What I’m grateful for
I am really grateful to the following things which helped me to lose weight:
1. I love fruits and vegetables and I don't like sugary soda. I didn't really realize what a huge advantage that was.
2. I don't binge. Although in my past, I've had some bingey moments, not one incident since I made over my life back in July.
3. I don't crave sweets. This is very weird for me, but all last week there was a huge pile of pastries at the back of the conference room and I honestly wasn't tempted at all. I made it through Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter with ZERO candy - this from the person who could eat a bag of Hershey's Kisses! It wasn't that I didn't eat them so much as it is - I didn't WANT them. Not even my beloved PEEPs (that I could eat a box of in one sitting).
4. I like the taste of plain green and black tea.
5. John - for making it so easy to eat healthy at home, for not bringing junk and snacks into the house, for cooking healthy foods, for menu planning and grocery shopping. For knowing all the Super Foods, for listening to me babble about foods and calories and food choices and being supportive.
6. Having a refrigerator and a microwave at work, having a little cafeteria downstairs with healthy soup/salad choices for lunch.
7. The funds to eat healthy - this stuff is expensive.
8. Time in my life to plan, shop, make snacks, pack lunches.
9. Doing some physical activity. As much as I don't like exercise, I'm proud of myself every morning I drag myself out of bed to work out at 6.
10. I don't know if it's willpower or what honestly, but whatever is helping me STICK TO THIS. It's been over 18 months, I still feel great, no urge to eat unhealthy foods, no cravings for fast food. I can still say no to candy at work. I have no idea why I'm so successful, but I'm so grateful.
Rule 1 – I read this great book called Super Foods RX: 14 Food that Will Change Your Life by Steven Pratt.
Super Foods Rx: 14 Foods that can save your life
I made a goal to completely overhaul my eating in order to make me the healthiest person I could be. I have a family history of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s. I am very interested in the science of using food as preventative measures against these diseases. When I look at a food option I think, "will this make me healthier?”
Super foods are: tomato (including watermelon), spinach (all leafy greens), whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, barley etc), yogurt, tea (green or black), pumpkin (carrots, sweet potato, orange pepper), orange, walnuts (all nuts), beans, blueberries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), broccoli, salmon (halibut, canned albacore tuna), soy, turkey
My goal is to eat 1 food from at least 10 super food groups a day. So, if I eat blueberries and strawberries, that only counts as 1 since they are in the same group. I try to eat only whole, healthy foods and I try not to eat processed foods.
Rule 2 – No radical, unsustainable changes. When I first decided I wanted to change my eating habits to be stronger and healthier, I knew I needed something I could stick with forever. I couldn't radically change how I eat - there's no way to maintain that long term. Plus, I had to take my boyfriend into consideration. We've been living together 8 years, both vegetarians, what could I change that meant we could still eat dinner together nearly every night? I looked at our usual dinner menus. We ate a lot of stir fries, curry dishes, pasta and quesadillas/enchiladas.
With John's support, we switched from white rice to brown rice, regular pasta to whole wheat pasta, white flour tortillas to whole wheat tortillas. We added more veggies to our meals (broccoli in stir fry, wilted spinach in pasta sauce) and reduced the amount of cheese, oil and butter we cooked with. I also became more aware of a true serving size, actually eating a single serving of brown rice or whole wheat pasta (a little kitchen scale is one of the best purchases I ever made). For example, I used to eat a HUGE plate of pasta with a little sauce and a little salad. I now eat a small plate of pasta (carefully measured 2.0 oz serving) with a LOT of sauce and a BIG salad.
Rule 3 - As much fruit and vegetables as I want. No counting, no nothing. If I want an apple – I eat an apple. If I want a whole bag of sugar snap peas - I eat the bag. I aim for 4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables every day. Leafy greens and brightly colored veggies are my priority. (dried fruits are the exception, they are so condensed it’s easy to eat too many and they pack a calorie punch, I’m much more aware of an actual serving size of dried fruit).
Rule 4 - Some sort of protein at every meal, protein helps me feel FULL. There are lots of good ways to get protein - lean meats, tofu, dairy, beans, legumes, peanut butter. As a former vegetarian, I’ve added some turkey into my menu planning and I’m eating a ton more fish (salmon, tuna).
Rule 5 - Avoid processed crap. All those chemicals just weighed me down and the unscrupulous corporate *******s like to sneak in trans fat and high fructose corn syrup. I haven’t had fast food since July and I hope to live without it forever. No fast food, very little processed sugar, no empty carbs - the goal is good food that is good for me. Since I started eating “clean” I have so much more energy – I used to be sleepy every afternoon at work, so tired I would doze off at the keyboard. That hasn’t happened in months.
Rule 6 – I never said no to carbs, I never stopped eating them. I did switch from empty carbs to better carbs. I try to include whole wheat bread (note, not just wheat bread, WHOLE wheat bread), sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta or brown rice every day. My carb grams are normally 200+ a day, way over what Atkins considers okay even in maintenance mode. Although all people are different, in my case, staying at 200+ grams of carbs didn't stop weight loss AT ALL and allowed me to keep eating the foods I love - key to sustainable weight loss.
