Every time I see my daughter's friend, Talishia Holloway, she's on a new diet. But unlike most serial dieters, she's actually making progress, having lost more than 60 pounds to get into the Navy.
Around this time last year, Talishia was up to 220 pounds — a late teenage weight gain for a girl who readily admits she loves to eat and hates to exercise.
But she didn't like outgrowing her clothes. And she desperately wanted to get into the military to earn money for college so she wouldn't have to work at a nursing home for the rest of her life.
Not surprisingly, she latched onto diets that sounded fun and easy. At one point, she was rhapsodizing about “the chocolate diet,” in which she ate Slim Fast or fiber bars for two of her three meals every day.
Then she went vegan, eating anything she wanted as long as it wasn't an animal product. When she stopped by a few weeks ago, she said she's moved on yet again, tracking her intake with the help of a phone app called My Fitness Pal.
“So how many diets have you been on now?” I asked.
“Seven million, three hundred and sixty-two!” she laughed.
She was on her way to the Navy recruiter's office, looking noticeably slimmer in tall boots and skinny-legged jeans. For months, she'd been trying to get into the Air Force, but could meet neither the weight requirement nor the BMI standard.
Now 158 pounds, she's still 6 pounds over the weight limit for a 5-feet, 3-inch woman. But she'd heard the Navy will let you in if you pass a tape-measure test. A friend of hers got in that way after losing 100 pounds, which still wasn't quite enough for him to make weight.
Talishia said that if she's learned anything on her speed-dating approach to dieting, it's this: She now recognizes when she's bored and needs a change. For now, she likes using My Fitness Pal because she can eat whatever sounds good, within moderation.
Because she doesn't have time to cook — she moved into her own apartment last year after graduating from high school — lately that's meant a lot of Smart Ones frozen entrees. She's been snacking on low-cal cherry tomatoes — “they're so good!” — but “you can still have a piece of cake now and then,” she said.
The best thing she's eaten lately? Spaghetti squash. She'd made some the day before, when she uncharacteristically had a little extra time on her hands.
“Oh, it was so good, I just wanted to roll around in it,” she said. “Did you know that spaghetti squash has only 40 calories for every 200 calories of pasta?”
As for exercise, other than a fitness hoop, she said her primary workout was “being a CNA (certified nursing assistant.)”
“I should be a terrible dieter,” she admits, “because I love food, and I hate to exercise.” But she gets excited about the new foods she tries on her various diets. And once she's learned something that's helped her on her journey, she makes it part of her routine.
“This is really important,“ she said, as she prepared to leave for her interview. “Always, always get rid of your pants once they get too big. And when you're losing weight, never have more than two pair of jeans in your size. If you get any more than that, always buy the next smaller size so that you have something to work toward.”
Talishia got a thumbs up from the Navy that day. She's since passed her physical and been approved to study nuclear propulsion. She leaves for boot camp in December.
The Navy still wants her to lose a few pounds. I asked her last week how it's going.
She said her latest obsession is a set of “Insanity!” workout videos. She's been working out like crazy, building muscle and toning up. “I'll start to lose weight again soon enough,” she said.
What about her diet, I asked?
“It's not a diet anymore,” she texted back. “It's a lifestyle.”
Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.