5. Eat Dessert--No, Really!
My philosophy has always been that life is too short to skimp on dessert, so satisfy that sweet tooth with reckless abandon! Just make sure to treat yourself to the right things. Substitute frozen yogurt for ice cream. If you like sorbet, spoon some into a bowl and cover it with fresh berries.
Read labels in the grocery store and find low-fat alternatives to high-fat desserts. These days, nearly everything but crme brulee has a dietary alternative, you just have to find it. If you absolutely crave that bowl of ice-cream, treat yourself in moderation and move on; don't try to "make up" for the dessert by skipping a future meal.
6. Choose your carbs wisely
Carbohydrates come in many different forms: White bread, pasta, candy, and sugar cereals are all loaded with carbs, but these are "simple" carbs that offer a quick fix. Eating such foods may satisfy hunger cravings in the short term, but you will consume many calories, digest them quickly and be hungry again very soon.
Try to pick "complex" carbs that take longer to break down once you eat them; examples are whole grains, bran cereal, and oatmeal.
Granted, you may not always be able to avoid simple carbs, but then just pair them with something else. Instead of a bagel for your fat-free lunch, eat half a bagel but eat it with cheese or some milk and yogurt on the side (the protein found in these foods will fill you up more than the plain bagel will).
7. Say No to Butter
Granted, butter has a bad rap and rightly so; it's all fat. However many of us maintain that we absolutely have to have it--on toast, on a bagel, or over vegetables. But butter is surprisingly easy to avoid, even if you love the taste and texture.
For starters, there are butter substitutes on the market that taste great. Apple butter is a favorite of triathletes watching their fat intake. And if you keep an open mind, spreading jam, honey, or peanut butter over your toast or bagel can be just as satisfying as slathering it with--animal fat.
The fat grams you will eliminate from your diet, if you are a casual butter-user, could make a significant difference to your overall long-term weight goals.
8. Take a Walk
Everyone has experienced the onset of sudden hunger, though we deal with it in different ways. The most common response to hunger is to eat something--anything--within minutes (even if it comes from the office vending machine, not always the place to go for nutritional choices).
Instead, take a short walk when you feel hungry. The pulse-quickening and subsequent rise in body temperature of this activity will suppress your appetite slightly and give you more time to identify a healthier choice of food to eat (see next point).
9. Snack Healthy
Snacking is the culprit for most people's failure to lose weight. There is nothing inherently wrong with snacking between meals--in fact, it is recommended--however it is important to nibble on the right things.
For salty cravings, resort to pretzels or baked bagel chips instead of potato chips or Tostitos. For sweet cravings, try fruit. Raisins are a good snack because they are low in fat but high in carbohydrates, if you plan to work out shortly thereafter.
Be cautious when relying on the multitude of energy bars on the market--many bill themselves as meal substitutes (meaning that they pack loads of nutrients but also enough calories to be a standalone meal!). Granola has a reputation as a healthy cereal/snack but it can be loaded with fat.
10. Find New Ways to Sweat
Assuming you are a somewhat regular exerciser, make sure to change your routine every six to 10 weeks if you don't already cross-train. While we each have our favorite and most-effective way of burning calories, it is easy to slip into a rut and use the elliptical trainer or stationary bike day in, day out.
The problem with this is twofold: Doing the same thing every day causes your body to adapt to the challenge (meaning that you exert less energy the longer you do it). While this is an indicator that you are in better shape, you may not continue losing weight if that is your goal.
In addition, habitually practicing the same form of exercise is far more likely to result in overuse injuries than cross-training, which allows your body to recover from its previous activity.
Rotator-cuff injuries in swimmers and IT-band/plantar fascia inflammations in runners are common examples of injuries that occur from athletic overkill.
In the end, the bottom line of any successful diet plan is really quite simple:
Consume (X) calories, burn (more-than-X) calories
The list above should serve as a helpful guide for those hoping to shed those last few stubborn pounds. While none of the behaviors suggested are as challenging or effective as the first few weeks of a new diet, they are nonetheless incremental ways to improve your overall eating and exercise habits.
Over the long term, adopting such "good" habits as a normal part of your lifestyle will help melt away the bad habits -- and help melt away those extra pounds!