Picking My Prison: Which Diet Program for Me?

I’ve got to lose weight. 

I will not tell you how much I weigh. I will admit that my blood pressure is edging up and my energy level is dropping down. It’s time to stop buying bigger clothes. Time to stop hiding from mirrors. Time to quit avoiding the scale and “forgetting” to go get those blood tests the doctor ordered.

It’s time for me to drop a pound or 50. 

The trouble is, I don’t want to. Eat less, I mean.

If you could wave that proverbial wand and painlessly shave off this bulk, I’d be all for that. But watching every single bite I eat and not eating anything I like and never feeling full sounds like a punishment we should give to the worst criminals.

I’ve considered ways to do this. I hear Weight Watchers is having a join-for-free special right now. SparkPeople costs nothing and seems to work for a lot of folks.

All these programs work. If you do them. They even work for me. If I do them. Truth told, I have no trouble losing weight. I can lose on any “program.” What I can’t do is keep it up.

These “programs” feel like whole-life straight jackets to me.  I can lose weight. All I have to do is watch every bite I eat with an obsessive exactness that often involves weighing my food and measuring it out at every meal as if I was building a bomb instead of sitting down to eat. No spontaneous bite may cross my lips.

I become both my own jailer and my own prisoner, locked in my own gastronomic maximum security prison; caught in a war I can not win because it’s between me … and me. Keeping weight off is sentencing myself to this prison for life without parole. If I relax for a day, I stop losing. If I relax for several days, I gain.

So. I have to keep tabs of every bite I eat. Every. Single. Bite. Every nibble. Every sniff and whiff of food cooking in the kitchen as I walk by. I have to write it down, tally it up and “track it.”

I also have to monitor myself keeping tabs on myself to make sure that I don’t forget to keep tabs on myself and start gaining weight again.

If that isn’t a self-made hell, what is?

I’d forget about it. Again. And buy bigger clothes. Again.

But there’s that blood pressure, creeping up, and that constant tiredness that’s become my new normal. I’m willing to be ugly for food. But am I willing to die for it?  I don’t want to stand before God and have Him thump me on the head and say, “You threw away 20 great years I gave you because of chicken fried steak?”

I need to give up avoiding mirrors and bathroom scales and pick a program. I’ve been going to “do that tomorrow” for a couple of weeks now. I’m “going to do that tomorrow” again. I’ll let you know this weekend if I do any better this week than I have in the ones before. Maybe talking to you about it will help me go ahead and take the plunge. I’m hoping it will.

Now let’s see … Weight Watchers or SparkPeople … or maybe something else … Which prison will I pick?

  • Karen LH

    I lost about 60 pounds a couple of years ago on Weight Watchers (on their previous program, not the current one), and was pretty happy with it. A couple of things that made it work for me were: (1) points are a coarser measure than calories, and so I find the numbers easier to remember, and (2) weekly points gives you a safety valve for days when dammit! you just feel like eating. I don’t know anything about SparkPeople.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Did it take over your life? It seems like the only way I can lose weight is if I FOCUS on losing weight. The problem with that is that it’s exhausting and after a while I just can’t keep it up.

      • Karen LH

        They have an online tracker which makes things a bit easier. What helps me is to set up routines: generic breakfast, lunch, snacks, exercise. I’m guessing that you have to do a certain amount of parties and restaurants? I never was very good at that, although they offer a lot of suggestions for how to deal with those situations.

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    Yup, the quintessential American problem, me too, by the way.

    The other half of the story is that it is an American problem that we brought to the world, because we are free to innovate and prosper. Before that, starvation happened all over Europe every time there was a poor harvest. So, in a lot of ways, it’s a very good problem to have.

    Hope you do better at it, than I do, Good luck! :-)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Excess rather than shortage of food is by far the better problem to have! And yes, America pioneered the groaning dinner table for all. This country made it where everyone could enjoy the excesses of the elite classes — for better or ill.
      From what I’ve seen of Europe (which is not all that much) we don’t walk as much, not nearly as much, as they do. I think that also contributes to our problem.

      • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

        I think you’re probably right. We have been so obsessed all through our history with speed that we never thought of walking if we could find something (anything) faster. And we tend to still eat like we’re doing the physical work of a horse-drawn farm, or at least I do.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          “we tend to still eat like we’re doing the physical work of a horse-drawn farm, or at least I do.”
          Oh me too. I eat like my grandmother who grew up picking cotton all day then cooking on her wood stove/cleaning with water she hand-pumped/etc in the evening.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    I know how you feel. It’s the same for me. I do exercise, though not enough. You know I lost ten pounds during Lent when I fasted from snacks and reduced my meal sizes. I find that if there is a religious component to it, I can actually hold my eating down. But like you, it doesn’t seem to last. Perhaps the key is not thinking of it as a prison but a movement toward Christ’s sacrifice. Somehow you have to make the effort into a spiritual exercise.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That is a very thoughtful idea. I DO need to make sure that I’m not just “using” God to get what I want. But consistent over-eating has a spiritual component I think. There must be a false god or two in there somewhere, especially since, among other thing, I eat for stress.

      • http://jscafenette.com Manny

        What I’ve done ever since Lent is that when I feel the hunger pang in my belly and I don’t want to indulge it, I say a Hail Mary and mutter a little prayer for her confidence.

        Also Rebecca, don’t forget exercise. Some people, especially older women, can get so thin but have no muscle tone. Muscle is important. We lose it naturally as we age. When I exercise (unfortunately down to once a week) I try to split it between cardio and muscle tone exercises. Some women forget upper body strength. Muscle does weigh more than fat, so your weight might reflect it. But it’s not the number that’s important but the body fat ratio.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Manny, you are so right. I need to add exercise to my life. My job is all about enforced sitting. Then, when I get home, I sit some more. These discussions are making me feel a lot better about this, btw.

          • http://jscafenette.com Manny

            Oh you at least need to take a daily walk. Completely sedetary is the worst thing for one’s health.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            It would probably also help with the stress. (Talk about the stress!)
            If long hours, no sleep, lots of stress, junk food, no exercise will kill you, I should probably already be dead. I am, as I said, having symptoms of impending trouble.
            A walk … now to find the time.

          • http://jscafenette.com Manny

            I’m replying here Rebecca because it’s ended below. You have to find the time for your health. It’s your first priority in life. You can’t help anyone if you are incompacitated. You should reprioritize and make this a priority ot it’s going to catch up to you.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              Manny, your comments those of others here are making me see that. This has been really helpful. I can’t thank you folks enough.

    • http://theshepherdspresence.wordpress.com Karyl Entner

      You are on to something. Self control is the most difficult for me to accomplish, particularly since I live by myself and don’t have anyone saying. . .
      I also have learned that a less stringent schedule helps me. If I wait to eat until my stomach is growling and wait just a bit longer, I eat only twice a day! No counting calories. Wait until it is genuine hungar, then eat until full, not gorged, and guess what, the weight will gradually come off. I also have a dog to walk so walking is not necessarily an option.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        This is another good suggestion Karyl. I had no idea so many people were grappling with this.

  • Kathryn Ferrell

    I need to lose weight also. I hate diets! I joined the Light Weigh One King program written by Suzanne Fowler (a Catholic spiritual weight loss program). I love it! The spiritual component is key and what has made this program so successful for so many people. I’m in my third week and have lost 12 lbs. so far. You might want to check it out.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you! This is the sort of information I need. How much do they cost? Do they have a web site?

      • Arkenaten

        I buy my shoes from a store.
        Type ‘Nike’, (or running shoes) Rebecca, and see what comes up!

