August 28, 2008

This month, as kids head back to school and the workforce buckles down and says good-bye to the lazy days of summer, it's time for many adults (ahem, like me) to get back on the nutrition straight and narrow.

I've often heard that September is the most popular diet month after January. Apparently, many people rush to Weight Watchers meetings or to the gym, or to Jenny Craig or other diet programs to help them lose the weight they gained over the summer. I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but it doesn't surprise me: I do know that I'm feeling more apple-ish than normal, and I can't take it anymore.

Summer wreaks havoc on our diets because many of us don't follow normal routines, whether it's due to a vacation, kids being home all day, or lots of food-focused social events after work and on the weekends; they make us more likely to cheat on our diets, a little here and there. So many of us work so hard on our weight in the months leading up to swimsuit season, but often enough we revert back to our old ways once the grill comes out and the cocktails start flowing. If you add just 150 calories a day—that could be just one cold beer or a 1/2 cup of ice cream—beginning on Memorial Day, you'd be nearly four pounds heavier come Labor Day.

I figure I'm weighing in at about five pounds more than I should, but frankly, I haven't weighed myself since the end of May. (Note to self: That's probably one of the reasons for my little belly bulge now.) I've also thought about my eating patterns and concluded that weekend barbecues, cocktails and beers, and giving in to my sweet tooth all contributed to my newfound pounds.

So instead of feeling depressed and heading to the ice cream parlor for a pick-me-up, I'm making a game plan to get these five pounds off, stat. September for me means time to get serious about eating healthy.

Here's what I've decided to do.

1. Weigh myself weekly. I'm getting out a calendar, putting it in the bathroom above the scale, and weighing myself each Monday morning. Ouch! Facing the music so soon after the weekend should help me curtail my Saturday and Sunday indulgences.

2. Eat lighter dinners. One of my best tricks is to diet at night and eat during the day. Since I exercise a lot, I cannot perform feeling hungry—but I can fall asleep with a little rumble in my stomach. So I'll be generous with my breakfast and lunch, burn off those calories during the day, and eat a light salad or smaller-than-normal dinner for the next week or so.

3. Stop the sips. It's easy to forget about liquid calories, but beer and wine can pack at least 100 calories per glass—not to mention, it's hard to enjoy a beverage without some chips and dip, a cheese tray, or other munchies. I'm not much into alcohol, so it's easy for me to eliminate it from my diet completely until I get back to my normal weight.

4. Set an athletic goal. I signed up for an October trail marathon at a higher altitude where I know that, 20 miles into the race, every extra ounce of flab on my body will feel like a pound. Talk about motivation to lose the weight!

5. Enlist my hubby's help. I need the support of my other half to do this, since we eat most of our meals together. We'll agree that whoever is cooking will take special care not to go overboard with carbs, fats, or sodium, and we'll plate our food with appropriate portions—leftovers will go right in the fridge, so that we're not tempted to go back to the stove for seconds. I've also asked him to hide my favorite trigger foods, like trail mix and whole-grain tortilla chips; I can eat entire bags of both if I'm not careful.

Stay tuned. I'll track my progress and let you know how it goes.

By Julie Upton, RD

(PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO)

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