I love food. Always have. Always will. But, these days I no longer live to eat. I eat to live.
It took me a long time to find my balance. My weight loss struggles began in childhood and continued for decades. I'm a very slow learner.
It is no fun being a fat teenager, especially in our 'model perfect super thin is always in' society.
The summer prior to my entering 9th grade I went on my first diet subsisting on green salad, cottage cheese, and fruit. I slimmed down, but it didn't last. The struggles continued through the college years, where I vacillated between celery and air-popped popcorn deprivation and ice cream and Cheese-It binges, all the while over-depending on aerobics classes in a feeble attempt to compensate.
Weekends at home meant loading up on Mom's wonderful cooking and indulging in my favorite local pizza & beer and promising to start a new diet first thing Monday. The ups and downs were exhausting. Eating and dieting were an obsession.
In my late 20's I was introduced to the Weight Watchers plan and lost 30 pounds. It was the first "diet" that ever really worked and I loved how I felt. But, I got cocky, thought I had it all figured out and stopped following the plan. Guess what happened?
Yep! I gained most of the weight back. Over the next ten plus years the dieting ups and downs continued. I vacillated between overindulging and half baked attempts at "dieting." It was like I forgot everything I'd learned at Weight Watchers. Food was a huge part of my life: cooking classes, wine tastings, fancy restaurant meals.
I gained and lost the same 10-30 pounds over and over and over. I tried every diet out there--Atkins, Pritikin, South Beach, Grapefruit, Sommersize, Schwarzbein, Fat Flush, low carb, high carb, vegetarian, and through it all my love of food and unhealthy relationship with it continued. I ate for entertainment. For comfort. To alleviate stress.
Why Extreme Diets Don't Work
According to Drs. Roizen and Oz, in their bestselling book, You: On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management, "When you try to 'diet' by going for long periods of time without eating or by eating way too few calories, your brain senses the starvation and sends an SOS signal through your body to store fat because famine is on its way. That's why people who go on extreme fasts and extremely low calorie diets don't lose the expected weight. That and probably, more importantly, they are impossible to stick to, especially in our modern world where food is EVERYWHERE. How long can you stick to an extreme diet with a fast food drive-through on every corner?
Other reasons diets often fail include:
Eating the wrong foods, like overly processed chemically laden foods, simple refined sugars, refined flours, high fructose corn syrup and saturated foods. We have gone from consuming 7.5 pounds of sugar a year in 1700 to 114 pounds in 1967 to 150 pounds on average today! And it has virtually no nutritional value at all--no vitamins or minerals--just 'empty calories.' Studies have linked this increased sugar consumption to increased rates of obesity and diabetes. The more processed foods we eat, the less room we leave for the whole grains, fresh vegetables and protein-rich foods our bodies really need to help us stay healthy and grounded. According to USDA data, people who eat diets high in sugar get less calcium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients. They also consume fewer fruits and vegetables. Foods made from white flour also have very poor satiety value, says the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, so you end up eating more to get full and increase the likelihood that you will end up overweight.
Emotional Eating. We don't just eat when we are physically hungry. Many of us eat when we are happy or sad, tired or stressed. We eat for lots of reasons beyond physical hunger. Sometimes we eat because something looks good or smells good even if we just had a big lunch and aren't hungry or to fill an emotional void. Most diets fail to address this important aspect of feeding ourselves.
Restrictions, Restrictions, Restrictions. A lot of extreme diets tell us what we can't have and leave out whole categories of foods. We may be able to sustain this eating style for a while, but usually, in time we begin to crave what we are missing and revert to old ways. Cycling between all or nothing thinking. The most successful change occurs slowly. It takes at least 28 days to form a new habit. A better approach is to focus on slowly introducing new foods and learning to gradually make healthy replacements for less healthy foods. For example, using salsa instead of sugar laden ketchup or whole grain bread instead of white bread.
What I've Learned about Diets Weight Loss and Weight Watchers
Through the years I have learned a lot about food and nutrition and cooking, about what works for me and what doesn't. It has included lots of trial and error. I have read more diet books than I care to admit, taken cooking classes, worked in restaurants and for a caterer, and even cooked as a personal chef for a while.
A healthy balanced life requires developing a healthy relationship with food and adopting a healthy lifestyle. In our society we tend to take food to the extremes. As Bethenny Frankel says, "Food isn't the enemy. And it can't be your best friend either."
Trips to France and Italy helped me learn a new appreciation for food and to take the French Lady's lead with eating and weight loss. Food provides our fuel, our body's building material and so much more. It is an important component of life, something to be enjoyed and savored too. It takes effort to find the balance.
Martha Shares Her Personal Weight Watchers Story
And that's why I've made Weight Watchers a permanent part of my life. By adopting it as a lifestyle, I've been able to lose the weight and keep it off. I'm even a few pounds below the goal weight I set in my late 20s, a fact that delights me every day. But for Weight Watchers to finally work for me, I had to change my thinking. I had to embrace it as a healthy lifestyle and not a diet. I had to slowly develop healthy habits I can commit to forever. And change the way I think about and interact with food.
I've come to think of my Weight Watchers meetings as 30 minutes of sanity in an out-of-control food world. It offers a comprehensive approach to lasting weight management. I've found the happy healthy balance I sought for years. Weight Watchers works, when you work it! I'm living proof.
If you liked this post about diets weight loss and Weight Watchers, you might also like:
- Creating an Easy Weight Loss Environment
- Reasons Most Diets Fail
- Weight Watchers Success Stories
- 150 Easy Weight Loss Tips
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