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21 Tips To Help You Swear Off Bad Eating Habits And Shed The Weight For Good.

Why do so many of us fall off the eat-right wagon with such a resounding ka-thunk? Here's my reasoning: Too few of us pay attention to the emotions swirling around our eating habits and our weight-loss dreams. Getting a handle on what drives you to eat when you're not even hungry, why your motivation flounders or why a minor blip in your day is all it takes to push you off track permanently is the secret to making any weight-loss plan more manageable.

If the words "I have got to find a way to make my healthy habits stick" have ever crossed your lips, here's help: 21 reminders, motivators and insights that will guide you to success.

Give Yourself 10 Good Reasons

Grab an index card and write out at least 10 things that are driving your weight-loss desires. Include the vain ("look great in a bikini") as well as the virtuous ("lower my cholesterol level"). Stash your list in your purse - or heck, laminate the thing and post it on your dashboard if it helps. That way when you experience a dip in motivation, you'll have it on hand to remind you of everything you stand to gain by sticking like Super Glue to your plan.

Commit With A Capital C

Are you interested in dropping kilos or committed to it? From today, be determined not to let anything interfere with your dedication. Don't let the rain keep you from going to the gym or an office mate's box of doughnuts tempt you. When you face challenges successfully, you've got an "I can do it" memory to draw on the next time your willpower flounders.

Train Your Brain To Be Flexible

The rigid "either I'm on a diet or I'm not" frame of mind practically guarantees that you won't be eating right for very long. When you slip up - and hey, we all do - you'll end up thinking "I blew it, might as well have another cookie - or three." Instead, see your eating plan as a road with varied terrain. It can be narrow when you're feeling strong and focused, but wider when you need to relax your efforts a bit. If you happen to step off the road entirely, whatever you do, don't waste time on self-critical statements. Just get back on.

Friend-Proof Your Programme

One of the biggest diet saboteurs: grandmas, girlfriends and significant others- all of whom can be persistent about offering you food that's not on your plan. Rather than giving in because you don't want to offend anyone, say "not just yet, I'm going to wait a while". This is probably enough to convince most people that you'll eat eventually, so they leave you alone.

Stop The "What, Crumbs Have Calories?" Syndrome

Little bites - a handful of chips, a few jelly beans, free samples of cheese at the grocery store - can add up to hundreds of calories and zero satisfaction. Counteract unexpected temptation by telling yourself, "I don't eat food just because it is there:" You'll be amazed how much your eating patterns will improve as a result of using this simple rule.

Give Those Closest To You A Game Plan

Support from others can help - provided it's the kind of support you need. Decide what you want friends and family to do to encourage you, and then ask them for it. Be specific. "I need your help to lose weight" can be interpreted in many ways - some of which you may not appreciate. Instead, say "It would help me if you ..." and fill in the blank. Also be clear about things that will annoy you maybe you don't want your husband to ever say, "Is that on your diet?" Reinforce their efforts by acknowledging when you get solid, helpful support.

Practise The Never-Miss-A Meal Habit

Skipping meals can derail your diet. Period. You feel famished, sluggish and deprived, so you gobble down whatever you can get your hands on quickly - often fast food or a vending-machine staple. Plus consistently eating lightly during the day fools your body into thinking it is starving, so it stores more of the calories it does take in as fat. Stop ignoring your growling stomach and eat three healthy meals and two snacks at regular intervals every day. Pay attention to how energised you feel when you're not struggling with hunger, fatigue and food cravings!

Resign From The Clean-Plate Club

Do you feel guilty for "wasting" food? Think of it this way: When you fill your car with gas, you don't keep pumping after your tank is full, just because there is more available. So why do this with your body? To break yourself of the habit, today leave just a bite or two of food on your plate and notice how you feel - emotionally and physically. If you are truly hungry after pausing for a few minutes, go ahead and clean your plate. But if not, tell yourself that eating food you don't need is just as much of a waste as throwing it away - and that the latter is better for your body.

Fake It Till, You Make It

You don't have to wait until "someday" when you have the body of your dreams to feel good about yourself or buy flattering clothes. Each morning when you get dressed, look at yourself in the mirror and say "I look great." Then believe it all day long. Similarly, this attitude can boost your confidence in your ability to make the changes necessary to get to your weight goal. When you act as if managing your weight is a snap, you'll be amazed at how easy sticking to your plan will actually be.

