11. Write notes to yourself. To help you stay on track, post notes to yourself on the fridge and the pantry. Put up a little stop sign or make tags with questions like “Do you want this food enough to wear it?” and “Are the calories worth the consequences?”
12. Stay away from sodas. Soft drinks are a major source of empty calories in the American diet. We drink twice as much soda as milk and nearly six times more soda than fruit juice. But fluids don’t satisfy your appetite as well as solids. A study at Purdue University found that when people were fed 450 calories daily as jelly beans or as soda, the soda drinkers gained a significant amount of weight, but the jelly-bean eaters compensated for the extra calories by cutting back on other food. So if you crave something sweet, you’re better off chewing it than gulping it. If you’re truly thirsty, reach for water or unsweetened iced tea instead of soda.
13. Don’t just eat — dine. Eating on the run or in front of the tube invites mindless munching. Instead, set the table every time you eat. Make a conscious choice to sit down and savor every bite. Placing a portion of chips on your best china helps focus your attention so you don’t eat the whole bag.
14. Up your protein (a little). Research suggests that protein prolongs the feeling of fullness better than carbohydrates or fats do. Studies in Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and England found that people who ate a high-protein breakfast or lunch were less hungry at their next meal. Protein also requires a few more calories to digest. Just don’t go overboard. Stick to low-fat protein sources like low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese, low-fat soy drinks or snacks, or thinly sliced turkey breast.
15. Learn how to measure. It’s easy to misjudge portion sizes. Pull out the measuring spoons and cups, especially for full-fat salad dressings, dairy foods and mayo.
16. Make smart substitutions. Look for nutritious low-calorie alternatives to sugary, high-fat treats. Try frozen grapes instead of candy. Use air-popped popcorn instead of oil-popped. Dip fresh strawberries in fat-free fudge sauce for a sensuous chocolaty treat.
17. Have a “party plan.” When attending a party, offer to bring a plate. Arriving armed with chopped fresh veggies and a low-fat dip — or any other low-calorie snack — ensures that you’ll have something to snack on without feeling guilty.
18. Think positively. Experts note that low self-esteem is a major cause of overeating. Train yourself to focus on your best points rather than your weak spots. Buy clothes that fit and flatter you at your current weight. Update your hairstyle and get a makeup consultation so you feel attractive today.
19. Give yourself a break. No one says you have to reach your goal without making mistakes along the way. Tell yourself you can succeed in losing weight by taking things one step at a time and starting fresh whenever you slip up. If you overeat one night, just get back on track in the morning by focusing on what’s worked for you in the past.
20. Relax! Some people binge when they’re stressed. A Yale University study found that women who secreted the most cortisol (a hormone released during stress) ate the most high-fat food after stress. The combination of cortisol and insulin prompts the body to store fat in preparation for possible starvation — just what you don’t need. If stress has a stronghold on your life, try learning yoga, meditation, or simple breathing exercises.