The big secret to finding a diet that works

I’ve lost over 15 kilograms recently, and it hasn’t been hard, but it also hasn’t been fast.  I still eat the same meal (almost) as the rest of my family. I still dine out, have take-aways, travel to countries where every menu has pasta on it, and I drink alcohol. These were parts of my life that I was not prepared to compromise on, so I found a way to improve my diet and still include those elements. That’s why I can tell you that at 7 months down the track, I can do this forever.

I’m going to talk about my own (ongoing) journey, my aging female body and its new demands in other posts, but I’d like to share my big secret. Everyone (except maybe 20-somethings, who seem to be able to metabolise everything) should be on a diet, all the time. Stop telling yourself you can eat crap all year and make up for it in a few weeks before summer. Choose a healthy lifestyle that suits you, something you know you can maintain for the rest of your life.

I keep the following four protocols in mind when choosing what to eat each day. Most will use only one of these styles of health maintenance, but I like to combine. Some elements are heavier weighted than others, because of the stage I’m at (at this stage, I’d still like to lose a couple more kilos before maintaining my weight).

Keep calories in check

This is not rocket science – Mark your calories out for the day, and after those are gone, all you have left is celery and green tea. It’s a good idea to pinpoint the foods you are not prepared to give up first, then build the rest of your day around it.

Good for:

  • Portion control rather than content-control
  • Metabolically stable bodies (lowering calories will always affect metabolism)
  • People who don’t mind keeping track of everything
  • Those who can deal with hunger pangs until their weight is in a healthy range
  • The occasional cheat day (weekends at 1500 calories after 5 days at 1200 will probably still keep you losing weight)

Lower your carbs

Rather than an Aitkins or Paleo diets which are hard to maintain, and heading more towards the DASH discipline or the CSIRO’s new low-carb diet, just drop the nastiest of carbs back. Cut out starches and refined sugar, and fill the gaps with protein and a hell of a lot of broccoli.

Good for:

  • Eating the same as the rest as your family (minus the potatoes)
  • Those who don’t want to count calories or decrease portion sizes
  • People who can forgo the sweets and pasta in exchange for bacon or cheese
  • Reasonable cooks who can look at a bare fridge and not reach for a slice of toast
  • The occasional cheat day (a short carb burst can boost metabolism)

Increase your volume

Volumetrics has become popular but it’s really just doing both the above in the opposite way. The idea is that you fill yourself up with all the good stuff (think about the salad you have before the main meal for a Mediterranean diet), so there’s no room left for the baddies.

Good for:

  • Vegetable lovers
  • People whose brains can tell them when their bellies are full
  • Metabolically unstable bodies (this approach keep the digestion moving with fibrous vegetables)
  • People who can shop almost daily, and don’t mind delving into intricate food preparation (a diet of 80% vegetables means you want to keep them fresh and interesting)
  • Saving money (despite what you may have been told, fresh vegetables are relatively inexpensive)

Keep food wholesome

Organic, macrobiotic, ornish and low-GI diets all cross paths here, where there is a focus on whole, fresh foods, a lack of processed items and therefore a drop in sodium and refined carbohydrates.

Good for:

  • Health problems like diabetes and hypertension (It can be hard to lose weight just with wholesome principles)
  • Whole-food gourmets who love a farmers market or local producer
  • Good cooks who have the time to prepare food from scratch
  • Environmental responsibility
  • Dedicated health nuts who don’t mind being ridiculed by junk-food loving friends

 

See – I’m still having fun, and yes, that’s an espresso martini and it’s allowed.

I’ll update links on this page as I delve further into these different ways of watching what you eat. In the meantime, explore the tags and they may take you towards other pages of interest.

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