The key to weight loss: Make a mental shift

Sure, you want to lose weight, but are you in the right mindset to make it happen? Stop sabotaging your efforts with a self-defeating outlook and stay motivated to reach your goals with these effective techniques.

Negative beliefs and self-talk

The internal dialogue you have with yourself influences your actions. Thoughts such as “I’ll never lose weight” or “I’m no good at exercising” can weaken your self-esteem and stall your progress. Replace these thoughts with positive statements. Instead of: “I can’t stick with an exercise program,” tell yourself: “I can meet one realistic goal today.”

Unrealistic expectations

Many people imagine that losing weight will solve all their problems. Your life will likely change with weight loss — but probably not in all the ways you imagine. Losing weight doesn’t guarantee a better social life or more satisfying job. Keep your expectations focused on those very real benefits like more energy and higher self-esteem.


Words such as always, never or must place undue pressure on you. Telling yourself you’ll never eat chocolate again or you must walk two miles a day can lead to guilt-ridden lapses. Instead, treat yourself now and then in ways that make sense — when you’re out to dinner with friends, not when you’re feeling sad.

All-or-nothing thinking

One setback doesn’t mean failure. If you eat too much one day, you haven’t blown your plan. Counteract this kind of thinking with moderation — no “good” and “bad” foods, for example, and it’s OK to have dessert once in a while. Remind yourself you can get back on track tomorrow.

Be flexible on your weight-loss journey. Don’t expect perfection. If you have a slip-up, learn from it and move on.

Top 10 stress-relieving tips

It’s a fact of life: Everyone experiences stress. But when it goes unmanaged, daily stress can harm your health and reduce your quality of life. Fortunately, stress doesn’t have to overcome or overwhelm you. Gain control and live better with these stress-reducing suggestions.

  1. Make a list. Write a to-do list, breaking down tasks into smaller steps. Prioritize the items and tackle them one at a time.
  2. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep and eat a healthy diet. Avoid — or limit — alcohol and caffeine.
  3. Set realistic goals. Don’t expect perfection from projects or people — including yourself.
  4. Mind your schedule. Don’t take on too many responsibilities or agree to attend too many social events. If you’re overwhelmed, eliminate some obligations or share the work.
  5. Talk it out. Call on the support and guidance of good friends and family.
  6. Exercise regularly. Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can help fight stress.
  7. Set aside time every day for stress management. Meditation, deep-breathing exercises, yoga and guided imagery are all good techniques to try.
  8. Have fun. Spend time each day doing a hobby or other activity that you enjoy.
  9. Resolve conflicts. Work toward repairing — or coming to terms with — any broken or difficult relationships.
  10. Visualize success. Imagine how difficult situations might be resolved in a less stressful way.

By managing — and reducing — the stress in your life, you can make better, healthier decisions and improve your overall wellness.

How to eat more and lose weight

Feel full on fewer calories? It might sound like another gimmick for weight loss, but it’s not. This concept is called energy density, and it’s an important weight-loss tool.

Weight loss with more food, fewer calories
Simply put, energy density is the number of calories (energy) in a specific amount of food. High energy density means that there are a lot of calories in a little food. Low energy density means there are few calories in a lot of food.

When you’re striving for weight loss, your goal is to eat low-energy-dense foods. This helps you feel fuller on fewer calories. Here’s a quick example with raisins and grapes. Raisins have a high energy density — 1 cup of raisins has about 434 calories. Grapes have a low energy density — 1 cup of grapes has about 82 calories. You may feel full after 1 cup of either fruit, but the calorie difference is astounding!

Most vegetables are low in calories but high in volume or weight. Many vegetables contain water, which provides weight without calories. Examples include salad greens, asparagus, green beans, broccoli and zucchini. To add more vegetables to your diet, top your pasta with sautéed vegetables instead of meat or cheese sauce. Decrease the meat portion on your plate and increase the amount of vegetables. Add vegetables to your sandwiches. Snack on raw vegetables.

Practically all types of fruit fit into a healthy diet. But some fruits are lower calorie choices than others are. Whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits without syrup are good options. In contrast, fruit juices and dried fruits are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have a high energy density — more calories — and they don’t fill you up as much. To fit more fruits into your diet, add blueberries to your cereal in the morning. Try mango or peach slices on whole-wheat toast with a little peanut butter and honey. Or toss some mandarin orange and peach slices into a salad.

