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6/22/09 3:13 A

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To lose weight and keep it off, you've gotta stick with it. These tips make it a cinch.

Face Monday without a Gain - Get tips to help you stay on track in any situation.

There's something about weekends that sends caution—and calories—to the wind. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published a study in the journal Obesity last year and found that subjects on strict diet-and-exercise programs tend to lose weight more slowly than expected because they ate more on weekends than during the week.

"We thought weekends would present a problem for some people attempting to lose weight, but the consistency of our findings before and during the [study] interventions was surprising," says study author Susan B. Racette, PhD, assistant professor of physical therapy and of medicine. "Subjects in the diet and exercise groups lost weight during the week, but over the weekend, subjects in the diet group stopped losing weight and those in the exercise group gained because they were eating more."

Of course you want to live a little on the weekend, but if you're trying to shed pounds or even just keep the scale steady, you have to maintain a certain level of vigilance. Here, how to rethink your weekend habits so you'll lose weight all week.

1. I Deserve to Splurge
"This week was tough; I deserve to indulge."
Healthier Splurge: Treat yourself to something small.

Splurge with extra savvy. The need for a reward is human nature, says Stephen Gullo, PhD, author of The Thin Commandments Diet. And for many, that "something special" is food. You can't change what makes you happy, but you can minimize the diet damage. Choose one portion-controlled item that requires you to leave the house, such as a kid's-size confection from your favorite ice cream parlor or a small, fresh pastry from a bakery. "It's more rewarding to have a nice treat than to waste calories on regular things you can have anytime, like potato chips or cookies," says Gullo.

Racette says that if you're attending a social event, you should decide in advance how much you'll eat or drink. "You can tell yourself that you'll sample only three dishes or have one portion of a certain food or sip only one drink. Figure out what works best for you that will leave you satisfied without overdoing the calories."

Doing something special works too: Catch a movie, get a massage at the spa, or buy a flattering pair of yoga pants.

2. I've Got Dinner Plans
"I'm going out with friends to catch up."
Healthier Splurge: Plan activities, not meals.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine 2 years ago revealed that your social networks could cause you to gain weight. If you're surrounded by friends and family members who are overweight or gaining weight and practice bad eating habits, the likelihood that you'll start packing on the pounds increases by as much as 57%!

Sticking to a healthy eating plan on the weekends is difficult because our environment makes it easy to overeat on many occasions, says Racette. "Activity is very important because if you're less active on weekends, that adds to the problem. People have to consciously try to get in more exercise to balance out the extra calorie intake."

Instead of catching up over a restaurant table, plan to socialize doing nonfood activities, like walking together, window-shopping, or visiting a new art museum. Likewise, when you want to get out of the house on a Saturday night, look for fun activities like bowling. If you do want to grab a bite, stick to lunch—it's easier to eat light, and you probably won't order cocktails.

3. I'm Overbooked
"Obligations throw off my usual routine."
Healthier Splurge: Take control wherever and whenever you can.

Your weekends are often too packed to accommodate your regular diet-and-exercise schedule, but that doesn't mean you can't make healthy choices.

"Planning ahead can't be emphasized enough," Racette says. She recommends packing healthy food if you're running errands, eating a little something before a party so you aren't starving when you arrive, and even packing a light lunch or snacks before going to the mall or kids' activities so that you have a choice other than junk food at a concession stand.

Going to a party? Racette suggests practicing these healthier behaviors: Pay attention to portion sizes, position yourself away from food, hold a club soda in one hand (so it's harder to balance a plate and eat), bring a healthy dish, and focus on socializing.

Also plan active family outings that aren't doable during the week, such as a tennis match with your spouse or a hike with the kids. You'll burn calories that could help even out a sensible weekend splurge.

4. I Unwind with Wine
"A predinner cocktail is part of my routine."
Healthier Splurge: Enjoy it during the meal.

Even weekday teetotalers don't think twice about a cocktail before dinner—and then another while they eat. The problem: "Alcohol breaks down inhibitions, so it's harder to make healthy food choices when you do sit down," says Gary Foster, PhD, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University. A glass of Cabernet and a few handfuls of mixed nuts while making dinner or waiting to be seated can add up to more than 600 calories—and that's even before the appetizer. Imbibe with your meal, and choose a high-quality drink you'll want to savor, such as vintage wine or single malt scotch, over some high-cal fruity concoction. Sub in one or two club sodas with lime while you're eating.

5. I Need to Relax
"I run around all week; now I want to kick back."
Healthier Splurge: Try a little active relaxation.

Some decompressing is essential, but planting yourself on the couch for hours while catching up on the TV shows you recorded all week can lead to trouble. A long stretch of inactivity can inspire compulsive nibbling, especially if boredom is one of your overeating triggers, says Gullo.

Sure, you can enjoy some relaxing tube time with your family, but designate a time limit—say, 2 hours a night—so you can spend your free time doing other activities. Devote part of Sunday to prepping healthy food for weeknight dinners and lunches so you'll have more time to unwind during the week too.

And make it a point to squeeze in some activity each day. If a 150-pound woman ditches her 25-minute weekday walk both weekend days, that's almost 200 calories she's not burning off. It may not seem like much, but that adds up to an additional 3 pounds each year just for taking those 2 days a week off.

6. I'll Eat Better Next Week
"I'll just have one last hurrah before I start my diet on Monday."
Healthier Splurge: Drop the "last supper" mindset.

Healthy eating for weight loss doesn't have an on/off switch; it's a way of life, says Dave Grotto, RD, a former spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and founder of Nutrition Housecall, a nutrition-consulting firm. He encourages his clients to treat themselves during the week, maybe with a light beer one night and a single-scoop ice-cream cone another, so they're not feeling deprived and desperate enough to polish off half a pint of ice cream on Friday night for 500 calories.

If you overdo it at one meal, start your weight loss plan at your next meal or snack. To rev up your resolve before the weekend hits, consider weighing yourself each Friday.

According to Racette's research, "weighing yourself regularly gives you a reason to be more vigilant on the weekends."

Edited by: MJA716 at: 6/22/2009 (03:13)
** Mary Jane **

"If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought." ~ Peace Pilgrim


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