These round-the-clock strategies will help you drop the pounds fast-no matter how crazy your life.
After my son was born, I managed to lose the 40 pounds of baby weight within a year. The kid weight? It’s still hanging around, and Patrick is now 23. You know that “kid weight” is-those pounds you accumulate when your life gets so busy that “air traffic controller” sounds like a laid-back job. You’re not just Mom-you’re chauffeur, waitress, counselor, cook, homework assistant, medic, and about a thousand other things. And that’s before you even suit up for the job that comes with the paycheck. It’s hard to pay attention to what you eat (let alone measure, count calories, and keep a food diary) when your main forms of exercise is running errands. So you eat whatever, whenever-and overtime, that can add up to major pounds. Yet there are actually simple solutions to busy women’s diet dilemmas.
You get up early to make sure your kids have a nourishing breakfast, but while they’re eating, you’re making their lunches or getting ready for work, so you don’t have breakfast yourself.
If you had dinner at 6 p.m., you’ve been fasting for over 12 hours. Even if you don’t think you’re hungry, your body has another opinion. When you fast or skip meals, you are going to get hungry-and when those pangs hit later on, chances are greater you’ll do something you’ll regret. “People who skip breakfast are more likely to snack impulsively during the morning. “That makes you a prisoner of what’s available around you, like the donuts served at your meeting or, if you’re running errands, the Danish you find at a convenience store.” To avoid donuts and Danish:
- Have breakfast-a real one Pay attention to the habits of people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off: Seventy-eight percent of them start the day with breakfast. Those are the findings of the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing US study of successful losers who have dropped 30 pounds or more (70 on averages) and kept it off at least a year. Their typical breakfast: cereal and fruit.
- Think big While you’re putting out breakfast for your kids, load up a plate for yourself. Really. A study found that eating a high-protein and carb-rich breakfast helped dieters lose impressive amounts of weight-an average of 23 pounds over four months and then another 17 in the next four months-simply because they didn’t get so hungry and overeat during the rest of the day. Their breakfasts sound more like lunch-a sandwich of turkey and cheese on two slice of bread, a cup of milk, an ounce of chocolate, and a protein shake-and totaled 600 calories. But you can try following the spirit of this landmark study: While making your children’s lunches, whip up a sandwich for yourself-to eat on the spot. Keep prepared protein shakes in the fridge or take them to your office for breakfast, part two.
- Or try eggs Researchers found that men and women who, as part of a low-fat diet, ate a 340-calorie egg breakfast at least five mornings a week for eight weeks experienced a 65 percent greater weight loss than a group who ate a bagel breakfast (same calories). No need to whip out pans and stand over the range, either. Microwave an omelet by mixing two eggs with a little milk and cooking for one to two minutes until eggs are not at all runny. Sprinkle on some reduced-fat cheese, and you’ll get a start on fulfilling your daily calcium quota.
The no-breakfast start to the day is now catching up with you. You are hungry, you down a 400-calorie muffin with your double-shot latte from the coffee shop.
You’ve had a blood sugar crash, and while the muffin will boost your energy and the coffee will make you feel alert, it’s all temporary. “When the coffee wears off, you’ll be back to baseline, but when the sugar wears off you’ll be below baseline, with even less energy than you had before”. That means you’re not going to go for the Greek salad for lunch. You’ll want the moussaka dripping with bechamel sauce, followed by some gooey, sugary baklava-your blood sugar soared with the midmorning snack, then plummeted because your body produced lots of insulin, and now you’re craving carbs to bring those sugar levels back up. And more coffee, please.
As you lick muffin crumbs your fingers, you make a solemn vow to eat a better breakfast from now on. But for those crazy mornings when you slip up:
- Pack up some backup “You can brown-bag your breakfast. Pairs carbs with protein, which will curb your hunger without throwing you under the low-blood-sugar bus an hour later. Pack a slice of low-fat cheese with an apple, whole-grain crackers smeared with peanut butter, or sugar-free, fat-free yogurt with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.Or carry an emergency stash of almonds, as Black does. “Whenever I’m really hungry, I have eight or nine. That’s less than 100 calories, and the nuts have protein, fiber, and a little fat, which can tide me over until my next meal.”
- Choose a healthy equivalent “I would never tell anyone to give up coffee. If nothing else, it’s a significant source of antioxidants in the American diet”. But, she suggests, go for a skinny (nonfat) latte to get a little lean protein (from the milk), and munch on a high-fiber cereal bar or a low-sugar protein bar to banish hunger.
