What “diet” are you following?

As of Friday, I have lost 100 pounds since January. Throughout the year, people have recognized I have lost weight and their number one question to me is: what diet are you following? I tell them, and they ask me follow up questions, so they can learn more about what I’m eating. I can see the wheels in their minds turning, taking in the information I’m giving them as they consider trying what I’m doing to lose the extra weight they think they should lose. I can see on their faces the look of: “if I try that, maybe I’ll lose this weight,” like what I’m offering is a silver bullet or a quick fix. What I often try to explain is, ironically, I don’t believe I have lost 100 pounds because of the specific diet I’m following. Granted, I have shifted the way I eat, what I eat, when I eat and how much I eat. But it’s not a “diet” which has made me successful in shedding the pounds.

Like so many people, I have tried all sorts of diets. The very first diet I remember trying, I was 13 years old and drinking a milk and orange juice concoction my grandmother told my mom and I about. The first organized diet I went on was called Diet Center. It had prepackaged foods and you went into an office and weighed every week. I remember when I was 17, I ordered diet pills from a magazine. My freshman year in college, I went on the Medifast diet. I have followed diets from authors like Susan Powter and Marilu Henner. I read books like “Eat to Win,” “Body for Life,” and “The Ultimate Weight Solution.” I tried Weight Watchers a few times. I took at least two collegiate level nutrition classes and tried other organized diet systems like Metabolic Balance and Metabolic Research Center, Slim for Life, Precision Nutrition, Center for Nutrition as well as others. And with all the “diets” I have tried, I can say I successfully lost weight…when I was following them. Initially, they worked! And then I stopped doing them. Or I wasn’t honest with myself about the little cheats here and there, or the portion sizes I was consuming.

Most things I’ve read and heard say that diet is 90% of the weight loss journey. That may be true. However, I would contend that a specific diet isn’t the end-all be-all which causes the weight loss. Two lessons I have learned:

First, the style of eating I currently use isn’t really a diet. It is a “way of eating.” This phrase “way of eating” may seem to be a new “en vogue” way to describe a diet. However when I think diet, I think of something that has a start and an end. Whereas a “way of eating” doesn’t have an end. This shift in how I approach food now and the way I eat is what contributes the most to my losing weight. I’m not really on a diet. I’m just eating food that I know will help me to either lose or maintain my weight. If I drink soda, I gain weight. If I eat bread or sweets, I gain weight. What the many diets I have tried have showed me is what foods will help me get to my goal of losing weight. And what foods I shouldn’t eat.

JenXmas_BeforePreviously on some of those diets, I felt deprived. I remember starting one diet and when I heard that you could have a cheat day on Phase 2, I immediately planned what I wanted to cheat with – even before I lost the first 5 pounds – and thought about that cheat meal throughout the whole Phase 1.  Now, with my current way of eating, I don’t feel deprived. I’m happy with what I’m eating. And I’m not really tempted to go “off plan” or outside of the perimeters. I’m finding that food is no longer the pacifier to make me feel good (like it used to be) but it is the fuel to run my body.

The second lesson I have learned is finding what works for my body. Because I have tried many “diets” and I have succeeded in losing weight on many of them, I have discovered what works and what doesn’t. I wouldn’t say one diet was better than another – each had their own merits and served their purpose. The “diet” isn’t what caused me to lose weight.

JenXmas_AfterI’ve lost weight because I am taking responsibility for my health and my choices. I wasn’t ready until now. Do you know how I know? Because I would have kept the weight off after any of those other diets.

It’s holiday time and so easy to derail yourself because there is temptation everywhere. But the holidays don’t have to be an excuse to eat whatever I want. As long as I bring awareness to what I’m eating and am honest about the amounts and type (sweets, carbs, etc.), then when temptations show up, I can decide if I want to eat them or not. I can trust myself. And so can you!

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