifestyle rules that will last forever, including through the hard times. The rules have to be real— losing weight is not easy. But they also have to be flexible—what works for one women may not work for another.
  • Allow yourself to get hungry

    At the beginning of any weight loss plan, you’re going to feel some significant hunger at times, or at least discomfort. There’s no way around it. The only way you can make significant weight loss progress is to eat fewer calories than you have been—no matter what you’ve been told. There is no special alchemy that allows people to eat high amounts of protein or any other food component and lose weight without downshifting their calorie intake.
  • The body does adjust after a while, and the constant hunger dissipates. For some women it takes several days, for others a few weeks. But after that initial period, do allow yourself to work up a true hunger for meals and snacks. Eating in the absence of hunger is one of the biggest reasons behind weight gain. It also makes food so much less enjoyable. Think of how good foods taste when you’re really hungry.
  • Keep a food log

    Writing down every single thing you eat (including what you scarf down at the kitchen counter after dinner) helps keep your accountability for your food choices front and center. You can’t pretend you’re on track if you’re not.

    Research has proven it works. In a California weight loss study, half the subjects were asked to write down everything they ate. By the end of the study, those who kept food diaries lost more weight. Mind you, they were not told what to eat, how much to eat, or how often. That was up to them. It was simply a matter of increasing their commitment to themselves by putting it all in black and white.
  • Don't skip breakfast

    A lot of overweight women follow a pattern of overeating at night, waking up full, then going hungry as the day wears on to make up for their dietary transgressions the night before. By the time evening rolls around again, they're starving, and the whole pattern repeats itself.

    Every day, eat a 300- to 400-calorie breakfast: a serving of whole-grain cereal with a cup of skim milk and some fruit thrown in; an egg, a piece of whole wheat toast and an orange; a slice of whole wheat toast with an ounce of cheese plus a small fruit salad— all of these make nutritious starts to the day that will help end the cycle of hungry days and overfed nights.
  • Eat only if you’re sitting down at a table

    If you wolf down breakfast in the car or rush through a sandwich while working through lunch, you’re not paying attention to your food, which means you’re not getting any pleasure out of it—which means you might keep eating past the point of satiety to make up for the good feeling a meal is supposed to confer but that you didn’t get to have.
  • Savor every single thing you put in your mouth

    Eat in a relaxed manner and really allow yourself to taste your food. The benefits go beyond enjoying it more. The more slowly you eat, the more time your stomach has to tell your brain when you’ve had enough. It takes the G.I. tract about 20 minutes to alert the brain that the body has been sated. If you rush through a meal of several hundred calories in five or 10 minutes, you may very well end up eating many more calories than you’re truly hungry for.
  • Keep out of the kitchen after 8 p.m.

    In a Swedish study, researchers found that overweight women pretty much ate the same number of calories throughout the day as healthy-weight women but ate much from 8 p.m. until midnight.

    In truth, your kitchen-closed time does not have to be 8 o’clock. Maybe you don’t get home from work till close to 8 and therefore have a late dinner. But do make a pact with yourself not to eat after dinner—unless you’ve budgeted the calories for a reasonable snack, like fruit, a small yogurt, or perhaps even a single Halloween-sized candy bar if you can deal with the temptation of having a bag of the stuff in the house.
  • Beware of food you haven’t made yourself

    More than half of us eat at least one meal away from home on any given day. But food prepared outside your own kitchen is often very high in calories, both because food purveyors often add much more fat than you would at home and because portion sizes tend to be enormous. It shows in the waistline. In a study conducted at Tufts University, the more often people ate out, the higher their calorie consumption and the fatter they were, plain and simple.

    When you do eat out, really do ask the waitstaff to wrap up half, or even two thirds, of your meal before it is brought to the table. And be assertive about asking for meals exactly as you want them. Chefs can often keep out the oil or reduce portion sizes or give a bigger helping of vegetables—whatever it takes to get you through the meal with less temptation.
  • Eat your calories rather than drink them

    In a study conducted at Purdue University, researchers gave people either 400 calories of jelly beans or 400 calories of non-diet soda. Those given the jelly beans ate fewer calories later in the day to compensate. The soda drinkers didn’t make the adjustment.

    Apparently, liquids just don’t set off the gut’s satiety mechanism as effectively as solids do. It’s a crucial point when you consider that soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet. On top of that, you can now get a 300-, 400- or 500-calorie flavored coffee beverage at a coffee shop, only adding to the liquid calorie tally.

    The best liquid bets: water and, here and there, skim milk.
  • Move it, or don’t lose it

    Seventy-five percent of the calorie deficit in successful weight losers generally comes from eating fewer calories. But 25 percent comes from expending more calories through exercise.

    Not only does exercise burn calories; it keeps a weight loser motivated. You’re just less inclined to mess up your efforts by overeating if you’ve primed your body with a good exercise session that works up a glow.


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