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Small Changes, Big Results

If weight loss is one of your fitness goals, you might think that going on a drastic, calorie-cutting diet is the only way to achieve it. Not so.

Weight management experts believe that the best way to achieve permanent weight loss is to make small lifestyle changes that you can sustain for the rest of your life. Following the tips below may not be the fast-track to being slim but they are, definitely, better than losing a lot of weight on an extreme diet in a short amount of time, only to regain everything and more.

Eat slowly.
Many people eat too much because they eat too fast. Scientists say that it takes at least twenty minutes for the appetite-regulating mechanism in your brain to signal your stomach that you are full. If you eat like Speedy Gonzalez, you can finish three servings when you could have been satisfied with only one. Chew your food slowly. Put your utensils down between bites. Savor the taste and texture of your food. Try this method and be pleasantly surprised at how you can be satisfied with much less food without being hungry.

In a weight-loss experiment, Thomas Wadden, an obesity researcher, secretly timed participants. The people who ate the slowest had lost the most weight at the end of the 28-week study.

The fifteen-minute rule.
Make a deal with yourself if you feel you want a second helping. Agree that you will get that second helping but only after you have waited for at least fifteen minutes. Most of the time, you will discover that you don't really want it. Use the fifteen-minute rule to deal with "overwhelming" cravings.

Experts say that cravings come in waves. Every wave has a crest and a trough. Waiting fifteen minutes helps you to "surf" the crest until the craving passes. If you still have the craving, chances are you will be willing to settle for a smaller portion.

Brush your teeth.
Brushing your teeth immediately after eating will help stop you from raiding the fridge after dinner.

Thirst or hunger?
Experts say that many people have become insensitive to real hunger pangs. Often, when you think you are hungry, you are actually thirsty. Let your body decide by, first, drinking a glass of water. Wait ten to fifteen minutes. If it doesn't work, then you must really be hungry.

Prepare snacks ahead of time.
Most of us get hungry four hours after eating. Plan for these expected intervals by preparing low calorie snacks. As an example, consider the hunger you start to feel around four o'clock in the afternoon. Without a prepared snack, you will buy the first thing that looks good in a fast food place or raid the fridge for whatever goodies are there.

Physical or emotional hunger?
Are you really "stomach-hurting" hungry or are you, in reality, "heart-hurting" hungry? Food is a source of emotional comfort for many people. Before you give in to your hunger, analyze if you are angry, depressed, sad, etc. If you are in an emotionally unbalanced state, choose another form of coping like calling a close friend, having a massage, reading a humorous book, etc. After fifteen to twenty minutes, you may find that you needed to feed your heart, soul, and spirit instead of your stomach.

Downsize snacks
Many people don't stop eating a snack until there is nothing left in the container. Get rid of this bad habit by dividing the contents into smaller containers (do this while you are not hungry, otherwise, the snacks will never reach the smaller containers, they'll go straight into your stomach).

Non-dominant hand.
It sounds crazy but using your non-dominant hand (your left hand if your are right-handed and vice-versa) while eating finger foods really helps you from over-stuffing your face.

Don't mix eating with other activities.
Mindlessly eating a bag of potato chips while watching TV loads your body with a lot of excess calories without really feeling satisfied. Weight experts found that people who eat while doing other activities don't feel as satisfied with their food as people who concentrate on the taste, smell, and texture of their food.

Avoid another bad habit -- taking spoonfuls of a dessert or cutting off a square of a chocolate bar everytime you pass the refrigerator. People who claim they are only eating a spoonful of ice cream may actually be eating two scoops a day. If you really want that piece of cake, put it on a plate, sit down, eat it slowly, and savor each bite without any distractions to spoil your pleasure.

Go vegetarian twice a week.
According to Dr. Lee Lipsenthal of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in California, you can save 550 calories or more by eating two meatless meals a week. Beans, grains, and vegetables have as much nutritious protein as meat but much less calories. Another way to be a part-time vegetarian is to put less meat and more vegetables into casseroles and other mixed dishes.

One-to-One Rule
Barbara Rolls, a professor in nutrition, says that when you replace a high-fat item with a fat-free one, eat the same portion -- not a bigger piece. Many people have the mistaken notion that fat-free means calorie-free so they eat double or triple what they should.

Substitute.
Substituting something as minor as mustard (15 calories) instead of mayonnaise (100 calories) can help you cut back on 85 calories. Switching from whole milk (150 calories) to non-fat milk (80 calories) removes another 70 calories. While it doesn't sound like much, a savings of just 100 calories a day can mean a weight loss of approximately ten pounds in a year.

Limit.
Limit high-calorie "addictions" that you will "die" without. Instead of five soft drinks a day, cut it down to three. Instead of two ice cream scoops every night, reduce it to one. Eating a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and syrup everyday is risking eventual blimphood, but having it only on Sundays will allow you to stay slim and not feel deprived.

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