The biggest reason dieting doesn’t work

I have been acutely aware of the size of my body, the number on the scale, and the way people focus on weight in general for as long as I can remember. Anyone else?

When I was 14, paranoia about my weight led to me quitting competitive swimming—even though I was full of potential and could have probably made a college team if I wanted. I was 135 pounds when I quit and my body was so strong. And I was so mean to her.

I gained a bit of weight in college, mostly from the drinking and quick service food I ate, but I still worked out all the time. My body was still strong and my heart was healthy. It was just the food I couldn’t get under control.

In comes the wave of South Beach Diet. The “new and improved” Atkins. I decided to give it a try, and I eventually lost 20 pounds just in those first few weeks. This is awesome, I thought.

It was also really freaking hard, and calorie counting was tough. Paying such strict attention to my intake and having to say no to places and events was no fun. And so, after a few months, I was off the South Beach train, and back to just trying to maintain a healthier eating pattern.

I gained back about 10 pounds, but managed to keep off about 20 from my highest. Because here’s the secret that I know now, looking back at my 22 year old body—it has its happy, healthy weight, and restricting my body forever isn’t sustainable.

Today (when I’m on track), I still weigh within 5-10 pounds of what I believe to be my happy, healthy weight. Over the last 15 years, I’ve continued trying different methods of weight loss. Fitness is always a part of my routine, but as the experts tell us—our weight is 80% what we eat, and only 20% exercise. That 20 minute HIIT workout I did this morning is not going to balance out snacking my way through a bag of Doritos or an extra large bowl of frozen yogurt. It’s just not. And that sucks.

When I got pregnant with my third baby, I was terrified to gain weight again. I was 35 this time, not 29, and I had gained 60 pounds with my first two babies. How would I get it to come off this time around? And how could I stop obsessing over my weight and just enjoy this pregnancy? (I finally had a supportive partner who was giving me nightly foot rubs! This should be a happy time!)

I worked out almost every day, strength training twice a week, up until a few days before delivery. I still managed to gain 50 pounds by the end, which just affirms the idea that your body is meant to gain a certain amount during pregnancy and you don’t have a ton of control over it.

This time though, a friend introduced me to intermittent fasting (IF). The idea has been around for years, but it’s only picked up mainstream steam over the last couple of years. If you’re new to the idea, it’s basically putting yourself in a fasting state and an eating state. You eat during a certain period of time, and then cut yourself off. The most basic form of this is “no eating after 7pm” —an idea that always reminds me of Oprah. If you don’t eat after 7pm, and then you don’t have breakfast until 7am, then you’ve just fasted for 12 hours. It’s easy to fast when you’re sleeping.

When I went back to work this time—20 weeks after the birth of my son, I’d lost 50 pounds! The fastest of any of my kids! And all through fasting for 14 to 16 hours per day, and tracking my macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats). I got the paid version of MyFitnessPal to help with the macro tracking, but I could have done it on the free version too. What I love most about IF, and why I’ve become a huge advocate for it, is that it’s not about restricting what you can or can’t eat. It’s just the when. And it’s not the end of the world to take a day of two off if you want to go have breakfast with friends or have bacon and eggs on Sunday mornings. I also find that I have just as much success when I don’t track calories; the weight just comes off a bit slower. 

Here’s a sample of what I eat on a normal day right now:

7am – Almond Milk Cappuccino (about 35 calories) – This means I “dirty fast” because I have more than just plain black coffee or tea, but I have less than 50 calories and less than 5 grams of sugar. If you’re being strict, then only black coffee is allowed.

1:30pm – Either a Kirkland’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein bar, pre-made salad mix, or leftovers (I aim to have a real lunch, but the protein bar has 20g of protein and is perfect if I can’t get in a lunch but want something with good macros to break my fast)

2:30pm – Dannon Light ‘n Fit Greek Yogurt (12g protein) or a protein bar if I didn’t have one earlier

3:30pm – Fruit; usually a banana; and probably something ‘snacky’ at this point too – some chips or some Nilla Wafers

6:00pm – Dinner; Aim for something with good protein (chicken, beef, or fish), plus some steamable rice, veggies, etc.

6:30pm – time to pack in something sweet before my window closes! Usually some Hershey kisses, vanilla wafers, or an ice cream sandwich.

On the weekends, I do include alcohol in my day, and I try to just limit it to one more after 7pm.

So what’s the takeaway in all this? For me, I can’t sustainably restrict what I eat, cutting out entire categories of food, or stay glued to my phone all day plugging in every morsel entering my body. I just can’t. It makes me obsessed, and it’s not a healthy way for me to live my life. I suspect many of you feel the same way. Intermittent fasting does make me obsess about the clock, but it also gives me the flexibility to have a off day, enjoy a family breakfast on the weekends, and still eat whatever I make for the family that night for dinner.

Here are some resources to get you started

First, figure out your calorie needs and your macros so you can try and stay on track. This post from Happy Body Wellness is a great one, and her tagline is “Eat the Damn Cookie” which I totally love.

If you want to use apps to let you know when it’s time to eat or get more details on IF, here’s a guide from Women’s Health Magazine that can get you started.

Finally, here’s a 101 guide on intermittent fasting, complete with all the health benefits that come along with the weight loss.

Let me know how it’s going over on my Instagram page.

Published by Ashley Adams

Author, former single mom, lover of Cherry Coke Zero and Taylor Swift. Here to coach and support and love on women in challenging relationships.

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