Diet…that dreaded word. We all hate hearing it and we all stress about being on one.
Will I fail again? Will I lose a bunch of weight and then gain it all back as soon as I fall off the wagon?
There are many ways to be successful while being on a diet for the long term. How would I define success?
Reducing fat on your body while staying healthy and being happy with your dietary choices so that you can maintain the “diet” for the rest of your life. I know, this is a bold statement, but it can be done! In fact, you will probably find that you will become healthier by adopting the healthy habits and attitudes we will explore in this article. Let’s get started!
Let’s get started!
Ok, before you ask, I know what you are thinking. How much do I weigh? My height is 5’8.5” and I weigh anywhere between 128 and 131 lbs depending on how much exercise I have done in any given week. There you are, full disclosure for the entire world to see. I do not starve myself, but I have given away one secret already.
Setting Realistic Goals
Set realistic goals for your desired body weight and the timeframe you want to lose it by
The most important starting point for you will be to set a goal. It must be a realistic and achievable goal. I know some of you may want to lose 50 pounds in the next month, but that is neither realistic nor healthy. Incremental goals are much easier to achieve than one large goal, so start slow!
Say you do want to lose 50 pounds; I would start my first goal as:
WEEK 1: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week.
WEEK 2: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week 50-10=40 lbs to go!
WEEK 3: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week
WEEK 4: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week
At the end of the first month, your goal will be to have lost 8-12 pounds. Your Goal is 50 pounds minus let’s say a 10 lb weight loss. Now you have 40 pounds left to go! If you have lost more that is wonderful, if you haven’t, we will examine strategies you can employ to help you reach your goals. Let us continue with Month 2 below:
WEEK 1: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week.
WEEK 2: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week 40-10=30 lbs to go!
WEEK 3: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week
WEEK 4: I will lose 2-3 pounds in the next week
At the end of the second month, your goal again will be to have lost 8-12 pounds. Your Goal is 40 pounds now minus let’s say a 10 lb weight loss. Now you have 30 lbs left to go! As you see, at this rate, you will reach your goal at end of Month 5, losing an average of 10 pounds a month (or 2.5 lbs per week).
Losing 50 pounds is a tremendous goal to achieve and completing this in a 5 month period is ambitious even in my book, but it can be done. You can set smaller goals such as losing 1-2 pounds per week to start. The point is, set a goal in a timeframe that works for you. I am not the one who will be living this journey for you, neither is your physician or anyone else.
You can also get specific in your goal by outlining what changes you will be making each week. Some people need to cut out sugary drinks, some need to start eating fresh fruits and vegetables, some need to start incorporating exercise into their routine.
Change can be difficult for many people, so the key to developing a new lifestyle is small steps. Start slowly and add one of these changes each week to your daily routine, then you can focus on building one new habit while not overwhelming yourself with too many changes too quickly. The good news is once you have incorporated these new habits into your routine, over time, they will become part of your new healthy lifestyle!
Have a goal for why you are losing the weight
So why do you want to lose weight anyway? Having that goal to focus on while you are actually trying to lose the weight can be extremely motivating.
- Do you have an upcoming wedding or special event?
- Are you getting ready for the summer bikini season?
- Are you going on a cruise soon?
- Are you trying to make better health decisions to live longer or become healthier?
- Do you want to learn how to eat a healthier diet and incorporate exercise into your daily routine?
Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Tomorrow is a new day, so just get up and restart fresh the next day!
Also, if you find you were a bit too ambitious with your goal, just remember, the good thing about your goal is just that…it’s your goal! If you discover you are struggling with it, just change it! It’s that easy! Goals can be and should be fluid and changing over time.
Finding a trusted friend or relative to go on the diet with you is a great way to keep you on track also. You can help keep each accountable but at the same time motivate each other in positive ways. It is much easier to take that evening walk with another person, encouraging you. Left to your own devices, it is always easier to hit the couch after dinner. Oh I know, because it happens to me too! But, if you are having to answer to your buddy, you are much more likely to take that walk or hit the gym.
Once you see how each other are achieving even small results, this will also help motivate you of course, but more importantly, you can start comparing notes. What worked for your friend over the past week? What didn’t work?
Also ensure your family and support system know you are on a diet so they are able to support you as well. Everyone can pitch in to encourage you and you may just inspire others along the way!
Which Diet Should I Choose?
In this article, I will not be getting into all the different types of diets to choose from. I would like to compare a Crash Diet to a Sustainable Diet though because I strongly believe finding a healthy way for you to eat is so very important.
I know fitting into that dress for the wedding or that bikini for the summer is important to you, but staying healthy and loving the body you are in is really the most important thing in life. No one is going to have the perfect body and we shouldn’t even strive for that.
Loving the body you have, while coming close to a healthy weight for your height is probably the best goal. You can determine this by looking at your current BMI or Body Mass Index. It is calculated by using your weight and height. Your doctor can tell you what your BMI is or you can use this BMI Calculator to determine yours. The BMI categories are listed here; this is a great starting place to see where your current weight is and how much weight you may need to lose.
