The Stages of a Diet (are a lot like a marriage!)

PREFACE

I’m okay with diets. I know it’s common to say ” diets don’t work.” I know the popular vernacular used to describe a purposeful reduction in weight is “a lifestyle change.” I agree a lifestyle change is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.

So for my purposes, when I write diet, I’m not talking about a crazy, temporary crash diet sort of weight loss approach. I am referring to a weight reduction effort by means of making adjustments to eating and exercising habits to complement one’s lifestyle in order to support sustained weight loss.

Diets are like marriages. There are four distinct phases for each.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.59.15 AMThe first stage is The Honeymoon Stage.

For the women the honeymoon stage goes something like this: “Life is perfect. I’m married to my best friend. He leaves his dirty socks in the living room and I love it! It tells the world, ‘my husband lives here!’ I love being a wife and I love picking up the wet towels my husband leaves on the bed. Married life is more wonderful than I thought it would be!”

For the men the honeymoon stage goes something like this: “Isn’t she cute? She doesn’t do anything without asking me first. She wants my opinion on everything – her clothes, her shoes, heck, she won’t even buy a lipstick if I don’t approve of the color! I love how she’s trying to help me be healthier by serving vegetarian meals and says I should only get red meat once a month. She is such a good wife!”

The second stage is The Honeymoon is Over Stage.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.33.23 AMFor the woman it goes something like this: What a freaking slob! Why can’t he pick up after himself? I’m sick of trying to get him to take care of himself. I wish he’d stop criticizing what I wear. If I want to wear hot pink lipstick I will and I don’t care if he likes it or not.”

For the man it goes something like this: “Wow, what a freaking nag! She’s on my back about everything. And she’s psycho! I don’t care what lipstick she wears but when she asks me if the pink looks good I give her the honest answer. It’s awful and it makes her teeth look yellow, and then she flips out on me. Why did she ask in the first place?”

The third stage is Let’s Make This Work.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.33.47 AMThis stage is similar for both the woman and the man. Things aren’t right and they can’t go on this way. They notice they’re fighting a lot and they realize if it keeps up their marriage will fall apart. They love each other and their vows meant something to them. They want to stay together as a married couple and they will examine their relationship and work on fixing what is wrong. They agree they have too much to lose by ending the marriage and so much to look forward to by staying together.

The final stage is Maintenance.

The couple keeps the lines of communication open. They accept some of the other’s habits. They both work hard to avoid doing the things that really irritate the other. They reflect often on mutual goals and how they’ll achieve them. They know that there are day-to-day duties that are mundane and they balance the mundane by finding entertainment they can enjoy together.

Now to relate these phases to Diets.

Honeymoon Stage

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 9.37.28 AM“I’m excited! I’m going to lose 70 pounds in three months. I’ve got a calorie counter and I’m tracking my calories. I’m sticking to 600 a day. I eat some oatmeal for breakfast, a fat-free/sugarfree yogurt for lunch, a little chicken breast and broccoli for dinner. My stomach is growling and I love it. It means I’m burning fat! I get up every morning at 4:30 am and go down in the basement to workout on my stairstepper. My legs are killing me. I can barely walk they hurt so much but no pain, no gain! I’m on my way; I’ll be at goal fast!”

Honeymoon is Over StageScreen Shot 2014-05-01 at 11.03.46 AM

“I’m not getting up at 4:30 today! I feel half-dead! And I’m freaking hungry! Yesterday I couldn’t stop eating. I was so hungry I ate stuff I don’t even like! I was stuffing everything into my mouth within reach and I’m starving right now! This is nuts and for all I’ve put myself through I’ve only lost 7 pounds in a month and I lost 4 of them the first week!”

Let’s Make This Work

“I really do want to lose weight. I have a closet full of nice clothes I can’t wear. I don’t like how I look and I don’t like how I feel. I realize that my goal to lose 80 pounds is realistic but the time frame isn’t. I didn’t gain 80 pounds in three months and I’m going to give myself all the time it takes to take off the weight. I’m going to join Weight Watchers* and go to the meetings because I need accountability and support and program is flexible and I can fit my life into it with minor tweaks. This is not something I can do by myself but it is something I know I can do with the right help and program.”

Maintenance

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 11.15.35 AMI’m working the program. I like the flexibility to fit in my treats like chocolate-creme-filled doughnuts and ice cream. I build my diet around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins and a little bit of healthy oils. I get plenty to eat and I can fit treats in occasionally too. I can eat pizza, drink a glass of wine, or have birthday cake and ice cream all while I lose weight! I just have to pay attention to counting and tracking. I increased my physical activity and I do a variety of fun activities that burn calories and help me tone my muscles and I earn points by moving and having fun, that I can use to supplement my daily points total. Although I’m dieting, I’m learning new habits that will get me to goal and by continuing to practice these behaviors I’ll stay at goal.”

If you’re trying to lose weight you are in one of these stages. If you’re in the Honeymoon is Over stage it’s not too late to save your diet! Even if you have “divorced” yourself from your diet you can get back together again by starting at the Making it Work Stage. You can learn from the mistakes you made in the past and start over with a new strategy to avoid making those mistakes again. In many cases losing weight and keeping it off is a lot easier than living with your lawfully wedded spouse for the rest of your life! You might not be able to (or even want to) save a marriage, but you can always save a diet and you’ll never regret it!

* I chose Weight Watchers when I decided to lose weight and keep it off. I had friends who lost weight by going to Weight Watchers meetings and they were so successful and enthusiastic about the program they made me interested to check it out for myself. It turned out that I liked Weight Watchers so much that it became more than a way for me to lose weight in a healthy manner – it became a passion and a career!

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.