Don't Diet...Change for a Positive Lifestyle

by Alicia Capellan

I am jumping right into it. I cannot stand the word "diet." I am just going to get that out of the way. Growing up I had been surrounded by the word "diet" as an over weight child. As a child I did not understand what this exactly meant. I just knew the food that was prepared for me at night tasted bland and boring (sorry, mom). My older brother and I would constantly grab fast food together and sugary treats to hide in the house to indulge in while my parents went to sleep. We would do this and not be hungry when dinnertime came around. It became a habit that when my parents would go to sleep, we would go to the kitchen, eat a box of cereal or kill a loaf of bread and butter paired with hot chocolate or soda. It was the environment my brother and I created for ourselves.

As I got into my independent years, my college meals consisted of Ramen noodles, mac and cheese, crackers, pizza, hot pockets, cookies, juice, soda, chicken wings (if you went to URI, you would have experienced wing night), and every type of fast food that could be delivered right to your dorm at 3am. When I went to URI there was no such thing as a “diet” until you knew the summer was coming. Then the gym would be packed and walking groups after class were organized with peers. Being honest, I was not trying to run when I was already around 240 pounds. Everything in my body would pretty much hurt from the excess fat dragging me down, putting a number on my joints. “Dieting” in college meant you would eat salads and drink water, and cut back on eating altogether.

A year before graduating college, I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome meant that I had a number of health issues at the same time. I had to go on medication for diabetes, increased blood pressure, and excess body fat around my abdominals, and my abnormal cholesterol levels were up. I was unaware of the damage I had done to my body when I had my late night treats and binges over the years.  I was putting my life at a high risk of getting a stroke at age 19! I once again had to go on a “DIET”!

That damn word again! I had dial up internet service when I went to school and was able to do my research. I felt like I was alone on this journey, I did not want to tell my friends, but I had to isolate myself for a bit to focus on getting better. I remember telling myself that this is not the way to live my life… on pills! I went food shopping and got snacks without added sugar, real fruits, deli turkey, rice cakes etc. When I did eat at the dining hall I made sure not to place every food displayed on my tray. I cut back on my portions. I would get comments from my peers as they judged the way I was eating- sensibly. After a period of time, they would not even invite me to go eat with them because they did not understand. I had to do what I needed to do.  It was a slow process, but the nutritionist on campus was happy about my progress.

Fast forward to my senior year of college, I was doomed! I had been down to weighing 175 pounds in the fall of 2007 and by the time I graduated, spring of 2008, I was back up to 250-260 pounds.  I was of drinking age, I worked at a bar and a daycare. The sugars from the alcohol and always being around bar food had a huge impact on my weight gain. Everyone else was doing it (eating and drinking as a form of entertainment together), but my body was going into shock, it had no idea how to process all of the excess fat coming in. Working at a daycare, we would have treats and snacks around all the time. The stress of being a senior graduating made me binge eat again.

Moving back to my parents' house gave me the time away from bad eating influences. Starting from the bottom once again is the most mentally frustrating part at any stage of “dieting." As weeks passed by, I was hanging out with a different scene of friends that would eat differently than I had in the past. I did not mind having healthier options that were placed in front of me. The temptations were not around; thankfully, I did not have the money to buy the fast food after college. The weight was coming off slowly. I realized this time around, working out was getting easier, fueling myself properly afterwards made a difference as well.

I was confronted by most of my peers as to how I was losing weight. They were stumped to think that eating real food was “my secret trick”.  No starvation, no crazy remedy, no pills, no endless hours of working out. Since 2009, I have kept this excess weight off that I grew up with. Yes, my body will go up and down a few pounds seasonally or especially when I was in training for competitions; I would drop more weight because I truly had to fuel my body to be stronger and naturally became leaner.

The real description of the word "diet" means the kinds of foods that a person, animal, or community habitually eats. Technically when you say you're “going on a diet,” you mean that you are changing the way you eat to become healthier.  Others would want to change the way they eat to lose weight and fast. This approach will work as with any other program, technique, club, subscription etc. out there but only if you stick to it.

Just as metaphor, I will use an example of a plant. The simplest form of life that we can physically see the progress over a short amount of time. Plants need water and sunshine, correct? The right amount of sunshine, temperature, and water is needed to make a plant grow. If we give the plant too much water, it will drown. If there is too much direct sunlight, it will get burnt. The temperature of the nature’s environment has to be just right for the plant or it will die. Our bodies need a certain balance of fuel just like the plant. Our fuel sources consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. It is the way our body functions and keeps our organs going such as heart, liver, kidneys, etc. We must learn to find our balance and what works with our environments. Our environments have a huge influence on how we will handle our lifestyle and what food is provided around us. You are able to take charge and also keep the lifestyle that you want to design. The main thing is… YOU HAVE TO WANT IT!

A few months ago, Kerry Taylor wrote about his “Secret Revealed!” He mentions about “Hiring a coach”, second “Put it in your schedule”, and third "Being Consistent.” Kerry’s words, “There you have it ladies and gents, the Taylor get right formula. I know these may not be anything different from what you heard before, but I wanted to show you that if you just apply yourself the results can and will happen. Don’t complicate it.  I know everyone has their own set of challenges. The key is to find a way to defeat those challenges and make it work for YOU. Yes, it is hard work and a tough mental game to fight on a daily basis, but it can be done. Just say to yourself, “Self, damn it let’s just get it done.” And no matter how tough, challenging, difficult and frustrating it is STAY THE COURSE!! And I promise you will be where you want to be in the end.”

Remember what you motive is. What motivates you? If you have children, have that be your primary focus to show them a healthy lifestyle when you are faced with temptations. Be mentally strong and do not let others' voices get in the way just because they do not understand or it is just not their goal. Changing your lifestyle to eating healthier can be taken with baby steps. Change your main meals first, the following week plan out which snacks best work for you. Take small steps to gradually slide your way in without the headache.

I am not a fan of “fad diets." Drastic weight loss for a short period of time can affect your health down the road. If you want long lasting changes, you cannot do it in drastic measures. You do not need to deprive yourself from the foods you like, there are ways of getting the same sensory satisfaction of these flavors with a bit of research. Do not just eat “healthy” foods just because you are forced to, but eat them because you love them! Changing your mentality to positive thoughts about foods will make the process easier. Constantly thinking that you can’t have this and can't have that will hold you back from positive thoughts of living a healthier lifestyle. Positive self-talk as paired with a positive mindset will ultimately get you to where you want to be.