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Weekly Diet News Digest

by John McGran, Columnist

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Shauna Reid freely admits she's half the woman she used to be... but that's a good thing.

At the age of 23 Shauna weighed 351 pounds and wore tight-fitting size-26 clothing.

At an age when all her friends were hitting the dance clubs, Shauna was staying home and trying to figure out what went wrong.

Shauna is the daughter of a Weight Watchers group leader. But while mom was helping others lose weight, Shauna was packing on pounds.

Frustrated and afraid, Shauna turned to blogging. The Internet proved a safe haven for a young woman struggling with weight and seeking anonymity while exorcising her personal demons and detailing her missteps to strangers.

Writing as "dietgirl," Shauna became a popular blogger. She took control of her weight and began the amazing journey that has led her to drop a super 175 pounds.

She's now 31, wearing 12-14 sizes, and at peace with her weight. She's also the proud author of the motivational new book, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl(Avon).

"I don't have a magical formula for weight loss," Shauna admits. "But after years of trial and error, I learned that it's essential to figure out what works for you and what fits into your life, rather than trying to fit your life around a diet.

"I focus on eating healthy food with loads of fruit and vegetables. I don't believe in 'Good' or 'Bad' foods, so I'll never surrender my precious chocolate and ice cream.

"But I've learned to savor smaller portions and now I can finally enjoy food without guilt or shame."

Slimmed-down Shauna reveals there's a new love in her life.

"I've also learned to love exercise," she says. "I began with walking to the end of the block and back, and kept adding more blocks until I got the nerve to join a gym.

"I've gradually built up my fitness from there. My current favorites are kickboxing, cycling, walking, hillwalking, weight training and fitness DVDs."

Speaking to me by phone from her home in Scotland, Shauna says she no longer stresses over the numbers on the scale. She stands 5'8" and weighs 175... and she's perfectly fine with that.

There's a joy in her voice. It's the sound of contentment and true happiness.

"Sure I lost a lot of weight, but the biggest changes took place in my head," Shauna says. "I started out as a hardcore dieter, struggling with self-loathing. I thought my mission was all about bullying my body into a more socially acceptable shape.

"But soon I realized what I really wanted more than smaller jeans was to feel comfortable in my own skin. To just like being me.

"Once I started treating myself kindly with good food and exercise instead of disgust and anger, I started to appreciate my body, lumps and bumps and all.

"There was more to me than the size of my jeans, after all. And that has been the best lesson of this whole adventure.

"Overall, my philosophy boils down to: Do the healthy more often than you don't do the healthy thing. It's not about numbers and scales; it's eating well and being kind to myself. Persistence, not perfection. Getting back up when I fell over. Over and over again!"

Dietgirl's Top 20 Weight Loss Tips

Shauna notes, "People often ask me for diet and weight loss tips so I've put together my top 20. This is seven years of tricks, tweaks, discoveries and epiphanies all condensed into one handy list. Hopefully you'll find something helpful here for you!"

1. First, start with the big picture. Write down your goals and be specific. What do you want to change? Where do you want to be a year from now?

2. Next, focus on the details. Every day we make dozens of tiny decisions that can spell the difference between whether we lose weight or gain. Do you pick the muesli for breakfast or the chocolate muffin? Do you spend 20 minutes on the couch or 20 minutes on a brisk walk? Small changes can add up to huge results.

3. Start exercising - no matter what your fitness level. At 25 stone (350 pounds) I could only shuffle to the end of the street, but I gradually built up to the whole block. Within a couple of years I was running! Don't compare yourself to others, just work within your limits and take it slow and steady.

4. Eat breakfast. A wholesome breakfast makes me feel smug, satisfied and determined to stay on track all day. My favorite is porridge, livened up with grated apple and cinnamon, or chopped banana and teaspoon of peanut butter.

5. Be kind to yourself and your body. You don’t have to look in the mirror and chant, “I love me! I am beautiful!” but at the same time yelling at your thighs won’t encourage your weight loss efforts.

6. Make your treats miniature. Instead of banning dessert, I choose smaller portions â€" like an apple crumble baked in a ramekin dish or a small bar of chocolate. I get my sugar hit without dangerous leftovers!

7. Lift weights. It won’t make you bigger â€" it’ll make you svelte and strong! If you’re worried about loose skin, resistance training is the best thing you can do to tone your body as you lose weight.

8. Planning is crucial. Every Saturday I take 10 minutes to plan our meals for the coming week. I choose from a list of 25 easy, tried-and-true recipes, so it’s quicker to cook than phone for restaurant food.

9. Buy your groceries online. It saves time and you’re not tempted by all the sights and smells of the supermarket. Or tortured by your screaming children.

