First a little background: I grew up thin. I never had to think about dieting or eating right growing up. I was vaguely aware of my mother being on diets off and on through my teens, but I never gave it much thought. I assumed I'd be skinny forever. I just ate whatever I wanted and was fairly active (there was very little TV and no other kinds of digital distractions back in the 80's and early 90's,) and I stayed thin. Then my mid-20's hit and suddenly I noticed some fat around my waist. Not a biggie, but some clothes that used to look good no longer did. When I got married at almost 28, I would still have called myself slender, but I was a couple of sizes up from my college weight. And by 2 years into my marriage....well, I looked at some pictures of myself and was shocked. I had gone up 4 sizes and gained 20+ lbs from my college weight. It was time to start a diet.
But having never done one, I had absolutely no idea what to do. I had no concept of food restriction, no will-power built up to resist food, and although I grew up eating vegetables and whole grains, I didn't have a strong grasp on what eating healthy was like (mostly what NOT to eat). So my first diet was Weight Watchers. And it was a complete paradigm shift for me. For the first time I understood what an appropriate portion size was -- and it was a LOT smaller than what I had been eating. I became aware of how obscene the portion sizes in restaurants were (yet how we'll eat them because they are in front of us). I started to see which foods were pretty much ALWAYS on the naughty list and began to learn how to eat some of my favorite foods on occasion by cutting calories elsewhere. I trimmed calories by avoiding fatty sauces and toppings, no second helpings, setting my portion sizes out before eating, and by changing the types of desserts I ate. Truly, Weight Watchers gave me my first really practical look at eating appropriately. It was a really good education in eating and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't ever dieted or hasn't dieted successfully. There's no starvation, no all-out food restriction. In fact you get to eat a lot of foods you really like...as long as you realize it will mean not eating something else you like later. I exercised too during this time, but I think it was the food changes that worked the most. The weight loss was slow, but steady. I lost 4 sizes in 6 months. I got down to my weight at my wedding. And because they have a really good maintenance program on Weight Watchers, I kept it off for over a year.
But then came kids 1 and 2. Although I didn't gain a ton of weight with those pregnancies, and most of it fell off pretty easily afterward, I was left with an extra 5 lbs after Baby 1 and another 5 after Baby 2. And because they were back to back (I literally got pregnant with Baby 2 two weeks after I stopped nursing Baby 1), I had been either pregnant or nursing for 3 straight years. I.E. I was eating whatever I wanted that whole time. It was so ingrained in me to eat that way that I had forgotten how to restrict. This time around Weight Watchers was really hard for me. I found myself losing 1 lb here and 1 lb there, but then I'd gain it back the next week. I seemed to be able to maintain, but not to really lose weight. I just couldn't stick with it long enough to see a lasting result. And I felt like I was ALWAYS dieting. It was so frustrating! So it was time for something more extreme. Something fast and effective. Enter HCG. This was the diet craze right about the time I was desperate to lose some weight. And after seeing a couple of friends lose huge amounts of weight very quickly (between 15-45 lbs in a month), I decided to go for it. You can read about that journey here. But suffice it to say, even though it was super super hard, I lost 18 lbs in 2 weeks and was very happy. I was 7 lbs lower than my weight at my wedding, my lowest weight since my early 20's! I quickly went back to my Weight Watchers maintenance routine and kept the weight off. (I know a lot of people who did HCG and gained the weight right back. I didn't, and I completely attributed this to learning how to maintain on Weight Watchers) .
Then came Baby 3, and this one did a number on my body. I was 6 years older than I had been with my first pregnancy, and I think those years made a huge difference. I gained 3x more weight with this baby than the first two, and it did not fall off easily like it had the first two times. I was up 47 lbs! So after I finished nursing, I looked around for a diet. I tried Weight Watchers again, but the quick-fix HCG diet had made me impatient. The thought of constantly restricting for 6 months was depressing. I wanted something that would work faster, even if it was more difficult. Not HCG difficult--the thought of going on that diet again was terrifying! But something that worked faster than 1 lb a week. That's when a friend suggested the South Beach diet. I bought the book (written by a cardiologist, with a lot of solid science behind it), and read it cover to cover. I was enthusiastic about the claim that you could lose 8-14 lbs the first two weeks and then 1 -1 1/2 every week after that and that it was healthy for your body. Although it's a bit more extreme than Weight Watchers (no carbs or sugars the first two weeks), it was not nearly as hard as HCG. And it was successful: I lost 8 lbs the first week. I then went to phase 2 (adding in fruits and 1 serving of whole grains per day), and continued to lose 1 lb per week. Eventually I got down to a comfortable weight, slightly lower than I'd been at my wedding, and was pretty happy. I'd keep a close watch on carb intake, emphasize lots of vegetables and only whole grains, and go back to Phase 1 of the South Beach diet every so often when my weight went up. But I gave myself a 3 lb range I called my "safe zone" to stay in As long as I didn't go higher than the safe zone, I let loose a little (Phase 2 or 3). But if I went above the safe zone, back to Phase 1 (no carbs). I managed to keep around my comfortable weight for 3 years doing the South Beach diet. Going back to phase 1 was not fun. But it worked.
Eventually, though, I was so sick of always dieting, always feeling like I had to restrict myself, constantly craving pasta and sweets, and always feeling guilty guilty guilty about everything I put in my mouth that internally I kind of gave up. I began to cheat more and let loose too often. Of course, my weight began to hover more around the top of my safe zone than the bottom. And if I splurged too many days in a row, I was above it instead of inside it. Soon I slipped 1 then 2 then 3 lbs above the TOP of my safe zone. I hated to go back to Phase 1, but I knew I had to. But when when I did, I got a much poorer result. First 6 lbs in two weeks. And it lasted a shorter time. The next time I went to Phase 1, I only lost 4 lbs. Then eventually I lost only 1 lb after 10 days of strict carb restriction! That surely wasn't worth it at all! So as I saw the 4th lb above my safe zone show up, I knew I needed a new diet. Simply "trying to eat well" wasn't cutting it anymore, and Phase 1 wasn't working anymore either. I was too prone to cheating and oh so sick of "eating right."
That's when I found out about my new favorite diet: The 5:2 Fasting Diet!
To be Continued......