Confessions of a chronic dieter

scale for a dieter

I was a pudgy child, or so I saw myself.  Others may have called me solid.  One boy friend told me I wasn’t fat, just well-packed – like this was what a teenage girl wanted to hear from a guy she wanted to date?

I have been thinking of food all my life.  Seriously.  I don’t need a shrink to tell me that food fills emotional holes.  The first one opened when my mother died, when eating made me feel less alone.  I ate at exam time in college, when food filled the confidence hole.  I ate when my kids were little, when food filled the frantic, what-do-I-do hole.  I ate when I wrote, when food filled in missing words or plot twists.

Some would say I’m a stress eater, that food brings me peace of mind when nothing else does.  Food has always been a comfort, and I don’t mean just “comfort food.”  I’ll binge on whatever is around that makes me feel full.

If you’re looking at my photos right now and thinking, Yeah, right, please remember that body image is relative.  I keep my weight down.  When (not if, but when) it climbs ten pounds, I diet.  Here are a few of the diets I’ve followed over the years.

900-calorie-a-day diet, supervised by a doctor.  This was my very first formal dieting attempt.  I was in high school, and the doctor was a local one with a reputation for this.  I remember bringing hard-boiled eggs for lunch to the camp where I was a counselor, and I did lose weight.

Weight Watchers was the first group program I joined, though I half suspect I liked being with other women as much as losing weight.  I’d just had a child, had no babysitting help, and felt isolated and alone.  This diet was a common sense one.  In the forty-years since, Weight Watchers has often reshaped itself, largely for marketing purposes, but I still like its moderate approach.  Back then, I actually trained to be a group leader.  I figured this was one way to keep the weight off, that if a whole class was looking at me, I didn’t dare gain back my weight.  Then we moved.  So, forget that.

Diet Center entailed not a group meeting but one-on-one meetings with a weight counselor.  The diet was well-balanced, and the weigh-ins meant accountability.  In time I lost the weight, grew complacent, and decided I could manage on my own.

For me, the problem with some of these formal programs was that they involved too much thinking.  I was thinking all day long about other things, trying to coordinate complicated plots and complicated kids’ schedules.  I wanted simple.

That’s why the South Beach Diet worked for me.  I cut out carbs, but enjoyed protein.  I’m simplifying this, of course, but it was pretty simple.  This diet worked for my body.  Not only did I lose weight, but, following this diet, my body felt really good.

In time, naturally, the cravings for even relatively healthy carbs like wheat bread or fiber cereal nixed this one.  But I do return to it from time to time, at least in concept, and, assuming I’m diligent, it still works for me.

A couple of truths I’ve learned over the years?

First, the older I get, the less I can eat to maintain the same weight.  This is not fair.  But there it is.

Second, the older I get, the more health issues affect what I eat.  For example, I’ve become lactose intolerant, so neither cottage cheese nor yogurt sit well.  I also have osteoporosis, so I drink almond milk and snack on lactose-free aged cheddar, both of which are more caloric than I’d like.

Third, not every diet works for every body.  I’ve tried many versions of the hot new diet of the month, and struck out more often than I can count.  I’m probably more of a Mediterranean Diet person when it comes to foods that I like and that like me, though I don’t follow this diet like a religion.

Fourth, accountability is important.  I actually work with someone now, here at my house, who comes to see me with her scale.  I may eat poorly every so often, but not in the few days before she comes.  Her scale doesn’t lie.

Fifth, moderation is key.  The holiday season is newly done, but if it’s not Christmas, it’s an anniversary or a birthday or a house-warming.  I love sweets.  Give me cake with sugar frosting, brownies with chocolate sauce, or eggnog, and I’m in heaven.  If I deprive myself, I feel deprived, and what happens then?  I get home from wherever and binge on whatever, none of which tastes as good as the goodies offered at the party.  Better, I’ve decided, to take a little of this and a little of that at a party – to allow myself to enjoy these treats – and then watch what I eat for the rest of the day without feeling I’ve broken my diet.

So here we are, another year, another resolution.  This year I’m trying the ultimate in moderation — a three-meals-only diet, meaning that I eat only at meals, those meals being breakfast, lunch and dinner.  If I start to fade away mid-morning or afternoon and need a little something, I’ll modify that to allow for a snack.  I’ll give myself permission to have a slice of toast or some cheese or fruit, and I’ll make sure I have my favorite kinds of each of those, so that they become a treat.

Sure, kiwi is expensive.  But I’m worth it! 

What’s your dream diet?  Any recommendations for other readers?

