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6 Diet Rules to Break

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. He probably wasn't referring to dieting, but he could have been. If you've tried the same weight-loss tricks month after month without losing pounds, maybe it's time for something completely different. It turns out most time-honored dieting decrees don't benefit everyone. In fact, they might be sabotaging your efforts. Here's how to rewrite the rules and finally drop pounds in a way that works for you.

By Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

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Yo-yo diet
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Old Rule: Stay off the scale. Don't focus on numbers—instead, zero in on how you feel and how your clothes fit.

Break It: Regularly stepping on the scale is actually linked to better results, according to findings from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), the largest investigation of successful, long-term losers. Among people who dropped at least 30 pounds and kept them off for a year or more, those who weighed themselves most frequently had the lowest Body Mass Index (BMI). People who slacked off on weigh-ins were more likely to regain their lost pounds—and report a greater loss of control around food—than those who kept up with them. Researchers say getting on a scale regularly is crucial because you can catch (and rein in) a small slipup before it becomes a big problem.

Revised Plan: Step on the scale first thing every morning. But here's the catch: "Use the number only to find out if what you're doing is working," says NWCR researcher J. Graham Thomas, PhD. "Don't let the number determine how you're going to feel about yourself that day." If you're up 2 pounds from last week, scale back on after-dinner snacking or pack your lunch instead of grabbing takeout. Down a pound? Stay the course and keep up with your healthy habits.

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