Let me make this very clear. I hate everything about dieting.
I love food. It comforts me. It rejoices with me.
I drink at least one full-sugar Dr. Pepper every day. I have the eating habits of a 12-year-old child.
Today I am going to use the “I” word a lot. I normally don’t do that because this blog site is not just about me. It’s about you and me and the parts of our journeys we have in common. But today, this blog is about me. What I do. The way I feel about dieting. I hope it clarifies some things for you. Here is how I found the Diet of Janet. I hope you can find your own “Diet of You.”
I’ve been “retired” for over a year. (I use that term loosely.) I’ve let that number on the scales get away from me. Now I must use that four letter word I hate—DIET. Did you know that the first three letters of diet is DIE?
My clothes can range from size 8 to size 14. I’ve tried almost every diet out there. My weight is not out of control, but when I only fit into size 14s and 16s are on my horizon, I feel like it is. I beat myself up for my lack of self-discipline and willpower. “Stinking thinking” creeps into my daily life and I get cranky and irritable at times.
There is no doubt I act like a better person when I weigh less. I feel better when I look better. I feel more alive, confident, and energetic.
Bottom line: I am a better parent, wife, friend, and professional when I feel better about myself.
I also set a better example for my children when I take better care of myself. 100 lectures won’t accomplish what actions they see me do. Since I know all of this, why is dieting so difficult?
A few months ago I decided to take a different approach to dieting. I did some research and I finally figured out how to get the results I wanted. I will share with you the three strategies I learned.
Three Basic Strategies
First, I don’t follow the experts, but tailor my diet to me. That means no organized program designed to give me the right results. No Weight Watchers (sorry Oprah!), no Jenny Craig, no Dr. Oz or Marie Osmond. (Although she does look good on that Nutrisystems diet.) I need the Diet of Janet. The Diet of Me. My food, my hunger pains. What works for me? I had to find out.
Second, I know that dieting is more mental than physical. My mind has to be in the right place. I have to do this for me, not for my husband or anyone else.
My husband watches his weight at every meal, every day. He likes to talk about it. He can eat half of a Reece’s peanut butter mini and set the other half down. I believe he does this to drive me crazy.
When he talks about it, I take it personally. I imagine judgment due to my lack of ability to diet. His comments make me want to eat more, not less. I wish the husbands and well-meaning family members of the world would realize this. Dieting is personal. Nagging doesn’t work. It only makes us want to rebel, or at least it does for me.
Finally, I remind myself that food is just food. It’s not a reward. It’s not something I “deserve” for a job well done or at the end of a hard day. It’s not my go to “friend” in times of need. I do not show love with food, nor do I receive love with food. Food is just an energy source designed to make my body function, like gas for a car. I’ve got to stop making food more than it is.
How many times do I stand at the buffet line and say to myself “I deserve this?” Danger Will Robinson! What I “deserve” is to be my very best self. Happy and healthy.
Here’s a too-long list of things that I have learned in my quest to make my body a lean, mean operating machine for Ms. Janet. I give you lots of options so you can pick and choose your own Diet of You:
- Eat foods you like. Yes, just regular every day normal foods, nothing specially prepared, nothing out of the ordinary. I need real food, just less of it and less of the really fattening, high calorie stuff.
- Use a diet aid. If you need a “diet pill” to get your appetite curbed that first week, don’t beat yourself up over it. Modern science is designed to help us. Just realize it’s only a temporary crutch.
- Stay hydrated. I try to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. I think it flushes out my system. I keep a pretty jar of cold water in the refrigerator so it is there when I need it. I don’t drink diet sodas. “Diet” does not always mean the item will help you diet.
- Use a phone app. I use the Lose It app on my iPhone to track my daily calorie intake. It’s easy and fun to use. I am not exaggerating when I say I was taking in 5,000 calories a day. I munch. I graze. I eat late at night. It all adds up to a whopping number.
- Keep low-calorie treats handy. I keep sugar free peppermints in my purse at all times for when I need sweet fix.
- Adjust your eating habits so they work with you, not against you. I try not to eat after 8:00 p.m. I also try to make my larger meal at lunch and use dinner as my smaller meal. How much fuel do I actually need to sleep anyway?
- Indulge, but not too much. I keep white chocolate chips in the door of my refrigerator when I “really” need a chocolate fix. A few of those easily replace a whole candy bar or sleeve of Thin Mints. I also keep carrots and strips of red peppers with me in the car to snack on when I am tempted to pull into a 7-11 for a peanut butter cracker or Dorito fix.
- Exercise smart. I use my FitBit and try my best to do at least 10,000 steps a day. It helps to have a goal. When it comes to exercise I do intervals: Walk slow for three minutes, then fast for one, then slow for three, then fast for one. You get the idea. Intervals can be done with any exercise. Slow. Fast. Slow. People say intervals burn calories for 24 hours after you exercise whereas straight walking only burns calories for an hour afterwards.
- Eat mindfully. I eat slower and I think about the type of food I am putting into my body. Is it good for me? Is it healthy? Am I comfort eating or am I in need of a food source to fuel my body?
- Avoid processed foods. I learned they are harder for your body to digest and get rid of. Deli meats were my go-to lunch. When your food does not look like its actual source, you don’t really know what’s been added. Eat things that look like what they are. Chicken has bones, not fingers.
- Weigh-in at least once a week, and chart it. Daily is OK too, but make sure your goal is long-term weight loss, not short-term fluctuations.
- Don’t get discouraged. Don’t let one failure have you throw in the towel. Plan for failure, and get back on the wagon!
- Cut down on red meats. I love bacon, but when someone pointed out that the inside of my body looks like the pan after I have cooked bacon, I realized I don’t need that greasy fat stuck to my insides. The pan is hard to clean after you cook bacon. My body is also hard to clean after I eat it. Same with hamburgers (which I love).
- Control portions. Do I need a whole plate of spaghetti and seconds? Just cutting everything in half (or in my case ¼) satisfies my hunger and accomplishes the same thing. Gluttony is my body’s enemy.
- That bring me to the most important thing I now do: Phone a Friend. Find one person with whom you can share your journey, especially in times of struggle and hunger. Talk about your trigger points. It illuminates for me why I eat, what I eat and when I eat. I prefer to diet in secret, so no one is looking for progress. So I have one friend to talk to and share my secret so I can be held to non-judgmental accountability.
Give yourself the gift of a happy, healthy you. Don’t waste precious time and energy on negative and self-defeating thoughts.
Will I see size 14 jeans again? Maybe, and maybe not. At least now I have strategies that I know will work. I can always go back to them at any time that I need them.
I deserve it!
Share your own diet tips in the comment section below.
|I’m Janet Byington, a former school administrator who helps parents build confidence, motivation, and mental toughness in their soon-to-be college students. Work with me.