Losing Weight by Eating More

If diets worked, then everyone who has ever gone on a diet would be thin. That's not what happens. Most dieters are heavy. The way to lose weight for the long haul is to learn how to eat—healthfully and appropriately. Chapters 1 and 2 offer guidelines for making healthful food choices. This chapter builds on that information to help you choose the right portions at the right times so that you can lose weight without feeling denied or deprived. I'll teach you nutrition skill power, which is more powerful than the willpower you might yearn for. Such was the case with Roberta, a 42-year-old computer programmer, mother of two teenagers, and fitness runner.

"If only I had more willpower, I could lose weight," Roberta complained. "I've been trying to lose these same 8 to 10 pounds for 12, yes 12, years. I'm the diet queen!" Feeling completely helpless, Roberta came to me as a last resort to help her achieve her weight goals.

When reviewing her dieting history, I noticed that Roberta needed a more realistic food plan. She would diet by trying to exist on coffee for breakfast, salad for lunch, yogurt for a snack, and fish with vegetables for dinner. Her intake was spartan, to say the least, and it included a limited variety of food. I asked, "When you are not dieting, what do you eat?" She quickly listed her favorite foods (what she fed her children): cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, spaghetti for dinner. Every time she went on her diet to lose weight, she denied herself these favorite foods. She went to extremes to keep cereal and peanut butter out of her sight so that she wouldn't eat them. She deemed them too much temptation for her weak willpower, so she had her kids hide them from her.

I encouraged Roberta to stop looking at food as being fattening and instead start fueling her body appropriately with satisfying meals. Eating good food, after all, is one of life's pleasures. Given that she had liked cereal, breads, and pasta since childhood, she was naive to think she could stop liking them. Instead of trying to keep these foods out of her life, I encouraged her to eat them more often. I pointed out that her standard diet foods (salad, yogurt, and fish) had no power over her because she gave herself permission to eat them whenever she wanted. I encouraged her to eat an adequate portion of cereal every day for breakfast (and even lunch, dinner, and snacks) to take the power away from that food.

If you, too, struggle with weight issues, you need to learn how to manage your favorite foods, not how to deny yourself of them. By enjoying appropriate portions of whatever you'd like to eat, as often as you'd like, you no longer need willpower to avoid them. Nutrition skill power, not willpower, enhances permanent weight loss without denial and deprivation.

One skill that enhances your ability to eat appropriate food portions is to eat mindfully (not mindlessly). That is, chew the food s-l-o-w-l-y, taste it, and savor each mouthful. By doing so, you'll need far less quantity to be satisfied, and you'll be content to eat a smaller portion. By mindfully eating your favorite foods, you will also defuse the urge to do last-chance eating. (You know, "Last chance to eat peanut butter before I go back on my diet. I'd better have another spoonful!") You can enjoy more peanut butter—even in a sandwich—when your body becomes hungry again. Nutrition skill power wins in the end.

A second skill that enhances weight loss is to eat "closer to the earth" and choose more whole foods: fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and other fiber-rich foods. Fiber can assist with weight loss by promoting satiety and delaying a return of hunger, which contributes to eating less in subsequent meals. Calorie for calorie, fiber-rich fruits, veggies, and whole grains are more satiating than sugary sodas, lollipops, and gummy bears. You still need to limit calories, but you can feel fuller on calories from wholesome foods.

By regularly choosing wholesome forms of carbohydrate, lean meats, and low-fat dairy, you'll not only lose weight but also reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, and hypertension. The food plan that helps you manage your weight should be consistent with dietary guidelines for healthy eating. Don't go on a crazy diet only to regain the weight you lost because you failed to learn how to eat healthfully.

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