Many carbohydrates are either grains or made from grains, such as cereal, rice, bread and pasta. Whole grains are the best option because they’re higher in fiber and other important nutrients. Emphasize whole grains by simply choosing whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and whole-grain cereal instead of refined grains. Still, because many carbohydrates are higher in energy density, keep an eye on portion sizes.

Protein and dairy
These include food from both plant and animal sources. The healthiest lower energy-dense choices are foods that are high in protein but low in fat, such as legumes (beans, peas and lentils, which are also good sources of fiber), fish, skinless white-meat poultry, fat-free dairy products and egg whites.

While fats are high-energy-dense foods, some fats are healthier than others. Include small amounts of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Nuts, seeds, and oils, such as olive, flaxseed and safflower oils, contain healthy fats.

Like fats, sweets are typically high in energy density. Good options for sweets include those that are low in added fat and contain healthy ingredients, such as fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Examples include fresh fruit topped with low-fat yogurt, a cookie made with whole-wheat flour or a scoop of low-fat ice cream. The keys to sweets are to keep the serving size small and the ingredients healthy. Even a small piece of dark chocolate can fit into a weight-loss plan.

Making energy density work for you
When you stick to the concept of energy density, you don’t have to feel hungry or deprived. By including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your diet, you can feel full on fewer calories. You may even have room in your diet for a tasty sweet on occasion. By eating larger portions of low-energy-dense foods, you squelch those hunger pains, take in fewer calories and feel better about your meal, which contributes to how satisfied you feel overall.

Gain control of emotional eating

Sometimes the strongest food cravings hit when you’re at your weakest point emotionally. You may turn to food for comfort — consciously or unconsciously — when facing a difficult problem, feeling stressed or even feeling bored.

Emotional eating can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. It often leads to eating too much, especially too much of high-calorie, sweet and fatty foods. The good news is that if you’re prone to emotional eating, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track with your weight-loss goals.

The connection between mood, food and weight loss

Emotional eating is eating as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions, such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. Major life events or, more commonly, the hassles of daily life can trigger negative emotions that lead to emotional eating and disrupt your weight-loss efforts. These triggers might include:

  • Relationship conflicts
  • Work stress
  • Fatigue
  • Financial pressures
  • Health problems

Although some people eat less in the face of strong emotions, if you’re in emotional distress you might turn to impulsive or binge eating, quickly consuming whatever’s convenient without enjoyment.

In fact, your emotions can become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you’re angry or stressed without thinking about what you’re doing.

Food also serves as a distraction. If you’re worried about an upcoming event or stewing over a conflict, for instance, you may focus on eating comfort food instead of dealing with the painful situation.

Whatever emotions drive you to overeat, the end result is often the same. The emotions return, and you likely then bear the additional burden of guilt about setting back your weight-loss goal. This can also lead to an unhealthy cycle — your emotions trigger you to overeat, you beat yourself up for getting off your weight-loss track, you feel bad and you overeat again.

Tips to get your weight-loss efforts back on track

When negative emotions threaten to trigger emotional eating, you can take steps to control cravings. To help stop emotional eating, try these tips:

  • Keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you might see patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.
  • Tame your stress. If stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique, such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing.
  • Have a hunger reality check. Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate just a few hours ago and don’t have a rumbling stomach, you’re probably not hungry. Give the craving a time to pass.
  • Get support. You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or consider joining a support group.
  • Fight boredom. Instead of snacking when you’re not hungry, distract yourself and substitute a healthier behavior. Take a walk, watch a movie, play with your cat, listen to music, read, surf the Internet or call a friend.
  • Take away temptation. Don’t keep hard-to-resist comfort foods in your home. And if you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you have your emotions in check.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. When trying to lose weight, you might limit calories too much, eat the same foods repeatedly and banish treats. This may just serve to increase your food cravings, especially in response to emotions. Eat satisfying amounts of healthier foods, enjoy an occasional treat, and get plenty of variety to help curb cravings.
  • Snack healthy. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a low-fat, low-calorie snack, such as fresh fruit, vegetables with low-fat dip or unbuttered popcorn. Or try low-fat, lower calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.
  • Learn from setbacks. If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future. Focus on the positive changes you’re making in your eating habits and give yourself credit for making changes that’ll lead to better health.

When to seek professional help

If you’ve tried self-help options but you still can’t control emotional eating, consider therapy with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and learn coping skills. Therapy can also help you discover whether you have an eating disorder, which can be connected to emotional eating.


By Mayo Clinic Staff

Healthy food can be convenient, too.

