I don't like diets. Diets mean doing without, eating abnormally. They are punishment for indulgence and lack of self control. I know that isn't really what the word means, but that's what it means to me and I'm not alone. What's even crazier is diets don't usually work anyway. Only about 20% of dieters succeed in losing weight and keep it off for a reasonable amount of time. Diets don't work, so what do you do?
Diets fail because we don't stick to them when we're on them or because we pile the weight on sooner or later when we stop 'dieting'. Diets fail because they are miserable, unnatural and temporary fixes to a way of eating (and living) that has been going on for years. We all know yo-yo dieting is physically and mentally damaging and diet 'failure' can be a real knock to our emotional health and well being. Who in their right mind wants to stay on a diet, especially after you've lost the weight? All we want is to lose weight and get back to normal and get on with our (hopefully, slimmer) lives, and never have to diet again.
For me the mention of the word 'diet' sent me to the biscuit tin, so I needed a good story to tell myself. I worked hard to focus on eating to keep healthy and happy. I had to accept I was an unhealthy eater and got to be 4 stone overweight and morbidly obese because my normal eating habits were unhealthy. I had to learn that healthy eating isn't just about what I eat, but how much; it's eating to keep my body within a healthy weight range/shape. I needed a new 'normal'.
Story 1 - I was getting back to normal weight by eating 500 calories per day less than I needed. Not dieting, just getting back to normal. Story 2 - I had to learning how to eat healthily - for ever, not just until I'd lost the weight.
Over that year long weight loss programme, I put in place a new and healthy eating pattern that I have kept on even though now I don't need to lose weight anymore. What's different? I was a classic - bacon roll, chocolate bar and milky builder's tea for breakfast; tuna mayo baguette and cake for lunch, big dinner - cheesy sauces and puds. Snacks during the day and a biscuit or two with Mum when I went to make her tea (Hands up carers if you believe that biscuits eaten during caring activity are calorie free!).
Now I have porridge, apple and yogurt for breakfast and soup, a roll and banana for lunch. No cheesy sauces and we don't have puddings on a weekday. Things are relaxed a bit at weekends and holidays, but we don't go mad - well not very often! I love the way I eat now, I find my food delicious and satisfying. My body feels better, I feel less sluggish and I enjoy treats when I have them. I still enjoy my food and I still like a big full plate, but it's a healthy plate. I am at peace with my eating!
There's a big hard sell on dieting and losing weight, but for most of us, it's about so much more than shifting the weight, it's about living healthily. Even the big diet companies are recognising that the real answer is not just to make easy money by getting us on the diet cycle, but about promoting healthy lifestyles for us and our families.
So, if like me your extra weight is down to a long standing pattern of unhealthy eating, just cutting down won't solve your problem in the long term. The real answer to losing weight is eating to be healthy, and that for many of us is about learning new ways of cooking, thinking, living. So don't waste time dieting, get healthy.
ps My Race for Life is next Sunday, wish me luck!