If dieting were an Olympic sport, I would be a multiple gold medalist by now. I have tried several diets in my quest to get to my “ideal” body shape. Below are the ones that were memorable enough to recall.
Low Calorie (Starvation): I did not begin my fitness/nutrition journey until I moved to New York when I was 21 years old. This was my first “diet” which consisted of me eating less than 1000 calories per day. If I could not count it, I did not eat in. This means that all of my food had to have a nutritional label, which means that it came from a package. This is because I did not know any calorie information for any foods nor did I know how to find them. I was new to it all.
So, I began by eating items like 1 or 2 waffles for breakfast, 1 can of corn for lunch and maybe a can of tuna or something else canned and some sort of packaged pasta for dinner. This actually worked for weight loss in pounds. I dropped about 60 pounds in a little over 4 months.; partially because I had never in my life dieted or even drank water unless by default (times of extreme thirst or hunger without other options available). I also had just begun exercising for the first time in life by going to the gym and taking classes or trying out the weights or the cardio equipment.
Sadly, this is unsustainable. I was constantly starving and grouchy and even sometimes dizzy. And, I did become skinny fat because my diet basically consisted of carbs and processed foods.
But, hey, for the beginner dieter this diet may work to get you off to a good start. But, it is no good for health, fitness and longevity.
Low Carb, No Carb, and Atkins: I continued to count calories off and on after I originally lost my weight and managed to maintain it for a while. I would fluctuate between 10 pounds or so but, otherwise my size stayed the same until after I had a baby in 2012. I gained about 80 pounds and went into a frenzy trying to lose it quickly. My fiancé knew a lot about fitness and nutrition so he gave me a diet plan to begin with of the Atkins diet. It was so difficult to begin with because it gave me severe headaches and low energy all of the time. So, I switched to low carb instead. That worked a little better but, this is where my dieting exploration really took flight.
Juice Fast: I briefly tried a juice fast once and the only reason I decided to include it in the list is because of the necessity to explain just how much I hated it. We bought a juicer and a lot of fruits and vegetables and I decided to try the juice fast. Day one almost killed me and I had a ton of juice to try to feed my hunger. By day two I was including protein powder in my juices to try to subdue the hunger pains. Day three included smoothies and was so ineffective that by that evening I was eating anything that I could chew. Needless to say, juicing is not for me.
Now that I know what I know about food I know better than to eat or drink that much sugar and that little protein and no fat. This diet just keeps your insulin spiked all day and your ghrelin super high. So basically you are constantly hungry. No thanks!
Weight Watchers® app: So, this diet was one of my most recent ones. At this point, I have tried almost all other diets and knew what to eat and what not to eat. But, I was desperate for something that held me accountable and worked. But, also something that did not leave me hungry all of the time. I thought that this would work given the Smart Points® system which consists of a specific amount of allotted points that you are allowed to eat in a day. For me, it was 23 points. And, you are even allotted an additional amount of points for the week in case you go over a couple of days of have a cheat meal.
The app itself with no counseling or weigh-ins costs approximately $21 per month (if you commit for 3 months). This is a lot of money to pay for just an app but, I was willing to give it a shot.
At first, it was awesome. I thought it was a dream come true and why did I hear so many negative things about Weight Watchers® in the fitness/nutrition community. On the Smart Points® plan, you have some foods that you can eat an UNLIMITED amount of that are ZERO points. That list consists of Fruits, Vegetables, Fat free meats, all Fish, Eggs, Beans and Fat free Plain Greek Yogurt. You could eat these items until you burst and it would be ZERO points. My issue with this was that even GOOD Fats such as olive oil, almond butter, avocados and grass fed beef were a lot of points. So, you mean to tell me that I can eat unlimited Fructose and Starchy Beans and Vegetables but, an avocado is going to cost me 6 of my 23 points? And, one good cheat item was anywhere from 15 to 45 or more points. So, while Oprah, DJ Khalid and other adverts for this diet encourage to “go ahead and have that cookie”, they fail to mention that it will be the one item will take up all of your points for the week.
All in all, if you are severely overweight or looking to just lose pounds and not focus on fat loss and building muscle only, then Weight Watchers® is great for you. But, if you are a weight lifter or looking to get healthy and not just skinny; then it’s not the best for eating plan to follow; mainly for the fact that they encourage carbs and discourage HEALTHY fats. They focus on fat free and low calorie vs. healthy, nutritional items.
Meal Plans: I can honestly say that I have researched but have never tried meal plans. To me, they are way too restrictive and I like the freedom of choosing my meals. It is giving someone entirely too much control to allow them to tell you exactly what to eat and when to eat it.
Portion Control: In an attempt to keep it simple I dabbled in portion control. Eat whatever you want as long as it fits on a tiny plate (basically the plate you would put under a tea cup). I noticed this diet on the show where the people weigh 600 pounds and have to eat like this after their surgery. This seemed pretty simple and satisfying at first but, it was generally calorie restriction without the numbers games involved. Needless to say, that did not last very long for me.
