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For Savvy Weight Loss: Know Thyself

What kind of dieter are you? Knowing your diet personality can help you lose weight.

From the WebMD Archives

A weight loss plan only works if you stay with it. And as any successful dieter can tell you, it's much easier to lose weight and firm up when the diet plan you choose fits your lifestyle and personality. Hate to cook? You won't last long on a diet plan better suited to budding gourmets. Living in a house full of kids and big eaters so you're constantly surrounded by food? A weight loss plan for you will have to face the problem of snacking head on.

With any endeavor to lose weight, most women think they need to go on a diet, says Lisa Sanders, MD, a clinician-educator in primary care at Yale University and author of The Perfect Fit Diet. But that's not exactly true. A diet is simply what you eat, which means you're already on one. That diet either works for you so you achieve and maintain the weight you want, or it doesn't.

The first step to weight loss satisfaction? Find your fit among these five diet personalities, and weight loss might just be easier for you.

Weight loss type 1: The support seeker

You're the one who turns to friends and pros for answers. (If it worked for Oprah, it can work for you, right?) In college you had study buddies, shopping partners, and best friends who consoled you after miserable dates and psyched you up to try your hand at love again. You'd never have made it down the aisle without the help of a few older, wiser friends, and you couldn't handle colic and postpartum blues without those 1 a.m. phone calls to your sister-in-law.

Your ideal diet plan. Your perfect weight loss plan involves plenty of support from women who've been there - sharing your battles with chocolate fudge and meeting you for late-night walks around the block. Check out weight loss programs that meet weekly for fun, camaraderie, and tips on nutrition, or go the fitness route and join an aerobics or Pilates class with a core group of members. Sessions with a personal trainer can give you regular, one-on-one help with your unique weight loss demons.

If you're a stellar follower, but not so good at coming up with methods yourself, choose a diet plan that offers sample meals and grocery lists, says Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and owner of Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver. Or start your own diet support group, choosing dependable friends who actually have time to offer weight loss help and won't let you get away with making excuses. A group of three or four friends can keep you firmly on the fitness wagon even when one member can't show up. Designate a leader, set a plan of attack and be sure to let your supporters know exactly what you need most from them, whether it's gentle encouragement or the toughest of love.

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Weight loss type 2: The serial snacker

You're a stay-at-home mom, an account manager on the road or part of an office team of estrogen-charged women. You're in need of a little weight loss help because of your snacking style. Perhaps you don't like to cook, and with the kids, the husband, and the deadlines, who has time for three squares a day anyway? Your typical snacks consist of toast, peanut butter, chocolate, cookies, cereal, and when you're feeling extra virtuous, yogurt, bananas, or baby carrots. When you do find yourself cooking a true meal, you're usually too full from taste testing to enjoy regular-sized portions and the balance of healthy proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fats that they provide ― until snack time comes around, of course, when it seems easier to unwrap a granola bar than heat up a plate of leftover veggies.

Your ideal diet plan. Serial snackers tend to eat out of habit, not hunger, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating and director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in Ithaca, New York. And they choose whatever is most accessible. Their weight loss solution? Put healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains in prominent positions, and hide cinnamon rolls and brownies in opaque containers in the deepest dungeons of your cupboards. Try chewing gum or long-lasting mints as a distraction from eating snacks

Keep extra bottles or tumblers of water handy to replace some of those habitual snacks and to stay well-hydrated. And never bring an entire package of food to the couch or desk with you. You'll completely lose track of how much you've eaten, and before you know it, you'll have polished off the whole thing. Wansink tells WebMD it's better to take a portion that's smaller than what you think you'll need and serve it on a pretty plate.

Weight loss type 3: The free spirit

You refuse to eat anything "lite" just because someone tells you it's lower in calories. You have better things to do than count calories, carbs or grams of fat, and you're too rebellious to follow a step-by-step chart outlining what to eat at each meal. You take your work, social life, and family seriously, but have no desire to devote mounds of effort to something as mundane as food. Weight loss for you will have to be simple and natural, with few rules - and always open to change.

