A Tale of Two Diets (or, how changing your diet really works)

Once upon a time there was a woman who woke up one morning and was fat. (At least, that's how it felt; like it happened overnight). Year after year, as the pounds multiplied, so did the new clothes in her closet, one in every size. She insisted she didn't eat any "bad" foods, like sandwiches or pizza, and hardly ever indulged in her favorite thing in the world, dessert.  She spent lots of time in her kitchen preparing wholesome, balanced and nutritious meals with the freshest ingredients. And at night, when she watched TV, she watched her calories by snacking on those newfangled 100-calorie packs. Why, oh why, she moaned, am I getting so FAT? Can I blame it on menopause? That must be it! she exclaimed, adjusting to her new size and girth. Might as well eat and enjoy myself, she decided; this is my new fate. So, she huffed and she puffed and she shoved the food in.


But the fairytale ended when she came upon the Truth. And the Truth was this: Out there, lurking, were nasty little DIET SABOTEURS that were blocking her path to wellness.

1. Holding onto your "fat" clothes. It's tempting, I know. This way you always have something to wear. But it gives you an excuse to yo-yo up and down without feeling that little nudge of a reminder to cut back because your waistband is cutting off your circulation.

2. Giving up "bad" foods. You don't have to give up things like pizza and sandwiches; just change their clothes. Be a sleuth and find the places that offer whole wheat crust and design-your-own pies. This way you can control what you eat. Or make your own. Same goes for sandwiches. A sandwich can be healthy, too: turkey on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato fits the bill (just don't slather on the mayo).

3. Picking while you cook. You’ve seen it, you've probably done it. You cook, you pick. And you pick a little more. But the truth is, all the little nibbles add up to a lot of extra calories. Instead, chew gum or keep a big glass of water or some cut-up crunchy veggies handy. Or even whistle while you work. It limits those I-can't-help-myself picking/tasting opportunities. 

4. Portion Size. Just because a food is healthy doesn't mean you can load up on as much as you want. Watch your portions, and you'll watch your weight. A formula made in heaven.That's why weight-loss spas are so successful (unless you sneak some candy into your suitcase): they serve yummy food in tiny portions. And – surprise. You don't need to eat as much as you think to feel satisfied. An easy trick for portion control: use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate for your main course. It tricks the eye into a full plate. And it's the correct portion, most likely. Then divide it in half and fill one side with fruits or vegetables, leaving the rest for protein and starch in equal portions.

5. Snack packs. They can pack on the pounds. Not only are they not eco-friendly, but these packs don't usually contain what they promise (an "oreo" is not a true "oreo," but instead a thin chocolate wafer). They'll likely leave you unsatisfied and reaching for more. Before you know it, you've eaten three or four. (And eating in front of the TV is particularly dangerous: it equals mindless munching).

6. Restaurant dining. Sure, it's nice to go out and relax, but try to do it mindfully. Let me count the ways a restaurant can do you in (sorry to be a spoilsport, I like eating out just as much as you probably do). First, the bread – tempting when it's put in front of you and you're starving, right? But if it's there, you'll eat it, and I dare you to stop at one piece. Bread and butter - what's better? You can try sitting on your hands, or you can have the bread basket removed from the table. And be wary of too much alcohol, which can really unleash your inhibitions. I don't mean you’ll be dancing on the table, but I mean you'll be eating all you want without giving any thought to it. (And that likely includes the most fattening dessert on the menu.)

7. Blame menopause. Well, partly. Most of us begin to notice a weight change during perimenopause; on average women gain about a pound a year during this time. And after menopause, the fun continues. That's why it's important to realize that since your body might need fewer calories, you need to be extra-diligent about how you divvy those up. 

8. Bonus tip (my favorite): Say no to deprivation. If you have a sweet tooth but deny yourself something sweet (or you love carbs but think of them as poison) you'll only crave it more and eat double the amount when you finally  can't help yourself any longer. I mean, willpower will only go so far. So, go ahead and indulge – but just a little. It will cut the craving and save you from bingeing later. Make the chocolate dark and the pasta whole-wheat, and you'll do yourself a really big favor.

This Matters> All is not lost. Exercise and awareness go a long way in keeping your weight in check and those nasty diet saboteurs at bay.

Once this woman learned the diet zappers, she decided to slowly change her ways. Old clothes got the boot and exercise and mindfulness came into her life. And as she regained her sense of control, her stress (and extra fat) slowly melted. She felt more energetic and happier than she had in years.

And she lived happily ever after.

The End.

For more on midlife and transitions, click here and here.

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