I spent the better part of my twenties on a diet, but more recently, I’ve just tried to focus on self-acceptance and I’ve stopped actively trying to lose weight. Over the years, I’ve tried more ways to drop pounds in more ways than I can count—here are some of the main strategies I’ve tried.
- Low carb, high fat I only lasted for a week on this diet because you can’t even have fruit! I lost about a pound a day but I’m pretty sure that was all water weight, which is what low carb diets do to you. I gained it all back the next week when I started eating carbs again, but I do kind of wish I had stuck with it. The problem with this diet is that if you have a cheat day (or even a cheat snack!), you knock yourself out of “ketosis” and then you have to start all over again. I’m told it usually takes around three days to drop the water weight and get back to burning fat, and those three days are the most miserable. You have the “keto flu” where you feel tired, grumpy, and just generally unwell. Everyone told me that after a few days, I wouldn’t even crave carbs. Maybe they didn’t walk by the same coffee shop I did on the way to work because those croissants still looked and smelled like heaven.
- Low fat, low carb I did this back in college for quite a while. In fact, it was one of the first diets I’ve ever tried. I lost quite a bit of weight on this one—about 13 pounds. That doesn’t seem like a lot but for someone who didn’t have much weight to lose, it was drastic. This one was easy in that there were never any times I felt like I had to go hungry because there was always something I could eat. However, it was pretty restrictive in the type of foods you could eat, and I would watch strangers eat pizza and feel hatred towards them. Why did they get to eat pizza? I wish I could go back and tell my college self that I really didn’t need to lose weight.
- Fat fast If that sounds crazy, it is. You basically eat only butter, cream cheese, and macadamia nuts for a few days. You can drink coffee and put butter in it. I lost weight, but again, I’m sure it was water weight. It was pretty miserable; I did this before a vacation so I thought if I could withstand the misery for a little while, I would have a better vacation. I’m pretty sure diets like these destroyed my metabolism but who knows? It honestly wasn’t worth it. Buying a size up in clothing is not the end of the world.
- Low fat This just plain didn’t work for me. I think I’m insulin-resistant and I need to lower my carbs in order to get healthy. Low fat was easy enough, though; you just buy all the same foods you like to eat in the low-fat version. I felt like I was still eating really unhealthy packaged foods, so that’s probably why it didn’t work.
- Gluten-free I lost a bunch of weight on this at first but I think it was because I didn’t know what to eat so I just didn’t eat. Once I discovered all the gluten-free recipes and menu options, I gained a lot of it back. There’s also the fact that I don’t have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, so there was literally zero reason for me to follow that diet.
- Excessive cardio Spending hours on the treadmill was just boring, but if I combined it with a reasonable diet, it did help me drop weight. However, what they say is true—you can’t out-train a bad diet. At least I couldn’t. After a few months of doing this, I joined the “I don’t run unless something is chasing me” club.
- IIFYM “If it fits your macros” is probably the most reasonable diet I’ve ever done. I felt like I was watching my portions, eating healthy food but not restricting whole food groups, and still leaving room for treats. The problem? I had to buy a food scale and weigh and measure every single thing I ate. Then I had to manually enter it into a macro-tracking app. Honestly, there were some days where I just wanted a glass of milk because it sounded good and felt annoyed that I had to measure out my milk and then enter it into my app. I did this diet for several weeks and eventually just sort of fell off with tracking and measuring. The weight loss was slow but steady, so I think this was pretty healthy. I guess I should go dust off my food scale.
- Weight lifting By far, this has been my favorite. It works, especially if combined with IIFYM. I didn’t actually lose a lot of weight but I gained muscle and my clothes fit better. It was really nice to focus on getting stronger and gaining muscle instead of the number on the scale. It also gave me a huge confidence boost and I got the best endorphin rush out of lifting heavy. In the end, I would say this is where I would like to keep my focus—less on the scale, more on my strength.