As you have learned, success in dieting is no miracle. Success comes with focus, education, and constant attention to lifestyle. After a week of hard work, many people feel that they have earned a little freedom to treat themselves on the weekend. And research shows that allowing yourself this latitude actually helps you stay on track the rest of the time.
That is why many of the Solutions in this book are designed around a five-day work week, with the understanding that most people have different eating habits and schedules on the weekend. This is not to say that you should go back to all your old behaviors, but you can start by choosing one thing each weekend that you really know you will enjoy. This might be a particular dish at dinner, a dessert you love, or even just lazing around the house.
By choosing and planning for a particular indulgence, you accomplish a few things. First, you will not feel guilty. Guilt about messing up their diet is one of the major reasons why people quit on the weekend and start again on some future Monday that keeps being pushed back. But if you plan for those nachos or that slice of cheesecake, it becomes part of your plan. You are in control. There is no setback. And it will be easier for you to continue your diet at the following meal.
Second, you will maintain control of your intake. Choosing one 500-calorie dessert or burger with all the fixings is a very different decision than mindlessly adding 100 calories here or there with mayonnaise, soft drinks, and whole-milk lattes. Do not go back on the small changes that got you this far.
Finally, planning a splurge makes you less likely to give up your diet for the sake of a birthday, anniversary, or other special event, and keeps you focused during your regular days. And in the same way that the thought of Saturday can get a lot of people through a week in the office, your expectation of a treat on the weekend can keep you with the program throughout the week.
The weekend allows you to refocus and review your Solutions again on paper and in your mind. It is the time to buy those healthy groceries, clean out your pantry, prepare some homemade soup that will last you through the week, and maybe even get in a long bicycle ride. The weekend reminds you to pace yourself, and the thought of Monday means that you are in this for the long run. Enjoying a treat is part of that.
Sure, it's not like you are creating the world in six days each week. You are only trying to lose a couple of pounds by manipulating your subconscious, changing your outlook, and modifying your diet and activity. Sometimes I'm not sure which is harder.
Recent research regarding chewing gum has found that the small increase in energy expenditure related to the rhythmic "exercise" of chewing could have some ramifications for weight loss. The act of chewing gum may also reduce appetite for snacks throughout the day. Realistically, you have to be pretty inactive to have chewing gum play a significant role in your weight-loss plan. But the research is intriguing.
Chewing gum may play a role in weight loss in two different ways. The first is with respect to the actual number of calories burned by chewing the gum itself. When researchers from the Mayo Clinic measured calories burned at rest and then after chewing gum for twelve minutes, they found that calories burned per hour increased by about 20 percent. Chewing gum is similar to the difference between sitting in a chair and moving around your house. Small, but it adds up.
The other potential benefit of chewing gum is that it will keep you away from chips, pretzels, candy bars, and other high-glycemic foods that go straight to your waist. One study found that people who chew gum once an hour are less hungry for snacks, have less of a sweet tooth, and consume fewer calories at snack time than people who do not chew gum.
But chew in moderation. Regular chewing gum typically has fewer than 10 calories per stick, but they can add up. Sugar-free gum contains about 1.25 grams of sorbitol, a sweetener also used in sugar-free candies. Eating more than 20 grams daily (around fifteen sticks of gum) can cause the gum to act as a laxative, which can lead to diarrhea — which is not good for your health. So if you are interested in chewing gum to burn some extra calories and hopefully reduce snacking, limit your chewing to right after lunch and dinner, and as a snack midmorning and midafternoon when you might be having other cravings.
From The Flex Diet by James Beckerman, M.D. Copyright © 2011 by Dr. James Beckerman. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Flex Diet is available in bookstores nationwide and online: The Flex Diet: Design-Your-Own Weight Loss Plan