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How To Stay On Track

Liftin, hardly the Moderation Kid, says the once-a-week approach works best for her.

"One bite is torture for me," she says. "I need to eat as much as I want if I am going to eat it." But "I don't start eating candy until after lunch. You have to have some standards."

Molly Kimball, RD, a sports nutritionist at Ochsner Clinic's Elmwood Center in New Orleans, says some of her weight-loss clients need something sweet each day. "I tell them anything under a hundred calories won't make or break you," she says.

Kimball recommends treating yourself to something that is not 100% sugar, which can create more cravings. She often chooses a sweet treat that includes nuts.

"My favorite is 10 to 12 Peanut M&Ms," she confides. "You can eat 24 of the regulars for 100 calories, too, or those fun-size Snickers." She also eats one square of dark chocolate, sometimes dipping it in peanut butter.

"Once you say it's OK to eat something, there is no guilt," Kimball stresses. "You don't inhale three without tasting them and then taste the fourth. You enjoy every one."

4 Ways to Stay on Track

The goal, according to Gillespie, is to create your own, long-term eating pattern. "It's the short-term (on, off, lose, gain) diets that cause the problem," she says.

Four basic lifestyle changes, made mindfully and over time, can help your diet accommodate the occasional dessert or overindulgence in candy:

  • Reduce portion size. See if your plate looks like a restaurant plate. If so, halve everything on it. Forget the seconds.
  • Eat more often. That's more often, not more food. This keeps your digestive hormones on an even keel and you won't get out-of-control hungry. It's normal to feel a twinge of hunger every three or four hours.
  • Eat more slowly. According to Gillespie, scarfing down dinner too quickly doesn't let your digestive hormones cycle through. Then, the only way to know you're done is to feel physically "stuffed," by which point you've probably eaten too much.
  • Exercise. "We're slugs!" cries Gillespie, who says that after strapping on a pedometer, she found she averages only 2,400 steps a day. "My birds in their cage walked more than I did," she recalls. Some experts recommend fitting in 10,000 steps each day.

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