10. Feel your emotions, don’t feed them. In times of stress it’s tempting to bury your feelings in cake â€" better to feel bad about binging than tackle the real issue! But try to find non-edible ways of coping â€" I highly recommend kickboxing classes.

11. Go Greek. If you’re a cream or sour cream fiend, 0% or 2% Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute. It's low in fat, protein-rich and incredibly creamy. Dollop into meringue nests and top with fresh fruit. Splodge onto a bowl of chili. Swirl into butternut squash soup.

12. The best exercise is the one you enjoy. So what if your best friend swears by aerobics at dawn? If you’re a shift worker or just plain grumpy in the morning, this will never suit you. Choose an exercise you like and do it when it’s most convenient for you â€" this way you’ll stick with it.

13. Stock your office pantry. It's much easier to ignore the vending machine when I’ve got half an orchard sitting on my desk and a drawer full of oatcakes, nuts and seeds.

14. Have a "cuppa." When hunger strikes and it’s not meal time, I make a cup of tea. This gives me time to figure out if I’m really hungry or if I’m just bored or cranky or upset. Herbal tea is great â€" experiment until you find one that doesn’t taste like grass clippings!

15. Have a moan. Losing weight isn’t easy, but you don’t have to feel alone in the struggle. Start your own blog, sign up for a message board, or join in the conversation here on the Diet.com boards and forums. Remember, we’re all in this lardy boat together!

16. Put the scales in perspective. Don’t fret over small fluctuations â€" focus on all the healthy things you’ve been doing for your body. Get out the tape measure or have a pair of “measurement jeans” so you’re not dependent on the scales for feedback.

17. Be adaptable. Make your weight loss plans fit around your life, not the other way around. Sometimes circumstances will change â€" a new job, a family crisis, moving house â€" and suddenly your usual routine doesn’t work. The trick is to be flexible and know when it’s time to tweak your methods.

18. Set ...    Continue

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@ 6:41am ET on January 19, 2009
Awesome!!!! Shauna your list is exactly right!I love your approach and thanks for sharing!
By the way, where have you been John? Patty

@ 1:09pm ET on January 19, 2009
inspiration! thanks for this. i think i'll get some Greek yogurt...

@ 6:07pm ET on January 19, 2009
muesli is just oh so good!

@ 6:42pm ET on January 19, 2009
Great job. Reading stories like yours helps me keep track of my diet.
Muesli never tried it. Will pick some up this week if I can find it.

@ 7:32pm ET on January 19, 2009
Awesome! You are amazing :)

@ 12:00am ET on January 20, 2009
That's awesome! Great job and thank you for the inspiration!

@ 10:32am ET on January 20, 2009
Wow, what an inspirational story! Congrats on the loss and thanks for the tips! ~Sara :o)

@ 1:19pm ET on January 20, 2009
You are an inspiration! An amazing example of how it can be done. Congratulations!

@ 10:14am ET on January 21, 2009
I am so pumped after reading your story. Thank you for your sharing.

@ 1:37am ET on January 22, 2009
Hi I am vey poud of you and your achievements
I agree with all of your suggestions
personally i enjoy a 3 oz portion of hot oatmeal
I buy amy's steel oats frozen inm a bowl and divide portion into 4 prts and put 1/4 into a coffee cup small
sometimes I add dried fruit or fresh berries just a few
we do all tend to fall off the pogram i think stgress is the main reason for this
we just have to learn to cope and as u said pick ourselves up and start again
exercising is the key
even riding a stgationary bike while watching h news or a program start with 15 min and gradually go to 30 min
if boreed do it 2 times a day
start walking just like u suggested 5 min at a time and gradually increase it
don't eat "diet food" eat foods that are healthy but small portions and lots of veggies and small amts of fruit
3 oz only of protein
drink lots of water in between meals i personally drink too much coffee but
will eventuaklly cut down one cup a a time

@ 8:53am ET on January 25, 2009
You are a true inspiration! Thank you for sharing your journey and secrets with us. Congratulations on your success!

@ 6:34am ET on January 27, 2009
this is so inspirational!!! congratulations on everything you've done, and well done on doing it all healthily and the way you wanted to.

@ 9:20pm ET on June 15, 2009
Thank you for sharing your story. I am the same height as you and 302 lbs and beginning....well continuing my weight loss journey but from a more positive aproach. Reading about you changing your perspective to focusing on small achievement & fitness insead of self-loathing and body punishing really spoke to me...Thanks Shauna :)

@ 10:18pm ET on June 15, 2009
BRILLIANTTTT! I like the 20th tip one and I also add the 21st tip for myself is 'never say I'm too lazy to do something' :D

@ 10:41pm ET on March 4, 2010
Congratulations! What an achievement! Thank you for the inspiration and the great tips. "Be kind to yourself" is my favorite. ;0)

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