The past week or so, more than a few times, I’ve walked out of the house with an extremely light jacket — only to have to take it off two minutes into my walk. “What is this,” my arms seemed to say, “what it this warm light on our skin?” As much as we want to prepare ourselves for it, spring sneaks up on us every year. And somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the entire middle portion of our bodies went sort of…mushy. Just walking up a flight or two of stairs is a thought exercise in “Do I really even need to be in this building?” And it’s just not healthy. We need to collectively get back into shape — and into good health in general — before we’re all expected to strip down to bathing suits and look at each other.
But diets blow. It’s no secret. Especially the ones that have ridiculous terms and make it so you can only drink maple syrup, cayenne pepper, lemon, and whatever the hell else that stupid thing is when celebrities have a photo shoot coming up and need to go from “svelte” to “pointy.” No one can actually make those diets do any good for them, because the second you get done with them, you just stick your face directly into a chocolate cake and eat your way through to the table. No, we need diets that can stand the test of time, and acually bring us through to see results — and given my own personal experience with diets, and those of people around me, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the secret to success in a simple 3-phase process.
Phase 1: Eat like a dainty princess trying to impress somebody on a date.
This is the phase, lasting about 2-3 weeks, where you generally become more…peckish. You skip out on foods that you know are only going to cause you pain, and do not go within fewer than 500 feet of a Cheesecake Factory. When you do eat, you eat lighter, and make sure to get plenty of dark, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, and whole grains. You treat yourself occasionally, but don’t go overboard, and make sure to eat in small increments throughout the day so you never binge. You begin to feel lighter, more energetic, and notice your clothes are fitting a little better. The bloated, lethargic feeling you get sometimes at the end of a day in which you ate half your weight in sodium is a thing of the past. You even begin to notice that cravings for things like soda, chips, fast food, and entire tubs of Haagen Dazs begin to subside, leaving you briefly wondering why you ever really ate those things in the first place. Things are looking up, and you’re convinced of the fact that, with a little effort, you can do this.
Phase 2: The night that ends it all.
For one reason or another, the stars have aligned this night, and they have aligned against you. There is some occasion to celebrate with all your friends — an important one — and to not participate in all the evening’s festivities would make you a douche. So you have, in this order: A big dinner (with wine and cocktails, of course), going out to a bar afterwards, and likely ending the evening in a friend’s apartment. It’s like playing minesweeper with your progress, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. So you try to order light at dinner, but as the drinks keep flowing, you begin picking off of everyone else’s fried calamari, rosemary-and-garlic french fries, and barbecue pork. “Just a taste” of about forty different things, including your own dinner, probably amounts to a wheelbarrow-sized portion of fried food at the end. So after your dinner (and about 4 glasses of wine, which is not made out of crushed up diet pills, it should be said), you move onto the bar. Now, a little tipsy, you manage to convince yourself that you’ll “dance it off” and go for about 5 cocktails that are absolutely delicious, but are made with about 50 packets’ worth of pure sugar. So much for the “vodka and soda with a lemon wedge” you’d promised yourself. And stumbling out on the way to the friend’s apartment, of course, you’re hungry again! Duh. Don’t worry, it’s nothing a couple cheesy gordita crunches, or a Jumbo Slice couldn’t fix. And 1,000 unnecessary calories later, you’re back sipping rum and pineapple’s in someone’s living room. So much for keeping things light.
Of course, the next morning, you’ll have a hangover that can only be cured by a brunch that could feed 5 graveyard-shift lumberjacks. Naturally.
Phase 3: Well, I’ve already ruined it, who even cares at this point?
All that good karma and hope that you built up in phase 1 has been thrown out the window by a weekend of caloric debauchery. Now that you’ve already gained yourself at least a pound in rum and cokes alone, you should probably just forget this whole diet thing for a while. It’s hard anyway, and that jar of Nutella is going to spoil if you don’t eat it, and your mother didn’t raise a wasteful child. Plus, if you think about it, people should really just accept you for who you are — and if who you are gets winded flipping through a magazine, they’re just gonna have to deal with it. You’ll gradually start picking back up old habits, though perhaps with just a touch more self-awareness and restraint left over from phase 1, and you’ll end up, come swimsuit season, in just about the exact same 5-pound range you started in. And yeah, I suppose it could be considered a shame, but let’s be real — summer is the season where you can freely eat ice cream as you walk down the street, and you don’t want to miss that for anything.