I have spent most of my life trying quick-fix diets, experimenting with cleanses and eating frozen diet meals that I didn’t like. While I knew that changing my eating habits was the key to sustained weight loss and improved health; I had no strategy for doing so.  Now I do; and I am happy that I can share my story with you.

A Sad Story with a Happy Ending

My name is Neil Kamau Crawford. I am passionate about offering common sense healthy eating advice. I created Diets are Lame! – 5 Rules for Healthy Living to combat the avalanche of overly complicated, conflicting and often unnecessary diet advice. Together, I hope that we can laugh a lot, learn a little and rediscover just how simple healthy eating is.

Before I begin, let’s make one thing clear.  I cannot even spell registered dietitian or nutritionist, and my professional interests are in finance and economics.

This means that I have not drunk the Kool-aid of nutrition science and I don’t have a financial incentive to sell you a fad-diet program.  All I want to do is help you improve your life by sharing some common sense tips and reinforce the simple truths of healthy eating.  And if one day somebody wants to buy this blog for a million dollars – well I will take that too (just sayin)

Trust me, with all the negative forces against us, I need your help in my healthy eating journey, just as much as you might need mine. So please use this blog as your soapbox to share your stories, advice, recipes and most importantly any common sense tips that will help us become healthier together.

It took nearly ten years of weight gain, poor health and Yo-yo dieting before I stumbled into the light and created the 5 Rules for Healthy Living.

My lowest point came while living in London. Like many people living abroad, I spent much of the year squirreling away money for a New York City vacation shopping spree. I remember like it was yesterday. After a long flight, I touched down in the Big Apple, met my younger brother and headed to my favorite boutique shop.

Because I had not shopped in years, I began by selecting outfits which would have fit perfectly; three or four years before. With each new pair of jeans, however, I found myself doing that two-legged halfway twist in front of the dressing room mirror (afraid to come out and show my brother).

In no time, a pile of jeans cluttered my changing room; one size larger than the next. (Yes ladies, men cry in dressing rooms as well). Most upsetting was the frustrated sales clerk’s comment after returning an extra-large T-shirt that was too small,

“Sir, you are kinda big.”

 His facial expression was even worse. He looked at me with such pity. It was surreal, almost like a “fat-guy intervention”. He seemed to recognize my denial. It was as if I had viewed myself through one of those amusement park skinny mirrors, not realizing just how overweight I had become.

His look told me, without saying a word: “Mr., your familiarity with our floor layout and products show that you have shopped with us before … I truly wish that I could help you, but we don’t have anything for your kind… Try Mike’s Big & Tall department store next door.”

His comment hit me like a lightning bolt. What do you mean, I’m kinda big? What happened? How did I let myself go? I always worked out, so how did I manage to gain nearly 60 lbs since high school?

After that humiliating experience, as soon as I got home, I told my wife Eden that I was determined to lose the weight.

I began to spend hours in the gym. I even became a run fanatic (a passion that I still hold today). But despite swimming, running marathons and triathlon training, I still could not lose over 10 lbs at any particular time. Also, I always gained the weight back immediately after lowering my exercise routine.

After my seventh marathon, it became abundantly clear that exercise alone was not enough to lose weight and stay healthy (boy I miss my 20’s!!).

Ironically, my intense exercise regimen gave me a false sense of security. I thought I was fit, but I still suffered from fatigue, wore size 40 inch jeans and had a BMI of over 30; this all meant that I was clinically obese (for some reason, it makes me feel better to qualify my obesity with the word “clinical”).

Out of sheer frustration, I embarked on an endeavor that millions of Americans are all too familiar with…

“The Diet.”

During the next few years, I tried every diet plan under the sun. Here are snippets from just a few:

First, there was the online Weight Watchers program. In theory Weight Watchers works well. With support from friends, drastically cut your caloric intake while exercising will always result in weight loss. So following a detailed guide to do so should have been easy; Right? Wrong!

I still remember, checking the website for Weight Watchers calorie points and exclusively buying the Weight Watchers products for lunch and dinner. I experienced early success. I managed to lose a few pounds in the first few weeks. I was feeling good about myself.

Within a few months however, I began to realize some major problems. First my food bill had increased substantially. This was due mainly to buying premium Weight Watchers products (lovely business model). Also, the variety of whole-foods that I should have been eating were difficult to fit into the Weight Watchers calorie formulas. Finally, I had neither the time nor the energy to count the calories of every single morsel I ate and drank. Most importantly, I didn’t realize it, but my poor relationship with food had not improved. I was simply trying to follow a calorie counting program that I didn’t believe in.

In retrospect, I realize that I didn’t know a single healthy person that used Weight Watchers. Think about that for a second. I was trying to eat foods to get healthy that no other healthy people around me were eating (except Jennifer Hudson of course).

Needless to say, after the first month, Weight Watchers was gone. All the while Eden, my wife, watched and laughed.

