Over the years, I have often been called upon to give diet advice, and have learned as much as I have taught. If one is to have any lasting success with dietary changes, three major rules must apply.
- The plan must be easy.
- There must be a sizable initial change to fire enthusiasm.
- The goals must be clearly defined and within reach.
The plans I suggest may be no more effective, and certainly less radical, than those you have already tried – which speaks to the real problem. You shouldn’t need more than one diet. Over the short haul, they all work. Even four grapefruits and a prune a day will do the job for a week or two. The real issue is stabilizing your weight. That means forever. A fluctuation of three or four pounds is often seasonal or psychological and perfectly acceptable. Such a small amount, 2-3 percent of body weight, is easily shed without consequence.
Maintenance requires a whole new mind-set. In order to be effective, it should require no thought at all once the changes have been learned. The following rules have repeatedly proven their value. They are simple, painless, and in no way interfere with the enjoyment of food or the social aspects of meals.
- Begin every meal by drinking a full glass of water. It occupies volume and will slake some of the immediate hunger. Water takes up space, it has no calories, and it’s good for you.
- Eat salads as the first course – not as in the European tradition, after the main course. The purpose is obvious. Salad is filling and, bite for bite, far lower in calories than anything that will follow. Salad dressings are fine, and the health benefits of olive oil cannot be overstated. Use it.
- Eat half of what is on your plate, then stop and think. You are no longer hungry, so why keep shoveling the calories in? Always leave food on your plate. The portions we are served or serve ourselves are unnecessarily large.
- Never eat second servings. Period.
- Do not eat desserts.
- Limit between-meal snacks to low-calorie drinks, preferably water, and fresh fruit. An apple, in addition to tasting great, provides complex carbohydrates, which are digested slowly and, through feedback mechanisms, repress hunger far longer than prepared snacks made with refined sugar. Fresh fruit contains far fewer calories than snack food and is rich in vitamins, nutrients and naturally occurring antioxidants.
Obviously, one should be concerned with the quality of food consumed. Fruits and vegetables are critically important, and anyone reading this book already knows that. Fat and cholesterol in all forms should be controlled, and trans fats banished. Most of all, calories do count. Yes, exercise burns calories and even raises your basal metabolic rate a bit for a couple of hours afterward, but is not an excuse for overeating. Don’t overestimate how many calories you are burning. An hour of singles tennis burns off barely 250 calories. Less than a Snickers and a Coke. Running a ten-minute mile consumes only 145 calories. Weight is controlled by taking in (eating) only enough calories to support baseline body
requirements plus physical work. This means far fewer calories than one would imagine.
Maintaining your weight can be managed with ease if you are devoted to the task. A forty-five-year-old woman, five-feet-five-inches tall, weighing 110 pounds, needs about 1,600 calories daily for weight maintenance. Find a food calorie chart on the Internet and learn the basics. It will confirm what you already know about most foods.
The body mass index (BMI) is a good indicator of total body fat and is calculated based on height, weight and age. Federal guidelines suggest a BMI of 24 or less as an appropriate and healthy goal. There are BMI calculating services on the Internet. Plug in your statistics and see the truth. The rest is common sense.
Find the right level for you and stick to it. The few tricks offered above will help, but remember: This is a maintenance aid, not a quick weight-loss diet.
What rules have been helpful to you in maintaining your weight?