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Gaining Ground on Weight Gain

When weight gain sneaks up, look at it as an opportunity to take control.

Checking Weight Gain: Where to Start continued...

At the same time, he cautions, this might not be as easy as it sounds.

"Once you've been overeating for several weeks it's easy to say, 'What's one more cookie or one more piece of chocolate?'  When you're in the mindset of eating more, it's easy to keep eating more and not return to how you ate before you gained the weight," he says.

If you find this is the case for you, a more formal diet may be necessary, even for just a few weeks.

"Some people just need the mindset of being on a diet in order to stick with an eating plan," he says.

When choosing a diet, says weight management expert Abby Aronowitz, PhD, look for one that's balanced, but focuses on a lower calorie intake than what you have been eating.

"The most important tool for weight loss isn't the foods you eat, but that you burn up more calories than you have taken in," she says.

Aronowitz suggests taking pen to paper and figuring out how many calories you were eating before you gained the weight, then choosing an eating plan that falls a little below that number.Checking Weight Gain: Where to Start

The Art of Cutting Down

If a formal diet plan is not for you, you can still accomplish your weight goals if you master the subtle art of "cutting down," experts say. 

One of the best ways is to reduce your intake of snacks and treats -- the area where most of our empty calories lie, Kraus says.

"You can eat your regular meals, and they can even be hearty meals, but you should cut out or at least cut down on desserts, sweets, and between-meal treats," says Kraus. "And watch the coffee break; it can be a diet-killer."

Just can't give up desserts?  Eat everything you were eating before, says Aronowitz. Just don't eat all of it.

"Leave over a few bites of everything on your plate -- or ditch a little before digging in if you feel you want to eat the whole thing," she says.

Another strategy: Substitute a low-calorie liquid meal or nutrition bar for one regular meal per day.

"Again, the idea is to take in less calories than you were taking in when you gained the extra pounds, and it really doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you do it," says Aronowitz.

In fact, you don't need to cut out many calories to lose even as much as 10 pounds.

"To lose one pound of weight, you have to reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 calories – which over seven days is 500 calories per day," says Kraus.

While that may seem like a lot, she offers this example:

  • Substitute water or unsweetened iced tea for just one can of soda and save about 200 calories.
  • Use non-fat milk instead of half-and-half and save as much as 100 calories.
  • Eat one less cheese cube and save another 100 calories.
  • Cut out just four small cookies and save 160 calories.

"That's already over 500 calories and you'd hardly notice," says Kraus.

At the same time, Aronowitz says, don't just assume your "cut down" is working.

"Get on the scale, and if your weight is not moving within a couple of weeks -- and especially if it seems you have gained weight -- you'll have to tweak your strategy," says Aronowitz.

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