Sustainable. I keep using that word. Any nutritional plan designed for any voluntary purpose has to, in essence, make you happy every day. If you feel hungry, deprived of what you love, feeling left out of life due to restrictions, you aren’t going to stay with it for long. I think this is a good and sensible thing really because who wants to be miserable?
To design a plan that works for me, I started with an analysis of why and how a couple of diet programs have failed me ultimately and what has worked, at least for awhile. Then I discovered a way to incorporate those parts that worked without the parts that didn’t with a system that is sustainable and satisfying. I encourage you to look at your past experiences with the same analytic eye to help you come up with your own plan or just read on and tweek mine to work for you if we have common issues.
What works: food tracking. This is essential for me. Knowing what I’ve eaten during the day, planning my meals and snacks with lots of room for changes. (Their platform is helpful though I find it ultimately unwieldy and time-consuming, just too much extraneous stuff.) The most valuable lesson I learned from the program is the lifestyle adaptability of it. It’s the eat at least this much, in terms of calories or their “points” every day, with an allowance for more when you want them and still lose weight. This is really valuable. I’m not putting my life on hold ever again for the sake of a diet. Too old for that crap. When I want to go out to lunch or dinner with friends, I’m going and I’m not ordering steamed veggies! There is no “cheat” or associated guilt. All positive!
What doesn’t work: mystery points. For me, this is not easier at all and it locks me into their system to try to figure out every damn thing I eat and their associated points for it. It requires all the measuring/weighing food stuff that is an annoying time-consuming pain in the butt. It also seems to punish (in terms of points) eating those essential fats like olive oil and avocados that are really needed every day for good health. For instance, they (like most all diet programs) recommend eating salads with no-fat salad dressings. Sounds logical if you’re trying to lose weight but did you know that the nutrients in veggies are fat-soluble? Without some fat in there those nutrients are not available to our bodies to utilize so eating that no-fat salad provides a bit of bulk but is otherwise worthless. Beyond that, most fat-free salad dressings are nasty. There, I said it.
What works: convenience. This is a biggie. While I like to cook, I don’t want to do it every day much less multiple times a day. The packaged meals make it easy to grab one quick when I’m hungry. It makes it so easy to track calories consumed – just look at the labels and write it down. For me, this convenience is everything and the difference between healthy eating that is sustainable and one that means running to Burger King for lunch because I’m not in the mood for a bunch of food prep. What also works is their snacks. Those rock.
What doesn’t work: so much. First, it’s finding a place to put a month’s worth of food. It requires a lot of space! Two, while I’m single so I don’t have the responsibility of feeding others (humans anyway) in the household, this program would be real problematic if you do, I would think, since they have to eat too. Three, it’s expensive. $300 a month or more wouldn’t be bad at all if that’s all the food you needed but it isn’t. Not even close. You also have to supplement it with a whole lot of groceries. Four, most of the food isn’t very good. Not horrible, but not good. I got by with thinking “okay, this isn’t so good but if I wasn’t eating this what would I be eating? A bag of chips?” As I said, convenience is everything.
This is a really popular weight loss program and for some it works quite well with enthusiastic reviews and results. For me it doesn’t. At all. It isn’t just that I love pasta and feel horribly deprived without it (and other beloved carbs), it’s that I feel like death after about a week of it. My innards turn to concrete, I have no energy, and my disposition turns so ugly I’m screaming at my precious dog and cats for existing. So a big NOPE on this one for me. If it works for you and it is sustainable for you, excellent! Just goes to prove that there is no one-size-fits-all program that works for everyone.
To sum up what works for me (and perhaps for you as well), a sustainable, healthy eating lifestyle program is as follows:
- Convenience. Prepared meals and snacks that are portion-controlled and always available; knowing the calories contained in each for simple tracking; and requiring little to no time to grab and eat when I’m hungry. It also means spending little time in the kitchen.
- Delicious. Foods that I love and that are satisfying without deprivation. Variety is important here as well.
- Flexibility. Free to make choices and the guilt-free ability to splurge periodically.
- Eating healthy, whole foods so I feel great and energetic. Also as an investment for my future health.
- Cost effective. That means doing my own cooking and not depending on prepared entrees that are usually outrageously expensive for what you get. (The home cooking also applies to the delicious and healthy categories.)
- Positive! Eliminating negative thinking and everything associated with it. This one can be sneaky.
This list probably looks like “wanting my cake and eating it, too” in that how is it possible to do my own cooking without spending much time in the kitchen? How do I enjoy the convenience and choice of prepared foods without buying prepared foods? That is a pretty big issue to work out, isn’t it. Hmmm…
I tease. I have tricks. Easy ones. 😉