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For weight loss, plunge right in or take time to plan?

So, you've decided to lose weight.

If you're like most Americans, that's probably a good idea; more than two-thirds of us are overweight or obese.

But just deciding to lose weight, while an excellent first step, is exactly that: Just the first step.

Now you need to figure out how to do it. Maybe you'll choose one of the myriad structured diet plans available in book form, through programs you pay to participate in or via the World Wide Web. Or perhaps you'll adopt a more holistic approach, rethinking your relationship with food and adjusting your eating behaviors accordingly. Or you might combine those two basic approaches.

When I've tried to lose weight before, I've always felt a sense of urgency that's led me to plunge headlong into a diet. I think I was afraid that if I stopped long enough to really think things through, I might lose my resolve.

But as I embark on my "Me Minus 10" weight-loss attempt, which I write about in this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, I've had many weeks to ponder my approach. And I think those weeks have done me a lot of good.

I've known since before New Year's that I would officially start trying to lose 10 pounds the fourth week in February. That's given me time to look carefully at my eating and exercise habits and to think about how I might improve them. It's given me time to talk with others, including Pamela Peeke, author of Fight Fat After Forty and Fit to Live, and Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, both of whom have offered to give me advice to guide my weight loss. (Brian will join me at 1 p.m. this Thursday for a live chat about "Me Minus 10.")

Most of all, though, for these past eight weeks or so I've taken all pressure off of myself to try to lose weight. Instead, I've pretty much eaten what I wanted, when I really wanted it, and taken note of any patterns I could discern. I've learned things about my relationship with food. And, surprisingly, I haven't gained any weight.

I'm hoping that my new knowledge and awareness of what I'm considering to be my innate eating habits will help steer me through an intelligent, patient and humane weight loss -- and make it easier for me to sustain that loss through the coming years.

I'm only aiming to lose 10 pounds, but I think much of what I do to get there will apply to people who are trying to lose more. I also believe there are silent hordes of people out there who, like me, don't need to lose a whole lot of weight but could stand to shed a few pounds. I'd like to hear from you.

I'll be keeping you posted on my progress and pitfalls in this blog and also on Twitter. I hope you will join me, chime in with your own tips and share your experiences with fellow readers.

Let the weight loss begin!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  February 23, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Me Minus 10 , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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my tip...
keep busy...
don't get caught looking for a snack...
and once a day elevate your heartbeat...
to get your metabolism going...

Posted by: DwightCollins | February 23, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Good luck! My tips: Eat smaller portions. Cut everything to about 75% of the size you're used to. Even snacks -- measure them into a smaller bowl instead of eating right out of the box. Related to tip 1 is to be ok with feeling hungry. Don't get to feeling famished, but a little bit of emptiness starts to feel good.

Posted by: drl97 | February 23, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I've started taking vitamins and I am learning to not eat so fast. It's been helping alot actually

Posted by: lindsaybarber09 | February 23, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

My tips (as someone who lost 40 lbs last year, and has kept it off):

1. Write down everything you eat. Everything. That awareness alone will help. (Even better: write it down along with how many calories it is -- and compare that to how many calories you should be eating. Lots of calculators on-line for that)

2. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables.

3. More meals, but far smaller meals. (I used to skip breakfast and eat two large meals per day. Now I have breakfast/lunch/dinner and lots of snacking). The blood sugar "ups and downs" will make you hungrier, and so if you keep a more even intake, you'll be less hungry.

4. Related to 2 and 3 above: minimize simple carbohydrates (whole grains instead of refined flour or white rice; keep sugars to a minimum, etc.)

5. Again, related to the above: eat more fiber (which are, surprise! in whole grains and fruits and vegetables)

6. Turkey over chicken, white meat over dark, and poultry over red meat.

7. Pig out on vegetables.

Good luck!

Posted by: ADCWonk | February 23, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

These helped me

1) Eat Less, shrink your portion sizes
2) Avoid Restaurants
3) Eat Breakfast

Posted by: bruce18 | February 23, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Measure what you eat.
Plan your days meals.
If you can't control yourself -chips, ice cream, sweets, whatever- either buy a one portion size or don't keep it around at all.
Always order salad dressing on the side.
Be a brown-bagger at lunch.

Posted by: RedBird27 | February 23, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I'd recommend portion control, regular excercise and... Lose it! I've been using this nifty little app with my iPhone to track calories and nutrients, as well as for keeping my calorie intake in check. It's worked wonders and it gives you a very good idea of what's worse when it comes to eating out.

