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Diet and Nutrition

Seven Simple Steps to Slimming Down

Everyone knows that healthy eating and exercising are the keys to energy balance and weight control. Here are some practical tips that may help you to reach those healthy behavior goals more easily.

1. Don't skip breakfast. Skipping meals is NOT a good way to lose weight. Studies show that people who skip breakfast and eat fewer times during the day tend to be more overweight than those who eat 4-5 times per day. Eating small meals throughout the day helps to control your blood glucose and your appetite.

2. Watch those portion sizes! Portion sizes have increased considerably in the last two decades, paralleling the increasing incidence of obesity. Unfortunately, people tend to eat whatever portion is placed in front of them. So review food labels for appropriate serving sizes, then dish up one serving of the food item. For snacking, repackage foods into single serving sizes in baggies. When dining out, avoid SUPERSIZED portions, order child portions or half orders if available, and share with a friend. Also, ask for the "take home" bag before you eat rather than after.

3. Include protein in your diet. Many studies have shown that protein is the most satiating macronutrient. Researchers believe that the higher protein content of some diets may account for the ability of dieters to restrict their food intake. So include sources of protein (e.g., low-fat dairy products, lean meats, soy products, or a small amount of nuts) in your diet throughout the day to curb your appetite and control your intake of food.

4. Sloooow down at mealtime. Eating food quickly increases your chances of overeating. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive satiety signals from hormones in the digestive tract. So slow down and savor the taste of the food or beverage. Some behavioral techniques for slowing down your pace of eating include: (1) set down your eating utensil between each bite, (2) chew each bite of food more slowly, (3) eat in an unhurried, relaxing environment.

5. Drink lots of water. Drinking water before a meal fills the stomach briefly and makes you feel fuller sooner. Also, if you are drinking water, you are less likely to be drinking calorie-rich beverages, such as soft drinks. During weight loss, breaking down body fat and body muscle produces wastes that must be eliminated by the kidneys. Drinking enough water is important for the kidneys to efficiently remove these wastes. So remember to drink about 2 liters of water per day (and even more if you are exercising intensely)!

6. Post a list of activities and projects on your refrigerator. Whenever you are bored and ready to grab a snack, get moving! Take a walk, rake leaves, clean a closet ... engage in any activity that helps you to burn calories and to avoid snacking.

7. Build those muscles! Strengthening activities, such as weight lifting, push-ups, or abdominal crunches, performed on a regular basis can help you to build muscles and increase your lean body mass. Lean body mass is more metabolically active and burns more calories than fat tissue even when you are resting. So in addition to staying active throughout the day, try to engage in some strengthening activities 2 to 3 times per week.

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Last Reviewed: May 07, 2007

Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati