To predict your ability to lose weight permanently, take this quiz. This week the quiz probes your eating and activity, and next week the quiz will look at your behavioral readiness and other key factors. While the quiz isn't scientific, it is based on key studies as well as experts' advice. Check your score to find out if you're ready to shed those pounds for good.
1. When it comes to "sin food" such as cake, cookies or chips, you:
- Keep eating until it's gone. (-2)
- Have no problem stopping after a bite or two. (+3)
- Hunt it down like a heat-seeking missile even if it's removed from sight. (-4)
- Prefer fruits or vegetables instead. (+4)
Tufts University researchers report that if you can't be around sweet or fatty foods without overindulging or if you use food to reduce stress, you're more likely to be overweight.
2. Which of the following best describes your home?
- Chips or candy in bowls within sight. (-4)
- Fridge packed with fruits and veggies. (+2)
- Empty fridge. (-4)
- Fridge stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, and no "junk food" in the pantry or out in bowls. (+4)
Cornell University research has shown that if a snack is within sight and easy to get to, you'll eat it. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that most snacking is done at home. If you have a snack attack and there is only "good" stuff around, that's what you'll eat.
3. WHAT'S YOUR TYPICAL MEAL?
- I pile it on. (-4)
- I like to have smaller meals and eat more often. (+2)
- I don't keep track of what I eat, but my portions are probably fine. (-3)
- I occasionally keep a food diary, and I know the portion sizes for the foods I eat. (+4)
Most of us have very little idea how much we are really eating. As a general rule, assume you're eating 30 percent to 40 percent more than you think.
4. How would you describe your dieting history?
- I feel like I've spent my entire life on a diet. (-3)
- I diet only when I need to, such as for bathing-suit season or a big event. (-3)
- I'm careful about what I eat, but I never diet. (+4)
- I need to lose weight quickly or I'll lose interest. (-5)
Losing weight for good involves coming up with permanent strategies. According to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, the faster you lose weight, the more likely you are to regain it.
5. How often do you eat three or more servings of fruits and veggies (without butter or other fattening extras)?
- Daily. (+5)
- At least three days a week. (+3)
- Rarely. (-4)
- Never. (-6)
Fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in water, so you get more food for fewer calories and feel full longer.
6. How often do you drink alcohol?
- More than 10 drinks a week. (-6)
- Five to 10 drinks a week. (-3)
- One a week. (+1)
- Rarely. (+2)
Alcohol works against you in two ways: It can be high in calories (e.g., 250 calories in a 4-ounce martini); plus it decreases your ability to avoid overindulging in high-calorie foods.
7. Do you plan your meals?
- I just grab what I can when I can. (-5)
- No, I just wing it. (-4)
- I plan my dinners. (+2)
- I know what I'm going to eat for lunch and dinner. (+4)
We tend to consume more calories when we don't prepare, so think ahead.
8. How often do you eat out?
- More than 10 times a week. (-6)
- Six to 10 times a week. (-4)
- Two to five times a week. (-1)
- Once a week. (0)
- Once a month or less. (+4)
According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who eat in restaurants often are twice as likely to gain weight because restaurant foods are usually higher in calories and fat, have less fiber and the portions are larger.
9. How often do you eat at fast-food restaurants?
- More than 10 times a week. (-6)
- Six to 10 times a week. (-5)
- Two to five times a week. (-2)
- Once a week. (-1)
- Once a month or less. (+3)
Researchers reported in the British medical journal The Lancet that people who ate fast food twice a week gained 10 pounds more over 15 years than those who did so less than once a week.
10. Do you skip meals?
- I never eat breakfast; I just don't have the time. (-4)
- Lunch is a waste; I eat at dinner. (-3)
- I skip meals about three times a week. (-1)
- I never skip. (+3)
Meal-skipping causes you to overeat at your next meal. You end up consuming more calories then if you ate regularly.
11. Do you combine dieting with an increase in physical activity?
- Always. (+8)
- Sometimes. (+2)
- Never. (-10)
Research shows permanent weight loss requires combining dieting with an increase in physical activity over current levels.
A score of 30 or more: Ph.D. in dieting.
15 to 29: Nutritionist.
0 to 14: Changes necessary.
-15 to -1: Need a game plan.
-25 to -16: Overhaul required.
-26 or lower: Seek assistance from a professional.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate. Write to email@example.com.