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By Chef Devin Alexander, Special to BiggestLoserClub.com
If you're rolling your eyes at the thought of the words "New Year's Resolution," I sympathize. But I'm here to tell you to let go of the heavy sighs and have faith! With a few easy tips and a confidence boost (which we can all use-yes, myself included), I hope to shine light on some of the reasons people fail to stick to their health-related resolutions, and offer sensible ways for you to follow through with your goals.
First and foremost, the best tip I can give you is to resolve NOT to diet. No need to re-read that. You got it right the first time. Begin 2009 with a fresh perspective on the "weight game" by coming to terms with the word "diet." For many, this term provokes thoughts of sacrifice, restriction, and, dare I say it - misery. So throw that dreaded four-letter word out the window and welcome a new, encouraging point of view that I like to consider a new lifestyle, or better yet, a new "way of eating."
Ask yourself this: How many times have you promised yourself you'd change your eating habits, then you set some uncomfortable restrictions for yourself (in order to see results sooner, of course) and the next thing you know, you're being tempted by vending machines, coffee carts, or the deli around the corner with the $5 foot-long special? Yeah, been there, done that too. I've learned the hard way that desperation can lead to negative energy, and nothing positive can come from that. Instead, consider the notion that if you'd started small last January 1st and lost even just ½ pound per week, you'd be starting this year 26 pounds lighter.
How to Control Cravings
The best way to remain positive and control cravings as you approach your new way of eating is to first off, set reasonable goals for yourself. Losing weight and keeping weight off is a process, so treat it like one. Remember, nothing is going to happen overnight, so your plan to cut out all chocolate, all carbs, all sugar, all....You get the point. Why don't you throw out all flavor while you're at it?
Instead, devise a system that you feel you could honestly and comfortably stick to forever, not just for the next six months (remember: lifestyle change, not fad diet). For example, try to eat smaller meals more often, about five times a day. This will help keep you full throughout your day, therefore preventing you from gorge fests (i.e. eating anything in sight).
Try working chocolate into your diet by having a sugar-free chocolate pudding or adding a bit of chocolate syrup (it's naturally fat free) to your breakfast oatmeal or yogurt. Satisfy the salty craving by switching to baked chips (I'd recommend buying them in the individual serving bags). And instead of swearing off beef forever, switch to 96% lean beef. With only 4 g of fat for 4 ounces, you can't go wrong. Of course, at times, strategic sacrifices will definitely have to be made. (Maybe you'll eat a smaller meal with fewer carbs in the morning, if you know you're going to indulge in a piece of cake at the office potluck next Friday.) But don't completely deprive yourself, either.
Never Fail to Plan
Another great strategy is to get in the habit of planning ahead. Food is the center of almost all activities, so be prepared for that. Whether you're at a social engagement, on a road trip, or joining your friends for a late night happy hour, there's no need to skimp by with celery sticks and a glass of lemon water.
Instead, focus on choosing healthy options like lean proteins, fresh veggies that haven't been soaked in butter or oil and that are low-starch, and whole grain breads and pastas. Maybe you can substitute brown rice for white rice the next time you're at your favorite Chinese restaurant?
Think about stocking your freezer with healthy choices for the next time you're in a time crunch. Frozen nutritional meals are a great option that keep you from picking up the phone for take-out. And veggies are always a healthy quick-fix to accompany a chicken breast. And you won't believe how satisfying a creative smoothie can be when made from frozen fruit. Heck, it can even be topped with a tablespoon or two of non-fat whipped topping!
Prepare your lunch and snacks for the workday the night before so you don't have to resort to drive-throughs, or worse - the office cafeteria. Another idea is to hunt down healthier versions of some of your favorites so you're ready when the cravings overtake you. I've included a recipe for my BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger.
Hopefully these tricks will help get you started on the right foot and increase the probability of you sticking to your goals past January 3rd.
Happy cooking (& eating!),
Devin Alexander is the author of "The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook" (Rodale 2008) and "The Biggest Loser Cookbook" (Rodale 2006). For more on Devin, go to devinalexander.com.
BBQ Bacon Cheese Burger
Recipe taken from Devin Alexander's THE MOST DECADENT DIET EVER!
Copyright © 2008 by Devin Alexander published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc.
The barbecue bacon cheese burger is usually a guilty pleasure. Here, I've combined these favorite flavors in a reasonable-sized burger that's even more scrumptious because the ingredients are fresh and guilt-free. Please, though, don't cheat when buying the beef. Some people think that buying 93% lean ground beef isn't that much different from the 96% lean, but it is. Four ounces of the 96% has about 150 calories and 4 ½ g of fat. Four ounces of the 93% lean has 170 calories and 8 g fat. Yes, the 96% lean is more expensive, but you're worth it (plus, long term, you'll be saving money on doctor bills!)
4 ounces 96% lean ground beef
1 1/2 slices center-cut bacon
1 reduced-calorie hamburger bun
1/2-ounce light Swiss cheese slivers
1-2 tablespoons red onion slivers
2 teaspoons barbecue sauce
Pack the beef tightly together with your hands. Then on a sheet of waxed paper, shape the beef into a 4-inch diameter patty. Sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides, then place it in the freezer for 5 minutes (This will help it keep shape).
Preheat a grill to high heat.
Cut the whole bacon strip in half, crosswise. Lay the strips side by side in a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook them flipping them every couple of minutes until they are crispy and well done, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Meanwhile, remove the patty from the freezer and place it on the grill. Cook it about 1-2 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until desired doneness is reached. Toast the buns on an upper grill rack for 30 seconds-1 minute, watching them carefully. Place the cheese slice on top of the burger for the last few seconds of cooking so it just begins to melt.
Add the burger to the toasted bun bottom. Lay the bacon strips side by side over the top. Place the onions over that. Spread the barbecue sauce evenly over the inside of the top half of the bun. Flip the bun top atop the sandwich.
Makes 1 3-Decadent Disk serving: 304 calories, 33 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 3 g dietary fiber, 752 mg sodium
You save: 180 calories, 22 g fat, 8 g saturated fat
Traditional serving: 484 calories, 29 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 32 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 99 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber 712 mg sodium
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