The index card diet — the final chapter

Editor’s note: this column is the conclusion to a multi-part series on diet

A few weeks ago, I told you about the book “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated” written by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack. “The Index Card” claims that the best financial advice for most people would fit on an Index Card. “If you’re paying for someone for [financial] advice,” Pollack said, ” … you’re probably getting the wrong advice because the correct advice is so straightforward.” I decided to create an index card that would rely on the same principles as those of Olen and Pollack–advice that is simple and short–yet, advice that would fit most, almost all people who are interested in losing weight.

By now, I have reviewed, analyzed, and described most diets, both fad and fashionable and time-proven. And I have touched on the attitudes and habits that were scientifically proven as most beneficial to aspiring dieters. So, It’s time. Let’s see if I can do it!

The index card diet:

1. Consult your health care provider and select a diet program that would fit your health status, set of values, lifestyle, and personality; and to which you can adhere for longer than three months and preferably for the rest of your life.

2. Set a realistic target weight (do not aim to lose more than 10% of your current weight) and write it down. Once you have reached your goal, you can set a new target.

3. Set a daily caloric intake goal and write it down. To estimate the number of calories your body needs in order to maintain its current weight, consult your health care provider or use an online calorie calculator. To lose weight, it’s typically advisable to be in a deficit of 500 calories a day below that number (a goal that can be reached by limiting your caloric intake and/or by increasing your physical activity).

4. Keep to your meal routine by eating roughly at the same time each day.

5. Caution with your portions: look at packaged food labels, measure your portions using a scale, measuring cups, or biometric size-comparisons such as the palm of your hand. If it comes in a bucket (pop-corn at the movie theater, deep fried chicken at KFC), don’t eat it!

6. Keep a food diary; document what you have eaten using a pen-and-paper diary, or a dedicated app on your smart phone.

7. Choose healthy, low-calorie food items: avoid processed meat, butter, fried food; choose fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fat and oils from plants (olive oil, nuts, oily fish); keep low-calorie snacks accessible.

8. Focus on your food (avoid watching TV, being on the go, or working while eating).

9. Sit less and move more. Aim at at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. Walking is highly recommended.

10. Eat the half: when eating out, ask for less cheese and dressing on the side; choose grilled and broiled over breaded, deep-fried items; eat only half portions (take the rest home in a to-go box).

11. Weigh yourself at least weekly and record the results. Ignore daily fluctuations in your weight. Consider only long-term trends.

12. Remember: It takes several weeks to develop new habits! When you reach a road block, remind yourself of past successes, and remind yourself that you can get back on track. Be compassionate, kind, and accepting toward yourself.

The good news is: I managed to squeeze it all on an index card! If you want a copy of it, please email me at smadjar@yahoo.com and I will send you a copy.

And a few more words about what it means to persevere in any human endeavor and that includes dieting. I read the following in a book of essays by Alexander Chee, a writer and an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College. In the book, Chee describes a conversation he had with the writer Frank Conroy. Chee, who was then a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop told Conroy, the director of the program at the time, how proud he was being featured in Interview magazine as an emerging poet. To which Conroy responded: “You succeed, you celebrate, you stop writing. You don’t succeed, you despair, you stop writing. Just keep writing. Don’t let your success or failure stop you. Just keep writing.”

I feel that the same advice applies to dieting (and to any other human endeavor). To be successful, one should stick to the program, develop some grit, and persevere. This doesn’t mean following a diet program blindly, or without regards to the results. If unsuccessful, a dieter should look for opportunities to adjust their program and to improve on it. This doesn’t mean treating yourself unkindly or dwelling on negative emotions at times of failure. Instead, successful dieters adapt, form good habits, seek and then stick to a program that works for them, and treats themselves with compassion, kindness, and acceptance.

Dr. Madjar is a physician who specializes in urology


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