The path to losing weight is never easy. We face obstacles and challenges, and there's a lot of give and take as we seek to incorporate healthy habits into our lives. But heart experts agree that we can combat possible setbacks by keeping ourselves out of specific situations and environments. At a recent meeting of the American Heart Association, researchers presented a yearlong study that revealed dieters were most likely to sabotage their diets when eating out at restaurants.
Researchers used a smartphone app to monitor the behavior of 150 overweight individuals—most of whom were women—trying to stick to a daily weight-loss plan. The dieters checked in on the app up to five times each day to report where they were, who they were with, and whether they had strayed from their eating plan or even felt the temptation to do so. Any time the participants ate or considered eating foods or portion sizes that disagreed with their eating plan, they logged this information into the app. The researchers were able to identify clear patterns from this data—namely that dieters reported the most temptations when in a restaurant or bar, and when they were in the presence of other people eating.
These are the high-risk situations you're vulnerable to, so you need to keep your guard up and practice strategies for sticking with your plan.
"You might think that everybody knows they're at higher risk when they go into a restaurant, but people go out into these toxic environments and they forget," says Lora Burke, the study's lead author and a professor of nursing at the University of Pittsburgh. Participants had about a 60% chance of giving into these temptations when at restaurants and around others who were eating. Burke noted that people might rationalize this behavior, seeing dining out as an excuse to take a break from their eating plan. "We remind people that it's not a diet they can go on and off; it's a lifestyle," she says. "It's okay if they want to go out Friday night and eat wings, but then they need to cut back on Thursday and Saturday."
So if you're looking to fight any temptations to stray from your eating plan, one of the first things you can do is steer clear of restaurants and keep social eating to a minimum. Because of the app, Burke and her team are able to directly say to individuals, "These are the high-risk situations you're vulnerable to, so you need to keep your guard up and practice strategies for sticking with your plan." While the app they used for the study isn't on the market, knowing restaurants and bars are high-risk places for most is something to keep in mind if you're struggling to stick to your weight-loss plan.
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