Tina Ding








We've all heard of them, and many of us have tried them: trendy fad diets. Weight Watchers, South Beach, Atkins, Paleo, 21-Day Fix, Beach Body and everything in between. Losing weight or getting in shape comes easy for some, but is extremely frustrating to others.

Truth is, all of these diet plans do work. However, despite dieter's best intentions, many diet plans tend to not work for the long haul. Sticking to a plan is hard. Dropping a few pounds is one thing; keeping it off or maintaining a healthy weight is a long-term lifestyle change. Granted, some can pull off a lifestyle of eating on the margins. Chomping on monster cookies with a diet soda for lunch could work, but creates a plethora of nutritional deficiencies. Starvation diets could help one shed a few pounds, but leavs behind a messed up metabolism.

Over time, lifetime dieters often find that diets lead to failure. Staying the course on strict regimens becomes more and more difficult as the dieter begins to lose sight of why they are eating in the first place. Appetite is no longer a focus, and nutrition is a non-issue. Emotional stress and self-punishment are side-effects of out of control dieting, as well. Sound familiar?

To take charge of this food induced roller coaster, we need to discover ways of eating that include manageable nutritional balance and targeted lifestyle changes. Current trendy diet plans often include the purchase of proprietary foods, even if for a short period of time during the initial days or weeks of the program. That's not a bad thing, with proper education to support the food selections. Protein shakes? Absolutely! Powdered shakes are quick and easy to carry around. But ingredients matter (pro tip: avoid soy protein isolates).

Reading labels can be tricky. Determining which variety is truly all natural; which organic brand is gluten free; which gluten free needn't be organic. These are all concrete ways of making healthful decisions at the grocer's. But which are which? And if the right foods are found, how much should be eaten? How much exercise is enough? Is a detox necessary? If you're going it alone, it can be overwhelming and daunting.

Locally, some folks seeking a healthier choice are a trying the protein, fat, and carbohydrate option. A lean meat, such as turkey, counts for the protein, a small handful of nuts is a necessary fat and a handful of fruit is a carb. And while it sounds like a restrictive diet, the sky is the limit - provided the options are lean, are a healthy serving size, and include all three. No skimping! And if we look at the model of eating every three hours, it's eating like babies. In no time, bodies begin acting as they should. Your body's appetite will call out for food when it needs it, rather than sticking to society's "normal" meal times.

Clean eating (choosing unprocessed foods, unrefined foods, and managing a lower intake of salts and sugars) is supported by shopping the perimeter of a grocery store, including the produce and meat departments. Hit up the dairy case for eggs and lean toward all natural or organic sliced meats (one boiled egg counts as both a fat and a protein).

If purchasing pre-packaged foods, read labels to avoid excess sodium; in fact, read the sodium content in a cross-section of a particular item, such as turkey, sliced turkey, and deli turkey to help you decide. Select greens, such as leafy lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard. Add sweet potato, onion and garlic. Find a variety of fruit options to gain the most antioxidants (the darker the fruit, the better). Lean toward coconut oil and avoid gluten. Monitor your dairy intake (try a coconut, almond, flax or rice milk).

Frequent the healthier food sections or consider participation in a food cooperative. When trying new foods, you may find you like them. Consult with a health coach or nutritionist. They'll not only support your ascent into a healthier, nutritious lifestyle, but will share their expertise in the grocery store. In the process, you might shed a few pounds for good, with a totally attainable, least restrictive eating program going forward.

Tina Ding is a teacher, freelance writer and grad school student with plenty of time for her husband and three children. She also loves photography, scrapbooking, reading and traveling.