Tips for Sweets Eaters, No Matter What Diet You Are On

By: Lisa Sanders, M.D.

  1. Clear the house of everything you don't want to eat. Don't just keep stuff stashed away. Get it out.

  2. Always have something sweet at hand that you will feel good about eating. You can try having fruit around; very sweet fruits like grapes and melon can work for some people, at least part of the time. Frozen fruit bars might work. Low-calorie ice cream bars sometimes do the trick.

  3. Have a variety of healthy sweet treats around the house and only one type of sweet that you could crave but wouldn't want to eat too much of. That will improve your odds of satisfying your craving with a food that you won't be sorry you ate.

  4. Only have as much of the restricted sweet in the house as you would want to eat at any given moment. Buy serving sizes and, if necessary, buy them one at a time. Then replace your stock when you are not having cravings, so that you will be prepared next time they come.

  5. Have a plan for what to do when the wholesome sweets at hand don't do it for you. The nature of that plan will depend on you and your cravings. Janet (remember her?) has a real sweet tooth and loves ice cream. When she craves ice cream and nothing else will do, she makes herself walk to get it. She lives in a large city, and there is a local store nearby. She figures the walk (and the hassle) into her craving calculations.

  6. If you feel that you can never learn to eat sweets in moderation and decide that the only way you can deal with your "addiction" is to ban sweets forever, have a plan for what to do if you "fall off the wagon." Having no plan means leaving your diet in the hands of chance and whim. My whole shtick is that you do better in managing what you eat if you have a plan and choose what to eat, no matter how hard that is. You need to take charge of your diet, and that means staying in charge even when you can't control all your cravings all the time.

  7. Finally, anticipate how you will feel after you've eaten something you hadn't planned on. Too often the response is "I'll start again tomorrow," and that can trigger a binge. Be proactive in the face of what might feel like a failure. When you are late paying a bill, you don't say, "Oh well, I'll pay that bill next month." Same with unintended splurges. Try to get back on track, that day, that hour, that very minute -- and go from there.

For carbohydrate counters: If you love sweets, then a carbohydrate-counting diet is going to be pretty darn tough. These foods need to be eaten in moderation, especially when you are in the early phase of the diet and want to stay "in the pink." Have only a small amount of sweet foods at hand. Make sure these foods are the ones you can eat without regret.

Here are some foods you can eat in moderation, even in the early phase.

Remember, although sugarless items don't have carbohydrates, they do contain calories. Moderation in all things is key.

For calorie counters: Portion control is key in eating sweets, so give yourself an edge.

For fat counters: Avoid chocolate. It is loaded with fats, and in general, the higher the quality of chocolate, the greater the amount of fat, most of it saturated. Here are some good rules of thumb for all sweets.

(Reprinted from The Perfect Fit Diet: Combine What Science Knows About Weight Loss With What You Know About Yourself by Lisa Sanders, M.D. (Rodale Inc., Hardcover, $24.95). Permission granted by Rodale, Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold.)

© 2004 Lisa Sanders, M.D.

Lisa Sanders, M.D., is an internist practicing in Connecticut and is on the faculty of Yale University School of Medicine. In her research and practice, she specializes in the treatment of overweight and obese patients. Before entering medical school, she was an Emmy Award-winning producer at CBS News, where she covered medicine and health. Her widely read "Diagnosis" column appears monthly in The New York Times. Dr. Sanders lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband and two daughters.

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