RISMEDIA, Jan. 30, 2007-(MSN.com)-Here is a switch in eating that you will no doubt savor: Look to eat certain foods each day instead of worrying about what foods to avoid. Let's call them feel-great foods. They will change your whole attitude from "can't have" to "can do."
Just ask Patrick D'Amelio, the 40-something chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Seattle and Tacoma.
Patrick is an accomplished fund-raiser and admired community member. But in his personal life, Patrick struggled. He was 60 pounds overweight and didn't feel 100% physically, mentally or spiritually. He feared his years of yo-yo dieting and crash workout programs were catching up with him.
Patrick discovered feel-great foods and my nutritionist's approach to eating, the "Good Mood Diet," which is based on 25 years of working with clients ranging from professional athletes to working mothers.
Within the first week, Patrick said, his energy level shot upward. After one month he'd lost 16 pounds, then 35 pounds after three months. Best of all, he dropped the weight almost without thinking about it.
All he did was select from the list of feel-great foods for most of his meal and snack choices. He quickly memorized his favorites, including nuts of all kinds, part-skim mozzarella string cheese, and even burgers (on whole wheat buns).
The eating plan, detailed in my new book The Good Mood Diet: Feel Great While You Lose Weight (Springboard Press) is a kinder, gentler approach to taking care of yourself. No more self-abuse through deprivation. No more days with so little energy that you can barely get out of bed. No more days where you feel so mean that you hurt the people you love or ignore the coworkers who are most critical to your job success.
The list of feel-great foods is your starter kit for wiping away those uneven days. Follow the list and you start to eat to feel good from the first day. That's what I hear over and over from clients. Plus, feel-great foods is backed by dozens of studies that connect food to mood (which are listed and explained in the book).
Don't worry. The weight loss will take care of itself. Some of the feel-great foods are the usual suspects, such as fruits and vegetables. But nutrition research clearly shows certain fruits and veggies are super mood-boosters, either fresh or flash-frozen: Bananas, blueberries, broccoli, dark and leafy greens, mangoes, oranges, pomegranates, spinach and strawberries.
In terms of fruit, be sure to get at least one serving of citrus every day and one of berries (eat frozen during the off-season). That's the best approach for putting yourself in a good mood. Put those berries on breakfast cereal (skip the sugar-coated varieties). Cold cereal, one of life's great comfort foods, has been unfairly maligned in the recent overly carb-conscious years.
You also can eat an egg a day, drink a strong cup of coffee in the morning, enjoy a bowl of chili for lunch, eat nuts or string cheese at snack time and order tacos or steak or a pork chop for dinner. Doesn't that put in you in a better mood already?
I developed this list of Feel-Great Foods from years of working with a wide array of clients including elite athletes, businesspeople and mothers with young kids. There is good science to prove its effectiveness, and even better real-life trial-and-error evidence.
Here's one example: Several years ago I worked with an NBA all-star who had fallen into clinical depression. It didn't matter how fit he was, he couldn't perform on the basketball court. It was my job not only to get him back into playing shape, but to help restore his mental focus. I designed his diet with both of these goals in mind, drawing liberally from the Feel-Great Foods list.
The results were amazing-in five weeks he lowered his body fat by 10% and boosted his mental energy, physical energy, focus and exuberance sufficiently to return to his usual activities and training with a renewed drive to win.
Here's an important part of the program that this athlete-and every client-loves. Even if you eat something that makes my Feel-Bad Foods list, you still need to eat your daily share of Feel-Great Foods. Don't count calories.
I don't care if you ate half of a chocolate cake five minutes ago; I still want you to eat all the foods on the plan that make you feel great. As long as you keep feeling great, you won't eat the other half of the cake. The guilt that comes with popular deprivation diets will just drive you to eat more cake, not to get back on track.
The Feel-Great Foods list includes all sorts of possibilities for your daily meals and snacks: Omelets, burritos, turkey/ham sub sandwiches (boost your mood with a liberal glug of that ubiquitous Feel-Great Food, olive oil, and skip the mayo) or barbecued chicken. Hot cocoa and a moderate amount of red wine are OK, too. In fact, I urge clients to finish every day with a cup of hot cocoa.
Here are more Feel-Great selections: Garlic, ginger, green tea and-not to be overlooked-water. My new book has a more extensive list, along with 14 days of menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and two daily snacks, including recipes. I also discuss how to outfit your kitchen for Feel-Great Food preparation, and even help you improve your mood when you travel and commute.
One of my goals for every client is that they never feel famished at any point during the day or week.
"I was never hungry, not once," Patrick says, looking back on his first 12 weeks when he lost 35 pounds but notched even more meaningful changes. "It was almost like I was glowing. The weight loss was more like, ‘Oh, right, you lost weight too.' "