Thursday, June 26, 2014

Following a prescribed diet versus tailoring a diet specific to you

Sometimes I read things and it gets me to thinking about it in new ways. As mentioned, I belong to a weight loss forum. On that forum, people are on a variety of diets - South Beach, Atkins, Intermittent Fasting, Weight Watchers, Paleo, Keto, Ideal Protein, Metabolic Research, Low Carb, Calorie Counters, etc. You get the picture. There are also people who have gotten a variety of weight loss surgeries and then a lot of people like me who make up their own diets.

I read a thread yesterday about someone who said that they had tried several diets and never could stick with it for more than three days before cheating/quitting. I responded with, "Well, maybe tailor your own diet that you can live with."  And that got me to thinking about those who follow diet plans out there in the world and those of us who don't And it got me thinking about how diets come and go in waves of fads. Huh... it's interesting. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to lose weight as long as it's done in a non-detrimental way to the health, but why is it that some of us need someone to tell us what to do EXACTLY and others can't or don't want to follow rules of a diet? And then that got me to thinking about myself specifically. Why have I never followed a diet, specifically?

So, my weight loss history. I have tried to lose weight 4 times in 44 years. The first time was when I was 21 years old. I just came up with my own hair brained idea of how to lose weight. I started exercising daily and then went on a heavily restricted diet. I lost weight SUPER fast, but was starving. It lasted about a month.

I went on a diet again when I was 27. I decided to join Weight Watchers to help me stay accountable. They had just started their points plan. I 'sort of" followed it, but not really. It gave me a set of points, but I often didn't follow it. for half the month I felt famished, so I ate more points. For the other half of the month I felt less hungry, so I ate less points. I also included exercise. After a couple months I stopped counting points and I didn't really care about anything they had to say. I just knew to eat less and move more. That lasted for about 6 months before I stopped.

I didn't diet again until I was 41 years old. I went with low carb because my blood sugars were way out of line (most likely caused by my thyroid). I had done low carb before during my second pregnancy because of gestational diabetes, so I knew what to do. But, I didn't follow any low carb diet like Keto or Atkins or South Beach. I don't know why... It never even entered my mind to follow a diet already out there. I just cut out the grains and sugars because those are not really needed for nutrition and they are also a great way to cut calories. And, again, I added in exercise, first just cardio, and then strength training. I had started low carbing specifically to lower my blood sugar levels, but what I found is that eating low carb made it easier to eat less and move more. I had more energy. I had less cravings. Huh, this low carb stuff might be the way to go for me!

I did that diet with a lot of exercise, with little tweaks, for over 2 years. Then I had this disaster half year when I just totally didn't care as I was tired of struggling with injuries. I snapped out of it, and then started right back up with the same diet, with more changes to accommodate for my injuries. At this point, I cannot do the strength training I was doing as I have several issues with neck and back issues (I get spasms quite frequently) and some issues with my left knee. I can, however, walk and walk fast, so I do that. BUT... if I'm too busy... I'm too busy. I don't beat myself up any more for days I can't fit in exercise, OR just don't feel like it. I just adapt my eating to be lower on those days - something I didn't seem able to do the last go around. Exercise is important, for sure, but I also need to be able to adjust my eating around more or less exercise as injuries and time away from exercise WILL HAPPEN.

So, now, with this current weight loss I do a combo of these diets: Keto, Atkins, South Beach, Calorie Counting, Low Carbing, Intermittment Fasting, and Intuitive Eating and probably more.  I don't follow ANY OF THEM specifically.

I fast most of the day and eat one large meal a day with two very light 'snacks' in the morning and afternoon. I keep them low carb to keep hunger at a minimum. However, if I'm hungrier, I listen and eat more (intuitive eating). I will not white knuckle it out. When I eat my big meal of the day, I keep it low carb - high fat and high protein. BUT.. I don't avoid food groups completely. I will eat fruit (minus bananas) and I will eat any vegetable or bean. When I'm craving it, I'll have something with sugar - in small bits. Like a slice of zucchini bread. Or a single small ice cream treat. I don't say, "I can't have that.". I just try to limit them because when I eat more of them, cravings start increasing and it becomes harder to stick with this way of eating. I also still need to calorie count because I do not have an "I'm full" button. I can and could eat my entire calorie allotment in one sitting - in one salad, so I need to count the calories.

This is what has worked for me, and for the most part, has been totally sustainable for 3.5 years. It was only depression that derailed me and now, I have a plan for that too.

Even the mere idea of following a prescribed diet has me balking at the idea. Like, "Who are YOU to tell ME how to eat?" But more, I don't trust any authority with food recommendations because what I've learned is that we still don't know SO MUCH about dietary needs. But also, I don't think I could follow someone else's diet and be able to stick to it. I would find it too restrictive for me. I would feel like I was cheating or failing if I couldn't follow it to a T. I just don't need it and would find it a hindrance.

