A woman in my yoga class today updated me, “50 lbs as of today.” She grinned and looks fantastic – more confident, healthier and happier. I recall nursing this girl through yoga with wrist, ankle and knee issues – largely due to the extra pounds she carried. Now, she moves through with ease. And, the best part? She did it all on her own. No supplements, no programs, she didn’t pay anyone or follow some book’s recommendations – she did it on her own by eating less, making smart food choices and moving more.
I recently wrote an article on the Dukan diet, a plan that has stormed through France and has soared to the top of the bestseller list in Great Britain, allegedly helping even Kate Middleton look slim and gorgeous for her wedding. It follows in the footsteps of other best-selling diet plans like South Beach, Atkins, the Zone, Sugar Busters, Weight Watchers, Glycemic Index, Nutrisystem…Should I go on? Everydiet.com lists more than 150 diets, ranging from the healthy to the absolutely ridiculous (the banana diet, anyone?) Each diet claims to have the key to weight loss – to be your ticket to a slim self. “These diets work!” say proponents. The American Council on Exercise reports that only 5 percent of dieters succeed in keeping their weight off. That’s not working. I can’t tell you how many people – clients, friends, family – who claim a diet worked for them so they are going to do it again. If it worked, I ask you: Why would you need to do it again?
I don’t blame you, these diets and their promises are incredibly seductive. Writing about the Dukan diet, I thought – I could do this, maybe I’ll try it, couldn’t hurt…and then my logical brain (thankfully) jumped in. The low-carb plan would make me suffer during workouts and would be unsustainable for the long run. I would lose lean muscle mass, IF I managed to stick it out more than a couple days. Plus, the Dukan diet is against everything I believe to be good, common sense.
When you look at a meal plan for the Dukan diet, it is truly just a low-calorie diet in disguise. Yes, you cut out most carbs and can “eat all the protein you want”…but not really. A recommended daily breakfast contains barely more than 200 calories. The fact is, when you cut out entire food groups – you cut out calories. If you truly eat very few calories, you will lose weight – look at participants on Survivor. You may not get the lean, sculpted body you want, but you will lose weight. At some point, however, your body will also adapt by burning fewer calories. You may not realize it, but you conserve. You stand up less often, opt for sedentary activity because you are tired, sit on the couch a lot, your effort in spin class sags, you find yourself skipping workouts…you get my point. All the while, you are burning fewer calories and making weight loss harder and harder.
“Grocery shopping is the hardest,” the 50-lb slimmer yogini told me. “The stores are just full of junk.” She is right. While the formula for weight loss is simple, putting it into practice is next to impossible. We reach for books and sign up for programs because they make it seem easier and like it can happen faster with their plans. In reality, losing weight takes work. You have to feel hungry. You have to make sacrifices. You have to give some things up. You have to plan ahead. You have to sweat. Most of us know get-rich-quick schemes are a joke – establishing a career and earning a living requires budgeting, planning, working day-in-day-out and making sacrifices. Why would establishing a healthy body be any different? If you really want something, you can make it happen. The question is: Do you really want to be as healthy as you can be? If you don’t have a sense of urgency or put it at the top of your priorities – it probably won’t happen.