This is not my first diet, but it has been my most successful one, and it feels much more sustainable.  In my 20s, I did plenty of short-term stupid diets - slim-fast, expanding fiber and caffeine filled diet pills, super low calorie and low fat diets, etc.  They all leave you feeling starved and the weight comes right back.

What DOES work is -

  • Calculate what your daily calories should be (for your current weight, height, age, gender, activity level), and then subtract 200-400 calories from that to lose weight.  In my case, it's about 1500-1600 calories/day to maintain, 1200-1300 calories/day to lose about 1 pound per week.  You can google 'diet calculator' to get some good websites to help you get a starting point, but you may need to tweak the numbers - lower if you are not seeing results, higher if you greatly increase your activity level and are losing rapidly.  My metabolism is slower than normal, but I've found the calculators are mostly correct.


  • You must religiously count your calories every day.  This is definitely the key for me.  When I stop counting, I start gaining.  I use the Sparkpeople website, but there are plenty of others you can use to log calories, your weight, your measurements, blood pressure, glucose, whatever you need logged.  This is hard to keep up with, it takes a lot of time.  It's rough to face up to the reality of how many calories you eat unchecked.  But if you are not seeing progress, this is probably why.  Losing weight is at least 80% diet.  It can be really shocking when you see the real calories for different foods, especially eating out.  It can be a lot more or less than what you thought, and also remember that food labels can sometimes be inaccurate (in the worst case, extremely inaccurate).


  • You will get better results with exercise if you can accurately calculate how many calories you really burned.  With this diet, I finally got a heart monitor and I saw that my exercise bike was way overestimating my calories burned, and my walking apps and Fitbit were underestimating the calories (your results may vary).  Heart monitors are 90% accurate, so you get a more realistic picture of what you're burning.  This does not mean that if you burned 1000 calories, you get to eat 1000 more calories of food however (at least not for me), but I do adjust the calories up slightly if I worked out hard that day, and still lose weight.  HRMs are also very useful for making sure you're staying in the heart rate zones that you want to be in.  You want to really be working out, but you don't need to max out your heart all the time.  This step can be hard for some people if you can't afford a HRM, but of all my gadgets, this has been the most useful by far.  I wish I hadn't waited so long to get one.


  • Stop eating low fat.  I try to eat 40-50% carb/20-30% protein/30% fat every day.  1200 calories is really not a lot, but when I stopped eating low-fat, I feel a lot less hungry and more satisfied.  This is what makes a diet sustainable.  Fat does not make you fat.  It does not make you have heart problems.  Fat is good for you.  There is a small % of the population who have genetic intolerance for fat and those people have to be more careful, but for the vast majority of us, fat is good for you.  Of course, try to vary what kind of fat you are eating.


  • Fiber will keep you full.  Are you getting enough?  I find this a constant struggle, and I know it's because I don't always get enough fruits and veggies each day.  Try to get your fiber from real food, but if you can't, add it in somehow.  I sometimes eat high fiber snack bars or cook with acacia powder (which is the least stomach-irritating fiber I've found).


  • Eat whole, clean food as much as you can.  Food that you cooked from scratch.  It really is true that you should do most of your grocery shopping from the perimeter of the store.  Look at the labels of your processed foods and buy smarter - buy brands that have simpler ingredients, ingredients that you can recognize as food.  Fewer preservants, thickeners, etc.  Look into your local farmer's markets, CSAs, farm share, local butchers, etc, for organic, grassfed, etc. food.  It's not always more expensive.  Plan out meals in advance.


Keeping up with your data will definitely help you succeed.  Keep an eye on your week to week trends more than day to day, because your metabolism, hormones, digestion, bloating, etc, whether you are female or male, all fluctuate a lot and can throw things off sometimes for a few days.

Vary your exercises as much as you can.  This is something I am still working on myself.  Weights, cardio, yoga, dance, sports, etc, all do different things for your body and you will feel better and be more fit if you do a little bit of everything you can manage to.  If you keep doing the same workout, you get less and less results from it.  You'll see on your HRM that your heart rate will keep going down doing the same workout - this means you are burning less calories because it got easier for you.  Varying the activity will slow that process down, but you will unfortunately always burn less calories as you lose weight and have to work out harder all the time to continue to lose weight.  You always have to keep adjusting your numbers.

Don't get too caught up on the exact things everyone else is doing.  You can use it as inspiration, but you need to move at YOUR pace, not someone else's.  YOUR goal might be to hit 5000 steps a day or cut 100 calories a day, or cook just one meal for yourself a week, and it might discourage you to see someone else walk 30000 steps or cook 3 gourmet meals a day, or lift 500 pounds, or whatever.  What's important is making realistic goals for you and then slowly doing better all the time.   Keep striving.  Your goals might not ever been as lofty as others, but you do what works for you, and what gets you results.

Eating truly healthy food and exercising most days of the week really does work.  It's not easy, but it's the only kind of diet that really works over time.

Joining this DietBet has been great because having money on the line makes me feel really motivated and competitive, and it helps to know that other people are struggling too and that I'm not alone.  It's very hard to stick with a diet when you feel alone.

I started out 2014 completely out of shape, but now I exercise 5-7 days/week.  I've gotten to really enjoy going on long, scenic walks.  I'm looking forward to finally being in shape to go on moderate, longer hikes.  I am actively improving my health and seeing slow but important gains.  Pace yourself, slowly ramp up, and just keep going.  If you have a bad day, don't beat yourself up about it, just do better tomorrow.  Get that bad food out of the house.  Find support anywhere you can, and rid yourself of negative influences as much as you can.

Losing weight is not a mystery, it's a science.  You can do it.