The right amount of tracking, support helps dieters

By Maura Wery

So it’s the end of February. If you made a New Year’s weight-loss resolution, chances are good that by now you’ve hit a plateau.

How do you stay on track with your diet and push through? The stumbling blocks for people can vary. For one person it’s combating cravings; for another it’s staying motivated when weight loss doesn’t come easily. But there are tips to keeping your goals at the top of your priority list. Registered dietitian Teresa Sanborn talks about which things can help you keep your diet goals strong.

Cut out emotional eating

For a lot of people losing weight, one of their biggest problems might be combating emotional eating.

“There is a connection of mood, food and weight loss,” Sanborn said. “Emotional eating is such a big part of how we use or may not use food in a healthy way and can undermine our weight-loss methods.”

There are many reasons why people eat emotionally. The Mayo Clinic lists unemployment, financial pressure, health problems, relationship conflicts, work stress and fatigue as the most common triggers, but things such as boredom can be triggers as well. Emotional eating also can be a hard habit to break.

According to a guide on the Mayo Clinic website, “... emotions may become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you’re angry or stressed without stopping to think about what you’re doing.”

But just like there are many triggers for emotional eating, there are many ways to combat it. For those who are extremely stressed, Sanborn suggests looking into a relaxing activity such as meditation or yoga.

“I know many have heard that recommendation before,” Sanborn said, “but maybe they have never pursued that option.”

For those who emotionally eat because of boredom, the Mayo Clinic suggests doing another activity when those feelings come to the surface. Doing things such as reading a book, taking a walk or just simply surfing the web can help combat the urge to eat.

Another suggestion is one Sanborn does with most of her weight-loss clients: keeping a food diary.

“But it’s not just what food and how much, but also how you feel,” Sanborn said. Sanborn said that making sure to track emotions in relation to food will make it easier for those trying to lose weight to see when the emotional eating will occur. She also suggests rating hunger on a scale in the diary.

“On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being you are hungry or 10 being stuffed. If you already ate a full lunch but you have to go to the vending machine, are you turning to food to deal with that stress?” Sanborn said.

The last tip is to take the foods that you reach for in those emotionally taxing situations out of the picture.

“Don’t keep junk food around if you don’t need it,” Sanborn said.


Eating the right stuff

When it comes to eating, some meals are better than others. Sanborn puts a large emphasis on starting the day with protein.

“Starting the day with a breakfast that contains a source of protein, such as eggs, yogurt/Greek yogurt, Canadian bacon or cereal with milk can help get through the morning without your blood sugar dropping and can help with your muscle-building efforts and therefore helps you get through the day successfully.”

Starting the day with protein may help you push through until lunch, but what about those who have cravings for sweet and fatty foods throughout the day?

Some people assume that completely cutting out the foods they crave is the best way to lose weight, but that might not be the case. For Sanborn, to cut cravings, it’s all about the balance.

“I think that instead of trying to fight cravings, we should approach it as more of allowing ourselves to have some of them in moderation,” Sanborn said.

So if you bake a huge pan of brownies, try cutting them into smaller pieces so you eat less. Also, don’t leave junk food out where you can easily access it.

Sanborn also suggests pairing sweet or fatty foods with something that is more healthy “like a granola bar that’s a bit healthier or a fruit smoothie instead of a milkshake.” But if you are one of those people who just can’t resist the temptation, then Sanborn said completely ridding the home of those foods is still an option.

“It’s really mixed on the advice; some say you need to cut it out. Get it out of the house and reduce as much sugar as possible,” Sanborn said. “You need to look at what person you are. If you can’t have the sweets around, get them out of the house. Some can have a controlled amount or a skinny version of the same thing.”

Sanborn also advised staying away from foods that contain “empty calories.” She suggests getting superfoods such as sweet potatoes, broccoli or other dark green veggies, blueberries, blackberries, butternut squash and pumpkin.


Control your portions

To help stay on track with your consumption, it might take more than just eating the right kinds of foods. That’s where tracking the intake of food comes in. Sanborn said that living in the technology age has brought big advantages for those who are dieting. Mainly, it brings instant tracking options with apps such as “Lose it,” “myfitnesspal,” and “sparkpeople,” which let people log their food intakes on their smartphones. The apps also give dieters something else: instant support.

“The great thing with online support is that it’s available day and night,” Sanborn said. “If you don’t have time to go to a Weight Watchers meeting, you can get support at 10 p.m. They are becoming more popular so you can do it on your time. It makes it more convenient.”

Sanborn is impressed with the government’s   website for several reasons. It has a supertracker that can help with support, but it also shows how much of each food group should be on a plate for meals.

Sanborn said that the best thing to do to stay motivated is to not give up, even if it seems hopeless.

“Don’t give up, find someone to help you with another approach.”s staying motivated when weight loss doesn

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