Diets, Exercise, and Other Malarkey! What Works and What Doesn't

Since thoughts of self-improvement herald the coming of a new year, I thought I'd take a moment and reflect on what has worked and what has definitely NOT worked for me in the world of diet and exercise, to which I am no stranger.

Street Cred

Every since I was in about second grade I've had body image issues. I remember wearing "pretty plus" jeans at one point, after I finally kicked the leggings to the curb. I was an average, active, normal kid. My genetics gifted me a strong, sturdy build (which turned out to be great for an outdoorsy career and lifestyle) but when you're built like an ox as a tween, you're a little insecure. I tried diets, I lived on caffeine and nicotine for a while in college. I have trained for a rigorous career as a wildland firefighter. I have birthed babies and I've watched for nearly thirty years as my body changed and morphed with each diet or physical exercise regime I tried. I'd love to share with you what has and has NOT worked for me in all that time. (Keep in mind, we're all different. What works for me might be just awful for you. I'm hoping this will help someone out there like me!)

What Worked


Everyone is different, but for me, consistently running about 1.5 miles each day (for a total of about 4 days each week, with stationary biking, kayaking, or hiking taking up the slack) was an absolute guarantee to weight loss AND better physique/physical fitness. This was by far the healthiest weight loss plan that I have ever committed to. (To be fair, this was before I had a husband or kids - I could devote one hour of my day, everyday, to fitness, showering, etc.) 


Nutrisystem has worked for me on TWO occasions now. It totally shrinks your appetite over time and teaches you portion control with pre-packaged, easy-to-use meals. The downside? It's expensive and I was often hungry. The upside? It's a great way to lose the initial weight in a few months to kick-start your exercise! For me, losing 20 lbs. is just what I need to want to get up to the gym or go for a run to keep the self-improvement going! Worth the money and the hunger pangs. (And, to be fair, I was overeating like crazy before starting the program the second time!)

Daily Physical Exertion

I once worked as a firefighter. Then as a biologist. And as a trails maintenance worker in the mountains. Every single time I have a physical job, I am in shape. So, if you plan most of your day around fitness and DOING -- it's going to show. On the other hand, as a sedentary dispatcher, connected to the radio console for sometimes 16 hours a day, I've seen my middle expand! In order for this to work, I needed about 8-10 hours of hiking and being active 5 days/week. I didn't have to be at peak performance for 8 hours, but I did have to be active most of the day.

More Fiber and Greens

It's true. Eating more of what is good for you fills you up. This fuels your body and leaves less room (or want) for all the junk. That's it! 

What Did NOT Work


While I'm not saying that the "Walking Works" campaign is wrong and I DO think that someone who is 100% sedentary will see great results from getting up and going -- walking did not work for ME. I needed a little more high octane physical work to shed pounds. I do think though on the days that you cannot muster up the energy or drive to run or go to the gym or trainer -- whatever you do -- a walk is the bare minimum that should be done! Walking certainly helps and it makes you FEEL better getting some fresh air and a little exercise!

Points Systems

I tried some points systems - like Weight Watchers - and I really think this works for SOME people - but there must be a compatible personality for it to work. It worked for me a little - but mostly I just beat myself up about every bite I took. I didn't change my eating habits, I found ways to "cheat" the system, which was only cheating myself. I just was not disciplined enough for this one. I liked the weigh ins though! I've said that I need a The Biggest Loser style scale that beeps at me as I stand there half naked!

Body Patches

Now please do not be offended - but these ones I find both silly and ineffective. My friend does an at-home, pyramid-style business that uses these health patches. I tried them. Not only did I find it hard to remember -- I just couldn't buy in to the miracle fix. Sorry. Not for me. Super if this works for you. Comment here on how/why it works! I'd love to hear! But it's just not for me. 

Skipping Meals

This one, proven MANY times over is just not healthy or effective. I get HANGRY. In a BIG way. I need to keep my blood sugar stable and it just doesn't work with deprivation. Even feeding myself scheduled meals I get rather nasty if I am even a little bit hungry! Don't even try this. It's stupid.

Disclosure: This article was made possible through a partnership with Nutrisystem and being a Nutrisystem Nation Blogger. #NSNation


  1. Nice post, Amanda :). I'm hoping to shed a few pounds of winter weight and I'm working on healthy eating to do that--I'm replacing unhealthy choices with better choices. I'm also trying to cut out sugar (boo) which is easier said than done!!

  2. You are right, everyone is different. For us, we upped our vegetables, meats, and cheeses and rid ourselves of sugar, bread, and pasta.

  3. Omgosh those body patches and wraps.... I shake my head at those all the time!! Exercise, portion control and healthy choices are the stepping stones to being fit.... not that promo garbage :P

  4. Good list! I think it's easy to look for a magic bullet.

  5. This is a really good summary of what really work and what doesn't. For me, walking does work, but I need to walk very quickly and for long distances- and it just takes more time than I have in a day with a family now. There really is no magic bullet. It's calories in and calories out.

  6. I, like you, used to have an outdoor career (naturalist at a Nature Center) and I used to take people hiking daily. When I had my daughter, I stopped working at the center, stayed home and started to gain weight. When I was pregnant with my son I had a Lymes episode that wrecked me! Now I have chronic dizziness (for three years now). It is so hard to exercise now, and I used to love hiking. I am going to try Adkins again. It worked well for me 12 years ago. We also have a large heirloom, organic garden, and I tend to loose five-ten pounds gardening and eating healthy veggies from the garden. Gardening is such good exercise! Good luck on your weight loss adventure!