I do not like to diet. I prefer to eat pizza and cookies and drink diet Mountain Dew. Over the years however, I have dieted off and on, never quite sticking to anything long term. I would lose some weight, but then life got in the way and I would revert to my old habits. When the pandemic hit, I started yet another diet. I figured it was a good time to do it since I was not working and could focus on my health. I lost 12 pounds – which for me is a lot. Once I went back to work though, the pounds started to creep back up because I had more time constraints and was tired at the end of the day. I no longer took the time to cook breakfast in the morning, because I wanted something easy to eat on the way to work. I would be tired when I got home so would just grab something that was quick to prepare (ie stick in the microwave). There were goodies at work. On the weekends I would go to Dairy Queen and get an Oreo Brownie Fudge sundae as my lunch – because I deserved it. It is so hard to stick to a diet in the real world.
I had gained about half the weight I lost and was feeling bloated and uncomfortable most of the time. I knew it was time to start a new diet, but I didn’t want the discomfort of it. Diet experts say you will not be hungry on their diet, but they lie. Of course you will be hungry! When your body is not getting what it is used to getting, it revolts and if you are not physically hungry, you are emotionally hungry. Cravings are terrible and hard to get through. I wanted to diet, but didn’t know if I could do it AND work. Went back on the diet that had worked for me (the DASH diet) because I knew it was one of the most healthy diets out there. I bought all the vegetables and the low fat cottage cheese and light yogurts and lean meats. I managed about a week, lost about 2 pounds (mostly water weight), but I felt terrible. I was bloated from the extra fiber my body was not used to, and I was exhausted because my body was learning to manage without all the sugar and carbs. The good part about it though was that my sugar cravings had been reduced. Until I had a cookie.
One cookie. And my body felt better. It had missed the sugar and carbs and took it in with revelry. The problem was that it also brought back the cravings. So of course I had to have another cookie, and over the next day or so , I had pizza, and a sandwich, and a Twinkie. And then, I felt bloated and uncomfortable and had the worst gas I have had in ages. Ugh! And I immediately gained weight from it all.
I determined that I must have a problem digesting starchy carbs – perhaps a sensitivity to gluten. So I went back on my diet, but tweaked it so I could still enjoy the flavors that I liked, while keeping carbs low and as gluten free as I could. I listened to my body as well to see what foods caused me to bloat. Bloating makes my stomach feel firm from the gases. My goal was to keep my stomach squishy – which I know sounds backwards, because who wants a squishy stomach? In my case, squishy is good because it means I don’t have as much gas causing my stomach to inflate like a balloon.
The tips and tricks I have found that work for me (so far) as a lazy dieter include the following:
Plan ahead. I know it sounds like every other diet. For me though, it meant finding foods that I can eat on my way to work that includes protein. I found an organic bread that I like that does not cause as much bloating, so I toast a couple pieces, spread it with deviled ham or salmon cream cheese, and eat it like a sandwich while I drive. I also have some diet cranberry juice which I actually like.
Always have a beverage. I drink a lot of water and usually have water bottle with me – in the car, at work, by my computer, when I am cooking, etc. I also drink diet juices and tea (I don’t like coffee). I use beverages as a way to combat hunger and to get through cravings.
Plan for snacks. I am slow on the uptake in regard to the snacks, but am doing some planning to address that. Right now, I notice that I get hungry about every two hours when I am at work – and have been grabbing taffy from the staff room when I can. Not the best snack, but they don’t have the starchy carbs I am trying to avoid.
Plan for the after-work hunger. Currently when I get home from work, I have a cup of tea. Sometimes it is a chai tea latte that I make in the keurig. It has about 60 calories a serving which I figure is not bad in the scheme of things. I also like a strong sweet and spicy tea.
