I’ve been dieting for almost a year and a half, slowly dropping down to my target weight. The first few months were easy, but since then progress has been maddeningly slow. I’m still slimming down — this month I dropped another waist size and am now within ten pounds of my second of three goal weights. However, it’s taking more and more work to drop this weight, and maintaining self-control remains as difficult as ever. I have come to terms with not being able to have a burger and fries for lunch every day, but there are still other things in my life that make dieting difficult. If dieting is stressing you out, take solace in the fact that you aren’t alone in these frustrations. Or, if someone you know is dieting, try to keep these things in mind when talking to them about eating.
5. Everyone else will tell you what to eat. They will be wrong.
For some reason, even after you have figured out what sort of diet/exercise plan works for you, people will still insist on telling you what you are doing wrong. People will think they have some sort of magical insight that you could never have come to on your own, because they are somehow more adept at surfing the web or talking to other people than you. They will tell you silly things like “Carbs are actually triple the number of calories on the label,” or “nuts are very low in calories!” Invariably, these people will not be as in shape as they seem to think they are. Don’t listen to them, even if they have had some success in weight loss or weight management. The truth is that there are no shortcuts or secrets to quick, safe, constant weight loss. Limit calories. Get exercise. That’s it. Long-term, sustained weight loss requires discipline, not tricks.
4. Every day, someone will tell you to “Just make today your cheat day!”
This is perhaps the most challenging thing about dieting around people who aren’t: they all want you to join in their desserts, big meals, buffets, and snacks. They will bring slices of birthday cake unbidden. They will beg you to join them at a chain restaurant. When you refuse, and explain that you are on a diet, they will immediately say “just make today your cheat day,” as if you didn’t already have a cheat day lined up. Everyone around you will assume that their craving is the same one you have, and won’t realize you have been dreaming about the giant pizza you’ll be ordering for your cheat day — assuming you even take one!
3. You will be so hungry you will want to eat everything in sight.
The bad eating habits you formed while gaining weight will not disappear overnight — if ever. I was used to eating all through the day, and the urge to snack when I am at my desk has never abated. The only time my stomach doesn’t feel like it is eating itself is when I am incredibly busy. I have been dieting for over a year now, and the urge to constantly eat has never left. I am still always hungry. I’ve tried drinking more water. I sometimes go through over thirty two ounces between breakfast and lunch. It doesn’t help. The only thing that silences my raging hunger pangs is eating.
I have taken to rationing out M&M’s in tiny tins and stashing rice cakes in my desk in order to fight the between-meal cravings that overtake me. Portion control is always important when dieting, and portion controlling snacks is incredibly difficult. Although some snacks come in 100-calorie packs, many don’t, and on a strict diet, even that may be too much. Small packs are also much more expensive than buying in bulk. Find a snack you like, pack lots of tiny portions, and ration them out. Try to make said snack a filling one.
2. People will tell you that you can stop — you look fine.
This is among the most frustrating thing people say to me. I know that I carry my weight pretty well, and I know that while I am no longer obese, I am not within my target weight range. My plan to lose weight was as much about being healthy as it was about my appearance, and being told “you don’t look fat” is not really a compliment. I know what I weigh. I get on a scale every morning. I’ll decide when I’m done. I didn’t go around asking people if I should be on a diet, and I won’t ask anyone else when I should stop. I also didn’t start dieting to impress a bunch of overweight married forty-somethings. I set a goal, and I’ll stop when I reach it.
1. Every meal at every restaurant is at least 1,000 calories
No, seriously. Check the calorie counts at “healthy” restaurants, too. Outside of Chiptole and Subway — who still have some high calorie stuff — pretty much any meal is going to net you over two-thirds of your daily intake. A single tiny White Castle Slider is over 100 calories. Even many salads are over 800 calories. Looking at the nutrition info for a restaurant will make you never want to eat out again. You expect high calorie counts at fast food restaurants, but McDonald’s and Burger King value meals are actually lower in calories than comparable meals at T.G.I. Friday’s and Chili’s.
There is no way around this fact. If you are on a real diet, you aren’t going to eat out much. Get used to it. The people that eat with you are going to have to get used to it, too. It took six months to get my coworkers to stop asking me to eat out, and they still bug me several times a week.
I don’t think anyone who starts taking care of themselves ever regrets it. As difficult as it can be, diet progress is easy to track and any reasonable goal can be met. Remember that in the end, making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle is about improving yourself. It’s worth it.