One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

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Ask Roni: Does Dieting Work?

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Hi Roni! I have a quick question. Do you think that if you haven’t followed WW so strictly in the beginning you would be where you are today? You keep saying that diets don’t work, but how did you lose the 70 pounds? By dieting, right? I think that all diets work as long as you follow them. See the long term use is another story.
-Iva

Hi Iva!

I LOVE your question as it helps me sort out some thoughts I’ve been having about this very subject.

First, let me answer your first question quickly and simply:

No. I do not think I would be where I am today if I didn’t follow Weight Watchers in the beginning.

Now, you used the word “strictly” and I didn’t include it in my answer on purpose. I can’t say I followed it strictly. I made it “my own,” which is a phrase I’ve used since the beginning and it’s one that is easy yet hard to explain. I hope by the end of my response it will make more sense.

Your second question perplexes me a bit. I never said diets don’t work. Actually, I have always said I believed any reputable diet works if you follow it. That being said, following said diets seems to be the problem for most folks and that’s usually who I’m blogging about or to because it’s who I was for a really long time.

I have said I don’t believe in any diet that demonizes or glorifies specific foods or provides strict rules on exactly what to eat.

Do those kind of diets work? Maybe. For some. I’m not really in a position to say as I’m not an expert and I refuse to follow them.

Why?

Because I don’t believe there is a smoking gun when it comes to weight gain and I don’t believe excluding one type of food from your diet will solve your weight problems.

How did I lose the 70 pounds? Dieting?

Well, yes and no. Let me return to that concept of making Weight Watchers my own.

When I started Weight Watchers in 2005 they were promoting 2 plans: Flex and Core.

Flex was the basic point-based program that basically said eat whatever you want but stay in this point range. Oh! And here’s a few extra points for the week if you want to indulge or have a treat.

Core was a non-point plan that said don’t worry about points, just eat anything off this list of approved foods and you’ll be fine. If you want something not on the list, then here’s a few points to use for the week. Don’t go over them with non-core foods.

I always followed Flex as I wanted the accountability of a daily point goal since I have a problem with overeating and portions. So that was the “diet” I followed to lose 70lbs, Flex. However, I made NO foods off limits. If I wanted Lucky Charms for breakfast, I had Lucky Charms for breakfast.

FoodJournal01
My original food journal from week 1 on Weight Watchers – First entry is Lucky Charms

Over time, however, I realized I could eat a heck of lot more All Bran or even a huge egg-white omelet loaded with veggies instead of Lucky Charms for the same, if not fewer points so I started to make changes to my food choices.

I basically figured out if I used the Core list of foods as a guide but still followed Flex it was the best of both worlds. I was learning how to eat healthier while having the accountability of a point (calorie) goal. Some of us online jokingly called the plan, “Flore.”

Is that dieting?  In the sense that I had a daily point/calorie goal, sure, but it wasn’t a plan that made certain foods off limits or provided a regimen. This “diet” was more like learning. I made it my own and it’s what started me down the path to the “diet” I eat now. And I have no doubt my diet will continue to evolve because I continually push myself to try new, healthy things even though I’m not on a “diet.”

When I hear the world “diet” (the way you used it in your question) I still think of a short term meal plan or an approach to eating that doesn’t allow certain foods all in the name of seeing a certain number on the scale. If that’s the case then in the beginning, when I lost 70 pounds, I guess “dieting” would refer more to the accountability I gave myself by following a points-based plan. However, my DIET (as in what I eat) has continually gotten better over the years and it’s not something I “break” or “stop” or “fall off the wagon” with, so I have a hard time seeing it as a “diet” — it’s just how I eat now.

Does that make sense?

I guess it really comes down to how we define the term.

Bottom line: If people continue to look at “diets” as short-term solutions to lose weight I don’t think the light bulb went off for them yet. If, however, they are looking for a “diet” that will help them learn a long-term, lifestyle-changing approach to eating that will teach them a better way to find balance with food, then I think they are on the right path.

All that being said, this is only my opinion as an ex yo-yo dieter and I hope it helps fellow yo-yo dieters who may be struggling with the same mentality I used to have. If you have found success on a diet, any diet, I don’t mean to trivialize your experience. I can only share what’s worked for me.

I used to be a person who looked for a “diet” to solve my problems. Once I decided to stop looking and actually did the work of learning how to eat, I stopped the crazy cycle I was stuck in.

I hope that clarifies a few things, Iva. Thanks for the opportunity to share those thoughts! I hope they made sense.

*~*~*~*

 Food Journal

  • 7:15 a.m. Post-workout shake (1 scoop).
  • 9 a.m. leftover oatmeal made like this minus the chocolate chips plus hemp seeds.
  • 12:30 p.m. A fun 5-ingredient lunch I made with what I found in my fridge. Hope to get the recipe up tomorrow on GreenLiteBites!
    5 ingredient lunch!
  • 4 p.m. Handful of granola. My stomach was growling and I was headed to the grocery store.
  • 6 p.m. Chicken, sweet potato, green beans and a few nibbles of cheese while making Evan’s lunch
  • 8:45 p.m. Strawberries with Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter — holy yum!
  • 9:45 p.m. Handful of chips and then I went to bed because I felt the munchies coming on.

