Diet Rules That Don't Suck

VIDEO: New Diet Guidelines
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If weight loss came in a pill, the list of side effects might include "May cause shortness of cash" and "Some users experience a loss of friendships." After all, that's what happens when you spend half a paycheck on healthy food and pass up happy-hour invites so you can avoid the bar snacks. And those side effects aren't just misery inducing, they're self-defeating too: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who turned these pitfalls into excuses were up to 76 percent less likely to lose weight than those who figured out ways around them. This advice will help you battle the bulge without missing a beat of your life.

Lose Weight, Not Friends

Ever notice that the day you announce you're starting a new diet, your friends go AWOL? Here's why: Cutting calories causes your level of serotonin (a feel-good brain chemical) to nosedive, leaving you cranky and unpleasant to be around.

To keep your serotonin levels in check, figure out how many calories your body needs based on your activity level (find the formulas at WomensHealthMag.com /Calories). And make sure those calories are split evenly among protein, whole grains, and produce at every meal.

"Unbalanced meals--made entirely of refined carbs, for example--cause blood-sugar fluctuations that make you irritable," says Dr. Caroline M. Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center.

Apovian also recommends adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, because research shows that they may fight depression and slow digestion, which helps you stay full longer. (Try eating two or three three-ounce servings of salmon a week, or adding a tablespoon of olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseeds into your daily meals.)

Research shows that your ability to lose weight now hinges on who you hang out with.

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More from Women's Health:

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Lose Weight, Not Money

When you're on a diet, you expect your stomach to be on the empty side--not your wallet. But researchers at the University of Washington found that the cost of healthy, nutrient-dense foods like whole grains and lean meats has increased nearly 30 percent in the past four years, while candy and soft drinks have gone up only 15 percent.

One money-saving tactic: Eat less meat. "Meat is one of the priciest items on a grocery bill, and most Americans eat more of it than they should," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and the author of The Flexitarian Diet. Plus, meat is a source of excess calories and saturated fat.

Most women can slash around 15 percent of their daily calories by sticking to one or two servings of meat a day, estimates Blatner. Fill the void with fiber-rich foods like beans, oatmeal, and brown rice, plus hearty veggies like portobello mushrooms and eggplant. All of these will fill you up for a fraction of the calories and cash.

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More from Women's Health:

37 Protein-Packed Recipes

7 Diet Myths Exposed

Your #1 Weight-Loss Weapon

Are Your Friends a Fat Influence?

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