Weight Loss Support - How to come up with a healthy weight loss plan?




Nuclear Indeed
09-01-2011, 01:30 PM
This may seem awfully basic, but what's the best way to go about finding a plan? If I just tell myself to have only x amount of calories a day and eat healthy things, I feel like it's a little too much "leeway", if you know what I mean.

I'm not into fad diets and low-carb stuff or anything, but I still need a PLAN. Something I can stick to. The only thing I've tried so far was weight watchers, and I felt deprived every step of the way. I can commit to exercise for sure, but the eating right thing needs to happen.

Do you have any advice at all? Please help! I've been hovering in the 170's for months. What do you do?


tuende
09-01-2011, 01:48 PM
Calorie counting has always worked for me, but I tend to get a little more specific about it. I have a certain number of calories I shoot for, yes. But I also have a certain amount of protein I shoot for (becasue this is my nutritional weakness :)), I eat whole foods as much as possible, there are certain ingredients that are deal-breakers when it comes to processed foods I do choose to eat, etc. Not that you need to do exactly this, but these other specifics helps my calorie counting plan work for me. Calorie counting is a great tool and gives me the info I need to keep the scale moving, but finding something that works for you is a very individual process. You have to find something you can stick with!

Also, I think a lot of posters will tell you that it is the "leeway" in calorie counting that helps them stay on plan. If you want to eat something not super healthy once in a while, eat it! You just have to work it into your calories. Most people find that you can only be so restricted for so long and this helps us indulge in a controlled way.

GL!

April Snow
09-01-2011, 01:52 PM
Sounds like you just need to figure out the structure that works for you - so say something like 5+ veggie servings, 2 fruit servings, 2 dairy, 2 protein, 5 grain/starches.

Then you can figure out how to allocate your calories so you are getting the right number of servings for each group but still having the flexibility you want.


Munchy
09-01-2011, 02:09 PM
I focus on healthy, whole meals and plan/cook my meals ahead of time to alleviate the stress that on-the-fly eating gives me. I typically just eat similar breakfasts/snack/lunches/snack and then switch up my dinners and night snacks everyday. I just make sure to plan what they'll be.

When I started working with my Nutritional Therapist, she encouraged food exchanges - here is a general example of the plan she gave me to start. Obviously the proteins/omegas/grains/etc can be switched out for any other within the same category.

Breakfast
1 protein + 1 omega + 1 grain + 1 optional veggie
My Example:
1 egg, 1 piece turkey bacon, 1/2 bagel thin, spinach

Snack
1 grain + 1 calcium + 1 fruit
My Example:
2 wasa crackers, 1/2 cup blueberries in 1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

Lunch
1 grain + 2 veggies + 1 fruit + 2 protein + 1 omega
My Example:
Salad with cucumbers, chicken, dried cranberries, nuts/seeds, and a healthy dressing

Snack
1 veggie + grain + 1 omega
My Example:
Pretzels and cherry tomatoes with hummus

Dinner
1 grain + 2 veggies + 3 protein + 1 omega
My Example:
1/2 cup whole wheat pasta, 1/2 cup mashed cauliflower, 1 cup roasted brussel sprouts + 3 1oz turkey meatballs

Snack:
1 fruit + 1 omega
My Example:
1/2 banana with 1 TBSP natural peanut butter

Food Exchanges (http://www.exrx.net/Nutrition/FoodExchanges.html)

Harriette
09-01-2011, 02:12 PM
I started very structured. I used the fitday site to make a daily eating plan that worked for me within my calorie limit and with all the needed nutrients. I included all beverages (I refuse to give up my juice and have been just fine loosing 55 lbs while drinking up to a litre a day in juice!). For example, a bagel and low fat cream cheese for breakfast (same bagel, same CC everyday) or a smart ones breakfast sandwich - yum!, a snack bar mid morning. Lunch (lunch bar for on the go). Snack bar for mid afternoon. Dinner started out as only smart ones meals and has since varied but for the first while ONLY smart ones meals and a desert of some kind (skinny cow, smart ones etc). Juice as needed through the day but included in calorie count!