 Activity Journal

  • 6 a.m. – warm up was a little rowing and stretches
    Strict Shoulder Press
    10 @ 33 lbs
    10 @ 53 lbs
    10 @ 63 lbs
    10 @ 53 lbs
    10 @ 53 lbs
    Workouts was 6 rounds of the following: 
    5 deadlifts @ 133 lbs
    10 Burpee Box Jumps
    I did it in 13:07 and lightened the deadlifts at 165 is a little too heavy of a working set for me.
    Afterwards I ran 400 m with the guys. I would have done a mile but I had to go. :)
  • 8 a.m. 2 mile run/walk to and from Evan’s school
  • 3:30 p.m. Left 10 minutes before the bus arrived so I can walk a half a mile around the community. I was contemplating running but I haven’t been in the mood recently. <– have to get my groove back.


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Discussion

There are 9 comments so far.

    Iva

    May 14, 2015

    Thanks for responding! I feel like a celebrity now! haha Anyway, it does make sense now that you explained it. I agree with you that short term crash diets don’t work long term. I guess the word diet is very complicated, it can mean different things to different people. I just read your post about IIFYM and was confused. You said something along the lines that it was another marketed to death product, shoved down our throat. That was where this question came from. Thanks for being such an inspiration! I found you three days ago and I’ve read all your archives. :)

      roni

      May 14, 2015

      Ha! You beat me to it. I was going to email you this morning. Yea.. it’s really comes down to semantics. I was a little harsh in that post you mentioned. It was a reaction from being asked over and over again about all these diets that come out from people still looking for that magic bullet.

      I can’t believe you read all my archives! That’s crazy!

    Martha G

    May 14, 2015

    Very interesting and I just checked the definition of “diet” and found:
    1. food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health:
    Milk is a wholesome article of diet.
    2. a particular selection of food, especially as designed or prescribed to improve a person’s physical condition or to prevent or treat a disease:
    a diet low in sugar.
    3. such a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight:
    No pie for me, I’m on a diet.

    For years I followed #3 and “went on a diet,” which for me meant I’d eventually “go off the diet.” It was restrictive and I was very proud of my self control Also couldn’t wait to have that pie or whatever.

    Of course you have to make changes to lose weight – eat less and move more the simplistic answer, but it’s basically the answer. What changed for me was to switch my mindset to more of #1 and #2. A diet is simply the composition of your food. When I decided to make some changes I decided to change my diet to focus more (note not exclusively) on making healthy choices. I also decided to limit the wine during the week and find opps to move more. Track my food and stay within a reasonable calorie range.

    The more weight I lost the more my food choices changed and now because of a heart attack 2 1/2 years ago it is a “hearth healthy” diet. And Michael Pollan’s guidance resonates to “eat food, not too much, more plants.” If I want pie or chips, I have them…..just not too much. It doesn’t feel restrictive and I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss (80 lbs) for over two years. That is a first.

      roni

      May 14, 2015

      It’s amazing what happens when that flip is switched though isn’t it? I called it “stateless dieting” in the beginning. That’s how I captured that concept of everything I eat “counting” and it helped me get over that #3 mentality.

    This is a great post–no, short-term “diets” absolutely do not work but a long-term change in diet–that is, the foods you regularly eat–is key. It’s the number 1 reason that I am unwilling to make changes that I can’t live with forever. It’s about learning how to eat and live in such a way that you can still enjoy the foods you love, which is why I love Weight Watchers so much.

    I’m not even sure that my comment made sense, but just imagine a hearty “Bravo!” and clapping from my corner :)

    Paige

    May 14, 2015

    I love how you answered this question. As a runner and a person in to fitness, I pack my lunch everyday and never partake in office lunches, snacks, etc. People always comment, “Oh, she’s on a diet.” That drives me CrAzY! No, I am not on a diet. I am an active person leading a healthy lifestyle! :)

    Dr. J

    May 14, 2015

    When I first loss weight, I ate low fat, used portion control, and exercised. To maintain my weight loss, I just kept on doing the same thing.

    I know this is not for everyone, but I do IF Warrior style, and that has made the whole weight thing much easier for me.

    My only concern with WW, as I know it does work for people, is that maintenance seem to be a problem. Does WW encourage exercise now. I don’t think it used to. Also, I do think certain foods are not healthy to eat at all.

    Mary Nell

    May 14, 2015

    I feel the same way, Roni. Restricting any food and calling it “good” or “bad” no longer makes sense to me. I try to eat the way I can eat forever. To lose the weight I ate a little less, but I still ate anything I wanted…and if I felt like that soda on a Friday night, I had it :).

    Dave Pollard

    May 17, 2015

    I like your description of how to use WW as a starting tool. That’s really all it is, once you get portion control down, then it’s off to plant based Clean Eating.
    Tough love, Dave