Be prepared for eating in your car. I like a good cheeseburger. Lately I have been treating myself with fast food. I keep paper plates and plastic forks in my car. I ask for extra mayo and extra lettuce on my burger, and after removing the bun, I get down to eating my burger like a salad. People say “just ask for the burger to be wrapped in a lettuce leaf”. My response is, “Have you ever tried to eat a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf? It is a mess!” I also found that you can take a deli wrap sandwich and eat it like a salad as well after you remove the tortilla (see photo at top of post). You get the same flavor as your favorite burgers or sandwiches, without the starchy carbs and gluten.
Try gluten free snacks. I love cookies! I just found some gluten free chocolate chip cookies at Walmart and they are surprisingly good! They are soft and have a great flavor. I have tried other gluten free snacks which I have NOT liked, so part of it is trial and error. They can be more expensive, but well worth it to have a bit of “normal” food.
Eat diet frozen meals. Yes they have gluten in them, especially when you have ones with pasta, but they usually have less than 400 calories. There are ones that I do not like due to the sauce or flavor. I am in the process of finding ones that I truly enjoy so I can buy them again.
Keep fruits and veggies on hand that you like. Don’t go buy stuff you don’t really like because your diet book says you should. You waste food and feel guilty because you want to like it but just don’t, so you end up throwing it away.
If you do not like to cook, don’t buy a bunch of stuff you are “going to cook” because the diet book tells you to. I have thrown away more meat and vegetables and other pantry items than I care to mention, because I had high hopes of cooking these fantastic meals forgetting that I simply do not like to cook. Find frozen meals and ready-made items that work for you.
Eat dinner early. This is one of the key elements of me being able to lose weight and feel more comfortable. I try not to eat after 6 pm if I can help it. As I said earlier, I tend to get hungry about every two hours – during the day. In the evening, I don’t seem to have that issue, so for me this works. Eating early allows my stomach to digest before going to bed, which helps me from feeling bloated and being uncomfortable when I lay down. It also means I will be “fasting” for longer until morning. Sometimes I do get a little hungry (especially when I find myself staying up later playing games on my tablet), so I always keep a pack of saltine crackers (and my bottle of water) by my bed. Usually one or two crackers and a couple sips of water helps ease the hunger pangs. I also remind myself that when I am asleep I won’t feel hungry. Everyone is different and has different schedules, so 6 pm may not be your magic number.
Weigh yourself every day. I actually keep a log of my weight which I know sounds slightly compulsive, but it actually helps me keep on track. It also helps me determine which foods cause me to gain weight. If I see my weight going up, I can adjust my diet sooner than later.
If you eat poorly today, it does not mean you are doomed. It is hard to stick to a diet. Sometimes we eat stuff we know we “shouldn’t”. It is not the end of the world, nor the end of your diet. Simply get back to it the next day. No biggie.
Adjust your food intake throughout the day. If I know I am going to eat the dessert, I adjust the other foods I eat. People say, “What good is having a diet soda when you are eating a cheeseburger and fries?” I figure, the diet soda allows me to have the cheeseburger and fries because it is not adding even more calories to a meal I know I am going to eat anyway.
Lettuce and Tomatoes count as vegetables! So many diet books say, “You need to eat more vegetables, but the lettuce and tomato on your cheeseburger doesn’t count.” I call BS on that. For someone that does not eat many vegetables to begin with, ANY vegetable I eat counts.
Small changes can make a big difference. Reducing your portion size a little, having fruit as a snack, changing your bread, drinking lower calorie beverages than usual, can all help. If you like Hamburger Helper, have a smaller portion with more meat than pasta. Put more salad on your plate. Have two pieces of garlic bread instead of four. Even small steps will get you to where you want to be.
I am no diet expert. I am figuring out what works for me though. Everybody is different. What works for me, may not work for you. BUT it is important for you to become aware of what DOES work for you, based on your own health, the way your body responds to various foods, your work schedule, your life in general. No diet is “One size fits all”. It is up to you to discover for yourself how to lose weight based on who you are. Diet programs help you get started, but don’t let them tell you it is their way or the highway. Pay attention to your body, how you feel physically, and emotionally. You can get there! Just keep moving forward.