I recommend starting VERY structured with the same meals day in and day out simply so you start to understand portion. Once you are used to eating the portions you can change it up but be sure to include all the various nutrients you need or you will want to binge... Obviously I tend to go pre packaged for ease of use but perhaps you could have veggies or fruit instead of the bars. Do not eat out for the first while if you can help it, you need to get into a routine for it to work! It's the consistent lower calories that will take off the weight, one day or meal will not ruin it but 10 probably will.

Beach Patrol
09-01-2011, 02:23 PM
First of all I APOLOGIZE FOR THE LENGTH OF THIS POST. :D

Here's what I did - I decided that calorie counting was the way to go, because the math is simple and I find it fairly easy to add. :D

3500 calories = 1 pound. We all know this.
It takes X amount of calories for me to maintain my weight.
And if I eat too many calories per day, then I gain weight.
To lose weight, I need to decrease my calories.
See? Simple.

But HOW to apply that simplicity?
First, I kept track of my normal eating habits - not trying to diet at all! - for about a month. I thought I was averaging around 1500 or so calories per day. HA! -Then I entered everything into FitDay, to my surprise I was eating about 2300+ (heavy on the plus!) calories PER DAY! No wonder I was fat! ACK!!!

Then after that part of my "experiment" was over, I sat down with a good old fashioned pen & paper. I proceeded to write down every single thing I could think of that I enjoyed eating (or drinking!!) I mean everything! Fruit, veggies, meats, desserts, beverages, condiments, etc. EVERYTHING.

The point is I wrote down EVERYTHING that I would consider putting in my mouth. And I decided what I could "substitute" & still be happy (Diet Mtn Dew instead of regular Mtn Dew, for instance ... but not fat-free ranch dressing... icky poo!!!- but I do like Hidden Valley Ranch LITE :D ) Then I went on-line & looked up the calorie count for a regular serving of all those foods. Some are harder than others to decipher, because hey... I make my own sweet tea and I put 1.5 cups sugar to a gallon, and I am not math-minded enough to decipher what an 8oz serving glass would equal in calories. And going out to eat can be pretty tricky sometimes. But with some practice (& looking up everything online! - & coming here for guidance! ;) ) I finally got the hang of it.

I went online to find a calorie calculator - to find out how many calories *I* should eat for my size & to lose weight (healthy, safely!). Then I built my own food log in FitDay (just one of many calorie trackers out there!!!) and now I adjust that caloric intake for however much weight I lose so I can keep on losing, until I'm ready to maintain. (192 lb me ate a different amount of calories than the current 161 lb me eats.)

I EAT ALL THE FOODS I LOVE. I never eat anything I don't like! No "puffy rice cake" shall ever pass these lips!! No gagging-reflex crappy low-fat anything! Is it OK for me to eat a cheeseburger from time to time? YOU BETCHA! I enjoy pretty much everything - just less of it. And it also makes it easy for me when it comes down to "Do I REALLY want a frozen margarita for 700 calories?" - usually I choose NOT to imbibe, but have a nice 150 calorie glass of wine or a 100 calorie light beer instead.

This is working for me. My weight is decreasing slower than some, but I'll take it... as opposed to not decreasing at all, or worse yet... gaining. :o And I KNOW I can do this "for the rest of my life" because when you eat what you love, there's no "going back to old eating habits". Is it a perfect plan? NO of course not. There are still times when I eat too much. I can pretty much never say no to a bigger portion of macaroni & cheese (3/4 cup... puh-leeze!!!) and sometimes I DO have that 700 calorie frozen margarita... :dizzy: But the basic bottom line? "the perfect diet is the foods you'll eat" :D

carter
09-01-2011, 02:24 PM
May I ask why you felt deprived on Weight Watchers? It's been quite a few years since I've been in Weight Watchers, but my recollection is that Weight Watchers plan doesn't forbid any foods as long as you budget points for it. What is it that you were feeling deprived of, exactly?

