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."
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.
"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."
Sheila wants to lose 20 pounds. But she's always snacking on the junk food she keeps around the house for her kids. "If it's salty, I'll eat it," Sheila says. It also doesn't help that her husband and kids want only burgers, pork chops, fried chicken, and pasta with cheese sauce for dinner, and refuse to even try vegetables. "My goal isn't just to fit into my 'skinny' jeans," Sheila says. "I'd also like to develop better eating habits."
Yikes, this family's diet is in need of an overhaul! "Sheila says that the kids won't eat vegetables. Well, she's the adult, she's in charge, and she needs to make changes, starting with serving some sort of vegetable at every dinner," Bauer says. "Even if her kids turn up their noses, she needs to try again the next night." Sheila should also limit the amount of starches on the table. Bauer recommends making only enough so that each person gets one serving. If they're still hungry once that's gone, they'll be more likely to try the vegetable.
Get the snack food out of the house! "Sheila needs to stop buying chips that are loaded in salt," Bauer says. "Her kids certainly don't need to be eating all this junk-and once it's gone she won't be tempted to binge on it." She can make snacktime healthier for everyone by stocking the kitchen with soy chips, light microwave popcorn, rice cakes with peanut butter, edamame (soybeans), and baby carrots to dip in salsa.
Although she won't weigh herself, Sheila says her clothes are definitely looser. That's not all: She's started walking with the stroller for an hour every day while her older kids are at school, and she's joined a gym. She's also stuck to her guns about changing her family's eating habits. To her surprise, her children have become fans of their healthier snack options, and they've come to expect greens on the dinner table. "Not only do I always put out a plate of vegetables-but my kids will actually take a bite or two!" she says.
Rachel has a demanding job as an attorney and spends all of her free time with her toddler, so her nutritional needs are a low priority. "I rarely eat breakfast, lunch is hit-and-miss, and our family dinner is usually Chinese or Mexican take-out," she explains.
What good are you to your family if you're always hungry and low on energy? "You have to put yourself and your needs first when it comes to food," Bauer says. "Eating a well-balanced diet will give you the fuel you need to care for your child and do your job-and it will boost your immunity." Those aren't the only reasons Rachel needs to be selfish when it comes to mealtimes. "She needs to set a better example for her daughter," Bauer says.
"I used to hit a wall in the late mornings and the midafternoon when I'd feel sluggish and tired," Rachel says. "Just eating more and drinking lots of water made me feel so much better." And she's found ways to sneak in meals even when she's tied to her desk at work. "I keep instant oatmeal on hand and make it with skim milk," she explains.
Copyright © 2005. Reprinted with permission from the April 2005 issue of Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.