Back on track - how to stick to an old successful diet plan?
October 6, 2007 3:23 AM   Subscribe

Please help me stick to my previous eating habits.

Five years ago, when I moved from Brazil to England, I was 51kg. After years of beer drinking, starchy diet (potatoes, pizza, you name it) and almost no exercise, I'm now 60kg. This may seem like nothing, but I am really conscious about it.

Before the move, I was around 62kg and desperate to lose weight. I went to see an endocrinologist who gave me appetite suppressants and a strict diet of a 1000 kcal/day. The doctor (and my dad, who is also a doctor) said that after I reached 50/51kg (which is the ideal for my height) I'd have to stick to those eating standards for the rest of my life. That means an almost no-carbs diet with a lot of protein. During that period, I didn't go to the gym at all, however I got a really toned body and healthy looking skin after losing almost 10kg in four months. My diet was rich in salads, (some) fruit, almost no dairy (like cheese that I love and was the only think I couldn't cut totally), no processed meats (salami, ham, etc) , no sweets, no rice, pasta or bread, diet products all the time.

I have struggled a lot to keep up with that diet here, since the food products here are not the same, plus the fact that perhaps I was really misinformed about what was on offer. I just know that I need to go back on track and shed all of this extra weight which is making me feel very uncomfortable (not fitting into clothes and etc). I do have a gym membership now, but must admit I don't like it that much. I'm happy to run 2x a week and doing some water-based exercise though. I also enjoy some classes.

As for the drinking, I have almost quit booze (I'd have a glass of wine every two weeks?) but the food has always been the problem. I do avoid fatty foods, but I seem to be always hungry. I don't snack that much but when I go out for lunch with colleagues, we always end up going to places where the lunchtime deals include korean bbqs, spanish and so on.

I want to bring protein-high packed lunches to work that won't make me starve in the afternoon. Any natural appetite suppressants? Suggestions from those who have succeeded with a similar diet plan are also very welcome. Any specific gym classes I should focus on to lose legs and tummy fat?

Also, how to stick to that kind of lifestyle when you have a boyfriend and friends who love eating?? When I stop to think that most of them aren't really bothered about their weight, I get a little freaked out I may be heading in that direction too. But I don't want to be one of those boring people who don't eat anything ------ hate the idea of being a slave of my diet! I'm a 27 yr old female. Please help! Thank you!
posted by heartofglass to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
1) Living on 1000 calories a day is not living.
2) No matter how much you may not like it, weight is about diet and activity.

I don't want to be one of those boring people who don't eat anything

Good, because those people are really boring, as well as really unhealthy and generally quite fucked up. You simply need to balance input with output. This means both food and exercise.

You have found exercise you like - running and swimming, so that's great. Don't under estimate the power of walking, too (I lost loads of weight when we got a dog!) You can park further from work, get off the bus or train a few stops earlier, etc. If its possible where you live, you might also consider buying a bike for pleasant weekend outings or local errands.

Please remember that one difference between weight loss through exercise and weight loss through starvation is that with starvation, your body eats muscle to survive; with exercise, your body builds muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat, so while you may not see massive movement on the scales, your clothing should return to fitting better, etc.

I eat the same foods I have always eaten, but weigh less than I have in years because although I do not "exercise" I am vastly more active than I've ever been. And I am amazingly lazy! But I walk 30 minutes to work each way, walk the dog through the park 2 or 3 x a week, and have discovered that fruit smoothies are the best breakfast in the world, and I'm a fairly happy camper.

If you have the willpower to do actual exercise, rock on, but you absolutely must fuel your exercise... with food.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:48 AM on October 6, 2007

1000 calories simply isn't enough. It's almost nothing, and even if you lay in bed all day you would probably burn more than that. It's virtually a starvation diet, and it's doing you no real good. It's no surprise you're always hungry.

Eat more. Carbs are not evil, enjoy them. Balance your calorie intake with exercise.
posted by tomble at 6:35 AM on October 6, 2007

A few thoughts:

- Think about this in terms of health rather than weight. Resolve to get healthier rather than thinner.

- If you haven't already, stop reading magazines. They suck. Their purpose is to make you feel bad about yourself and buy a bunch of crap to make yourself over into a homogenous, hungry drone that cares more about your pants size than your life.

- Start drinking water. Lots of it. Buy a plastic water bottle with measurements marked on the side to track your water intake. 8 cups a day is the standard.

