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    Five Simple Eating Rules

    Excerpted from
    Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover
    By Bob Greene

    The exercises you'll be doing during the next 12 weeks will help your body operate more efficiently and maximize the burning of calories. But there are also other things you can do to help ensure that optimal fat loss will occur. The five rules in this chapter sound simple-and they are-but that doesn't prevent them from having a big impact on many people's efforts to shape up. The level of impact, of course, will depend on what your eating habits are like now. If, for instance, you are a night eater (and I find that so many people are), the rule "Have an eating cutoff time" can cause big changes in your weight. Do you remember Shawn's story? A chronic middle-of-the-night eater, she found that just following the cutoff rule was the first thing that really got some of the pounds to budge. Elizabeth found that eliminating alcohol really helps her have more energy to exercise.

    These rules are tested and true, and there's a good chance that they will be all you need, besides exercise, to transform yourself totally. In my experience working with clients, the vast majority of people who stick with them never need to go on a formal diet. The small percentage of those who don't respond completely can then opt to try a diet, which is an option for you as well at the end of the 12 weeks. If you're extremely impatient, you can even do so sooner, although I counsel patience-you may be surprised at how well you do with these five rules alone.

    I should make it clear that despite the fact that I'm not asking you to follow a formal diet during this 12-week program, I do expect you to make an effort to choose healthful foods. The five rules I'm presenting here will help you do that, and so, indirectly, will the exercise program. Knowing that you have a demanding schedule ahead of you each day should give you the incentive to eat well. While overeating or bingeing on fatty, salty, and sugary foods will put a crimp in your ability to work out, consuming nutritious foods will give you the energy and nutrients you need to perform well. Avoid those foods, and you'll likely find yourself feeling sluggish and hard pressed to finish the activities you have committed yourself to. Exercise can make you feel great, but only if you support it with the proper fuel.

    One of the most important rules is: Make eating a conscious act. What this mainly refers to is stopping emotional eating, a habit that undermines so many people's efforts to reshape their bodies. The definition of emotional eating is eating for emotional reasons and not due to true physical hunger. It may be a response to stress or boredom; to fill a void or soothe pain; to calm the mind or provide comfort in the face of fear, frustration, or regret. Emotional eating can even be eating to create a body that serves as a protective barrier, keeping others out both physically and emotionally.

    If you are struggling with emotional eating, look at dealing with it as an opportunity for you to improve your life. Emotional eating is often not an eating problem as much as it is a symptom of other, larger problems. Look at the work you'll be doing to eliminate it as a blessing, because ultimately it's going to help you address the issues that are truly at the heart of your depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, or whatever it is that's making you turn to food for comfort.

    Many people who eat for emotional reasons aren't even aware of it. But even if you do know what's driving you to consume food to mask your emotions, emotional eating is hard to shake. Food used this way is like a drug; it's addictive. And although there is no way you will ever alleviate your spiritual and emotional hunger by eating, giving up the habit can be a serious challenge.

    Making a sincere attempt to do so now is important not only for your psychological well-being but because emotional eating can weaken your efforts to succeed in this 12-week program.

    Many times, when people who eat for emotional reasons succumb to a binge, they become so angry at themselves for indulging that they question why they're even trying to change their bodies. Unfairly, they take it as a confirmation that they don't deserve what it is they seek, and often they lose their resolve and end up quitting. Emotional eating can make you feel hopeless and incapable of doing the work necessary to create dramatic change. That's why it's so important to address emotional eating. The truth is, emotional eating isn't something that can typically be stopped overnight; you may, in fact, end up managing it more than vanquishing it completely.

    The good news is that people do it. Successful people face up to the fact that they're eating for emotional reasons, and they make progress in limiting their emotional eating-and sometimes even eliminate it altogether. But perhaps most important, they identify what is making them turn to food, then call on their inner strength to alter the core aspect of their life that's driving the emotional eating. Even if they still find that they turn to food for comfort on occasion, they have gotten to the root of the problem, and that's what counts.

    Eating consciously as well as following the other four simple eating rules may be just as critical to your success as every weight you lift and every minute you spend on your aerobic exercise. Put them onto your schedule as a reminder that you won't just be following an exercise prescription during the 12 weeks; you'll also be supporting your workouts with healthy eating and drinking habits.

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