Community Commentary: The tape measure doesn't lie

Second of two parts.

The following are a few strategic pearls for maintaining a healthy body size, distilled from thousands of hours of clinical conversations and training: Privately, put on tight clothes from your past and look in the mirror.

Give away bigger clothes, or take them in, when weight is shed. This reinforces confidence in your shrinking contour.

Watch yourself doing household chores in your bathing suit, or bra and panties. Study realistic photos of yourself, bulges and all. Wear snug clothes out to events where you will be tempted to overindulge.

Here are some simple food strategies:

• Eat breakfast to get your metabolism going, like most trim people do.

• Follow the Mediterranean diet, with olive oil, fresh vegetables and fruit, and whole grains.

• Have larger snacks and smaller meals, avoiding that over-stuffed feeling, which can be defeating.

• Include a modest serving of protein, found in dairy, soy, lentils, beans, nuts, fish, poultry, or lean meat, according to your preferences, nearly each time you eat. This will sustain a level blood sugar.

• Reduce your portion sizes. Use smaller plates, plastic containers and baggies.

• Carry a cooler in your car with healthy meals.

• Order from the appetizer menu at restaurants.

• Ask for salad dressing on the side.

• Separate the amount you should eat prior to partaking if the serving is clearly too large. Take the excess home, or leave it on the plate.

• Shun desserts much of the time.

• Anticipate your next meal, so you don't raid the candy machine when you're desperate. A small bag of nuts and dried fruit can be a lifesaver when hunger strikes.

• Don't super size.

• Limit carbohydrates, alcohol, calorie-laden drinks (even juice), sugar-containing sodas, saturated fats and sweets, real or artificial. (People who consume chemical sweeteners are more likely to be overweight.)

• Dinner should be the smallest meal. Don't eat within three hours of bedtime. Night eating is associated with sleep problems and excess weight.

• If you think you may have an eating disorder — such as compulsive overeating, bulimia or anorexia, the effects of which can challenge either sex at any age — seek professional help with an experienced mental health provider.

Develop a system to follow your progress. I weigh once a week on Monday morning, on my own bathroom scale, and that's it. Some people weigh every day to stay on top of the situation. Others choose to avoid the scale altogether, and judge by their clothes, or some other means.

When it comes the "move more" part, choose activities that fit into your routine at least three or four days per week for at least one half hour. Don't attempt to reinvent yourself at the gym for two hours one day per week. Simple, fast walking for a solid half hour not only lowers the fat mass, but is also proven in medical research to prevent cognitive decline and cancer, lower stress and improve sleep quality.

For you smokers, perhaps filling your lungs with fresh air will help you throw away those death sticks!

Don't have foodie buddies (akin to drinking buddies) who reinforce bad habits. These can be intimate partners, family, friends or co-workers. Get the goodies out of the environment. Stop the trips to the cupcake or ice cream for stores for treats. Instead, try a new yoga class together or go out for a walk at the beach.

So, there you have it in a nutshell. Simple. Oh, you also might consider attending reunions (high-school, college, graduate school or family.) I have three out of four of the above this year. They are looming inspirations.

My goal is to nudge us all to take the best possible care of ourselves, so that we may enjoy health, mobility, independence, pleasure and love, as long as we can. As stated in the Desiderata, don't compare yourself to others, as "there will always be greater and lesser" (and heavier and thinner) people.

Take pride in your triumphs. Try to end each day satisfied that you made progress toward a more fit, healthier you. I challenge you to measure your waist circumference. Remember, the tape measure doesn't lie.

DR. JANE K. BENING is a board-certified gynecologist practicing in Newport Beach. She lives in Laguna Beach.

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