There are three interconnected ideas involved in knowing how to diet successfully. First, it is important to know what kind of sugar (carbohydrate) you're eating. Are you eating a fast-burning sugar like French fries, or are you eating a slow-burning sugar like oatmeal? The problem with French fries is not so much their fat content; rather, they are a fast-burning sugar that will make you feel full for only a short time. The oatmeal, on the other hand, will make you feel full for a longer period of time. This is the secret to knowing how to diet successfully: eat more slow-burning foods than fast-burning foods. The Glycemic Index (GI) is the technical way of understanding how the food you eat affects your blood-sugar. A high GI indicates a fast-burning sugar; a low GI indicates a slow-burning sugar. French fries have a GI of 95, whereas oatmeal has a GI of 40. Many great foods have low GIs. Take dark chocolate, for example. It's GI is 22! And apricots, when not overly ripe, have a GI of 15! If you're going to eat bananas, that's great, but don't wait until they're really ripe either--because as they become more mature their GI also increases. GI also depends on how you cook your food. Many people are wary of pasta, but spaghetti actually has quite a low GI at 45 when it's not over-cooked.
Second, it is important to understand whether your food is highly processed, or if it is a whole food. The easy way to find out is to take a look at the label. Does it have a list of ingredients a mile long? Or does it have just one, two, or three ingredients? For example, are you eating a packaged burrito with "natural and artificial flavors," or are you eating rice and beans you made at home yourself? The benefit of eating whole-foods is that they will give you more energy, and just generally help you to feel better. And when you feel better, it's easier to battle the temptation of making less healthy food choices. The irony is that many food products with long ingredients lists are marketed to people who are trying to lose weight. (For example, energy bars and weight-loss shakes.) Luckily, not all food products with long ingredients lists are problematic choices for those wishing to manage their weight. The trick in discerning between the problematic ones and the ones that are okay is looking to see if the ingredients are natural or artificial. The artificial ingredients take their toll on the body, ultimately making it harder to make healthy food choices.
Third, knowing how to diet successfully involves eating smaller portions more often. Contrary to popular wisdom, keeping your weight where you want it does not usually mean eating less. Nor does it mean cutting-out fatty foods. Nor does it mean burning more calories in exercise each day than you consume through eating. What it does mean is being careful not to overindulge in one sitting. It's much easier to avoid the temptation to eat too much in one sitting if you don't let yourself get too hungry. This just takes a bit of planning. Take snacks such as mixed nuts with you wherever you go so you can eat when you feel hungry. Eating less more often is a great way to improve your metabolism (your body's natural ability to burn the food you eat.) It's also helpful to eat slowly so your brain has time to register what you're eating. It's much easier to eat slowly when you're not hungry, so remember not to starve yourself all day long and then overindulge when you finally get a chance to eat.
Knowing how to diet successfully does not have to be painful! Exercise is important in maintaining good health, but too often I see people running on a treadmill for hours on end, torturing themselves just to burn a few calories. Often, I find out that those same people don't eat after they exercise because they feel accomplished in burning all those calories, and they don't want to replace them right away by eating immediately afterwards. This is a faulty way of dieting successfully. No wonder so many people have trouble with their weight: they believe knowing how to diet successfully involves torture! Ultimately, knowing how to diet successfully should be enjoyable and make you feel great. Now go have that dark chocolate and apricot desert you've been craving!