I’m not going to be the first person to say that diets do work. I am among one of many, many people that have lost the weight and kept it off. When I got off the beaten path, I reeled myself back in, and post-baby (and post C-section), I knew exactly what I had to do. Exercise was part of my success, but without attention to what I was putting in my mouth, I would not have succeeded. Lots of people will tell you diets don’t work, and that’s because after we taste our first bit of success and hit maintenance mode, we go back to engaging in the same behavior that was making us fat in the first place. I’ve tried them too in the past, Atkins, Zone, South Beach, whatever, and none of them stuck for me. I had to find the appropriate plan that worked for my body, my life, my schedule, and my tastes. The key is to find the right plan for you, that you can adopt as a lifestyle change. So start thinking permanent and long-term if you want to take that weight off and keep it off. The right mental attitude is a key component of your success in the kitchen (and in the gym!)
If simple, basic weight loss is the goal, any number of diets will “work” just fine, just take your pick. What most popular diets fail to do is to give people the knowledge and the tools to go beyond the instant results to achieve their full potential for leanness and fitness in the long term. Learn the tools and use them if you want permanent weight loss. For me, the key was eating 5-6 meals a day. I prepare all my meals during the weekend, and dedicate at least 2 hours to get the job done. My husband likes to joke that I look like a mad scientist in the kitchen when it’s prep time: microwave’s ticking away, chicken/fish/sweet potatoes baking in the oven, stove top bubbling with brown rice, quinoa, or veggies, containers and measuring cups tossed everywhere. But for me, it works. I cook everything by myself, flavor the food how I like it, and nothing comes prepackaged out of a box. And I like it that way.
Working moms always ask me, when do you find the time? When Shaila is napping (and thank goodness she’s still young enough to still nap for at least 2 hours) and I’m home during the weekends. I’ve never been the type to “nap when the baby naps” anyway, so this lifestyle, which I picked, suits me just fine. I have no family close by to help watch her while I go train or cook, I work 1.5 jobs, I have the constraints of daycare pickup and drop-offs just like everyone else. I’m not superhuman, but I figured out how to make it work, and you can too. Here are my strategies that I use to succeed with my diet:
1) Cook your own food and measure it. It sounds anal as all get out, but the more practice you have the better you get (and understand) proper portion sizes.
2) Drink water. I fill up a gallon jug and deal with it. I probably get more than a gallon.
3) Don’t shop hungry. Ever. I always stick to my list too. I hate shopping and wasting time, and the groceries task becomes even more of a headache when Shaila decides she’s done with sitting in the shopping cart and that standing in it or racing down the halls of the store is a good idea. You can imagine my laser-like focus when getting in and out. I’ve saved lots of money being quick about it.
4) KNOW that you have options other than an apple, a chicken breast, or a plain green salad. Educate yourself on what is a lean, clean protein source, a low glycemic carbohydrate, a healthy fat, a high-fiber vegetable, etc etc. Body Building Revealed and Fat Loss Revealed are both excellent and simple to understand. Spice your food and flavor it to your tastes. I can’t imagine why you’d want to eat bland food, and there are a wealth of dry rubs, herbs, spices, vinegars (and lemons and limes) that make cooking and eating enjoyable.
5) Surround yourself with a support network: a close friend, a workout buddy, your spouse, or like-minded athletes like the ones I found on the BBR Forum. Yeah, you can be tough and go it on your own, but you don’t have to.
6) Treat yourself every once in a while. It can be a mental break and a chance to have whatever you might feel you’ve been missing. I’ll have a treat meal once a week, and some people can get away with more. For me, eating out is expensive for a family of three, and I always find that the excess sodium and sugar in restaurant food doesn’t suit me well, so I always return to eating clean with renewed enthusiasm.
So, those are my strategies for permanent weight loss. The task of cooking may sound daunting to you, but I encourage you to take baby steps to whatever approach you choose, and stick to it. Nobody wants to hear that this is a PERMENENT lifestyle change, but at the end of the day it is. The diet books and the internet are full of “sneaky weight loss tips” to help you get there. Educate yourself on what works best for your life and your budget and stick to it! Acknowledge too, that there will be bumps along on the way (family, job changes, etc) and even saboteurs who don’t want to see you succeed. Bottom line: there are no short cuts, no quick fixes, and only a commitment to a lifestyle change is going to keep the fat off long term. I realize that’s not what most people want to hear, but it’s the truth.
-Sumi Singh is a Personal Trainer in Austin, TX and an online diet coach. Her website is www.shailafitness.com