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VIA THAT’S FIT:

So, you ate, drank and made merry all through the holiday season. And now … what a hangover! And not the boozy kind, either. We’re talking about what’s drooping over the top of your jeans. Americans gain an average of seven to 12 pounds during the holiday season. But beyond what the scale says, America’s favorite doctor, Mehmet Oz, M.D. — better known as Dr. Oz — believes there’s an even more important number for you to focus on than your weight in pounds (or kilos as the case may be): It’s your waist in inches. “Your waist should be half of your height,” he says. In other words, if you’re, say, 5 foot, 5 inches, your waist — measured at your belly button — should be no more than 32 and a half inches around. “If it’s more than that, you have too much belly fat.” And belly fat, adds Dr. Oz, is a big problem because the fat we carry around our trunks, the stuff that’s deep in our abdomens, under the muscles, is the stuff that’ll kill you. “That belly fat does three things,” Dr. Oz explains. “It crushes the kidneys, which leads to high blood pressure. It poisons the liver which leads to more lousy LDL cholesterol being produced. And it prevents insulin in the body from working, so you end up with diabetes.” Here, Dr. Oz, host of the Dr. Oz Show and co-author (with Michael Roizen, M.D.) of the best-selling YOU: On A Diet, which was just reissued, provides 12 tips for getting your body — and your belly — back.

1.Clear out the pantry and fridge.

Sure, it is a little early for spring cleaning, but tossing out all of the junky snacks and drinks and any other noshables that might derail your diet plans helps put you in the right mind-set for eating healthfully and losing weight. “You’re taking out all of the things that tempt you and making it easy on yourself to do the right thing,” explains Dr. Oz.

2. Make simple substitutions.

If the idea of making over your entire diet just seems too daunting, relax. Ease in to better eating by making small changes that can yield big results, according to Dr. Oz. Let’s say you love juice in the morning. Drink cranberry or tomato rather than orange juice because they’re lower in sugar. Or, switch from soft drinks (even diet sodas) to water. Sure diet sodas have no calories, but says Dr. Oz, anything made with artificial sweeteners can trick the brain into thinking it’s real sugar.

3. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Hard to believe thatsack time equates with your waist line, but it’s true. People who sleep less than seven to eight hours a night tend to weigh more while those who turn in early tend to weigh less. One reason for that, says Dr. Oz, is that when we go to bed early, we simply have less time to snack after dinner. Some research suggests that you can knock 220 calories out of your diet simply by not staying up to watch late night TV. In addition, when we’re tired we also crave carbohydrates. That may be because we’re instinctively looking for quick energy sources, but also because when we’re tired and our willpower is on hiatus, we’re more apt to reach for the quick and easy comfort foods.

4.Don’t starve yourself.

It’s a classic dieter’s mistake — you must be losing weight if you’re feeling hungry. Nothing could be further from the truth, says Dr. Oz. In fact, when you’re hungry, your body actually fights your weight loss efforts. “If you eat too few calories, your brain senses the starvation and sends an SOS signal to through the body, telling it to store more fat,” he explains. “You keep your body from going into starvation mode’ by not under-eating.” How do you know if you’re under-eating? “Never let yourself get hungry,” counsels Dr. Oz. “When you don’t eat enough, you feel hungry, and you risk over-eating. Instead, eat evenly spaced, small amounts of food.”

5. Don’t beat yourself up if you “cheat.”

Hey, everyone occasionally has an off day, when, say the desire to eat a few … okay, 10… chocolate chip cookies gets the better of us. When that happens, says Dr. Oz, don’t brow-beat yourself. Instead, “recognize your mistake and recognize what let to your mistake, then get back on track.” Some of Dr. Oz’s quick and easy suggestions for getting back on the program — and feeling better about your progress: Take a five-minute walk, toss out a calorie-rich or otherwise unhealthy food you’re still holding on to (like the rest of that bag of cookies); write out your meal plan for tomorrow. “Doing something small and easily attainable, keeps you moving in the right direction,” he says.

6. Eat hot peppers for breakfast.

“When you eat spicy foods for breakfast, it reduces your appetite at lunch,” says Dr. Oz. It’s thought that spicy peppers (habanero, poblano, even red pepper sauce or red pepper flakes) affect the satiety center in your brain so you’re not as hungry later on. “It’s a big, robust taste that’s satiating,” says Dr. Oz. His meal suggestion: Slice hot red peppers into an omelet, or include them in a breakfast wrap.

7.When you’re hungry, drink some water.

Our bodies can’t always tell the difference between hunger and thirst because the hormones in our guts that tell us we’re hungry are very similar to the hormones that get produced when we’re also thirsty. “To figure out what your body really needs when you feel hungry, drink a glass or two of water,” says Dr. Oz. “If the craving goes away and you feel more satisfied, you have your answer.” If plain old water leaves you cold, try calorie-free fruit-flavored waters. The trick is not to add additional, and empty, calories with your beverages. “Your thirst center doesn’t care whether it’s getting zero-calorie water or a mega-calorie frappe.”

8.Eat with the TV off.

The age of TiVo and DVR, not to mention downloading your favorite shows from network and cable sites to watch later, means never having to worry about missing something important on TV, so go ahead and turn it off while you’re eating. People eat more when the TV’s on, explains Dr. Oz. That’s because when you get caught up in, say, Dancing With The Stars, you stop noticing what you’re eating and don’t recognize when you’re full.

9. Use smaller plates.

Having your meals on a salad plate, rather than an enormous dinner plate helps your weight loss efforts by tricking your brain into believing you’re eating more because smaller plates make regular-size portions look larger. When we believe we’re eating more, we tend not to overeat. Plus, when we use a larger plate, we’re also tempted to fill it up and clean it off. Research shows that we reflexively eat about a third more when food is served on larger platters or containers because we need that visual cue — the clean plate — to help us feel satisfied.

10. Look for ways to include exercise in your everyday activities.

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: Take the stairs, not the escalator. Park at the far end of the lot and walk to the supermarket. Park at the opposite end of the mall from the store you’re shopping at. Instead of lunch dates, make a walking date with a friend or take the dog out for a long romp. Use the restroom that’s on the floor below yours at work. Walk around your office or take a walk during your break. These are all tricks for working exercise into your daily activities. “Every step helps,” says Dr. Oz.

11. Eat with the TV off.

The age of TiVo and DVR, not to mention downloading your favorite shows from network and cable sites to watch later, means never having to worry about missing something important on TV, so go ahead and turn it off while you’re eating. People eat more when the TV’s on, explains Dr. Oz. That’s because when you get caught up in, say, Dancing With The Stars, you stop noticing what you’re eating and don’t recognize when you’re full.

12. Look for ways to include exercise in your everyday activities.

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: Take the stairs, not the escalator. Park at the far end of the lot and walk to the supermarket. Park at the opposite end of the mall from the store you’re shopping at. Instead of lunch dates, make a walking date with a friend or take the dog out for a long romp. Use the restroom that’s on the floor below yours at work. Walk around your office or take a walk during your break. These are all tricks for working exercise into your daily activities. “Every step helps,” says Dr. Oz.

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