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I’ll look. Promise.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I checked. Nike doesn’t come in narrow sizes. (I’m an AA.) But the general thought is great. Now to find someone who makes athletic shoes in narrow widths. :-)

          • Arkenaten

            Feet swell a lot during exercise – a reason why the purchase of ANY new show should be done after a day on one’s feet.
            You might find that what you consider a ‘good fit’ for a normal street shoe, is not the same for an athletic show. Isn’t for me, neither my wife.
            After a ‘day at the office’ find a store that sells sportswear and simply pop in and try a few pairs.
            Walk up and down, jog a bit if there’s space.
            Remember, your left foot is generally slightly larger than the right and allow around a thumbs width between your big toe and the end of the shoe while standing. This might seem excessive but if you ever want to find out what it”s like to lose a toe nail after running, err on the side of slightly bigger, rather than smaller. But in the end, comfort is the thing.

            Assics are narrower than Nike, I’m pretty sure, and so are Addidas if I remember. Saucony are usually a wider fit. Ran in them all at one time!

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              Ok. I’ll go shopping. (Not exactly a punishment.) :-)

              BTW, do you still run?

  • http://newequus.wordpress.com Mindy @ New Equus – A New Creation

    Rebecca I am RIGHT there with you! I’ve never heard of a diet called a prison before, but that is so what it is! A self imposed prison for which there is no escape…or even parole for good behavior! Ha! Praying you at least find one that more “resort” and less “maximum security”!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      If I do, I’ll let you know. Right now, I’m not sure such a thing exists.

  • Mary

    Try this: http://www.dietdoctor.com/lchf

    It works for me. I stopped being “pre-diabetic” with it and lost lbs.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      How long have you been on it? Do you find yourself craving bread, potatoes, POTATO CHIPS (without which, I am convinced a sandwich cannot be eaten)

  • Kathryn Ferrell

    http://www.lightweigh.com is the web site
    The fee is $135-one time only and makes you a lifetime member. The goal of the program is to attain “peace with food”.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Kathryn, I did this program with your mother a few years ago. Maybe I need to do it again. At the time, I was too mentally frazzled from my job to be good to me. At least I think that’s what it was. Thank you for showing up here, btw.

  • Marie Bernadette

    Ah… so much of this resonated with me. I’ve realized I think part of why I *hate* things like SparkPeople (though the intentions are good) is that monitoring food intake isn’t fun for me… and I don’t really want to hear other people’s success stories. (Does that make me an awful person? Maybe.) I need it to be a very self-contained thing. What HAS helped me, just in general terms of having a better grasp of how much I eat (note: on stressful days, it ain’t pretty ’round here) is reading nutritional facts. On everything. Read them, look at how big a serving size is, think about it. I’ve kinda just starting wrapping that into my head over the past 2 years, probably, and it’s helped me make wiser decisions. I get to use my logic and rational thinking skills (thanks, God! what a gift that I tend to ignore when it comes to food) to make a smarter choice, rather than someone else saying “that’s bad. do this instead”. It forces me to own my decisions and be self-accountable. (Side-note: there is a “recipe calculator” you can use on SparkPeople to determine how many calories, fat, protein, nutrients, etc. go into 1 serving of a recipe, which I use because I cook from scratch a lot. It’s mega helpful in assessing how often I should make particular things, how to modify them, etc.)

    And if you’re a cooking type: http://www.skinnytaste.com has been my new best pal for finding recipes that won’t make me go shopping for an upsize. :)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I used to be a cooking type, but for the past few years I’ve become an eating out, going to receptions, grabbing whatever I can find type … and the pounds have piled up.

      I need to do this for my health. In fact, I need to change the way I’m living — sleep 8 hours instead of 4, eat good food instead of junk, exercise instead of veg — for my health. You may be right that a turn to overall healthier living rather than a “program” is what I need.

      Another potential problem that I see about SparkPeople is that it would make me spend even more time sitting and using the computer. Thats kind of like building a snowman with a blow torch.

      Thanks for the link to skinnytaste. I’ll check it out as soon as I post this.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I checked out skinnytaste. It does put a new, non-punishing twist on this. Those turkey stuff peppers look so good they make me want to lick the screen!

