4 September 2015

My Diet Plan: Stop Joining Diet Plans.

Dieting sucks.

I've blogged before about my diet struggles. It seems like I have tried every "plan" from Weight Watchers (repeatedly) to Jenny Craig to The Biggest Loser to diet pills. I've probably spent around $5000 (and that may be a conservative estimate) into these programs, especially Weight Watchers.

Am I any skinnier? No.  But more importantly, am I any healthier? No.

I had my girlfriends over the other week. Everyone was talking, myself included, about how we are at our heaviest. In particular, most expressed how difficult it was to stick to a "program" and that it felt at times like a waste of money.  Despite that, the general indication was that most would re-join a program they have repeatedly failed on before because "anything was better than nothing."

But is that true?  (Note: the next comments aren't meant to be critical of their choices. Whatever works for them. I'm just speaking from my own history & experience).

It got me thinking to my own diet history. Despite all that I have spent, that I am at my heaviest weight. Shouldn't I know better? Haven't I learnt enough?

Two days ago, I came to a conclusion: dieting isn't hard. The programs I've spent money on are. Here are some basic mistakes of most of the diet programs:

1) Being overly complicated in calculating food intake without a real understanding of the nutritional value of the food.

An example is a Weight Watcher point.  The basic of a point is that it is calculated by some formula (that they don't tell you) of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber.  The lower the point, the better the food. Right?

Not necessarily.  Sometimes, the unhealthier product was the same points or less than the healthier option.  Coke can be lower in points that milk. How is that a great choice?

More importantly, other things on the food label, that aren't counted, matter. Like sugar. Like sodium. All critical to good health.

Which leads me to my next point...

2) Living a well-balanced life means that nutrition & health matters too. Food choices should not compromise health. 

The premise of Jenny Craig is that the meals are prepared for you to perfect portion and calorie servings.  But think about this: every single meal is pre-processed food. Which means every single meal exceeds the recommended sodium intake.  What the fresh hell?

Weight Watchers is no different.  Some lower-point food has extremely high levels of sugar or sodium.

Your food choices shouldn't hurt you folks.

3) Lack of emphasis on exercise.

Common to most programs I have been on is that exercise is an after-thought. Sure, they encourage you to move more, but there is no comprehensive plan for that.

And in the case of Weight Watchers, the idea that you have the option of trading "activity points" for "exercise points" is ludicrous for long-term success.

Here's the deal.  Exercise for weight-loss doesn't have as big of an impact if what you are learning is that you can justify food for it.  And the reality check is that most people under-estimate how much exercise they put in compared to the food they exchange it with.

Exercise for the purposes of weight loss should be in addition to eating less/healthier, not in exchange of.

But exercise should also be more heavily encouraged because it has far greater benefits in terms of health (like increasing energy, lung capacity, muscle-building, flexibility, etc...).

4) Lack of structure when it comes to meal plans. 

Sure, there is no shortage of recipes. Or suggestions on how to space your meals and snacks.  Or even what to have.

But meal planning involves more than just what you are eating. It's also how much you eat and how the choices sustain you until the next meal.

I will repeat this: food's only purpose is to fuel you to get through the day.  So while it seems a good idea to have a piece of fruit and yogurt only in the morning, is that going to be enough? Not likely.

5) Next to no emotional counselling.

One thing I did like about Weight Watchers was their group sessions. Good ideas came from those group sessions.

But the thing is, having "tips" is not the same as understanding the emotional reasons behind your food choices. These programs don't require you to peel back the layers to understand why you make the choices you do. Or what emotion you are feeding.

The tips, while good for managing your environment, only go so far.

While I have gleaned some good "tips" over the years (and my suggestions will reflect some of them), I've decided to give up "diet programs" and just start exercising some common sense. To not complicate matters. To take charge of myself and save my money.

Here's the basic common sense of dieting approach that I will be taking:

1) Food is meant to fuel your body, not comfort or meet some emotional need.

2) Eat a balanced diet that includes things that grow in the ground, and things that eat the stuff that grows in the ground.

3) Limit foods that aren't as good, but not to feel guilty for the occasional indulgence

4) Keep my meals simple.  Food has enough great taste that I don't need to add high-calorie loaded things to complicate things.  Use basic ingredients. Limit salt & sugar as often as possible, and definitely don't add them to meals unless absolutely necessary.

5) Move more in an deliberate way. Move more in a way that recognises my limitations (knees) but doesn't make excuses for them.  Plan activity at least 5 out of the 7 days for at least 30 minutes a day.

6) Before I reach for a food, pause and ask why. Am I hungry? Or am I feeding another hunger that doesn't require food?

7) Have a general plan for what I will have each meal, every week.  Have some go-to meals for breakfast & lunch that can be quickly prepared and consumed (given that I only have a 1/2 hour to consume each meal).  For dinner, have a plan for every day in that week, factoring in things like work schedules (husband), events, etc... and then plan accordingly.

8) Ensure that every meal includes at least 3 of the 4 food groups, and that every snack includes 2 of the 4.  For every meal & snack, a fruit &/or vegetable must be one component.  All three main meals must include at least 1/2 to 1 full protein.

9) Use the plate method of 1/2 plate being fruit or veg, 1/4 being protein, 1/4 being carb.

10) Weigh & measure my portions until I have a better sense of a reasonable portion. Routinely re-measure to ensure I am not "over-portioning."

11) Have a plan for eating out. Portion out half the entree and only consume the other portion if truly hungry. Otherwise, pack it up for lunch.  For my drink, fishbowl my water and tell them to add a variety of bar condiments (i.e., cherries, orange/lime/lemon wedges).

12) Find a way to track in a way that is achievable, such as an app, or blogging, or a scribbler.

13) While at the end of the day, it's calories in calories out, ensure the calories are more beneficial than not.

14) Stop drinking coffee altogether (especially the frapifattys) and move towards tea with honey.




18) Accept the limitations of my body (health) but keep working everyday to overcome them.

19) Relax. Don't let the weight loss effort consume my life.  Find a hobby/distraction to provide balance.

20) Keep your eye on the end goal, but mark the accomplishments along the way.

Have any other great advice? Leave them in the comments.