Posted by: Gaita | February 23, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Don't eat as much, eat healthier, exercise more. Wow, I should write a book or something. If I came up with a trendy name for my diet, it'd go flying off the shelves.

Posted by: futbolclif | February 23, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse


It is so important for women. We lose muscle mass as we age and lifting helps preserve muscle and boost metabolism. Also helps strengthen bones. As I get older I find weight lifting helps with weight loss much more so than cardio. Along with a good diet of course.

Posted by: LDRT | February 23, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

With the exception of a couple of years, we could be the same person, even down to the timing, so this should be fun to track.

Posted by: KathyJoK | February 23, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Hi Jennifer -- I think you're doing exactly the right thing to stop and plan. I've started in a fit of excitement before, of course, but those fits always pass, and then what? I started in on a plan about a year and a half ago. I got the urge over summer vacations, as I felt myself swelling up from all the good food. But I resisted the urge to jump in. Instead, I gave myself a couple of weeks to eat all the "bad" stuff that was going away for a while -- and since I hate throwing stuff away, the time also helped me clean out the temptation from my fridge and pantry. I then spent the weekend before shopping for all of the healthy foods I was going to eat, cooking up diet-friendly meals, and packing them all up so I could stock up the work fridge with "approved" options.

To be honest, I haven't been anywhere near perfect; I have a few good months, fall off the wagon, get back on, etc. At one point, I was down 35 lbs; after losing my mind over the holidays and vacation, it's now back closer to 20. But, honestly, even with the setbacks, I've never had this much success before -- and added bonus is that now that I'm back on the horse again, I know exactly what I need to do.

I do have one tip: since you run on the treadmill a lot, have you tried intervals? Those things whip me into shape faster than anything else I know, even just once a week -- I call it my "how to kick my own a** in 20 minutes" routine. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | February 23, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

1. Definitely smaller portions and more small meals. Instead of a big lunch, I have two smaller, healthy snacks in the early and late afternoon.
2. Don't skip breakfast, but try to make it healthier. (I have refused to give up my morning bagel, though I would if it were preventing me from losing weight. Fortunately, it hasn't.)
3. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, download the "Lose It!" app for free. It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but it is very handy for tracking your eating and exercise (which I do more for accountability than for strict calorie counting).
4. Let yourself indulge occasionally, like one restaurant dinner with friends each week (even then, though, try not to go completely hog wild -- and don't take home the leftovers). If you're working out regularly, you can afford to do this without backsliding.

Posted by: Janine1 | February 23, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, I'm quite interested to learn about your results and tips, since I match your age, weight, BMI, health and exercise patterns (except for the yoga). I count calories in & out and am motivated to drop the 10 before the decade of the 50s begins. Keep us posted on everything you find!

Posted by: Sherry10 | February 23, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't get fooled by the low-fat, carb-heavy (even whole grains), diets out there. You can love food, feel satiated, get healthier than you ever have before, and eat in a way that is environmentally sustainable. Two books I would recommend are "Nourishing Traditions" and "Know Your Fats". This is about whole foods and pre-industrial preparations. I have made this a permanent lifestyle change for myself, and the benefits are too many to count.

Posted by: hermes99 | February 23, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I have learned and practised for almost a year (with noticeable results) some weightloss tips from Taiwan. I am not sure if they work for Western people (I am Hong Kong Chinese); but it doesn't hurt to try, because the basic principles are simple and it doesn't cost a penny.

The main ideas are:

1. DRINK BEFORE YOU EAT (not alcohol)
All liquids in a meal, e.g. tea, soup, soda should be taken in before any solid food. For example, I drink about 700-800cc Pu-Er tea in the morning before breakfast, and 400-500cc soup or whatever drink available before lunch/dinner. Then I try not to drink anything until 1.5-2hr after meals (before I got used to this new way of dining, I might drink a sip or two, or rinse my mouth, which is the better way). After this 1.5-2hr 'no-drink zone', I can drink water IF AND WHEN I AM THIRSTY (in small sips and stop when not thirsty).

2. STOP EATING WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL HUNGRY, especially for dinner

3. BREAKFAST:LUNCH:DINNER = 3:2:1 in calorie intake; the gist is don't make dinner your biggest meal of the day.


5. DO NOT BE DISTRACTED WHEN EATING by watching TV or reading or talking etc; concentrate your thoughts on the food you're eating.

