Fatty, fatty, 2x4...
January 3, 2008 8:45 PM   Subscribe

What diet is right for me, and how do I stick to it?

I'm a fatty. Fat fat fatty. In the past I've had trouble sticking to diets, or finding good ones. I was on low carb for a while, but that didn't go well with my stomach (and everyone else doing it in my house prefers their meat deep-fried. Gross.). I'm willing to combine a diet with excercise (running on the treadmill, hours upon hours of DDR), but I'd like it to stick to some basic guidelines.

I want a diet that is not crazy and will not require some sort of hard-to-find expensive supplements. The less, the better. I'm open to pay-per-meal planned meal programs, if you have any personal experience with them working. I would prefer they not be based solely on one food group (like atkins is).

A little about me:
I am an 18 year old female.
I am big boned to begin with- I will never be skinny skinny skinny, so that is not what I am aiming for, but a healthy weight.
My current weigh is ~375 lbs.
My height is 5'6.5"

Oh, askmefi, help me please! Personal anecdotes and experiences enecouraged. I'm so sick of being a fat slob, and this time I really want to stick with it.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I lost 50lbs a few years back (and now since regained but that's my laziness) and for me it came down to calorie counting. Yes it sucks, its a lot of time and you can get a wee obsessive at it but as time goes on that all gets easier. A program like diet power, or fit day that gives the "standard" calorie count for your current height/weight and then just staying in that range. I found diet power the best cause it would change as you went along and also not solely web based.

The key reason I liked this was because it let me eat what I want. If I want to eat steak, bread, ice cream sundaes, crap junk food, salad, whatever as long as I kept it in that general range it was okay. As the year went along my diet changed and became more healthy. I started finding the good stuff that tasted great and was still filling. Trying to get the bang for my buck calorie wise.

Both programs also give you a general idea of calories burned in exercise that is probably far from accurate but made me feel good about myself especially since I was coming from not doing anything remotely exercise related. And I was up in the 300s too.
posted by beautifulcheese at 8:54 PM on January 3, 2008

The no s diet seems like a fairly sane, healthy approach. Three simple rules (no snacks, sweets, or seconds), with built in days for taking a break... It's not much, but it was a good start for me to start paying attention to how much i was eating. Combined with fitday or sparkpeople or some other food-tracking-system, I was able to lose a bunch of weight without really trying to hard.
posted by kerfuffled at 9:07 PM on January 3, 2008

I would suggest finding a reputable dietitian or nutritionist, doing a metabolic analysis and designing a plan together that's tuned in to your body, your lifestyle, and your needs. Supervision can make sure that the weight comes off at the right speed and that it stays off. My dietitian helped make a plan that's easy to track, doesn't deprive me of ANY foods, and is shaving off the weight slowly, surely, and hopefully permanently, and I can't recommend that road enough.

Personal experience/observation as a weight loss survivor: I have found that referring to myself or even thinking of myself as a "fatty" or "fat slob" or defining myself by my body is a shortcut to hell. I don't know about you, but I'm my own worst critic. It's really hard to maintain an atmosphere of health, discipline and self-care when I'm busy beating myself up all the time.

To that end: I would suggest finding clothes that fit you NOW and trying to care for and love the person you are now. I know that's easier said than done, and that accepting yourself now might seem antithetical to trying to change yourself. However, it's much easier to make lasting and healthy change when you're on your own side, not undermining yourself with observations on your hopeless fatness or your inherent lack of worth.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:12 PM on January 3, 2008 [5 favorites]

The Shangri-La Diet. I lost 30+ pounds on it last year (quantity is somewhat imprecise because I exceeded the weighing capacity of my scale when I started the program). I've still got more to lose, but it definitely works for me, and requires next to no effort. The only thing you have to do to "stick to it" is to remember to consume a small quantity of flavorless calories each day. In my experience, the rest pretty much take care of itself, although after a little while you will find it useful to actually pay attention to how little food you actually need to be satisfied and a fun challenge to eat just that much and no more. (Yeah, I know, it sounds impossible to you now, but it's true.)
posted by kindall at 9:13 PM on January 3, 2008

Seconding the No S diet. Also, I love fitday for counting nutrition, calories (in and out) and exercise.

There's also my boyfriend's version of a diet, one that has helped him lose weight completely painlessly. He calls it the Convenience Store Diet. It's simple: if they sell it at a gas station, don't buy it. No soda, no candy, no chips. When all of the food you eat comes from the grocery store, you'll be able to cut waaay down on impulse snacks, and you'll start thinking about how to keep healthier snacks on hand.

The Body for Life program looks pretty good, too. I know someone who complained that the hardest thing about it was eating when she wasn't hungry.

posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:20 PM on January 3, 2008

I believe the biggest key is not creating the idea of a "diet". It has the conotation of being short term. It sounds like what you want is a change in lifestyle. One of the most important things is to find reasons (besides looking better) that you can find to change your habits.