My next grand idea was the Master Cleanse Lemonade diet (made famous by the unsubstantiated endorsement of R&B singer, Beyoncé Knowles).

I started on New Year’s Day 2005. I thought that if I managed to lose 10 or 15 pounds in 10 days then that would give me the boost that I needed to continue to lose the weight. Also a good detox never hurt. If it was good enough for Beyoncé; surely it was good enough for me; Right? Wrong!

I followed the instructions to the letter. After ten days, I lost 12 lbs. It is pretty predictable that if you only drink hot lemon tea for 10 days you will lose weight. What should have also been as clear was that I would gain the weight back immediately after the diet was over. Why was it not clear to me that unless you are planning for a video shoot or a wedding in the next 10 days the Beyoncé Master Cleanse Lemonade diet was silly?

Also, during the process I had absolutely no energy. After work, all that I could manage to do was go to sleep. Going to the gym was out of the question. The Master Cleanse Lemonade diet was gone! All the while Eden was watching and laughing.

Next I tried Herbalife. Herbalife offers an array of liquid diet products within a billion-dollar industry of meal replacement products. My cousin, who sold the products on commission, introduced me to Herbalife (they always sell to family first).

News flash! If you replace a meal with a low-calorie shake you will lose weight. Heck, if you replace a meal with a milk shake you will probably lose weight.

The problem is that replacing a meal with anything other than another sensible meal is unsustainable, impractical and in many cases, unhealthy. It did not take long for me to become noticeably hungry, irritable and frustrated. Needless to say, Herbalife was gone! All the while Eden was watching and laughing.

My most sound diet plan was the eight ounces every three hours diet. This diet was a small step in the right direction because it did at least address the problem of over-sized portions; which is one of the biggest issues in America’s obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, that is the only issue that the diet addressed. Moreover, it mis-characterizes eight ounces as an unusually small portion size. Together, we will discover what actually is a sensible size for a meal.

Before the eight ounces diet however, I had never really thought about proper portion sizes. That probably sounds weird considering that I had already tried Weight Watchers; which has very firm calorie restrictions. I guess, the best way to understand my mentality back then is to compare it to a struggling math student who knows how to use an equation to solve a complicated math problem, but doesn’t understand the underlying concept or real world application. Simply put, to me, the maximum daily calorie allotment was an seemingly arbitrary food punishment designed to rehabilitate fat people.

While the eight ounce diet had its merits, it failed to offer a strategy for eating smaller portions. Even though I ate every three hours, I was still hungry between meals. And as you will learn later…Hunger, like a stiff shot of Jack Daniels to the recovering alcoholic, will derail any diet plan.

I know now that my insatiable hunger was due less to the size of my meals and more to their lack of nutritional quality. With the eight ounce diet gone, Eden was still watching and laughing.

A few honorable mentions are the South Beach diet, the Raw Foods diet, the Atkins diet, the Meatless Mondays Diet, The Fasting Diet and my personal favorite; the Half-way diet. The Half-way diet was my personal favorite because I invented it! I am sure that many of you have invented a few of your own diets during your quest to lose weight.

The Half-way diet instructions were simple. After making your normal over-sized portion; leave half of it in the kitchen. If you were still hungry after eating the first half; eat the second. More than likely you will realize that you didn’t need the second portion.

Looking back, this was one of many unsuccessful attempts to deal with my poor relationship with food. I still have fond memories of the Half-way diet, but just like the other diets, this fad was soon gone! And yes, all the while Eden was watching and laughing.

While different in approach, these diets (and most diets for that matter) share a common flaw which makes them nearly impossible to follow.

To lose weight, they ask the person who already has a poor relationship with food to drastically and unsustainable cut their caloric intake while increasing fitness.

Does this result is weight loss? Sure. But is it a realistic approach for the long run? No.

In terms of providing the tools for long-term success, low-calorie diets are as effective as driving 100 mph to make it to a meeting on-time. Sure, driving 100 mph will get you to your destination faster, but it is not sustainable or safe. And even if you owned a sports car which could comfortably go 100 mph on a controlled track, can it maintain that speed while encountering the obstacles of the real world? Of course not.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to prepare the night before, and leave a few minutes early? Of course.  This is what the 5 Rules for Healthy Living is all about.

So it took an endless amount of diet failures and disappointments (with Eden watching and laughing) for me to realize that I needed to ditch all the complicated diet advice and go back to basics.

Within a year of doing so, I managed to lose 40 lbs and get into the best shape of my life without the help of any of these “diets”.

Stay tuned to this blog to learn how the 5 Rules for Healthy Living helped me lose weight, stay fit and feel better than I have in years.

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and cannot even spell nutritionist or dietitian, which in my opinion makes me overly qualified to share common sense healthy eating tips. However this blog is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor for specific medical advice.