On 45 Million Diets

I read an article recently which stated that 45 million people begin a diet each year.

Now, I have to tell you up front that I don’t use the word hate very often but I hate the word diet. I’ve always believed that if you’re comfortable with who you are and in good health then the word diet shouldn’t necessarily be a consideration. Unfortunately, poor eating habits over a period of time can lead to health issues so I guess  it’s a catch 22. Pay me now or pay me later.

I’ve gone through a number of diets over the years, including the ones listed above, which is why I don’t like the word. I was always a big kid. I think I was 6’2″ in grammar school but I was always very active. I played ball year round which kept my weight down to around 190 through high school. My parent owned a grocery store and we lived behind the store so the words, kid in a candy shop, applied to me. All the wrong stuff was easy for me to have. When I stopped playing ball and didn’t alter my eating habits, the weight started coming. By the time I was in my middle 20’s I was up to 270. I didn’t feel bad but my blood pressure was high and the doctor said, very directly, either lose weight or die early.

So he put me on a 1500 calorie diet, which I still have nightmares about. I tried every new diet fad over the years, including the dreaded cabbage soup diet. But I found that every diet would reverse itself after I stopped and the weight would come back. I also realized that I didn’t gain this weight overnight and I wasn’t going to lose it overnight. So I started doing things differently. I began altering my eating habits. Nothing drastic, just being more cognizant of what I was eating. I also began exercising, not in the way people do today, because gyms weren’t as popular in 70’s and 80’s as they are now. Plus, I never liked solitary exercise, like running or weightlifting. I enjoyed sports. So I began playing racquetball, something I never tried before. I played for several years, 2-3 times a week, two hours each session. It’s a great workout and during those years, I slowly lost some weight, dropping down to around 235. It wasn’t quick, but it was permanent.

Through the following years, I would plateau at certain weights, then lose 5-10 pounds over a couple of months before maintaining my weight for a while. Long story short, I now weigh what I did in high school, around 192. I would set certain goals for myself but those goals would sometimes be months or years apart. Losing all that weight at one time was just too hard and depressing for me but knowing I was moving in that direction and not going back was important to me. The thing I was most excited about was getting below 200 pounds, something I didn’t do until 6-7 years ago,. I had been playing around at 202-205 for years and could never break that barrier but when I did, I took a photo of the scale. It was fun.

So as someone who has been there and struggled with weight for many years, here’s what I learned.

Losing weight is something YOU have to want to do, You can’t lose it for anyone else but yourself and while having someone be your support through the process is helpful, it can’t be an excuse. Just like being happy is up to you, so is weight loss.

When you’re out of a clothes size and begin to buy new clothes, get rid of those bigger sizes immediately. Don’t have anything in your closet you can fall back on. Putting on a few pounds  and having to squeeze into clothes that are getting too tight, is a great motivator.

Exercise. It doesn’t have to be a gym or some expensive equipment. Going for a good paced walk is helpful on so many levels but mainly it’s good for your body and your mind. It’s easy to say you don’t have the time but that’s just an excuse. You don’t have to go every day but it should be something you do 4-5 times. week.

Moderation,moderation, moderation. You can eat anything as long as you do it smartly.  Going out to eat is not that difficult, There are healthy items everywhere now but even if you wanted to eat something decadent, eat half of it and take the other half home. You’ll thank yourself the next day when those leftovers are lunch or dinner. Everything in smaller portions. It’s something that Weight Watchers preaches. Portion control. It’s why I think they’re the smartest weight loss organization out there. Eat anything you want, just do it in moderation and with a plan.

Use the old adage….eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner (preferably before 6:00) like a pauper. I can’t tell you how much that has helped. Also, smaller meals rather than larger ones. I found that grazing during the day worked best for me, which is why my family calls me the nibbler.

Finally, and most importantly, never go back. When I began losing weight, I told myself that I would never put back what I lost. But long weekend parties and vacations sometimes alter those plans. So if I ever put on 2-3 pounds I made sure I took it off immediately. I never went beyond that, no matter what the situation, because 2-3 becomes 5-7, which becomes 10-12 in a heartbeat, and then it’s mountain instead of a hill.

