Think Yourself Thin
Switch to… One treat at a time. I'm indulging in grilled cheese, so I'll trade the fries for a salad.
Here's how: "The thought pattern is, I've already blown it for today, so I might as well keep going," says Janet Polivy, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. She calls it the "what the hell" effect and says it causes people to devour so much food that they feel they'll never get back on track. To prevent this scenario from playing over and over, Polivy says, you have to redefine your idea of healthy eating. Allow yourself the occasional treat, as long as it's accompanied by smarter food choices like fresh fruit and vegetables. At roughly 500 calories, one melted cheddar on rye a week should hardly make you fat. Habitually tacking on a large order of fries, however, might.
Switch to… If I can't stop at one or two cookies, I shouldn't have any at all.
Here's how: We stand by the above tip that it's okay to eat your favorite foods, provided you're the type who can stop after a small amount. "One cookie could turn into 1,000 calories or more if you proceed to eat the whole bag," warns Stephen Gullo, PhD, president of the Institute for Health and Weight Sciences. He suggests that you take a step back and honestly assess how you've reacted to your favorite foods in the past. You may discover that chocolate chip cookies trigger uncontrollable cravings but one square of dark chocolate appeases your sweet tooth quite nicely.
Switch to… I want to get in shape for myself, not for him.
Here's how: Whether or not you need to shed a few pounds, acting in response to someone else's hurtful remarks will breed self-doubt and lower your self-esteem, says Marlene Schwartz, PhD, co-director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders in New Haven, Connecticut. To reset your weight loss goals so they revolve solely around you, sit down and figure out how you could benefit from changing your lifestyle. (Writing your thoughts out on paper might help.) If you identify areas that need improvement, talk to your spouse about how he can play a part: Plan low-fat weekly menus together in lieu of eating out, or take walks after dinner instead of watching TV. Alternatively, if you're exercising, eating right, and feeling pretty healthy the way you are, Schwartz says, "tell him that this is his problem, not yours."
Switch to… By eating more now, I'm creating a lot of extra work for myself when spring rolls around.
Here's how: A study by scientists at the National Institutes of Health tracked 195 people through the holidays and found an average weight gain of about a pound.
By the following year, most had gained another half pound, and the researchers predicted that the trend would only continue. To prevent this outward creep, Gullo says, keep thoughts of summer in your house all year long by hanging a bikini or skimpy sundress on the back of the bathroom door, and visualize yourself wearing it every time you head for the leftovers. He also proposes committing to a regular exercise program in the fall, "before the winter blahs set in," because lugging last night's comfort food through an hour-long spinning class isn't so comfortable.
Switch to… I can't change my DNA, but I can change my fate.
Here's how: "Genetics helps determine your natural weight range, but you have some control over where you fall within that range," says Edward Abramson, PhD, an expert on obesity, dieting, and weight disorders and the author of Body Intelligence. Rather than aiming for a size 2, aim for health: If being overweight is a family trait, diabetes, heart disease, and other obesity-related illnesses could be, too, Schwartz says. Walk to the grocery store, choose the stairs over the escalator, and take good care of the body you were born with. "It's important to distinguish between body size and body health," she says. "Research shows that people who are overweight and physically fit can live longer than people who are ideal weight and not physically fit."
Switch to… After busting my butt at the gym, my body deserves the VIP treatment.
Here's how: "Most people overestimate the number of calories they've burned," says Brian Wansink, PhD, a professor of marketing, applied economics, and nutritional science at Cornell University and author of Marketing Nutrition. To burn off a bacon double cheeseburger, the average 140-pound woman has to jog at a rate of five miles per hour for more than 60 minutes. Recast your concept of reward: Instead of seeking food, take a luxurious bubble bath, rent a guilty-pleasure movie, buy a new pair of shoes, or lose yourself in a good novel.