Post # 319 Dieting Like Crazy

December 10, 2014 at 11:18 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Or maybe I should say, dieting like a crazy person.

It’s the holiday season and a lot of people are far more aware of their food intake now as opposed to any other time of year.  The endless round of office parties, formal parties, family parties, feasts, dinners, humble get-togethers, leftovers, pot lucks, home baking, food gifts, and so on is enough to send anyone into food overload.  It’s no wonder that the all time favorite New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight.  We ate so much over the previous six weeks, it’s a wonder we’re not in a food coma.

So we start dieting.  When I was in high school, admittedly in the dark ages, someone told me that the word DIET meant “Dare I Eat That?” and it sums up the whole concept of diet.  People fall for fads or trends when it comes to food almost faster than they fall for celebrity rumors.

The first fad people tend to fall for is the starvation diet.  They believe cutting calories down to starvation levels will cause the body to “eat the fat” stored in various parts of the body, usually (hopefully) the midsection.  One of my sisters-in-law tried this.  She reduced his calorie intake to less than a 1000 per day.  She saw an initial drop in weight, then stopped.  Then she got cranky, short-tempered, and difficult to get along with (even more so than her normal personality.)  After two weeks, my dad made her stop, telling her she was making herself sick and not doing anyone any favors.  That’s the fallacy behind starvation diets.  Fat is stored energy the body uses when it thinks it needs to.  An initial phase of hunger will cause the body to use up some of those fat cells, but if it’s prolonged, the body reverses it’s thinking and starts hording all the fat cells it can to make sure it has stored energy for the future.  Hunger is no fun for anyone, so starvation diets can’t be pleasant at all.

One of the most reprehensible diets to come along was the “Mayo Clinic Diet” or “The Sacred Heart Hospital Diet” which is centered around a cabbage soup that can easily be made at home.  You eat the soup instead of your meals; drink plenty of water; and make sure to take a good quality multi-vitamin every day.  You can have as much soup and water as you like.  This diet got so popular in the late 90’s, the Mayo clinic put out a statement that they were not the sponsor of this diet, and the dangers of following the diet.  According to the initial instructions for the diet, you were only supposed to be on it for a week.  Most people tried to extend that.  Someone put out a modified schedule of so many days on, then off, then on, etc.  This diet can be effective to start a more moderate diet, but in no way should be followed as an exclusive diet.  It’s basically a low-fat, high fiber diet.

Then there are other diet fads that concentrate on one aspect of diet.  Some call for high amounts of protein, some for lower carbs, some for eating whole foods with no processing, others for juicing everything to a pulp and drinking it.  There are some diets that are followed for a short period of time until the weight loss is achieved, while others are a lifetime commitment.  Some diets are based on allergies (can anyone say “gluten free”?), and others are based on illnesses or body chemistry.

Everyone reacts differently to different foods and diets, and sometimes differently at different stages of their lives.  Otherwise, how could a toddler grow up healthy and strong on a diet that would send an adult to the hospital?  At one point in my life, I developed a sensitivity to beef.  Couldn’t eat it at all, which was a crying shame since I love beef.  For a period of about six years,  I had to abstain or suffer the consequences.  Then I gradually moved on from it.  My partner/spouse is lactose intolerant.  Anything containing milk sugars sends him screaming from the bathroom.  Some people are allergic to peanuts, while others are allergic to gluten in wheat products.  Some people react to trace minerals to a point where they can seem psychotic.

My point is that no single fad diet is going to work for everyone.  Some people will find success with a fad and others won’t.  But there’s one thing that everyone will have success with, as long as they have a good dose of patience, and a teaspoon of discipline.  It’s called, “Increasing the level of calories burned so it’s more than the level of calories input.”  That’s a little awkward so I’ll call it by its short name.  Exercise.

Experts have long been saying that permanent weight loss should be optimally attained over a prolonged period.  The slower you take it off, the longer it stays off.  That’s always been the difficulty with the fads.  They were like yo-yos.  Lose/gain/lose/gain.  No one wants to stay on a restrictive diet for long.   Shh, not even vegetarians.

So, it’s really a matter of moving your body so calories are burned, and eating healthy so calories are fewer.  Experts agree that the most you should be looking for is 1-2 pounds of weight loss a week.  We’re not talking about being an Olympic athlete, but living a healthy lifestyle.  Take in all kinds of food in moderation.  Even fast foods (ick!) are okay, once in a while.  Just make certain that the bulk of your foods are healthy, and you balance them against the right amount of exercise.

So, let’s say you are 60 pounds overweight.  You should be aiming for a 1-2 pound weight loss per week.  That means, to lose the weight you want to lose, you’re looking at about a year.  You have to examine your entire life.  See where you can fit some good movement into it.  A walk after dinner.  A slow jog before breakfast.  A mid-afternoon bike ride.  Just don’t pile all your activity into one or two days or you will be sore!  Where in your menu can you cut back?  (I stopped drinking sodas about three weeks ago.  I didn’t change anything else, but I can see a difference in me.)  Do you eat a lot of carbs?  Cut back a little every meal and switch them out for fresh veggies.  If you’re eating a lot of salad, and you dress them up with creamy, cheesy dressings, substitute a vinaigrette, or light sprinkling of salt.

Put your scale in the closet.  Don’t look at it for six months, at least.  Let your mirror tell you how successful you’re being.  Don’t get discouraged.  We’re looking at a year from now, not next week.  At the start of this, look at everything you eat and evaluate if it’s the best thing you should be doing.  Don’t beat yourself up over it.  I eat lots of things just cuz they taste good!  I very seldom eat something that tastes like mud just because it’s good for me.  Over time, you’re focus will change and you’ll make better choices because you want to, or at least because it’s your new habit.

What this will do for you is turn you into a healthy human being instead of one who’s “dieting.”

So why bring all this up now?  Like I said, it’s the season of eating.  And right after it’s done, we’re going to want to undo what we did.  We should at least do it in a healthy way, right?


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