For one, dont look at calories! Calories tell you sooo little about the food you are eating. You need to start learning about foods, and what is in them. Calories should be far from your mind at first. Learn about fats... which ones are good for you, and which are bad. Not only will this help with weight- but imagine the benifits for your heart, arteries, etc...

Avoid prepackaged meals! These often contain very little nutritional value and are loaded with fat, sodium, carbs, sugars, etc. Buying fresh ingredients is very important... and you will actually find that it is cheaper than buying prepackaged.

Think about the diets of people 100 years ago. They didnt have unnatural foods with tons of preservatives and chemicals that you cant pronounce. If you cant pronounce something, why would you want to put it in your body. Back then, people ate fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, and meat. I dont see reason to completely cut things out of your diet. Moderation is key. I will say that going to fresh foods (high in fiber) may be tough on your digestive system at first, but it will adjust.

Besides learning about what is in foods, you should learn about cooking. Learning to cook with fresh ingredients can be hard, look up recipies online and mix up your own things.

If you have time, start cooking meals for your family that are more healthy. This will allow you to experiment with recipies, and will give them a taste for healthier eating.

Once you get interested in the history of cooking, reading ingredient lists, the different kinds of fruits and vegetables, how they mix together, how good they are for you... you should soon be swept away by the enjoyment of healthy eating. At that point it isnt a "diet"- it is a passion.
posted by Nillocsoc at 9:21 PM on January 3, 2008

I lost around 30 pounds recently, and for me it came down to a few things. This is just my story by the way, as I'm sure that most of this information isn't new to you, so I don't want to sound preachy. However, it did end up working for me in a way that novelty diets haven't, and I really believe in it.

1. Diet and exercise were fundamental. I counted calories and I worked out on a consistent schedule. I've tried a number of other diet approaches, but they never worked. I set a calorie count appropriate for me, and meticulously kept track of everything I ate. I was shocked at how much I was off in what I considered to be an appropriate portion of food. Part of our obesity problem is that people have wacked out notions of what they need to get by, or to feel satisfied at the table. Counting calories allowed me to reeducate the part of me that was conditioned to expect larger portions. Exercise needs to get the heart rate up, but that's about it. If it's too hard, I don't keep with it. I got to the point where I could jog six miles at a shot, but I started out alternating laps of easy run/walk for only a mile or so.

2. I made sure that I ate 6 meals a day (three large meals and three snacks in between). When I did this, it made sure that I was never going long without food (two hours tops), and it keep my appetite at bay. When I did eat, I made sure I included an appropriate amount of protein and fruits and vegis. Too many refined carbs (bread and such), and I was hungry too much. If I ate at least 1-2 apples a day, it really helped.

3. I connected with other people pursuing similar goals. It was much easier not to go it alone.

4. Finally, I committed to at least stick it out over 21 days, as it's been said that this is how long it takes to establish habits, such that they aren't painful anymore. Sure enough, by the time three weeks were up, it wasn't a pain to get out and exercise any more. I actually couldn't see myself NOT doing it. Also, whatever inconveniences there were in preparing good food and making sure I ate six meals a day weren't a pain anymore.

There are more little things that help along the way. I make sure I drink a lot of water, for instance, as often what I perceive as hunger is really thirst. Also, I take breaks when I eat to see if the full feeling doesn't set in if I slow down. If I eat too fast, I fill up before my body registers it has enough. But in the end, the formula is pretty easy. More calories need to be burned than consumed. It was working this out over time, such that it becomes habit, that was more difficult.

Here's one thing that I kept telling myself (and still do): After the fact, I NEVER regret exercise and taking the steps to eat well; but I will always, without fail, regret not doing so. I'm trying to learn to think with my future self, and not so much my immediate mental state. Reality isn't defined by whatever emotional state I'm trying to assuage in the moment. It's bigger than me, and I can tap into that.

Over time, the process tends to be self-affirming. I feel better, I sleep better, my relationships are better. If I remind myself of these direct benefits on a regular basis (it's easy to forget the causal relationship), trading that away for chocolate cake seems pretty nuts.

Wow, this got long. Good luck to you!
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:27 PM on January 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was overweight at your age and well on my way to a downward spiral into obesity. The thing that worked for me wasn't a "diet" per se; I just paid a lot more attention to what I was putting into my body. Gradually this led me to cut the processed foods and eat more whole grains, veggies and lean proteins. I learned to cook and to appreciate good cooking - I was almost surprised to discover the healthy stuff really does taste better than junk when you do it right.

Specific things that helped me:

Drinking lots of water and/or green tea. It's good to get a lot of fluids and I find myself feeling less hungry.

Keeping myself active and busy - less time for boredom snacking.

Planning out my meals and weekly shopping ahead of time and sticking to the shopping list keeps junk food out of reach and cuts the urge to order out because there's nothing in the house to eat.

Not drinking a lot of alcohol (or sugary soft drinks, for that matter) - I get that this isn't perhaps the easiest thing to manage when you're 18, but I have noticed that's what seemed to make the difference in friends who gained the Freshman 15.