Once the above rules are observed, we can eat ANYTHING (of course in reasonable quantities) that we dare not eat before, e.g. a deep-fried chicken leg, or extra rich chocolate cake etc. We can (and should) eat a large variety of food in a balanced diet.

Just give it a try for a few days to see if this new way of dieting works for you. These rules are meant for improving one's health as well.

For those you can read Chinese, you can find more info in this website:

Posted by: wannsee | February 23, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

P.S: I missed to mention an important point:
LISTEN TO YOUR OWN BODY'S VOICE and adjust the plan.
For example, the amount of liquid intake before each meal may differ for each person. Your own body will give you feedback if you're doing right or not.

Posted by: wannsee | February 23, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

The author writes:

"I've known since before New Year's that I would officially start trying to lose 10 pounds the fourth week in February. That's given me time to look carefully at my eating and exercise habits and to think about how I might improve them. It's given me time to talk with others..."

Honestly, this is bad advice to heed. Fretting about getting ready to start living healthy is completely unnecessary, and is why so many Americans are fat. Start immediately. Eat less.

Posted by: cali_snowboarder | February 23, 2010 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't even bother trying to lose weight. And I feel for you that you've publicly declared your intention to do so. You will almost certainly fail, or if you succeed you will regain the weight.

And by the way, if you only "need" to lose 10 pounds, then in fact you are not overweight, because what's 10 pounds more or less? That's like saying you're 2 or 3 pounds overweight. It's all in the same ballpark and will make no difference in your health. Just focus and eating well and exercising moderately.

Posted by: Nutmeg2 | February 23, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I vote you shake up your exercise regimen - add weight lifting and interval training. Do you have access to a boot camp or Turbo Kick class?

Posted by: llamapyjamas | February 24, 2010 6:39 AM | Report abuse

I alway recommend everyone to plan ahead and mentally prepare for weight loss in advance.

Just like every challange weight loss requires smart approach in order to win.

I suggest to decide how much weight needs to be lost, then analyze few weight loss plans, choose the one that you like the most and do not forget to plan a complementary workout routine.

Posted by: marina-healthy-diet | February 24, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I think that instead of focusing on weight loss we should try to switch to a healthy lifestyle and eating habits which will consequently lead to stable weight loss.

Posted by: marina-healthy-diet | February 24, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Hi Jennifer,

I'll be following this with great interest b/c I'm more or less in the same position: I exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and yet still have those extra 10-15 lbs to lose. So I too have been searching for what *else* I can do.
Wanted to recommend Olivia Judson's online column in the NYTimes today, "Stand Up While You Read This!" She meticulously lays out the health/diet/weight dangers that come from sitting all day - even if you eat & exercise right! So - as a computer potato myself, maybe a therapy ball is one way to go?

Posted by: PaminPt | February 24, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for all the great ideas, comments, tips -- and encouragement!! I'm so proud: Last night I lived up to my pledge not to eat anything after dinner, not even as I cleaned up the dishes!

I wanted to invite all of you to join in a live chat with me and Brian Wansink, the Mindless Eating guy, Thursday, Feb. 25, at 1 p.m.! Should be fun! Here's the link:

Posted by: Jennifer LaRue Huget | February 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I think I have tried every weight loss product or system there is and have always had trouble sticking to them. I guess most of them work if you can stay with it but I’ve eaten the same types of foods for so long it’s hard to permanently change. I found a website that changed my life. I can eat the same food I always did (in moderation) and I’m now down a total of 27 pounds, 4 sizes and still going.

Posted by: pamsworking | February 24, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Or you could try my 3 R's of Radiant Health Formula! Would love to give you a nutritional breakthrough session as a gift in return for all of your wonderful articles!
Sue Ann


Posted by: sueann242 | February 25, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Hey little sister. I am 54, (but born in December), 5'4" and 145 pounds and would also love to lose ten pounds. Now you've inspired me.

Posted by: AnnR3 | February 26, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad you're discussing the issue of "low" weight loss. I finally decided to try Weight Watchers this year, but I resisted for a long time because I "only" have to lose 20 pounds. But those 20 used to be 10, then 15 - I realized if I didn't take conscious steps, the number would keep going up. I hope the payment issue will keep me motivated when other inducements fail; so far I'm down 6 pounds and quite proud!

Posted by: mailowen | February 27, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Read 'Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health' by Gary Taubes. Awonderfully well-written and researched book which has totally transformed my understanding of food.

Lo-carb has worked for me - 14lbs in a couple of months.

Posted by: richardlaurence1 | February 28, 2010 7:29 AM | Report abuse

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