How’s your New Year’s resolution to shed all that extra weight you put on during the festive season going? Are you sticking to half a grapefruit in the morning, a boiled egg for lunch and salad for supper?
Diets are notoriously difficult to stick to. Most of us give up before we’ve properly started.
So why not forget about diets and follow this plan instead.
A counter-intuitive approach to dieting
People who are overweight typically overindulge in sugary, starchy food which is often deep-fried and highly salted. So, when they want to lose weight, there’s a lot in their normal day to day diet that they must enjoy less of or cut out altogether.
For most people that is simply asking too much. You could avoid one or two things but not most of what you usually eat and enjoy – you can avoid the burger, but not the fries and the coke as well.
For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on the two main culprits in most diets that are responsible for weight gain: sugar and refined carbs like white bread, pastries, cookies and other processed foods.
Let’s say you need to cut down on sugar and refined carbs.
Here is the trick: you don’t do it all at once.
You decide where you’re going to start and stick with one item at a time.
If you are not sure what is causing you to put on weight, you can write down everything you eat over the span of a week and take it to a nutritionist to evaluate. Then you’ll be in a position to decide what to eliminate from your daily intake of food and drinks.
Let’s say you start with sugar. If you always have sugar in your tea and coffee, undertake to cut down on that for a month. Do only that. By the end of one month you should be used to the new taste of your tea and coffee. The following month have even less sugar until you end up having no sugar.
The beauty of this is that you are establishing a habit which will serve you throughout your life. Depending on how much sugar you used to have in hot beverages the weight loss may be negligible but, over time, you’ll lose weight.
Of course, this does not mean you are finished with your sugar habit. If you habitually enjoy soft drinks, take a month to cut down on that as well.
Large scale research indicates that regular consumption of sugary drinks, including cola, lemonade and energy drinks, raises the risks of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, so it’s really worth your while to cut down on them.
But can this possibly work, you ask. Could you possibly lose weight if you don’t go on a diet, eat normally, but cut down one item at a time?
That’s insane, right?
What you need to understand is that you are working at developing new eating habits. That takes time.
Think about it, diets have a short-term goal: to lose so much by such and such a date. When you reach that goal, inevitably there’s no more reason to deprive yourself and most people resort to their old habits.
Don’t think of this exercise as a diet, think of it as working on new habits. If day after day you manage to resist eating a second bun or having a soft drink eventually it will become a habit and once it’s a habit, it won’t trip you up again.
When I decided to cut sugar from my coffee and tea, I found that after a while my taste for sweet things changed. You couldn’t, and still can’t, pay me to drink any sweetened beverages, hot or cold. Over time my need for them simply evaporated.
Another added benefit is that revulsion to sweet drinks translated into a dislike for any food that is overly sweet – I don’t have to struggle to not have it, I don’t want it because it now doesn’t taste so great anymore.
So you get the picture. You take the food items that are causing you to put on weight and eliminate them one by one over time and not all at once. Go over to the next item, say bread, only when you don’t miss the previous food stuff anymore.
Remember to slowly add new healthy food choices to your diet. If you never enjoyed vegetables before, just add one at a time and learn how to prepare it properly. (Hint: preparing vegetables that are delicious to eat doesn’t involve a pot of boiling water).
It will probably take you a whole year to establish a new eating regime. All the while you will learn to enjoy new foods and gradually change shape without ever having been on a diet!
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