Let's be realistic: You aren't going to trade in your beloved potato chips for kale chips overnight. And that's why most diets fail you. So many of them depriving your body of the foods it's accustomed to—a move that sets you up for a weight-gain relapse.
And determination doesn't matter. Your brain will literally go through withdrawal—and you'll feel hungry all the time.
In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, when rats with access to sugar and chocolate-flavored food had those treats withheld, their brains pumped out five times the normal levels of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF)—the same stress hormone unleashed in junkies trying to kick a drug habit. (Avoid junk food cravings by staying away from these Foods That Make You Do Bad Things.)
So instead of going cold turkey, transition from bad eats to better ones in small steps. This will teach your body to enjoy healthy foods that satisfy hunger, and you'll shed inches. Get ready to welcome the end of yo-yo dieting—for good.
More: How to Lose Those Stubborn 10 Pounds
Not So Fast!
Baby steps are the best way to reform your palate. This list shows examples of how to wean yourself off bad-for-you grub. Spend two to four weeks at each stage—the reward system in your brain needs time to adapt and adjust. (Plus: Banish bad eating habits for good—learn the 7 Steps to Stop Craving Junk Food.)
The Bad Habit: Fried Chicken
With the crunchy coating, it can have up to nine grams of saturated fat per serving.
Good: Baked Chicken with Barbecue Sauce
- Gone is much of the saturated fat, but the finger-licking sauce is mostly sugar and salt.
Better: Chicken Parmesan
- Little or no sugar here. Use no more than four teaspoons of shredded cheese to control the fat and calories.
Best: Grilled or Baked Herb-Crusted Chicken
- Can save you about seven grams of saturated fat and 200 calories compared to its fried counterpart.
More: Get Lean With Protein
The Bad Habit: Iceberg Lettuce with Two Tablespoons of Creamy Dressing
These greens have few phytonutrients, and the dressing adds about 15 grams of fat.
Good: Romaine with One Tablespoon of Creamy Dressing
- Romaine contains antioxidants, and using less dressing slashes 70 calories.
Better: Romaine with One Tablespoon of Balsamic Vinaigrette
- The dressing's olive oil is a healthy fat that's super-satisfying.
Best: Baby Spinach with One Tablespoon of Balsamic Vinaigrette
- The leaves are full of B vitamins, which may help lower your risk for certain cancers.
More: 10 Food Swaps to Avoid Saturated Fat