How I Learned How NOT to Choose A Diet

Okay, so you've decided you need to lose some weight, or your doctor has told you to lose it. Where do you start? How do you know which diet to choose? Hopefully, I can enlighten you on how NOT to choose.

Firstly, don't rush in where angels fear to tread. Thoroughly check out the diets you think may help, think about them, and ask yourself "Can I do this over a long period of time? Will it suit my time schedule? Can I afford it"” and the main question to ask yourself is "IS IT WELL BALANCED?"

I've been fighting fat in the battle of the bulge for over 40 years - almost my entire life, and have tried many and varied diets. From Bananas and milk for every meal (blah!) to considering having my stomach stapled. I intend to tell you how I've NOT fared with most of them.

I remember when I was in my very early teens, that banana and milk diet. All sorts of claims were made that together they provided one with the desired daily intake of everything to keep you fit and healthy.

After 6 days of nothing but bananas and milk, I couldn't face another banana or another glass of milk - I didn't even like milk anyway. So, I gave up, and on went the weight I had lost, as well as a bit more. That didn't work!

When I was about 17 I was told of a boiled egg diet, where all you ate were two boiled eggs for every meal. Nothing else. After about two weeks of boiled eggs, I couldn't look at another one for about 2 years. I gave up. On went the weight that I had lost, as well as a bit more.

In the ensuing years I have tried the Hollywood diet and the Beverley Hills diet, which are almost identical - they didn't work either. I tried the Mediterranean Diet, that didn't work either. With each one, I lost weight, and then it all came back on again when I stopped. Each time it came back, it brought a little more with it. I was just getting bigger and bigger.

I tried Weight Watchers, and that was a better one, I lasted 4 months the first time I went on it and lost around 3-4 stones (42-56 lbs), but we were on a one person income with three small kids, and it got so I just couldn't afford the right foods, so I went off it. The weight came back, along with a bit more.

Then I thought the Cabbage Soup Diet was the answer - I ended up in hospital with that one! Don't know how, but I was very ill, nearly lost my life, so that put me off the cabbage Soup Diet. Back came the weight, bringing a little more with it.

Jenny Craig was next to attract my attention. After paying an initial fee of $400 to join, I found that I couldn't stomach the tinned food and the powdered eggs, they turned my stomach. The "psychologist" told me I wasn't trying, so I told her to "shove it" (which I guess wasn't very nice of me), and gave up Jenny. Back came the weight, bringing a little more with it.

I was just getting bigger and bigger, it was getting hard to walk, and I had arthritis in my knees. I was puffed just by walking briskly to the letter-box - and I was truly getting worried about my health.

I kept on trying all the great new "diets" that appeared in the magazines – "Lose 4 dress sizes in time for summer", "Eat all you like and lose weight" (yeah – NOT), I had pills prescribed by my doctor, counted calories, did all I was capable of doing, and still nothing was working. I was getting desperate. I even fasted for up to 4 days a week.

Of course, as soon as I went back to eating, back came the weight, plus a bit more!

I tried the Atkins diet - ketone sticks and all - worked for a while, but missed my carbs too much, and went off it. Back came the weight, plus a bit more.

I asked myself "Where do I go from here?" The arthritis had spread to my hips, ankles, wrists, elbows and shoulders. When I walked my back went into painful spasms, I was deeply depressed and wanted to die. I couldn't see the point in living if I was just going to be a big fat aching slob for the rest of my life.

Then I was diagnosed with adult on-set diabetes (type 2). I found my back was sore because I had prolapsed disks which were pressing on the nerves in my back, including my sciatic nerve which caused severe pain down the back of my left leg.

If I were a horse, the vet would have put me down - and I almost wished I were a horse. Except for 3 small things. By this time, I had 2 beautiful granddaughters and a grandson. I wanted to see them grow up.

I was 53 in he year 2000. I weighed in at 412lbs (187kgs) – that is a lot of weight for a woman of my height - 5’3”. I had been in a wheelchair for 4 years, because it was just too painful to walk. I had had 2 major bowel operations, resulting in constant diahorreah, and was taking up to 17 tablets 3 times a day, 8 of them to stop the diahorreah.

I had an "apron" of fat on the bottom of my abdomen that hung over my knees. In summer all the creases between the rolls of fat would sweat and become red and sore, I was depressed, miserable, hated myself, and tried to hide myself from the world.

My doctor referred me to a surgeon, who agreed to remove the apron of fat - when he did it weighed 33lbs (15kg). I was still humungously overweight, but I felt better about myself, and began to watch what I was eating. Slowly, the weight began coming off.

