May 2015 | Dr. Stephen Gullo

Monthly Archives: May 2015

Why Dieting Requires More Than Willpower

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Willpower is great thing. It can advance your career, keep you focused on your goals, help you accomplish new projects, and even help you overcome great obstacles. “I shall either find a way or make one,” said the legendary Carthaginian military commander Hannibal after his generals told him it would be impossible to cross the Alps’ steep ridges by elephant. Hannibal ignored the warnings, made the dangerous journey and marched into history.

While we can learn much from Hannibal’s classic triumph of mind over matter, when it comes to dieting willpower alone isn’t enough. How else to explain why some of our brightest and most accomplished citizens fail again and again at this most critical endeavor? Indeed, dieting is seldom about willpower. Need proof? Look no further than the weight loss misadventures of well-known celebrities.

Though its rare for any woman, especially one who’s had children, to stay the same dress size, singer, actress, mother of two, and Weight Watchers spokeswoman Jessica Simpson has seen her weight fluctuate more than the Stock Market. While she was pregnant with her first child, she reportedly gained more than 70 pounds, which she then lost. “Bridesmaids” star Rebel Wilson, who’s had to endure repeated comments about her weight, which veers between overweight and morbid obesity, actually signed on as a spokeswoman with Jenny Craig. Her stated goal was to lose 55 lbs. Though she initially lost 33 lbs., the Australian actress found it difficult to continue with her eating plan, and has repeatedly tweeted about binging on cupcakes and other junk food. Perhaps, no one has struggled more with weight than Oprah Winfrey, whose perennial battles with bulge have reached near epic proportions. It shouldn’t be that surprising that even the rich and famous, who frequently have private chefs and personal trainers at their beckon call, regain weight. In a country where the typical dieter makes 4-5 weight loss attempts per year they fit right in.

So what can you learn from these celebrity diet misadventures? That even highly successful and accomplished people are often no match for the Siren’s call of certain foods. As I told a legendary film executive, who was widely known as one his industry’s toughest negotiators, after he confided that he was contemplating a return to breadbaskets, “When in your life did you ever negotiate with a breadbasket and win?” My patient knew his history with breadbaskets and rather than a rely on an iron will, which had helped him succeed in so many other areas of his life, used to strategy to resist the call of the food that was the source of his struggles with weight. As a New York Times feature story pointed out, even the most determined dieters struggle to keep the weight off when they rely on willpower alone. For my patient, and thousands of others like him with a long history of abusing a particular food, they found that it was better not to start than to have a little. It’s not that they can’t have a certain food. They can have whatever they want. But my patients, the winners at weight control, realize that they might never have the life they want if they return to foods they have a long history of abusing. I don’t know Rebel Wilson’s food history, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she has a long history of abusing baked goods. The same people gain back the same weight with the foods again and again!

Simply, willpower is fragile and subject to a great many factors that may be outside our conscious control. As I will repeat over and over on this website, those who succeed at weight control do not have more willpower than those who fail. Simply, they have better strategies! The winners at weight control—the elite group that have not only lose weight, but also keep it off—know that strategy is the key to unlocking the proverbial door to success. This elite five percent succeed because they use strategy not only to control food and correct mistakes, but most importantly, to the change the fundamental thinking and feelings about the place of food in their lives.

Fighting Food Triggers With Smart Strategy

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If there’s one topic I return to time and time again, it’s the importance of identifying and dealing with problem foods. But how do you identify a problem food? You know the expression, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Foods don’t affect two people the same way. Cookies, as an example, are thought of a problem food for dieters, particularly women. And in many instances, they are an issue and not incidentally, the number #1 problem food in my practice at the Center for Health Sciences. But what of those people who don’t have an issue with cookies? Not every dieters abuses sweets. Men, on the other hand, are more apt to overeat chips and nuts. Whatever your issue, it’s important not to look solely at a piece of food, but how much you eat of a particular food. A piece of food itself isn’t the problem; it’s the cravings that food triggers for more and more. This is the essence of smart food strategy. It’s not about calories but control. Nuts are a “healthy” food provided you stop at 5-7. But the experiences of thousands of patients have taught me that people rarely stop at 5-7 nuts. Most people eat nuts by the handfuls. This is common with bite-sized snack foods that can be quickly and mindlessly popped into your mouth.

Always ask yourself, “What is my history with a particular food?” Just as each of us has our own unique fingerprint, we all have our own unique history when it comes to food. If you think historically, and not just calorically about your struggles with weight, you will find that predictable patterns and obstacles emerge. For some it may not even be a food, but a behavior, such as stress eating that leads to trouble. Food history helps us identify the handful of foods, behaviors, situations and patterns that cause loses of control and lead to weight gain.

In the world of dieting, the word “trigger” has a negative association. But did you know there is more than one kind of trigger? Just as we experience an increase in cravings and losses of control when we return to foods we have a long history of abusing, we can also experience diet success by setting up positive triggers that program us to make choices that honor rather than violate our history.

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to scarf down an alarming number of hidden or what I refer to as “credit card” calories before you even realize what realize what you’re doing. To that end, there are tried and true mechanisms for avoiding mindless consumption. We all know that experts advise that you don’t eat while your attention is divided between another task like driving or watching TV.

Darya Pino Rose, Ph.D. has shared simple tips and tricks for mindful eating on her popular website Summer Tomato, and expands on this concept in chapter seven of her new book Foodist with her intriguing and ingenious method of turning triggers, which we normally think of as a negative thing, into something positive. Some of her mindful eating strategies include:

Counting Chews: There are a lot of reasons we might eat quickly. We might be in a hurry. We might be eating something so delicious we can’t wait to get another bite. We might have waited to eat until we’re so hungry, we’re desperate to feel full. Or we might just be doing it out of habit. One of the easiest ways to cut back on overconsumption of calories is to slow down, and one of the best ways to slow down is to be conscious of your food the moment you put it in your mouth. Make it a point to chew every bite of food twenty-five times. As you count each chew, you will trigger yourself into actually paying attention to what you are eating. Not only will you savor the flavors more, you’ll give yourself a chance to actually feel full before your plate is already emptied.

Put Down Your Fork: When your fork stays poised over your plate waiting for the next bite, you’re setting yourself up for a binge moment. Be sure to put down your fork between every bite. When you find yourself reaching for it again, take a moment to make sure your mouth is empty of your last bite. Let the feeling of your hand closing around the metal trigger you into being conscious of each bite you take, so you get the value out of each one.

Formalize Your Dining Experience: Whether you’re supping alone, dining with a friend or loved one, or eating a raucous dinner with the whole family, avoid the temptation to sit on the couch. Let the feeling of sitting at a table trigger you into being grateful for the food you’re about to consume so you can savor the experience no matter who you’re sharing it with.

Eating Healthy On A Budget? Not Impossible At All

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In The Thin Commandments we talk a lot about one kind of budget: a calorie budget. Everyone knows the basic principles of budgeting money: essentially, you should first allot your money towards essential things like rent and bills and groceries before splurging on indulgences. Calorie budgeting follows the same philosophy. You need a certain amount of calories to live, and you should make sure the calories you consume are going towards providing things your body needs, like protein, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. Just like you should spend your money wisely when you have limited finances (for example, if you’re a struggling college student or if you’re fighting long-term unemployment) you need to make the right food choices when you have a limited calorie budget as you embark on your weight loss journey.

These simple concepts can get extra complicated, however, once they converge. There is a common perception that it is more expensive to eat healthy than it is to eat junk food. However, that is not necessarily true. It is fully possible to eat well on a budget and get more bang for your buck by purchasing fresh, nutritious food over fast food. It just takes research, ingenuity, and a commitment to being healthier by eating foods that sustain weight loss even if it takes more of an effort. Not sure where to begin? Here are some of our favorite blogs that will help you on your path to budgeting your calories and your money at the same time:

Budget Bytes

The Budget Bytes blog is an incredibly valuable resource for breaking down your food budget to a nitty gritty level of detail. Author Beth M. provides a wide range of valuable tips. She imparts the best basics to stock your pantry with so you can always whip up a good meal with what you have on hand, and provides great cooking techniques like how to slow cook a potato. But the centerpiece of this blog is her awesome recipes. Not only are the recipes she creates tasty and innovative, she breaks down the price per serving which will motivate budget-minded people not to overeat. This blog is ideal for people looking to keep their waistlines slim and their wallets fat.

Poor Girl Eats Well

This long-established blog has been going strong for almost five years. Kimberley Morales found herself in some dire financial straits thanks to a combination of poor financial decisions and plain old bad luck. Her popular series of posts on the $25 shopping cart shows firsthand how you can plan healthy meals on a shoestring budget and still come up with flavorful and unique meals like a chipotle mushroom sub with pico de gallo.

Eating Richly

The Eating Richly blog adds a different spin to budget food blogging. The recipes developed here are designed for couples and families instead of single women and also features a wide variety of gluten-free meals like a tasty and low-cost Beef Mexi Rice recipe that’s chock full of nutritious veggies. The best part? Each recipe includes both nutritional info and a cost breakdown so you can easily make sure you’re meeting both your calorie budgeting and financial budgeting requirements.

Are You Addicted To Feel-Good Foods?

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We all have some creature comforts that makes us happy, whether it’s enjoying a relaxing massage, sipping a glass of good wine, or taking a bite of cool, sweet ice cream. These things all feel good to us for a reason: they can trigger dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced by an enzymatic pathway in the brain. Simply put, it’s a molecule that transmits messages from one neuron in your brain to another. It’s known as the “feel-good molecule” because it creates those pleasurable sensations you associate with your favorite indulgences. However, as we delve into in The Thin Commandments, we also learn that it is also inextricably entangled with addiction.

Studies have shown in the past that using drugs like alcohol, opiates, and cocaine may boost the release of neurochemicals including dopamine, creating a flood of pleasurable sensations that addicts become increasingly desperate to replicate. Even potentially addictive behaviors like gambling or exciting activities like firing a gun have shown to be so thrilling in part because they trigger that same feel-good dopamine reaction.

And now a new study seems to confirm what we have hypothesized for years: you may well be addicted to fatty foods. If you’re having trouble ditching the drive-through in favor of more sensible and healthy meals it could be very likely because fatty and sugary foods trigger that pesky dopamine response in your brain. This means that when you suddenly switch to eating a more healthy diet, you could suffer through withdrawal symptoms and depression similar to what a recovering drug addict experiences.

Does this mean you should just keep eating fatty foods to avoid potential bad moods and emotional discomfort? Of course it doesn’t. Nor does it mean you should switch entirely to a Boredom Diet that lacks any fat or sugar or joy and only get your thrills outside of food (say, for instance, riding on thrilling new roller coasters). It simply means you should be prepared to cope not only with the physical changes your body will go through on your weight loss journey, but also with the psychological ones.

Keeping an online food journal is a terrific way to be mindful about not just what you’re consuming, but how it makes you feel. Let’s face it: you’re less likely to eat a giant piece of cake if you have to be accountable and write it down that you ate it instead of shamefully pretending it never happened. But if you do give into the urge to eat the cake, don’t just write about the calorie counts. Write about how you felt when you ate it—joyful, guilty, disinterested. And pay attention to whether it just made you yearn for more cake or junk food rather than satiating the actual craving.

By using a technique like food journaling to processing the emotions that food instill in us we can identify potentially risky trigger foods and steer clear of consuming things that can kick our very real propensity for food addiction into full effect. Once we realize what foods sends us down the psychological rabbit hole of poor decision-making, we will be able to more easily make good food decisions that will put us on the path to weight loss victory.

Can Going Vegan Help You Lose Weight?

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In The Thin Commandments we promote the idea that losing weight is essential for health, but it must be done in a healthy and sustainable way in order to maintain weight loss after a diet is over. So we posit the questions: is embracing veganism a healthy way to lose weight, and can the lifestyle be sustained?

There are many ethical reasons to go vegan. For one thing, it’s as eco-friendly as a paperless office – but let’s leave that aside and look at the lifestyle purely from the health and weight-loss perspective. Can veganism help you lose weight? Sure. Here are just a few reasons:

When you eliminate a giant swath of food options from your diet in one fell swoop, whether it is sugar, wheat, or meat and animal byproducts, you will likely remove a ton of calories just by virtue of having more limited options.

While there are lean cuts of meat and low-fat or nonfat types of milk and cheese, many meats and animal byproducts are very fatty. Skipping that heaping helping of goat cheese crumbles on your salad will cut out a major source of hidden fat.

Going vegan could be the mental trick you need to help you disengage from your trigger foods. It’s easy to justify reaching for a pastry or candy bar when it’s just about the calorie counts. When you place yourself within the context of not being able to eat something because of a larger purpose, giving up dairy for instance, it gives you extra motivation to avoid your known pitfalls.

This is not to say that going vegan is a surefire way to lose weight. There are certainly a fair amount of junk foods available for vegans. But if you do decide to take on a vegan diet, look at as an experiment in redefining your lifestyle. Going vegan can help you simplify your meal plans and reset the way you look at meal planning. It can be a great excuse to start embracing whole foods and local produce and incorporating them into your diet. Essentially, it gives you a reason to start approaching your menu-planning more mindfully.

Even avid vegan advocates sometimes give up their meat and dairy-free lifestyle over time. But it is possible to enjoy a nutritionally-balanced vegan diet. Just plan well by researching alternative diet sources for nutrients like calcium, protein, and iron that you might be missing out on, and look into taking vitamin supplements. Once you explore beyond the boundaries of your go-to meals, you might be surprised by how rich and varied a vegan diet can be. But make no mistake: like any diet, you’ll need to focus on eating the right foods and not filling up on empty calories if you want to achieve your weight loss goals.

So breakfast is critical for weight loss?

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Not so fast. A critical study now implies that the much heralded “most important meal of the day” may not be as important as we once thought, particularly for those looking to lose weight. The study, published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that dieters who skipped breakfast lost just as much weight as dieters who regularly ate breakfast. So while a nutritious breakfast may offer multiple benefits, weight loss may not be one of them.

One reason, said the authors in a prepared statement, is that previous studies on weight loss and breakfast consumption have “demonstrated correlation but not necessarily causation.”

In the study, researchers split 309 adults looking to lose weight into three groups: One group received, received a USDA pamphlet titled, “Let’s Eat for the Health of It” that described good nutrition habits but did not mention breakfast. Group two received the same pamphlet and was instructed to eat breakfast before 10 a.m. every day. The third group received the pamphlet but was told to avoid consuming anything but water until 11 a.m. Researchers followed the three groups for 16 weeks.

What They Learned

At the conclusion of the 16 weeks, all three groups lost the same amount of weight on average, indicating that skipping breakfast had no real effect on weight loss.

What are we to make of these findings?

Does this mean we should all go out and skip breakfast if we want to lose weight? It’s important to remember that there are limitations to all scientific paradigms. For one, the study participants were able to choose what they ate every day, so there was no way for researchers to conclude how much or what kinds of food (s) they ate. As critical, the researchers didn’t account for the participants’ appetites, body fat percentage, metabolism and most significantly, eating behavior.

What should you do?

From my experience working with almost 20,000 patients, I’ve found that those who skip breakfast—or any meal for that matter—don’t do as well as those who eat breakfast. All diets share one thing in common: They offer structure. And what is a diet but a structured way of eating. That’s why even difficult patients lose weight on a diet. But what happens after the weight comes off and the structure of the diet is lifted? Most dieters return to the world of food with the simple admonition to “enjoy all foods in moderation.” Is it any wonder why up to 95 percent of dieters gain it all back again and again? The structure of a diet helps reign in eating behavior that’s been out of control for years.

Breakfast helps structure eating behavior, which is critical for weight loss, but even more importantly, for weight control since a diet only lasts for so long. I’ve found that patients who skip breakfast makeup the calories at lunch or dinner. Remember that the best way to prevent cravings and overeating it to keep them (and it) from happening in the first place. Prevention is preferable to rehabilitation and much cheaper!

Planning and eating breakfast is smart food strategy. For the majority of people, breakfast keeps hunger and cravings at bay. Some of my patients tell me that eating breakfast when they first get up actually makes them hungrier as the morning wears on. What I’ve found is that these patients are eating the wrong type of breakfast: typically one with too much sugar and/or simple carbohydrates and not enough fiber and/or lean protein. If you have a history of becoming hungry after breakfast, the first strategy is to try eating a different type of breakfast and make it a protein. But don’t skip breakfast altogether.

Others tell me they’re not hungry when the wake up. If that’s your history, try moving breakfast to later in the morning and pushing back lunch to mid-afternoon (2-3 PM). The time of day is less important than the structure of including breakfast in your daily regimen of three and two snacks

Can You Resist the Siren’s Call of Your Favorite Foods?

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Odysseus, the legendary King of Ithaca, designer of the gigantic wooden horse that brought about the fall of Troy, and perhaps the greatest and most powerful figure in ancient Greek mythology, was an astute observer of human nature, particularly his own.

On the long sail home to Greece, Odysseus and his men encountered many perils, but none more daunting than the sirens—sea nymphs who sang a song so enchanting that it lured sailors on passing ships to shore. There, they would sit and listen until they starved to death. Forewarned of the danger these sirens posed, Odysseus ordered his men to plug their ears with wax. But the ever-curious Odysseus still wished to hear the sirens’ song. So, rather than plug his ears, he had his men tie him to a mast as his ship approached the sirens’ island. Their song was captivating and beautiful; and predictably, the sirens entreated Odysseus to come to their island. But he refused. Unlike so many sailors who came before him, Odysseus survived.

What was Homer teaching us in this 5000-year-old epic of world literature that applies to every dieter reading this book? By having Odysseus tie himself to the ship’s mast, Homer offers us a penetrating insight into the vulnerability of the human condition. We are given to temptation. Odysseus knew this. Rather than depend on bravery or an iron will, Odysseus knew that the he could only deal with his vulnerability to the sirens’ cries through creative strategy.

My food strategy approach to weight control follows a similar model. It puts great emphasis on human vulnerability. It recognizes that willpower has failed. Like the sirens’ cries, it knows that the cry of food is intoxicating, alluring and seductive. Our vulnerability to the call of cookies, breadbaskets, potato chips, and nuts is as real as Odysseus’ vulnerability to the sirens songs. These are the sirens. We hear their call. Indeed, there isn’t a dieter alive who hasn’t heard their call at one time or another. This is why we need creative strategy to deal with our vulnerability and temptation. We would never have known about Odysseus if he’d steered into temptation. The reason the story has been repeated again and again is because its message is as old as the human condition.

Despite mounds of evidence of human vulnerability, the diet field says that it’s OK to have the sirens in your home. Or, that it’s OK to enjoy them in moderation in spite of decades of failing again and again. The failure of most diet programs shows how little the field understands about human behavior. Weight control isn’t a knowledge problem; it’s a human vulnerability problem. And this problem isn’t going away. It’s the sine qua non of human behavior. The foods aren’t going away. The siren song of food isn’t going away. Indeed, the siren song is only growing louder given our 24-hour food environment. The diet field is saying you can moderate the call. You can moderate your response to the siren song. This is wrong. It’s obvious that people fail again and again because they lack knowledge about their own vulnerability and responses to food. When you understand human psychology, human vulnerability, and human biological programming you will quickly realize this lesson.

After almost four decades and nearly 20,000 patients, I’ve learned the importance human vulnerability. Telling people, as an example, to enjoy all foods in moderation when their food history says otherwise is inviting them to steer directly into the sirens’ trap. And just like the mariners that came before Odysseus, the majority of this country’s 108 million dieters have crashed at an alarming rate not just once but over and over again. How is that Odysseus understood what the diet field does not? He recognized his vulnerability and fled from temptation through creative strategy.

When you understand your own vulnerability and the human condition, you may realize that it’s best to flee from the sirens you will find success. It’s not that you can’t have your sirens. You can have anything you want. But you may never have the life that you want if you give in to the sirens’ songs.

Keeping Your Calorie Budget in Tact While Still Enjoying Memorial Day Weekend

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Though it’s still technically spring, in the minds of many people Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. While most of us look forward to Memorial Day weekend, the odd juxtaposition of BBQ and bathing suit season leaves many dieters feeling ambivalent. If you’re like many dieters, you’ve been working hard to reach your summer weight loss goal, and may even be close to your ideal. Why toss away weeks or even months of work eating and imbibing yourself into a larger size of clothing? Of course, no one wants to spend the weekend feeling deprived–the number #1 cause of all diet failure–or that they’re missing out on the fun (the deprivation associated with dieting is so detrimental that it actually alters our brain activity, increases the “reward value” of food). I can think of no greater form of mental torture than sitting around nibbling on lettuce leaves and sipping bottled water while friends and family wolf down burgers and chug beers. On the other hand, waking up early Tuesday morning and realizing your new bikini no longer fits around your arm, let alone your waist can’t be much fun either.

Fortunately, there are practical ways to enjoy the Memorial Day Weekend festivities (and many of the foods that go with it). Following the strategy of Calorienomics, you can you stretch your Memorial Day weekend calorie budget without breaking the bank (or your belt).

Don’t Count Calories, Count Calorie Units

Whatever food you choose this weekend, it’s important to think not in terms of calories, but in terms of calorie units. What do I mean by this? The majority of dieters think of food in terms of calories. But what’s more important than the calories per serving in a food is how many servings of that food do you typically eat. As an example, a single serving of nuts (5-7 usually) has roughly 80 calories and is packed with fiber, protein, and disease fighting nutrients that may even offer some protection against cancer. But how many people stop at 5-7 nuts? Most people eat nuts by the handfuls and they’re a classic example of what I refer to as great nutrition but lousy psychology. Always, it’s best to honor your food history and honestly answer how many servings of a particular food you typically eat. If you can’t stop at 5-7 nuts than this might not be the best choice for you.

Beware Of The Right Foods Prepared The Wrong Way

Even the healthiest food can cost you an astonishing number of calories if it’s prepared the wrong way. Adding grilled shrimp or chicken breast to your salad defeats the purpose if you choose a dressing that has more calories or grams of fat than the protein. This is a common problem with Caesar salads in particular, where the calories in the dressing sometimes outnumber those in the salad by 2:1. There’s a reason Caesar had to wear a toga!

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Eat Something Before Your Main Meal

I can’t tell you how many people starve themselves for a Memorial Day barbecue to save calories for the big meal only to regret it later on. I typically tell people to eat something before their big meal such as 100-120 calorie cup of yogurt, shrimp cocktail or even an egg white omelet. The meal will help curb hunger and even boost metabolism, particularly in the case of a high protein.

Think Substitution, Not Deprivation

You don’t need to deprive yourself of the foods you enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend. Instead, try some low-calorie substitutes. You can, as an example, grill yellow squash or Portobello mushrooms in lieu of potatoes. Instead of drenching corn on the cob with butter or even worse margarine, flavor it with summery herbs or a low calorie butter substitute like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray. Try dry grilling your vegetables or use a light coating of Pam Olive Oil cooking spray. If you choose a protein, consider white meat chicken or turkey, shrimp, scallops, lobster or salmon. And remember it’s always best if the protein is dry grilled.

Snack and nibble foods are what cause majority of dieters to blow their calorie budgets, and not just on holiday weekends. Finger sized snack foods are what I like to think of as “credit card foods.” They make it easy to spend your calorie dollars. Only after you get the statement at the end of the month do you realize the actual cost. To avoid racking up a debt that could take weeks and even months to pay down, steer clear of bite-sized finger foods like nuts, pretzels, and chips that typically litter Memorial Day weekend picnic tables and that can be mindlessly popped into your mouth. Great substitutes include grape tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, zucchini, baby carrots, and cucumber slices. You can have an 1 cup of veggies for about 30 calories.

Below are some of favorite Memorial Day weekend treats that won’t blow your calorie budget.

Corn on the Cob (You may want to skip the butter or margarine and spritz with lemon or lime juice instead and roll in fresh herbs such as marjoram, rosemary, or dill)

Fruit Skewers (Add pineapples, peaches, and other fruits to skewers. Brush with no-sugar added orange juice and grill lightly)

Veggie Kebabs (Kids might be more likely to eat their veggies on a fun kebab)

Grilled Yellow Squash (A healthier substitute for potatoes; use a stainless steel grill tray to grill squash slices)

Grilled Radicchio (Try this recipe with a balsamic reduction)

Zucchini Bread (Skip the white flour dinner rolls and serve this instead for an extra helping of veggies)

Wasabi Snap Peas (The wasabi adds so much flavor that you won’t mind the lack of butter)

Why Willpower Alone Isn’t Enough When It Comes To Weight Loss

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Willpower is great thing. It can advance your career, keep you focused on your goals, help you accomplish new projects, and even help you overcome great obstacles. “I shall either find a way or make one,” said the legendary Carthaginian military commander Hannibal after his generals told him it would be impossible to cross the Alps’ steep ridges by elephant. Hannibal ignored the warnings, made the dangerous journey and marched into history.

While we can learn much from Hannibal’s classic triumph of mind over matter, when it comes to dieting willpower alone isn’t enough. How else to explain why some of our brightest and most accomplished citizens fail again and again at this most critical endeavor? Dieting is seldom about willpower. Need proof? Look no further than the weight loss misadventures of well-known celebrities.

Though its rare for any woman, especially one who’s had children, to stay the same dress size, singer, actress, mother of two, and Weight Watchers spokeswoman Jessica Simpson has seen her weight fluctuate more than the Stock Market. While she was pregnant with her first child, she reportedly gained more than 70 pounds, which she then lost. “Bridesmaids” star Rebel Wilson, who’s had to endure repeated comments about her weight, which veers between overweight and morbid obesity, actually signed on as a spokeswoman with Jenny Craig. Her stated goal was to lose 55 lbs. Though she initially lost 33 lbs., the Australian actress found it difficult to continue with her eating plan, and has repeatedly tweeted about binging on cupcakes and other junk food. Perhaps, no one has struggled more with weight than Oprah Winfrey, whose perennial battles with bulge have reached near epic proportions. It shouldn’t be that surprising that even the rich and famous, who frequently have private chefs and personal trainers at their beckon call, regain weight. In a country where the typical dieter makes 4-5 weight loss attempts per year, these famous examples fit right in.

So what can you learn from these celebrity diet misadventures? That even highly successful and accomplished people are often no match for the Siren’s call of certain foods. As I told a legendary film executive, who was widely known as one his industry’s toughest negotiators, after he confided that he was contemplating a return to breadbaskets, “When in your life did you ever negotiate with a breadbasket and win?” My patient knew his history with breadbaskets and rather than rely on “willpower”, which had helped him succeed in so many other areas of his life, he used to strategy to resist the call of the food that was the source of his struggles with weight. As a New York Times feature story pointed out, even the most determined dieters struggle to keep the weight off when they rely on willpower alone. For one of my patients, and thousands of others like him with a long history of abusing a particular food, they found that it was better not to start than to start and have a little. It’s not that they can’t have a certain food. They can have whatever they want. But my patients, the winners at weight control, realize that they might never have the life they want if they return to foods they have a long history of abusing. I don’t know Rebel Wilson’s food history, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that she has a long history of abusing baked goods. The same people gain back the same weight with the foods again and again!

Simply, willpower is fragile and subject to a great many factors that may be outside our conscious control. As I will repeat over and over on this website, those who succeed at weight control do not have more willpower than those who fail. Simply, they have better strategies! The winners at weight control—the elite group that have not only lose weight, but also keep it off—know that strategy is the key to unlocking the proverbial door to success. This elite five percent succeed because they use strategy not only to control food and correct mistakes, but most importantly, to change the fundamental thinking and feelings about the place of food in their lives.

Proven Weight loss plan in New York, NY

Proven Weight loss plan in New York, NY | Why Lettuce is a Key Ingredient for Your Summer Weight Loss Plan

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Why Lettuce is a Key Ingredient for Your Summer Weight Loss Plan

When most dieters think of ways to jump start their weight loss, lettuce is likely one the first foods that come to mind (and for millions of dieters the need do something has taken on an even greater sense of urgency with the start of swimsuit season just days away). Romaine, red leaf, and green leaf, even iceberg—the variety doesn’t matter. Across the board, lettuce is filling, low in energy density, packed with nutrients, can be paired with just about anything, and is a great substitute for higher-calorie foods like bread, Proven Weight loss plan in New York, NY.

Proven Weight loss plan in New York, NY

In particular, foods that aren’t energy dense like lettuce help with weight loss because they have very few calories per gram, making it easier to fill up without blowing your calorie budget. The more fiber and water a food contains, the lower its energy density. A study published in the journal Nutrition Research found that consuming greater amounts of foods like lettuce produced greater weight loss.

Of course, it’s no mystery to the majority of dieters that a diet rich in foods like lettuce can lead to greater weight loss. But for some dieters too much of a good thing can lead to culinary boredom and even trigger feelings of deprivation, the enemy of even the most determined dieters. Though recent studies suggest that reducing variety can be a useful strategy for weight loss, having too few choices may have the opposite effect, leading some dieters to wander towards higher-calorie, lower nutrient dense foods. As Arthur Schopenhauer famously stated, “The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.” Clearly, he understood a great deal about human nature.

However, if lettuce bores you to tears, fear not! Try substituting leafy greens with a variety of other low calorie but yummy options, like quinoa, brussels sprouts, beans, fresh veggies, chickpeas! These can be perfect substitutes to help keep your palette’s interest piqued!

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