How to Survive Your Diet

Me: Your diet survived the weekend? That’s great! Your diet survived the weekend and are you going to survive your diet?

The answers I get often overlook the part about, “Are you going to survive your diet?” Seems like the dieters are too happy about how they avoided a temptation than to consider how their diet is wrecking their life.

The conversations go something like this:

Dieter #1: I skipped my cousin’s wedding!

Me: Why did you do that? Don’t you like your cousin?

Dieter #2: I went to my friend’s birthday dinner and I brought my own salad dressing, pushed the roll basket to the other side of the table, and didn’t have any cake or ice cream.

Me: Was bringing your own salad dressing messy? Did the rolls smell bad or something? Were you too full for ice cream and cake?

I’m hoping that the reason that weddings are skipped and certain food pushed away or refused are because the people who do these things don’t like weddings (or the bridal couple) or find the food that’s being served is unpleasant.

The reality is usually the polar opposite. The dieter is certain that a wedding or a birthday party will be the death of her diet. She doesn’t consider that her diet is the death of her (figuratively)!

I was once just like that. I refused invitations for fear of the food and drink that would be served. Sometimes, when I just couldn’t get out of a party or celebration I would take measures to ensure I barely ate anything that was being served. I stuck to the “safe” foods.

My grandson is allergic to tree nuts and beans. He breaks out with rash and swelling. Foods with nuts and beans are not "safe" for him, but as far as he's concerned, anything else he likes is safe and if it tastes really good he'll eat it with a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other!

My grandson is allergic to tree nuts and beans. He breaks out with rash and swelling. Foods with nuts and beans are not “safe” for him, but as far as he’s concerned, anything else is safe and if it tastes really good he’ll eat it with a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other! He’s not afraid that “food will make him fat” and his lack of fear gives him power to eat as much as he needs for growth and energy and to stop when he’s had all he needs.*

I stopped short of packing my own safe foods. I didn’t schlep salad dressing or carrot sticks in my pocketbook. Usually if I was afraid of the food that was being served, I’d preload with fat-free, sugar-free yogurt. Then I’d just not eat anything and get away with it by claiming to have a “stomach bug!” I thought I was being strong and powerful when I deprived myself of everything delicious. In truth, I was being weak. I didn’t even realize that by not enjoying some of the delicious foods, I was giving away my power to the food! 

Once, a man shared with me a sad tale about how he brought a frozen diet turkey entree to a family Thanksgiving dinner. He asked his mother to zap his little plastic tray of pseudo turkey breast meat and creamy whipped gluey mystery food potatoes with sludge gravy. When he finished telling me the story he looked at me as if he expected me to place a halo over his head. I was waiting for him to start chanting the diet mantra, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels!”

17-year-old  me the first time I said "Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels!" I had just lost ten pounds. Right after that picture was taken I gained 18 pounds in three months!

17-year-old me the first time I said “Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels!” I had just lost ten pounds. Right after that picture was taken I gained 18 pounds in three months!

These measures taken to lose weight are proven to work – for temporary weight loss, that is. They are incompatible with a life that’s worth living, however, because they take away all your strength to eat what you love and instead give the power to the food! In other words, they are good for losing weight, but if you are going to live, these strategies will fail and the lost weight will be regained because you weaken yourself by giving power to food – an object that has no power unless you give it the power!

For some, extreme deprivation is followed by extreme overindulging and more than just the original lost weight comes back. In no time, the dieter weighs more than she did before she even started the diet! I know because it’s happened to me… more than once (and more than twice… and even more than five times!)

Some of us are slow to learn from our mistakes! I finally figured it out. If my diet is to survive, I need to survive, or even more than just survive, I need to be strong to allow myself to live!

So how can we survive on our diets? It takes strength, bravery and practice. It takes living your life the way you like to live it – going to parties and other social events. It takes learning when to indulge and when to refrain. It takes confidence to know that when you choose to indulge, it’s not the same as blowing your diet.

Basically, surviving your diet takes getting strong by taking back the power that is rightfully yours. It is a skill that starts with the realization that deprivation is a short-term weight loss strategy. Running away from food and social situations that are built around food teaches you nothing about long-term weight management. Surviving your diet means you accept slower weight loss progress in order to grow strong and develop a weight management muscle!

I did it with the insight and support I got from attending Weight Watchers meetings. When I went to my first meeting I thought it was a good way to punish myself for getting fat. It turned out that the leader and the other members knew stuff and shared insights that I might have never discovered on my own. It wasn’t punishment at all.

I needed to hear that people can really eat at an all-you-can-eat buffet without going crazy. I needed to hear that people can go crazy and overindulge and get right back on track without the “going crazy” lasting for days, or weeks, or months! I needed to hear that so that I believed I was strong enough to do the same thing.

Surviving your diet is all about being strong because only the strong survive!

*We have to be careful not to condition our children to override their natural ability to balance their nutritional needs or calories in and out . His mother trusts his instincts but sometimes it takes faith not to interfere. He does great when you analyze what he eats over a period of several days.

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.