You Will Never Lose Weight On A Diet

Here’s what to do instead.

My boss believes in the “magic bullet” theory of weight loss. If I had all the money he’s spent on raspberry ketones and Atkins Shakes, I could pay off my house. Every so often I open the cupboard above his desk to see what new miracle potion or pill he’s bought to erase the spare tire around his middle.

I sympathize. As a teenager, I took Dexatrim (remember Dexatrim? It’s fun when companies name things after illegal street drugs). It didn’t help me lose weight, it just gave me heart palpitations.

But taking a pill was easier than confronting the depression that I was medicating with food.

Things didn’t get any easier in college. I ran in place in my dorm room for hours at a time because I was too embarrassed to go to aerobics classes with all of the sorority girls in their form-fitting Lycra. I’m still a little self-conscious when I’m out power-walking around the neighborhood. Being bullied as a kid is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Problem With Pills and Diets

The problem with pills and diets is that they divide time into “before” and “after”. You are fat “before” you take the pill or start the diet, and you will be thin “after” you stop taking the pill or finish the diet.

You will never lose weight on a diet. And by “lose”, I mean permanently, forever. The diet mentality traps you in a cycle of feast or famine from which you can never break free.

Going on a diet is like going to jail. You wake up on Day One of a diet and the cell doors slam shut behind you. Everything you love is on the other side of those doors — Oreos, ice cream, pizza, potato chips.

But if you’re strong, if you serve your time and lost the weight, you’ll be set free. Everything can be like it was before!

Until you commit another “crime” by gaining weight again and find yourself back in diet jail.

Do you want to spend your life in jail? I know I don’t.

Protein, Protein, Protein

If there’s one thing my boss is getting right, it’s that protein increases satiety, and satiety curbs snacking. That explains the giant slabs of meat I sometimes find in the office refrigerator.

I have a friend on Facebook who says she eats 20 eggs a week. No, I am not making this up. She’s in her 50’s and swears that her lipids are fine. She posts videos of herself running, biking, canoeing, and performing feats of strength that I couldn’t do in my 20’s.

I like eggs, but I also firmly believe that humans are carnivores and there’s no way around that. I can go days without eating meat, but nothing else clears the brain fog and makes me feel like Wonder Woman.

I will admit that I’m discovering the joy of canned beans as a protein source. I grew up on a farm, which meant food prep was super labor-intensive and started from the ground up. Beans were something that came in a bag and required a ritual of soaking, picking, and rinsing that meant you might not get to eat them for a day or two. Nobody in my house made a spontaneous burrito.

Guess what? Canned beans taste exactly the same. If you can find black bean chips (like corn chips, but made from black beans and brown rice) they are a game-changer. So much snacking goodness without the guilt!

Walk, Walk, Walk

I don’t understand why my boss wastes money on a gym membership (which he never uses) when he has a Golden Retriever that loves to go on walks and actually listens to commands and is not a psychopath like my dog.

When I first got married and became the stepmother of an American Staffordshire Terrier, I lost 10 pounds without even realizing it, just from walking the dog every day. And then I realized I didn’t always have to take the dog (sorry, Mocha).

Yes, I used to think that people walking around alone were weird and potentially dangerous. Somehow people running for no reason was okay, but people walking for no reason was strange.

That, of course, was silly. I don’t think that way anymore, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than firing up the headphones and going for a walk, with or without a canine companion.

The exercise that works is the one that you do. I will never in a billion years have the initiative and willpower to go to a gym. I just want to stay healthy and not gain weight as I get older. I don’t want to be Jillian Michaels.

I live in a semi-rural area, so I do have to drive a few minutes to find a walking path or a place to park that’s near sidewalks. Yes, that’s me parked in front of the bank every evening after work. It’s not against the law despite what the security guard who once grilled me about what I was doing might think. (I’m reading my emails, thanks for asking.)

When I first developed arthritis in my right knee, I had no idea what was going on and I completely stopped bending that leg. I thought I’d injured it somehow, and that it just needed to rest and heal.

Twenty sessions of physical therapy later and $1800 poorer, I use a small, basic stationary bike for 15 minutes in the morning, I walk for 15 minutes at lunchtime in a park near my office, and I walk another 15 or 20 minutes at night. That’s almost an hour of exercise every day.

My knee feels fine.

The Final Word

Look, I’m not model-thin, but I’ve also been the same pant size for the last 20 years. Maintaining a steady weight, even if it’s a few pounds heavier than you’d like, is healthier than yo-yo dieting.

There is no magic bullet for weight loss — if diet pills and supplements actually worked, obesity wouldn’t be the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Don’t deprive yourself of food, because we all want what we can’t have. Try to eat protein with every meal. Go for a walk — better yet, go for several walks. Break yourself out of diet jail and enjoy your freedom.

Legal secretary by day, insomniac by night. BA, MA. If life is a journey, I’m lost. Slackjaw, Points In Case, The Funny Times, The Haven. Twitter: @blade_funner

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