The good thing about this is that it's not really something I had to learn or "stick to" - I just gradually adjusted my lifestyle. It's been several years now and I've maintained a consistent healthy weight since then. It may not be the solution for you, but it worked for me.
posted by AV at 9:34 PM on January 3, 2008

I had my greatest success with Weight Watchers and going to Curves. Of course, I put it all back on later, but I lost a lot while I was doing it.

Well, not really, actually, my greatest ever weight loss success came as a result of moving to Brazil. But that's a little hard core.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:39 PM on January 3, 2008

Yes, do find a way to be happy with how you are now, as much as you can. I've had to get rid of some very nice work clothes less than a year after I bought them, but I felt better about who I was when I was looking sharp & professional.

I just hit my weight loss goal (45 pounds) and I've written about it on my blog, so most of the detail is there. I swear by daily weigh-ins, to get a good moving average. Calorie-counting helped me the way it did beautifulcheese, by avoiding the angst of forbidden foods, and showing me how much I ought to be eating. Just regularly eating too much food turned out to be my main problem, and over the last 8 months I've been retraining myself in regular eating.

I particularly recommend The Hacker's Diet and The Ultimate Weight Loss Guide, which have similar advice. The Skinny was a pretty good book with a more specifically feminine slant, although I found that the engineering style of THD was more useful for me.

Good luck. Be gentle and patient, and don't think of yourself as a bad person because of your weight.

Oh, and I ran across a blog post on new year's resolutions to lose weight. You might want to give it a try.
posted by epersonae at 9:40 PM on January 3, 2008

Two issues here, mental and physical. in terms of the physical, I agree with
*calorie counting (just about any diet will do)
* understanding nutritionally what you're eating so you make better choices (ie, you do need fat still but which one, and how often and how much?),
* permanent lifestyle change (I don't do junk food anymore - I don't miss it either, but I would have to be starving before I ate another burger from a fast food place (home made are fine))
* exercise (moderate)

Mentally, I believe
* you shouldn't beat yourself up, it demotivates you. There's no point to it. Just stop it. Weight loss is about taking care of yourself.
* you need to keep trying, even on the days you don't feel like it, even on the days after you fucked up. Don't give up.
* you need to accept that it will be difficult and not pay so much attention to how you feel. How you feel is just another fact, and being cranky is not an excuse to binge. Accept that walking up that hill is going to hurt and is not an excuse to stop. This takes a lot of work to get past, but as mentioned before, don't give up. Practice will make you better at it.
* choose your input. Avoid watching television where there's lot of ads for fast foods, and characters who bake brownies when they get upset. Likewise, don't go to the movies with friends who can't NOT take in a bucket of popcorn covered in artificial butter.
* track your progress so you can celebrate your successes, and so you can act on less successful practices.
* make weight loss your hobby. Borrow magazines/books from the library. Trawl the web. Keep a weight loss journal. Write what you did wrong, what you did right, good recipes, what you want to try, your goals. Print and paste the threads from mefi on the topic (and there's a heap). Have weight-loss/health at the forefront of your mind every day.
posted by b33j at 10:17 PM on January 3, 2008

I just want to echo someone upthread who suggested a nutritionist. You can certainly count calories and exercise and try to become more aware of your eating habits, but talking to a professional will help you make a plan suited to you. If you're the type of person who needs meal plans, I imagine they'd be able to help you. If you just need concrete suggestions, or even just information on what foods are best for you to eat, they'd be able to help you out, far more than people here. Don't be afraid to try out more than one if you don't like the first one.
posted by MadamM at 10:23 PM on January 3, 2008

The one thing I've found is that dieting isn't all that hard (or I should say much easier) if you just plan, plan, plan. Figure out everything you are going to eat for the next week. Figure out what snacks your are going to have if you really need one, etc. Make sure you have these foods in the house and make sure you start cooking before you are starving. You should eat on some type of schedule and stick to it. If you plan way in advance what healthy food you are going to eat, there is no internal debating, there is no getting hungry and not knowing what to eat, you already know. You don't need any specific diet, you know generally what is healthy and you can use the internet to find healthy recipes with the calorie counts. Also, remember to eat on your schedule, before you get really hungry, you'll be amazed how you don't crave a lot of foods if you just keep yourself on your schedule.
posted by whoaali at 10:29 PM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would suggest finding a reputable dietitian or nutritionist, doing a metabolic analysis and designing a plan together that's tuned in to your body, your lifestyle, and your needs.

Seconding this and time and changing your idea of what idea and time.

I joined a weight management program at a local hospital where they assigned me a nutritionist and personal trainer in a year long program. By learning what to eat more healthy and now to work out at the gym, I've lost weight and inches and feel great. Doesn't mean that I didn't stumble and gain weight at times, but the consistence of regular nutritionist and trainer helped me to get back on track. It can be done and you can do it, it just takes time and having a pro to keep you focused helps a lot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:43 PM on January 3, 2008

I've lost 65 pounds total over the past 2.5 years. I did it by counting calories and working out on a consistent schedule. I used Spark People to track what I was eating and my exercise.

