Before I began
I really believe that a lot of problems people have on diets are mental more than physical. I know that was true for me. So I sat down and made a list of the feelings and thoughts that have sabotaged me in the past, so that I could address them in my plan.
- Discouragement when I reach a plateau
- Boredom with my healthy choices (I don’t like to try new things, so cutting out a bunch of unhealthy things without adding many new ones, leaves me with a very limited selection)
- A letdown after the diet – not having a solid “plan” for staying on course and avoiding the yo-yo
- Feeling that I don’t have time to exercise
- Lack of energy
What would go on your list?
Coming up with a diet plan that works for me: Zigzagging
I know that plateaus are part of dieting, but I know myself, and when I feel like I’m depriving myself, and the scale stops moving, I lose all my motivation to continue. I started by googling diet plateaus, and reading lots of ideas about ways to combat them. The one that sounded most promising and addressed the most items on my list was zigzagging. There is a lot out there about zigzagging, you can google and find a dozen different methods and cycles, but this is the one that’s worked for me.
Basically, I let myself have one big splurge day a week and one moderate splurge day a week – but never two days in a row. I still record everything I eat on those days, and I still have a calorie goal for the day, but I use those extra calories to have something I’ve been craving. Usually pasta, something sweet, or a dinner out with my Mr. Fix It. Here’s how my week usually looks:
I used this calculator. It tells me how many calories I need to maintain, to lose one pound per week, and to lose two pounds per week. On my big splurge day, I use the maintenance number as my calorie goal. On my moderate splurge day, I use the one pound number as my calorie goal. And the rest of the week I use the two pound number as my calorie goal.
The theory is (and it seems to be working so far) that the splurge days help reset your metabolism so that you don’t plateau out. But it also keeps me motivated because whenever I’m feeling deprived, I remember that I’m only a couple of days away from a splurge.
My biggest suggestions if you decide to do a diet like this:
- Be extra diligent on the day following a splurge day. Never let one splurge day turn into two.
- Weigh on the morning of a splurge day, not the days in between. Your weight will fluctuate throughout the week on this kind of plan, but the morning of splurge days will be your lightest point of the week and a consistent measure of what direction your weight is going.
- Eat lots of veggies and protein on no splurge days. It helps keep you feeling full on not a lot of calories.
Here’s what I eat on a standard “No Splurge Day”. It really is plenty of food when you bulk it up with veggies!
A few other things I’m doing to battle my own diet demons:
- I have always tended to skip breakfast and lunch and binge at night. So I force myself to shift calories early in the day. I shoot for a minimum of 300 calories per meal on no splurge days – or 200 with a 100 calorie snack between meals.
- Carbs are not my friend at breakfast. I cannot seem to eat pancakes, biscuits, and hot cereal in moderation. I shoot for more protein in the mornings. My go to breakfasts are eggs or greek yogurt with honey.
- I’m eating full fat versions of things like dressings and butter. I know from prior experience, I feel more deprived when I’m eating low fat versions that just don’t taste that great. I measure carefully and include them in my calories.
- I’m recording every bite that goes in my mouth and weighing everything on my food scale when I’m at home. Not because there is a huge difference between 30g of lettuce and 50g of lettuce, but because, left to my own devices, my salads would become lighter and lighter on the veggies and heavier and heavier on the dressing.
- I have never ever eaten enough veggies and fruits. I’m including at least 2 servings with lunch and dinner every day.
- I keep a few “Lean Cuisine” type meals in the freezer for those times when I’m in a huge rush or craving pasta. But I try to limit them to 2-3 times per week. I only buy meals with 250 calories or less so I have room to add extra veggies.
- I enjoy the social aspects of eating out with my family and friends. I did the research and found several good options at places we frequent that fit into my plan AND I got the calorie count for dishes I frequently eat. Now I can make smart decisions while eating out and still reach my goals. (ex. My usual Spasagna at Cheddars has 1200 calories. I can have 1/3 of it on a moderate splurge day or 1/2 on a big splurge day. Chili’s has a steak on their light menu for 260 calories. I can even do that on no splurge days!)
Once I reach my goals, how am I going to transition from “diet” to “real life”?
I’m going to keep up the high protein breakfasts and extra fruits and veggies. I’m going to have “No Splurge Thursday” – when I will record my food and go back to my no splurge day goal, just as if I was still on my diet. This is a concept I actually picked up from The Dukan Diet. The theory is that by having one strict day per week, you remind yourself of the healthy habits you learned and keep yourself from overeating the other days. And if the scale ever begins to creep up again, I can do two (or more) “No Splurge Days” a week until I get back to my goal.
Another way I chose to battle discouragement is to measure my results in more ways than just pounds lost. I took measurements. I took “before pictures”. I started keeping a journal (called The Journal of Awesome) to keep track of how much better I’m feeling. When the scale isn’t moving, I check my measurements. I take another picture and compare it to the first. I look back at how much better I’ve been feeling and how much more energy I have. Those are successes, just as much as pounds lost, and they keep me working when the pounds on the scale aren’t motivation enough.
Feeling that I don’t have time to exercise
Since my lack of energy had me sleeping later, I decided that I have time to wake up earlier and exercise before breakfast and before Josie is up. Some days I dance with the Xbox (Zumba or Dance Central), other days I use a set of faith based workout videos called Body Gospel. I keep planning to get Mr. Fix It to go to the gym with me to lift weights, but things keep getting in the way, so I may just have to start going alone.
Lack of energy
This part may get me a scolding by some of you, but I just ask you to remember that what is helpful for me may not be helpful for someone else and I’m not at all suggesting that others should try what’s working for me.
I have struggled in the past with a lack of energy when dieting. And since I’d been struggling with energy issues before I started, I was really worried that it might be my biggest problem this time. So I’ve been taking a supplement from Saba that helps with energy. I’m not saying that it is the perfect solution for everyone, or that it will always be the perfect solution for me, but it’s doing what I want it to for now, which is giving me more energy to keep moving while dieting.
So there you have it. I hope that answers all your questions, and I hope you are having all kinds of success, with the scale and otherwise!