Dec. 26, 2005 — -- The time of year when holiday revelers realize they may have indulged in a few too many gingerbread cookies is fast approaching. To help you shed the pounds in the new year, "GMA" is putting 31 diet techniques to the test.
Throughout the month of January, Zohray Hoitsma, Lisa Torp and Amber Ceffalio will try 31 tips from the most recent issue of SELF magazine to see which dieting routine works for them. At the end of the month, each test subject will plan a diet and exercise routine based on which techniques fit her personality best and then follow the plan for the next two months. "GMA" will check back with them on-air in March. Their progress will be documented online.
You can read about the three dieters and the tips from SELF magazine below.
Current Weight: 160
Goal Weight: 130
Body Mass Index: 27.5
Occupation: Sales, mom
Biggest Challenges: Portion control, cooking healthy meals, making time to get to the gym
Motivation: Getting enough energy to keep up with energetic 2-year-old daughter and feeling confident enough to compete in a male-dominated sales environment
Height: 5'5 1/2"
Current Weight: 172
Goal Weight: 150
Occupation: Surgeon, mom
Biggest Challenges: Portions, eating on the go, and eating regularly while dealing with a hectic schedule
Motivation: Be healthier and be around as 6-year-old daughter grows up and be a healthier example for patients
Current Weight: 161
Goal Weight: 135
Biggest Challenges: After moving from Alaska to Philadelphia to New York, food became a way to deal with stress
Motivation: Learn how to eat healthily and pass that down to two children
The diet tips for "GMA's" "Make Your Own Diet" have been created by SELF magazine for the January 2006 "Jump-Start Diet." To keep your own log and find lots more tools, click on Self.com.
Keep a diet diary.
Try to write down every meal, snack and drink you consume, and how you feel at the time. The payoff: Dieters who logged their intake for eight weeks lost about 4 pounds. Those who didn't gained weight, a study in Obesity Research shows. A food diary can help you target times you overdo it, so you can run interference.
Eat more fiber.
Have two foods with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving today. Studies suggest that we absorb up to 6 percent fewer calories when we follow a high-fiber diet that includes at least 34 grams a day. Fiber is filling and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which may prevent binges. Toss one-fourth cup of beans on your salad (4 grams), snack on an apple with the skin (3.3 grams), or pair a baked sweet potato (3.4 grams) with your dinner.
Quit the clean-plate club.
Choose your usual foods and drinks, but have only 80 percent of your serving and leave the rest on your plate or in your glass. You'll automatically cut about 350 calories a day, which could translate into a loss of 30 pounds in a year, all without depriving yourself of the things you love. Pack the set-aside portions from home-cooked meals and save them for a snack. Eating out? Ask the waiter for a takeout container before you begin eating.
Eat more in the morning.
A healthy breakfast is key to losing weight and keeping it off, according to the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks men and women who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least a year. If you wait to eat until later in the day, you'll likely overindulge and consume more calories than you would if you'd eaten earlier. Within an hour or so of waking, eat between 350 calories and 500 calories of any of these healthy foods: a smoothie, toast with peanut butter, or an egg-white omelet.
Diet with a friend.
Hook up with a pal, and you can call or e-mail each other when you're tempted to eat too much or have something unhealthy. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology reports that dieters who have support from their buddies are more likely to keep the weight off than those who fly solo.
Eat more often.
Have something every three hours to four hours to keep your blood sugar level steady; if it plummets, your body thinks it's starving, which can trigger a binge. Shoot for five mini-meals of about 350 calories each, or choose three squares of around 500 calories each, punctuated by two 100-calorie snacks.
Break a sweat.
Move for at least 30 minutes more than usual. You'll burn calories and keep your metabolism humming. Only 20 percent of women trying to lose weight say they exercise and cut calories, the Journal of the American Medical Association notes, even though those most likely to succeed at slimming down permanently do both. You don't need to go for 30 minutes straight. Three 10-minute walks will also work.
Be a label sleuth.
Make sure to check the label of all the foods you eat today for serving sizes -- it's easy to be fooled into thinking a packaged product, such as fruit juice or potato chips, is one serving when it may be two or even more. In fact, only 1 percent of Americans surveyed properly identified correct serving sizes for eight different foods, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
Eat more protein.
