It can be a big leap from taking your bathing suit out of storage to being willing to wear it in public. Maybe a 10-pound leap. This is the moment when all those excuses about needing extra insulation to keep the cold weather from hitting your bones wear thin as you reveal a thickened torso. It is the season of the crash diet. And, much as we and every other reasonable source will tell you that crash diets aren't a good idea, we know that you'll go ahead anyway. So here is a collection of diet tips, safe and sound ways to cut calories, one hint a day to last you through Flag Day and the start of the bikini season.
1 Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.
2 When dining out, eat something small -- for instance, a modest salad or half a piece of fruit -- a half hour before dinner, either before you leave home or as an appetizer. It cuts your appetite before you face heavy temptation.
3 Prepare and eat a low-calorie vegetable or salad as soon as you get home from work, and only after that decide what else to have for dinner, after your strongest pangs are appeased. And drink a glass of water before dinner. It, too, makes you feel fuller before you gorge.
4 Several small meals are easier to control and may make you feel more satisfied than fewer larger ones.
5 Portion your food before you sit down to eat it, rather than serving it family style. It avoids tempting yourself with larger or second portions.
6 In a restaurant, set aside what you don't intend to eat, and have plates removed as soon as you are done so you don't continue nibbling.
7 The prettier the plate, the more satisfying the eating. When cooking for yourself, arrange fruit and vegetable garnishes colorfully, cut meat into small slices or strips.
8 At a party decide ahead how many hors d'oeuvres you will eat, and pace them -- for instance, one every 45 minutes. In between, station yourself by the crudite's, just out of reach of the dips. Drink club soda with a dash of bitters, and don't mention you are on a diet.
9 Think fats. Look for hidden possibilities: Fat might be incorporated into cream soups (whereas in clear soups it would float and could be removed), or in sauces or in sauced meats.
10 Blot your soup, if it is greasy, or vegetables if they are buttery, with paper towel, napkin, icy lettuce leaf or ice cube wrapped in napkin.
11 A baked potato is only 100 to 150 calories. To make it into a fuller meal, split it open while it is still hot, season well and break an egg into it. Wrap in foil and return to the oven until the egg is cooked -- 10 to 15 minutes, a filling 250 calories. Skip the butter with a plain baked potato, and instead top it with yogurt or a squeeze of lemon juice.
12 Share helpings with the dog (worry about the dog's diet later).
13 If you need a crunchy snack, consider pretzels -- big fat Pennsylvania Dutch ones made with no shortening cost only 50 calories each. Popcorn cooked without oil is also calorically cheap; to make the salt stick to unoiled popcorn, moisten your hands, pour the salt on your hands and rub it on the popcorn.
14 Serve yourself rather than letting someone else portion your food.
15 When cutting down on calories, make sure those calories consumed are nutritionally meaningful and pleasant to eat.
16 Eat slowly; this is probably the most important physical adjustment in dieting.
17 In restaurants, order foods that take a lot of time to eat: steamed crabs, artichokes.
18 Use small utensils -- a teaspoon for soup, a demitasse spoon for dessert -- to slow down your consumption.
19 Eat things that are very hot and things that require utensils, particularly that need cutting. This also slows down the pace of eating.
20 Clear foods off counters and tables; keep them out of sight.
21 Negotiate with the rest of the family about which foods can be kept in the house and which should be banned.
22 Make low-calorie foods more available than high-calorie foods.
23 Don't eat in cars, or standing up, or walking. Eat only in specified places and situations.
24 Eat only when doing nothing else but savoring every bite; don't eat when reading or watching television.
25 Keep skinned, poached chicken breasts on hand for quick sandwiches and snacks. Poach those chicken breasts in water or broth with strong flavorings -- curry, bay leaves, cumin, mustard, chilies, chili powder, Caribbean hot sauce or salsa.
26 Weigh yourself no more than once a week, and take that weight change seriously.
27 When impulse buying tempts you, remember that people make careers out of trying to tempt you into buying fattening things.
28 Instead of avoiding your favorite foods, manage them. Have some, but control how much. And if you binge at one meal, don't even think of giving up; just start afresh with the next.
29 Concentrate on enjoying every bite you eat instead of eating more -- for instance, a whole box of cookies -- than you actually need for enjoyment.
30 Plan your eating, even if only five seconds before you start. Don't eat spontaneously.
31 Eat when you are hungry rather than by the clock. If you don't eat a little when you are hungry you are in danger of pigging out at mealtime.
32 Defy convention when necessary; order two appetizers and a salad at a restaurant rather than a large entree.
33 Always leave at least one bite on your plate. Learn that eating the last bite may be more wasteful than leaving it.
34 Store leftovers in the freezer.
35 In restaurants, ask for vegetables to be steamed and unbuttered, served with lemon instead of sauce.
36 Ask for grilled dishes to be basted with wine or lemon juice rather than butter or oil.
37 Concoct your own low-calorie salad dressing in a restaurant. Try mustard, hot sauce and vinegar; or splash your salad with a little of your virgin mary or tomato juice, or with soy sauce.
38 Once more: Exercise.