What other people have noted here, that just about any diet and exercise routine will do, is mostly true.

The important thing is what some of the other answers have pointed out: Be kind to yourself. Do not label yourself as a fatty. That way madness lies. If you fall of the horse, you are not a fat, fatty fat loser who was destined to fail. If you fall off of the horse (because you will), you get back on and you keep going. It will probably take you longer than you'd hoped. You will plateau and you will gain some back and you will lose some again and it will be a roller coaster ride. But after a while, your successes outnumber your failures and you start to see how it works.

I achieved pretty great success by committing to try new things for just 2 weeks. I decided first to try cutting calories down to a specific level. For 2 weeks. I even fucked up a few times in that first 2 weeks, but just kept going. There were a few things that I tried (like running - bleh - not for me) for 2 weeks, and at the end I gave up Other things that I found I started to like or were working for me, I kept doing.

Good luck and good for you!
posted by pazazygeek at 11:08 PM on January 3, 2008

One thing I want to mention, as someone who is also trying to lose weight:

When you do it right, and healthily, it will take TIME.

epersonae posted up thread that she lost 45lbs (congrats!) and from reading her blog, it took her 7 months and 8 days. When you start any calorie restriction diet (which is really any diet out there, the low carb worked because all the protein was supposed to make you feel full, the shangri-la is supposed to somehow lower your bodies metabolic desire, so you don't crave more calories) you will probably loose some weight very quickly. It is usually water weight and you will eventually level off to a more realistic .5-2lbs (depends on what you are doing) a week loss.

Also don't get discouraged when you plateau and stop losing weight for a few weeks. It happens, you will pass it, it just takes time.

I have realized my struggle with it has been thinking of it as a short term project (8 months to lose X amount of weight, then im back to eating pizza and drinking beer as normal), when in fact it is a life changing decision. I have to change my eating habits and eat better and exercise more, as part of my ongoing life, not just a short term goal.

I have had friends who have done the gastric bypass surgery, only to gain back most of their original weight, because they never learned how to eat healthy and exercise. I have other friends who also lost weight with it, but because they used it as part of an overall change in how they lived their life (which in one case included opening their own gym and fitness center).

Seeing a nutritionist, getting a solid exercise plan, and shopping/planning/cooking healthily (this is the important part for me) will serve you better for the rest of your life, not just for the immediate goal of losing weight.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:17 PM on January 3, 2008

Going to second SparkPeople.

For me, my diet can't be too restrictive. I lost some weight and the only way I could have done it was being able to eat normally. By normally, I mean that nothing is restricted. There are no "bad foods".

So something like the "No S" plan or Atkins, or anything else that's gimmicky wouldn't work for me. If I want a piece of cake, I will have a piece of cake, only smaller and I will make up for it by having a lighter dinner, etc. I also substituted some higher fat items that I use on a regular basis with lower fat and calorie versions. Light cheese, for example.

I switched some of my white carbs, like white rice, white pasta, and white bread, to complex carb-loaded versions. So whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta. I also adjust cooking methods, so instead of butter to sautee I'll use a cooking spray or a light margarine sometimes. I use more olive oil.

So there have been changes in my diet, but the key was keeping everything generally normal. I could still have my favorite ravioli sometimes, or a cookie, or whatever else it was I wanted, as long as there was a general sense of balance and no restricted foods. I'll eat full fat cheese sometimes. I'll go to restaurants. Sometimes I even get fast food. But I preplan my orders in advance using their websites so I know how many calories and fat grams I'm getting beforehand.

You can change your eating habits without being overly fussy or restrictive about them. That's why I like SparkPeople. You can use their meal plans to give you a general idea, but you can also plug in and track your own custom foods.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:37 AM on January 4, 2008

If you want to reach a healthy weight for your body and stay there long term, there is no diet that can do that. There are some that can help you lose weight, as I'm sure you know, but the odds are very low that you will keep it off. Also, no diet is designed to get you to a healthy weight for your body. Diets are designed to ignore the needs of your body in order to lose a lot of weight.

You say you've always been big and recognize that your normal weight is undoubtedly higher than, oh, Jessica Alba's. If you're looking for an approach that can actually lead to better health, as determined by your own body, I would suggest intuitive eating. The intuitive eating approach is one some people already naturally follow, especially when they haven't messed themselves up with diets screwing over the metabolism and confusing the body. Put simply, it's eat what you need till you're full. Your body already lets you know what you need (for example, cravings, and bad reactions to certain foods), but like the majority of us, it probably doesn't come across very well. The cycle of dieting causes many of us to undereat then overeat.

Intuitive eating has made a world of difference for me (I got the book). I don't count anything, and I don't obsess over what goes into my mouth. I may eat some fried chicken, or I may eat a salad (something I never used to do when it was "required" of me, but now find I actually enjoy provided there are some bacon bits, forbidden on most diets). I won't eat pizza if I don't feel like it, but I won't eat cottage cheese instead of sausage either. I drink whole milk which is quite delicious (didn't know it after years of skim), but eat far less ice cream than I used to because it makes my stomach upset. Wow, I used to have ice cream every night when I'd come off of a diet, and I haven't had any in so long.

