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4 Dieting Rules You Can Break

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If living with your parents taught you anything, it's that the more rules there are, the more you want to break them. And losing weight can seem like nothing but rules.

Fortunately, rebellion has its advantages: Disregarding strict food guidelines could be the secret to a successful slim-down. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people with a flexible approach to eating-one that allows for sweets and other perceived slip-ups-had a better record of maintaining weight loss than dieters with an "all or nothing" strategy.

How can you do it without skidding into a diet danger zone? We got top nutrition pros to confess the supposedly vital weight-loss principles they violate. Employ their secrets to stay satisfied without gaining an ounce.

Dieting Rule #1: Eat five small meals a day

Who breaks it? Renee Melton, R. D., director of nutrition services for the mobile weight-loss program Sensei."My schedule doesn't give me time to prepare healthy snacks, much less eat them, so I make sure I get what I need in three squares a day."

Why you can, too. The "graze, don't gorge" philosophy is based on the premise that having frequent small meals keeps your blood sugar steady, your metabolism ramped up, and your appetite in check. But some studies show a link between obesity and eating more than three times a day, most notably in women. More frequent noshing means more opportunities to overeat. Plus, says Melton, having to constantly think about what you're going to eat can be stressful, especially for emotional eaters.

Do it right. To keep hunger pangs from overriding your willpower throughout the day, eat fiber-rich foods at mealtimes—they make you feel fuller and take longer to digest. Shoot for 21 to 25 grams a day, starting with a high-fiber grain cereal like Kashi's GoLean with low-fat milk and fruit. For lunch and dinner, Melton says, fill half your plate with produce, a quarter with carbs, and the other quarter with lean protein.

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