I think you might need to make sure whatever plan you choose addresses that feeling of deprivation - or, to be honest, that you address it, because if a plan as flexible as Weight Watchers gives you this feeling, you might need to adjust your mindset in order to create a plan you can really stick to.

Harriette
09-02-2011, 01:40 AM
This may sound nuts! BUT! IT works for me! :D

I pick something that sounds nice: stir-fried chicken (and onions and spices) with veg and thai peanut sauce. And I eat the same thing day after day after day! (I might swap the chicken with prawns) Because I fare better if I don't obsess about what I can or cannot eat. The less I think about food the better. Hence the same meal every day. (I make enough to last 2 portions for lunch and dinner) Breakfast is yoghurt and ground linseed for the omegas and so on, and I have a banana after gym. No obsessing, no daydreaming about food! ;)

Exactly! That is what I do! but in a more prepackaged kind of way :) It is not a concern if I already know what I am eating and if I do not think about it, it just happens. I stay focussed in the store on my items, do not even look at other stuff. It is amazing how it takes the daydreaming out of the equation!

Tomato
09-02-2011, 10:34 AM
From the very beginning, I decided that calorie counting was NOT the way to go. Too much work, too much hassle. (Chicks, no need to remind me that FitDay or FitPlate or what are all those sites called are easy - I actually did try, just to see how I am doing on the carbs/protein/fat ratio - but like I said, too much hassle). I decided I need to figure out how to keep doing this not just to lose weight (i.e. let's say over the period of 12 months or whatever) but how to live the rest of my life.

I have always been a carb eater (I am partly preconditioned to such diet by growing up elsewhere where people don't grow up on McD's and other fast food places, but where bread, buns and home-made pastries are the staples).
I did not want to diet (i.e. follow Atkins, South Beach Diet, what have you). I knew that I need to exercise because my life (stressful but sedentary job at a computer and too much TV after work) needed a major overhaul.

To this day, I do not count calories. When I lost approx 50 lbs, about 2 years back (gosh, I can't believe how the time flies) I was measured for a body fat % by a professional and my BMR was calculated to be somewhere around 1800 calories. (I think it was 1860, but I would have to look it up). Later, I stopped working out because I was too darn busy doing other stuff, and my dietary discipline took a hit. I am slowly returning to where I was (plus I want to go another 10 lbs lower). I am not doing any heavy exercise right now (although I do have to hit the weights again, I really miss iron pumping) - I do Zumba 2 or 3 times a week (1 hr sessions) and I swim 3 times a week (45 minute sessions). Here and there I "sin" a little in terms of food but I eat very clean and I cook everything myself. I am steadily losing about 3 lbs a month.
Not a major amount by most's calculations, but I am not far from my goal so that's fine.
The final number on the scale is not that important to me. I want to be at certain body fat percentage with nicely defined muscles. I figure this is much easier to maintain over the long run - the key is to not eat crap and stay active.

Nuclear Indeed
09-04-2011, 04:11 PM
You guys have really given some great advice so far! From what I'm gathering, many of you are successful by calorie counting, some by focusing on the food groups, and some focusing on eating the same thing for awhile to get used to the portions. I actually heard of doing this before, but I never knew how well it would work. I think I'll try combining these things and giving it a shot.

As for why I felt deprived on weight watchers, it was the calculations of the points, honestly. That piece of bread has 2 points, that bite of cheese has one point, everything has a point. I've practically had nightmares about these points. I think it's much easier for me to count calories than figure out the points to every little thing.

April Snow
09-04-2011, 07:32 PM
I'm not sure that counting calories feels that much different than counting points. It's still about knowing the portion sizes and keeping track of everything you eat.

