Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thursday Time Out: Diets that Work

Now is the season for diets. Everywhere you turn someone seems to promoting the latest sure fire way to lose weight. But do any of them work in the long term? Michelle Styles who wanted to know why she lost  weight and then kept it off explains.

Back in 2011 I lost a lot of weight in a short period of time by following the Tracy Anderson 30 Method. After I lost it, I then became interested in how do you lose weight and more importantly how do you keep it off? While I have gained back some (I became too skinny and my chest started to look bony), for the most part I have kept the weight off. My secret is that I exercise 6 times a week for between an hour and an hour and a half. This enables me to eat basically what I want. However there are times when I go overboard with the eating and drinking (the Christmas season), then I fall back on the tried and true principles of what works.

Basically all successful diets have three things in common:
1. They limit fat and carb combos. This includes refined sugar which acts like a fat and a carb. Giving up all types of refined sugar is a great way to lose (but very hard to do). If you must eat fat and carb combined, they have an offsetting amount of fibre.
2. They increase the amount of natural fibre you eat. Eat more raw vegetables and fruit as well as whole grains. It is incredible how devoid of fibre the modern diet is.  Fibre is really important for cleaning the body out.
3. They concentrate on unprocessed foods, rather than eating processed foods (ie they keep the trans fat and omega 6 fat to a minimum). A good mantra to remember is to eat real food.
The rest of diet prescriptions are really bells and whistles but they can make it easier because you don't have to think about what you are going to eat next. A diet will work though if it follows those three basic principles. I personally find it easier to stick with something if I know why it is working...

Limiting refined sugar is really the absolute key. It is about balancing your blood sugar and how you store fat. Sugar is found in many products and under many guises. It is often added to food to make it taste better or to preserve it. You need to learn how to read labels. Unfortunately, alcohol also contains sugar. It is one of the reasons why going dry can result in weight loss.
Some people give up fresh fruit. This is a mistake as the sugar contained in fresh fruit is also combined with fibre. It is harder to unlock. On the other hand, dried fruit and fruit juices have much less fibre and more concentrated sugar so they are best avoided.
It is hard to eat to eat four apples at one sitting, but easy to drink a glass of apple juice.  A glass of apple juice will often contain four apples. The same is true for dried apples. So, go for the fresh.
And remember that alcohol has sugar -- so it is best avoided if you are trying to shed the Christmas paunch.
Once you are no longer spiking your blood sugar, the cravings do go. Balancing your blood sugar means avoiding refined sugar and eating at regular intervals. Sometimes your body is craving other nutrients than refined sugar but it will take that as a fall back position.

Avoiding lactose (most dairy -- Greek yoghurt/kefir normally is fine as it has lactose eating bacteria) and gluten (wheat -- particularly white wheat products) can really kick start weight loss.  BOth lactose and gluten can cause bloating in some women.

Staying well hydrated with water or herbal tea works better than drinking diet sodas (which body might interpret as a type of sugar) or caffeine which dehydrates. It is very easy to mix up thirst and hunger, plus coffee can be a signal to start craving sugar. (Been there, done that)

But the thing which keeps the weight from returning is exercise. Diet will allow you to lose inches but exercise will keep you healthy. Eventually, exercise does become like brushing your teeth -- something you just do. It doesn't have to be exciting. It just has to be done. It is also a great stress reliever.
What you find with exercise is that the fitter you are, the more likely your body is to crave the healthy food.  It wants proper fuel so the whole thing feeds on itself.

Yes it is hard but it can be done.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance. Her next book Taming His Viking Woman is published on 20 July. You can read more about Michelle and her books on 


  1. Great post, Michelle! About 3 years about I lost weight using the same principles you mentioned. I gave up soda and sweetened drinks and now drink only water and hot tea. I also gave up processed foods in favor of fresh. I admit I still have a weakness for cake but in moderation. After reducing salt, fat and sugar, I am surprised by how salty and greasy processed food tastes.

    And I've managed to keep most of the weight off by swimming 4 days a week at my local YMCA before work. Like you say, it becomes a habit. The alarm goes off and I get up and go to the Y. Not much thought involved. And there's a hidden benefit...some of my best ideas, plots, scenes and dialogue come to me during the repetitive motions. A win-win in my book.

  2. Hooray for you Carol!!! Keeping the weight off is a daily challenge.
    Like you I did discover that exercise does bring inspiration and creativity as well as stress relief.