oie_321192iSXNhhMD(1).jpg
Credit: Sidious Sid

Having a plan for long-term dieting is the key to success

The step in successfully losing weight is setting realistic expectations

Losing weight is a difficult battle, one filled with a number of steps (read Part 1 and Part 2). You can expect to lose about one to two pounds per week on average. Some weeks you may lose more and other weeks you may not lose any weight at all. Larger people may experience even greater losses. You'll lose more rapidly at the beginning of your program and then begin to taper. Some of that weight loss will be water loss, especially in the first week or two.

I would encourage you to also take some body measurements, if you want a few base lines to monitor. Or gauge your changes by how your clothes fit and judge your weight loss without ever having to step on a scale.

Choosing Your Diet

With so many diets to choose from, I recommend you find one that appeals to you the most. Like the sound of the Paleo diet? Great, start with that. If the South Beach diet is more your style, go with it.

Just be careful about becoming overly zealous in your approach. Enthusiasm is good, but being dogmatic about your diet isn't.

As opposed to looking at the differences between diets, there are some similarities between many decent, health-conscious diets. They share these common traits:
    •    They reduce the amount of processed foods and emphasize nutrient dense, lower calorie foods.
    •    They increase the number vegetables and fruit in your diet.
    •    They are high in protein, either through meat or plant-based sources.
    •    They Include a variety of fats.

Exercise

In the ideal world, you will also be exercising to augment your diet, not just for weight loss but for health reasons as well. But if you haven't been active for a long time you may find it overwhelming to worry about both a diet and exercise program. In this case I'd encourage you to focus on diet and once you're fairly comfortable with it, begin to work exercise into your lifestyle. Even something simple as daily walking can be beneficial.

Plan for Long Term Success

In the first week or two it may be best to be fairly strict with the rules of your diet. Stick to the script pretty closely. Aim for 90% or greater adherence during this initial period. Clear your house of foods that don't meet your diet's guidelines. Tracking what you eat will help you stay accountable. Apps like My Fitness Pal can help or you can just use a simple journal.

Plan your weekly meals and shop for the ingredients you'll need to make them. If eating out, look for menu items that suit the diet or order a la carte.  

After the first couple of weeks, schedule regular breaks from your diet. A break can be anything from a meal or snack to a full day or more. Start with a meal or treat that doesn't meet the criteria of your diet. A good way to do this is to eat these "treat meals" outside of the house.

After a month or two, start scheduling a day off from your diet. As you progress longer with your diet, take regularly scheduled breaks from it. Schedule breaks during vacations and special events where you generally have less control of what you're eating anyway. You'll be able to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty.

A Caution About Breaks

Don't read the advice above as a recommendation to see how much non-diet food you can inhale during your so-called diet.

These breaks, often called refeeds in the nutrition world, are meant to satisfy your cravings and provide flexibility so you can enjoy your life without constantly obsessing about food. It's not much fun going to a dinner party with good friends and not be able to enjoy sharing delicious food that doesn't meet the standards of your diet.

Keep the calories you eat during these refeeds to a reasonable amount. Savour the pleasure of eating without being a glutton. And remember to eat slowly.

My goal with this series was to give you an overview of how to approach dieting. By individualizing your diet and being flexible with it, you greatly increase your chance of being in the five per cent of successful dieters.