Weekend-Proof Your Diet

By Jessica Baumgardner for FITNESS magazine

Welcome to the weekend, when you kick off your shoes, pull on your jeans -- and fling your diet out the window! "After watching what you eat all week, it's natural to want to indulge a little," says Judith S. Beck, PhD, director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research and author of The Beck Diet Solution. The problem is that once you loosen the reins, it's easy to lose control. "I've seen people erase in two days every ounce of progress they made all week," says Rachel Beller, RD, founder of the Beller Nutrition Institute in Beverly Hills.

Taking a step back for every step forward isn't just frustrating. It can lead to your giving up on slimming down. "Eventually the yo-yoing can screw up your metabolism and make it even harder to drop pounds," says Joanne Lichten, PhD, RD, author of Dr. Jo's No Big Deal Diet. To keep that from happening, try these stay-strong strategies, guaranteed to get you to Monday with your diet intact.

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FRIDAY: Dinner Out with Friends

You feel like a party pooper picking at a salad. "Research shows that women eat similarly when they're together, possibly as a way of relating to each other," says Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. So if your posse is chowing down, chances are you will too.

Find a designated dieter. The good news is that the influence works both ways: You'll consume less if you're with light eaters. "Having just one fellow calorie-conscious person can really help you stay the course," Salvy notes. "Sit next to each other for extra support."

Lead the charge. To avoid being swayed by someone's pasta Alfredo calorie bomb, be the first to order. "Make a healthy choice up front," Salvy recommends.

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SATURDAY: Up Late Watching a Movie

It's past your usual bedtime, and you're on the prowl in the pantry. "If it's four hours since dinner, you're going to be hungry," Lichten says. "Your body is looking for a quick energy boost." Here come the midnight munchies!

Eat something crunchy. When you've got a hankering for chips, a banana isn't going to cut it. But chomping on something equally noisy will, Beller says. Crisp veggies like carrots, sugar snap peas, and jicama make an especially satisfying sound. Or keep crackling with light microwave popcorn; three cups will cost you less than 100 calories.

Save the Oscar winner for prime time. Watch a show that's really engrossing and you'll eat up to 44 percent more than if you weren't distracted, a new study found. "When you're not paying attention to the way a food tastes or smells, the sensory satiety center in your brain isn't triggered, and you'll keep eating," explains Alan Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. So watch that half-hour sitcom on your DVR instead.

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SUNDAY: Big Blowout Brunch

During the week, breakfast is typically fast, healthy, and 300 calories, tops. But a leisurely weekend brunch is filled with decadent menu options. "Just a bagel and cream cheese can pack a whopping 600 calories," says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, author of The Portion Teller Plan. "And that's without the lox."

Think of it as lunch. You can still have midday eggs. Just don't let them be your first bite of the day. "If you wait until late morning to eat, you up the chance of overdoing it because you'll be so hungry," Lippert says. To prevent a blood sugar dip, rise and reach for a slow-to-digest, lighter pre-brunch meal, like nonfat Greek yogurt sprinkled with berries and sliced almonds.

Share the special stuff. If you've been waiting all week for those golden chocolate chip pancakes, don't deny yourself. "Order a plate for the table and something more satisfying for yourself, like an omelet with vegetables and a bit of cheese," Lippert suggests. "A few indulgent bites will take care of your craving."

Don't linger. Part of the reason you eat more with a group is that you're sitting at the table longer, Wansink says. When you finish, have your plate removed. If the gang isn't ready to break up after everyone has stopped eating, suggest moving outside to a nearby bench or going for a walk. Whatever you do, don't order more coffee. That's when you start grazing.

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Find more healthy eating tips in the May issue of FITNESS, featuring Sex and the City's Kristin Davis, on newsstands now.

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