I spent years trying one diet or another, jumping on the latest fads with reckless enthusiasm. I’ve gone to Weight Watchers numerous times—I was even on Weight Watchers way back in the 1970s when they wanted you to have fish five meals a week and liver at one. We couldn’t get decent fish so I was awash that year in canned tuna. I’ve tried fasting, and counting calories and counting fat grams. I remember the Grapefruit Diet with particular horror; I have always hated grapefruit and being forced to eat it meant I was actually vomiting every day. Yes, I lost weight. No, I didn’t stay on that one for long.
In college, I decided I would put my food intake in God’s hands. I believe my rationale wasn’t so much that God would perform a miracle as thinking I couldn’t cheat or God would be mad at me. Yep, I had me some magical thinking going on there!
I lost a lot of weight on NutriSystem; more than I intended or they wanted me to lose so I carried five-pound weights in my pockets whenever I got weighed. I’m not quite sure how I thought I was going to maintain my weight when the diet consisted of NutriSystem providing all the meals. Once you hit your goal weight, you didn’t eat those meals anymore. Lost a lot, gained back more.
I have become convinced that there is one good way to determine what diet will work for you: figure out what you hate the most about diets. Just start with “I hate dieting because…” and fill in the list of reasons after that.
“I hate dieting because I feel hungry all the time.”
“I hate dieting because I feel deprived.”
“I hate dieting because I have to make separate meals for myself.”
“I hate dieting because I spend all my time cutting up vegetables for lunch.”
“I hate dieting because I can’t eat carbs.”
This is what I learned during my path to health: If you are working to lose weight as a way to a healthy lifestyle, how you choose to lose weight needs to be the foundation of what you are going to do for the rest of your life. I absolutely believe this to be true. I hated dieting because I didn’t enjoy the foods I was eating on my diet. Perhaps I could have added more foods after I achieved my goal weight, but the core of my maintenance diet would still be foods I disliked. That is not sustainable. I have expert taste buds and they would rise up in protest. Instead, I decided not to “diet” per se, but to eat small amounts of food I enjoyed and served the rest of my family. It was right for me.
So, after you look at your list of “I hate’s,” you take them off the table and figure out what is left that you can do and you can live with, long term.
This is the same approach I took to exercise. I hated going to a gym to work out for so many reasons: my body image issues, the time it took to get there, work out, get cleaned up (in a LOCKER ROOM—such horrors!) and get back. I also hated sustained cardio, like doing the elliptical for a big block of time. Exercising at home was the right choice for me, and doing short bits of cardio broken up with sets of strengthening exercises made my workout seem much easier. I didn’t have to think about my workout as a whole; it was natural just to concentrate on the next short segment.
Most of us can only tolerate a restrictive diet or excessive exercise for a short time. Understanding that you are building the road you will walk for the rest of your life can provide a lot of clarity around what choices you will and won’t tolerate. It’s a healthy, balanced way of approaching your new, balanced way of life!