Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Staying on a Diet

It's been a little over 3 and a half weeks since I started my most recent diet, and while there's less enthusiasm (and more drinking and eating out) now than at the start, I've managed to stay the course fairly well. So here are my opinions on what makes a diet sustainable.

Day-to-day ease

One of the reasons systems like nutrisystem are so popular is that all the food is prepackaged for convenience. Whether you cook for your diet or get food from restaurants/eateries like I do, it is much easier if you cook/buy a batch and refrigerate for a couple days' use. Sure it might not be as fresh as can be and for those days there's less variety, but it's much easier to reach that long term goal if the day-to-day preparation is made as effortless as possible.

Week-to-week ease

When I buy my food for a diet routine, it usually lasts 4 days. This way, if I know I have plans to go out drinking/eating on the weekends, I can fit a full diet routine in on the weekdays. Similarly, if I have to go out to dinner on a Tuesday night, but feel like having wings and beer for watching football on Sunday, I can squeeze in a diet routine Wed-Sat. What I mean by this is that even though I recommend preparing food in batches for day-to-day ease, if your food is intended to last too long of a time it'll be harder to fit your diet with your other scheduled events.
Every day that you choose to diet (under whatever guidelines it may be), you will be consuming less calories (or else you need to change that diet). So being able to squeeze in a diet routine/regimen for some number of days in between going out will help you stay on track.

Days off

I am not a fan of lifetime diets. By those I mean Atkins, South Beach, or whatever, where you're expected to follow those dietary guidelines every meal of every day of your life. I also don't like the idea of eating whatever you want, and then crash dieting every time your weight goes too high. I believe the right mix is important. You should not feel compelled to diet, but should try to squeeze the diet in every now and then as mentioned above. So for every 4-5 days of dieting, you take a day or two off. Nothing need be rigid, but the idea is to squeeze in those diet routines here and there.
Days off mean eating normally, not going crazy. If you eat twice as much as normal on your day off, then there's really no point. On your day off, eat normally and eat what you've been depriving yourself of. But don't eat too much of it. In another few days you can eat it again.

Eat what you like, not what you crave

I am not a fan of eating small portions of your favorite foods. To me that's masochism. You're tempting your palate and then cutting yourself off cold turkey. Instead, I recommend that when you do diet, you eat things that you like, but that you can stop eating when you're full. Too much of the food we overeat nowadays comes from us not being able to stop because of cravings.
Sure, you might start off eating more of that food to compensate, but soon your appetite will slow down because you're not craving that food. When your appetite and cravings slow down you can later reintroduce those special foods after your body has learned moderation from other foods.

Don't classify foods by mealtimes

What I mean by this is don't restrict yourself to certain foods because of the time of day. It's okay to eat a turkey sandwich at 8 in the morning and it's okay to have an omelette (hopefully egg white) at night. That way you can eat healthier at different times of the day with more variety.

Try different ethnic cuisines

Every cuisine has healthy options and different ethnic cuisines use different spices and flavors so you can continually challenge your palate. This allows variety and promotes enthusiasm while staying the course by choosing the healthier options. Right now the main staple of my diet is Turkish, but I throw in Japanese, Korean, Italian, Thai, and meals from other backgrounds to help round out the diet.

Get as much information as you can

There are so many diet books out there now it's unwise to just pick one and follow as gospel. I believe in doing research and reading from sites that are willing to post controversial or contradictory information. Sites that I've mentioned before include http://calorielab.com/news/ and http://www.diet-blog.com/ . The following are just a sample of things I've taken from these and other sources and try to implement in my own diet routine.

1. More frequent smaller meals.
2. Eat "good" or "better" carbs as much as possible.
3. Eat more carbs early in the day and more protein at night OR eat very balanced meals with a bit of lean protein with each meal. I try to do both in the two stages of my diet.
4. Watch portions when eating out or taking home food from restaurants. They're usually double the size of a suitable portion.

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