Losing weight by minding the 'danger zone'

How's this for some great news? By making one, tiny, almost painless change, you can lose 10 to 20 pounds in a year.

I just got off the phone with a Cornell University professor who has made a career of studying people's real eating habits, and he's given me new hope.

By making just a single change, we can put an end to that cycle of what the professor, Brian Wansink, calls "creeping calories."

"The same levers that almost invisibly lead you to slowly gain weight can also be pushed in the other direction to just as invisibly lead you to slowly lose weight — unknowingly," writes Wansink in his eye-opening book, "Mindless Eating."

For each of us, there is a single behavior change that can make all the difference and result in a weight loss with none of that deprived, angry feeling that we dieters know so well.

The catch? That one small change varies for each of us, depending on our special "dietary danger zone," Wansink told me. You'll have to experiment to find yours.

For Wansink, using a smaller dinner plate to make his portions look bigger was a key to mindless weight loss because his danger zone was overeating at mealtime.

Another example? Wansink found that snackers who had to walk 6 feet to the candy dish ate less than half as much as those who kept the dish in plain sight on their desk.

If eating meals at your desk or in the car is your danger zone, brown bag it from home or only eat when the car is in park.

Some other tips from Wansink:

Keep tempting foods out of sight.

Set your fork down between bites.

Ask the waiter not to bring bread.

Alternate water every other drink.

Got a tip on diet, exercise, well-being?

Email ewarren@tribune.com.
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