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Overcoming Dieting Slumps

Dieting can be a drag but it doesn't have to with these energy-boosting tips.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Whether shopping or thinking about food; approaching the table with a plan or with trepidation;or talking about what you want to eat or will try not to eat, dieting can be sort of exhausting, just from the sheer concentration of it all. Yet -- ironically -- food is your best tool to gain and maintain energy, resolve, and clear thinking. You just have to do it right.

"I don't call it dieting," Miriam Nelson, PhD, director of the John Hancock Center on Physical Activity and Nutrition of the Friedman School at Tufts University in Boston, tells WebMD. "I call it a pattern of eating. You are trying to strive for the energy coming in being a little less than the energy going out. You balance the calories you take in with the activity it takes to burn them."

Choose Energy-Boosting Foods

According to Nelson, one trick is to close down parts of your pantry and pick foods from a different cupboard. "You want to be eating whole foods, grains, fruits, and vegetables," she says. "For protein, eat lean meats, chicken, and fish; and also legumes, nuts, and seeds."

What about those pantry shelves stuffed with chips, cakes, pies, fruit drinks, and other treats? Well, she says, those can still have a place in your diet once in a while, but not as the norm and not as lunch or dinner in its entirety. "I believe you need to cut the crappy carbs," she says, "but not all carbs."

In Need of Stimulation?

Caffeine has been known to jumpstart even the weariest dieter. "Mild stimulants, such as coffee, tea, or chocolate, are OK in moderation," William Hart, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at the St. Louis University School of Allied Health Professions, tells WebMD. "But if you are drinking three pots of coffee a day, you want to think about that."

Nelson agrees a few cups of coffee won't hurt you.

The trick with fluids, as well as food, Hart says, is don't overdo it.

Combine Foods Thoughtfully

There are many schools of thought on combining foods. Nelson recommends eating protein alongside carbohydrates. For breakfast, instead of half a bagel and jam, she recommends adding a protein for staying power. Having fruit, cheese, and a half bagel is a good combination -- but in modest portions.

"People are opportunistic carnivores," Hart explains. "We don't eat all grass or all meat, like some animals do. We attack almost anything and eat it. There is really no science to support various ways of combining [as diet aids].

"But," Hart explains, "there is an advantage to mixing food groups." Different types of foods are absorbed at different rates and can feed brain cells continuously, keeping us alert and energetic.

A quick energy boost may come from a carb (banana), but if lunch is going to be late, you can add protein or a bit of fat (a tablespoon of peanut butter) to sustain your energy through that droning meeting before the midday meal.

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