You know that the oversized portions, endless bread baskets and heavy sauces at restaurants can thwart your efforts to lose weight. But do you know how many calories you’re eating at your own kitchen table or office desk from foods that were prepared outside your home? This includes takeout foods, ready-to-eat entrees, to-go pizzas and paninis, deli salads, and all the prepared foods made in your local grocery store.

If you’re eating a lot of meals that you didn’t make with your own two hands, you’re in good company. Research shows that spending on takeout and prepared foods has been on the rise in the United States for the past four decades. This trend is a serious contributor to weight gain and other health problems in adults and children.

What’s the connection? When you buy takeout or prepared foods, you’re often trading convenience for calories. Foods prepared outside your home are a timesaver, but they often contain more fatty and sugary ingredients than you would typically use at home. Plus, portions can be big. As a result, grabbing foods on the go can add a lot of calories to your day. In addition, prepared foods tend to be high in salt and low in fiber and other nutrients that help promote overall health.

A deliberate effort to curb your convenience foods or choose healthier options can make a huge difference in your weight-loss efforts. Follow these tips:

  • Eat breakfast at home, or pack it up. It’s ideal to avoid less-healthy takeout and prepared foods as much as possible. But that may seem difficult if you regularly eat on the run. Start one meal at a time. Eat a quick and healthy breakfast — such as whole-grain cereal or whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a piece of fruit — before you leave the house. Or take a healthy option — such as a banana and yogurt — with you rather than picking up a bagel or muffin at your local coffee shop.
    If your mornings are frantic, figure out what you’re going to eat the night before and set out dry ingredients and bowls to save time. Or make a t-go breakfast the night before that you can grab in the morning.
  • Pack a flavorful, healthy lunch that you look forward to eating. It doesn’t matter how healthy your packed lunch is if you skip it and head to a cafe with co-workers — or it leaves you unsatisfied and reaching for a cookie. If you look forward to a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat bread and a side of fruit every day, that’s great. If not, pack something you want to eat. Cook an extra chicken breast at dinner. Then slice it and toss it with strawberries, pecans and spinach for lunch. Or put together a whole-wheat wrap with black beans, salsa, lettuce, tomato and a few slices of avocado.
  • Bring along healthy snacks. When you leave the house, take fresh fruits and vegetables with you. Or keep them at your office. Having healthy snacks at hand will reduce your reliance on convenience foods. To save time, cut up veggies or fruit when you return from the grocery store and put them in travel containers. Or pack a few pretzels and a small container of cottage cheese for dipping.
  • Assemble simple dinners. You can assemble a quick dinner from fresh ingredients in the same amount of time it takes to wait in line at your local takeout joint. Rather than running for takeout, go to the grocery store and buy smoked salmon, a whole-wheat baguette and the fixings for a Greek salad — cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, a sprinkling of feta cheese, and red-wine vinegar and olive oil for vinaigrette. Toss together the salad ingredients and serve on a platter with the salmon and baguette.

    Better yet, put these ingredients on your shopping list and meal plan. This Greek-inspired meal will come together even more swiftly if you don’t have to stop at the store. And like any dish, the more often you make it, the quicker it is to prepare. Don’t care for salmon? Substitute water-packed canned tuna or already-cooked chicken.

Choose wisely when you buy prepared foods. Despite your best efforts to cut back on convenience foods, they may still be part of your diet occasionally. When you do purchase ready-to-eat entrees or takeout meals, avoid fried items and cheesy options. Steamed, broiled, baked or poached entrees tend to be healthier choices. Choose lower-calorie sauces and condiments. Substitute brown rice, whole-wheat bread and other whole grains as much as possible, and load up on fresh vegetables.

Pumpkin-hazelnut cake


3 tablespoon oil, canola
3/4 cup pumpkin, puree or homemade
1/2 cup honey
3 tablespoon sugar, brown (packed)
2 egg lightly beaten
1 cup flour, whole-wheat (whole-meal)
1/2 cup flour, all-purpose (plain)
2 tablespoon flax seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon nuts, hazelnuts, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the canola oil, pumpkin puree, honey, brown sugar and eggs until well blended.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, flaxseed, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and, using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat until well blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the hazelnuts evenly over the top and press down gently to lodge the nuts into the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf out of the pan onto the rack and let cool completely.
Serves 12
Nutritional Information (per 1 slice):
Calories: 176
Total Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Sodium: 80mg
Carbohydrates: 28g
Dietary Fiber: 3g
Protein: 4g