Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Slow and Steady

Tortoise by Pearson Scott Foreman, Wikimedia Commons

Every weight-loss program I've ever tried proposes a "reasonable" goal of 1-2 pounds per week. To do this generally means a net reduction of (at least) 500 calories a day, either consuming 500 calories less than you need or burning 500 more than you've eaten (or a combination of these).

And this is deemed "reasonable." "Easy," even.

But think about it: if a 150-pound woman needs 2,000 calories just to stay alive, then cutting 500 calories represents a 25% reduction in her diet.

When was the last time you had to make do with 25% less of something that you really loved or even needed? A 25% pay cut? 25% less annual vacation? 25% less time with your spouse? 25% slower WiFi signal?

You might get used to it -- and likely would if you felt you really had no choice -- but it would likely never feel like it was better or even good enough that way. The moment you could get back to 100% you'd be all over that. Maybe with a little excess because you'd been deprived for so long.

One of the responses I received when I posted about my diet on Facebook was a suggestion to read The Diet Fix by Yoni Freedhoff, MD. I was also pointed to Always Hungry, by David Ludwig MD and PhD. The Diet Fix is the first to have come available at my library, so I'm starting with it.

I've barely started reading it, but I find myself nodding every paragraph or so, because of statements like this:

From The Diet Fix
Every single diet I have followed has left me feeling deprived. In some cases, it even became a sad joke -- such as when I put on my martyr face and pinched my nose so I could shovel down a Nutrisystem "meal" that tasted of watered-down tomato paste while the rest of the family ate the balanced meal I had prepared for them.

[Dear daughters: I am very sorry I modeled that behaviour to you. Learn from my failure.]

I have spent thousands of dollars on programs, fitness equipment, and gym memberships. I've eaten hundreds of unpalatable and unsatisfying meals. And I have little to show for it except for the slight consolation prize that if I had never dieted I might be even heavier than I am now.

So my goal this time is to enjoy my life while I work extremely slowly towards a new weight goal. I'm going slower than the "easiest" plan included in the various apps I'm using. My aim is half a pound per week. That way, I can still have an occasional tiramisu or (as I did today) a McChicken sandwich and a few fries without feeling like I either have to walk 10 km to burn off the calories or live on vegetable broth for three days.

I must tell you: it is frustratingly slow. I've lost half a pound, but when I look in the mirror, I still see the bulgy jowls and double chin. My pants are still tight, and my top stretches at the buttonholes. With other diets, I'd be seeing results by now.

But it's progress and, so far, it hasn't been too painful. It is an adjustment, but I've been able to have a PBJ sandwich or a bowl of granola here and there, and -- most importantly -- when I've been hungry, I've eaten.


  1. I think it's a very smart and sustainable plan you're doing!! Prior to my current fitness/diet challenge, I did the turtle's pace too. It took me 2 years to get down 3 sizes! It was sllloooowwwww. And I never really saw the day to day changes either. Just one day I was coming up the stairs and my darn pants fell down. It was all about lifestyle as you say. Just slow changes here and there. Increasing workouts each week. Moving to more challenging ones when I could. And it's been easy to maintain as a result. I didn't specifically "diet" during this time - just tried to make healthy choices more often then unhealthy. I am only doing this current one - which is extreme in my opinion - because that last 20 pounds hasn't budged in 4 months. So I thought I'd just up my game and see what happens. But you're right - it doesn't allow me to LIVE. It's absolute clean eating, and that does not sound fun long term at all. I'll need a good maintenance program after that allows a little flavour and joy back into living!

    1. Maybe the 21-Day Fix is the jolt your body needs. Maybe when you're done that one, you can go back to your sloooooowwwww plan for maintenance?


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