1. “Legalize” All Foods
Why: Research indicates that making your favorite flavors taboo only sets you up for trouble. “When you label a particular food as ‘bad,’ you’re automatically implying that it’s desirable,” says Geneen Roth, author of When Food Is Love: Exploring the Relationship Between Eating and. “You’ll instantly want it more, making it easy to break down and overindulge.” Also, new evidence shows that eating foods you like in moderation will give you an edge in maintaining, even losing, weight.
Scientists at the University of Oregon monitored the activity of the pleasure centers in subjects’ brains as they dined. The researchers found that the less enjoyable the meal was the more people overate to compensate. “We strongly associate food with pleasure and comfort, so when it’s not providing either, we often try to solve the problem by eating more,” says Denise Lamothe, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of The Taming of the Chew: A Holistic Guide to Stopping Compulsive Eating.
How to do it: Instead of focusing on do’s and don’ts, make all foods permissible. Incorporate flavors you love into each meal. Sure, it’s always best to seek out the healthiest version of dishes, but when absolutely nothing except, say, Grandma’s lasagna will do, don’t forbid yourself. Cut a reasonable portion (about the size of a deck of cards) and relish it.
2. Choose the Best Fuel
Why: Our bodies weren’t designed to eat something made in a lab,” says Somer. Whole and unprocessed foods are packed with vitamins and nutrients and are often lower in sugar and fat than packaged ones. What’s more, foods high in protein, fiber, or water can help satiate you faster and for longer. “The more time it takes your body to break a food down, the longer you’ll stay full,” says Cheskin. Meals high in protein make you feel up to 25 percent fuller and are more filling calorie for calorie. On the flip side, sugar and simple carbohydrates take practically no time to be absorbed.
How to do it: Make simple, whole foods your first picks when you have a craving. Go with dried fruit when you have a yen for something super-sweet, for example, or nuts for something savory. Choose protein-rich foods, like nonfat yogurt and lean meats, and load up on fiber-dense legumes and vegetables.
3. Eat a Little, Often
Why: It bears repeating: people who skip breakfast are 4½ times more likely to be obese than others. In fact, studies overwhelmingly link any kind of meal skipping or irregular eating patterns to obesity.
How to do it: Eat something small and healthy every few hours. Then you’ll never be so famished that you lose control at the sight of food, and mealtimes won’t feel like the last supper. Rest assured―you’ll eat again.