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

Treat soft drinks the same as alcohol - a serve of one, then a glass of water, and so on. When you are really parched, keep off the soda and beer, only drinking water until you are back to normal. Hot drinks in themselves are acceptable as long as you don't have too many throughout the day; but sweeteners and high-fat dairy products can be a problem. Try reducing the amount of sugar - not too much at first - or experiment with honey as a substitute. Also, rather than switching straight away to skim milk, mix a small amount with the full-cream in a jug, increasing the percentage of skim over time. Eventually, you'll be quite happy to use just skim. We hated it at first; now it's all we drink and the full-cream seems too sweet and far too rich.

You've probably heard that little and often is the way to go. It actually is because it doesn't stretch the stomach and it allows the metabolism to do its job without working overtime. Changing to this routine immediately is more than likely a sudden wrench that will put you off weight-watching altogether. There is, however, something to be learned from the concept. By keeping the main eating sessions to specific times of day - breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper if you can't go without - and reducing the amount so that you avoid overloading yourself, you can not only justify the in-between snacks as metabolism boosters, but can also use them as stepping stones to the next main meal. That way, you won't have to wait too long for the forthcoming major food break and, with luck, will be able to resist the habit of constantly eating. And if the wait is simply unbearable, fall back on the water and soup. Obviously, when you are out and about, even soup in a cup is impractical. Then again, surely the reason for being in transit wasn't to eat because you could have done that at home. Why not wait until you return? But if you truly are desperate, buy something filling that is reasonably low in fat, sugar and carbs, find yourself a place to sit and enjoy it. Scoffing a burger or a bucket of fries on your way through the shopping precinct isn't on the no-diet agenda!

Exercise should always be part of a health program, provided it is in consideration of an individual's present weight, level of fitness and any existing medical conditions. If you aren't used to energetic and strenuous exercise, my advice is to steer clear of those popular classes and sports that have you leaping about like a teenage mad thing. Save this for later when you've lost a few pounds and can sustain a reasonable pace of activity without getting breathless. Even jogging can do some serious damage if you are on the heavy side and unused to it. Walking, however, is an ideal partner for the no-diet. The ultimate goal is a thirty-minute brisk walk every day. But to start with, especially if your only "walking" has been back and forth to the kitchen, or a shuffle round the shops, introduce it in stages. Plan to go out before one of your normal food sessions, and resist the temptation to "fuel up" before you leave. Have that glass of water instead. No soup, though - you haven't earned it yet. The first week, try ten minutes a day - an easy stroll which you do without stopping. If you find it a bit hard after five minutes, catch your breath with a short rest, then head back. You may be ravenous after this, but hold off eating straight away. Sit, have another glass of water and let your body and mind return to normal. Once you feel you can no longer demolish a four-course meal in record time, then you can eat - exactly what you would have, had you not done any exercise.

As with your eventual change in diet, exercise needs to be increased gradually. Even the frequency may be spasmodic at first because it interferes with your normal routine. At least, it might seem that way; but if you are really honest, you could probably substitute the walk for one of those 'tween-time snack sessions. There will be days when you just don't fancy it, or the weather is lousy - so, don't go and, more important, don't feel bad about it. You'll drop off the wagon occasionally - everyone does. Just enjoy the experience in the knowledge that you've already done some good work and will be picking up again tomorrow. Same with the food. Avoid binge eating like the plague, but if you succumb, enjoy every mouthful. It hasn't wrecked anything. It's simply a small hiccup that you'll have from time to time. Just make sure it is never all the time, ever again.

To summarise, the idea behind the no-diet is to adapt gradually so that you hardly notice the difference. Don't plan on cutting anything out completely or immediately. Your body will react and will complain to your mind, if it hasn't already figured the change out for itself. Take the reduction of the "bad" elements in very small stages over a long period, especially when starting. This will help you adjust. If you find any sudden alteration so obvious that it has ruined the taste of a dish, reduce the reduction and try again. When you have an amended percentage that is tolerable, stick with it until it is accepted as the norm before cutting back even further. You don't need to go without the real naughties, just relegate them to once-a-week treats and a well-earned reward for your persistence.

Above all, remember that you are the one implementing the changes, and you can't con yourself. Make it a pleasant experience and be patient. Nothing is likely to happen over a short period - it may be weeks before you notice a difference. BUT, remember also that this isn't a diet. You can continue enjoying the same food that caused you to be overweight in the first place - you'll just be eating slightly less of it. Then, one day you'll realise that you have guided yourself to the healthy habit of everything in moderation, nothing to excess.

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