Dieting is a tough and touchy subject, 45 million tough and touchy. But if it’s something you have to do for health reasons or just because you want to, then understand it can’t/shouldn’t  be done overnight. But it can be done. Everyone’s body is different so what works for me might not work for you. I developed a lot of little habits that I found helped me, but there’s not enough time for that today…:)

Everyone’s motivation is different. But the end result is the same.

Just don’t use the word diet. Its depressing.  Tell yourself that you’re going to adjust your eating habits and make small changes, because that’s really what you’re doing.

If you’re one of the 45 million…good luck.

 

 

61 thoughts on “On 45 Million Diets

  1. Lynn

    George, I am not a fan of diets either although making healthy choices certainly is. I am a firm believer that introducing exercise into your daily regime is key for so many reasons.

    I have watched a few friends try extreme diets of all sorts, not introducing any kind of exercise, only to gain all, if not more weight than when they first stared. It is such a roller coaster for them, both mentally & physically!

    Get up & move is my suggestion!

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  2. Ilona Elliott

    Good for you George! Such a common sense approach. I on the other hand have probably read one hundred diet books, and only actually been on a diet and stuck to it–once. And it was Weight Watchers, which didn’t require a book, just a computer! I guess lugging all those diet books back and forth to the library could count for exercise, couldn’t it?

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  3. Carrie Rubin

    I think you’ve hit on the issue perfectly. Moderation and portion control is key. If there’s something we can’t help binging on, then sure, we should avoid it. But for most things, moderation seems the way to go. That way we’re not always craving things we can’t have. Kudos to you for getting the weight off and keeping it off. That last part’s the hardest.

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  4. oldmainer

    I am one of those people and I can attest to the value of brisk walks. That and portion control made several pounds disappear over time. And using a smaller plate at dinner helps a lot psychologically. Unfortunately, I am married to a great cook which I never thought would be a negative, but it can be. Perhaps if I cooked for myself? It’s a thought.

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    1. George Post author

      Lol…you know, cooking your own meals light help. That’s a good point about smaller dishes and not leaving a serving dish on the table also helps.

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  5. RetirementallyChallenged.com

    I really dislike the word “diet” too. Once we establish a healthy way of eating – one that is easy (or not too challenging) to maintain – and exercise regularly, we should try to honor the weight our body wants to be. Dieting beyond what we can comfortably maintain for the long term can be extremely frustrating and is actually counter-productive.

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  6. Svet Pavlovsky

    You sound like a true expert! I can so much relate to everything you wrote. Every time I said to myself that I am starting a new diet I felt hungry in my head and end up eating more. So with time I changed the way I think and refer to it. I call it a new life style. Similar to you. And I agree that you have to really want to lose weight for yourself, otherwise you will not succeed. I also learned that sometimes it is okay to breakdown as long as I am determined to continue with the new eating habits in the long run. Great post 🙂

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  7. Kate Crimmins

    You are so right! You don’t go on a diet. That sounds temporary and gives you the illusion you can go right back to eating the way you did before. You have to have a lifestyle change. I’m fortunate (thank you Dad), I don’t have weight issues although while I was on a cancer drug I gained 12 lbs. It took 9 long months to take it off. One of the best things to do when eating out is to split your meal into two portions. I do that for breakfast too. Good grief! The breakfast you get these days is HUGE! So are burgers. I remember when juice was 6 ounces. Now it’s 16. I know why people are bigger.

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    1. George Post author

      Splitting portions is something we do all the time. Either sharing in casual places or taking leftovers home at better restaurants. You’re right, the portions these days are crazy. I can eat breakfast and not eat much, if anything, the rest of the day.

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      1. Kate Crimmins

        Sadly my husband doesn’t like to split. Mostly we like different things but he likes to eat as much as he wants. When I go out with the girls we always split or divvy up a few appetizers and we’re good. Kudos to your for your sensible approach to weight loss.

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  8. Book Club Mom

    You say things just right here. I remember going on a cabbage soup diet when I was in my twenties. I think I lost 8 pounds in a week and was stick thin for about a day. I think the whole idea of focusing on a life style, smaller portions and moderation is the way to go. It’s a tough subject for sure.

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    1. George Post author

      You’re right, Barbara…it really is a lifestyle change and a tough topic to discuss without people becoming defensive.
      That cabbage soup diet was pretty gross after the first day, wasn’t it..:)

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  9. DailyMusings

    Perfect advice. Eating has to become a way of life- not starvation and then bingeing. Like you, if I went up 3 to 5 lbs I immediately pulled back and exercised more. Last year I hit a new high, and my cholesterol and sugar levels were not good. Gaining some weight along with age and less exercise were the culprits. 3 months later, 14 lbs less, running 2 miles everyday, all levels went to normal. I dropped 2 sizes. Instead of removing a lot of my clothes, I had them taken in. 🙂

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    1. George Post author

      Congratulations!!! Having clothes taken in is another option, just as long as those bigger sizes don’t remain in your closet. It’s too easy to fit back into them..:)

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  10. Ann Coleman

    Excellent advice, George! I carried around an extra fifteen pounds for years (I know that’s not a huge amount, but I have small bones, so I don’t carry any extra weight well and I was very self-conscious about it.) Diets never worked for me. What did work was exactly what you said: paying more attention to what I ate, becoming more active, and mostly, portion control. I didn’t want to give up my favorite foods, so I didn’t. I just ate less of them.
    I can’t think of anyone who wants to be on a diet their whole life, so what you say makes so much sense. Just make the little adjustments that allow us to be healthy, and be satisfied with that. Thanks for spreading the word! (And congrats on getting back to your high school weight! Not many people can say that.)

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    1. George Post author

      It sounds so simple and in some ways it is but the application of the process is as much emotional as anything. That’s where the rub comes in. Congratulations on getting rid of that 15 the right way…:)

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      1. Ann Coleman

        I know! “Eat less, exercise more” is simple. But actually doing it isn’t simple at all, for all kinds of reasons. I honestly think we’re sort of wired to eat a lot, probably from back in the days when humans had to search and/or work for food all day just to have enough to eat. I mean, I don’t know of any other animals that worry about eating too much. As far as they are concerned, food is for eating. Period!

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  11. thechickengrandma

    You give great advice George! After the vacation I went on with sisters, and nieces some weeks a go I am still struggling….but I have struggled my entire life. I am glad spring is almost here as I can get out and get walking again. You sound exactly like my husband….moderation, moderation, moderation and get moving!
    And yes….years ago I also tried the dreaded cabbage soup diet!

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    1. George Post author

      Lol… I think everyone tried that diet, Faye. It wasn’t pleasant. Like you, I can’t wait for spring for so many reasons but to begin walking outside again would be a bonus. Mall walking and treadmills doesn’t do it for me…:)

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  12. Osyth

    First of all may I say this is an excellent article, written from experience and with truth and honesty (what else would I expect with you as it’s author). In France, we do not refer to a diet as something to do with weight loss. Our diet, what we eat, is ‘la diéte’ and if we want to lose weight or indeed alter our habits we ‘fait le régime’ and I do think it is crucial to make the distinction. I have written in the past about my take, from the point of view of living in this country, on ‘The French Paradox’ …. eating animal fats aplenty, meat, dairy, sugary cakes, lots of bread and drinking wine. The most striking thing for me is HOW we eat in France. We would not dream of eating bread before the meal is served. If we take an apéro, the snacks are tiny and we would only take one or two (it is rude to take more), wine, if taken is taken WITH the meal and in small glasses – if beer is served it would be the same rule. No enormous glasses. Cheese is taken in a tiny piece and with a little bread (no butter, please), desserts are generally reserved for entertaining and Sundays. In the end I conclude that it is a moderation in all things culture and that is the secret. That obesity is beginning to claw its way in is, I believe in no small part because of the embracing of fast food (‘le restauration rapide’) and convenience foods which though delicious will generally have high fat and/or sugar content. For those that still cook every meal from scratch (and mercifully they are still the vast majority) you will seldom see obesity (comely and fullsome maybe, a little portly certainly with age but not morbidly obese). The other side of the coin is the fact that everyone is active. Even extremely old people will take a walk whenever the weather is not absolutely dreadful and even then you will find them walking to the bakery etc. I think that my own birth country (the UK) and the US could do well to stop stereotyping the French as a nation of wine-soaked, cheese crusted, baguette waving gastronomes and understand that the reverence for food extends to taking pride and time over meals and that the reverence for their style extends to taking exercise (and boy do they like their exercise gear but that is another story!).

