Goal No. 1: Plan Your Daily Food
First, take note of every bite of food you have during the day. Don't forget that run through the supermarket - all those tasty samples you couldn't pass up. "A food journal is the single best thing you can do," says Gary Foster, PhD, clinical director of the weight and eating disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "You become more conscious of what you're doing. It helps you monitor yourself, and make corrections in mid-course."
Dietitians call it a food journal. But really, it's research for your plan of action, he explains. You'll see where you need improvement. "Plans work better than platitudes," Foster tells WebMD. "Instead of 'I'll exercise more,' make it 'I'll walk tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.'"
Keep it simple. Journals don't have to be labor-intensive, he says. Focus on your high-risk time slots when you're most likely to get off course. Example: You know you eat junk at night, or that you snack after 3 p.m., or between lunch and dinner. Just keep notes during that time period. You'll quickly see problem habits: banana split vs. banana, the whole container of nuts vs. a handful.
Set specific goals. You can't just tell yourself to eat less junk food after 8 p.m. Be specific - 'I'm going to substitute popcorn for potato chips.' That way you know exactly what to do. There's no question.
Use weekends wisely. "When things are a little quieter on weekends, you can think about the upcoming week," says Stokes. "Decide what you're going to eat. Go to the market, so you're a little ahead of the game. You can even prepare food on the weekend and freeze it, then pull it out during the week."
Consider your options. Keep lists of healthy foods and meals you love, and plan accordingly, adds Elisabetta Politi, RD, MPH, nutrition manager at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center at Duke University Medical School. "I advise people to think of five different breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Then you'll have some freedom - you can choose from your favorites. But your eating will be more structured. That's what's important."