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The No-diet Diet - For Anyone Not on a Diet

I won't beat around the bush with this one because it's too important. To start with, how do you lose a few pounds without feeling deprived? Next, can you keep them off? Finally, will it make you happy? All of these things matter if this is to work. With a positive attitude, you should be saying: "Yes, yes," and a big: “YES" to the enjoyment question. Don't get the wrong idea, though. You won't achieve much in a day, or a week, but if you stick to the plan, it will pay off.

As with most challenges, preparation is the key to eventual success. Above all else, you have to really want to win. Your reasons will be personal, but whatever they are, don't labour on them. Just make the decision and go for it. I won't bother detailing why you should or shouldn't eat certain ingredients because you've already heard that from someone else. You'll hardly notice the benefits of the no-diet at first, but over time, the pounds and inches will have disappeared and you'll feel a lot healthier. In terms of effort and sacrifice, these are what you had to pay with all those diets that didn't work. Just forget about them. My suggestion is much simpler - carry on eating the same things, but reduce the amount of the wrong stuff over a long period. Enough of the blurb - let's get on with it.

The first week sounds easy because you will be changing absolutely nothing. All you have to do is literally "watch what you are eating" and write it down, all of it. From the time you get up in the morning to when you go to bed and everything in between, record what you eat and drink, how much or how many (cakes, drinks, additives like sugar, etc.), and include those on-the-run snacks you grab when there isn't time to sit down to a meal. The more particular you are with this report on your eating habits, the better the no-diet will work. Pay special attention to quantities. Don't just put down coffee and cookies at 10am: jot down how many of each. One last observation to note is your level of comfort - were you starving, or just peckish before eating, and were you satisfied after, or still hungry? If you manage to stick with this tedious exercise, by the end of the week you will have a detailed report of what has caused you to think about dieting in the first place. Hopefully, you will have realised a few things and may even be surprised by your eating habits. This is what you are going to fix.

Over-eating is generally a psychological need incited by stress, hunger and habit, none of which have much to do with the body's nutritional requirements, except in a mysterious chemical way. I'll be discussing stress in the next issue of Healthy Living, so won't go into cause and effect now. All I will say is that if you tend to rely on food as compensation for being uptight, the extra weight gained as a result only makes the situation worse. Hunger pangs are easier to recognise and manage, being a physical message from the stomach telling you it needs something to fill an empty space. The bigger the stomach, the more it wants. Habit causes it to stretch when we pile in more food even when we don't need it, often because it is simply there. This is one of the first problems you must address. Only make food available to satisfy hunger, and then just sufficient for that particular time. For now, you can continue with the cookies and snack biscuits, but resist making a mound on the plate or in the bowl because, if they are there, you will eat them! Stick with the no-diet and your stomach will begin to shrink, little by little, but neither it nor you will notice it happening.

Obviously, when you start cutting back on quantity, there will be a psychological reaction - where's my extra food? Fortunately, there's a simple solution - water and soup. A glass of plain water drunk slowly before an eating session will fill a small corner, refresh the palate so that you can enjoy the taste of the food that comes after, and reduce the tendency to eat too fast. The soup is an anytime hunger-buster that can be substituted for those casual snacks, or a bit extra to compensate for whatever you are cutting back on. Being low calorie, it won't add to your weight. It will, in fact, help to reduce it by minimising the desire for more food as it is being digested. You can have as much as you like during the day, just as long as you don't increase your normal food intake on top of it. Use the soup to keep hunger at bay while you work on weaning yourself off some of the naughties. You'll find the recipe in - would you believe! - our Recipes section. It's easy to make and good to eat.

Now to the rest of it - food, that is. Although you will continue to eat much the same as you have, changes need to be made if you are going to lose weight. Start by reducing the amount of food you put on a plate, keeping it within the central area and not allowing it to overflow the rim, or at least an inch (25mm) from the edge if it doesn't have one. The same applies to the top rim of bowls. Beware of mounding up the food to compensate. Later, you will be able to reduce the actual size of the plate, but for now all that would do is give you the appearance of a mean meal and send you running for second and third helpings. That's a no-no! What you see is what you get, and no more till the next food break. After a while, you will find yourself really looking forward to that time and your enjoyment of it will increase simply because you've made yourself wait. And don't forget - you aren't being deprived: nothing much has changed yet.

Have a look at your report, in particular a week ago today, to see what you had and when. Try to replicate this as closely as possible with respect to types of food at specific times, and see where you may be able to fit in a bowl or cup of soup. It may not seem to go with that chocolate eclair; but if you think about it, where's the difference having the soup first, then the cake - it's only like a main course followed by dessert. Just slot a glass of water in between. And if you don't feel much like the cake after the soup, put it aside for later when you can honestly enjoy it. When having the soup with something else, take away a small amount of the rest. So, if you normally have three sandwiches with a bag of potato chips for lunch, give yourself two and a half sandwiches, half a bag of chips and a serving of soup. And remember to begin with that important glass of water. Over a period you should be able to reduce the fat-producing food to the point where you can still enjoy eating, but can control your weight far more easily. That's your eventual target.

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