- Get active. Walk more. Take a walk first thing in the morning and after dinner at night. Start working out (running, elliptical training, biking, weights, a class) five times a week for now. You'll build up muscle mass and that muscle mass will burn fat. Once you've got more muslce tone, you'll look and feel better, and your body will burn more fat when you're passively going about your day rather than actively pushing it at the gym. The more you burn, the less you need worry about every morsel of food you put in your mouth.

- Eat breakfast. It's essential.

- Cut out sugary softdrinks altogether. Empty calories. I have club soda with lime if I want something fizzy.

- Don't snack. I used to loooooove salty snacks, cheese, crackers, chips, etc. I found that the more I eat healthy meals at regular intervals, exercise, and drink water, the less interested I am in snacking.

- Buy a book, consult a reputable website like sparkpeople, or see a nutritionist to find out exactly how many calories are in the food you eat, and what percentage of those calories comes from fat, from protein, and from carbs. For me, balance is the key. I tried the no-carb thing and, yes, I dropped some weight. I was also hungry all the time, hadn't the energy to run a mile (I now run three or more regularly without trouble) and was irritable all the time. Low-carb works for some. For me, it's bullshit. My body wants whole grains, lean protein, lots of vegetables and fruits, and no sweets except for dark chocolate.

- Look at your body type. Are you slight or stocky? Tall or short? Lean or curvy? Once I stopped trying to stuff myself into clothes that were simply innappropriate for my body type I started to understand how I wanted my clothes to fit, how I wanted to feel in them and, lastly, what looks good on me. I started to buy the right underwear, the right shoes, the right tops, pants, skirts and dresses based on how I felt and looked in them rather than what I was supposed to look like.

- Bring your lunch to work and limit going out with your colleagues to once a week at the most. You have the right to say no - it's great to socialize, but you have goals you're trying to achieve. Your co-workers should and will respect that, I'm sure. You'll save alot of money, too.

- Cut out beer and sugary cocktails altogether. For me, wine and the occasional vodka based cocktail are what works. Everything in moderation.

Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:51 AM on October 6, 2007

Also, how to stick to that kind of lifestyle when you have a boyfriend and friends who love eating?? When I stop to think that most of them aren't really bothered about their weight, I get a little freaked out I may be heading in that direction too. But I don't want to be one of those boring people who don't eat anything ------ hate the idea of being a slave of my diet!

If you're around people that like to indulge all the time I can see how that would pose a problem. Temptations are everywhere. Every social gathering or event is not cause for going off your "plan". It's easier said than done, but I think the key is to consistently eat in a healthful manner 99 percent of the time, and pick and choose when you will indulge a little bit. Judith Beck says that if she is on vacation or at a celebration where she wants to eat a little more, she will have 25 percent more than she usually eats at one meal. Example: She may add a thin slice of cake or have an extra serving of pasta or potato. (Beck's CD is good stuff. It's Cognitive Behavior Therapy for dieting. I like to listen to it from time to time. It increases my resolve. I'm not sure about availability of this title in the UK.)

You're anxious about losing this weight, which can backfire in my opinion. If you're constantly thinking and stressing about losing weight, it can cause much anxiety, which can be paralyzing.

This isn't a daunting task. You want to lose 10kg. Map out some steps on how you will achieve this. Make a few changes and think positively.

I agree that 1000 calories isn't enough. How about 1500? You won't be starving, which will allow you to think less about food and "dieting".

I like the website dLife for recipes. It's a website for people with diabetes, but it is beneficial for anyone wanting to eat healthfully.

Natural appetite suppressant: Fiber.

We all know what to do to lose weight and eat healthfully. We're all experts aren't we? This diet stuff as been talked about endlessly. The challenging task is creating a lifestyle change.

Good luck!
posted by LoriFLA at 6:52 AM on October 6, 2007

I understand your concerns. You don't say how tall you are, but I am short, and small people just can't eat as much as big people. HOWEVER. Echoing the posters above, you gotta eat, and life is for livin', not for starvin'. I say run, young girl, run. You do not have to be fast. You do not have to be coordinated. I am a distance runner, and run one marathon per year. I run about 5 days a week, with a long run on the weekends, usually 10+ miles. When you do this, you can eat like a big person! It is awesome! And I am older than you, even, in terms of the natural metabolism slowing horror. Anytime you have runs longer than 6 miles a few times a week, you are good to go. Also, I run with a running club to keep me motivated, and this might work for you, too. It makes the miles go faster as well when you are talking about boys/your job/celebrity gossip/whatever.

