I was always skinny when I was younger and into my 20’s, even though I always hated my body, thinking I was fat! Slowly over the years, I gained weight. There were a few halfhearted attempts to get healthier, but I was quick to fall back into the old bad habits.
It was a challenge because while I was overweight, my health was good. Cholesterol and blood pressure were both good, so it was easy to ignore the weight issue and just accept it. My health wasn’t a concern. I finally found the strength to take my head out of the sand!
I started on this journey in July 2009. I was browsing through the “Restaurant” iPhone app, and was shocked at how many calories I was putting away during lunches at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King. It was a wake up call! Gee, maybe that is why I was so overweight!
Then just in the nick of time, a friend posted this quote to her Facebook page. I was inspired!
God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.
It really hit home! I HAD to do something about the way I was treating my body. I decided RIGHT THEN to try to make healthier choices!
I don’t know why this time was different than the many other times I tried (for about a minute) to change my eating habits. But the more time went by, the more it just felt “right” – like yeah, I was going to do it this time!
It is a lifestyle change. It has to be. Anything you do, any changes you make, have to be permanent!
Yes, you can temporarily lose weight by following one of the many weight loss fads: low carb, eating pre-measured processed meals, or drinking meal replacement protein shakes, but once the novelty wears off, the commitment is tough to stick with and the weight comes back, plus a little more.
In the past, I was never inspired to yo-yo diet, following the crazy weight loss fads. I just accepted my weight gain as part of my destiny. My mother and two sisters were overweight, it was genetic, right? WRONG!
I decided back in July, 2009, that as long as I was making healthy choices, then it didn’t matter how much I weighed! I wanted the emphasis to be on my internal health and well being, not just my weight. With the pressure off, I ended up easily losing a ton of weight anyway!
I started my journey at 200 pounds (I’m 5’8″), and set an original weight loss goal of 40 pounds. I never in a million years dreamed that I would reach my goal, but I surpassed it in March, 2010, and continued to lose 62+ pounds (as of May, 2011).
Counting Calories For Healthy Weight Loss
I think my number one most important tip for healthy weight loss is, count calories! It was and is still the only way for me to be accountable for what I am eating.
No, I don’t recommend starving yourself. That doesn’t work! It’s been proven that those that lower their calories too much will not lose weight. Your body will actually hold on to the fat!
Setting a realistic daily caloric goal and sticking to it is the key to weight loss.
While you can certainly lose weight on eating empty calories like Twinkies and white pasta, eventually you’ll learn to use your calories wisely. Eating the foods that give you the most bang for your caloric buck so to speak.
Why drink a glass of apple cider with 120 calories, 27g sugar and 0 fiber when you can eat a large apple for 110 calories, 22g sugar, and 5g fiber. It’s the fiber that keeps you feeling full longer! Why eat two oreo cookies at 120 calories when you could eat a slice of homemade bread with a dab of fresh butter? Choices choices choices!
When you count calories, it’s in your face! You see what you are eating in plain black & white. And from there, you learn that every food has a cost, whether it’s tomatoes or pizza.
There are plenty of calorie counting web sites out there, but I found MyFitnessPal.com was the one that worked for me! I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t so easy to keep track of my daily calories. They even released an iPhone app which made it even easier. I still count calories today, why stop when it’s so easy!
Other Tips for Healthy Weight Loss
- Start slow, make subtle changes. First cut back on sugar. I originally removed all products with high fructose corn syrup, then moved on to reducing ALL refined sugar, I didn’t worry about sugar in whole fruits and vegetables. I stopped drinking fruit juice. It’s pasteurized, which removes nutrients and it’s loaded with concentrated sugars while offering absolutely no fiber. I started baking my own desserts, made with whole grains and lower in refined sugars. I found that once I cut back on sugar, I didn’t crave it as strongly!
- Stop eating white! White rice, white flour, white pasta have been stripped of nutrients and fiber! Replace the refined white foods, with whole grains! Brown rice, whole wheat flour, quinoa, whole grain pasta. While so many others are struggling to keep away from carbs, I embrace them, but I choose the right kind of carbs! And again, the cravings subsided. Note: now that I’m in “weight maintenance”, I do indulge in good quality white pasta once a week or so. I just make sure I measure my serving and record the calories.
- Slowly wean yourself away from processed foods. When I started my journey, I was still purchasing frozen meals for lunches and eating crackers and pretzels for snacks. I tried to buy the better brands, but realized later that it was all still processed foods, and I was much better off making my own meals. I started baking my own whole wheat bread and desserts. It’s a gradual evolution, but one that helped me tremendously.
- Know where your food comes from. If it’s advertised on TV, then it’s probably made by a big food company that doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Stick to products from small local businesses that don’t have marketing budgets for advertisements!
- This goes without saying, but do not buy products containing partially hydrogenated oil, even if it says “Trans Fat Free”! Or even easier, stick to eating whole foods, and you won’t have to worry about trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils!
- Eat more mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil and nuts. I cook and bake with olive oil, as well as almond and coconut oil, which has been given a bad rap!
- Watch your sodium levels! Purchase lower sodium or no salt added versions of processed foods like canned tomatoes and chicken broth. Add salt to your own taste when you cook.
