When I finally got the hang of this weight-loss thing more than 20 years ago, it wasn’t without more than a few false starts. I had gone on my share of diets, some crazy, some not so. But the one thing they had in common was, they didn’t work for me.
Eventually, it was a combination of Weight Watchers and my own knowledge base, built during those many years of trial and error, that got me where I am today, 70 pounds lighter and infinitely healthier in body and mind. Since this is the time of year when we renew our vows to eat healthier and drop those unwanted pounds, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my hard-earned guidance for choosing a weight-loss plan.
Look out for plans that …
- Eliminate an entire food group. Diets that ask you to cut any food group completely tend to be difficult to stick with long-term and may ultimately be unhealthy. Even fats, particularly good fats like canola oil, and sweets have a place in a healthy diet. If you completely deny yourself foods you love, chances are you’ll increase your desire for them (you know … the old law of supply and demand), and may set yourself up for a binge.
- Promises more than a 2-pound weight loss/week. Two pounds a week is about the amount of weight you should expect to lose on a reasonable diet that encourages long-term lifestyle changes rather than quick fixes.
- Is based on anything but “real” food. Shakes, bars and pre-packaged, pre-portioned foods can help you out in a pinch (for instance, when you’re traveling or pressed for time), but you get more nutritional and health benefits from real food, and will probably be more satisfied, besides. Search our site for light and healthy recipes.
- Doesn’t allow for eating out. We could all stand to cook more—don’t get me wrong. But a healthy eating regimen should allow for occasional nights out. Look for a plan that gives you tips for making healthier choices at restaurants (it IS possible), especially if you have a job that requires frequent travel and/or entertaining.
- Requires nutritional supplements. Some popular weight loss plans (I’m not naming names) involve taking handfuls of specific supplements. There’s little to no proof that supplements help you lose weight. Short of a multivitamin and anything else your doctor recommends (like calcium, maybe), you shouldn’t have to pop pills to lose weight.
- Does not include exercise. Sure, you can lose weight without exercising. But exercise has proven to be key in helping dieters keep weight off long term, and isn’t that what we all want? If you have physical limitations, talk to your doctor about the best way to stay active for you.
- Focuses on a specific “wonder” food or combination of foods. The bad news: There IS no wonder food, and chances are there never will be. The good news: Once you accept that, you can stop falling for false promises and focus on eating in a way that will truly help you reach your goal.
- Does not teach portion control. Yes, a good diet allows you to have your cake and eat it too—literally. You don’t have to cut out sweets completely, forgo your burgers and fries fixation, eat bare-naked salads and rolls without butter. But you do have to understand what a proper portion is, and how each serving affects your total calorie “budget” for a day. I truly believe that it was the portion-control part of Weight Watchers that benefited me the most. As much of a hassle as it was at first to keep track of every morsel that went into my mouth, to count out pretzels or nuts, weigh my cereal or measure my salad dressing, it soon became second nature. I got pretty good at eyeballing portions, and to this day pull out the scale and the measuring cups to check myself from time to time.
And let me add one big “Do”. Do rely on the lessons you’ve learned from past weight-loss experiences, the successful ones and the not-so-successful ones. If you, like me, have had some false starts, you have some sense of what will work for you this time, and what won’t. Think about those past diet experiences, and list your own do’s and don’ts. That knowledge will set you up for success no matter what route you choose.
Wishing you great success in the new year!