The War Diet



Forty years ago, I believed that scientists and doctors would eventually discover a quick and easy way to lose weight. But after decades spent gaining and losing and gaining again, I’ve learned that when it comes to dropping pounds, there’s one hard and fast rule: expend more calories than you take in.

Marketing people want us to believe that there are ways to cut corners, but I’ve only ever heard of one sure-fire way to lose weight without even trying…


During the eight years that I lived in Switzerland, I became friends with a woman from Bosnia-Herzegovina named Mirsada. Mirsada lived in Switzerland as a refugee with her two teenage sons after fleeing from their war-torn country in 1995.

I knew her to be a thin, pretty woman with a robust personality. But after months of seeing her wear the same clothes every day, I realized that those were probably the only clothes she had.

One day, I asked her if she would like to help me clean out my closet. I was about to give birth — possibly to a baby elephant — and I knew that if I were to ever see my feet again, it would take such a major effort that I would deserve to have a whole new wardrobe.

The people in Bosnia always need clothes,” Mirsada remarked as the pile of discards steadily grew.

Let’s send them a package,” I suggested, adding, “Why don’t you take whatever you like? They’re your size.”

With a smile, she began trying on sweaters and confessed, “I don’t have many clothes, I left them all behind. They don’t fit me no more. Too big.”

Mirsada!” I exclaimed. “Did you used to be fat?”

She started to laugh. “I used to be bigger than you are with baby!”

Wow, how did you did you lose all that weight?” I asked her, hoping that she’d share her secret with me.

My country went to war, and there was no food.”

She told me how she and her sons fled Bosnia with her sister’s family — leaving her husband behind — to their vacation home on the Adriatic Sea. “Was beautiful, yes. But the cupboards were bare.”


The war diet works, but like the others, it’s too costly and dangerous.

I eventually lost the baby weight — all 55 pounds of it — but it took a long time, and a lot of jogging. And through that year of being fat, I learned that the secret to losing weight was to walk/jog for an hour a day. No pills, no special diets, no war — and no excuses.

When the weather is bad, I run up and down the stairs of my house while I fold and put away my family’s laundry. This has become my secret weapon. Not only do I expend calories while I race through the house; I’m also getting something accomplished.

I still enjoy a brisk walk in the sunshine, but running up and down stairs is multi-tasking at it’s finest.

The baby was my excuse for being fat that year, and as long as I kept exercising on a daily basis, I was able to keep my weight down and still eat candy.


However, the only way to lose weight is to live without excuses — because not exercising and eating junk food will always catch up with you over a long, cold winter.

I believe that exercise, even more than diet, is the true key to losing weight. And now that Spring is here, a long, brisk walk that elevates your heart rate will do wonders for your health and self-esteem.

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen