Smart Strategy Archives | Dr. Stephen Gullo

Category Archives: Smart Strategy

Keep the Weight Off With These Practical Tips

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For many, losing weight or maintaining the desired weight can be challenging, especially when the diets they subscribe to do not work in the long run. I am a believer in finding a weight loss strategy that works best for you, according to your unique weight loss history. And knowing the basics is a good place to start.

  1. Drink water (or calorie-free beverages): Hungry? Drink a glass of water first. Many people easily confuse thirst with hunger. If you tear into a bag of potato chips right away, you risk ending up with extra calories when all you really need is a glass of water. If water does not work, try flavored sparkling water or fruit-infused herbal tea.
  1. Think before snacking: You have to be choosy about what you snack on, especially at night when you decide to park yourself in front of the television after a long day at work. A lot of people easily fall into mindless snacking. Find a low-calorie snack if you can’t help it, or better yet, call it a day and give yourself a much-needed sleep.
  1. Don’t skip on protein: Protein helps fill you up and for a longer time too! Incorporate healthy protein into your diet like seafood, lean meat, egg whites, yogurt, cheese, soy, nuts, or beans.
  1. Shop (and stock) healthy: The food you have around the house could either make or break your weight loss goals. Be sure to shop healthy. Find healthier, low-calorie alternatives. And rid your pantry with foods that you have the tendency to abuse.

The above are just some of the many practical tips to help you in your weight loss journey. Losing weight is a commitment, a lifestyle change. The changes may be difficult for the first few days or weeks, but once you get used to the rhythm and you see the results, you will never look at weight loss the same way again.

Are there other tips you know? Share them in the comments below!

Does ‘All Foods in Moderation’ Ever Work?

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Is there a dieter alive who, at one time or another, has not been counseled to enjoy “all foods in moderation?” After all, why not live a little after months of months of holding back and depriving yourself of the foods you love? You’ve earned it. Diets succeed because they help structure out of control eating and impose limits on food. But diets are finite. Once the diet is over, once the weight has come off, most dieters head back into the vast food universe with a few general guidelines about a balanced diet and permission to enjoy all foods in moderation.

But stripped to its barest essence, “all foods in moderation” is nothing more than a recipe for disaster. When in all of human history have we ever learned to have a little of a compulsion? Look around. All of human history is evidence of human excess. The statement “all foods in moderation” is more an idealistic than a realistic statement about human behavior. In matters of pleasure, convenience and passion, human beings are not given to moderation but to excess. Sigmund Freud understood this concept, elucidated in his seminal 1920 masterwork, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, which is the idea that humanity possesses an instinctual drive toward experiencing pleasure and shielding itself from pain. And few things are more pleasurable than eating. Is it any wonder then why millions gain it all back?

Every highway planner understands what has eluded the groupthink of the diet field. Travel anywhere in the world and you will never see a sign that says, “Drive Moderately.” There would be chaos on the roads. In matters of convenience and pleasure, we need clear boundaries. The world’s highway planners do not conduct elaborate focus groups or academic studies to realize this essential truth about human nature. The advice to enjoy “all foods in moderation” ignores the very obvious fact that most of us cannot eat moderately.

Yet, we perseverate with the moderation myth because it speaks to something endemic in the human psyche, as Freud observed. It’s the idea that anything possible, that any situation can be mastered, and that we can have it all if we simply put our minds to it, as Ben Franklin suggested.

Eating is the only sphere of human engagement where people are literally encouraged to have their cake and eat it too. Life, of course, is about trade-offs. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you really can’t have it all. Actually, that statement is only partially true. You can have anything you want. But remember that you may have to wear it if you do.

Returning to a food or group of foods you have a history of abusing really is dangerous for dieters. Just a taste of a food you routinely overeat can reactivate cravings, leading to obsessive thinking, the loss of control, and a larger dress size. Saying “no” to a cookie or bowl of pretzels may feel like torture, but it’s preferable to gaining weight, not fitting into your favorite black dress, or feeling out-of-control with food.

What’s the logic in returning to the foods that only serve to reactivate cravings and compulsive eating? A powerful lesson learned from thousands of my patients who don’t regain weight is that not starting is easier than having a little. Learn to live by the motto that’s helped them: If I don’t begin, I don’t have a problem. The diet field needs to say and teach this concept without apology.

6 Great Teas to Substitute for Sugary Drinks 

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When most people begin a diet, they think about cutting out desserts first. Unfortunately, many people do not look at beverages as a significant source of daily calories. If you’re addicted to soda and you drink several cans a day, you’re taking in hundreds of empty calories. Since strategy is stronger than willpower, rather than trying to force yourself to drink only water, consider healthy beverage substitutions instead. Tea is a great weight loss beverage. It has less caffeine than coffee, so it won’t make you as jittery. Tea is also a zero-calorie beverage. If you must use a sweetener, use stevia, which also has zero calories. Some teas can even help you lose weight faster by stimulating your metabolism. Actress Marg Helgenberger and Olympian Apolo Ohno are big fans of tea.

Here are 6 great teas to add to your meal plan.

Green Tea (Drink before a cardio workout to burn more fat)

Pu-erh Tea (Black tea that may aid weight loss)

Yerba Mate Tea (May help stimulate metabolism)

Oolong Tea (May help reduce absorption of fat)

Peppermint Tea (May help reduce appetite and aid digestion)

Berry Teas (Drink in the evening to curb food cravings)

The Two Biggest Myths About Laxatives, Busted

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Yes, you can. You really can. Laxative abuse occurs when a dieter takes lots of laxatives on a regular basis in an attempt to lose weight faster or to compensate for binge eating. But it doesn’t work and it can be extremely dangerous, hence the term “abuse.” Let’s bust two big myths about laxatives to show just how dangerous abusing them can be.

Myth #1

Taking laxatives can help me lose weight faster.

Truth: Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you take in. Laxatives do nothing to burn calories, speed up your metabolism, or eliminate food from your stomach faster. They only act on the waste products that are already in your large intestine.

Myth #2

Laxatives are over-the-counter meds. They’re not strong enough to do any damage.

Truth: At the very least, laxatives will dehydrate you. If you continue to abuse them, you’ll disturb your electrolyte levels, which can cause heart damage, possibly leading to a heart attack.


Laxative abuse can lead to long-term consequences. It can increase your risk of colon cancer, result in liver damage, and gift you with irritable bowel syndrome. It also causes laxative dependency, in which your colon stops working properly, leading to chronic constipation.

Scared yet? The real truth is that you don’t need to pop a pill to lose your unwanted pounds. If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a while and haven’t seen any results, re-evaluate your meal plan. Perhaps your diet could use a few more healthy food swaps. Perhaps your exercise routine is getting boring—take a dance class, go for a hike with a friend, or get a very large, very energetic dog who will force you to walk faster when you take him out. And get inspired by Tracey Gold’s and Danielle Fishel’s stories; they overcame laxative abuse and began eating healthier diets for weight loss instead.

Healthier Alternatives to Easter Candy

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Many weight loss plans get tossed to the wayside during holidays. This is where flexible, healthy meal planning as opposed to rigid diets can come in handy. Instead of loading up your kid’s Easter basket with marshmallow candies that are made entirely of sugar, consider a few healthy food swaps. And instead of making a basket stuffed full of snacks, add a few fun non-food items. Depending on your kid’s age, she might appreciate some new crayons, puzzle books, or small toys. You could toss in a kid-sized apron and a healthy cookbook for kids. To encourage your child to get involved in sports, consider adding a softball to the basket.

Here aslo are 9 healthier alternatives to the processed sweets that often fill easter baskets:

Mini Muffins (Make with bran and wheat germ)

Peanut Butter Cookies (Make at home with stevia to reduce sugar)

Applesauce (Apples are even healthier, but kids tend to like things in kid-sized packages)

Starfruit (Kids might be bored with apples, but they’ll love this exotic fruit)

Grahams (Whole grain crackers in animal shapes)

Dried Apricots (Add a couple to each plastic egg)

String Cheese (Select low-fat varieties)

Bubble Gum (Select sugar-free brands)

Dark Chocolate (It’s hard to ignore chocolate completely on Easter. Select dark chocolate for antioxidants and stick with small, packaged pieces)

These Foods Will Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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If you’re an insomniac, try hooking your brain up with some serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that can help you sleep. The combination of tryptophan, an amino acid, and insulin can help release serotonin, which may help you fall asleep. Tryptophan is typically found in protein sources, but protein tends to wake you up. That’s why you also need to eat carbohydrates so that your body releases insulin, which clears away all amino acids except for tryptophan. Confused yet? Just remember to combine protein and carbs in a light snack about an hour before bedtime. You’ll wake up feeling more refreshed and more likely to hop on the treadmill for your morning workout.

Greek Yogurt
Contains protein and carbs, plus calcium helps the body use tryptophan.

Make a small bowl with milk for protein.

Contains protein and carbs.

Add a light layer of peanut butter.

Jordin Sparks often eats a turkey sandwich for lunch.

Contain melatonin select tart, not sweet cherries.

Contains magnesium. Magnesium deficiencies may lead to sleep problems.

Select whole grain and spread with peanut butter.

Warm milk
Contains tryptophan.

Cottage cheese
Contains more tryptophan than milk.

