7 Eco-Friendly Diets: Live Green, Lose Weight, Save Money

BlogHer Original Post

Made a resolution to drop a few pounds this year? If you followed a popular, highly-marketed diet -- say, one that basically encourages you to buy sugary milk that could be contaminated with diarrhea-causing bacteria -- you've probably given up by now.

But the year isn't over, and you still have a good chance of keeping your resolution, the healthy way. Try one of these eco-friendly lifestyle diets to reach your weight loss goals -- and to fulfill a second resolution to live greener:

For cyclists: The Car-Free Diet. Paula, a.k.a. Righteous Velo-Metal Broad ditched her SUV -- and saw the pounds drop off. She shared her experience in an interview:

When I got my SUV, I started going to the gym, and in that ENTIRE YEAR of driving, I only lost 20 pounds and it was VERY hard (and expensive). I figured getting out there and walking and bicycling is just a more healthier option. Well, right after kicking my ex out and deciding to get a divorce (it took nearly two years to get a divorce), I lost 60 pounds. That was just from taking the bus, walking and riding an old target bike just a couple of miles a day.

Now, to be fair, Paula biked a lot: 15 miles each way to get to and from work. But she also didn't pay or make time for a gym membership! Paula's since moved from the L.A. area to Santa Barbara, Calif., and has a shorter commute -- a hilly 4.5 miles each way -- which she still covers on a bike!

For sleepyheads: The Sleep Diet. Save energy by turning out the lights early, and lose weight effortlessly! Fellow BlogHer Contributing editor Beth Terry, a.k.a. Fake Plastic Fish, recommended this Glamour article, but unfortunately Beth hasn't had success with this diet -- yet: "I've never been able to get enough sleep to test it out." I can't try it out either, because I've pretty much always gotten eight hours of sleep.

For frugal detox seekers: The Unprocessed Diet. When Jessica Kohler, who blogs at I'd Roll Need, left a comment on my blog saying she lost 10 pounds "instantly" after nixing processed foods like Hot Pockets from her diet, I had to find out more. Jessica says she went from 120 to 155 lbs in about a year and a half when she transitioned from "student to sedentary cube monkey." So she and her new boyfriend (now husband) decided to tackle their unhealthy lifestyles together:

We couldn't afford gym memberships at the time, so we started with diet. We stopped buying the "helper meals," totinos, and pizza rolls. We bought lots of fresh greens, lean meat (mostly chicken and fish) and cooked at home. We brought whole wheat sandwiches and yogurt to work for lunch and stopped eating out. The culmination of that coupled with a more active lifestyle (at the time, taking walks) saw an easy 10 lb. weight loss in close to 3 weeks. That may not be "instant" enough for a lot of people, but I quickly learned that weight loss and good health is a lifelong endeavor, and I've learned that it only works long-term when coupled with activity.

Why does cutting out processed foods help you lose weight? Jessica explains -- in a post with a photo-illustrated recipe for making your own healthy pizza at home -- that "when you eat boxed meals, you can eat and eat and eat, and you never really feel that full, or oppositely, you feel sick. That hasn't happened since taking a more natural approach to our meals."

Cutting out processed, packaged foods was not the end-all for Jessica. "There is no magic fix and the weight on the scale can definitely NOT be the only measure of success or you won't succeed long term." Still, cutting out processed foods "was the first step (of many) that changed everything about how I live now," Jessica says. "I read every label. I cook every meal. I work out. I set goals." Jessica's since joined a gym and is back to around 120 pounds, down to a size 2, and training for a 10K!

For the traveler: The Poverty Diet. Vanessa Barrington writes at EcoSalon about how she lost seven pounds during her vacation by living with a family in Guatemala, where she was studying Spanish. The family had enough food -- just not an overabundance, like we tend to have in the U.S. Writes Vanessa:

I can't help but reflect on the almost unfathomable privilege inherent in not only being able to choose what and how much to eat at any time of the day, but also in our efforts to not eat, when a large part of the world struggles to get enough to eat. Guatemala being only one such place.

For dessert lovers: The Baking Diet. Ari at Baking and Books has a post every girl with a sweet tooth who wants to drop a few pounds should read: How I Ate My Cake, and Lost Weight Too. In it, Ari shares how she lost more than 20 pounds since starting her baking blog -- by budgeting her sweets, among other efforts:

I allow myself sweets twice a week. What this means is that although I post a lot of baked goods on this blog, I only bake once a week. And if I bake a batch of 30 cookies, I’ll save 4 of them as my "sweets allotment" (2 per serving) and I give the rest away. Same for cake – 1 slice is mine and the rest is shared with others. Giving away freshly baked goodies is not only good for your waistline, but it's a great away to make friends.

Read her whole post, and you'll see that Ari's cooking and baking also steers her away from cheap processed convenience and fast foods -- similar to Jessica's strategy. In a post with a recipe for baking granola bars, Ari shares why it's better to bake goods at home:

Compared to commercially made energy bars the homespun variety excels in taste and wholesome value, forgoing all that yucky high fructose corn syrup, sodium and palm kernel oil that plagues many of the "convenience foods" you'll find at the supermarket. If you ask me, there's nothing convenient about consuming saturated fats, especially when you're in a rush and your body needs the best fuel you can find.

For the would-be locavore: The 100-Mile Diet. Reduce food travel miles by getting all your food locally! The originators of this locavoring diet quickly dropped 15 pounds in six weeks -- though their methods were a bit drastic.

For the vegan-curious: Simple Till Six Diet. Eco-foodie Mark Bittman basically ate unprocessed vegan food until 6PM every day, after which he ate and drank whatever he wanted. He lost a bunch of weight, got a lot healthier, and shared his cost-effective eating plan.

Notice how these eco-friendly diets are all pretty frugal diets, too. Why buy a gym membership when you can get your exercise on a bike? Why spend $5 - $10 a day on a fast food lunch when you can make healthier, organic fare at home at a fraction of the price? Why shell out for Lean Cuisines that pack a lot more calories than their packaging reveals, when munching through your CSA produce box is cheaper and healthier?

If you've dropped weight -- or gotten healthier -- by eating green, share your experience and tips in the comments!

BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel dropped a few pounds in February by no longer drinking organic wine like a fish. She also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

Photo by richardmasoner

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