You're not just Mom - you're chauffeur, waitress, counselor, cook, homework assistant, medic, and about a thousand other things. And that's before you even suit up for the job that comes with the paycheck. It's hard to pay attention to what you eat (let alone measure, count calories, and keep a food diary) when your main form of exercise is running errands. So you eat whatever, whenever - and over time, that can add up to major pounds. Yet there are actually simple solutions to busy women's diet dilemmas.
Related: Lose Weight Fast
7:00 A.M. You get up early to make sure your kids have a nourishing breakfast, but while they're eating, you're making their lunches or getting ready for work, so you don't have breakfast yourself.
• Have breakfast - a real one: Pay attention to the habits of people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off: Seventy-eight percent of them start the day with breakfast. Those are the findings of the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing study of successful losers who have dropped 30 pounds or more (70 on average) and kept it off at least a year. Their typical breakfast: cereal and fruit.
• Think big: While you're putting out breakfast for your kids, load up a plate for yourself. A study from Virginia Commonwealth University found that eating a high-protein and carb-rich breakfast helped dieters lose impressive amounts of weight - an average of 23 pounds over four months and then another 17 in the next four months. Their breakfasts sound more like lunch - a sandwich of turkey and cheese on two slices of bread, a cup of milk, an ounce of chocolate, and a protein shake - and totaled 600 calories. But you can try following the spirit of this landmark study: While making your children's lunches, whip up a sandwich for yourself - to eat on the spot. Keep prepared protein shakes in the fridge or take them to your office for breakfast, part two.
Related: Take Our Calorie Quiz
10:00 A.M. The no-breakfast start to the day is now catching up with you. You're so hungry, you down a 400-calorie muffin with your double-shot latte from the coffee shop.
• Pack up some backup: "You can brown-bag your breakfast," says Toby Smithson, R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, who whips up hers at night when she's cleaning up after dinner. Pair carbs with protein, which will curb your hunger without throwing you under the low-blood-sugar bus an hour later. Pack a slice of low-fat cheese with an apple, whole-grain crackers smeared with peanut butter, or sugar-free, fat-free yogurt with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.
• Take a walk: A brisk outing can tame a growling stomach. Partly it's the mental boost that helps, but exercise may also change levels of neuroendocrine chemicals that affect appetite suppression and feelings of fullness.3:30 P.M. The kids are vegging out in front of the computer. You send them out to play while you work on your laptop.
• Send everyone to the park (including yourself): "And get into the game, too," says Smithson. A jump rope costs less than $10 and burns almost 750 calories in an hour, and it's just as much fun as you remember. Hula hoops now come weighted for exercise - you can kill 100 calories in just 10 minutes of hip swiveling. Ride bikes, skate, whack the tetherball.
• At work?: You'll probably be going into your post-lunch, mid-afternoon dip around now. Pick yourself up - and burn some calories - with a brisk 10-minute walk, indoors or outside.
Related: Lose Weight Without Trying
5:30 P.M. It's BLT time, as in "bites, licks, and tastes." You're so hungry while making dinner, you're sampling everything, but that doesn't stop you from loading up your plate when the meal's ready.
• Park it: "It sounds so simple, but if you're going to eat, commit to sit," says Susan Albers, Psy.D., a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. To discourage sampling, make it a rule to put your food on a plate and pull up a chair to eat it.
• Have the gum appetizer: You'll keep your mouth occupied. Choose cinnamon or mint, Melina Jampolis, M.D., author of The Busy Person's Guide to Permanent Weight Loss, suggests to her patients: "When you have that strong flavor in your mouth, you tend not to want to taste anything else."
10:00 P.M. Ahhh, a little time to yourself. So you dish out some ice cream or grab the cookie box or spread Nutella on toast, then curl up on the sofa and watch TV.
• Turn it off: Most research linking television to excess weight has been done on kids, but at least one study that looked at heavy adults found that cutting viewing time by half helped participants burn 119 more calories a day than they had before turning off the tube. Skipping one or two Law & Order reruns not only frees you up for activity - in the study, even doing desk work or chatting on the phone burned more calories than TV watching - but also protects you from the food ads.
• Don't eat - sleep: Missing zzz's puts you into a state of chronic fatigue, making you more likely to eat (usually carbs and sweet foods) to keep up your energy. Sleep deprivation sends your body chemistry out of whack, too, altering the production of the hormones that regulate hunger and satiety - and making you crave even more high-cal stuff.
What's your trick for keeping your diet on track?
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