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM): This is a popular diet that many bodybuilders use as a way to be more flexible with what they consume while still hitting their protein goals. I used to be super scientific with my macronutrients (Proteins, Carbs and Fats) by ensuring that they are all balanced and met to perfection each day. I was stressful and a lot of work. Luckily I was a stay at home mom at the time therefore; I had more time to do this routine. But, counting macros is a great way to not be so consumed by the calorie counting and to also be able to eat a more flexible diet versus meal plans and other alternatives. There is even a website you can go to determine what your macronutrient requirements are.
Counting macros versus counting just calories is better because macros matter more than calories. One person can eat 1000 calories of cupcakes and the other can eat 1500 calories of natural proteins, fats and vegetables. The person eating more calories would be healthier and feel better than the one eating lower calories of processed sugar.
My fitness pal app: At my previous all-ladies gym we were trying a new app out in an attempt to get the whole class to lose weight. This app helps you log your food, water and exercise and includes the macronutrients for you. Based upon your weight and activity level as well as your goal weight input; you are allotted a specific amount of calories/macros for the day.
I used this app for a long time and it did help me pay attention to how much I was eating and burning off. The macros are adjustable, which is great for those who want to eat more or less of certain macronutrients. Also, there is a giant database of foods pre-logged in. And, there is even a barcode scanner. Therefore, you will almost always have the macros/calories figured out for you when inputting the food you eat. And, I always count my water intake to attempt to reach the goal of a gallon per day. This app allows you to calculate water intake as well.
The app is very slow though and the barcode scanner function is highly unreliable in low light, if you are moving and if the barcode is not big and flat. Also, it is sort of stressful to have to add in all of that information each day. Especially when preparing a homemade meal; you have to input each item one by one. I am already too busy to keep up with stuff like this. Don’t get me wrong, I would highly recommend this app for those who need it but, it was too much work for me.
Vegan and Gluten Free: After watching a few YouTube videos promoting specific lifestyles I tried Vegan and Fruitarian. And, I even did gluten free. These are all lifestyles and not really diets. They are all great for your body in their own ways. But, can also be manipulated to eat a bunch of junk as well. During these lifestyles, I found a lot of Vegan, Paleo, Gluten Free items such as breads, muffins, desserts and unhealthy choices. Unless you are eating this way to treat a condition, it is not something to choose to try to merely change the way you look.
Intermittent Fasting / Keto: These last couple of diets/lifestyles is what I am currently doing and plan to continue with long term. I actually did a podcast episode on this titled “Episode 9: Intermittent Fasting and Keto (My Current Experience)” on any of your podcast/music platform of choice.
Intermittent fasting is where you allow yourself a specific eating window in which you can consume any calories for the day. The beginner can start with anywhere from 12 to 16 hours of more of not consuming calories and the rest of the time you can eat. This time of fasting can include your while you are asleep, passing by a good amount of hours that you are not even thinking of food. I am at 16-18 hours fasted now and would love to get to the advanced level of 20 hours a day.
Keto or the Ketogenic Diet is where you can only consume very low carbs from avocado, vegetables (no starches), nut butters and some berries. You mostly eat high fat and moderate protein. This is supposed to train your body to use fat instead of glucose for energy. Also, carbohydrates and processed food increase inflammation and other illnesses. Eating a Keto diet really alleviates all of that. Plus, fat keeps you fuller without insulin spikes!
Both of these techniques together really almost force you to eat natural, satisfying foods in the allotted time given. I am very pleased with the results I have seen in just the short time doing this thus far and have found it to be a doable lifetime way of eating.
No Sugar/No Grains/Low Dairy: On and off for approximately a year now, I have been doing this No Sugar No grains lifestyle (“NSNG”). This is trademarked by Vinnie Tortorich who is an amazing trainer and podcaster; you should really check him out. Quite simply you do not eat any sugars (except maybe some berries here and there) and no grains whatsoever. This helps avoid inflammation and bloat, keeps you energized and fights many illnesses. With this lifestyle you cannot eat the processed garbage that is considered standard in the American diet.
Also, I had given up dairy early 2017 in an attempt to ease some bloating. I still eat eggs and some mayo but, no cow dairy and no butters at all. I use goat’s milk yogurts and cheeses instead and the difference has been night and day. I am never bloated anymore since giving up sugar, starches and dairy. Just prior to giving up all three I was bloated EVERY SINGLE DAY. Now, never! And, I once was a sugar addict. It was literally my drug and I would binge out on sugar and once I had a taste, I was craving for it all day; even DAYS after. But, about two weeks or so after stopping cold turkey, I am now cured and rarely (like once a month) even have a taste of sugar.
I can finally say that I am at a truly content dietary lifestyle. I no longer say I am “dieting” or that “I cannot have” something. I am no longer starving and do not spend my day agonizing over what to eat next and then wallow in the guilt of the terrible choice I made in what I did eat. No more being “Hangry”.
Whatever way you choose to eat, please do not go through the years of mistakes that I went through and choose an eating plan that suits you well enough for you to continue it for the rest of your life without even having to think about it. Choose something that makes you happy and healthy. And, I guarantee that whatever method it is, if it is natural and satisfying foods; then you will definitely watch the pounds fall off.
Be happy and healthy my friends!