By: Reader's Digest
Knowing what your ideal diet should be is one thing. Putting it into practice--especially if you're trying to cut calories--is quite another.

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Anyone who's tried to lose weight can attest to the fact that it's easy for the best-laid dietary plans to go awry--at least temporarily. Not to worry. This is a long-term project, and occasional lapses are to be expected. In the meantime, a few smart strategies can help you peel off those unwanted pounds.

Control the Calorie Crunch

Researchers have recently noticed what seems to be a curious trend: According to a number of national surveys, the proportion of fat in the average American diet has actually gone down, even as rates of obesity have gone up. This has come to be called the “American paradox.” Does this mean fat isn't the villain we've been led to believe it is? No. The explanation: While the percentage of fat in the diet may be dropping, the sheer amount of fat we consume as a nation is going up because we're eating larger portions of everything.

Controlling your calorie intake is the bedrock of all weight-loss plans. But how can you stay the course when food is abundant and the temptation to overindulge is strong? Start by making a few small adjustments to your dining and snacking
habits. For instance:

  • Keep food off the table. If you portion out servings on plates at the stove or kitchen counter and don't set food out on serving platters, you'll be less tempted to take more once your plate is empty.
  • Don't eat from packages. It's all too easy to lose track of how much food you've gobbled if you're nibbling straight from the box. Instead, portion out crackers, pretzels, and other snacks on a plate to give yourself a visible sense of what you're consuming.
  • Downsize your dishes. Smaller plates and bowls make portions appear larger.
  • Take it slow. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain's appetite-control center to register that there's food in the stomach. To wait it out, put down your fork between each bite and take small sips from your drink.
  • Work for your food. Eating foods that require some effort--peeling an orange, cracking open crabs, or cutting open a baked potato, for example--slows you down even more, giving food a chance to make you feel full.
  • Socialize outside the kitchen. People seem to congregate in the kitchen, but you'll be less tempted to nosh if you move the action to the living room.


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