Ever since I have been alive and old enough to pay attention, I have heard discussions about various diets. When I was young, I would see my mother go on and off diets every year. She would lose some weight, go off and then gain again. And then she would find another diet, go on it, lose weight and the cycle would repeat. That is the cycle I hope to break with this article. Hopefully, after reading this, you will have all the knowledge you need to succeed with a diet so that you won’t have to ride the diet roller coaster up and down. In order to get off that ride permanently, you need to properly define what your real goal is, track your successes towards meeting that goal and make a permanent mental change to ensure you are never back to square one again.
Setting goals is important to any endeavor you choose to undertake. You cannot climb the highest peak in the world unless you first set that as your goal. However, with a diet most people set the wrong goal. To understand how to set an appropriate goal, it is helpful to understand what the true meaning of the word diet is.
The word diet has its roots in the Greek word, diaita which means way of living. To help you understand that, think of when you have watched some show about lions on National Geographic. They will describe the diet of the lion as some wild bush animal. No lion that I have ever heard of bought the latest nook book, the Gazelle Diet. The lion eats how he eats and what he eats is what you would call the “diet.” Even if you eat Krispy Kremes for breakfast, a Big Mac and super sized fries for lunch and a large Domino’s pizza for dinner, you are on a diet. Your diet just happens to be killing you. So, when you decide that you are going to go on a diet, you need to understand it for what it truly is: a new and healthy way of eating that you are going to do forever.
Too often, we view diets as a means to an end, with the end being some goal weight. That is a very bad way to look at it, because once you have reached your goal weight, you will feel as if you have “made it” and can now go off your diet. Properly understood, your new diet, or way of life, is the end itself and needs to be the way you will continue to eat for the rest of your life. Since weight loss will now just be a side benefit with this new outlook, you have to set other, more beneficial goals that you can measure and track. The goals you set should be centered around health and well being. For instance, when I started my health journey in March of 2010, my goals were to get my blood sugars under control, lower my blood pressure and get my cholesterol in check. Those are the types of goals you want to set, not some arbitrary weight that you think you should reach. The primary reason you don’t want to set a weight goal is that you are just setting yourself up for failure. No matter what way of eating you choose, you will experience a stall. If weight loss is your goal, you will find yourself disappointed and will probably jump ship and go right back to where you started or even heavier.
No matter what health goals you set for yourself, you need to make sure you pick ones that you can track your progress with. So, in my case, I chose lower blood pressure for one of my goals. In February of 2010, my doctor diagnosed me as a stage one hypertensive and wrote me a prescription for meds to get it under control. I really didn’t want to be medicated, so with his permission, I attacked that metric with a diet change rather than popping a daily pill. Since then, I have gone from 140/100 to 110/70 without medication. This was an excellent goal because it was one I could easily track at my local pharmacy or grocery store using their blood pressure machine. It was fun and motivating to watch the numbers come down as I checked it every week. I also wanted to improve my blood numbers with diet alone, so I did base line blood work with my doctor and then had it checked again at three months and then again at six months. In that six month period I went from pre-diabetic and dangerously high cholesterol (if you buy in to the cholesterol myth) to normal numbers on both counts. Again, these were great motivators that I could measure. By focusing on those things which centered around improved health, the times where my weight loss stalled for a month at a time weren’t nearly as crushing and disappointing. Because my focus was centered on the right kind of metrics, I was never tempted to go off plan because my weigh-ins weren’t giving me the results I wanted.
In order for a diet to be truly successful, it has to be a permanent change. This means you have to get your mind right to see it that way. The absolute best way to accomplish this is through education. Jesus said the truth shall set you free, and like everything else, he was right. Make sure you do lots of reading either on-line or in books to grow your knowledge about healthy eating constantly. When you truly understand the truth of why you are doing what you are doing, the change can become more about a lifetime change rather than some temporary change that you eventually abandon. I am constantly reading articles and studies about what effects grain, processed carbs and starchy vegetables have on the body. Not just what they do for your fat, but what they do to the actual functioning of the body. Because I inundate myself with this information, it is much more difficult for anything or anybody to tempt me with what I view as poison. Because I have grown my knowledge base so much, when I see a plate of sugary sweets, all I see is a plate filled with rat poison. This mental shift is what has made my low carb-high fat lifestyle stick.
Finally, since you have made this a permanent way of life, you want to select a lifestyle that you can live with for the rest of your life. One key thing to be on the look-out for is anything promising a quick fix; especially those that make you eat something over and over as a meal or use meal replacement shakes. That would include things like the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet or slim fast. Nobody is going to be able to live like that forever, so you should not choose those plans for your new way of living. All those things will do is get you right back to where you started. If for some reason you don’t think you can reduce your carbohydrate intake, then pick a good low calorie (what they used to call semi-starvation diet) so you can include them. If semi-starvation isn’t your thing, then chose a good low carbohydrate plan for you to follow. Either of these approaches are covered by various plans, but they all come down to these two approaches. You could do Weight Watchers or the DASH diet if you like low calories and really like your grains, or you could go Paleo/Primal, Atkins or some other variation of low carb-high fat if you really enjoy eating and not being hungry. No matter which route you take, just make sure it is something you can live with forever, because that is the only way you can make sure your new “diet” be your last.