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Diet vs Eating Plan

It’s possible that the word “diet” is the most hated in the English language. I understand why and I certainly agree that deprivation through “willpower” is a loathsome idea. Worse, it’s counterproductive. If you feel deprived you will not adhere to the diet for long and you will “fail.”

So does that mean that “diets don’t work,” as we hear over and over again? Well, I would say that maybe diets do work, or at least they can work, but that we don’t work very well with diets. Additionally, we need to stop thinking of a diet as something that we do for a given amount of time and then stop.

Diets with expiration dates don’t work.

Instead I suggest that we stop referring to this as a “diet” but rather as a healthy eating plan. Because you cannot be successful at weight loss without a plan.

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Okay, so to lose weight and keep it off permanently you need a healthy eating plan. But which one?

There are essentially six different categories of diets … er, eating plans. Let’s look briefly at each one.

Counting Programs: These are the stalwarts, such as Weight Watchers and newer entries such as Fooducate and MyFitnessPal.

Pre-packaged Foods: Examples are Jenny Craig, NutiSystem, SlimFast and MediFast.

Restrictive Diets: These either eliminate whole categories of foods or prescribe that you eat a precisely defined diet, at the exclusion of all else. Some are Atkins, The Paleo Diet, South Beach Diet as well as Sonoma, Mediterranean and Ornish.

External Controls: These are the pills and products that you either take or put on food that alter your ability to absorb calories or suppress appetite. Examples include: Sensa and a number of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Internal Controls: These are the “change your thinking, change your body” programs such as OverEaters Anonymous , hypnosis and the “mindful eating” proponents such as Judith S. Beck, PhD.

Weight Loss Surgery: There are essentially two different kinds, restrictive (adjustable gastric banding aka “lapband”) or malabsorptive (gastric bypass).

It is a daunting list, to be sure. Some of these entries have been around a very long time and are entirely sound. Others are less credible or are newer and therefore less tested.

Interestingly, no matter which ones you’ve tried, no matter which one you choose, they all have essentially one thing in common: you must eat fewer calories than you burn in order to lose weight. There really is no way around that. Sorry.

The other thing that they have in common is that each diet comes with a set of rules you must follow in order for it to work: you must count points and stay within your allotted range for the day or you must eat like a caveman. Or whatever. Follow the rules and you will lose weight.

But we all know what happens. Life get busy and you stop counting points for a few days, then a week. Or you’re travelling a lot for work and your “mindful eating” gets replaced with grab-n-go dinner at the airport food court.

So if every diet has rules you must follow, what are you supposed to do when those rules become difficult to follow? You pick a diet – er, eating plan – that has rules that make sense to you.

For example: I hate counting points. Just hate it. My inner 4-year-old will stand there (figureatively) with her hands on her hips, stomp her feet and say defiantly, “I’m not counting your points and you can’t make me!” Terribly mature, right? So all my dozen or so attempts at Weight Watchers over the course of several decades failed because I resist the diet’s fundamental principles at every turn.

In Thursday’s blog I’m going to talk about what plan did work for me. But I’ll tell you now that the reason it worked is because on a very basic level it simply made sense to me. Ultimately, it’s a plan I can do for the rest of my life because I have made it my own. I have internalized the “rules” and I own them.

I understand you’ve tried every diet – er, eating plan – in the book, but have you found one you could embrace for the rest of your life? It’s out there, I know it is. I found mine and I’m going to help you find yours.

Is losing weight hard? Don’t make me laugh. Yeah, it’s hard. But it gets easier. And you’re so damn worth it!

Let’s go get it!

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