healthy, balanced variety of foods is far more
satisfying than following a strict weight-loss diet that leaves you feeling
deprived and hungry. And healthy eating paired with increased activity is more
likely to get you to a healthy weight—and keep you there—than dieting is.
Dieting is not healthy eating
may make you feel like a failure if you can't lose weight or stay on your diet.
Instead of blaming the diets, people who are overweight tend to blame
themselves. You may think, "If I could just stay on that diet, I would be
thin." This doesn't take into account that your body has powerful regulators
that affect your weight—things you can't do anything about. And if you've
dieted again and again without success, you can get into a cycle of negative
thinking—and even gain more weight.
When you go on a diet, you
deprive yourself of food. For many people, that means being hungry most of the
time and not having enough energy. It also can lead you to think about food all
the time. So you're much more likely to overeat when you finally give yourself
permission to eat. It's important to make healthy eating changes that you can
keep doing, instead of dieting.
Many different diets and
programs promise rapid weight loss but rarely
work for the long term. Some might even be dangerous.
- Weight Management: Should I Use Over-the-Counter Diet Aids?
- Obesity: Should I Use a Diet Plan to Lose Weight?
But what does healthy eating mean? Everywhere we turn, we
get conflicting advice on what foods are good for our health. It can be hard to
know where to start after you've decided to make a change.
- First, start paying attention to your
body signals and to your hunger
- Then get smart about eating healthy foods and controlling
First, learn to pay attention
Know your body signals
Young children are good at paying attention to their body signals. They eat when they're hungry. They stop when they're full.
But as we grow older, and fast food, huge portions, and delicious snacks
are everywhere, many of us start to ignore our body signals. We eat for other
reasons—or sometimes without thinking at all.
You can ignore
those body signals for a while, but they are powerful. And if you ignore them
for a long time (by dieting, for example) you lose your ability to pay
attention to them. You get out of practice.
- Healthy Eating: Recognizing Your Hunger Signals
Know your eating triggers
Common triggers to eating when
you're not really hungry are:
Identify your eating triggers by keeping an
eating journal for a week or two. Write down
everything you eat, plus the time of day and what you were feeling right before
After you understand
why and how you eat, it's time to
look at what and how much you
Many people classify foods as "good" or "bad" based on their
calorie or fat content and, sometimes, on how nutritious they are. But a
healthy diet has room for all kinds of foods.
A healthy, balanced
diet means getting the right amounts of:
- Fat. Choose unsaturated fats like olive and canola
oil, nuts, and fish.
- Carbohydrate. Choose carbohydrate that
comes from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy
- Protein. Choose lean protein as often as you can, such
as all types of fish, poultry without skin, low-fat dairy products, and legumes
(peas, beans, and lentils).
- Fiber. Fiber
comes from plant foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and
Keep a food diary (What is a PDF document?), writing down everything you eat for a week or two. It will
help you see which foods you need to eat more of and which foods you're eating
too much of.
Tips for choosing your food sensibly
Control your portions
Just cutting back on
the size of your portions can be a great way to get to or stay at a healthy
weight—without giving up any of your favorite foods.
- Healthy Eating: Making Healthy Choices When You Eat Out
One Woman's Story:
"Before I gained the weight, I
wish someone said, 'portion sizes.' If you're not thinking about it, you go to
a restaurant, you think you're getting a portion size. You're not thinking
they're serving you six plates of food."—Jaci
Read more about how Jaci lost 65 pounds.