5. Feeding your thirst. If you're not sure whether you're hungry or thirsty, assume it's the latter. Drink a water or tea and see how you feel. Some research even suggests drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before breakfast, lunch, and dinner may help you manage hunger and eat less.
6. The food environment. Commercials on TV hawk junk food. Billboards for fast-food restaurants bombard you on the road. "We're in a society that really lends itself to eating a lot," says Kahan. Without addressing these saboteurs, he says, it's "almost overwhelmingly difficult" to lost weight. His solution: "Engineer your environment." At home, do a junk-food purge. At work, avoid the treats in the kitchen and lobby your coworkers to hide the Hershey's Kisses and go on a healthy-eating kick with you.
7. Saving up calories to eat junk. A couple hundred calories a day for an indulgence is OK, but don't get carried away. "You could eat a bag of chips 'til the cows come home, but that's not going to make you satisfied," says Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, a dietitian at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Without enough protein and fiber, you'll be ravenous an hour later and blow your calorie limit.
8. Medications you take. It's worth a check with your doctor if you don't know whether weight gain is a side effect of a medicine you're on. Psychiatric medications to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, along with heart medications like beta blockers, commonly cause weight gain. While treating the primary condition is most important, says Kahan, you may be able to find a substitute sans the side effect.
9. Your family and friends. This can manifest in many ways. Maybe it's too heartbreaking to turn down grandma when she insists you have a third helping of her double-fried chicken. Or the rest of the family isn't on a diet, meaning some junk foods linger to tempt you. Perhaps your nights out with friends always revolve around food-and-drink binges. No wonder a 2007 report in the New England Journal of Medicine found that one's chance of becoming obese increase by 57 percent if a close friend becomes obese.
10. Yourself. Don't be overly restrictive. "If you set too many limits on yourself, you get bored and resentful. And that, mentally, will hinder your weight loss," says Tanner-Blasiar. Aim for slow and steady, shedding maybe a couple pounds a week, and don't obsess over the scale. You didn't gain the weight over the course of a couple weeks; likewise, it'll take more than that to lose it.
Above all, remember: "You can't be perfect. You can't be perfect in your relationships, in your job, in your life—certainly not in your weight-loss attempts," says Kahan. "There's nothing wrong with having a piece of cake on your birthday. There's nothing wrong with trying to aim for moderation."
This article has replaced an earlier article by Sarah Baldauf.