Rule 7 - Fat is a good thing, it makes hair shiny and protects organs and brain. I wouldn’t run out and eat a tub of butter or anything, but I do eat healthy fats like olive oil, peanut butter, dairy (low fat yogurt, cheese), and nuts. I try to eat a handful of nuts every day (walnuts or almonds).
Rule 8 – Drinking – no empty calories. I stick to water and tea, with the occasional non fat, sugar free coffee drink treat. Juice isn't bad for you, but I'd rather eat the fruit - get the healthy fiber and stay full longer. I do miss the occasional glass of red wine in the evening - it's definitely going BACK on the menu for maintenance mode.
Rule 9 – The hardest part for me has been incorporating some kind of exercise – I hate it! I try to do my aerobics/toning tapes at least 5 times a week. I realize the next logical step is to add weight training. Additional muscle mass is very good for me long term! I’ve taken the first baby steps to joining a gym.
Rule number 10 - Don't be hungry. I figure, if I’m hungry, I’m doing it wrong. I count calories now and never go below 1600 (I have recently increased daily calories to 1800 and weight is still coming off). If your calories drop low enough to trick your body into thinking there’s a famine – your body thinks that you are a Paleolithic hunter gatherer who can’t find any roots. Your body will work really hard save you from starvation, it will hold on to the calories in a baby carrot for months if it thought it would help you survive a famine. If you starve yourself, your body will BINGE when it gets a chance, that’s the way we are genetically created. Did the Paleolithic hunter gatherer not stuff themselves on mammoth if they got lucky enough to get one? (oh no, I’ll just eat this root) Heck no, they ate the whole thing and sucked the marrow. We are fighting 450K years of genetics! I eat a lot of small meals and eat before I get hungry! Your body has to know there is tons of food coming in, there is no famine or starvation, it can release the stored fat reserves – you DON’T NEED THEM.
Rule 11 - Plan plan plan plan. I plan and shop so I have healthy food on hand all the time. I plan for meals, I plan for snacks. I sit down on Sunday night and menu plan/grocery stop for the entire week. I keep dried fruit/nuts around for quick boosts. I go to the store at least 3 times a week. I buy food, use plastic baggies to portion it into one size servings. I ALWAYS HAVE options for healthy eating. I have a couple of healthy frozen dinners at home, I have some of that tomato/roasted red pepper soup on hand at work, I have dried fruit stashed at home/work for healthy snacks. On Sunday nights, I make veggie dip and portion it out for the weeks. I cut up 5 days of veggies for snack. I’m never without something healthy to eat. The house is 100% a junk-free zone.
Rule 12– I weigh only ONCE a week. Weight fluctuates too much during the week. A glass of water is HEAVY. Dinner is HEAVY. When I weighed myself every day (sometimes 2, 3 times a day during unsuccessful weight loss attempts) I was so discouraged if the scale moved up. Why bother to work so hard if it just wasn’t WORKING! I might as well eat a donut. Now that I weigh ONCE a week, I see positive results. The scale can be cruel – I use a tape and measure myself once a month and record the results. I had a very long plateau where the weight didn’t move at all – I stayed positive and didn’t give up – I expected weight loss to really slow down once I wasn’t carrying around a 50 lb fat backpack every day.
Rule 13 – I gave myself permission to be a pain in the ***. I'm the coworker that doesn't want to go out for Mexican. I'm the girlfriend that doesn't want to order pizza. If coworkers and friends want to eat crap, I tell them to go have a nice time and I do my own thing. I say no to coworker's birthday cake, I am firm when I remind coworkers NO I do not want a piece of their chocolates they got in Ireland. I am the unfriendly food girl around my office and I have lost over 60 lbs and I am OKAY with that!
Rule 14 - Incremental goals - I set 10 lbs goals and rewarded myself nicely every goal. My rewards have included: new sandals, massage, fancy haircut at an expensive salon, new clothes. When I wanted to lose 60+ lbs, it was just so big and overwhelming, I had to break it up into small chunks that felt doable.
Rule 15 – I have before pictures, I keep track of measurements, I chart my progress with an Excel spreadsheet. I try on my old pants from last summer and they fall straight down. I stay motivated by seeing how far I’ve come.
Last autumn, my job offered a free health screening. For the first time, I saw numerical proof of the benefits of eating healthy, whole foods.
Blood pressure - 106/70 (desirable 120/80 and below)
Total cholesterol - 120 (desirable less than 200)
HDL (the good) cholesterol - 36 (desirable 40+ *see below)
LDL - 61 (desirable less than 100)
Triglycerides - 113 (desirable less than 150)
Glucose - 76 (desirable 60-100)
Body Fat - 25% (desirable 21-32%)
BMI - 21.9
I was initially concerned that my "good" cholesterol was borderline at 36. This is a number which the higher the number the better. The nurse explained that healthy cholesterol levels are measured on a ratio. Since my total cholesterol was so low, I had a ratio of 3.3 well within the "excellent" range (total cholesterol/HDL).
It's nice to see all that hard work paying off! Up until now, the scale has been my only "validation" - it's good for me to see these numbers! Losing weight is great, but my long term goal is HEALTH. I have a family history of diabetes, cancer and alzheimers. I am using diet to fight disease and it looks like I'm doing pretty well.