I've been following this approach since August/September of 2007. Now, I also don't use a scale anymore, so I can't say exactly, because I'm not trying to lose weight. I know that my body will stay within its set point as long as I don't do anything crazy (like go on a diet). I've lost some weight from the way my clothes fit, and I'm certainly not going to be gaining any. More importantly, I feel pretty good. I don't binge anymore, and I now actually eat breakfast (never liked wasting "points" or "calories" or "carbs" on breakfast before).

I would highly recommend the intuitive eating approach. I'd also highly recommend the book Rethinking Thin.
posted by Danila at 2:01 AM on January 4, 2008

I had my greatest success on Weight Watchers, and I lost nearly fifty pounds over a year. Here's my blog post after my first meeting, and here's the one where I got to Goal. I've since put a bit back on (since I stopped going to meetings), but I feel like I learned a lot from the program. I did the Points system the whole time, and my favorite bit was using the Online site to track everything. I really recommend it, especially if you're a school nerd person like me who likes having a "teacher" and secretly competing with the other "students." (Not a healthy attitude, I know, but it worked!)
posted by web-goddess at 2:48 AM on January 4, 2008

Nthing the advice to count calories & exercise. Yawn, but it did wonders for me. I found extra support in the Anne Collin's Weight Loss Forum. She's a dietician and has some good diet plans to work with (I was particularly pleased with her vegetarian stuff; most diets want you to eat lean meats but that wasn't an option for me) and actually participates in the community. For me, it was much easier to stick with things being accountable to others (and not the DH; he's a sweetie but doesn't know how to help with stuff like this), and going through the ups and downs with people who had already lost in excess of 100 pounds let me know it was possible.

I'd also suggest tracking inches as well as pounds. Weigh weekly (or however often you choose), and measure monthly. When I would hit a plateau, if I could just make it to the next measurement session and see that inches were still disappearing, the number on the scale lost a lot of its power over me.
posted by tigerjade at 3:24 AM on January 4, 2008

i have never been significantly overweight, but i lost about 15 pounds by counting calories and exercising. you'll have to play around to find your baseline calorie count--the assumption on most nutrition labels that it's 2,000 a day is usually too high unless you are super active.

a good rule of thumb, though, is to multiply your weight by 10. that's what you need to maintain your weight. to lose a pound a week, you need to cut 3,500 calories a week, or 500 a day. you can do that by eating 500 calories less a day, exercising enough to burn 500 calories off a day, or a combination of both. before you do any of that, take a few days to count how many calories you normally eat, to get an idea of what you need to cut.

be careful with the exercise--it's easy to overdo it if you are out of shape or very heavy, and you can hurt yourself. it won't help you lose weight if you give yourself tendonitis.

good luck! a nutritionist isn't a bad idea, either--s/he can help you design an eating plan that works for you.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:08 AM on January 4, 2008

Very simply, learn about the body response to certain sugars and learn how not to spike your glycemic levels. Eating sugars and refined foods starts sending your blood sugar levels roller coasting all over the place. It will cause you cravings and starts that cycle of eating a lot of crap. I have found that if I can cut out sugar and things that make me spike, I can eat much more sensibly and avoid tempting foods. Oatmeal for breakfast with lots of walnuts and blueberries thrown in (frozen berries at this time of year). That will last you a few hours and won't spike your levels. This simple formula isn't really a diet but as you learn about the foods that play with your system, you can learn to avoid them and stay steady. It isn't some crazy diet, it is making intelligent food choices and it is something you can live with on a day to day basis unlike most diets.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:01 AM on January 4, 2008

I second the people who say don't think "diet" think "new habits". The one that works for me (caveat: I've never really been "fat" but my weight has covered a forty-pound range over the last 15 years) is Eat Food, Not a Lot, Mostly Plants.

What that comes down to is: don't eat processed, high-fructose-corn-syrup, "nutritional supplement", blah blah crap. Get food (mostly plants)--the basic ingredients of dishes--at the store, such vegetables, fruits, grains in their grown form and cook them. Stop eating your meal before you feel full, give it a rest, sip some water (or wine), stare out the window, clean the pot and then if and only if your stomach (not your mouth) still feels hungry, have another bite. Supplement your meals with meat, don't build your meals around them.

You must must must become active if you are going to lose weight and maintain weight loss. Can you park a little farther from home? Get off one bus stop early? Give up half your lunch break to walk around the block? Start small and as it becomes less effort, make it more effort.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:03 AM on January 4, 2008

If you current weight is 375 then there are a variety of problems contributing to your problem. I would go find a personal trainer. They can help you with your diet, get you doing some exercise and make you stick to it, and identify the problems that got you to your current weight.

