How many times have you said or heard the words “I am on a diet“? Usually following something like “Oh, I’d love to, but….”, or “Looks great, but…”, or something similar? I’m Dr. Larry Ziegler from the Utah Health Center, and I have helped many people over the years to adjust their weight and change bodies to improve health and quality of life, but I’ve never experienced “Dieting” for myself. I decided now was the time to try it out and gain a better personal understanding of the experience and be able to say “I Am On A Diet”. I want to share a few thoughts about dieting.
The majority of patients I have helped in the process of shedding a few pounds have done so for medical reasons. Not for looks or vanity (although looking great is a wonderful side effect), but rather for how it affects our bio mechanics and how we FEEL every day. A low back injury is greatly complicated by excess weight bearing down on the region constantly and exercise and stability workouts are complicated and made more difficult by extra pounds. For years I have given advice on dropping weight and patients typically look at me with a skeptical eye. For those readers who don’t know me personally I am 6’4″ and weigh between 180 and 185 pounds. My average body fat reading is about 10 to 12%. I may not initially seem to be a legitimate and empathetic source of weight loss knowledge.
I decided to try dieting as a way to connect with my patients. I wanted to be able to say “I am on a diet” and experience first hand any challenges and difficulties that may be a part of the process. It may sound facetious, but I felt strongly that it was important to make this connection. I prepared carefully by gaining weight for months prior to starting. I did this by not following my own rules for health which include moving more and eating better. I suspended all major forms of exercise (Except hiking to my favorite fishing holes), and ate more than I should have. I should note I didn’t go crazy with this. I still couldn’t bring myself to eat harmful foods or drink soda. There are certain boundaries I just won’t cross. In all, I managed to gain enough weight to start my initial weigh in at 196 pounds. My body fat percentage was up to 15% and I was showing a bit of a belly and love handles. At 47 years old It doesn’t make sense to try and make my body feel less healthy, but I’m glad I did. What I’ve learned so far is worth it.
I want to say I have learned 3 major things about dieting that I didn’t know prior to this experience. 1– Dieting is great if done right. I feel good, have plenty of energy and I am losing the weight as predicted. I am following a great protocol (Ideal Protein) and have the ability to chat with my coach anytime I have questions. This has been a great help. Knowing exactly what and when to eat has made the process simple and fun. I’m also eating more veggies and getting great ideas on how to fuel myself in the future. 2– Seeing foods I love (but can’t eat) while I am on a diet is HARD! The very first full day on the program I arrived home to find my boys eating pizza. I wanted some SOOOO Bad! It literally drew me to the table several times and a will almost stronger than my own had my hand reaching for a slice. I didn’t do it, but I was very tempted. I’ve never had to supress that urge to eat something, or try to figure out where the urge comes from and whether or not it was good for me to follow that urge and eat that item. 3– Sugar is addictive and powerful. I had a cup of tea on the evening of day 6 on the program. I had already lost 6 pounds and was feeling great. I ate a fairly large dinner which included 8 ounces of pork loin, a large spinach salad and two cups of mixed veggies with cauliflower, broccoli and green peppers. I was NOT hungry. I then brewed a cup of tea and sat back to read and enjoy a few quiet moments. As I took the first few sips I noticed that the tea tasted quite sweet even though I had not added any sweetener. (No sugar included in my current eating plan). I looked up the ingredients online and noted that the tea included carob chips, but no other sweetener. This was enough to make it taste very sweet to me after a week without any sugar. The next thing I noticed was me standing in front of the cupboards looking for something additional to eat! I had a sudden urge to munch on something that was Powerful and Undeniable! I dumped the tea, drank a glass of water and went back to my book, but as I thought about this sequence of events I realized my brain had gotten just enough of the sweetener to release powerful hormones urging me to eat more. This is normal behavior for our bodies and dealing with food compulsions can be tough if you don’t have a plan. I have a new found respect for food compulsion that I had never recognized before. I could have easily broken my plan and eaten additional foods I didn’t need that night. I Am On A Diet! Dieting is hard.
Now that I have seen the results of my diet and felt the changes that come about by removing sugar and junk from my routine I don’t see any good reason to go back. I have taught for years the principles of sound eating, but haven’t always followed my own advice. The benefits of eating properly for your body are incredible including better body image, increased energy, clarity of thought and confidence. I am so glad that I was encouraged to do this and learn more about the process of weight loss, dieting and changing our bodies. I don’t think we should look at healthy eating patterns as “Being on a diet”, rather as a smart and happy choice, but if all it takes is to state that the diet is our guiding principle in order to stay healthy – then I am on a diet for the rest of my life. I will always appreciate the experience and I love the fact that I can look a patient in the eye and say “At least in some small way I know how you feel”. I am grateful to have the experience to say “I am on a diet“.