      • Marie Bernadette

        Glad it seems like it might be of some value! I don’t cook everyday – life of a grad student isn’t overly conducive sometimes – but I have become WAY more purposeful in what I buy to stock the kitchen. Eating out on this budget happens once a week if I’m lucky, so frozen veg/fruit is the easy to go “well, if I want to eat, I guess that’s what I have to eat…”
        I wish you the best! It’s definitely a process. The advice of others to throw out a prayer in moments of desperation is, as always, an excellent idea. :)

  • http://catholicpunditwannabe.blogspot.com Roseanne Sullivan

    Getting enough sleep is the primary thing. Don’t count calories or weigh or measure. Eat foods you like (including fats) but stop after one serving. Do what Manny did which gave him a 10 lb weight loss in 1 1/2 months: no snacks and reduce your meal size. Avoid deserts (empty calories, and besides, sugar causes cravings). Get up and move around often. If you sit a lot, get up and stretch or walk around or put a load in the washer or file something. You have time for 1 or 2 minutes of moving repeated ofen every day. Moving will keep you alert, allow you to focus better afterwards, and reduce the urge to eat. Cleaning house is exercise so if you did that for 30 min. a day without stopping, you’d have the recommended amt. of exercise. I love to swim so I swim either once, twice, or three times a week. No guilt. I’ve been losing a little weight over a period of months doing this. Brought my blood sugar down from low diabetic to pre-diabetic with no medicine. Lowered my cholesterol a bit. Much better to lose a little consistently than to stay on the upward climb without stopping.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      “Cleaning house is exercise”

      Did you HAVE to say that? :-)

      Seriously, these are great, and I mean GREAT suggestions. I. Am. So. Tired. All the time. And I never get enough sleep or even close.

      I may get my golf clubs out of the back of the closet. Of course … I’ll have trouble seeing my feet when I putt … :-)

  • Roy Griffis

    I would recommend you Google “Primal Blueprint.” Has some free, useful charts for eating and shopping, and has a large community (or cult, depending on your point of view) of users with their own experiences, recipes, etc. If you want it really simple, dump wheat (bread, cereal, pasta). Eat leafy greens and fish, fowl, or meat. Gary Taubes (blessed by the BlogFather himself, Instapundit) essentially came to that conclusion. Primal Blueprint tends to follow this recipe, and has some exercise suggestions, but maintains it is 80% diet and 20% the activity. Good luck, my dear Anchoress.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Checking Primal Blueprint now …

  • Arkenaten

    No matter what ‘diet’ you choose, without exercise it wont work.
    Food is to be enjoyed, not feared Once you start to see it as something to be ‘overcome’ you have lost.
    If diets worked then there would be one that actually did and not bizillions. (bit like religion, hey? ;) )
    The body’s metabolism slows as we get older, and thus one should exercise to maintain.
    -for what’s it worth, I used to run marathons including a race called Comrades ( 90kms)
    Buy a very good pair of running/walking shoes and get some fresh air. Best thing .

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s good advice. The way I’ve been living is itself toxic in that I don’t do things that are good for myself, especially for my health.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I can do that now, but when session gets rolling, I’m often locked up in the capitol building from early ’til, as we say in this part of the world “dark thirty.” Some people get up at 3 or 4 in the morning to work out, but Mother Hamilton did not raise such an ambitious child.

      Great advice, though. I just need to figure out how to implement it.

  • http://metabooleans.blogspot.com/ Nick

    I’ve got the opposite problem. I can’t gain any weight at all. I’m a high school senior and I’m still so thin that I’m /not allowed/ to give blood! I know this sounds like the dumbest complaint in the world, but I -wish- sometimes that all it took was relaxing for a day to gain.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Nick, when I was your age, I was the same. Of course, when I was your age I was very active. Stay active and you may never be where I am now.

      • http://metabooleans.blogspot.com/ Nick

        I’ve been considering trying Fitocracy when I turn eighteen. Have you tried that? I hear it’s good at tricking people into doing the craziest things to get active!

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Nick, I LOVE this site? It looks like fun, which always works with me. One question: Is ANYBODY on there over 40????

          • http://metabooleans.blogspot.com/ Nick

            My guess is most people are in their twenties or thirties, but there’s bound to be people of all age groups.

