I have a lot of pet peeves, and quick-fix diet solutions are one of them.
Losing weight is not a mysterious process. It's as simple as this:
- Stop thinking of it as a "diet". Period. Our culture is very goal-oriented. We set a goal, work really hard to achieve it, achieve it, and then move onto a new goal. However, weight loss doesn't work that way. You can't "move onto a new goal" once you've achieved your ideal weight. You have to maintain it. If you return to your pre-goal eating habits, your pre-goal fat will return. Therefore, the goal should not be a number on the scale. The goal should be a healthy lifestyle of eating and exercise that allows you to maintain your ideal body. Start thinking of it as a "lifestyle change".
- Expend more calories than you consume. Period. Eating less will cause you to consume fewer calories. Exercising more will cause you to expend more calories (but be careful: exercising does not burn as many calories as you might think, and you have to be careful not to justify eating more simply because you're exercising). Also, don't drink your calories. Juices, alcoholic beverages, and other drinks are high in calories. As much as possible, stick to water (and get your fruit nutrients from the actual fruit--there's way more fiber!). Keep a food journal for a while, so you are forced to be honest with yourself about how many calories you are actually eating. Find a healthy friend (or an unhealthy one who is committed to getting healthier) to be your accountability partner. Share your food journal with this person, and plan time to exercise together.
- Eat Real Food. Americans don't like to be inconvenienced, and they don't like to give up anything they enjoy. Therefore, decreasing their caloric intake is not something they like to do. One way around this dilemma is to eat fake food. By "fake food," I mean processed food that is made delicious with fake sweeteners and other nasty ingredients that are not good for your health. Examples: Diet Coke, fat free potato chips made with Olestra, margarine--basically anything labeled as "lite" or "diet." Many of these additives have not undergone rigorous, long-term testing. People flock to them because they are low calorie foods and you can continue eating a lot of them and still lose weight. A) You have to remember it's about being healthy, not just losing weight and B) Those awful things do have calories, and if you eat too much, you will still gain weight.
- Figure out the underlying causes of your weight issues. Do you eat when you are stressed? Lonely? Confused? Angry? Bored? Pay close attention to your eating habits and try to find substitutes for your unhealthy eating habits. That's the only way to help you maintain a healthy body. Do you overeat in social situations because you're nervous? Do you constantly eat unhealthy food because it's more convenient and your job takes up most of your spare time/energy? Again, be honest with yourself about what's really going on, and figure out strategies for fixing the problem.
My impending wedding did motivate me to healthify my life. I was going to see lots of friends and family for the first time in quite a while, and I wanted to be my best self: emotionally and physically. I started going to yoga classes and running more regularly. I also tried to limit my restaurant-eating. I kept up the habit of drinking primarily water and not keeping unhealthy snacks around the house.
I was able to achieve a solid level of health for my wedding. But here I am--two months after my wedding--still doing the same things. Losing weight and becoming healthy is about changing your lifestyle and recreating healthier habits for yourself--habits that you are comfortable maintaining for the long haul.
For more ideas, check out this guide at the Wedding Channel.