Many dieters skip protein-rich foods, such as dairy and milk, in their effort to cut calories. But your body actually expends more energy digesting protein than fat or carbs -- talk about an effortless calorie burn! Plus, high-protein foods can delay hunger pains and give you an energy boost. Aim for about 50 grams throughout the day. Sources low in saturated fat include 6 ounces of nonfat plain yogurt (9 grams), 4 ounces of baked salmon fillet (25 grams), or a roasted chicken breast (35 grams).
Declare all vending machines no-fly zones. Most are loaded with high-fat, high-calorie, nutritionally bankrupt selections. Even healthy-sounding picks, like granola bars, can be fat or calorie bombs. Instead, keep a few smart options such as fruit, low-fat string cheese, and trail mix handy for snack attacks. Use the money you save for a truly satisfying splurge -- like a new moisturizer or a manicure -- instead.
Take at least 20 minutes to eat.
People who chow down at warp speed almost double their risk for obesity compared with those who eat more slowly, say researchers from Shakaihoken Kobe Central Hospital in Kobe, Japan. It takes about 20 minutes from the time you start munching for your brain to register your stomach is full. Pace yourself by putting down your fork between bites, using your less dominant hand to eat, or even eating with chopsticks.
Talk to yourself.
Before you take a bite of anything today, ask yourself why you want to eat. "Many times, people eat to soothe anger or stress -- not necessarily because they're hungry," said Noralyn Mills, R.D., of Baltimore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. When you get the urge to indulge, rate your hunger on a scale of one to 10, with one being ravenous and 10 being stuffed. Grab a snack if you're at four or five. Anything less, find another way to deal with your emotions, like calling a pal.
Eat more fresh stuff.
Make at least one of your daily snacks a piece of fruit or a vegetable. Women who increase their produce intake have a 24-percent lower risk of becoming obese than those who don't, the International Journal of Obesity reveals. Place fruit and veggies front and center in your fridge instead of letting them languish in the crisper. Think of it as the see-food diet: You're more likely to eat what's in your line of vision.
Hit the sack.
Shoot for seven hours to eight hours of sleep. Getting less may cause spikes in ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and dips in leptin, the hormone that suppresses hunger, the Annals of Internal Medicine reports. And researchers from Columbia University in New York City note that people who sleep only five hours have a 50 percent higher risk for obesity than those who get a full night's rest. So get to bed an hour earlier than usual. It's easier to do that than to try to sleep in.
Replace candy with dried fruit.
Craving a treat? Dig in to dried fruit -- it's often lower in fat and more nutritious than candy but just as satisfyingly sweet. And thanks to its chewy consistency, dried fruit lasts longer. Watch your portions, though. Because dried fruit is concentrated, the calories can quickly add up. Opt for a half cup of no-sugar-added dried apples for 73 calories, dried apricots for 106 calories, or dried plums (prunes) for 133 calories.
Eat more nuts.
Noshing on nuts helps quell hunger better than eating traditional diet snacks such as rice cakes, a study in the International Journal of Obesity suggests. Sure, nuts may be higher in calories and fat than standard diet bites, but people who eat 2 ounces of almonds a day consumed less food at subsequent meals, researchers from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., report. Have a small handful as a satisfying snack, or chop and sprinkle them over your cereal or salads.
Trim toppings by 50 percent.
Use half of your usual amount of fatty salad dressing, mayonnaise, butter, cream cheese, whole milk, syrup, gravy and other toppings. "If you're not watching what you pour on or put into your food, you can easily add 500 calories per day without even realizing it," said D. Milton Stokes, chief dietitian at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City. We promise: You will still get plenty of flavor using less.
Eat like your slim friend.
Pick a pal whose sound eating habits you admire and mimic her moves. "Observing someone who is a living example of proper nutrition can help motivate you to find easy ways to eat right in your own life," said Malena Perdomo, a clinical dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Denver. Ask your friend if she'll keep a food (and activity) diary for a day that you can use as a healthy-lifestyle blueprint. Return the favor by treating her to a lunch.
Lighten favorite foods.