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Your ideal diet plan.The free spirit doesn't want to work hard on a weight loss plan and isn't interested in a complete overhaul of the way she eats, says Seth Roberts, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. She won't say "no" to so-called sinful foods, and would rather make simple, small changes to her weight loss plan than take away entire food groups.

One risk: This type of dieter can find herself gorging on huge servings of chocolate cake instead of savoring one small piece, Roberts tells WebMD. The free spirit's approach to dieting is essentially a non-diet, agrees Farrell. If this sounds like you, focus on eating slowly and mindfully. Rate your hunger before and during each meal, so you won't allow yourself to become too hungry or too full.

Weight loss type 4: The sweet tooth

You've got a sweet tooth, and everyone from your husband, to your daughter, to your aunt who bakes your favorite Mississippi mud pie every Easter knows it. Some days the label gets old, but the truth is, if you're a sweet tooth dieter, you'd never turn down brownies for banana chips, and you've seldom met a piece of chocolate you didn't like. Combine a sweet tooth dieter with a serial snacker, and you've got double trouble on your hands.

Your ideal diet plan. You need to plan your indulgences carefully, says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, a certified dietitian and nutritionist in private practice in New York and co-author of Feed Your Family Right!. Instead of wasting calories on whatever's lying around your home or office (your kids' Halloween stash or those tasteless holiday cookies), identify the sweet treats you love the most and plan how much of each one you're going to enjoy when, she says. Triple chocolate chunk brownies taste so much better when you buy them - one at a time - from the local bakery and savor them bite by bite. Then, the only way to eat more is to make another trip to the store (the walk could do you good).

Eat a few high-quality sweets, and soon those mounds of imitation goodies you used to call delicious will be a calorie-laden thing of the past. If there's a food you simply must eat if it's around, Zeid says, resist the urge to buy it. And add plenty of fresh fruit into your diet plan. Peaches, strawberries, and bananas can appease your sweet tooth while providing you with fiber and key nutrients, she says. For extra sweetness, try dipping fruit in low-fat pudding or yogurt.

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Weight loss type 5: The distracted diner

Multitasking may be a busy woman's best time-saver, but it sure isn't good for your health or your waistline. If you tend to do at least two or three things at once - and one of them is often snacking - you're likely a distracted diner with little clue about how much you're really eating. Whether it's the dashboard or the desktop that keeps you from paying full attention while you eat, you'll find your best weight loss help can come from simply slowing down.

Your ideal diet plan. Prepare your snacks and meals mindfully, Wansink says. Think mini-meals, such as half a sandwich and a handful of baby carrots, and avoid snack foods like chips and cookies. It's too easy to down the entire bag while you're distracted. Choose foods that are easy to eat and difficult to spill on the run, like pre-sliced apples and grapes with the stems already removed. For grains, try whole-wheat pretzel sticks, whole-grain crackers, or dry cereals like Mini-Wheats.

As for fast food, if you're always on the road, make yourself a deal. Tell yourself there's a cost involved, says Wansink, and you can eat fast food, but not while you drive. Instead, pull over and eat it in a parking lot. A distracted diner, usually too distracted while eating to notice, may never realize how much she actually dislikes the taste of fast food until she adds this trick to her weight loss plan.

If you want to transition from harried dining and tend to eat alone, try replacing mealtime distractions such as work, television or household chores with a light book or magazine. You may find you eat more slowly when your mind is focused on less anxious, time-pressured tasks.

Your personality, your diet plan

The real goal isn't to find a diet that works for you, Sanders tells WebMD. It's to find a way of eating that you enjoy, and which allows you to lose excess weight and keep it off. You may need to reassess your diet plan over time as your age and lifestyle change. But the only way to get that perfect fit is to find the diet plan that works with you and your personality right now. Bon appetit!

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on December 16, 2009

Sources

SOURCES: Suzanne Farrell, MS, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association (ADA); owner of Cherry Creek Nutrition, Denver. Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, Ithaca, New York; author of Mindless Eating. Seth Roberts, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley; author of The Shangri-La Diet. Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, certified dietitian/nutritionist, New York; co-author of Feed Your Family Right!.•Lisa Sanders, MD, clinician-educator, Yale Primary Care Residency Program, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; author of The Perfect Fit Diet.

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