Get Back on the Diet Track

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Get Back on the Diet Track

How's your New Year's resolution to lose weight going? Not so good? Did you take time to map out how you were going to lose the weight and keep it off? It's never too late to start. Here's a sample plan to help you get back on track. Use this outline as a template — see how I did it, then make your own and fill in all the details below the headers.

The Overall Goal: (Pick your target weight-loss goal)

Lose 35 pounds forever!!!

Long-Term Rewards:

a. Fit into a great-looking bathing suit.

b. Reduce my chances of getting one or more of the seven serious diseases related to being overweight.

c. Be happier and more self-aware. Increase self-confidence.

The Strategy, Specific Details and Micro-Goals:

  • Total Calories to Cut in a Year to Reach Goal: 35 pounds at 3,500 calories per pound is 122,500 calories
  • Calories To Cut Per Day: 336
  • Change in Food: Eliminate 250 calories per day (look for Calorie Bargains)
  • Change in Activity: Burn an additional 100 calories per day (e.g., walk for 30 minutes)

Below, you should lay out the particulars of how, what, where and when.

  • What will you eat?
  • When will you increase your physical activity and strength training?
  • Where? At the gym or elsewhere?
  • What sort of physical activity?
  • What tools do you need?

Food Strategies:

Goal: Cut 250 calories per day.

Specific Strategies to cut calories:

Use Calorie Bargains (food swaps). Look for foods you typically eat and substitute healthier alternatives that you can live with.

  • Eat an orange and drink unsweetened green tea instead of drinking orange juice.
  • Try a low-calorie vinaigrette instead of blue cheese salad dressing.
  • Drink wine instead of vodka and tonic.
  • Total savings: approximately 250 calories per day.

Physical Activity and Strength Training:

Goal: Burn 100 or more calories per day and strength train three times per week.

Specific Strategies to increase activity level:

  • I need to exercise in the morning and get it out of the way, otherwise I won’t do it.
  • On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings, I will walk on the hiking trail up by the park that’s right by the gardening center where I go anyway. It will be perfect. I can walk for 30 to 40 minutes and burn about 125 to 140 calories.
  • On Tuesday and Thursday, weather permitting, I will bike to work — it’s about 15 minutes each way — that’s another 125 calories or so. If the weather is not too good, I will use a dance DVD for 30 minutes before I go to work.
  • As far as strength and core training, I will purchase a few highly rated DVDs that I can use, and will hire a trainer to come to my home once a week for 30-45 minutes.

Weekly Reward for Compliance: (non-food reward you give yourself for eating properly and exercising according to your plan)

  • Week 1: Massage
  • Week 2: Best-selling book I want
  • Week 3: Manicure and pedicure

Do this for at least six months to a year. By then you should have automatic behaviors, and your rewards should be intrinsic.

Obstacles, Slip-ups or Potential Setbacks I May Encounter in Pursuing My Goal:

List as many as you can, and keep these diet saboteurs in mind:

  • Eating Alarm Times — Times I overeat most
  • Unconscious Eating — Eating when I’m doing something else at the same time
  • Diet Busters — Foods that tempt me

    a. At family gatherings, when I tend to overeat and throw my diet out the window.

    b. Lunchtime at the office — I eat at a fast-food restaurant twice a week.

    c. Dinner out two evenings per week. The bread basket!!

    d. Chinese food. We bring it in every week. I love it, and I’m not giving it up.

    e. Late-night snacking. Right after dinner, I’m ready to sit in front of the TV and have a bag of potato chips or ice cream. And I know that brushing my teeth to avoid this craving is not going to cut it!!

    f. If I think I had something “bad,” I start eating everything in sight.

Ways to Overcome These Obstacles, Slip-ups or Potential Setbacks:

a. Prior to family gatherings, I will decide to bring my own food or ask the host to prepare something special that is not high in calories.

b. Before eating at the fast-food restaurant, I will mentally rehearse going in and ordering two grilled chicken sandwiches without mayonnaise, and no fries. This will be instead of the large burger, fries and a soda I usually have.

c. I will make sure that I ask the server not to bring any bread to the table, no matter whom I’m dining with. If someone wants bread, the server can put it on that person’s individual plate. And if I really want the bread, I will ask for just one piece.

d. I have no problem having my dumplings steamed instead of fried, and I could do without the fried soup noodles — that’s not a big deal.

e. Again, I’m going to prepare for late-night cravings by thinking in advance. I will not have any “junk” foods around. I tried Breyer’s low-calorie strawberry and it’s pretty amazing, so I can have that occasionally, but I’m not going to keep it in the house — that’s being a “diet hero.” When I want it, I will go out and buy it in the supermarket. If they don’t have it, I will have one backup flavor, or I will not have any at all. As far as the chips go, I will use popcorn, air popped or “pan” made with Pam spray. Every time I eat that popcorn, I feel like I’ve cheated, and it’s only about 60 calories for 2 cups — I love it. I will also try to make sure I have my Life Preservers handy (see below). I actually laminated them and put them in my wallet — they really do keep me focused.

f. I will mentally rehearse “cheating” and what happens afterward. It will not be a license to overeat. Instead, I will reach for one of my Calorie Bargains (e.g., two pieces of 40-calorie toast with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray and a little Splenda and cinnamon, no-sugar-added Fudgsicles, etc.), and not go crazy binging.

Excuses I Might Be Tempted to Use That Pull Me from My Goals:

a. I have a slow metabolism, and it’s so difficult to pay attention to everything I eat.

b. I get embarrassed asking the wait staff not to bring the bread to the table.

c. My husband orders the Chinese food, so sometimes I have no control — he wants the fried dumplings. Not only that, but he doesn’t always finish them all and then they’re there to tempt me.

d. Sometimes that low-calorie ice cream is on sale, so I like to buy it in quantity, and then it’s in the house and I start to eat it every night. That defeats the purpose of having low-calorie ice cream in the first place.

Excuse Busters:

a. Yes, I may have a slow metabolism, but I realize that I can make my new eating adjustments automatic and keep the weight off.

b. I will call the restaurant right before I leave home and ask them over the phone. I have less of a problem asking over the phone than in person.

c. I will make sure that I do the ordering, or, at the very least, we can order fried dumplings for my husband and steamed for me.

d. I figured out the actual savings by going out and buying low-calorie ice cream at full price, including the gas for each time I have to go to the supermarket, and it turns out that for an entire year’s worth of ice cream it’s about $25. That’s pretty inexpensive compared to what I’ve spent on dieting over the years.

Life Preservers: (Visualization Exercises — imagined future events that you use when you’re tempted)

a. Running into Cynthia (high school days teaser) at the grocery store, and now she's the one who's heavy, while I'm fit and slim.

b. Going to a parent-teacher conference and feeling confident, not embarrassed.

c. Going on a bike trip with my family and having a great time.

Created: December 15, 2009  Last Reviewed: February 16, 2010


CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., THE DIET DETECTIVE is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers and media outlets nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the Hunter College School of Urban Public Health and CUNY School of Public Health in New York City.

 

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