On a whim last year, the women from my Empowerment Circles issued me a challenge – come up with a simple fun formula for weight loss that each of them could customize according to their own needs and likes. I did. It’s now my lifestyle (many of theirs). I call it “EATING YOUR ABC’s.”

Knowing success began with honesty I asked myself ..
What am I NOT willing to do for the sake of the scale?” My answers came to me immediately….

  • Measure or weigh my food
  • Attend meetings or have my food delivered
  • Join a gym or hire a personal trainer
  • Shop specialty stores
  • Fast or do a cleanse
  • Forego my favorite restaurants
  • Swallow a pill or mix a powder
  • Wear any clothing item that resembled a girdle
  • Feel a sense of deprivation (which I knew would translate into instant failure)

Next I made an alphabetical listing (A-Z) of my unhealthy food choices (No) and then a 2nd alphabetical listing of healthier food choices that I could incorporate into a new eating plan (Yes).

(The Yes category required assistance from magazines, websites and my nurse practitioner who eventually joined our crusade).

A was easy !


– Apple Pie


A- Almonds, Apples, Artichokes, Avocados

B was completed at lightning speed (but with none of the enthusiasm experienced at A).


– Beans , Berries, Broccoli

My hand spasmed as I tried to write ‘Bread’ in the No column. I refused to write its BFF ‘Butter’ either.

To create some pretend excitement, I wrote a sub-group for Beans and Berries (black bean, butter bean, chick pea, kidney, lima, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry).

Then at C I nearly choked.


My five favorite food groups on the planet.

I temporarily set my plan aside (12 days to be exact).

When I resumed, I should have headed directly to D and not pass C again. But for fun, I sub-grouped parts of C which taught me a valuable lesson. Only do this for your Yes column or you will torture yourself (evidence below).


(Hershey’s Kisses, Kit-Kats, M&M’s, Milky Ways, Mounds, Reeses Pieces…….)


(American (white and yellow), Cheddar, Muenster, Parmesan, Provolone, Swiss……)


(Chocolate Chip, Malomars, Oreos…….)


(Ritz, Saltines, Sociables…..)

C nearly derailed me and I realized it was not going to be the proverbial ‘piece of cake’ (pardon).

P was nearly as disastrous with Pasta, Pizza and Potato Chips. My Yes column then had one lonely entry Peas. I’ve since added papaya, peaches and peppers (red, yellow and green).

When I finished my Eating Your ABC’s plan, I was surprised to discover 292 healthy food options some of which I eventually came to love!

If you had told me five years ago that I could sit in a movie theatre dipping carrots into hummus instead of licking melted butter off my fingers I would have looked at you crossed-eyed! Even restaurants are cooperating. Our favorite diner offers eggs without toast and home fries but includes lettuce and tomato at no extra charge.

What else have I discovered on my journey?

  • That food tastes completely different when not housed in between bread.
  • That when you order a hero (no matter what kind) minus the hero, your portion size will nearly be doubled.
  • That everyone deserves a TREAT TRAY. Mine is the wicker basket that used to house our dinner rolls and in it is every conceivable flavor of sugar-free gum, lollipops, lifesavers and hard candies.
  • That everyone needs a ‘free’ day where you give yourself permission to eat as you choose no pressure no stress. Sunday is my designated day. I rarely take advantage because it’s enough to know I can if I want to. (Aren’t mind games fascinating?)
  • That coffee and tea are terrific appetite suppressants and there are enough flavored versions of each to not repeat once during the month.
  • That oils (particularly avocado and coconut) are not only wonderful food additives for salads and entrees but they do wonders for hair and skin as well (as long as you don’t mind smelling like a farm stand).
  • That you don’t have to figure out all the reasons behind why you eat in order to get started because the answers will eventually reveal themselves.
  • That there’s something inherently exciting about discovering new food options and being in control of updating your plan.

I also hate to mention this, but you can’t completely get away from the yucky ‘e’ word (exercise) if you want the best results.

I walk 10 minutes a day (3 times a day) when I can at a reasonable pace meaning I can still breathe. It’s almost impossible to string 30 consecutive minutes together but (3) 10 minute intervals has proven remarkably effective.

So that’s pretty much it in a nut (cashews, peanuts, walnuts) shell.

Except for the best advice I ever gave myself…..

Today is always the best day to begin because tomorrow is always another excuse not to.

Lisa Leshaw

Lisa Leshaw has worked as a mental health professional for the past 31 years. She currently conducts Parenting Skills Workshops, Group Counseling for Blended Families and Empowerment Circles for Women. As a consultant, Lisa travels throughout teaching Communication and Listening Skills, Behavioral Management Techniques and Motivational Strategies. To de-stress she performs in children's theatre and plays piano whenever requested. She is hoping to either write the next memorable musical composition or Great American Novel!