Eat With Awareness

Okay, so it's unrealistic and unnecessary for you to always avoid doing other things while you're eating, but at least try to limit the distractions. Whether you have lunch at your desk or you're engrossed in conversation at the dinner table, the key is not to swallow forkful after forkful mindlessly. Otherwise, you'll finish your meal and still feel hungry. Try this exercise during a snack break: Sit down with a piece of fruit. Take a bite; chew slowly, noticing the flavour and texture.

Next, challenge your awareness. Swallow the next bite fast, pretending you're gulping down lunch at work. Eat a few more while you surf the net or watch TV. Then concentrate entirely on the food again. You'll see how it is more satisfying when you actually focus on it. Do this with all your meals and you'll eat less without feeling one bit deprived.

Go Ahead - Have Your Favorite Foods

Just practise downsizing the less-than-healthy ones. Decide how much smaller you can go - if you typically eat a bowlful of ice cream every night, scoop out a half-cup serving. Then determine how often you'll have the food maybe Wednesdays and Fridays instead of nightly. Because you know you can treat yourself regularly you won't feel like you're missing anything and will be less likely to overindulge when you do eat it.

Don't Love It? Toss It!

When you eat something for its flavor potential, make sure it delivers. If what's on your plate isn't 101 per cent satisfying, resist the urge to try it again just to make sure. Sounds obvious, but many of us eat solely for eating's sake. For example, maybe the rolls in the breadbasket at a restaurant look delicious, but when you taste them, they're hard and cold. Tell yourself the flavor won't improve with the next mouthful and call the waiter to take them away.

Recharge Your Motivation Battery

Save this tip for a day when you've really hit the wall. Perhaps you're thinking, "I don't feel like exercising today" or "Cooking a healthy meal is too much work; I'm going to order pizza instead." To reboot, remind yourself that "feeling like it" isn't a pre-requisite for sticking to your plan. Think of it this way: You don't always feel like going to work or changing a dirty diaper, but you do it anyway because they're necessary - and so is getting up off the couch and putting on your running shoes. 

Try The 10-Minute Solution

Too busy to schedule a workout? Commit to doing just 10 minutes of fast walking or some other type of cardio. At the end of that time, you might feel so good you might keep going. But even if you stop, you've been successful. Research shows that you can get the same weight-loss benefits doing 10 minutes three times a day as you do from one 30-minute session.

Do A Slip-Up Post Mortem

Start analysing your unplanned indulgences without being critical. Think: "OK, so I just ate six cookies. Why?" Consider the possibilities: Were you stressed, bored, frustrated? Gaining awareness of why you ate is a better route to your weightloss goals than beating yourself up for it.

Move To Melt Your Stress

One way you can tame emotional hunger is by developing a "stop everything" response for use in situations where you normally stress eat. Here's what you could do if you always buy a bag of M&Ms or potato chips when you're crazed at work: First, do something active to relieve tension even 10 jumping jacks in your office will suffice. If the craving is still there, chew a piece of sugarless gum to keep your mouth busy and satisfy your desire for something sweet.

Kick The "I Can't" Reflex

Every time you tell yourself that you can't stick to your plan, you chip away at your confidence- and your odds of success. Instead find a way to rephrase your thoughts. You might say to yourself: "It's hard to fit in exercise, but it's not impossible. Maybe I could start walking every day at lunch."

Post A Note

Remind yourself that eating isn't a solution for emotional upset by putting signs on your refrigerator or kitchen cabinets that read "What I'm looking for isn't in here." 

Splurge Only On Desserts You Love

Be sure dessert meets two criteria before you indulge: 1) It must be extraordinary (like your sister's famous carrot cake) and 2) It must be eaten in the right setting (for example, your niece's birthday, where you're surrounded by friends and family). You will save yourself tons of calories by having treats only when you can honestly classify them as special.

Celebrate The Smallest Of Victories

So today you could only fit in a five-minute walk and you gave in to dessert craving. But you also had a salad loaded with vegetables for lunch and you climbed four flights of stairs to the dance studio instead of taking the elevator. Affirm your successes instead of concentrating on the slip-ups. Keep a list of these small wins - counting anything that makes you feel happy, healthy or peaceful. Read them before you go to bed and congratulate yourself on your efforts.

Say "Hello!" To The New You

If you've diligently followed these tips, you're no longer the same person who ditched her exercise plan the minute she got busy or who lost 7kg only to regain it. Longterm success is practically guaranteed if you adopt this motto: I used to be that way, but today I'm different. When doubt creeps in, remind yourself that you now have the tools to handle challenges more effectively than you did in the past. Whether you've reached your goal weight or still have a way to go, you can continue to rely on the lessons you learned here. And if you find yourself slipping, repeat the strategies you found most helpful and you'll be back on track in no time.

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