The mere suggestion of dieting is usually enough to warrant a sigh and an eye-roll from my direction. As a 25-year-old, I had essentially stopped believing in dieting. By 24 I’d tried most of the popular diet and exercise routines; in fact, the copy of P90X sitting in my closet still gives me nightmares. I was tired of losing weight only to gain all of it back — and then some. I’d started to buy into the fact that my body was just wasn’t meant to be thin, but then I heard of the substitution diet.
It seemed pretty simple: take the things I already eat and then swap them for things that are similar, but more nutritionally sound. Tenuously, I dipped my toe back into the frigid waters of dieting. I started small by replacing my beloved Dr. Pepper with sparkling water. Diet sodas are notorious for making it more difficult to actually lose weight, so I couldn’t substitute the regular soda with that, but ice-cold sparkling water still satisfied the craving for something bubbly. Within two weeks, I’d lost about 5 pounds just from the simple swap.
Boldly, I started substituting more and more items. Instead of sour cream, I’d have plain yogurt. The taste isn’t too far off, and actually I prefer yogurt on my baked potato to the old sour cream standby. Instead of iceberg lettuce, that has next to zero nutritional value, I’d eat romaine or baby spinach. Instead of ground beef, I started using lean ground turkey for burgers, tacos, or spaghetti sauce. I can’t taste the difference and neither can my mother who is an incredibly picky eater. Within a month, using these few simple substitutions, I lost 20 pounds and lost 3-4 dress sizes, depending on the brand.
Still feeling satisfied, I started getting even crazier with the substitutions. I started using spaghetti squash instead of noodles when craving pasta, using whole wheat naan on sandwiches, and ordering sweet potato fries instead of regular, and before I knew it I had lost another 10 pounds. Within two months I lost 30 pounds and didn’t crave anything, because I was not denying myself anything I would normally eat. I also started to feel better almost instantaneously, and I noticed that I needed less coffee to get through my long work days. I was also getting sick less often. With no exercise, I became healthier and a better employee.