- Take a walk A brisk outing can tame a growling stomach. Partly it’s the mental boost that helps, but exercise may also change levels of neuroendocrine chemicals that affect appetite suppression and feeling of fullness.
The kids are vegging out in front of the computer. You send them out to playwhile you work on your laptop.
What’s wrong with this scenario? You’re missing a prime opportunity to multitask in a healthy way-by spending time with your children and getting exercise. Instead:
- Send everyone to the park (including yourself). “And get into the game, too. A jump rope costs less than P200 and burns almost 750 calories in an hour, and it’s just as much fun as you remember. Hula hoops now come weighted for exercise in just 10 minutes of hip swiveling. Ride bikes, skate, throw around a Frisbee.
For rainy days, consider investing in a Wii. One study found that playing the virtual sports on this game system can burn more than three calories per minute and boost metabolism as well. Or turn on music and dance around with the kids. It’s so much fun, “no one will even think it’s exercise”.
- At work? You probably be going in to your post-lunch, mid afternoon dip around now. Pick yourself up-and burn some calories-with a brisk 10-minute walk, indoors or outside.
It’s BLT time, as in “bites, licks, and tastes.” You’re so hungry while making dinner, you’re sampling everything, but that doesn’t stop you from loading up your plate when the meal’s ready.
- Park it “It sounds simple, but if you’re going to eat, commit to sit”. To discourage sampling, make it a rule to put your food on a plate and pull up a chair to eat it.
- Have the gum appetizer You’ll keep your mouth occupied. Choose cinnamon or mint, When you have that strong flavor in your mouth, you tend not to want to taste anything else.” The same trick works if you’ve been snacking on nuts, since that lingering salty taste makes you want to eat more. “Pop in some gum or a breath trip, and the nut taste immediately goes away”.
- Start with soup or salad Remember the old advice to curb your appetite by drinking lots of water? Studies have morphed that into “eats lots of water.” Rolls has found that people who begin their dinner with a bowl of soup or a large salad-water-rich foods-eats less of their entrees, for a calorie savings of about 10 percent. Just be sure to keep soup or salad under 150 calories-no creamy chowders or mayo-saturated salad.
Your kids are notorious for leaving food on their plates. But it never goes to waste: When you’ve finished your own meal, you pick at their leftovers.
- Make sure what’s left won’t hurt (you) A study from found that both adults and children who doubled up on veggies and fruit in a meal saved calories and ate healthier, consuming less of the calorie-dense meat and grains on the plate. Not surprisingly, the kids in the study were more likely to eat the fruit and leave the veggies. If yours have similar taste and you can’t resist picking at their leftovers, max out the side dishes at dinner and chances are you’ll have only carrot medallions or broccoli florets to pick on.
- Get your kids into scrapes Make it a new rule: When children are done eating, they must take their plates to the kitchen and scrape leftover food into a container that gets dumped into only removes temptation, but it also eliminates a household job that probably has been falling to you.
Ahhh, a little time to yourself. So you dish out some ice cream or grab the cookie box or spread Nutella on toast, then curl up on the sofa and watch TV.
- Turn it off Most research linking television to excess weight has been done on kids, but at least one study that looked at heavy adults found that cutting viewing time by half helped participants burn 119 more calories a day than they had before turning off the tube. Skipping one or two Law & Order returns not only frees you up for activity-in the study, even doing desk work or chatting on the phone burned more calories than TV watching-but also protects you from the food ads. “One of my clients started recording her favorite shows, which lets her fast-forward through the commercials, and she’s found that she’s better able to avoid mindless eating”.
- Don’t eat-sleep Missing zzz’s puts you into a state of chronic fatigue, making you more likely to eat (usually carbs and sweet foods) to keep up your energy. Sleep deprivation sends your body chemistry out of whack, too, altering the production of the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety-and making you crave even more high-cal stuff.
- Don’t go to bed hungry Make sure your dinner is healthy and balanced so hunger pangs don’t interfere with your sleep. If you want, have a little snack before turning in-it can serve as a defined endpoint to the evening. Caffeine-free vanilla caramel tea-with zero calories. “It’s hot and sweet and puts a lid on the night for me.”
It’s a signal to get to bed, so you’ll be ready to start tomorrow with that diet-smart breakfast.