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  1. Nancy Bergmann on January 3, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    I get on my bike and peddle away, all year long, and it seems to help my aging metabolism. I have bad knees or I would walk more, with the dogs, as we both need to drop some lbs.
    My go to snack is avocado toast. I just love it, and fruits and veggies of course. But put a brownie in front of me and the old diet is out the window, but as you say we can recover from our slips and then we don’t feel deprived.
    Happy New Year, Barbara! I’m looking forward to your new book, as always.
    Nancy Eason Bergmann

  2. Dana Brock on January 5, 2017 at 8:29 am

    Twenty-two years ago, my thyroid went ballistic. I’ve been in a daily battle with my weight ever since. Different exercise programs and fairly healthy eating have helped over the years, but at 56 with aging metabolism, slowing hormones and muscle loss those options stopped working. For the past 3 years I’ve been (for the most part) on a Paleo type eating plan and a faithful Advocare nutritional and exercise program participant. This is the best I’ve ever felt and the best shape I’ve been in. (No muscle loss, stable hormones without hormone treatment and good weight. Even hair and skin healthy.) My thyroid Dr. has even commented glowingly on my overall health. (In over 20 years – that’s a first!) I’m just sharing this because it has made a tremendous difference for me, and it might be just what one of my sisters needs. I added in yoga 6 months back, and it is a lovely way to relax and stretch aging muscles.
    (Barbara, you are welcome to delete this comment if my mention of specific products is against your policy or wishes).
    And, I love when you include food (and recipes) in your books, it makes the characters more real.

    • Barbara Delinsky on January 5, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Dana, I have no problem at all with you mentioning specific products. Your story is inspiring. If a reader in need tries what you suggest and gets results, I’m thrilled! Thank you so much for this wonderful comment!

  3. Susan Stone on January 5, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Oh my gosh, Barbara! Of course I would have no idea about your food journey! When I see your photo at the back of your books, I see a lovely woman. And, when I saw you many, many years ago at the original Tatnuck Bookseller in Worcester, MA, I saw a very delightful, perky and petite woman! But your issues with food sound like mine and probably a zillion women. That’s why I’m writing. In my late 60’s, I still go to Weight Watcher meetings for the accountability but use it only as a tool. Food is important, and now, finally, I choose food that is good and feel blessed that I can afford to make good choices, thus making food a non-issue and more of a way to keep me healthy.
    I just want to add one more program that was very helpful, Get In Shape for Women, which combines a food program and exercise. While I no longer am a member, I will always keep the information with me, and that is the need for a protein rich diet. And, Shaklee’s commitment to the best protein sources are a treasure.
    Thank you for being so candid. Happy New Year!

  4. Theresa Flaherty on January 8, 2017 at 10:06 am

    I read a book probably 20 years ago where one of the characters was fat and felt “less than”. She lost weight (via magic it seemed) and discovered a new self and found love. I’d love to re-read it now. Was it Three Wishes?

    • Barbara Delinsky on January 8, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Theresa, could it have been A TIME TO LOVE? I think you’re describing the heroine in that one. As for magic, at times that’s synonymous with happiness. The first time I ever really successfully lost weight without huge effort was when I started dating a great guy in college. I was happy. Food became less important. Magic!

  5. Edie Kressy on February 21, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Julia Child said butter is good…my son says eat half… I say less is more…avoid the center aisles of the supermarket and plenty of the rim…eat the rainbow, fresh veggies, organic if possible,read the labels, no sugar, additives, salt, only use a little as I cook, add water to the eevo. Very little or no beef, love salmon, more of the beans, rice etc. Dean Ornish MD “Heart Reversal” book (no wheat, no dairy, no sugar…I became a very creative cook with an Italian background) has a plan that we followed for 10 years after my Chris’s heart attack in 1999…dropped all our excess weight in no time…never needed meds, totally heart free …o well. No chemicals and eat less…eat slowly ( I am finished in no time) but at 81 feel healthy. Have some arthritis but take glucosamine,
    living same as ever, the Mediterranean I guess, love food & the Food shows, cooking for one now (since August) but healthy and fresh. No boxed except pasta! Live alone surrounded with nature, my husbands joyous paintings and love. Hope to see you again at one of the bookshops at the Lake. xoxo

    • Barbara Delinsky on February 21, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      You are an inspiration, Edie. Such good tips! Thank you!

  6. Brenda on April 11, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Why are you worried about your weight too much- at our age? I was so thin I looked old old old and
    At size 8 and a flabby 8 at that I am fine- goodness-think how much of your joy is taken by this worry’. You are a talented person and that is what counts!! The stress over your weight outweighs any good you get from dieting-I became a vegetarian 25 years ago! Maybe that is why I don’t worry-no animal
    Fat in my body! I suffer three bone diseases and fall quite a bit-broken bones-we hope injections hel. In the mean time enjoy your food-lose the scale!! Not worth the stress!!!!

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