Every Journey Has a Beginning

In March 2010 I was close to 350 pounds.  I am still a big girl at 5’11”, but today I weigh about half that.  I am asked fairly frequently how I keep the weight off that I’ve lost.  It is challenging to sum all of the changes I’ve made that have resulted in my weight loss and healthier self-image, as my diet has been an evolution and learning process.  Here are some conclusions I’ve come to about the process of making lasting changes to one’s diet.

How do I lose 50lbs in 2 weeks?

Okay, so I meant that as a joke, but not a cruel one.  I think it  helps to remember that you don’t have to do everything at once.  I understand the temptation to go pedal to the metal and overhaul your life, New Year’s resolution style.  We all want to see results immediately, as it is motivational.  When we see physical evidence that we are doing something positive, this can offer great propulsion to keep us on the road to success.  Believe me, I understand.  Knowing you’re healthier and stronger is great, but there are days when you just want to see a certain number pop up on the scale.  However, is it fair though to ask your body and mind to sustain that level of performance overnight?  Will this work long-term?  This is something I’ve thought a lot about.  Changing eating habits is challenging both physically and mentally.  In my observation,  if a new guideline feels too restrictive or difficult to maintain, it becomes difficult to stick to it.  Gradual change allows the mind and body time to adjust, so that these new guidelines can truly become habits.

What do you need from your diet? 

Don’t let your diet own you.  Again, I understand the temptation to want a quick fix, but if this is a change you are making for the rest of your life, you need to be able to live within your diet’s guidelines.  I need my diet to give me the nutrition and energy I need for the day, to be interesting and palate pleasing, and to allow room for occasional indulgences.  I go into the day with a basic plan for each meal,  along with an amount of mental openness to changes that may come about.  I find some room for spontaneity is necessary if I want to maintain this level of commitment to conscious eating for the rest of my life.  Who doesn’t want some pie on Thanksgiving?  Consuming the nutrients and caloric value my body needs allows me the physical energy to perform well when I work out and this is rewarding mentally when I get the results I’m looking for.  I simply I can’t afford to support a diet plan that is based on a strategy of deprivation.

So what changes should you make? 

If you don’t already read nutrition labels on everything (and I do mean everything), you can start doing this immediately.  It is important to keep in mind that not all food is created equal.  What I am getting at is that foods that go by the same name are not necessarily comparable.  A great recent example for me is a bottle of sriracha I found in our pantry recently.  I ran out of Frank’s Red Hot, and figured I would use the sriracha.  Fortunately I decided to read the label before slathering it all over my sweet potato oven fries.  To my surprise I discovered it I had a whopping 100 calories per teaspoon!  I immediately exclaimed to Brian “How do they get that much sugar in that little teaspoon???  A teaspoon of raw sugar has 15 calories and a teaspoon of olive oil has 40 calories. “  Yes, I’m a nerd for knowing that information off the top of my head.  Believe me though, just reading labels and determining what products give you great flavor paired with great nutrition is huge.

The actual changes you will want to begin implementing in your diet will depend on what your eating looks like currently.  I would encourage you to start thinking about holes that you might have in your diet.  If you don’t eat vegetables at least once a day, why not?  Start experimenting with different low-calorie salad dressings and ingredients, and find a couple that you like.  You could simply just bring sliced vegetables or carrots with some hummus or a spicy bean dip to work as one of your snack.  Why not vow to try a new vegetable recipe each week?  Once you find a couple go-to recipes, it becomes easier each week to build upon your repertoire.  If you are like me and love bread and cereal, you could choose a side of whole grains like brown rice, barley, farro and quinoa with dinner over a refined carbohydrate product like bread or pasta with dinner a few nights a week and limit bread to fewer meals.  I am picking on bread and pasta because they are delicious but high in calories, and often leave me feeling far from full.

The other thing I would encourage you to do is to start thinking about what foods you really like that perhaps shouldn’t be eaten on a regular basis, or in a large quantity.  You can even make a list and eating plan for your ‘sometimes’ foods if you want.  Pancakes and ice cream are two of my most favorite foods, and they both fall into this category for me.  By making them a special treat not too infrequently, I have found I can enjoy them in a reasonable portion size and still fit into my skirts!

Lastly, I want to encourage you to seek out diet and nutritional information for yourself on a regular basis.  Make it your business to not accept information from just one source, including this website.  Don’t be too quick to label a food you like as ‘bad’ or ‘off-limits’.  Consider it’s nutritional value and place in your diet.  The low-carb craze is in full swing, and I still proudly eat potatoes and corn, and the occasional Pop-Tart! 😉