Diet or life-style change?
According to the Oxford Languages dictionary, the word “diet” can either be a noun or a verb. When someone says, “I am going on a diet”, they are referring to “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons.” The same definition applies when the word is used as a verb, i.e. “it’s difficult to diet”, due to those same restrictions and limitations. That definition alone explains why the word has received such a negative connotation. But there are four reasons why the word “diet” does not fully describe the journey I have been taking since June of 2020.
First, I am not eating any “special” course of food. In the past, I’ve tried all kinds of diets like Keto, Atkins, low fat, high fiber, high protein, vegetarian, frozen foods, pre-packaged meal-plans, healthy eating pyramid (recommended by health experts) and so on. The pattern was always the same. I would lose 10-15 pounds and then hit a plateau, get frustrated and fall off the wagon at the first sign of temptation. Then I would stop eating those foods all together because I was so bored with them. Besides, they did not provide the results I wanted anyway!
I will give credit to Weight Watchers because they were one of the first programs to realize that people do not like being restricted! It leads to boredom and burn-out very quickly. Looking back, the few times when I had the most success with weight loss was when I was tracking my food with the Weight Watchers app. The Weight Watchers “Points” programs evolved over time, though, and one food item would be higher or lower in points based on the goal of the program. For instance, I remember when the McDonalds vanilla ice cream cone was only about 4 points and then suddenly, the program changed and it was worth 11 points! Let’s just say that little vanilla treat did not look so tasty anymore! (Very depressing.) The point is though (no pun intended), at least Weight Watchers allowed me to eat that vanilla cone.
I discovered the same flexibility with My Fitness Pal many years ago, but 2020 was finally the year that I decided to embrace it. I knew I would love using the app because there were NO limitations. But the key to using it is to calculate calories BEFORE you eat them.
For instance, before you place your order at your favorite fast food restaurant, search the app and you will often find a direct link to their menu, which contains all of the nutritional information, INCLUDING CALORIES! Now who is the smart one – ordering the short caffe mocha with non-fat milk (110 calories) from Starbucks instead of the tall salted caramel mocha with whole milk and whipped cream (360 calories)! After using the app for months, I have found all kinds of foods and drinks that are equally satisfying, if not more, than the high calorie foods that got me here in the first place!
The second reason that I do not like using the word “diet” is because it implies that you are only restricting yourself to certain foods in order to lose weight. That just won’t work for me. The biggest reason is that I have hit multiple plateaus in the last few months. Days and even a week would go by and I would not see ANY weight loss even though I was still tracking my calories and exercising like a champ. During those time periods, I would have to remind myself about all of the other benefits, outside of weight loss, that I have experienced, such as increased energy, smaller clothing sizes, not overheating in the middle of the night, less body aches (tummy/head), my rings fit, new shoes fit (no more “wide-width”), I can keep up with instructors in my exercise classes, the list goes on and on.
Thirdly, the definition of the word diet does not apply once all of the weight is lost. No wonder “Roughly 90 percent of people who lose a lot of weight eventually regain just about all of it.” (healthblog.uofmhealth.org) According to the meaning of the word diet, the second you get to your goal weight, you no longer should be dieting. It’s as if we are sabotaged from the word “go” (or “diet”, to be literal.)
Lastly, the word diet does not give any credit to activity. The un-written rule says you need to spend 80% of your time and effort on eating less calories and 20% on exercise, but I like to think that I have stretched the ratio to 70/30. (I love my dance classes and often spend 1.5-2 hours a day exercising. Today I did a 50 minute dance class and then I walked for 40 minutes, which increased my daily food allowance by 750 calories. No skipping dessert tonight!)
What I am trying to say is that I do not want to go on a diet, according to the definition of the word. It doesn’t fully describe the journey I am taking and plan to stay on for as long as possible. My reasons for eating healthier are far more numerous than just to lose weight and I will NOT be restricted to eating kale and lentils. Give me frozen yogurt, Peppermint York Patty Thins and Light Cool Whip or give me death! I’ve worked hard enough. I deserve them!
A much better term for describing my program/plan/journey is to call it a permanent life-style change. I choose to eat healthier and exercise because it makes me feel good. I am not tracking my calories just because I want to lose weight, although that is one of the main reasons. For the last 20 years of my life, I had little to no control over my food intake. The only times I lost weight and kept it off for any length of time was when I religiously tracked calories in a food diary of some sort. (In fact, I have a full book shelf of old journals from the last 20 years, but we can discuss my hoarding tendencies later.)
So what am I on right now? Maybe people think it’s some kind of happy pill or a new man in my life, but they would be wrong. After 6 months, I think it’s time to say that I have CHANGED MY LIFE! Every morning, I get to wake up and pick out another cute outfit that shows off my smaller shape. Then I eat my favorite meal of the day – my one-egg and toast breakfast with lightly creamed coffee while I get caught up on the news.
I often enjoy a protein shake for lunch. (With choices such as Monster Cookie, Grasshopper Pie - today’s choice - or Reese’s, how can you feel deprived?) Then I take a weight-lifting or dance class after work, before going home to enjoy the highest-calorie meal of the day, which is really anything that my family might be craving. (I can usually find ways to make it healthier for me.) I often walk after supper, either at the gym or around my neighborhood with my cute little black cock-a-poo and my friend Rhonda.
Somewhere in between, I work, take nice hot baths, spend time with family and friends and maybe watch the TV in the background as I type in my journey (The Day After tomorrow is muted right now.)
I end each of these days by sliding under the warm covers, knowing I made good choices that will soon lead to even more amazing results. Why would I want to live any other way? I am blessed. But even more than that, I am so proud of who I have become. I’m a heart breaker, dream maker, love taker, don’t you mess around with me! (Who knew Pat was singing about me!)