I could write a book on diets from both a personal and professional perspective. I along with many, many adults have tried a variety of diets. In the 80’s it was the low fat diet (with a lot of artificial sweeteners and processed food). Then in the 90’s it was Atkin’s high protein low carb diet. And along the way there have been the South Beach diet , The Mediterranean diet, the Grapefruit diet and the Cabbage Soup diet as an incomplete list. But who can eat “Cabbage Soup for Life” despite that this might make a catchy book title. And then now, it is a potpourri of diets including the recently released “Slow Carb” diet found in Timothy Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Body”. The later is reportedly making some preposterous claims.
You may say that I don’t need to diet. And in some respect you would be right: generally, I have been relatively fit the majority of my life by actively choosing to be. However, if I did not watch what I ate, I would be as big as house. I struggle with that same intermittent weight gain (7-9 lbs in my case) that many people do. And you are right none of us should be dieting to begin with. We all should be choosing a healthy way to eat for life.
Here is why diets fail.
#1 Portion size.
It is all too easy to have your portion size get out of control. Look at the sizes being served in restaurants. When we lived in Chicago, my husband and I would order one serving of spaghetti and meatballs to go from Maggiano’s. This one order would last us for 3 meals for both of us. If you choose the appropriate portions sizes and choose quality food, you will lose weight. How do I know? I have let this portion size get away from me in the past only to be reminded time and time again as I gained weight.
# 2 Quality of calories put in.
You can eat 1-2 slices of restaurant pizza and consume more than half the calories you need for the day and still be hungry. Or alternatively you can eat a cup of whole wheat pasta with veggies, your protein of choice and a tomato based sauce at a fraction of the calories and still as satisfied.
#3 Not Sustainable
My husband and I did the “Body for Life” program before our wedding. I only dropped 2 pounds in 12 weeks. However, I lost inches and a full dress size. It was the first time the belly fat melted away. However, the protein shakes were as desirable as drinkable cardboard and I did not find alternatives to replace them. I could not sustain this “diet”.
It is ok to implement safe diets to jump start weight loss. But after you jump start your weight loss, it is equally important to maintain a health way of eating. By maintaining, I mean that if you have food delivered to you then you need to learn to make similar food. If you use protein shakes as your 3 snacks then you need to find real food alternatives unless you choose to live on the shakes for the rest of your life.
The commonality among those who have started to lose weight and those who do not is that they are ready to. You can want to lose weight and want to change your eating habits. But, until you are ready to implement change there is nothing I can say or anyone else that will motivate you. This holds true for any major lifestyle change: smoking cessation, etc.
And then there are the excuses. What excuses have you made not to lose weight or exercise? I have made plenty.
I have used my children as an excuse. With each one, I seem to have given myself more and more permission not to take the time for myself. I remember looking at a picture of myself in the fall of 2009 and was horrified by the fat roll that had replaced my once trim abdomen. I was functioning as a working “pseudo”-single mom and utterly exhausted all the time. But, I knew that I had to make a change. I recalled what my once obese patient had said: eat less than you expend. So I made the dietary changes and added in the exercise when I could. The weight came off over three painstaking months.
No longer being able to run was another excuse. My knees and pubic bone (from an injury when I was pregnant) do not tolerate the high impact any longer. The running was sad to give up. I always thought I would run another marathon. Not to mention that running is so mind cleansing for me. Do you remember “Forest Gump” in the movie when he ran and ran. I had days I felt like that, like I could just run and run.
Not wanting to be run over by a Land Cruiser while cycling. This is a real threat here in Qatar but an excuse nonetheless.
Despite all these excuses, I was in a good maintenance phase until this past fall. I went away for 2 weeks to a conference and to visit family… in the Midwest. My family likes to eat meat and potatoes. I ate meat and potatoes right along with them all week. This coupled with dinners out at the conference followed by 3 weeks in New Zealand at the holidays was a set up for weight gain. But how could I not enjoy all the fabulous wines of the region when all I had to look forward to was fermented bottles of wine in Qatar. You got it, another excuse.
After the New Year, I knew I had to do something. This time when I took an unexpected trip back to the USA, I went out of my way to eat as I like to; buying fruits, vegetables and grains. And when I arrived, my sister was there to inspire me. She not being one to exercise had started an exercise program and had lost 13 lbs in 3 months. It was not only her 4:30 am workouts which I joined her for that were impressive but her commitment to making consistent good food choices that were inspiring.
She has inspired me to make a change. I am going to embark on a 13 week program using the P90X workout program along with continuing to modify my diet.
This post looked at why diets fail. My next one will offer all the tips I have learned along the way. I will also let you in on the changes I will be making in my diet.
So are you ready and willing to make a change? Are you ready to stop making excuses? Take the challenge with me. You can chronicle my journey the next 13 weeks here.Disclaimer: I am not advocating any diet or exercise plan listed here nor am I receiving any financial compensation for mentioning them in my post.