Personal trainers aren't very cheap. But you are oh so very likely to develop back problems, joint problems, heart problems, and diabetes just to name a few. So shelling out some cash to live longer and better is a wise investment.

good luck.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:06 AM on January 4, 2008

I don't have any specific diet suggestions, but just wanted to wish you luck and point you to Half of Me, a blog written by a woman who I think lost around 200 lbs through diet and exercise. It took her a couple of years to lose the weight, but she did it.
posted by SoulOnIce at 7:16 AM on January 4, 2008

Anon, I'm starting a weight-loss attempt right now -- I have a lot to lose, too. Email/MeFi mail me if you want a "diet" buddy ... maybe we can trade support, even long-distance.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 8:13 AM on January 4, 2008

In my experience, one thing that can help you move toward a more healthy kind of eating is to start by ADDING things to your diet, not taking them away, and only once you've established the good habits do you start working on the bad ones.

For instance, if you eat lots of refined carbs and processed foods and not many vegetables, fruits, and fiber-rich foods, your first step might be to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. You let yourself eat "normally" the rest of the time, as long as you are getting your fruits and veggies in. This is a sneaky, backdoor way to cut back on "bad" stuff without feeling restricted, because when you're adding that cup of broccoli or whatever, that's some amount of fullness that you won't seek by eating french fries or cupcakes- but you don't trip that diet-rebelliousness that makes the "forbidden" food suddenly the ONLY THING YOU WANT OMG.

Once you've got the veggie habit established, you move on to the next thing on the list - maybe it's substituting whole-wheat bread and pasta and brown rice for the refined sort, or switching from regular soda to diet, or from sugar-sweetened iced tea to splenda-sweetened iced tea (this was a biggie for me- I had to wean myself off the sweet stuff by moving from full sugar to half-sugar-half diet to all diet.)

Another "addition" is to set yourself a minimum amount of water to drink in a day- which will automatically reduce the amount of times you drink sugary drinks, because you only have so much "thirst" to satisfy in a day.

Other additions are, when you want a fattening food, eat the most potent/flavorful version, because you'll be satisfied with less. Parmesan cheese, with its sharp, full flavor, can season a dish with deliciousness with only a few spinkles, whereas a wimpy cheese might not satisfy you even if you ate the whole packet. Similarly, a really intense dark chocolate can satisfy in a few bites more than a whole bar of milk chocolate. Learn to love intense flavor and you feel luxurious, not deprived.

Of course, eventually you will have to get to the point where you are cutting calories, practicing portion control, etc- but by then you've already established good habits and will have already made some calorie-reduction progress by replacing a volume of high-calorie food with an equivalent volume of low-calorie food- equally filling but not equally fattening.

An important caveat to this- don't force yourself to eat foods that you really hate, because you'll resent it- but also, if there's something that's really good for you (broccoli or blueberries or tomatoes or whatever) that you think you don't like, try experimenting with different sorts of preparation- you may find you like it raw but not cooked, stir-fried but not in a stew, or whatever.
posted by oblique red at 8:23 AM on January 4, 2008 [17 favorites]

Heard this diet on NPR the other day, and loved it's simplicity. IMO, this cuts to the heart of what anyone really needs to do to eat and live healthy.

Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.

1. Eat food: avoid highly processed "food" and eat real, honest-to-goodness food. The example the guy on the radio gave: Yogurt is food. "Gogurt", loaded with extraneous ingredients, is not.

2. Not a lot: try stopping eating when you are 80% full.

3. Mostly plants: you don't need to be vegetarian to get the health benefits that not eating meat provides. Just eat a lot less meat. Call meat a treat. Eat it less often, and not as much. As for plants, concentrate on leaves (e.g., lettuce, brocolli, etc.) over seeds (e.g., corn and other grains).

Good luck. Changing habits is one of the hardest things to do, but living healthy is a worthy and attainable goal.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:40 AM on January 4, 2008

1. Count calories. Use FitDay or something similar.
2. Eat only food found on the edges of the grocery store--produce, meat from the butcher's counter, dairy products, whole, whole, whole grains. From those foods, eat the quality stuff. Eat things in the purest form possible. Instead of buying apple topping, buy apples. Instead of buying cottage cheese with pineapple pre-mixed in, buy the cottage cheese and pineapple and put it in yourself.
3. Eat plenty of green vegetables. Don't fulfill all your fruit and vegetables requirement with just fruit.
4. Learn to cook. LEARN TO COOK. If your family likes their meat deep-fried, you're going to have to start preparing your own food. So LEARN TO COOK. And learn to cook healthfully.
posted by schroedinger at 8:41 AM on January 4, 2008

1: Don't take diet advice from AskMe. People are vastly different in what works for them, and a lot of the weight loss here could be attributed to the individual's sex, environment, health, amount of weight to lose, etc. Asking for advice on weight loss will get you countless different responses, just like asking how others responded to a medication--they're all right answers, but not necessarily right for you.

2: You weigh much more than the average dieter, so you must see a physician/dietitian/nutritionist before embarking on a huge weight loss so that they can sit down with you for a few sessions and create a battle plan. Don't go this alone. Get some diagnostic testing done to rule out any thyroid disorders (and no, this isn't giving OP an out that doesn't involve diet and exercise) or other chronic disorders that might prevent you from healthily losing weight. A physician specializing in this area can recommend personal trainers, gyms, and the like. If you're not insured and are a student, check our your university's health center--mine also catered to those looking to formulate weight loss plans.

