How to choose a diet

Diet and Nutrition

Tons of google searches coming in yesterday and today on choosing the best diet.  This is the beginning of “I’m Fat” Month.  The gyms are packed, the diet sites on the internet are hopping, and sites like ours here are experiencing a lot of search activity related to how to choose one specific diet over another.  If you’ve googled “NutriSystem vs Medifast” or “Weight Watchers vs Jenny Craig” and found yourself clicking one of the top results to arrive right here, welcome.  I happen to be somewhat of an expert in every available diet because I tried, and utterly sucked at, most of them.  I don’t have anything to sell you, I don’t have an ax to grind, and I’m not crazy.  Hopefully you’ll find something here that helps.  If you do, come back, there’s something new here almost every day.

There are SO many diets to choose from.  Which one?  Low carb, low protein, high protein, balanced protein and carb …. low fat, high fat, no fat …  liquid or solid … liquid AND solid …  good grief it’s complicated.

Then once you make that content decision, on to the format decision.   Make it yourself, or have it delivered to your house, or picked up at a weight loss center … regular food or powdered meal replacements.  Wow.

How many calories?  How long will it take?

Listen, these are all procedural questions.  They are not the question at all, really.  Process will not get you permanent weight loss.  At all. Ever.  Diets have absolutely nothing to do with permanently losing weight. Heart change is where lifetime self controlled eating begins.  You’re fat not because of what specifically you ate — you’re fat because you ate too much for a long time and didn’t do anything permanently helpful about the obvious results.  Join the club. Me too.  Until my heart changed.

And for that, you need some time, more than the next five minutes for sure.  Start with the beginning.  Not the diet but the life change.  Why do you want to change your life, for the rest of your life?

Why, exactly, do you want to lose weight?

Who can you line up to be your support network, trusted friends and confidants?

How serious are you about committing time to this project, realizing that it will take about a  year per 100 pounds you need to lose?  First off, do you physically have a year per 100 pounds?  If you’re 300 pounds overweight and your doctor is saying you’re a ticking time bomb, get with your doctor right away and have them set up the fastest safe way for you to lose weight, and then never look back.

Now … assuming you have time to lose weight at a regular-food pace, what kind of eating program fits the time, abilities, and finances you have?  If you can’t boil water, and have no place to boil water anyway, your choice will be very different than if you’re a food magazine contributor.  If you’re not wealthy, don’t salivate over the $200 per week delivered meal programs.

Then …  totally forget all the commercials, all the stuff your friends have done, all the things your favorite TV personality endorses.  Concentrate on YOU.

If you don’t like food simulations, stay away from NutriSystem.  Sorry.  It does not taste like the commercials look.  At all.  Some of it is a good bit worse than military MRE‘s.  And, listen, that’s saying something.  The best ones are about like you’d imagine a shelf-stable meal tastes like.   If this won’t bother you, I’d put this in my top 2-3 choices.  Costco has the best discounted price on NutriSystem subscriptions.  You can get this stuff shipped to you frozen if you’ve got deep pockets.

If you don’t like going out to a particular place to pick up your food, and don’t like expensive small quantities of food, Jenny Craig is going to be tough.

If you’re not into counting calories, either Weight Watchers or one of the palm-size and fist-size portion plans like Body For Life is going to be more your thing than an X calories per day charted plan.

If you don’t like going to meetings with other fat people, or if you’re a guy and don’t like mostly-women discussions, Weight Watchers meetings are going to be tough.  Otherwise, that’s in my top 3 also.  Weight Watchers at Home is a fine thing, if you have some built in way of insuring you don’t cheat.  Having to go weigh in, in front of a scowling lady you don’t even know, is an excellent thing.  Listen, you obviously cheated or you wouldn’t be fat to begin with.  If you’re going to start an at-home self-monitored program, you are going to have to grow a pair, spiritually and emotionally speaking, or you’ll just cheat your way through this too.  If in doubt, go to the meetings.  If the results aren’t an average of 2 pounds a week of weight loss, go to the meetings.

If you are not able to exercise strenuously, or you’ve realistically not already been exercising hard and don’t think you’ll make the required physical metamorphosis, an exercise-based program like Body for Life, or the P90X / Insanity diet,  is not going to be for you, at least right now.

If you don’t like being told what to eat or not eat  … hey … wait to lose weight until you get over the idea that your own plan of eating is something good.  Obviously if you’re fat, your way isn’t working anyway.

Stay away from plans that eliminate carbs entirely, even for a few days or weeks.  You’ll feel like crap.  Besides, God puts almost all our essential nutrients into plants.  You need those.

Vegetarianism or vegan-ism is not a weight loss plan. There are lots of fat non-carnivores.

Not eating is not a weight loss plan.  Laxatives are not a weight loss plan.  Paying penance through extreme exercise is not a weight loss plan. Juicing is not a weight loss plan.  Cleansing is not a permanent weight loss plan.  If there was something toxic inside of you that needs to come out, you’d be wanting to roll around on the floor in pain.

So much for things that don’t work.  In the little space above you have my entire life self-confession.  I did every single thing above and overall got bigger every year.   Way less than a half pound per month increase for 25 years.  Slowly but steadily digging my grave with a knife and fork.   Don’t do that.   You are worth far more than that.  Avoid some of my mistakes, please.

OK so … what DOES work?

In summary here’s my top three recommendations.  Choose only one and stay with it for a minimum of 12 weeks before you change, except on doctors’ orders.  If you’ve lost 25 pounds in those 12 weeks, do not change unless you feel unhealthy.

#1 choice:  Caloric intake control.  If you’re choosing how many calories to eat, the most understandable way I know is to find the number of calories a day it takes to sustain the weight you WANT to be, and eat that many, and go to the doctor at the beginning to verify it’s not unrealistic for you, then go back as often as they’ll see you to get checked up on.  Every one day significantly above that number of calories will add about 3 days to the time it takes to lose the weight.  And don’t count your exercise calories as extra calories you can eat; if you exercised enough to keep fat off, you wouldn’t be fat to begin with.

#2 choice:  Weight Watchers.  Meetings if you can, otherwise the at home program with absolutely no variation or cheating.  Avoid the frozen Weight Watchers food whenever possible.  Theoretically they won’t be pushing it at the meetings, and realistically it’s not going to be as satisfying as making something for yourself.

#3 choice:  NutriSystem if you aren’t going to cook for yourself, and you can tolerate simulated food products,  and you will eat the vegetable servings it specifies in addition to your boxed food.  Otherwise,  consider one of the two-shakes-and-a-meal programs.  Both of these #3 choices are inferior to the others because you have no plans on eating this particular boxed %&@%#^ forever.   So you’re setting up an intentionally artificial temporary diet and are going to have to choose #1 or some kind of #2 later to keep the weight off.

Here’s a little mantra.  This is going to take time, so do today what you can and will do again tomorrow.  Then put enough days together eating just the amount it takes to sustain a lower weight, and you will become that weight in due time, a couple pounds per week on average.  More pounds some weeks, less others.  But the same good results every week — permanent lifestyle change.

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