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Choosing a diet that works for you never seems to result in a long-lasting wellness plan. Both motivation and results taper off, which then brings us back to square-one. The problem can be solved by committing yourself to part-time diet tips that are easy to adopt and grow into a collection of healthy habits. Develop techniques geared toward your lifestyle and work them into a routine. These work well for people who don’t want to take time out for dieting.
Gaining and losing even five pounds puts a massive amount of stress on the body. Although there is a basic do-it-yourself approach to dieting, the process is slow and gentle. My preference is to maintain my new weight, or lose pounds slowly rather than in large chunks. You have to know your needs, chemistry, and some basic nutritional facts. Then collect part-time diet tips that fit your life.
Good Weight Versus Bad Weight
An internist who works with diet patients who both use and forego protein supplements says that diet plans should reflect your own personal goals. “Are you maintaining good weight? Are your triglyceride and cholesterol levels normal? These things should be a part of a standard physical and be checked regularly anyway.”
My friend introduced me to the idea of part-time diets after she read about them online, and I tried out the recommended ones for two weeks at a time. I kept a journal on each one and it turned out to be fun, because it was an experiment rather than a penance.
I wrote things like, “A modified high-protein plan fits me like an old shoe. I lose about two pounds a week. Now I diet for one week. I am learning diet-modification techniques during another week. My virtue runs rampant.”
Control What Goes in Your Body
I am training myself to eat as slowly as possible so that each meal lasts at least twenty to thirty minutes. I set time aside for meals, and I don’t read, work, or watch TV during them. Instead, I concentrate on the food, rolling it around my mouth and chewing slowly. At first I felt like I was four and refused to eat in company, but I have gotten more graceful with time.
I only eat sitting down. If I pick up a cracker, I sit down to eat it. I walk up steps and get off the bus a block before my stop. I am only making small changes, but they seem to take a lot of practice. I keep a careful record of the things I do to diet—not just the things I eat. It circumvents the dieting anxiety that we all know and hate, but it also seems to reinforce the habits.
My work demands that I travel regularly, and I always gained weight when I was on the road until I started doing things differently.
I wrote in my journal that “the food is usually terrible, so I figured that the only thing I had to lose was weight.” Many airlines provide vegetarian, high-protein, low-calorie, or fruit/vegetable plates—so don’t eat the crap.
I flat-out refuse to eat at fast-food chains (at 1,000 calories per Big Mac, french fries, and milkshake meal, that’s a shrewd move). Instead I seek out salad bars and natural food restaurants. This may seem a bit extreme, but I carry a little kit with implements, whole-grain crackers, and low-calorie food so I can satisfy an urge on the go. I only eat chicken and fish on the road, without sauces, and I refuse bread or alcohol. If that is awkward, I drink wine with dinner interspersed with sips of water. I buy fruit and carry plastic bags for leftovers and the sake of practicality.
Tips for Eating Out
A well known nutritionist who also travels frequently says, "Restaurant portions are far too big. Ask for a child’s portion even if you have to pay full price for it. Ask for yogurt for your potato and whole-grain breads. If restaurants knew what their customers want, they probably would offer it."
Plan what you are going to eat—particularly at breakfast. I eat a lot of fruit and bran muffins and other whole-grain breads when I can get them. I need the fiber. You tend to get constipated when you travel, but fiber is also less calorie- efficient. It moves more rapidly through the digestive tract so you absorb fewer calories.
“You can get the bread basket off the table, or at least beyond arm’s reach. Ask for salad dressing on the side so you have control over how much is used. There is no virtue in asking for oil and vinegar if you don’t like it—they all have about the same calories. Just use them sparingly. Don't go without dessert. Ask for fruit. It may not be on the menu, but it is in the kitchen.”
“When I turned thirty, I bought myself a complete set of high end cookware," says Julie, a middle-aged woman who has been dieting for a while. Since then she has spent two weeks a month learning to cook low-calorie dishes. “I have a separate recipe file for the recipes, and a special collection of low-calorie cookbooks.” When she finds a dish she likes, she tends to include it in the rest of the monthly meals, but the two-week diet is for experimentation. When she sees that she has gained two or three pounds, she pulls out the low-calorie set and goes on a five-small-meals-a-day regimen (again, less calorie-efficient) until her weight is back to normal. “I find that if I am very careful about getting the proper nutrients and have recipes to back it up, the diet works itself out.”
Prepare in Advance
I brown-bag my breakfast on the bus; fruit and some whole-grain bread. I eat slowly and can’t have seconds that way. Cut up vegetables and keep them in the refrigerator. Prepare extra food at dinner to eat the next day. I like knowing what I am going to do, and I like good food. I use these periods to give my system a spring cleaning.
A nutritionist adds, “You never need oil when cooking meat. Even with vegetables you can pour a little in the pan and then wipe it out. You only need a very thin layer. Experiment with different spreads on bread. Whole-grain fills you up, and it is good for you. Instead of butter, try a spiced yogurt or some homemade hummus. Scandinavian flatbread doesn’t contain shortening. Learn to read labels."
A freelance writer says that when she is working, she doesn’t think about eating. She used to grab whatever was easiest—usually something rich, sweet and fattening. Now, when she knows she'll be involved in an assignment, she makes large pots of soup that will be there when she begins to work.
Whichever strategy you choose, a part-time diet will teach you a great deal about yourself and your body chemistry.