I did calorie counting and was relatively successful with it, but I will say that I am much happier on my current plan where the types of foods are restricted but the amounts are not. So as long as I eat the permitted foods, I don't have to worry about or count the quantities. It's definitely been a very positive change for me and I do find that I am MUCH more relaxed about food and it has not been a struggle to stay on plan with eating - I have been on plan ever day since I started on May 22.

I will also put in a plug for the concept of eating a very limited menu. I've read some research supporting the idea that people who eat a limited menu are more successful on diets. I think part of this is about your general outlook to weight loss. Some people look at what they are doing as a permanent lifestyle change and want to basically eat everything they would normally eat, but in more moderate quantities. For me, I know that this particularly strict part of my journey is temporary and I will not be eating this way for the rest of my life. Once the weight is off, I will start to incorporate a greater variety of foods back into my diet. I am not saying that this is the right way to go for everyone, just that I have personally found it to be much easier for me than trying to do the "everything is ok, in moderation" approach.

kaplods
09-04-2011, 09:24 PM
Remember too that while you need a plan, you don't need to pick the perfect one. I've lost 94 lbs on several different diets.

Because we so often say "pick something you can stick with," it sometimes gets interpreted as having to find the perfect plan from the beginning. I think it makes more sense to say "avoid plans you know you will never stick with," but otherwise experiment - experiment a lot.

I love exchange plans, because of their flexibility (nearly as flexible as calorie counting) and also because of the built in balance. I tend to go on food jags when left to my own devices. During my period I'll want a lot of red meat, during the summer I'll eat fruit and veggies til I'm sick. I always will avoid dairy if I don't intentionally include it, and it's really easy for me to overdo high-carb foods if I don't set limits.

Following an exchange plan is a lot easier than trying to set a calorie limit and additional guidelines. If I'm going to decide that I should eat at least 4 servings of veggies, at least 3 servings of fruit, 2 dairy, and no more than 6 tsp of fat - then I might as well use an exchange plan, rather than add conditions on top of calorie counting.

I chose a lower carb 1500 exchange plan I found online as my base. Then I added about 500 calories worth of "optional exchanges" - that is 6 exchanges (60-80 calories each) that I can spend on protein, starch, fruit, or dairy.

It makes the plan as easy and as flexible as calorie counting, while insuring some balance.

I also like that it can be adapted to any style of eating. I can translate the principles of any diet plan, including Atkins, South Beach, Primal Blueprint... into an exchange plan. The plan guides my selections, but the exchange plan controls the calorie level (I cannot follow any unlimited food plan. I can stall even on Atkins induction).

LGW
09-04-2011, 09:30 PM
Make sure whatever plan you choose is a lifestyle change and something that you can do for the rest of your life. After you lose the weight, if you have not learned portion control and healthy eating habits the weight will return :)

Munchy
09-06-2011, 11:31 AM
You guys have really given some great advice so far! From what I'm gathering, many of you are successful by calorie counting, some by focusing on the food groups, and some focusing on eating the same thing for awhile to get used to the portions. I actually heard of doing this before, but I never knew how well it would work. I think I'll try combining these things and giving it a shot.

As for why I felt deprived on weight watchers, it was the calculations of the points, honestly. That piece of bread has 2 points, that bite of cheese has one point, everything has a point. I've practically had nightmares about these points. I think it's much easier for me to count calories than figure out the points to every little thing.

I will be perfectly honest and say that WW points, calories, exchanges, etc are all the same. The WW points may be the easiest thing to count, especially because they weigh out the healthy aspect of the foods (ie something that is 100 calories is 100 calories, but depending on the other nutritional information, it could be 1, 2, or 3 points).

What did make things easiest for me when I started with WW many years ago, was I went through my entire pantry and fridge, and wrote the points on the boxes/packages with serving amounts with a sharpie.

