Friday, July 10, 2009

Fit diet into lifestyle or fit lifestyle into diet?

Here we have a nature nurture type conundrum. The answer lies in a bit of both.

It is imperative to find a dieting style that works for your basic personality type. If you take on something completely antithetical to your basic nature you'll surely give up on it. Conversely, it is equally important to recognize that some elements of your current lifestyle are going to have to change. If nothing needed changing, you wouldn't be overweight.

Here is a list of sorts of ways to fit your diet into your lifestyle.
1. menu planner/recipe user versus free-wheeler: some planning must be done, like making sure the fridge is full of good choices, and packing a lunch or snacks for the road, but beyond that the level of pre-ordained food choices ranges from plans that send you your meals in the mail to plans that offer books and books of recipes to plans that just involve counting the calories and content of the food you eat but let you pick the foods. Pick the one that fits your lifestyle best - most offer a hybrid solution. I don't like menus, recipes or planning but I did as well on WW as my friends who follow recipes exclusively.
2. time of day eating: as long as you recognize your hunger patterns and plan accordingly, you can budget your calories for whatever time of day you like best - within reason. SOME kind of breakfast is imperative and HUGE amounts of late-night eating are not recommended, but there is a huge variety in-between.
3. picking a plan. I'm not a fan of cutting out food groups completely but all major successful diets seem to have the same basic concepts, which are detailed below. I used WW for food intake guidelines, and had a WW lifetime member as a coach but I didn't join and didn't attend a meeting until I'd reached my goal weight. I did all the cooking/menu preparation, etc. the same way I always had, just by picking stuff in my fridge. I just made sure I knew how much I was eating. The flexibility to cook what I wanted when I wanted helped me enormously. If I wanted bacon I just counted the points appropriately and ate 1/2 a BLT instead of a whole one. Some people find this level of choice paralyzing and need pre-set menus. Either is fine.
4. type of exercise. Challenging yourself is important, weight-bearing for major muscle groups is important, but what you do is up to you and you don't need to feel like you're dying.
5. low-fat versus low-carb. Studies show eating less is more important than what you eat.

Here is a list of things that are non-negotiable
1. counting/measuring/reporting. A royal pain. Everyone fights it. All major diet plans require it. Imperative at the start both for accountability, understanding what you're actually eating, and when you're having trouble, and how to fix that. Luckily in the age of iphone/online wiki databases/weirdos who spend lots of time cataloging this is MUCH easier. Ideally the results are reported to another person or people in my mind but even just writing it down and keeping it to yourself is a start.
2. exercise - including weight-bearing. Without exercise you're beating your head against a wall. None of us have time but we must find it anyway. Start with small goals (20 min 3x/week) and increase as you get in better shape (30-40 min 5 x/week).
3. support. Join a group that has a weigh-in, enlist a friend to be coach or partner, start a blog, anything. I had coaching support, exercise support and my blog community, all of which were invaluable.
4. give up food as comfort/eat way less. Very painful realization that actually requires the 5 stages of grieving. Every plan requires it. It's hard to get used to and needs to be thought of as the way going forward, not a short term fix. thin people eat small portions. A major new study just proved this once again. Along with this should come a new attitude about hyper-stimulating, super rich foods and excessive portion size. Those things should start to gross you out after giving them up for a few weeks.
5. some kind of breakfast. Doesn't need to be a huge meal but at least something must be eaten before lunch.
6. food shopping/cooking. If you have enough money to have a personal chef you get out of this one, but other than that all plans phase out the prepared meals eventually. Healthy home cooking is essential to making good choices consistently.
7. cut way back on sugar and alcohol. I suppose this isn't mandatory, but I don't see how you consume a lot of sugar and alcohol while still keeping the calorie count down without constant hunger and sugar cravings (sugar begets sugar).
8. willingness to change/admitting a problem/wanting something else more. This should probably be #1. Like any addict you must admit that your way of doing things is not working and that having a healthy bmi is an important enough goal that you are willing to do things differently. Picking a goal of something else you want more helps - even if it's an item of clothing. If you are unwilling to do 1-7 (especially 4) then you will probably not succeed in losing and keeping off the weight because it will be just a diet and not a mentality-shift.
9. deal with hunger. This is a tough one. When you start you will be hungry. This defeated my attempts for years. Now I'm usually only hungry 1 hour or less before meals, or else I have a snack. During my PMS days I'm a mess. But dealing with hunger sometimes is inevitable. I should probably have given in more and suffered through hunger less, but I have it under better control now that I'm tracking my period.
10. drink a lot of water and tea. Helps with hunger and oral fixation.
11. structured and consistent meal times and amounts. I suppose this isn't imperative, but the more people I work with the more things seem to fall apart without them. If you know how much you can eat and at what times it takes away a lot of the mental torture of "can I eat that?" With pre-determined meal times and amounts it is MUCH easier to handle hunger, and to avoid getting over hungry, stuck without a meal, overeating by accident, etc.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. With all of this. The diet bible.

    Tips and tricks that work for me with the water/tea: drink it with a straw. Not sure why but I manage to drink more that way. Also, if you have a desk job--bring in a brita filter or big pitcher. I started this when I was pumping. I needed the water then (still do, though I've stopped pumping) and having it at my desk was so much easier than remembering to go refill my glass 5xday!