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by Susan Dawson-Cook

August 11, 2021

Try these tips if you want to lose weight

Staying lean and mean can become more challenging every year. Your weight can tick up despite training many miles in the pool or open water.

Here are four secrets that’ll keep you lean and mean, ones that have worked for dozens of my personal training clients. (If you want 21 more, check out my book Fitter Than Ever at 50 and Beyond.)

Ditch Artificial Sweeteners

Consuming foods and beverages with artificial sweeteners might seem like the perfect way to kick your weight loss plan into high gear. But research on whether artificial sweeteners helps people lose weight is mixed. They can increase sugar cravings, which can ultimately lead people to increase their sugar consumption, something that can contribute to weight gain.

Aspartame is purportedly 200 times as sweet as sugar, meaning you could use a much smaller quantity and still be satisfied, which once again sounds good, but isn’t so great when you dig deeper.

Many studies show that rats and people consuming artificial sweeteners ate up to four times as much as rats and people eating only foods sweetened with regular sugar. It appears that consuming artificial sweeteners interferes with the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake.

A study following thousands of residents of San Antonio for 10 years found those who drank more than 21 servings of diet drinks a week were at twice the risk of becoming overweight or obese, and the more diet soda people drank, the greater the risk.

Sucralose, used in many beverages and even yogurt, is another commonly used artificial sweetener with questionable consequences on weight and health. I suggest you ditch the diet sodas and the “sugar-free” junk food and pour yourself a glass of water with a little lemon instead.

Ditch Caloric Beverages

When my daughter was in high school, she lost 20 pounds. She didn’t go on a starvation diet. She didn’t cut out all dairy or eat only soup. She didn’t change what she ate at all in fact. She simply stopped drinking juice and soda.

A glass of most liquids other than water or black tea or coffee usually means beaucoup calories. You can drink a whole day’s worth of calories inadvertently in a matter of minutes. A single soda contains about 200 calories. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you drink three sodas and two glasses of juice during the day, you'll top 1000 calories with drinks alone. Drinking these beverages will also tend to increase, rather than sate, your appetite.

Alcoholic beverages can be another caloric black hole. A 4-ounce margarita packs about 168 calories, but depending on the size of your drink glass, you might get double or triple the calories. Some drinks excessively high in calories are strawberry daiquiris, piña coladas, and Long Island iced tea (780 calories).

I suggest drinking water or unsweetened coffee and tea, and having a soda or an alcoholic drink occasionally. Reserve sports drinks for competition or when appropriate for long distance training or hot conditions. If plain water doesn’t please your taste buds, try squeezing in a few drops of lemon juice or adding a tablespoon of coconut water.

Shop for Groceries Mindfully

We’ve all heard the don’t shop when you’re hungry suggestion before, but do you actually follow it? If not, why not start today? Even the most disciplined person’s willpower crumbles under the wrong circumstances. If it’s been hours since your last meal (or you just put in 5,000 yards at the pool), pushing the shopping cart past baked goods and tempting smelling foods at the deli without grabbing something (or a few somethings) not on your list will be nearly impossible. Since like you, I’m only human, I’ve ended up with unintended items as a result of this slip-up.

Make a menu before going to the grocery store so you have a shopping list to follow. In addition, have a snack or meal prior to grocery shopping to maintain mindfulness while in the store. There's a common thought of only walking the perimeter of the store is safest because all of the junk lurks in the middle aisles. That's true to an extent. You'll still want to go through those aisles to pick up beans/legumes and frozen fruits and vegetables. Remember, if the pastries, candy bars, and ice cream never make it to your house, they won’t make it to your mouth—or your waistline.

Buy as many whole foods as possible. That makes shopping super easy and doesn’t require reading glasses. In the long run, it will improve your health and help you drop unwanted pounds.

Eat Without Distraction

Many of us develop the habit of reading, watching TV, or working on the computer while eating. Maybe we sit down in front of the TV with a bag of chips only to find when our episode is over or we’re interrupted by an ad or the phone that we’ve polished off the whole bag. Mindless eating is a disastrous habit for your health and waistline.

If you’re engaged in some other activity beyond eating, your mind and body don’t process that you’re enjoying a meal. Often the “full” feeling won't come as soon or ever. More than likely, you’ll overeat a lot and barely notice. If you’re holding a plate of food in your lap while watching TV, you may gobble it down quickly because you’re focused on the show plot, not what you’re shoveling into your mouth. Normally, your stomach takes about 20 minutes to give you a signal that you’re full, but if you eat faster than that, you won’t receive a signal in time. And if your mind is somewhere else, you won’t ever get one.

Break the doing-something-else-while-eating habit, and you’ll be able to eat fewer calories at meals without feeling deprived. Savor every bite. Put your fork down often, and chew your food well before swallowing. Eating slower and chewing food well enhances digestion.


  • Health and Nutrition


  • Weight Loss