Sustainable Lifestyle: Why Dieting Doesn't Keep Weight Off

You or someone you know likely lost weight and gained it back. Perhaps gained back even more. It seems puzzling that it is possible and many will say that it's because their body wants to be fat. 

I learned on my own why that dieting doesn't work.

I have seen so many people go on blood type diets, Weight Watcher's, Jenny Craig, vegan, high-carb, high-fat, Keto diet, etc. They either gave up within days or they buckled down and made it happen with amazing results. 

Then, they relaxed from the "diet" and went back up. The diet (whichever plan you want to insert here), will make you lose weight, but when you leave the diet, you will bounce back up. 

The diet isn't the answer. The lifestyle is.

Watch any weight loss show and you see contestants pulled away from home to undergo massive changes in what they eat, their activity, their focus, and without the distractions of routine, work, family, home, and opportunity to go to fast food restaurants. 

Sure, we can see them lose, but then they rejoin the life and priorities that put them there.

It's rather like an alcoholic. You can put him in detox, but then he goes home to the people who drink, the friends who party, and the life that supported the routine and patterns.

Dieting is to the body as duct tape is to long-lasting repairs. 

Lifestyle change is the tool to actually repair the body for the long haul. 

When I was forced to figure out how to lose weight and regain my vigor and health, I had never needed to lose weight before so it was a mystery to me. What I knew was what I saw others go through. 

I asked myself, "how can I make my goal weight a forever weight?" 

Well, I wasn't going to be counting calories or points, eliminating fresh produce, or meat, cheese, butter, eggs....

I couldn't live that way forever!

I realized the typical American diet of excess and easy cheap food, stress, and busy lifestyle got me into this mess. So, to jump off that highway, I needed to find a slow country road to hop aboard.

I had to find my way back to real ingredients from nature.

I looked at other cultures that naturally stay thin, long-lived, and enjoy food and dining. The Italians and French came to mind. 

The keys seemed to be - walking everywhere, gardening, having slow meals on small plates, but eating the foods they adore. You don't generally sit in a cafe and see people diving into potato skins and blooming onions. Quality is part of savoring, slowing down, allowing your palate to be happy and your belly to register it has eaten.

So, for a lifestyle change, I needed to approach the way I eat more than what I eat. I put away the dinner plates (10-1/2") and got a stack of 8-inch dessert plates. I gave myself simple guidelines - 

1. Eat off an 8" plate.

2. Take 20 minutes to complete the food, taking long breaks between bites. 

It was fast eating that had me able to down 1200 calories at McDonald's in a few minutes' time and then spike my blood sugar up so I get hungry an hour later. 

As a logic-based person, it made perfect sense to not feel deprived, to slow down my life enough to actually appreciate the food, its preparation, presentation, qualities, to nourish my palate and my body. 

I wasn't vilifying any foods, but honestly I questioned everything like a person who decides to reevaluate their Facebook friends list periodically. Do I hear from this person? Do they add anything to the conversations? Do they ever post anything on their own wall? I began to look at the foods in my daily life the same way

I don't really crave potatoes in any form, but had been raised in a culture of french fries and chips with sandwiches and burgers. I simply tested if I could eat and be satisfied with just the sandwich. Given the time frame of eating, YES! I didn't miss the bites of fries or chips between sandwich/burger bites. I just eliminated something that not only gave me calories but zero health benefits, as well as reducing salt and sugar spikes.

When I went down the line of foods, I also realized I hate breakfast. I simply do not want to eat in the morning, so I began to investigate the intermittent fasting culture, as I already didn't eat after 5 pm. So, I realized I could do a 16 hours no food/8 hours eating rhythm with no issues at all. I was basically already doing it, except I thought I was supposed to have breakfast (start your day off right/get your blood sugar elevated to start the day/not get starving and binge - fill in the adage). As a compromise I could do and not suffer, I wanted to add collagen and MCT oil to the diet in a drink form, so I found a Keto shake that I could use with unsweetened almond milk around 9 am and break the fast and make it easily to noon. 

I modified my life so I could have very rare fast food, but if I did, it was something like a 300-calorie cheeseburger at McDonalds with no fries, no soda. Instead of biting into the burger, I'd break pieces off and eat them, setting the burger down and taking my time. I used to be able to down a 2-burger meal with fries and Coke. Not anymore. When I slowed down and looked at my actual full-button, one burger did it. Put all things on trial and reevaluate. We often eat things without thinking if we enjoy it or if it has benefits or detriments. 

I checked in with my hunger mechanism during the day and found it missing. What happened? Well, without eating tons of carbs and sugar and spiking my glucose, I didn't get signals of hunger with blood sugar dropping. I got off the hunger merry-go-round. I could tell a meal time might be arriving but I never had that gnawing hunger feeling like an addict who needs a hit. 

Imagine all those food product makers and fast food restaurants that count on you getting in that cycle of finding it super easy to buy, super cheap, and craving more soon after? Sounds like cigarette makers, eh? Convenience stores, drive-thru windows, and delivery. Couldn't be easier to make these decisions in a moment of craving. They are the peddlers and pushers. 

Perhaps the best way to handle restaurants that want to make this so easy is to have them taxed higher for the health care ramifications - any place with a drive-thru, extra-large portions, and high average calories for a meal....

I added to this daily activity. It wasn't forced exercise, but play and work. I gardened, landscaped, worked on the house renovation, sanded cabinets, danced to my favorite music, worked at my standing desk with music playing and dancing while I type, cleaning house more thoroughly than usual, walking every opportunity....

This weight loss started at 4 pounds a week for me and then 2 pounds a week. To test how much I needed to eat to stop weight loss, I found I needed to add more eating between the small meals and a little less activity. Now, I knew the place I could be without gaining, but without losing more. It was a set point and very comfy. So, I began the weight loss down again to get to goal where I could go back to set point. This involved no snacks and more activity. 

I did not in any way feel deprived or like I was dieting. I was simply living and with all the "focus on your diet" out of my head and seeing meal time as a luxurious sensual experience, I could put my attention on all the cool projects going on, knowing that my weight loss could go on autopilot.

Changing lifestyle is free. 

You don't need to - 

buy a book

follow a diet plan

join a gym

get a trainer

see a dietician

pay for a weight loss group

get accupuncture

visit a chiropractor

take drugs or stimulants

throw money at flat belly teas

spend your dollars on a workshop

order pizza or takeout

head to a drive-thru

order from an app

buy equipment

go to a spa

Let's try to quit paying our money toward fast food and fly-by-night diet gurus, forcing them to fade off into the sunset to be replaced with things we could actually use like fresh local food, healthy fast options, support groups, and plenty of sidewalks and bike paths. At the same time, tell the drug companies to f-off by not needing their "duct tape" solutions to disease.

Count how many diet books you never cracked open again, the times you went to a grocery store on Sunday to get healthy stuff for the week and then ended up ordering food because you "had nothing to eat," how many gym memberships and equipment you purchased only to make excuses to not go or ended up with a very expensive clothing catch-all in the corner of your room.

You can change what you eat or how you eat.

Lifestyle changes mean taking yourself out of the robotic routine that you normally follow, but it also helps more than your weight: It helps how you handle everything. 

Don't do life.

Live life.

Savor every flavor, every moment, reveling in quality and relaxation. 

As the Italians like to say, "Dolce Far Niente." (pleasant idleness)