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A year ago, I began a diet that called for eliminating carbs and fats for two weeks, while eating large amounts of lean meat and vegetables plus a small amount of low-fat dairy products. Gradually, I added small amounts of fruits and carbs, while reducing the protein. It worked. I was never hungry, and I lost about three pounds a week at the beginning, 20 pounds in three months. And, as promised, I lost belly fat. I was back to where I had been 10 years ago.

I developed good habits. I learned to plan and shop for my week’s meals in advance. I maintained my weight even during the Holidays…and I grew complacent. I stepped on the scales when I returned home Sunday after 24 days with a group in Europe. Despite all the walking and stair-climbing, I had gained five pounds.

shrimp saladSo I’m back at the beginning of my diet, the phase where I eliminate carbs and fats until I get the five pounds off. It’s as hard an adjustment—with headaches and sleeplessness—as it was a year ago. I expect to be successful. After two days, I have lost three of those pounds, and I think I have learned something: After gaining weight during the Holidays or vacation, I can’t simply go back to “normal” eating and exercise and expect to lose weight. Otherwise, I simply maintain my new weight until next year’s Holidays and vacation, when I add another five pounds.

On the long flight home from Budapest, I read Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. Duckworth describes the interest, practice, purpose and hope necessary for “growing grit from the inside out.” Chapter 7, on practice, outlined what I needed to do, “not just more time on task, but also better time on task.” Practice makes perfect, but not just any kind of practice: deliberate practice. I need specific, challenging goals and I need to keep records. I need to concentrate.

eggs with veggiesThat’s why previous diets did not work. They were more wishful thinking than serious goal-setting and planning. Keeping a journal of everything I ate, reporting to the supervising nurse every two weeks, receiving feedback and suggestions for improvement (and paying for the privilege) forced me to pay attention to what I put in my mouth.

This time round, I think I can do it on my own. I acquired the knowledge and skills last year to make the right choices—choices like shrimp salad and scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers and onion. I have dusted off my diet handbook and printed copies of my weekly food journal. Now I simply need will power and perseverance.