The best diet is the one that works for you. That’s the advice of Lisa Sanders, a doctor who specializes in eating disorders and who has just written a book called “The Perfect Diet”. “People think of diets as an aberration (see “Word to the Wise,” below) in the way they eat to atone for pleasure,” Sanders says. “But a diet is just how you eat every day.”
The trick to maintaining a healthy eating pattern is to find a program that will let you eat some of the foods you really enjoy. If the diet you are on keeps you entirely away from such foods, it won’t work. Your craving will build, and you will eventually falter. “If cookies and cakes are your downfall,” Sanders says, “you will be toast on a low-carb diet.”
Dr. Robert Kushner, an internist and obesity specialist, agrees. And be believes that if you can figure out what type of behavior pattern you have as an eater, you can figure out how to develop a healthier one. In his book “Dr. Kushner’s Personality Type Diet”, he identifies seven eating patterns that can derail your fitness efforts — and offers a solution for each one:
1. Unguided grazing. Whether you’re driving to work, waiting for the bus, reading, or (don’t tell me!) watching television . . . there’s always something going into your mouth. And it’s usually junk food. You munch past the point of being full and never miss a meal.
Solution: Commit to three meals a day. While enjoying your food, do nothing else. Eat slowly and savor each bite. Plan every snack and meal.
2. Nighttime nibbling. You go all day without eating anything. As a result, you’re so famished by dinnertime that you tend to overeat. Often, you will snack until bedtime.
Solution: Plan a light lunch and an afternoon snack. Take all your nighttime munchie food and throw it away. Plan a healthy snack for after dinner and enjoy it . . . slowly.
3. Convenient consuming. You eat nothing but fast food and packaged goods that are high in fats and low in nutrients and fiber. You rarely give yourself the benefits of a fresh, home-cooked meal.
Solution: Look for healthy substitutes for fast foods. In restaurants, order your meat baked, broiled, or grilled instead of fried. Instead of creamy gravies, experiment with various spices and alternatives like teriyaki or barbecue sauce.
4. Fruitless feasting. You live on meat and potatoes. So you don’t get enough of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide.
Solution: Add fruit to your cereal and vegetables (such as spinach or peppers) to your omelets. Have an apple or orange with lunch. Add a slice of tomato and a leafy green to your sandwiches.
5. Mindless munching. You’re always snacking, morning, noon, and night . . . even when you’re not hungry. You can’t pass a vending machine, candy counter, or hot-dog stand without indulging. Sometimes, you eat just because you’re bored.
Solution: Write down everything you eat so you become aware of where you’re messing up. Replace regular chips with baked ones. Substitute bean dip or hummus for high-fat dairy dips.
6. Hearty portioning. You consume three to five times more of everything than normal. It doesn’t matter whether it’s healthy food or not.
Solution: Read the labels so you know what a “portion” is. Make each meal one-quarter meats and starches and three-quarters fruits, vegetables, and salads. When dining out, split an entree with your dinner partner and order extra salads and vegetables.
7. Deprived sneaking. You have a healthy amount of good food one day. Then you feel deprived and binge out on bad food the next day.
Solution: Lose the long list of “forbidden” foods. Have some of them if you choose. Just be sure to keep an 80%-20% ratio of healthy food to bad. If some of these solutions seem obvious . . . it’s because they are. It may not be as glamorous as South Beach or Atkins, but the simple (and obvious) way to lose weight is to eat less — especially less junk.