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Weight Loss Superfecta

If you are a fan of horse racing, you are familiar with the exotic bet called the Superfecta. It requires that you pick the first four horses to cross the finish line. Depending upon the size of the field and the odds of the winning horses, the pay-off is frequently tremendous.

Approaching our weight loss efforts with a bettor's attitude, we're going to pick four sure winners in the dieting game. To improve our chances, we going to "box" our choices, meaning that they can finish in any order as long as our picks run first, second, third, and fourth.

1. Restrict your eating to mealtimes.

We often control ourselves relatively well when we sit down at the table. Whether at home or eating out, we have put some thought into the food on our plate and have made a conscious decision about what we will allow ourselves.

It is what happens between actual meals that is often our downfall. We act without awareness or forethought, absent-mindedly picking on leftovers or items just "hanging around" - candy, potato chips, last night's unfinished bowl of popcorn, a last lonely cupcake. With little genuine memory of doing it, we have doubled or tripled our daily caloric intake and completely subverted our best intentions. Whether you eat twice a day or "three squares" stick to that, and keep your teeth firmly clenched for the rest of the time.

2. Increase your activity.

Most of us who are overweight hate exercise. We always manage not to find time to perform a daily routine or join a gym. It is true that you can increase your energy expenditure during the day by such changes as using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking as far away from the store or market as possible, or walking over to a coworker's desk rather than calling him on the telephone. The problem is that these suggestions, so often voiced by the weight loss specialists, have little effect, especially in the short term. If you honestly believe that a few extra steps a day is going to make you buff, you are in big-time denial my friend.

Increasing your activity levels to the range where they will really help your weight goals is going to take genuine and regular effort. If you can't stand the thought of calisthenics in the morning, try these.

a. Don't just take the stairs, use them. If you work on the third floor of a six story building, walk up to the roof and then back down to your floor. If you have a two story home or an upstairs apartment, make sure you keep leaving things behind so you are forced to go up and down the stairs at least three or four times before you get in your car and drive off.

b. Park your car in the back 40 at the supermarket and then leave your wallet under the seat. When you reach the store, you'll have to walk all the way back to get it. When you've loaded your groceries into your trunk, push the basket all the way back to the store's front door - now you've walked the distance four times instead of just once.

c. Use your break or lunch time to walk around the block. Then convince yourself that you might have dropped something and retrace your entire trip.

d. Turn on music when you clean house or wash the dishes. Dance constantly while you try to finish your chores without breaking anything.

e. When you watch television, only put an ounce or two of water, or coffee, or tea, in your cup or glass. Get up for a refill at every commercial. During the evening, you may get up and down fifty times which will keep you limber as well as burning calories.

Some of these ideas may take so much time that you'll throw in the towel and choose an early morning exercise routine instead, knowing that then you don't have to worry about this silliness all day!

3. Think small.

We gain weight because of the types of food we eat and the amount we eat. For now, we are going to concentrate on the quantity of our intake - calories DO count.

Start thinking small at the market. Yes, the food producers give us a price break if we buy the "economy" size (they have a vested interest in keep our appetites unfettered). We can save even more by buying in bulk. At this stage in our weight loss program, we are less interested in saving money than in saving our diet. Buy the smallest available size of everything.

When you start to prepare your meal, estimate how much of each item you need, and then reduce by 25%. Use dessert instead of dinner plates. A portion of food looks much bigger when it's threatening to spill over the edges.

As you start to eat, cut your food into small pieces. Not bite-sized pieces, mind you, but more like pet food morsels or large peas. Then eat one at a time, making sure your mouth is totally empty before taking another piece.

You will find yourself feeing full (and rather bored with the whole procedure) long before your little plate is empty. The thought of a second helping may even make you nauseous.

If you are eating out, try to order a child's plate, a senior menu size, or just an appetizer. Never order a complete meal when a la carte dishes are available - the rest is just "filler" anyway.

4. Always have a pleasant diversion on hand.

The less time you spend interacting with food, the less you will eat. Set up your schedule to allow yourself as little time to eat as possible. If you have an important meeting at 1 PM, don't take time for lunch until 12:45. At 1 PM, stop and clear everything away. If you want to watch a special television show at 7 PM, don't start eating dinner until 6:45. At 7 PM, dump any uneaten food into the garbage pail and turn on your show.

If you didn't have time to finish your meal, more power to you - you're that many calories ahead. And remember that this tip must be combined with your earlier agreement not to eat between meals.

If you're home with nothing special to do, identify some fun non-eating activity and schedule that right after you start to eat so again you are forced to stop earlier than your stomach demands. Schedule yourself to start a new book, surf the Internet, read a favorite catalog, visit a neighbor, or sit down with the kids to discuss their day.

Never find yourself at "loose ends" with nothing better to do than eat. Make a list of things you enjoy so there is always something to tempt you away from the table.

Mix and match these four suggestions as you move along in your journey to slim. In any order, in any degree, in any rotation, they will help carry you across the finish line to reap your well-earned rewards.

Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she recently published a psychologically-based weight control e-workbook, "Diet with an Attitude" which develops mental skills towards the goal of permanent weight control. She can be reached at http://www.DietWithAnAttitude.com. She provides support and guidance in use of the workbook through her regular blog, http://dietwithanattitude.blogspot.com

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