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For the longest time, I didn't really have a problem with my weight.

Growing up, my parents always made sure I ate right but didn't obsess about it, so that was good. I was a naturally active kid and teenager, playing softball and soccer almost year-round. The fact that I was involved in sports probably helped me keep out of the same up-down, weight-gain/weight-loss problems that my less-active girlfriends endured during the same time period.

Then came college, and the freshman fifteen came along and refused to leave.

I didn't notice at the time, sort of, because I was so busy. College is like that, I guess. You've got so much going on that you don't have time to eat right, you've got different priorities and different activities that keep you from getting in the exercise you need, and you gain weight. Stress didn't help, either, because I gained and lost a boyfriend during the freshman year, couldn't find a decent job for the longest time, and just was too drained to care about what I ate.

I gained that fifteen pounds the first year and another fifteen pounds or so over the next three years, so you could say I kind of had the overall appearance of a bloated tick by the time I graduated. By my senior year, I had developed such bad habits that I didn't even think about it anymore - I just bought bigger clothes and moved on with my life.

Getting fat doesn't happen overnight. You don't go to sleep and wake up the next day unable to fit into your pants. Gaining weight, at least for me, was a slow, annoying process that just kind of settled in like winter.

I spent a year after graduation saying that I'd do something about the thirty extra pounds I had put on. While I got a job that I liked, an apartment I could live with and a cat that I loved, I didn't do anything about the college weight I graduated with.

My weight problem and my general unhappiness about it was all in the back of my mind until I went home to see some friends from high school that I hadn't seen in a while. Long story short, I came home depressed because I knew I was fat, it had been thrown pretty much in my face by relatives, and I pretty much had the worst vacation ever as a result.

Once home, I started to read up a bit on dieting in general and what people were doing now that worked for them. Atkins wouldn't work because I couldn't stand all that meat. Low carb looked interesting, but I didn't know if I'd be able to stick to it. I looked around and saw that there were a few diets that people said worked, but they involved either too much prep time for the meals or they encouraged you to drink shots of olive oil, which is just weird.

A friend of mine at work noticed my sudden interest in dieting and told me that a friend of hers was using Acai berry pills. Her friend who had tried them had said that they had worked for her, for a little while at least. This girl had lost five pounds or so, said my friend, so she encouraged me to give Acai berry pills a try.

Have you noticed that it's not hard to find Acai berry pushers nowadays? While I was looking around, I noticed that too. Even Oprah came out and recommended Acai - which I found interesting because now she's apparently "fat Oprah" again. Still, I forked over my $20 and bought my pills.

So I tried Acai berry, I followed the instructions for Acai berry to the letter, and after 2 months of taking Acai berry, I failed to see, feel or measure any change from taking Acai berry pills.

In short, Acai berry sucks - a statement with which I'm sure Oprah would agree.

I kind of kick myself now for trying to go with the "quick fix" solution, which just about any dietitian will tell you won't work. While my dad isn't a dietitian, he does read a lot, and he's a pretty smart guy. He didn't kick me, either, when I talked to him on the phone and told him about my stupid little experience with Acai berry. He just laughed and said that he was going to send me something that would help me with my little weight problem.

A few days later I got a letter from my dad. In that letter was a Costco membership card and a list of foods that were considered to be part of a Volumetrics diet, all of which can be bought at Costco.

From what my dad wrote down for me, the Volumetrics diet consists of eating lots of vegetables, lots of fruit and lots of other low-energy-density foods. The idea behind volumetric eating is that you can eat basically as much as you want and feel full, by making the right choices about food.

Because I had tentatively tried "starvation diets" a while ago, I knew I didn't have the willpower to do that again. I need to eat, and if I don't eat regularly, I binge and eat stuff that's really, really bad for me. The idea of not being hungry seemed like a good one. Call me crazy.

So I took the Costco membership card and the food list with me to Costco. I bought:

  1. A bag of celery
  2. A bag of apples
  3. A bag of pears
  4. A plastic thing of strawberries
  5. A plastic thing of blueberries
  6. A plastic thing of raspberries
  7. A bag of frozen broccoli
  8. A thing of Oatmeal
  9. A box of Splenda
  10. A box of low-fat yogurt cartons

The total bill came to around 60 bucks I think, if I remember right. The total might have been $70 though. Either way, it wasn't much.

I followed my dad's directions. Every morning, I'd make either a bowl of oatmeal and fill it with berries, or just have a bowl of berries. Sometimes (usually) I'd put a packet or two of Splenda on it. Either way, it was really good, and really filling, and kept me feeling good until lunch.

For lunch, I'd have like 4 celery sticks plus an apple or a pear that I had cut up at home. Sometimes I'd have two apples or two pears, depending on how hungry I was. Usually, though, the celery and the one piece of fruit were enough. I kept the food in a little cooler that I had, because I can't stand warm fruit.

For an afternoon snack, I'd have one of the yogurts, plus some berries or an apple.

For dinner, I'd have whatever I wanted. Seriously! The only catch was that I'd eat some carrots, some celery and a few berries before dinner. When I finished with the appetizer, I wasn't all that hungry when the main course arrived, and as a result I ate less.

I didn't start to exercise, or take a pill, or do anything else. I just ate from the food list and what I had bought from Costco.

I had been on the Volumetrics diet for about a week before I noticed that I had lost weight. My clothes fit better, and I got excited and ate more celery.

After another week, I lost 8 pounds.

After another week, I lost another pant size and a total of 13 pounds.

I can't tell you enough about how much better I felt as the month came to an end. I had lost crazy weight, like I'd had gone through a bout with malaria or something, but I felt great! Everyone noticed, and just about everyone said something that made me feel even better. I treated myself to some shopping and bought clothes in sizes I hadn't even bothered to check out the prices on since high school.

It's been a few months since then, and maintaining the weight loss hasn't been a problem, thank god. I was worried about it at first, but I found that after a few weeks of eating right and eating stuff that I actually liked, it had become a habit. I find myself craving berries now, wanting to try out new salads and other fruits and vegetables.

I hit a weight-loss plateau once I'd lost 21 pounds. My doctor said that it was because I'd settled in at my ideal weight. Although I'm not the same weight I was back in high school, I can live with that. After switching to the Volumetrics diet, I look so much better than I did after college, and I feel about a billion times better - and I don't have to take a stupid pill.

Notes:
  1. Celery is the sixth-best-selling vegetable in the United States. It takes more calories to process celery than celery provides, making it a perfect Volumetric food. Celery is also good for calming nerves, flushing fat out of your system and encouraging the production of dopamine, which helps you sleep better.
  2. Apples are a low-glycemic, low insulin food that contain pectin, which helps leave you feeling full longer. Apples help prevent hunger pangs by preventing swings or drops in your daily blood sugar levels. Apples average about 85 calories, lower blood pressure and blood sugar. They also contain a lot of fiber, which is good for your heart.
  3. Oatmeal helps control cholesterol and expands in the body, making you feel fuller, longer. Oatmeal also, it is digested, slowly releases glucose into your blood stream, helping control blood sugar levels.

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