April 24, 2009

This holiday season, you swear that you'll stick to your diet plan, but how do you avoid the deadly diet destructors? Shape tells you how!

This year, the holiday season is going to be different, you vow. No more overindulging and no guilty mornings after. You're going to make better eating choices and achieve the weight loss success you've always wanted.

And for a while everything goes as planned. But just as you're cruising along on your balanced healthy diet, wham! You're derailed at a party by one of the Diet Destructors. These invisible dark forces can set you back in your weight loss success, blowing your confidence and motivation in the process.

As anyone who has ever faced a buffet table loaded with tasty holiday hors d'oeuvres knows, it's not easy to make good food choices in certain surroundings. "For every step forward we take, our food environment can send us back two steps," says Janet Washington, M.P.H., R.D., coordinator of the sports nutrition program at Simmons College in Boston. Learning where the Diet Destructors lurk and how to combat them is the key to your weight loss success.

Read on to discover the six situations where you're most likely to encounter the Diet Destructors and simple strategies to keep them from sabotaging your balanced healthy diet.

Balanced Healthy Diet Danger Zone 1: parties, special occasions and holiday celebrations

Diet Destructors Not having a plan, feeling deprived, peer pressure, gluttony

You can stick to your balanced healthy diet plan without being a party pooper. Before heading out the door in those 3-inch slingbacks, decide what your limit will be. Will you have just one piece of pie instead of the usual two, or perhaps skip dessert altogether in favor of a favorite entree? Make those choices before the event.

And, just for extra insurance, set a goal for morning-after damage control. For example, you might decide that if you overindulge, you'll eat lighter meals for a few days afterward and increase your cardio workouts.

Consider especially the impact of your beverage choices: "Alcohol is frequently served at celebrations, which lowers inhibitions and makes you more likely to make a bad food choice," Washington cautions.

[header = More diet plan danger zones: what to avoid for your weight loss success.]

To achieve long term weight loss success, you must navigate the diet danger zones, especially during the holiday season. Here's how:

Balanced Healthy Diet Danger Zone 2: work

Diet Destructors Peer pressure, not having a plan, "stuck" syndrome

With doughnuts, vending machines and birthday cakes around virtually every corner, there are very few places the Diet Destructors love more than the workplace. Your best chance for weight loss success while at work is to enlist help from like-minded colleagues.

Consider taking turns bringing healthful foods to meetings, or ask the person in charge of refreshments to offer some healthier options such as fresh fruit and yogurt or whole-wheat bagels and lowfat cream cheese.

For maximum control of work-time eating, you'll need to plan ahead and bring your own healthful lunch and snacks from home. Keep a jar of almonds in a desk drawer and have two dozen nuts and a small piece of fruit instead of a candy bar when an afternoon slump hits. For around 200 calories you'll get a balanced mini-meal with about 6 grams of protein.

Balanced Healthy Diet Danger Zone 3: happy hour

Diet Destructors Peer pressure, fatigue, "stuck" syndrome

Sometimes it's fun to relax after 5 p.m. with co-workers, but just as often happy hour turns into an extension of the workday tedium. Whether happy hour is a command performance or an enjoyable reprieve, the advice is the same, Washington says: "Start out with water or seltzer to hydrate yourself. Sometimes we drink too much alcohol after a long day of work simply because we're thirsty."

When it's time to order appetizers, get involved and put your vote in for the healthiest options, like a veggie platter with salsa or grilled chicken strips. If you know you'll be at a restaurant that has only high-fat choices, eat a piece of fruit or handful of nuts before you leave work so you won't be as tempted to overeat the fatty stuff like cheese nachos and fried potato skins.

[header = Healthy balanced diet plan: here's how to stick to it during the holidays.]

Shape provides the diet tips that you need for your weight loss success, focusing on two diet danger zones: the gym and vacations.

During the holidays, it can be especially challenging to stick to your diet. Here are the diet tips you need to make it happen:

Balanced Healthy Diet Danger Zone 4: the gym

Diet Destructors Not having a plan, fatigue

Gyms and health clubs have expanded into the lucrative fast-food market, selling everything from energy bars and sports waters to smoothies and protein drinks. But just because these foods are available at your gym doesn't mean they're low in fat or calories.

Judy Phillips, M.S., R.D., project manager of the childhood obesity program at South End Community Health Center in Boston, recommends saving calories and money by skipping these tempting products. "If you're eating normal, well-spaced meals throughout the day, don't bother with food at the gym. Bring an orange for after exercise if you feel you need it," she says.

Balanced Healthy Diet Danger Zone 5: vacations

Diet Destructors Not having a plan, gluttony, "stuck" syndrome

Vacations are all about taking a break from our normal routines, which includes your balanced healthy diet. As a result, we often end up breaking our diet rules and gaining weight. All-inclusive vacations and cruises in particular can be challenging. Being on a luxury liner is like being on a floating island loaded with fabulous, free food, says Karl Muhlberger, corporate executive chef for the five-star Cunard cruise line. "Most people feel like, 'Hey, I paid for this and I want to enjoy it.'"

But it is possible to maintain your weight loss success by choosing the right cruise. Cunard's Queen Mary 2, for example, has a Canyon Ranch SpaClub right on board, and Cunard's other ships offer vegetarian, low-carb and lowfat menus.

No matter what your vacation destination, avoid packing on the pounds by planning how you'll eat before you go. One solution is to choose to treat yourself on even days and practice moderation on odd days. Or, if you decide you want to enjoy whatever you want whenever you want it, include a plan for getting back on track as soon as you return home.

[header = Here's the last of 6 great diet tips to help you achieve weight loss success.]

It isn't easy to stick to your balanced healthy diet when you're thousands of feet above the ground in a plane. Here's how to maintain your weight loss success.

Here's the last of six terrific diet tips from Shape:

Balanced Healthy Diet Danger Zone 6: air travel

Diet Destructors Fatigue, not having a plan, "stuck" syndrome

There is perhaps no time in your life when you are more at the mercy of a bad food environment than when you're in the air. "You can literally spend your whole day with no access to wholesome food," says Michel Nischan, Fairfield, Conn.-based author of the best-selling cookbook Taste Pure and Simple (Chronicle Books, 2003) and executive chef for Song airline.

"First of all, you've got the stress of travel, which makes you more nervous and likely to eat anyway. And then you finally say to yourself, 'I'm just going to go get whatever I can find.' And it's maybe some giant muffin with 1,000 calories."

Last year Song launched a buy-on-board menu of organic meals and vegetarian entrees. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine rated 10 top airlines for healthful food selections, and Song received the highest marks. So when you book your ticket, inquire about nutritionally sound food choices. If the prospects aren't appealing, bring your own wholesome snacks, such as apples, dried fruit or nuts to tide you over until you reach your destination.