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Most diets are effective for the short term. If you follow them correctly, you’ll likely see quick results. And this is great because it generates positive momentum. Unfortunately, your body eventually acclimates or you get so sick of the diet that you fall off the wagon. So what are the best weight loss strategies to help you shed pounds rapidly AND keep them off?
The chubby kid at the pool
As a kid, I was an “early bloomer.” I got my period at 11 and developed breasts before all my classmates, which mortified me. I could totally relate to Christina Ricci’s character binding her breasts in Now and Then.
Throughout my teen years,I struggled with my weight. I dreaded swimming since all my friends had flat stomachs while mine wobbled about like Jello.
As a vegetarian, I thought I was eating healthy. But in retrospect, I didn’t always make the best choices. After all, PopTarts and microwave Fettuccine Alfredo are vegetarian, technically, but not exactly healthy.
My senior year, I managed to lose some weight on the Special K diet (eating my favorite food — cereal). But I gained it all back and then some my first year of college. My “freshman 15” was more like the “freshman 30.”
Taking massive action
At a certain point, I decided I could no longer tolerate the way I looked or felt. I needed to make drastic changes.
The first thing I cut out was desserts because the ones in the cafeteria sucked, anyway. It just wasn’t worth the extra calories. Next, I started a workout routine. Each day I would either jog three miles or do the elliptical at the gym for 45 minutes.
I was lucky that my dorm’s cafeteria had mediocre pizza and pasta, but an excellent salad bar. Each night, I’d have a huge plate of salad without the dressing, croutons, cheese, or other extras that pile on the calories. For flavor, I’d add beets, vinegar, and lime.
One thing I learned that has stuck with me is that vegetables, particularly cauliflower and broccoli, are actually quite filling. That’s because they’re dense in fiber and nutrients — plus they take longer to chew! Ever notice how you can easily finish a pizza in one sitting, but it’s much harder to finish a bowl of vegetable stew?
Dinner also usually included beans — sometimes black, sometimes refried. Occasionally I’d have it with rice, but I always skipped the tortilla except now and then when I was feeling indulgent.
Breakfast was typically plain oatmeal (though sometimes I’d add a pinch of raisins and brown sugar). Lunch usually consisted of grapefruit and yogurt (I thought I was being healthy by getting fat-free lemon yogurt, but I realize now it was probably loaded with sugar!). Like veggies, grapefruit is surprisingly filling and offers many health benefits.
Is low-fat the way to go?
I did not weigh myself regularly or even own a scale. I wasn’t aware of my progress at all until I started getting reactions from others. First, in my PE class, our teacher had us write down our health goals. Mine was to lose 5 pounds. She looked at me and said, “You don’t need to lose any more weight.”
Next, when I came home for Spring Break, my family and former classmates were shocked. Some barely recognized me.
Now, I’m not saying my method was sustainable or healthy for the long-term. It wasn’t. The trend of eating “good fats” and steering clear of carbs hadn’t happened yet, and I thought all fat was bad. The lack of fats in my diet left me feeling hungry and deprived, and my hair and skin did not look healthy.
On top of that, after I moved out of the dorms, I was on my own as far as purchasing food went. I quickly discovered that vegetables are quite expensive. I still ate salads but could no longer afford to load up on veggies. I’d cover my hunger pangs with caffeine, but as you can imagine, that is not an effective (or healthy) long-term plan.
Losing so much weight was empowering. But — although I wouldn’t admit it then — I’d lost too much. I was no longer getting the nourishment I needed.
Making friends with fat (and strength-training)
Gradually, I began to introduce more healthy fats and proteins into my diet such as olive oil, avocados, eggs, tempeh, and nut butter (ok, I’m a bit of a nut butter fanatic!). My favorites are Trader Joes Almond Butter and Flax & Chia Seed Peanut Butter.
I also introduced more nutrients into my diet, which left me feeling more satiated after meals. Some cookbooks that have set me on the right path include the Moosewood Cookbook (for vegetarian dishes), The Sonoma Diet Cookbook, and The 30-Minute Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. Now I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who also happens to be a super talented chef (with his own cookbook coming out — stay tuned)!
When it comes to working out, I’m still partial to cardio, especially running and tennis. That’s mostly because they allow me to be outdoors. Lifting weights has always felt like a drag.
However, I recognize now that strength-training is an important component of a fitness regimine. New Rules of Lifting for Women has been an influential book in terms of techniques and also dispelling myths (like weightlifting will make women bulky). I’m also a fan of Cassey Ho’s strength-training, no-weights workouts on YouTube. Finally, Amanda’s blog Fueled by Coffee and Fitness provides excellent guides such as this upper body workout.
Transitioning to long-term solutions
As I said, deprivation diets are not effective as a long-term solution for health and weight maintenance. However, dieting CAN be effective in jumpstarting your weight loss journey. Shedding pounds quickly will give you the encouragement and momentum you need to continue in the right direction.
That’s why diets like Atkins, Paleo, Keto, etc. often DO get results. I personally know people who have lost weight rapidly on such diets. Or you can do as I did and just take massive action cutting calories. These days there are tons of calorie trackers to assist with that.
For the long term, dieting isn’t a very fun way to live. Plus, many diets do not provide all the nutrients you need. But once you’ve seen that it is possible to lose weight and experienced how much better you feel, you’ll naturally gravitate toward better choices. You won’t have to restrict yourself.
When I first started my weight loss plan, I went cold turkey on desserts. Sugar is my Achilles’ heel, and I knew if I gave in a little, it’d be a slippery slope. I imagine it’s similar for those quitting alcohol or smoking. But now I can trust myself to eat a cookie or two and know I won’t devour the whole bag.
Whether you crave sweets, chips, or French Fries and gravy, you should be able to enjoy these treats occasionally. And because they’re “occasional treats” — not an everyday thing — you’ll enjoy them even more!
Best Weight Loss Strategies: The Takeaway
Diets can be great for losing weight rapidly. I certainly felt like I’d crossed a barrier knowing that I could lose weight. Similarly, I’ve talked to relatives, friends, and coworkers who have had success dieting and witnessed their glow of confidence.
The most effective weight loss strategies, though, account for both short-term AND long-term weight loss and maintenance. They’ve helped me to maintain my ideal weight without starving myself or depriving myself of the foods I love.
- Fill up on vegetables, which will leave you satiated and nourished.
- Cut out crap desserts like store-bought cupcakes. It’s not worth it. Instead, indulge in an occasional quality dessert or if you have a sweet tooth like me, use stevia-sweetend desserts like Lily’s Chocolate.
- Drink lots of water. Ditch sugary drinks (including juice) which are a source of empty calories and will quickly rack up the pounds. Again, if you’re craving something sweet, though, Bai Flavored Water is the best choice as it’s low-calorie and doesn’t use articifical sweetners.
- Combine strength training and cardio in your workout routine or alternate. Most importantly, though, find exercise that you love and doesn’t feel like a chore!
- Eat a diet rich in healthy fats and proteins that will keep you satiated. Carbs are NOT the root of all evil, but refined carbs tend to make you hungry faster.
- Find healthy versions of the foods you love. For instance, I love my bread and cereal. But now I go for low-sugar (6 grams or less) cereals and breads with whole grains and minimal processed ingredients. My favorite is Dave’s Killer Bread.
So there you have it. When adopting any new weight loss strategy, think of it as an experiment. If you hate it or aren’t achieving your desired results, you can always make adjustments!
Tell me: What’s your biggest obstacle when it comes to losing weight? Or if you have lost weight, what strategies worked best for you?