It’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through January. And there’s a good chance all those New Year’s intentions to eat better are starting to wane in the face of a busy post-holiday, return-t0-work routine. One way to stay on track is to join a group challenge, and there are a number of national diet and fitness challenges currently underway. You can start them anytime.
“I am going to do the Small Plate Movement Challenge and start eating dinner from a salad plate,” says Health magazine associate editor Shaun Chavis. “I love eating food from bowls, so I’ll have to find some smaller ones.” (Check out Shaun’s awesome weight-loss blog for Health.com.) Here’s the deal on the Small Plate Movement and four other (free!) challenges you can join:
For portion control: This year, Shaun is accepting the Small Plate Movement Challenge, which was developed by Brian Wansink, PhD. Wansink is a psychologist who heads up the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. He has done fascinating research on food behavior, including the influence of plate size on how much we eat. It’s pretty simple: When we eat off larger plates (and dinner plates have gotten larger over the last couple of decades), we consume more food. The Small Plate Movement challenges participants to eat the largest meal of the day off a 10-inch plate for one month. It’s a simple challenge, and an easy way to start controlling portion sizes.
To keep an eye on what you eat: Munching while distracted (i.e., mindlessly) leads to consuming unwanted calories. The National Mindless Eating Challenge is another of Wansink’s projects; it allows you to customize weekly and monthly goals, for which Wansink offers research-supported tips to improve your chances of success.
To improve your overall diet: The editors of EatingWell magazine have designed the EatingWell Diet Challenge, which you can start anytime. The 12-week program has interactive tools, tips, and research to help you set realistic goals and meet them. I really like this one, because it anticipates obstacles, like weight-loss plateaus and overeating triggers.
Short and sweet: If you just need to kick-start better eating habits, try the Dairy Council of California’s Meals Matter Nutrition and Fitness Challenge. Designed by registered dietitians, “the Challenge has three weeks of diet, fitness, and lifestyle assessment and improvement through interactive tools,” says Sara Floor Miller, the council’s communications manager. Miller has accepted the challenge. “I’m already planning to increase my excercise by walking my dogs. I’m also planning to be more dilligent about planning and preparing healthy meals.”
Extra incentive: Register for Discovery Health’s National Body Challenge, and you’ll get a free 30-day membership to Bally’s health clubs–in addition to free online tools to set and track your diet and fitness resolutions.