For years, the only thing that came between me and the fridge was “will power” – a vaguely defined concept that in my case seemed to be virtually nonexistent.
Getting into a structured diet program gave me some basic tools to help thwart temptation. Now, after three years of maintenance – and pestering nearly everyone I know for specifications on what's in their “will power” arsenal – I finally feel like I can go about my day without jeopardizing either my sanity or our food supply.
Here are some strategies that have helped make a difference:
-- Every cereal box, chip bag and cracker package comes emblazoned with logos that function as miniature billboards, designed to catch your eye and implant the desire to munch. Make your kitchen an advertising-free zone by putting all such packages away in the pantry or cupboard.
-- Try setting up a menu template for each day of the week with meals and snacks that you find appealing, so that you don't waste mental energy wondering what you're going to eat for lunch. It's OK if your menu doesn't resemble something you'd find in Prevention magazine, so long as it works for you.
-- My friend Susan taught her kids to get out one serving of Oreos and then return the package to the cupboard. That doesn't work in our house. An opened package of “treat food,” even hidden away, still manages to send signals to my taste buds. But if we bag up the Oreos into serving sizes and put them in a container set aside for lunch-box supplies, that seems to do the trick.
-- When it's time to eat, “go large” – choosing food combinations that fill your plate without blowing your calorie budget. One of my favorite breakfasts lately is an “egg burrito” made with one whole egg and two whites. I cook them up like an omelet, top it with three black olives and a tablespoon of salsa or salsa con queso, then roll it up like a burrito. It feels like a hefty breakfast sandwich for only 156 calories (172 with queso).
-- If I make cookies or muffins these days, I only bake as many as we want or need right then, storing the rest of the batter in the fridge for later. (It helps to form the cookie dough into a log shape and wrap in wax paper so you can slice off as many as you intend to bake.)
-- If your kids' Easter candy is giving you fits, consider storing it off-site in a secure location. We used to keep ours in a gym locker; the kids earned a treat from their stash every time we went for a workout.
-- Just as I need to keep tempting food out of sight, I also need to set out healthy snacks so I remember to eat them. If I don't set out a bowl of fruit or a plate of raw veggies to nibble on, they're likely to spoil in the fridge.
-- Some people find it easier to keep overly tempting foods out of their house altogether. “It's easier to say 'no' at the grocery store than to say 'no' to an open bag of chips,” said one thin friend I consulted.
-- Tracking what you eat automatically cuts down how much you consume, even if you miss your calorie goal for the day.
-- If, despite all your strategies and good intentions, you do eat something dangerous – say, a Reese's Peanut Butter Egg you happened to find left over from Easter -- make sure to follow that up with a piece of fruit, which can function as both a palette cleanser and a “channel-changer.”
-- Better yet, do like my friend Karen does and brush and floss your teeth after every snack. Handy access to dental supplies is, after all, one of the advantages of working from home.