100 days away Start shaping up now for summer

Connie Midey The Arizona Republic Apr. 4, 2006 12:00 AM

One hundred days from today - July 13 - puts you smack in the middle of vacation and reunion season.


Time to get serious about improving your eating habits if you've been dreaming of hiking into the Grand Canyon this summer with energy to spare or basking in former classmates' admiring looks when they spot the leaner, lovelier-than-ever you.

"Short-term external goals - I want to be able to wear a bathing suit, I'm seeing my family and want to look good - are absolutely powerful," says registered nurse Linda Spangle, author of 100 Days of Weight Loss: The Secret to Being Successful on Any Diet Plan (SunQuest Media, 2006, $14.95 paperback).

Internal goals, such as improving health and self-esteem, are equally important, she says in a phone interview from her Denver-area office. But having a vacation or other event on your calendar "gives you something to work towards."

It's the difference between driving aimlessly in the desert and hoping to arrive somewhere, sometime, or following a chosen route that takes you to your destination by a specific date, she says.

Counseling thousands of clients through her Weight Loss for Life program, Spangle realized the value of establishing a time frame and finding the motivation to stick with it. Most people, she says, fall off a diet after three or four weeks.

"If you work toward your goal every day for 100 days, you're making progress and learning something each day," she says, "and in the end, you'll find that you've made long-term changes."

Here are strategies from Spangle to help you through the first seven of your next 100 days of weight loss:

Don't be a sneak eater. Instead of creeping into the kitchen after everyone's asleep, enjoy that cookie or piece of pie in the presence of others. This forces you to be honest with yourself and to savor the food, instead of gobbling it down before anyone sees you. The tactic is especially important when you're consuming your favorite foods, she says.

Write it, don't bite it. You're thinking, "I could really go for a brownie right now," even though you're not really hungry. List the food you crave in what Spangle calls a "magic notebook." Writing it down serves as a promise to yourself that you can have the brownie later. "It's a way to let it go and get past the craving," she says.

Try two bites. Focus on those yummy mouthfuls, registering the flavors and texture. Then stop. "The first two bites have the most flavor," Spangle says. "If you're eating because of an emotional need and not because you're hungry, they are the only ones that really have any power. You won't feel better eating more. In fact, you'll quickly say, 'Oh, man, why am I doing this? I can't believe what a wretch I am.' "

Question your motives. If you find yourself gazing into the refrigerator or cupboards for something - anything - to eat, ask yourself if you're physically hungry or searching for something else. Do you need to take a walk? Do so. Hear encouraging words from a friend? Pick up the phone. "Food is the consolation prize," Spangle says. "So many times, it's not even close to what you really want."

Postpone eating. At a party or other gathering, decide that you can eat anything you want - but only in the last 10 minutes or so of the event. Then enjoy the treats, comforted by the knowledge that you won't have time to overindulge. "So much of what goes on with eating patterns is mind over matter," Spangle says. "If you say, 'I can't resist this,' you're absolutely right. If you say, 'I can handle anything,' you'll also be absolutely right."

Set a timer. No matter how little you may be eating, set the timer for 20 minutes and make the food last until it rings.

Stop taste triggers. If you feel addicted to the taste and texture of certain foods - M&M's, for example, or tortilla chips - and can't stop until they're gone, try switching flavors. Brush your teeth or pop an Altoids mint into your mouth.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8120

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