Like many Americans, I resolve to lose weight every New Year. The semantics of my annual pledges may vary — “get fit,” “eat healthy,” “fit into my jeans and still be able to breathe” — and my success rate has been highly unstable. But my motivation is always the same: Rid myself of that stubborn 10 pounds of flab that has haunted me since my mid-20s.
Over the last three decades, I’ve tried almost every diet in one form or another, which, arguably, renders me an expert on the subject.
In my attempts to succeed, I’ve found that most diet plans fall into one of four general categories:
Low-fat diets, otherwise known as “Self-induced agony”;
Low-carb diets, otherwise known as “A good excuse to eat bacon”;
Subscription diets, otherwise known as “Weight loss for suckers;”
And fad diets, otherwise known as “Yeah, right, and the Cleveland Browns will win the Super Bowl.”
Of course, exercise was always incorporated into my New Year attempts to drop pounds. When my cartilage was intact in my 20s, I was a “runner,” which is somewhat of a misnomer considering that my movement would more accurately be defined as a “shuffle.” On my 2-mile jaunts, I was red-faced, blotchy and swerving. Passers-by thought I’d either escaped from long-term captivity or was suffering a major cardiac event.
After having babies in the 90s, I bought VHS tapes allowing me to exercise at home during nap time. There were videos by Kathy Smith, Jane Fonda, Denise Austin and one MTV’s “The Grind” hip-hop dance tape that I botched. Although I wore my husband’s Navy sweatpants because I didn’t own spandex and leg warmers, I turn-stepped, kick-ball-changed and free styled my way across my living room every afternoon.
When our VCR gave up the ghost, I went to the local YMCA, finally investing in presentable work-out clothes for step, kick-boxing, spinning, pilates, boot camp, body pump and Zumba, during which I achieved new levels of personal humiliation.
For me, the problem wasn’t exercise. It was the can of Pringles I’d eat later that afternoon. No matter how many miles I shuffled or Y classes I took, I always knew that my weight loss goals would fail without a proper diet plan.
An old favorite was “The Cleveland Clinic” diet, which had nothing to do with the famed hospital, and was also slanderously called “the three-day Army diet,” “the American Heart Association diet” and “the hot dog and ice cream diet.” I usually achieved success, losing 10 pounds in three days. The only problem? On the fourth day when normal eating resumed, I’d gain it all back.
I invested in Weight Watchers, a healthy subscription plan involving a points system, nifty daily journals, recipe cards and weekly meetings. I lost a few pounds; however, I found the strict privacy of the weigh-ins to be a disappointment. I mean, what’s more motivating than a bit of public fat shaming?
Eventually, I discovered Sugar Busters, Adkins, Dukan and their ilk, which began a long odyssey of low-carb self-denial, during which I believed in strict adherence to an eating plan that looked like “Cool Hand Luke” at a Brazilian meat festival. At first, the notion of unlimited butter, bacon, cheese and chicken skin was liberating. But I developed unfamiliar feelings like cravings for vegetables and worried that I might grow carnivorous fangs.
Admittedly, I never got around to doing paleo, mostly because the history geek in me rejected the premise that our prehistoric ancestors ate pistachio-crusted salmon filets, when we all know their diet included bugs and decaying gazelle carcasses.
This New Year, I might give the Fast Metabolism Diet a go because it involves a healthy rotation of low-fat, high-carb, low-carb, and balanced days every week. However, it also requires buying the book, meticulous record keeping, strict adherence to three different allowed food lists and, therefore, CPA certification and a Ph.D. in nutrition.
In a month or two, stay tuned for my next review, which will likely be titled “Elastic Waistband Fashion,” or “Wearing Maternity Clothing Post-pregnancy.”
Lisa Smith Molinari is an award-winning syndicated columnist, author, blogger and speaker, as well as the wife of a Navy retiree.