Pick lower-calorie, lower-fat versions of cheese, milk, meats, sodas and snacks. Many light options are as tasty as the originals and offer an easy way to cut fat and calories while still eating things that make you go mmm. If you trade in an 8-ounce container of full-fat yogurt for nonfat, you can save 100 calories and 3 fat grams. Or try a glass of skim milk instead of whole milk to cut 63 calories and more than 7 fat grams.
Portion out your plate.
Before you serve yourself, mentally divide your dish into quarters. Fill one section with lean protein such as fish or chicken, one with a healthy carb like brown rice, and the rest with steamed veggies or greens. You'll get a balanced proportion of the major food groups without measuring.
Think yourself slim.
To maintain motivation, look beyond the number on the scale. "Visualizing yourself at a healthier weight can give you something tangible to reach for," Stokes said. Take a few minutes to imagine yourself at your ideal weight. Is it easier to chase your toddler? Wear your favorite clothes? Seeing yourself slim may help you naturally eat like the person you'd like to be.
Eat more dessert.
No fooling: As long as you eat healthfully the majority of the time, a small splurge can help you stick to your diet because you don't feel deprived. The trick: Choose one that satisfies without loads of fat and calories, like fat-free pudding for 100 calories or a Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwich for 140 calories.
Close your kitchen at night.
Your metabolism slows in the evening because you're less active -- so think twice before plowing through that pint of Cherry Garcia during "Letterman." Regularly munching after 8 p.m. is linked to weight gain, researchers at the University of Kansas at Lawrence say. In fact, it may be up to 1 pound a year. After dinner, pack up leftovers, run the dishwasher, and flip the light switch to put a formal end to nibbling.
Turn off the television.
Your risk for obesity rises 23 percent for every two hours you spend in front of the tube per day, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston note. Limit your TV time to 10 hours a week -- max. You may want to invest in TiVo so you can zip right through ads (especially those for food!)
Eat more spices.
Skip add-ons such as cheese and oil and, instead, cook with seasonings like tarragon, cinnamon and crushed red pepper to add taste minus all the fat and calories. Or use fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary or basil, which have more robust flavor. Not sure which seasoning goes with which dish? Invest in a copy of "Cooking With Spices for Dummies" (Wiley) and leave it in your kitchen for reference.
Check your PDA.
Before you head out for work in the morning, take a peek at your agenda for the day. Is tonight that big dinner with friends, or do you have a party for your boss' birthday in the afternoon? Identifying events in advance at which you know you might be tempted to splurge can help you plan accordingly. Whenever you enter in new dates, highlight those that are potentially diet-risky so they'll stand out and you won't forget to troubleshoot for them.
Eat more appetizers.
Start lunch and dinner with a low-calorie soup or a bulky leafy salad before diving into your entrée -- you'll eat up to 12 percent less of your main dish, according to research by Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Keep bagged lettuce in the fridge and stock up on ready-made, low-calorie soups, so it's easy to get your meals off to a light start.
Cut back on booze.
The calories from cosmopolitans at happy hour or a glass or two of wine at dinner add up quickly. An average alcoholic drink has about 115 calories, so you can easily down an extra 1,000 calories in a week. Not to mention, drinking can lower your inhibitions, causing you to indulge in fatty fare you'd normally skip. If you'd usually have two glasses of wine, enjoy only one instead. Or have one nonalcoholic drink such as seltzer between each alcohol-containing one to control your calorie intake.
Set aside a few minutes to relax every day. Stress may cause the body to conserve fat, suggests research on more than 2,000 women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It may be because stress increases the levels of hormones that contribute to overeating. Help slow down hormone production in minutes. When you're stressed, go someplace quiet, and breathe slowly and deeply through your nose.
Get out of the kitchen.
When it's time to pay bills or fold the laundry, steer clear of the kitchen table. Why risk the temptation when you don't have to? Dedicate the kitchen to cooking and eating, period. Set up camp elsewhere for non-food-related chores.
Give yourself a break.
Polished off the bread basket at lunch? Forget about it and move on. Expecting to be a perfect eater 100 percent of the time is unreasonable, and feeling guilty about caving in to a craving can cause you to abandon your weight-loss efforts, according to Andrea Giancoli, R.D., a nutrition consultant in Los Angeles. One slip won't make you fat, but letting that slip grow into days or weeks of overeating could.