Calorie counting already has it on the package, so that's one step you could feasibly skip :)

Esofia
09-06-2011, 03:16 PM
Look around, see what popular plans are out there and which ones appeal to you, pick something you reckon you can live with well. If it's not working out, it's not a crime to switch to another plan, but also stop to think whether it's something about you which would happen with any weight loss plan. Either way, think about why you've put on weight, what your issues are with food, good ways to tackle these issues. This is individual to everyone, what works for me won't work for everyone else, but there are so many common themes and problems that you should be able to find them all discussed here. For instance, it sounds like you're uneasy with the relatively loose structure of calorie counting. That's fine, it's a valid preference, but it may help to consider why it's so, as that might help you work out something about your approach to food/dieting.

Nuclear Indeed
09-11-2011, 02:58 PM
I'm not sure that counting calories feels that much different than counting points. It's still about knowing the portion sizes and keeping track of everything you eat.

I did calorie counting and was relatively successful with it, but I will say that I am much happier on my current plan where the types of foods are restricted but the amounts are not. So as long as I eat the permitted foods, I don't have to worry about or count the quantities. It's definitely been a very positive change for me and I do find that I am MUCH more relaxed about food and it has not been a struggle to stay on plan with eating - I have been on plan ever day since I started on May 22.

I will also put in a plug for the concept of eating a very limited menu. I've read some research supporting the idea that people who eat a limited menu are more successful on diets. I think part of this is about your general outlook to weight loss. Some people look at what they are doing as a permanent lifestyle change and want to basically eat everything they would normally eat, but in more moderate quantities. For me, I know that this particularly strict part of my journey is temporary and I will not be eating this way for the rest of my life. Once the weight is off, I will start to incorporate a greater variety of foods back into my diet. I am not saying that this is the right way to go for everyone, just that I have personally found it to be much easier for me than trying to do the "everything is ok, in moderation" approach.

Honestly, counting calories vs counting points were very different for me. Essentialy, it's all the same information, but I find it MUCH easier to calculate calories. I made a pan of black bean brownies one time and was able to calculate the calorie down to the slice. I couldn't have done that as easily with points.

Also, it seems harder to "split" the points. If I wanted, say, a slice and a half of bread, I could just say it's 147 calories. With points, I could end up with something like 1.3333 points, and that isn't all that practical to me. I have no doubt that it works for other people, but I like to have very precise calculations.

With that aside, would you mind telling me what your plan is? I, too have difficulties with the whole "everything in moderation" approach, because I want to eat everything! What foods in particular are you limiting?

Remember too that while you need a plan, you don't need to pick the perfect one. I've lost 94 lbs on several different diets.

Because we so often say "pick something you can stick with," it sometimes gets interpreted as having to find the perfect plan from the beginning. I think it makes more sense to say "avoid plans you know you will never stick with," but otherwise experiment - experiment a lot.

I love exchange plans, because of their flexibility (nearly as flexible as calorie counting) and also because of the built in balance. I tend to go on food jags when left to my own devices. During my period I'll want a lot of red meat, during the summer I'll eat fruit and veggies til I'm sick. I always will avoid dairy if I don't intentionally include it, and it's really easy for me to overdo high-carb foods if I don't set limits.

Following an exchange plan is a lot easier than trying to set a calorie limit and additional guidelines. If I'm going to decide that I should eat at least 4 servings of veggies, at least 3 servings of fruit, 2 dairy, and no more than 6 tsp of fat - then I might as well use an exchange plan, rather than add conditions on top of calorie counting.

I chose a lower carb 1500 exchange plan I found online as my base. Then I added about 500 calories worth of "optional exchanges" - that is 6 exchanges (60-80 calories each) that I can spend on protein, starch, fruit, or dairy.

It makes the plan as easy and as flexible as calorie counting, while insuring some balance.

I also like that it can be adapted to any style of eating. I can translate the principles of any diet plan, including Atkins, South Beach, Primal Blueprint... into an exchange plan. The plan guides my selections, but the exchange plan controls the calorie level (I cannot follow any unlimited food plan. I can stall even on Atkins induction).