  • http://www.thresholdofheaven.com Peter

    I am still wanting to lose the weight I gained after Jesse’s death. I have managed to lose 15 pounds so far but seem to be stuck there.

    I know how you feel. I still need to lose another 50 before the doctor will stop calling me obese. It shouldn’t be so hard, but for some reason it is.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Peter, you’ve written about the spiritual side of your weight gain. I think that when we go out of whack (and I HAVE gone out of whack with my health habits) it always has a spiritual component. Other people have brought that up, and I think they are right. You have the wisdom to see that for yourself. I’ve got to have somebody tell me.

  • Lori

    Try the Light Weigh – the only Catholic diet I know! I love Suzanne Fowler. Get peace with food! http://Www.lightweigh.com

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      “Get peace with food!”

      Is that possible?

  • Virginia

    “I. Am. So. Tired. All the time.”
    Rebecca, I hope you’ve talked to your doctor. It’s amazing how many women are hypothyroid. And your thyroid doesn’t have to be way out of whack to make you miserable. You should probably have a check-up before starting a diet/exercise program anyway. Take care of yourself. WE NEED YOU!!!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Virginia. I went to the doc back in April (if I remember correctly) and she told me I was amazingly healthy … considering the way I treat myself. But, my blood pressure was borderline and she had no clue for the exhaustion. She ordered a bunch of blood tests and I just never went to the lab and had them done. First, because I had to get back to the office and didn’t have time, then because I had other stuff to do and didn’t take time, and now because I’m embarrassed to go back and tell her I ignored her suggestions. I’ve been living in the State of Denial. It borders on Wishful Thinking on one side, and Out of Sight, Out of Mind on the other.

  • Laura

    At the risk of being lost at the bottom of this… :)
    I would suggest that you not focus AT ALL on dieting, and instead focus on BEING HEALTHY. All diets end; but healthy living is what you want to achieve for permanent– so just go straight to your permanent goal. If you are living a healthy lifestyle, your body will adjust in a safe and sane way to a healthy weight and size. Putting that in a firmer (harsher?) way, the way you look and feel is the sum total of all the little decisions you make day after day. (Assuming, of course, that you are not actually sick, like hypothyroid or diabetic, etc.)
    You talk to everyone who made a big change in their weight, and they all have a clear reason why– but all the reasons are different! What I take that to mean is that you just have to get “enough” of the bad habits out and good habits in, and you’ll be fine. So… pick the easiest good habit to start, and the easiest bad habit to drop, and do them this week. Next week, keep up the first week’s good work, and pick another good habit to acquire and bad habit to drop. They don’t have to be big things– switch from whole milk to 2%, replace one soda with a glass of water per day, take the stairs one extra time per day, cut off the TV and go to bed not later than 10:00PM every day, and so on. (Lack of sleep is strongly linked with overweight and heart problems, by the way– I’d work on that one first, if I were you.)
    And reward yourself for meeting your goals– NOT with food, but be creative about non-food rewards. Flowers on your desk every Wednesday if you do a 10 minute walk on Monday and Tuesday. Good soaking bubble bath on Friday if you didn’t eat out for lunch this week. Whatever is a treat FOR YOU.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I’m beginning to think in these terms, mainly because of the comments here. This has made me think my focus is too negative — and on the wrong place.

      “I would suggest that you not focus AT ALL on dieting, and instead focus on BEING HEALTHY.”

  • http://bigmatsblog.wordpress.com/ Mathew

    You are definitely not alone. I’m only in my mid-thirties and I have the same sort of problems. Anymore I war with myself over whether or not I should have that third egg for breakfast or that second sandwich at lunch. The worst is when I’m watching TV or a movie at night. I’m not sure at what point in life I formed the notion that in order to watch a show or read a book I must also eat something. I suppose something to consider is that, while micromanaging your diet can make life feel like a prison so can the negative effects of less than stellar eating habits. The diminished energy reserves alone are reason enough to consider putting up with the dull misery that comes with not being “free as a bird” when it comes to choosing what you eat.