- Speaking of cooking, learn to do it! Cook your own meals, and don’t rely on a restaurant or big food corporation. Control your own ingredients!
- Read labels on everything!!! It’s a good idea to even read labels on the items that you THINK are healthy. Yogurt contains an insane amount of sugar, and it doesn’t matter if the ingredients contain high fructose corn syrup or honey or granulated sugar. Refined sugar is all the same, and needs to be reduced!
- Try to eat a good daily portion of fiber – think whole grains and beans, yum! I try to eat 30+ grams of fiber per day!
- Eat a lot of veggies and fruit. Join a local CSA or get your produce fresh from a local farm or farmer’s market!
- Although not required, it might help to take a daily multi-vitamin. I do, along with calcium, fish oil, and Vit D. But I try to get most of my nutrients through the food I eat.
- When I started out, I planned my snacks very carefully. I didn’t want to be caught driving home from work, hungry and ready to pull into a McDonald’s drive-through. Carry healthy snacks with you to prevent and make sure you eat in between meals. I learned that once hunger hits, it hits hard, and it becomes more difficult to stick to healthy choices. Snacking on a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit before dinner helps you stay motivated to cook something nutritious.
- Keep your meals small, but eat more times per day. This really helped me. I ate 4-6 times per day, but much smaller meals. Once you get to a certain point, it become second nature. I don’t think about the regiment of food anymore. I just eat when I am hungry.
- Drink a lot of water. At least eight 8oz glasses, even more if you can. Water helps flush out extra sodium from any processed food, and keeps your body feeling “full” in between meals
- Become active and exercise. It’s difficult, yes, and it’s always been hard for me (still is), but my metabolism shot up once I became more active. I am not a fan of the high intensity Jillian Michael’s fitness craze. I’m living proof that you don’t need to work out for 1-2 hours a day to achieve success. I work out for 20-30 minutes a few times per week, and my life has changed considerably! Along with exercise, I park farther away at the grocery store, walk up and down the stairs more often, dash around my kitchen while cooking, and garden in the yard. It all adds up!
- And then there is the ULTIMATE rule of all rules: DON’T FOLLOW RULES! haha! You can get caught up in worrying too much about what to eat and what not to eat. Just go with the flow. It’s not a failure when you give yourself a food reward once in awhile! Don’t beat yourself up about what you THINK is a bad day. Treat days are expected and encouraged! They help keep you sane and on track. Just remember to jump back to healthy eating and don’t allow the treats to become an every day habit. The key is moderation!
Healthy Body & Environment
While learning more about healthy food, I also learned more about our food system and how it affects our bodies and environment. Books like Supersize Me, Fast Food Nation, and In Defense of Food opened up my eyes to how dangerous the Western Diet and our food system is.
In the end, my diet is more plant-based, with limited meat, poultry, egg, dairy, and fish consumption. I consciously try very hard not to eat any animal products raised by Big Food factory farms. In doing so, I choose more humanely-raised meats. Yes, it’s more expensive, but since my consumption is lower, it all works out.
Two really excellent books to learn more about this way of eating are “The Food Matters Cookbook” by Mark Bittman and “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” by Michael Pollan. Both books changed my way of thinking about food and the environment!
Your local library is a great resource for print and audio books! It’s where I found all the above books plus tons of cooking and baking books!
Food Issues & Lots of Doubts
During your journey, take time to learn more about your inner self. Analyze and accept your food issues.
I realized that I have a compulsive eating problem; I will never be cured, but I can keep it under control. I try not to dwell or obsess on my compulsion, but it’s important to never forget that it is a problem!
I still have bad days when I make bad decisions, but 90% are good days, and surprise surprise, it’s actually easy to stay on track! In the beginning it scared me to death how easy and natural it was.
I originally had lots of big doubts looming in my brain, telling me that while it was good now, eventually, it’s going to kick my butt and my old habits were going to come rushing back. But once you have some longevity, the doubts really do subside.
I realized that I don’t have to be afraid of my success anymore. I was going to stick with it!
NO, I am not an expert! I DID NOT start this blog so I could give advise and preach to everyone else! I needed an outlet so I could document my journey. Jot down a few of my experiences, recipes and research materials, and maybe add a few photos.
I am not expecting hundreds of visitors at my blog door, hanging on my every word. I am doing this for me!!!
Everyone has to do it for themselves or it won’t stick. You have to be ready to make a major adjustment! Never think of it as a DIET, something you can do for a few months and forget later. It’s not a temporary fix. It’s got to be a lifestyle change!
Just keep repeating: as long as I am making good healthy choices, the weight is secondary!
I love love love the way I feel now; I feel healthy inside and out. I have more energy and I can even admit that I look GOOD! haha!
I truly never dreamed I would be back down to under 140 pounds! It never even crossed my mind. I didn’t originally believe 160 was even possible, but here I am!
I’ll be fifty years old in autumn, 2012 and I don’t think I have ever felt this good with so much confidence in my life. I look forward to the next 50 years of my life!
Thank you for visiting! :)
(July 21, 2009)
(Updated October 16, 2010)
(Updated August 9, 2011)