Yet, I know a lot of people who need to be told what to do. It's why those diets that come with meals are so popular - Jenny Craig, Ideal Protein, etc. It takes all thinking out of it. Just do this and X will happen. Somehow, you need to figure out how to eat once you go off the program, but maintenance on ANY diet has that aspect of it.

I don't even think it's that people don't know what's healthy eating or not, but that they feel they need someone to hold their hand through it - to lead the way for them.

It gets me to wondering if people who follow their own diet are any more successful long term than those who follow a set of rules given to them by someone else. Or the reverse? Of course, people often start out with a particular diet and then tailor it to fit their needs - more points, less points. More carbs, less carbs, etc. I don't even know if there's been studies on that! I LEARN from prescribed diets, for sure. I didn't know about low carb when I was 27, but it was easy to find information on it later. But it's interesting to think about why we flock to diets - and then ditch them too.

Like Atkins was a HUGE rage... then it disappeared. Low fat was (and still is lingering on) a huge way of living, but now is waning for high protein and high fat. Paleo is now huge and will fade. it's always a cycle of diets coming in and out of fashion and people jump on the band wagon and jump off.  Why is that? is the problem of being too strict to follow? Or that it's trying to make all people fit into the same peg hole?  And why do people try a diet, have success at it, quit and then never try it again? Because you quit there was a problem with the diet? Or, was there a problem ELSEWHERE - like in your head?

It's interesting and the more I think about it all, the more questions I have.


  1. I never really tried any specific diet until I tried Paleo. I absolutely loved it, followed it strictly for about six months, then tailored it to my specific need so I could live that way for the rest of my life. So now I'm about 95% paleo for over 2 years now... For me personally, I need that 5% wiggle room for alcohol or an occasional dinner out with some bread, and I'm set! definitely a lifestyle for the long term for me now.

  2. I have no problem with the paleo diet as a way of eating, but some of their ideas of what was eaten during paleolithic times is a bit 'stretched'. Like nuts. I'll pick on almonds. They were inedible. It was through farming/domestication that almonds became edible. There was a mutation in some almond trees that were edible versus toxic. People started to breed the edible ones and bred out of existence the toxic almonds. So, technically, almonds should not be part of the paleo diet.

    So... it's the specifics of "our ancestors ate this way, we should too" that bug me, BUT the notion of eating more natural fats and more proteins and leafy greens are a good idea and benefit most people. It just gets taken too far, IMO.

  3. I am not a big fan of rigidity. I take what is useful to me from whatever source. I am a Weight Watchers members and do record points, but the big thing that WW does for me is the meeting and weekly weigh in which keep my head in the right place (meeting) and structure my week (weigh in).

    But, I also track calories on MFP. For what I eat I lean toward South Beach-ish although not exactly. I don't eat red meat, but I'm not a vegetarian (I was for a couple of years). I don't keep foods in my house that I have trouble controlling how much I eat, but I don't absolutely forbid any food (although there are some that only eat a couple of times a year).

    So far, it is working for me.

    1. @Kitty, that's what I did too - used WW for accountability and even found some great recipes. Also, at that time, I could find out fairly easily how much "damage" going out to eat would be as there were calculated points for such things, but I tweaked things for myself that worked for me.

      I think there are a thousand ways to lose weight and I'm not knocking people following prescribed diets, but I wonder about the mentality of "it didn't work".

  4. Actually, when we're talking longer term maintainers the most successful ones I know followed particular plans to the letter until maintenance, and that was when they began tweaking to make it comfortable or more livable or account for ______. Overly much hodgepodging during weight loss tends to cause people to stall or do the yoyo thing, and they have zero baseline to tell what actually is working and what isn't. I know only a true handful of exceptions who have lost significant weight, kept it off for multiple years, and did so without ever ascribing dominantly to a single approach. That's not to say that a calorie counter using some volumetrics and food combining can't be successful or no one on keto ever did IF, too - to the contrary. But sticking with one major approach and only adjusting what absolutely must be tweaked works better by and large than the opposite approach.

    There are exceptions to every rule and you may well be one. But I know I'm not, not with this. Maintenance is different than losing, and I always lose the very best when I'm strict and on my particular plan.

    1. That's interesting. But then I could say I follow calorie counting to a T. Or low carbing to a T. And then only have off days for special occasions. It's just that I. Don't eat every day at below 30 or 50 carbs. It might be 50 one day, 30 another and 70 another. I always keep my calorie count below 1400, but it could be 1100 one day, 1200 another and 1350 another. I do not eat bread, rice grains period. Simple sugars are limited and must fit within my calorie allotment and carb allotment. Who knows I might follow someone' spree scribed diet exactly, but I came to it by tweaking it on my own as I don't read diet books and only rarely read anything on a website about particular diets - that's more for curiosity about what it is people are doing.

  5. Diets don't work. 98% of people who go on a diet fail. And if they lose weight, it comes back, then some! I was one of them until I discovered a holistic approach that, much like yours, focuses on what works for a person's unique lifestyle and doesn't involve deprivation. Keep up the great work!