    Thanks for stopping by my blog and “liking” my post. It’s been less than two weeks since I started blogging and I’ve only made four entries. I didn’t expect to have hardly anyone visit my site, much less get the amount of traffic that I’ve seen or have a state representative like one of my posts. I find it encouraging. Perhaps I’m doing something right.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I dunno either.
      “I’m not sure at what point in life I formed the notion that in order to watch a show or read a book I must also eat something”

      You ARE doing something right. Your testimony is quite moving. Keep it up.

  • http://greenlightlady.wordpress.com Wendy Macdonald

    I usually stay away from any talk of diets. But I sure do recommend the good old stationary bike. I don’t have a weight issue, but I love the way I feel after a 20 minute ride on mine. It gives me an energy boost for the day. I read good books while I am on it and I don’t use it on my husband’s days off -so I get a break! No one sees me and I wear comfy workout stuff.

    I drink water during the day instead of juice. I love fruits and vegetables in their natural state. I only allow myself treats after supper. To deny treats completely, is setting oneself up for a tumble off the wagon!

    I hope you find a gentle and moderate solution. Fast fad diets can be dangerous. A slow loss is much better and will stay longer. Because I had eating disorders when I was in my teens & early twenties – I am very leery of diets. Do be careful! A gentle lifestyle change may be the best.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Wendy, these are things I can do. They don’t even scare me. I just realized as I’m typing this that on top of everything else I’ve said, diets intimidate me. As for your ideas; I even have a bike. My husband uses it.

  • http://planetgallery.wordpress.com/ May Jonson

    Rebecca, I’m one among many of your kind. For us, choosing a Diet Program which is effective is the main challenge. I’m on a diet called the Food Lovers Fat Loss Diet and it seems to be very effective for me. Please check Food Lovers Fat Loss System Reviews.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      May, I check the site, but I’m not sure how it works. Can you describe it in more detail?

  • http://paulinesthoughts.com Pauline

    The only way I’ve ever lost weight is through consistent exercise. Doctors recommend at the minimum 45 minutes three days a week.

    For your blood pressure, you will need to highly reduce your salt intake. They make low-salt potato chips by the way. Look for them. I forgot the brand. They don’t taste all that bad. They are the ones with two ingredients – only potatoes and salt.

    Walking is recommended constantly by a doctor for whom I do transcription. It helps strengthen your joints, is something you can continue to do as you age, and if you take a friend (my husband & I walk together) you will have great conversations. One lady lost a lot of weight by just cutting out all sweet drinks. She was pretty heavy.

    You need to drink water. Many times when you feel hungry, you are really dehydrated. Also, when you put more water in your system, it will curb your appetite a little – at least it works for me.

    If you lose 1-2 pounds a month, you will keep it off more consistently. It seems like a small amount, but you didn’t put all the weight on at the same time. Going way down at a time will make your body think you’re starving. Then it will quit losing weight.

    Besides in one year you can drop 24 pounds at 2 pounds a month. Make it a long-term goal – not a short one.

    I hope to see less of you (a weight loss joke) :^)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Walk and lose water. These are things I think I can do!
      I need to see a lot less of me! :-)

  • http://paulinesthoughts.com Pauline

    Forgot one important thing – when you first start exercising if you haven’t been doing it, only do 10 minutes a day and add 5-10 minutes a week. You are more likely to keep the changes going and not hurt yourself.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s true. Of course, over-doing has never been a big problem for me and exercise.

  • Madzi

    I can relate to the lack of sleep and I know that this is a big reason I’m tired and reach for food instead of getting on my recumbent bike or go for a walk. I know what I need to do and it’s apparent that so do you, Rebecca. What I’ve always known is that it isn’t “motivation” that’s missing. You and I HAVE motivation: our poor health due to overeating and lack of movement. What I’m missing is enthusiasm. With enthusiasm, I can move mountains, a pound at a time.
    Well…enthusiasm and the grace of God. Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll include us all in my prayers and in my daily Rosary. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll check back here to see how it’s going…and yes, I’m aware that this entry is a year old.