There is so much information about health and nutrition out in the book and online worlds right now, that it can make your head spin around faster than Linda Blair. I think the only sensible thing to do when faced with this information overload is to, indeed, do your research. But you also have to know yourself and know what your realities are. I have tried ALL KINDS of eating plans and actually have had success (sometimes short-lived, sometimes long-lasting) with all of them. That said, some have been more successful than others and I'm happy to share these plans with you, as long as you promise to go and do research on each one of them yourself.
If you're a busy, working outside the home mom, you might feel close to tears at the thought of having to do a ton of special cooking for yourself on some sort of a plan and then, additionally, whip up tasty meals for your family as well. Maybe you can get them to follow the plan with you? Well, that's certainly worth a try. But if you choose some sort of plan that isn't realistic for you or your family, then NO ONE is going to stick with it. So, let's look at a few of my favorite plans and see if anything tickles your fancy.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I enjoy eating animal products? Does my family?
2. Do I think I can live without eating things like pizza and ice cream and bean burritos?
If you answered YES to these questions, then you might like a plan like Paleo, or "The Caveman Diet". This plan will give you information on why animal proteins are great, why you need to buy only pastured, hormone- and antibiotic free meats and organic produce and the like. The plan will also explain to you why legumes might be bad for you. I think that reading the book The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolff might give you a better insight into this type of eating. The basic idea is to eat like our ancestors did, consuming animal proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The plan eschews grains, dairy and legumes as things that either weren't part of foods available to our ancestors, or that the author and other Paleo-scientists have found to be "toxic", such as legumes.
My friend Suzanne swears by this plan, although I know she would also say that she didn't give up alcohol as the plan suggests. Why? Because that wasn't realistic for her! She can follow the plan most of the time, but wants to be able to enjoy a cocktail or two with her husband after a long day. And to that, I say a resounding YES!
Now, answer these questions:
1. Do you live for cheese? And bacon? And butter?
2. Would you rather put a cheeseburger between two thick slices of ham instead of bread and call it a sandwich?
If you answered YES to these questions, that you should look into the Atkins program. This plan steers you clear of grains, potatoes and sugar. The foundation idea is that foods like pasta, potatoes and bread convert to glucose in our system. Our bodies stop burning off fat as our insulin levels escalate to deal with the rising tide of blood sugar from the glucose in carb-heavy diets. Fat calories are always pushed to the back of the line—where more than likely they’re stored. That’s why insulin is called the “fat hormone.” Atkins tells you that if you ditch the carbs, your body will burn fat first, thereby helping drop weight.
So, I have done this plan...three times or more. Each time it is successful, because I'm a cheese and bacon whore. I'd rather eat steak and veggies than steak and potato any day. The problem was (for ME), that once I decided I missed pizza or even just a turkey sandwich, I'd add back in the carbs (but of course, still keep eating the cheese and bacon) and the weight would come back. Sometimes, I'd gain back more than I'd lost. That really, REALLY sucked.
You CAN lose weight on this plan for sure. Anytime you remove a food group from your food intake, you pretty naturally lose weight. The bigger question has to be, is it realistic for YOU? Are you willing to give up or severely limit carbs (even good carbs like sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread and brown rice) to lose weight and risk that, one day, you might miss them and gain the weight back? Well, if you have that kind of clairvoyance into the future and that kind of discipline, then I bow down before you. Yes, I lost weight, but I'm a rebel at heart. Tell me I can't have it and I'll show you how wrong you can be.
Now, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I like to eat a wide variety of foods?
2. Do I think that maybe a few days a month of a meat-free diet wouldn't kill me?
Ok, then here is the plan for you. It's called The 4 Day Diet by Dr. Ian Smith. The plan is set forth in modules that last only 4 days, with the basic theory being that your body gets used to "diet" plans (still hate that word DIET) and will start to slow down its weight loss as it grows accustomed to your eating, no matter how healthy.
The first 4 days are rigid. No, I didn't mean that. The first 4 days are STRUCTURED. It is the detox module and is meant to removed toxins and impurities. You eat TONS of veggies and fruit, legumes, some brown rice, a few nuts, a little fresh-squeezed juice and psyllium-enriched cereal with fat-free or low-fat milk. Think Kellog's All Bran and unsweetened almond milk (or soy or cow or goat or whatever).
When my bestie Jeannie called me from Chicago the other day, we decided we wanted to try this plan together. I lost 12 lbs on this eating plan without exercise a couple years back, but stalled in the middle due to...umm...lack of commitment. But since I knew we were in it together (I have to write a blog on the power of friendship in your weight-loss journey!), that we would be talking and texting daily (and pleasantly surprised that it is really twice daily), that I was helping my friend do something she wanted to do that would be really, really good for her, I decided to commit to the whole 28 day/7 module plan.
I'm on Day 4 of the Induction/Detox module today and I feel FANTASTIC. Hungry, but FANTASTIC. Best of all, I feel proud that I have inspired my friend to embark on her own healthy journey. And, while I know I probably shouldn't say this, I feel SKINNY. Nothing like fruits, veg and all bran to flatten your stomach.
So, dear readers, go forth and read. Look into the plans listed here and more. But please, whatever you do, choose something that you think you can really do. Take into account your crazy life, your crazy kids, your crazy mate, your crazy job and this crazy, crazy, unpredictable world we live in. No one, NO ONE, knows you better than you do.