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"Where do I start?"

Posted Thursday, November 15, 2012, at 8:11 AM

"Where do I start?" is a common, exasperating question among those wanting to lose weight or simply improve eating habits. People have various challenges in their daily lives, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are five ideas: avoid weakness, reduce sugar, eat real food, eat more fruits and vegetables, and control portions.

1. Avoidance: don't buy offending products. If major changes need to be made, this change is key. It is also the key to successfully maintaining weight loss. When around, who doesn't want to eat soda, chips, cookies, and ice cream? Although healthy when consumed in moderation, some people also need to keep nuts, cheese, dried fruit, or peanut butter out of the home (e.g, my husband).

2. Reducing carbohydrates (grains and sugars). Historically, some have observed that people who liked their breads, cakes, and potatoes also tend to be overweight. Today we better understand why. When we can't burn carbohydrates fast enough, insulin drives fat cells to suck up the unspent carbs. The more one struggles to lose weight, the more sensitive to excess carbohydrates one may be. It's not that whole grains and potatoes can't be consumed as part of a healthy diet, but be sure to consume in moderation and in the presence of some protein and fat. Refined flours, sugary drinks, and fruit juice, however, should be very limited--avoided works too.

3. Eat real food by ditching low-fat and fat-free "improvements." For those struggling to lose the last 5-10 pounds or their stomach, healthy fats like real butter, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, and even regular sour cream may actually help. Fats can provide greater and longer lasting satiety. Be sure to consume real fats rather than artificial. Also, clean up a chocolate habit by switching to dark chocolate (72% cacao or greater). Calorie per calorie, dark chocolate has more fat and less sugar than milk chocolate and decreases the impact on weight. Many people are hesitant to add more fat due to weight and cholesterol concerns. If this sounds like you, give it two months, see what happens to your weight and make an appointment with your doctor to test your cholesterol. You may find that both actually improve. Consuming a stick of butter with each meal would likely backfire though.

4. Focus on increasing fruit and vegetables. Start lunch or supper off with a small salad or bowl of soup. Pair fruits or vegetables with some protein and fat (like an ounce of cheese or a handful of nuts) as a snack over cereal bars and low fat pretzels. If you need to hit up fast food restaurants for a sandwich, skip the fries or chips and supplement the sandwich with fresh fruit or vegetable sticks; or choose a salad with a meat that's grilled rather than fried.

5. Portion control. Unless it's a non-starchy, low calorie vegetable like broccoli, spinach, or mushrooms, whatever you choose to eat, make sure portions reflect moderation. For more information on portion sizes, check out www.choosemyplate.gov.

If you have a bad meal, day, weekend, week, or holiday, it happens. Pick back up the next day with better choices rather than quit or wait until next year.

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