It’s so hard to find a diet you can stick to, much less live with, for long enough to see real changes in your waistline. Like most of us, I’ve been looking for that diet for most of my adult life, because I love food.
Believe me when I tell you – as a chef, caterer, and a lifelong student of nutrition, I really love food. And I don’t believe you have to sacrifice flavor or satisfaction while cutting calories.
When I heard of the “Zig-zag” diet weightlifters used, I was intrigued. Here’s a diet in which you aren’t stuck with the same 1200 calories every day for months on end. Instead, you vary your caloric and carbohydrate intake, which not only boosts your metabolism and avoids those resolve-shattering plateaus, it gives you more room in your diet to eat the variety of foods you need to maintain a healthy body. You can even enjoy dessert now and then. Now that’s a diet I can live with.
Weight lifters use “Zig-zagging” to build more muscle while losing fat at the same time. But any dieter can use the same principles to jump start her own metabolism to keep losing weight. Not only will Zig-zagging keep your metabolism moving, you’ll feel healthier, stronger, and have more energy than you would if you stuck to the same low-calorie diet plan.
The next time you hit a weight loss plateau, try this: Eat low calories for two to three days, then high calories for two to five days. Then return to your low calorie diet. On the high days, increase your fat intake and complex carbs – whole grain pasta, fruits, beans, and starchy vegetables. On the low days, stay away from starchy carbs and return to lean proteins and greens.
For example, if your normal diet calorie count is 1200, increase that to 1400 on the high days, and decrease to 1100 on the low days – then try experimenting with more cardio with higher calorie counts on the high days. But be warned: Do not extend the low calorie days past three – your body will go into starvation mode, making weight loss more difficult.
The Zig-zag diet is heavily dependent on exercise, especially cardio, because it’s not just food that affects your metabolism, it’s your activity level. Daily cardio workouts are critical, or those high calorie days will make you gain weight. You’ve got energy to burn – use it!
My favorite part about this diet plan is that it takes away the guilt of going out to eat with my friends once in a while. A couple of restaurant splurges during the high days doesn’t hurt my diet at all – as long as I maintain my cardio workouts and switch back to the low calorie part of the cycle later.
However, don’t let this become an excuse to eat unhealthy foods – it’s not carte blanche for donuts! In order to look better, feel better, and live better, keep eating whole foods and good fats.
Linda Baldwin, is a Credentialed Diet & Nutrition Expert and a Professional Catering Executive (CPCE) whose skills have been honed by 25 years in the catering, restaurant, and event production industry. She is know as local foodie, ultra healthy prepared foods specialist, educator – columnist and creator of Amore and Amore To-Go a lifestyle company, based in South Tampa since 2006. She leads a team of professionals that include chefs, and educators in the field of health and wellness.