Dieting is anathema to healthy living. I’ve seen it too many times to count. Back in the 80s when NutriSystem was new and hot, someone I know jumped on it; she was a “chunky” size 10. (Funny what was “chunky” by today’s standards.) She followed the diet faithfully, lost a bunch of weight, and looked GOOD. As soon as she met her goal, she got off the diet and started eating as she wanted (a large bag of Doritos in a day, for example), and all those pounds came back and brought friends. They settled in and never left, and now this person has a number of weight-related health problems. Both our dads have done low-carb – Atkins and South Beach – and we’ve watched the pounds drop while they followed the diets and the pounds come back as they started eating carbs again. Even I’ve done that in my life – reduced calories to lose weight, only to gain them back and more once I met my goal. That life isn’t for me.
This yo-yo dieting isn’t healthy at all. It puts tremendous strain on every part of the body. It slows down the body’s metabolism, actually making it harder to lose weight, especially around the gut and internal organs. Yo-yo dieting also leads to increased cortisol levels, which makes us gain weight. It can further lead to Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, both of which can lead to life-threatening cardiovascular events. In short, yo-yo dieting can kill you.
I don’t diet. I hate diets. I think they’re intrinsically flawed and doomed to failure for reasons we’ve all experienced. You deprive yourself of something (in behavioral psych terms, that’s called punishment), and when the “punishment” is over (e.g., you’ve met the weight loss goal), we enjoy the forbidden foods again and all those pounds come back with reinforcements. I saw similar behavior with my younger daughter last week. She abused the boundaries we’d placed on her tablet use during the school year – a day after getting it back from a previous punishment. She’d lost her Fire through the end of the school year, and we gave it back to her when she returned from a mission retreat. For two straight days last week, all I saw was the top of her head while she played games or watched videos on it. Her punishment was over, and she glutted on the thing we’d taken away. As a result, I began placing limits on her use, turning it into a reward.
I like food. I like the tastes, the textures, and the experience of food. When I want the food, I eat the food. It doesn’t matter what it is. I am tending to skew to a higher protein percentage for muscle repair from working out. However, I’ll eat a cookie or a serving of ice cream or a serving of popcorn. I try to reduce my carb intake throughout the day, giving my body more time to burn them, but I don’t beat myself up if that doesn’t happen. For me, it’s about moderation and grace. Could I eat a quart of ice cream? Sure. Do I? Not in a sitting. I eat that ice cream a 1/2 cup at a time over weeks, if not months. (That’s moderation.) Some days, I eat more calories than I burn. I don’t give up; I just get back on track the next day, and maybe exercise a bit more throughout the week to keep myself on track overall. (That’s grace.) I’m not a failure because last Tuesday I blew my calorie count out of the water at our anniversary dinner.
My breakfasts tend to be carb-heavy, my lunches more protein- and fruit/vegetable-heavy, and our dinners feature lean protein, vegetables, and, when possible, carbs from veggies (jicama, carrots, peas, etc.) more than from grains, rice, etc. However, when someone else in the house plans and cooks dinner, I gratefully go with what they fix and don’t demand a special meal (there are quite a few social reasons behind that that I won’t get into here). To their credit, they run their menus by me ahead of time so I can eat accordingly throughout the day. I only snack on days when I’ll be eating a late dinner because of workouts and/or soccer practice, and it’s something high-protein, like cheese, a glass of milk, peanuts, a protein bar, or a snack serving of Kind Dark Chocolate granola clusters (low glycemic index, good protein – and that stuff is AWESOME!!! in vanilla Greek yogurt).
I drink a LOT of water. Lately I’ve been averaging 9 cups a day. I have 2-3 alcoholic drinks a year, no more than 2 sodas a year, and maybe 5 glasses of sweet tea a year. Juice is rare, milk is less a drink and more a calcium and protein source, and my one mug of coffee a day is the source of my personality. I can’t stand artificial sweeteners and avoid them at all costs. It’s pure cane sugar or I go without, and since I don’t want to take in tons of sugar, I’ll opt for “without.” Besides, water is cheap; I got into that when I was in Div school and broke but we still wanted to go out occasionally without spending $2 on a glass of tea that costs the restaurant about $.08. (Plus, water keeps our urinary tracts functioning at their best, doesn’t destroy tooth enamel, and keeps the rest of our organs functioning at their peaks.)
The result of all this? Mentally, I know I’m not depriving myself, so I don’t feel like I’m being punished for being overweight, which is basically what weight-loss diets do; they’re punishment. Eating is necessary, but how and what I eat becomes a choice with consequences. If I eat too many carbs in a day, I really don’t feel good in my body. If I want a little sweet bite after dinner and eat 3 Kisses, then I have the pleasure of the chocolate and the “yay, me!” of knowing I’ve exercised will-power. I’ve lost about half the weight I want by combining eating well with a variety of exercises. It hasn’t been fast, but it’s been steady, and I’d rather be healthy for life than just lighter for a few months.
And even better? I’ve met my final health goal. Last week, I was able to wear my favorite black velvet choker to our anniversary dinner. Check it out!
And I’m still so excited about those shoulders! Woot!
Have you started living the healthy coastal lifestyle, yet? You don’t have to live at the beach to make the magic happen. And remember, the slow walker is doing far better than the couch potato. What steps have you taken to improve your health? Tell us in the comments below.