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
Overweight = 25–29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
So back to comparing the Crash Diet versus a Sustainable Diet.
A Crash Diet would be very restrictive, allowing you to lose weight very quickly. This would be a very unhealthy way to lose weight because obviously, you would not be getting all of the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed that a well-balanced diet provides.
Yes, you could supplement by taking vitamins, but how will you know what you are deficient or low on? Will you be going to your doctor every month to have your blood drawn…you would have to. Some of these are vital to running your body too; having the correct level of potassium and calcium is essential just to keep your heart beating correctly.
Most people really do not understand just how fragile our bodies truly are. People on Crash Diets do not only lose weight from fat and water, they also lose muscle mass because the body is in starvation mode. They are literally starving themselves to death.
Believe it or not, the important thing about any diet plan is really just moderation and finding a balance. I know, you have probably heard that before, but it is essential. You really can just switch to eating fresh fruits and vegetables and still have some of your breads, pasta and rice, just in more moderate amounts. This is the basis of the Sustainable Diet.
Balance this new diet plan out by incorporating some exercise into your life and you have a new healthy lifestyle. Making it a lifestyle will make it stick for life!
Understand the diet you choose
So, when you decide which diet is right for you, it is very important to clearly understand that diet before you embark on your journey.
- What foods are allowed to be eaten?
- Which ones are to be avoided?
- What fats are considered healthy fats?
- Are there other restrictions on the diet?
- How often should I eat?
We recommend never going too long between meals; there are many reasons for this. If you go too long without eating, your metabolism slows down. This will slow weight loss down.
Secondly, if you go more than 5 hours without eating, you are so hungry by the time you do eat, you will overeat. We also tend to grab the first thing we see when we are famished, many times it is something quick and unhealthy, like a bag of potato chips! This is why we instruct our patients to eat 3 meals per day and if the meals are more than 4-5 hours apart, to eat a small healthy snack in between your meals. So, if lunch is at noon and dinner is at 6:00pm, you need a snack around 3:00pm. This is typically when most of us would start feeling hungry. It’s your body’s way of telling you, “Feed me!”.
I tend to instruct my patients to eat a smaller breakfast and lunch and then a normal sized dinner which meets the carbohydrate or calorie count of your diet plan. Some people prefer to have their larger meal of the day at lunchtime. That is perfectly fine, just don’t have a large lunch and a large dinner!
Remember, if you find a diet isn’t working for you, change it up! There are so many choices out there to pick from. Find one that will work for you and your lifestyle.
The next important step is to avoid temptations by getting rid of those temptations! Clean out your refrigerator and pantry. Out of sight, out of mind! Believe me, it works. This goes for the sugary drinks too; get rid of those fruit juices, regular sodas and that sweet tea.
Make a list of healthy food options from your diet plan. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be at the top of that list; buying fruits and vegetables that are in season in your area will cut down on food costs. In the winter, you can purchase frozen family sized bags that will be a cheaper option also.
Plan your meals ahead of time so you don’t feel so overwhelmed during the week. We all live rushed lives! In between work, family, house cleaning and then meal planning, time is so limited. On the weekend, start by making a list of healthy meal choices for the upcoming week. You can do this by looking at recipe books or looking online for healthy recipes. Some of my favorite places to find healthy and delicious recipes online are:
On the above link, The Food Network highlights Healthy Weeknight Dinners. These fast and simple recipes will include how long it takes to prepare the meal, and step-by-step instructions (many any have videos). All the recipes include the full nutrition information so you will be able to see exactly how many calories or carbohydrates are in each meal.
What I also love about The Food Network’s website is you can search for recipes for main dishes, appetizers, side dishes, soups, or desserts. You can also search for any cuisine in the world and find a recipe for it! Have you ever wanted to learn how to make a Mediterranean, German, Polish or Italian dish? You will find the recipe here! It is so important to eat a wide variety of dishes so you don’t get tired of eating the same thing over and over. This is one of the biggest reasons most diets fail miserably; everyone needs a variety of delicious foods in their diets, because let’s face it-our lives revolve around food!
A couple of other great websites for healthy recipes is EatingWell and allrecipes.
Ok, so now you are armed with a week’s worth of delicious and healthy recipes to make this week. Now, are you the type of person who likes to go to the grocery store once a week? If so, using your recipes, look at the list of ingredients and make a grocery store list. Some of the dishes may use some of the same ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, lemons or spices. Once you have your list done you can run out to the store and get everything you need for all your dinners for the week.
Yes, I know, it takes a little more research time checking out the websites for 6 or 7 healthy meals, making your list and going to the store, but think about all those healthy meals you will be able to make all week as a result! Then, think about how much healthier you will be and how much weight you will lose once you have done this for probably only a week!