NB: This represents one possible solution to the poster's problem and I understand there are others. I am merely reporting a solution that has worked for me.
posted by frumious bandersnatch at 6:54 AM on October 6, 2007

I'm currently trying to lose about 10kg, and get down to about 60kg.

What works for me is to do a balance of cardio and strength training 3-4 times a week, in addition to a daily diet of around 1500 calories, comprised mostly of lean protien, dairy, and vegges. I have to be extremely careful about sugars - too many and I am hungry all the time. And for me, that includes just about any source of carbohydrate - I have to be really, really careful about that.

Note: I do not think carbs are eeeeevil. Just that for me, they are best avoided.

I find it easiest to stick to a diet when I plan out my meals and snacks for the week in advance, leaving a couple of free spots for social gatherings and the like.

Also, take a multivitamin. You'll find it very hard to get all the trace bits and pieces you need from a small volume of food.
posted by ysabet at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2007

Yeah for every one who says carbs aren't bad, there is someone who says "well actually, some are."

I had a similar conundrum. I went from fit to uncomfortably pudgy. Boyfriends were a major reason....they really do make you fat.

I say, who cares what is bad? We already know what is good: green vegetables. Make green vegetables the base of your diet. Eat them for breakfast.

Ultimately it all comes down to: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Food being actual food and not junk.

No wonder you struggled with your diet. It sounds like a bore. The diet that keeps me thin is ad libetum, but I never bring home junk. I don't buy pasta, sugary snacks, etc. and I limit eating out. I walk everywhere. I consume a plant fat-rich diet that keeps me satiated. A low-fat diet will make you hungry. It is self-defeating! Healthy fats like salmon, olive oil, and avocados are wonderful and have kept me sane.

A slice of chocolate cake with my boyfriend doesn't kill me, though I have happily found a boyfriend who is similarly compact and we share food a lot, which means we actually eat correct portions.
posted by melissam at 8:07 PM on October 6, 2007

Oh yes, also, if you are put on a weight loss diet and told that when you reach your goal you should stick to that amount of food, someone has made an error. Once you reach your goal you need to increase your calories to hold a weight, otherwise you just get stripped of muscle and become unwell.
posted by tomble at 9:15 PM on October 6, 2007

Read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Tabues (melissam linked to this as well). The human body (and most animals studied) is very good at maintaining fat, so cutting back on calories or simply exercising will NOT help you with weight loss. The doctor who suggested restricting your calories should review the two studies done on starvation diets, Ancel Keys did one in 1950 and Francis Benedict did one in 1919. In Taube's book there's a whole section on the negative psychological effects of starvation diets as well as documented evidence that you will end up regaining the weight lost as well as additional pounds (kg, sorry my cultural background is betrayed!). The best advice is to not count calories, but eat until you're satisfied.

There is only one solution to the problem of losing weight, and that is altering your eating habits. Again, the science seems to be indicating that carbohydrates are the leading cause of weight gain, more specifically sugar and refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, etc.). If you're looking for healthy diets that seem to be relatively easy to maintain going forward, read Dr. Atkins book as well as the "South Beach Diet". Both diets were created by Physicians who worked clinically with the obese and overweight, the latter diet was created by a cardiologist in Miami for patients at his practice. There are many low-carbohydrate diets out there, so do some research and find one that fits your lifestyle. If someone suggests a diet (even a doctor!), review it. Make sure it was created with a holistic view of health, and not just for short term weight loss. Also, make sure the diet is easy to maintain going forward. Most diets have an initial weight loss period as well as an ongoing maintenance period, unlike a starvation diet which is simply to continue to starve.

Eat more. Carbs are not evil, enjoy them. Balance your calorie intake with exercise.

The suggestion that carbs aren't responsible for fat is simply not supported by current science. As to balancing your caloric intake with exercise, this is simply the same idea as restricting your calories. Think about it. When you exercise your body is burning calories, but study after study shows that your body will demand more calories as well. Unless you are willing to starve yourself of the new calories demanded, the end result is no net caloric gain/loss. You can't exercise your way to losing weight unless you're willing to eat less calories, and you're back to simply a starvation diet.

There is a good link here that goes through the myths of low-carbohydrate diets, as well as describing why a low-carbohydrate diet causes weight loss.

Don't read any of the above as a suggestion to not exercise. Exercising does have healthy benefits, it's just not going to help you lose weight. Also, don't read what I've said as simply an excuse to only eat red meat and saturated fats (a common mischaracterization of low-carbohydrate diets). Anything to excess is likely to have negative health consequences, after all humans are omnivores.
posted by herda05 at 5:55 PM on October 8, 2007

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