I loved how you started this post off. You're right, there's all this talk about picking what we can stick to for eternity. That can become a little overwhelming, especially to people like me who have misinterpreted it as "choose you're lifestyle diet NOW form the BEGINNING and never ever stray from it!". It helps to know that I can try different things along my journey. In fact, it might spice it up a little!

Since you mentioned exchange plans, I decided to read up on it. It seems a lot like weight watchers (wasn't WW inspired by EP?), but I think I may be willing to give it a try. I have a specific question, though: they say one slice of bacon counts as one fat, but it also counts as only 1 protein. Can I put it in either category? I specifically had 2 slices of turkey bacon.

I will be perfectly honest and say that WW points, calories, exchanges, etc are all the same. The WW points may be the easiest thing to count, especially because they weigh out the healthy aspect of the foods (ie something that is 100 calories is 100 calories, but depending on the other nutritional information, it could be 1, 2, or 3 points).

What did make things easiest for me when I started with WW many years ago, was I went through my entire pantry and fridge, and wrote the points on the boxes/packages with serving amounts with a sharpie.

Calorie counting already has it on the package, so that's one step you could feasibly skip :)

I further expressed my problems with weight watchers in the beginning of the post. I must say, though, that I never tried marking everything in my pantry. It seems like it could work, but still seems like a lot to go through.

kaplods
09-11-2011, 05:13 PM
Since you mentioned exchange plans, I decided to read up on it. It seems a lot like weight watchers (wasn't WW inspired by EP?), but I think I may be willing to give it a try. I have a specific question, though: they say one slice of bacon counts as one fat, but it also counts as only 1 protein. Can I put it in either category? I specifically had 2 slices of turkey bacon.



Yes, you can often count things as either one or the other. For example you can count beans as either protein, bread, or 1/2 of each (some diabetics will be told to count it always as bread, but everyone else can choose which category to use).

However, I've never seen 1 slice of bacon = 1 protein. It's "close enough" mathwise that you could, but turkey bacon is generally a bit leaner than pork.


According to my materials (and my calculations based on learning to "translate" nutrition labels into exchanges from the book "Exchanges for All Occasions, 4th edition - I don't think the info is in the 5th edition):


1 slice of pork or turkey bacon For example, in my exchange materials both turkey and pork bacon are 1 slice = 1 fat.

3 slices regular pork bacon = 1 protein and 2 fat exchanges (or 3 fat exchanges).

3 slices turkey bacon = 1 protein and 2 fat exchanges (or 3 fat exchanges).

3 slices turkey bacon = 1 protein





I further expressed my problems with weight watchers in the beginning of the post. I must say, though, that I never tried marking everything in my pantry. It seems like it could work, but still seems like a lot to go through.

I do this with exchanges too. It seems like a lot of work, but it goes faster than you think and then you never have to do it again for that item (or at most have to copy it to the next box you buy).

For things I don't buy all the time, I even have a notebook in which I've written down the exchange information, so when I buy it next time, I don't have to recalculate the math, I just copy it from the notebook.

I also tend to do this during tv commercials. I'll take several boxes from the pantry, and during commercials I'll figure the exchanges and write them on the box. When I'm done (during the commerical) I'll exchange the boxes for a few more.


Once you get the hang of things, you start to be able to estimate in your head really well.

For example in exchange plans, bread/starch exchanges contain about 15g of carbs and up to 80 calories. Most cereals (between 110 and 180 calories) are equal to 2 bread servings. You don't have to memorize all cereals, you just have to pick cereals that fall between the 120 and 180 calorie mark per serving.

Most instant oatmeals also fall in that 25-40g of carb, and 110 - 170 calorie range per packet.

The estimates don't have to be exact. If your math tells you it's .7 to 1.2 exchanges - it counts as 1 exchange. As long as you're not always underestimating, you won't run into problems.