When your stomach is screaming, "Feed me!", all you want to do is reach for the closest consumable object.
But just because you think you're hungry doesn't mean you really are. And eating the wrong thing at the wrong time can add back pounds you've worked so hard to drop.
Follow these rules to conquer hunger pangs and stay on track to achieve your weight-loss goals.
How long do you think you can stick to a new plan? Find a duration that you're 100 percent confident you can achieve, even if it's just a couple of days.
"Once you make it to your goal date, start the process over," says Mary Vernon, M.D., president of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians. "This not only establishes the notion that you can be successful, but also gives you a chance to start noticing that eating better makes you feel better, reinforcing your desire to continue."
Find More Motivation
If your diet's only purpose is to help you finally achieve six-pack abs (or even just a two-pack), it may be hard to stick with for the long haul.
The solution? "Provide yourself with additional motivators," says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D. He suggests monitoring migraines, heartburn, acne, canker sores, and sleep quality, along with common measures of cardiovascular health.
"Discovering that your new diet improves the quality of your life and health can be powerful motivation," says Volek.
Don't Dwell on Mistakes
Okay, you over-indulged. What's the next step?
"Forget about it," says James Newman, a nutritionist at Tahlequah City Hospital, in Oklahoma, who followed his own advice to shed 250 pounds. (That's right, 250 pounds.)
"One meal doesn't define your diet, so don't assume that you've failed or fallen off the wagon," he says.
Institute a simple rule: Follow any "cheat" meal with at least five healthy meals and snacks. That ensures that you'll be eating right more than 80 per cent of the time.
Sure, you've heard this one before.
But consider that if you sleep for six to eight hours and then skip breakfast, your body is essentially running on fumes by the time you reach work. And that sends you desperately seeking sugar, which is easy to find.
"The most convenient foods are often the same ones you should be avoiding," says Berkowitz. That's because they're usually packed with sugar (candy bars, soda), or other fast-digesting carbohydrates (cookies, chips). Which leads to our next strategy.
Install Food Regulators
It's time for a regime change. Clean out your cupboard and fridge, then restock them with almonds and other nuts, cheese, fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna, chicken, and salmon. And do the same at work.
"By eliminating snacks that don't match your diet but providing plenty that do, you're far less likely to find yourself at the doughnut-shop drive-thru or the vending machine," says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., R.D., president of Mohr Results, in Louisville, Kentucky.
Think Like a Biochemist
It's true: They make all-natural cookies.
But even if a cookie is made with organic cane juice (the hippie name for sugar), it's still junk food.
Ditto for lots of "health foods" in the granola aisle. That's because hippie sweeteners raise your blood sugar just like the common white stuff.
"If you're going to eat a cookie, accept that you're deviating from your plan, and then revert back to your diet afterward," says Berkowitz. "By convincing yourself that it's healthy, you're only encouraging a bad habit."
Have a craving for sweets, even though you ate just an hour ago? Imagine eating a large, sizzling steak instead.
"If you're truly hungry, the steak will sound good, and you should eat," says Richard Feinman, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, in New York City. "If it doesn't sound good, your brain is playing tricks on you."
His advice: Change your environment, which can be as easy as doing 15 pushups or finding a different task to focus on.