Eat These 8 Foods to Fight Your Cold

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So you’ve made the commitment to work out three to four times per week to drop those last few pounds. But there’s a nasty bug going around at work and you’ve caught it. It’s hard to work out when you’re constantly reaching for the tissues and having trouble breathing. If you’re sick of force-feeding yourself gallons of orange juice for the vitamin C, try these healthy, immune-boosting foods instead to get you back on the treadmill faster. Eating whole foods like these will also boost your energy levels so you don’t have to rely on pot after pot of coffee.
Cayenne pepper (Eases congestion)
Garlic (Crush or chop it and let it sit for a few minutes)
Bananas (Contain vitamin B6 to combat infections)
Sweet potatoes (Beta-carotene is used to make white blood cells)
Kiwi (Contains vitamin C)
Mushrooms (Beta-glucan supports the immune system)
Green tea (Make it with honey to soothe a sore throat)
Chicken soup (It really does work – Jodie Sweetin eats it for lunch)

Eat These Low-Fat Breakfast Foods to Fuel Your Day

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Skipping breakfast is never a good idea. While it cuts your calories early in the day, you are much more likely to grab a doughnut from the break room or eat a whole pizza for lunch if you’re starving. And if you prefer to work out in the mornings, your body definitely needs the fuel. Plus, eating breakfast will help you concentrate better at work so you won’t spend half the morning daydreaming about things like your next cruise vacation. Feed your body right by choosing low-fat breakfast foods, preferably items that offer a blend of complex carbs and proteins.

Greek yogurt (Katie Couric eats this for breakfast while walking to work)

Cantaloupe (Usher eats this for breakfast)

Bran cereal (Loaded with fiber  use low-fat milk)

Multigrain pancakes (Top with low-fat yogurt and fruit instead of syrup)

Fruit smoothie (Miranda Kerr adds protein powder and chia seeds)

Soy bacon (Choose a low-sodium variety)

Whole grain toast (Top with low-fat peanut butter for protein)

Cottage cheese (Select low-fat variety)

Oatmeal (Flavor with cinnamon)

10 Healthy Food Swaps You Must Try

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Healthy food substitutions are the key to successful weight loss. It’s absolutely essential to determine what your food addictions are while developing your weight loss plan. If you’re addicted to triple chocolate ice cream, find a healthier alternative for it that still satisfies your cravings, like frozen Greek yogurt with whole fruit mixed in. Rather than trying to eat ice cream in moderation (because we all know that carton will be gone before you know it), indulge in a healthier food swap. You won’t feel deprived and you’ll be one step closer to your goal weight.

Check out these great swaps!

Apples (Instead of applesauce)

Flaxseed Crackers (Instead of potato chips)

Frozen Greek Yogurt (Instead of ice cream)

Alligator Steak (Instead of well, steak)

Frozen Grapes (Instead of candy. Marie Osmond eats these.)

Whole Wheat Pita (Instead of pizza – top with marinara, veggies, & nonfat cheese like Kristin Cavallari)

Chicken Sandwich (Instead of fattening cheeseburgers)

Sweet Potato Wedges (Instead of French fries)

Carob Chips (Instead of chocolate)

6 Reasons Why Diets Don’t Work for You

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6 Reasons Why Diets Don’t Work for You
If you’re like most, you’re starting your new year and wondering how to reach your weight loss goals. Every year, countless dieters turn to fad diets and diet crazes to try and reach their desired weight. And every year, countless people fail and give up on their resolution to get thin.

One recent article takes a look at why dieting fails, yet the author leaves out many critical variables in understand why people don’t reach their goals. For example, the author focuses heavily on “healthy foods.” Yet most dieters are more focused on looking good than “health.” Also, while a person’s health status is significant and dieting shouldn’t be undertaken without medical supervision, a person’s psychological status is a more important determinant in success or failure. This isn’t to imply that people who struggle with their weight have mental problems. Most often, the opposite is true. But success at dieting is about thinking and behavior and having the right strategies for long term success. In other words, it’s not food but behavior in the presence of food that determines success or failure.

Below, I’ve spelled out 6 reasons why I find diets don’t work to help you understand what may be going wrong in your weight loss plan.

1. Failure to honor food history.
You need to know what foods you have a weakness for in order to overcome your weight loss obstacles.

2. Over relying on willpower.

Willpower can’t do it all. It takes a combination of self-knowledge, strategy and yes, a bit of strength to push through your cravings. But rely on strength alone and you’re bound to slip up.

3. Following the advice to “enjoy all foods in moderation.”
As I’ve talked about before, the idea that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation leaves you susceptible to foods you have a history of abusing.

4. Changing weight without changing behavior and thinking.
It’s important to remember that weight loss is about more than just what you eat. It’s about your relationship with food.

5. Focusing on the goal and not the process.

Weight loss is often described as a journey, and for good reason. It doesn’t happen overnight but rather as a result of continual effort combined with effective strategy. Focusing too much on immediate results can never achieve the type of weight loss you truly desire.

6. Failing to remember that “one size doesn’t fit all.”
Buying into the notion that what works for somebody else will automatically work for you only sets you up for failure. You need to tailor your diet to your life and your food history.

Source: Six Reasons why diets don’t work for you.