Nutrition Column – Ten Tips for Taking Off Those Holiday Pounds

If you started 2006 with an extra 10 pounds and the resolve to get your weight under control, you’re not alone. Sales for weight control products always peak in January and February.  Unfortunately, Americans continue to lose their battle with the bulge. Here are some tips on correcting the 10 biggest mistakes dieters make.

1. Set realistic goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Break your efforts into manageable steps. Concentrate on changing habits rather than on reducing pounds.

2. Follow a sensible eating plan. Don’t succumb to the latest diet miracle plan. There is nothing magical about weight control. A good plan to start with is MyPyramid. This can be found at By typing in your age and selecting your gender and level of physical activity, you are provided with a semi-customized eating plan. For example, I was given a 1,800 calorie plan consisting of 6 ounces of grain products, 21/2 cups of vegetables, 11/2 cups of fruits, 3 cups of milk or milk products and 5 ounces of meat and beans. To make this a weight loss plan, cut calories by 250 to 300 per day by trimming an ounce or half-cup from each of the main food categories and keeping fatty sauces, spreads and toppings to a minimum.

3. Get a move on. Don’t live by food alone. Only 20 percent of all Americans get enough exercise to improve health and maintain healthy weight. The MyPyramid plan recommends that adults engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day to maintain a healthy weight. The more energy you burn through exercise, the more fat you’ll liberate. Plus, you feel better when you’re active.

4. Expect slow progress. Don’t lose patience. The safest and longest-lasting weight loss is achieved gradually, at the rate of 1 pound to 11/2 pounds per week. Gradual weight loss allows your body to adjust physically and mentally to the new you.

5. Fight boredom with variety. Don’t eat the same foods every day. Go for flavor with spices rather than fat. Tantalize your taste buds with garlic and onions. Try salsa on baked potatoes in place of sour cream.  

6. Remember: There are no forbidden foods. Don’t classify foods as good and bad. Deprivation leads to obsession, the "mother" of bingeing. Allow all foods on your OK list. Just remember, the key words are moderation and variety.

7. Recognize emotional triggers. Don’t ignore the stresses that push your buttons and make you want to find solace in food. Once you recognize and accept these triggers, find nonfood ways to sooth your emotions. A brisk walk or bubble bath can do wonders for frazzled nerves.

8. Celebrate! But don’t make food the reward. Celebrate yourself, your family and friends, your work, your life. Plan rewards for weight maintenance as well as weight loss.

9. Commit to yourself – don’t diet for approval. Dieting to please someone else sets you up for failure, especially when their applause isn’t as loud as you’d hoped.

10. Everything wonderful about you exists no matter what size you are. While a diet can improve your health and appearance, it won’t transform the circumstances of your life. It may, however, help you build the psychological skills and self-esteem you need to tackle troublesome issues.

For more tips on weight management, check out the fact sheet 9.368, "Weight Management: It’s All About You" at or ask for it at your local CSU County Extension Office.

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Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension