Healthy Eating

Five Ways to Keep the Resolution Diet You Start Every Year

It's no stretch to guess that 85 to 90 percent of people tomorrow night will make a resolution to diet. But it's also no stretch to guess that around that same percentage of resolution diets will quickly be ditched.

We've developed five ways to extend those two months to maybe six months or maybe even a lifetime. If you're planning on a diet resolution for 2012, strip down to your skivvies and take a good, hard look at yourself. Devise a plan to fix whatever problems you see, and add these nifty tips to enhance it:

The Sticky Note
You have so much on your mind these days. Between the bills, the kids, the dog, the spouse, the job, etc., your mind is far too preoccupied to add one more thing. So don't. Once a month, grab a pack of Post-It notes and write yourself that month's worth of daily checklists. You're probably thinking it will be time-consuming to do it all at once each month, but doing it every day will likely end up in you never doing it at all. Whether your sticky note checklist says, "Fiber - Antioxidants - Protein" or "Jog - Carrots - Water," it's an easy daily reminder to make sure you're doing what needs to get done. Make it a point to not head in for the night until you've checked off everything on your list at least once. Keep it to a minimum (and keep it handy): one note per day with three or four reminders -- don't want to overload.

Short-Term Organization
Most people are better with short-term goals. The mind is more likely to work harder for something if the timeline is shorter -- it's kind of like tricking your mind into thinking it's doing less work. Since three-month weigh-ins at the Y seem lengthy and far between each other, downsize. Try weekly goals. Whatever your goal may be -- an extra flight of stairs each week, for example -- regrouping weekly will improve your resolution diet's likelihood of sticking around longer.

Don't Forget Your Leftovers
Seeing as everyone who reads Short Order (and writes for it) is a fearless eater who loves a good place to dine, this one should be at the top of our list. Go out! Be merry and eat at every restaurant in town. Order whatever you want too! Just remember to always arrive with the intention of making this meal a meal for now and a meal for later. Let's be honest -- the hips don't lie on 2011-style plate portions. There's probably enough on that plate for the butt, the thighs, the arms, the tummy, the chin... the list goes on. The point is to go out and order as you like, but save some for later. If you're having lunch, take home half for dinner. No need to gorge just because it's in front of you.

Cravings are inevitable. After a week of raw celery sticks and boiled chicken breast (though we hope your resolution diet endeavors are far more interesting than that -- have we taught you nothing this year?), the desire for food sin will arise. Is it cookies? Chips? Chocolate? Whatever your weakness, find something to substitute it when that monkey crawls onto your back. A great substitute for sugar and butter-laden cookies is a granola bar. Go for one that's low in sugar, low in fat, high in fiber (we like this recipe for homemade bars), and you'll have a great fix to an otherwise unhealthful binge. Are chips your weakness? Go nuts -- literally. Low-sodium nuts are a great protein source, and the crunch factor is a plus. Does chocolate make you weak in the knees? Go to your local quick-mart (bypass those mouthwatering snacks -- focus!) and grab a big bar of dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa or more). Nibble on a square when you need it -- it's rich in antioxidants, great for your heart, and scratches your itch.

Free Day"
Give yourself one (and we mean one) free day during the week. Use this day to eat like you weren't dieting. Just don't overdo it. Know your limits. If you know you want a burger on Free Day, have one, not four. The point is to not completely deprive yourself of the things you want. You're more likely to stay away from foods you know you can have once a week rather than those you won't let yourself have at all. Allowing yourself a day of food freedom will make your health-conscious routine seem less rigid. (Bonus: Free Day gives you one less reason to say your resolution diet is too hard to handle.)

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Alex Rodriguez