Tips for Success
- Cooking at home
Cooking your own meals at home using fresh ingredients is the easiest way to gain total control over your intake. You know exactly what you are getting because you are preparing the meal.
When eating out at a restaurant, it does become more of a challenge. Even the most skilled dieticians admit that counting carbohydrates and calories is a challenge when eating out. The good news is most chain restaurants have nutrition information available upon request. If possible, go online and look at the nutrition facts for the menu ahead of time. This allows you to see if they have healthy options or to make substitutes for their more unhealthy options. Keep in mind, even if you make a great choice like a salad for your entree, there could be hidden carbohydrates and calories in simple things like the salad dressings. Changing the type of salad dressing you use on your salad can deduct as many as 30-45 carbohydrates from your total. You will always be safe with oil and vinegar, a balsamic, or a light Italian dressing is normally a good choice as well.
- Learn those Nutrition Facts
Whether you are counting carbohydrates, calories, protein or watching your fat or sodium intake, there are many resources available for nutrition information. You can search online or get your information from books. As I stated before, you can simply search online for your favorite restaurant’s information by typing…My Restaurant Nutrition Facts… of course type in your restaurant’s name! There are also some great publications available too. One of my favorites is Calorie King which includes the full nutrition information for many restaurants along with every fruit and vegetable you can think of. They also have an app you can download to your smartphone. If you visit a Registered Dietician, they can provide you with some free resources as well.
- Use a smaller plate
Using a smaller plate will automatically make your portions smaller. Eating smaller portions, or as I said earlier…moderation…is the key to any diet. We are so used to filling our plate and eating it all. Think back to when we were little; we were actually forced to clean our plates! That mentality remains ingrained in our brains today. We also don’t want to waste food. We can fix the problem of eating so much by merely using a smaller plate. Seems simple, but it works!
- Eat in a mindful way
How many times have we plopped down on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of chips or cookies and started mindlessly munching away? OMG, what did I just do? Before you know it, the 30 minute TV show is over and so is half of the bag of chips. Yep, we have all done it and felt guilty about it immediately.
There is a way to avoid this. Next time, portion out a healthy snack of your favorite fruit and low-fat cheese or if you really have to splurge with those chips, portion them out in a little snack bag. This is being mindful of your eating; you are being mindful of the amount you are eating. Even better, try to eat your snack not in front of the TV, but just focusing on the food. Savor the healthy food you have prepared, take your time and enjoy it. This is truly eating in a mindful way.
We have become so busy in our daily lives, we have moved away from just taking 20 minutes out of our day to sit down with our loved ones for a meal. If you took the time to prepare it, take the time to share it!
- Chew your food and eat slowly
There are actually many reasons we say to chew your food and eat slowly. Most importantly, when we start eating, it takes about 20 minutes for our brain to receive and send out the signal of fullness or what we call satiety. It’s how we know we feel full and to stop eating. If you literally are shoveling in the food as fast as you can, you can get a lot of food in during that 20 minutes before you reach that feeling of fullness. But, if you take your time and savor each and every bite, you should finish a sensible amount of food in about 20 minutes. It takes me an extra 5 minutes just to cut up and prepare my food on my plate as I start eating sometimes even!
Chewing your food properly and eating more slowly will also aide in digestion. Chewing your food into smaller bites will assist your body in absorbing the nutrients from the foods easier also.
I think we have gotten too far away from the art of simply enjoying meal times with our friends and loved ones. Take your time! Use the time to have conversations again. Again, everything here are examples of mindful eating!
- Abstain from Alcohol and Sugary Drinks
I know this may be a tough one, but there are so many carbohydrates and calories in the liquids we consume. You are likely getting the equivalent number of carbs in that regular soda to a full healthy meal. If you eliminate regular sodas, fruit juices, and any drinks that contain carbohydrates, you will automatically begin to lose weight.
As far as alcoholic drinks go, it’s the empty calories that effect you the most. There are other factors as well though. It is thought that we may overeat, have a slowed metabolism and not sleep as well as a result of alcohol consumption. Once you cut out the alcohol, you may be more motivated to start incorporating exercise into your daily routine as well. When you go out with friends, just order a sparkling water instead. They will probably be happy to have a designated driver for the evening!
Drinking water is best of course, most of us need 8 glasses per day. Speak to your physician about how much water you need per day however, because some medical conditions require restrictions of fluid intake. Conversely, when exercising or working outdoors, especially in the heat, you may need to increase your intake of water to avoid dehydration.
Don’t have an all-or-nothing attitude! You need to give yourself a break occasionally, so splurge on a dessert once every week or two. It’s better to indulge once in a while rather than completely cutting out everything you love, which often leads to giving up on a diet earlier.
Be kind to yourself! When you reach your goals, it’s extremely important to reward yourself! If you’ve lost down a pant size, it’s time to go buy a new pair of pants! Relish in and take pride in your accomplishments.
Let us know about your successes here at TheDiabetesCouncil, because you know we are in your corner!