Before she became a mother, Zaimah was a healthy eater. But two kids later, she found herself in a diet disaster zone. "I was trying to lose the rest of my pregnancy weight and got swept up in the whole low-carb diet craze," she explains. "I'd devour bacon and eggs for a few days, then start feeling deprived and scarf down a whole box of cookies. That left me a bloated, cranky mess." In fact, Zaimah still won't eat certain carbs—like bread, fruits, and starchy vegetables—because she's convinced they're bad for her. "But I'm willing to start eating them again if it'll help me lose those extra five pounds."The Real Diet Dirt
It's true: A low-carb diet can help you lose pounds. But&-and this is a big but-it will only work if you are 100 percent committed. "Once you start sneaking carbs you defeat the entire purpose of the diet," says nutritionist Joy Bauer, R.D., author of Cooking With Joy. "That's why most people who try low-carb diets eventually fail-these plans are just too restrictive to maintain." Even worse, dieters usually do exactly what Zaimah did: Break down and binge eat.Her Eat-Right Action Plan
- Choose the right carbs. First and foremost, Zaimah needs to reintroduce fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into her diet. Not only do they help stabilize blood-sugar levels-which in turn will give her energy levels a big boost-but they're lower in calories and are loaded with fiber, which will help her feel fuller longer.
- Pick better sources of protein. "When I saw how much fat was in Zaimah's diet, I almost fainted," Bauer says. "She'd have eggs and bacon for breakfast, sausage for lunch, and a burger for dinner." Bauer was also distressed to learn that Zaimah's father suffered from kidney failure. "High-fat and protein diets can increase your risk of kidney problems. She should not be eating like this considering her family history!" Bauer's advice: Zaimah needs to limit her red-meat intake to once a week and stick to leaner sources of protein. Some good choices include turkey or soy sausage, low-fat turkey baloney, and fish.
- Don't deprive yourself. Here's the bad thing about dieting: The more you deny yourself the foods you love, the more you're going to crave them. And when you do give in, you're more likely to scarf down two or three times the amount you normally would. "Allow yourself one small indulgence every day, but try to keep it between 100 to 250 calories," Bauer suggests. "In the long run, it won't make or break a diet."
- Embrace a little fat. Fat can make up 25 to 30 percent of your diet, but it has to be the right kind. Zaimah needs to limit saturated fats—found in red meat and whole-fat dairy products—since they're linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Instead, she should opt for the monosaturated fats in olive oil, avocados, and nuts, and the omega-three fatty acids in canola oil and fish like tuna and salmon, which have been shown to keep the heart and blood vessels healthy.
"I'm in shock—I lost five pounds!" exclaims Zaimah. "Eating the right kinds of carbs-and cutting back on all that meat-really made a difference!" That's not all: In just a few days she noticed that she wasn't as tired and that she even had enough energy to start jogging. Zaimah also discovered that she liked many of the healthier foods Bauer recommended, including salmon, egg-white vegetable omelets, and almonds. Finally-and most important-she stopped bingeing on entire boxes of cookies. "If I really want a few french fries, I'll eat them. I now know that there are healthier ways to lose weight than by completely depriving myself."