3: Don't start this cold. Every time I failed to have any success on a diet change, it was because I woke up one morning and felt fat and decided to not eat that day and every day after forever (and yeah, that never worked). Diets borne of "fat days" don't work. Don't do this for your weight. Do it for your health. The mindsets involved in approaching weight loss in either way are drastically different.
posted by sian at 8:42 AM on January 4, 2008

1. You might take on the time, cost and effort of seeing your physician (M.D.) for a medical evaluation and clearance and getting a referral to a dietitian (R.D.) who can help you with this problem. 5'6", 375 lbs. is not "big boned" it is morbid obesity.

2. That being said, you will need to count calories and eat a planned menu. The R.D. should help you with a rational target calorie amount, and some menus to meet that. There are many resources that can help (Cooking Light or Eating Well magazine have recipes with calories listed). But, you will do best in the long run if you learn the calorie counts and reasonable portions of the foods you prefer to eat. Simple will work best for the long run.

3. Exercise and physical activity is a great idea, but you need to be careful of your joints. Start with daily walking if you haven't already, 30 minutes progressing to an hour. Eventually add in some formal resistance exercise and cardiovascular exercise. Consider getting some teaching on how to do this from a personal trainer or taking a course at a community college.

4. At 18 years old you have a great opportunity to turn things around and build some really positive habits for your future. Avoid fad approaches and focus on what you can track and measure. It will be difficult, but you can do it. Best of luck!
posted by objdoc at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2008

To be fair, objdoc, I don't think the OP said that height and weight was due to being big-boned, just that she was structured that way and unlikely to become Kate Moss, and that she was aiming for a healthy weight. Seems pretty level-headed to me.

I hope the OP has better luck with physicians than I have -- they mostly recommend Weight Watchers, which is great, but nothing I couldn't have known on my own.
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2008

Congratulations on beginning this process. I know firsthand how difficult it is to try to lose weight, but you CAN do it. Some suggestions:

1. Please see a doctor. It's a good idea to have medical signoff before beginning both an exercise and diet program.
2. Consider a group program for support -- Weight Watchers is well-regarded. Or, if it's a possibility, therapy. It may be worth exploring why you weigh what you do.
3. Exercise, as others have said, is simply not optional. Aim to work out five days a week for at least 30 minutes a pop. A personal trainer -- particularly someone who isn't fat-phobic and won't make you feel worse about yourself -- would be great, if you can afford it.
4. Thoroughly think through your particular food issues. Do you love sweets? Salty stuff? Are you a fast food addict? Identifying your toughest spots may help you choose a diet plan that will work best for you.

My story: About five years ago I weighed 215 lbs (at 5'4") -- a few years earlier I'd weighed 225. I got down to 150 lbs by:

- doing NOTHING drastic, food-wise. I reduced my carbs, tried to eat protein with every meal, and upped my intake of whole grains. I was working from home and no longer had the chance to buy a giant cookie at lunch time. I got in the habit of eating less food, partly by being thrifty.
- I did not stop eating anything in particular, but I tried to watch it. For me, giving up sweets completely leaves me feeling deprived and depressed. So that wouldn't work for me.
- I stopped drinking juice and soda nearly completely. Drinking your calories is not a great idea, and for me, it was a pretty easy way to cut down.
- beginning an exercise program. I found a program that taught you how to run a mile. At the time I went to the gym often but couldn't run for more than a minute or two at a time. I followed the program slowly, but eventually turned myself into a runner. No one was more surprised than I about this. Two years after I began to lose weight, I ran two half-marathons a week apart.
- Once I lost weight, I monitored my weight diligently. I tried to stay within 3 lbs of 150. When I got up to 156 earlier this year (after a particularly difficult time -- the first time in four years I'd wandered above 153), I went on the South Beach diet to get back on track. That might sound obsessive, but it worked for me. And trust me, at my height and weight, no one thinks I'm the least bit skinny.

Best of luck to you, and congrats again on making this first, significant step.
posted by stonefruit at 10:29 AM on January 4, 2008

Weight Watchers has worked for me. I don't consider it a diet, just a bunch of tools that enabled me to learn how to eat healthy forever. I've lost 65 lbs so far, aiming for about 30 more. My eating habits have drastically changed in the past 11 months and the newer, healthier habits are becoming second-nature and way more desirable than the old habits.

There are tons of people on their message boards who have/had 100+ or 200+ pounds to lose that are succeeding/have succeeded. They post photos in their profiles that are extremely encouraging. I guess there are probably as many people who haven't had success either, but honestly, if you follow their guidelines and make good choices most of the time, you'll succeed. Good luck in whatever program you choose. You can do this.

Take a look at the biggest loser viewer gallery for some before/after success stories with all kinds of different programs. Very inspiring!