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    1. George Post author

      Those are all great points, Osyth. We spent a couple of weeks in France over twenty years ago and sadly have not been back, though I have wanted to since we left. I agree that France, like other countries, is a victim of stereotypes , in many cases by people who have never been there. We noticed the same things you mention when we were there. I don’t know if it’s changed at all but I remember being told that if restaurants are
      full, people don’t wait because there is no rush for those sitting. They have the table for as long as they want it. Dinners would take all evening in some cases and sometimes wouldn’t begin until after 9:00. We walked through some towns at 11 or 12 at night and it seemed they were just getting started. It really is more of an experience than a meal. I noticed that practice more outside of Paris where we spent much of our time, but I’m sure the same holds true in the city. Of all the places we’ve ever been, the countryside of France has been the most memorable for me. UK is a very close second. But I gravitate toward smaller towns and villages rather than the big cities. One day I’ll have to get back..:)

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      1. Osyth

        I do hope you will be able to return and explore more of the little places where life is still as it was in many ways, including the lack of hurry at the table! I also wanted to say that I hope your wife is doing well. I hold you both in my thoughts 🙂

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  13. deepasthoughts

    Excellent article George. Straight from the horse’s mouth. A new mantra is “ eat whatever your grandmother ate the way she ate it.” But the problem is I don’t get half the things that my grandmother ate. Grains have been either modified genetically or have become extinct and veggies and fruits look and taste so different.
    Eat moderately and exercise is the time that I follow too.

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    1. George Post author

      I think you touched on part of the problem. Everything seems to be modified in ways that are not necessarily healthy for us. So many ingredients on labels now, I don’t even know what half of them are. Moderation and exercise seems to works best.

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  14. sportsattitudes

    George, about 30 years ago I started thinking about how much less I weighed in high school than I did…and managed to lose about 75 lbs., getting to a way more ideal weight. I had the metabolism and activity at that time where I didn’t need to “diet”…just stop eating at night, eating some breakfast again, etc. I don’t think I could ever live on any of these proposed “diets.” I just needed to start approaching food – and the timing towards consuming it – a lot better. It really is, as you say, about adjusting your lifestyle and habits. “Diet” sounds depressing from the start as far as I am concerned. I have weighed myself daily since and if I start to see a “slide” I make an adjustment in the next couple of days – more activity and/or less intake – and I’m good to go. Everyone is different – that’s what works for me.

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  15. aFrankAngle

    For those of us who remember bookstores, the diet section was huge for a reason … many people are looking for a quick fix …. an easy fix … and it’s not to be found. Good advice for others in this post!

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  16. paywindow7

    A few years ago I was working out at the ‘Y’ and met a man who was into working out big time. He was about 75 years old at the time and bench pressing 245. Long story short he got me into it and I’m still a three times a weeker. So you can develop and maintain muscle tissue much .later in life than I had ever considered before. The cosmetics of a heavy work out routine mean nothing to me. I’m 78 with a few physical problems and the reason I still do the tricks in the weight room is that leaving the gym after an hour or two I walk out feeling 100 percent better than when I went in. I’m told exercising triggers many body chemicals that help us. The man I was talking about has some videos on YouTube, the one I recommend is called ’80 year old bench press workout’…….I think.

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  17. Kim Gorman

    I agree it is so difficult to lose weight in the sense that there is no easy way, though at the same time it’s not rocket science. Just a lot of self-discipline, healthy eating, exercise, and learning to live with a growling belly at times. I gained five pounds over the holidays, and in the past week have gained another four! My co-worker, who told me today that she gained seven pounds in one week, this past week, is blaming it on mercury in retrograde right now. Which means we’ll all lose five pounds when it ends around the 13th. Fingers crossed!

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    1. George Post author

      Mercury in retrograde…now that’s one I haven’t heard before..:)
      Just a change in lifestyle usually does it but that’s so much easier said than done.
      Great to see you, Kim. I hope all is well..:)

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