I have discovered that the word "diet" can have quite the opposite effect on some people, myself included. As soon as I went on a diet, I became obsessed with food. What I would eat, when I would eat it - food filled my every thought. So I decided that I would never again use the diet word in my vocabulary.

The word "program" had the same effect on me, so that was tossed too.

Today I eat healthily, since the operation I have lost 158lbs (72kg), 187lbs (85kg) altogether, and still I have between 88lbs (40kgs) and 110lbs (50kg) to go. I have not set a goal weight as such, nor will I, because I have to take into consideration my age, as well as my height and frame.

I believe my body will know when it is the ideal weight I should be and will maintain itself, as long as I follow what I have been doing in the past three years.

I found that in life there has to be balance. When that balance isn't there, things run out of control. I was eating far too much fatty food – I loved fried things, such as fish and chips, potato chips, etc. - especially with batter. Now I eat grilled fish and oven fried chips, I avoid potato chips, only having a few with dip at parties.

I've never had problems with sweet things, as I prefer savoury, but have learned to avoid pastries as much as possible. I've a huge collection of low-fat recipe books, and use them to the greatest advantage for the entire family. My husband has type 2 diabetes as well, and he has the sweetest tooth I know - so I make him low-fat sweets a couple of times a week so he won’t feel he’s missing out.

The balance continues into the drinking of lots of water - we put in a water machine, like they sometimes have in offices and waiting rooms. The water is delicious and always cold, I try to drink at least 8 glasses a day.

I use fruit and vegetables in season, and lots of them. I cook red meat only once or sometimes twice a week, and have chicken or fish the other times. Vegetarian about once a week. The family hasn't complained, they seem to have got used to the changes.

Along with the changes in the eating habits, comes exercise. I used to hate exercise and wouldn't do it. Being in a wheelchair for 7 years showed me how much I wanted to exercise, how much my body needed it. Now, thank God, I am out of the wheelchair, and although I can't jog, or even walk briskly, I can walk. I can walk around the supermarket, I can take the dog for short walks around the neighbourhood. It is an incredible feeling to know that I can walk, after 7 years being in that chair.

Don't ever take your abilities for granted, you just don't know how much you appreciate them when you don’t have them any more.

The other balance you need, along with healthy eating and exercise, is emotional balance. This is the hardest of them all, I think. Being overweight, in pain, unable to do everyday things like sweeping the floor, or making the bed, made me very very depressed.

I have been depressive all my life, and these things did not improve it. I had to start thinking positively - no more "I can’t". Success comes in "cans".

I can sweep the floor, I can make the bed, I can do the washing - I can walk the block with the dog. The more I told myself "I can" the more I could, and the more I could, the better I felt.

Emotionally, I was a mess. The least little thing would send me off my head. My temper was uncontrollable. I have learned to be more tolerant, to control my temper and not let it control me, and I have become a much better person all round.

I knew things were getting better when my eldest granddaughter said, "You are always happy now, grandma, not grumpy like you were." Her words made the entire struggle worthwhile.

These are really just a few of my experiences.

As time goes on, I will share more and more in Barbara's Corner, but remember, if you are really serious about changing your lifestyle, your eating and exercise habits, please take my advice and consult your Doctor first, just to make sure you are okay.

There are many out there who do not yet know they are diabetic for instance. I went to the doctor thinking I had a bladder infection, the diagnosis was Type 2 Diabetes. My husband thought he needed new glasses, again the diagnosis was Type 2 Diabetes. So don't hesitate, it is controllable with the correct diet and exercise, and with the help of a Diabetes Educator and a dietitian.

These professionals will help you even if you don't have anything wrong, as they will tell you which are the best foods and in which balance, in order for you to lose weight. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to come off, so don't dilly-dally, if you are serious, you should start now!

Also, don't do it for anyone else but yourself. I always got resentful when I thought I had to lose weight just to please someone, or to " look the part" or be "one of the crowd". It wasn't until I decided for myself, and for my ongoing health, that I started to succeed where before I had failed.

When it comes to your lifestyle, make YOU the one you need to please.

Don't be afraid of exercise. Three of the best exercises for anyone are walking, cycling and swimming. If you can't do all, do what you can s often as you can. You will be amazed at how much you come to enjoy doing these things. If you want to add to these by jogging, running, or going to the gym, etc. go for it - the more you do the better you feel eventually, but don't rush in, start off easy if you haven't already been exercising, and do a little bit more each day until you reach your exercise goal.

Many people have gone on to lifting weights, etc., but don't feel you have to, only if you want to. Just make sure that whatever regime you choose, do it regularly.

Next time, I will share some more with you. Until then, I hope you have found some useful tips on how not to choose a diet, and how to go about it in a healthy sensible way.

‘Til next time

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