PS for the record, the first few months on WW I didn't exercise (due to injury) and still lost 20lbs just by hitting my points target. That was nice as it gave me the luxury of slowly building up a workout routine to avoid burnout.
posted by culberjo at 10:48 AM on January 4, 2008

Keep in mind that sometimes thinspiration is not encouraging to someone starting out a big change like significant weight loss; personally, it illustrated to me that I was not "good enough" at losing weight because I could only drop 10 lbs. and not 150.
posted by sian at 11:56 AM on January 4, 2008

Another personal story, not mine: a friend of the family, a guy, late 30s, 5' 8"-ish, who used to be quite athletic (football & wrestling), but almost died from an undiagnosed thyroid problem a couple of years ago. He was at 480 pounds in early 2007 (late 2006?), and has lost 200 pounds. (As I said in utter bogglement: he lost more than I weighed when I started!)

He's under pretty good medical supervision, because of the health problems, and he swears by cutting out carbs and running. The only bread-like food he eats most of the time is low-carb tortillas. Also, I've noticed that when "the gang" was getting together a lot earlier in the year, he'd always had food beforehand, so he rarely ate with us. I know the family member who he lives with has been very very supportive, too. He takes some sort of "carb-blocker" and says it works for him, but I don't know what it is.

He started the running with a very slow jog around the neighborhood, and has gradually increased his speed. IIRC, he's just now increasing his time. (This time of year he mostly runs on a treadmill.)

He and I have had some interesting conversations recently, as our weight loss became vividly obvious...turns out I can't bake without overeating, unless I give it all away immediately; he doesn't have problems with home-made food, but processed sweets are a serious weakness, and he's given them up entirely.

Oh, that reminds me: we both pretty much gave up soda. I still have a bit of one occasionally, but he's switched to various non-calorie drinks.

Just another thing to say that different variations work for different people.
posted by epersonae at 12:56 PM on January 4, 2008

Here are two easy tricks that help me when I need to lose weight:

1. Find little ways to add little bits of exercise. Try buying yourself a pedometer that counts calories as well as steps. Wear it religiously. If working out an hour every day for 7 days a week is too much for you (and that's what the experts say will help you maintain your weight loss), try pacing every time you're on the phone. Park as far away as possible at work/stores/friend's houses and walk. Walking puts the least stress on your joints and knees; check out how many steps you are taking per day, strive to hit 10,000 per day, and note the calorie count (it's 500 cals for me, roughly, but that changes by body weight). Then try to increase it. Once you have made this a habit, the beat-down of the gym will get easier (you're already burning calories! you don't have to work out as long!). Then focus on some weight training in the gym if you can vs. straight cardio, because muscle really does burn more calories. I bought a weighted hula hoop (10 lbs.) and I do that while watching TV. It burns 100 calories every 10 minutes; I've lost 1/2 an inch off my tummy in about 2 weeks. I don't even use it every day but it's easy exercise!

2. Substitute a low-fat soup for your lunch and add an apple or other piece of fruit that is fibrous (strawberries and dried cherries are great for this). You will get lots of vitamins and veggies, and get very full, without eating all the carbs and fat you might with another lunch. It's easy to do in the winter when it's cold; soup is very satisfying. Try to hit the ones that aren't cream-based and lower in sodium.

You can also try eating an apple before every meal, drinking a glass of ice water, or both. Often, you think you are hungry but you're thirsty; the fiber in an apple will keep you full for an hour. It'll help you eat less of whatever food you may be facing, and believe me, when you are dieting and go out to dinner with friends or to a party/wedding/shower, it's hell trying NOT to eat all the things you have missed. That apple will help you to not stumble in the process.

Take heart; I have struggled with my weight all my life. I weighed 154 and lost roughly 30 lbs. in a year by buying a stairmaster, doing it for an hour a day every day and the two things above. I cut out sodas and juice, and cut my alcohol intake back to one day a week. Baby steps will get you there; if you plateau, try a slight variation (your body will get used to the same exercises over and over again) but don't give up.

If you are anywhere near DFW and want a workout partner, email me. I'll work out with you!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:51 PM on January 4, 2008

The No S diet is a good guideline. I cut out sugar, fatty foods and large portions, and after a while I no longer craved chocolate, sugary snacks etc. That sort of thing became `what other people eat'.

You don't need supplements, just eat a bit of everything healthy, read up on calorie charts, get a good idea on what you need. Strict calorie counting works, but I learned to work it out in my head in a rough way.

Oh yes, and I have one take away meal a week. I get to eat some greasy chicken and chips, and maybe something sweet. It's a real treat and I look forward to it in a way that I never have when my eating habits have been bad.

The Couch to 5K program is really good for learning to run, but I gave up on it once my knees started hurting. My exercise of choice is walking which seems to be very good for my knees.

To really love walking, get a small GPS like the Garmin Forerunner 205, combine it with SportTracks software and Google Earth, and get a good audio player crammed full of interesting podcasts and audio books.
posted by tomble at 6:01 PM on January 6, 2008

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