I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I kept second-guessing myself. I'm always getting asked for tips on how to get started, how I lost the weight, how I stayed motivated, etc. I hesitate to even share all that because I truly believe that everybody is different, and what works for me may not work for others; just as what works for others may not work for me. Through a lot of trial and error, I discovered what worked for me. My diet was never perfect, nor did I strive for it to be; my exercise was what I was willing to do, but not more; and my thought process was pretty much whatever would get me through the day!
As you know, I've been really struggling with maintenance for a little over a year now, and I just can't seem to get back to the lifestyle and mindset that I had in 2009-2010 when I was losing the weight. I'm not making excuses--I know what I need to do, and how to do it, but I've just been making bad choices for whatever reason.
So, lately, I've been thinking again about this post, and I decided to go ahead and write it--if only for myself. I wanted to gather all of my habits, tricks, and tips into one spot so that I can remember what it is that I did to drop this weight. As you read this, please just keep in mind that I'm not trying to tell anyone what they "should" or "shouldn't" do. I encourage people to find what works for them. But these are just suggestions--things that worked for me--so hopefully they'll help others to get some ideas, too!
I've written this in past tense, which feels kind of awkward; but I would be lying if I wrote it present tense, because I've fallen out of a lot of these habits over the past year. By writing them down, I'm hoping that I'll get back to these habits.
- I weighed or measured everything that I ate, except for 0-Point fruits and vegetables.
- I kept a food log, writing down everything that I ate and calculating the Points in each food.
- I very rarely ate out at restaurants.
- I stopped eating fast food--not because I didn't "allow" it, but because it wasn't worth the amount of Points I'd have to spend on it. If I did eat fast food, it was Subway, but even that was rare.
- When going to a restaurant, I always looked up the menu online and decided exactly what I would order; then I would calculate the Points and log it before I even left the house. I used DWLZ.com to look up Points in restaurant food.
- I switched to unsweetened black coffee. It took some getting used to, but eventually I liked it that way. Later, I quit coffee altogether, and now I find it repulsive.
- I didn't force myself to eat foods I didn't like (yogurt and salads come to mind).
- I saved my "big" indulgences for my long run days--typically, desserts with 500-ish calories. They tasted even better when I knew that I'd already burned the calories off ;)
- I didn't let anyone else tell me how I "should" be eating. I've heard it all--too little protein, too many carbs, too much sugar, not enough vegetables, too much processed food--and I don't care. I know that I eat much better than I did when I was obese, and I will settle for that. (Even on this post, someone will likely tell me some of these habits are "wrong"--but I will continue to do what worked for me.)
- I had a "safe" snack as my go-to when I just felt like eating. Grapes! They are 0 PointsPlus on Weight Watchers, and I happen to love them. I ate SO many grapes when I was losing weight, despite people telling me that they had "too much sugar". I guarantee they didn't have as much sugar as all the ice cream and cookies I was eating before I lost the weight!
- I saved enough calories/Points to have a treat every evening. It may have been a dessert, or it may have been a glass of wine and a piece of chocolate... regardless, it was whatever would make me look forward to the end of the day while staying on track. It helped me to say no to a lot of otherwise difficult food situations.
- I didn't let anyone push food on me. If I didn't want something (whether it was on my plan or not), I just said no. I didn't feel the need to make excuses--I just told the truth and I didn't let anyone convince me otherwise. After they saw I was serious, they stopped pushing food on me.
- I lost weight the fastest/easiest when I was eating just 3-4 times per day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bedtime treat.
- I ate whatever I wanted, completely disregarding the carbs/protein/fat/etc. in each food. I only focused on the calories (or Points) in what I ate. By eating what I wanted, I avoided bingeing. Also, trying to calculate all the macronutrients was overwhelming and time consuming.
- I started drinking a ton of water. I started my day with a quart before breakfast, I'd drink another quart in the late morning, and then a third quart in the afternoon. At first, I wasn't thirsty for that much water; but eventually, I began to crave that water right when I woke up in the mornings.
- I started using brown rice instead of white rice.
- I discovered Smart Taste pasta, which is white pasta, but with more fiber. I didn't like the taste or texture of whole wheat pasta, so this was a good alternative.
- I completely gave up drinking soda. I didn't want to "waste" my calories on a beverage, unless it contained alcohol ;)
- Pete Thomas (from The Biggest Loser) taught me something that was very helpful when I asked him a question about binge eating. He said that if you're going to binge, at least find something that satisfies the binge but is a lot less calories. For example, instead of bingeing on Haagen Dazs ice cream, try sugar free fudgesicles. Even if you eat the entire box of fudgesicles, you've still consumed less than a third of the calories in that pint of Haagen Dazs. He said that when he was on the ranch for The Biggest Loser, sometimes he'd eat an entire can of Reddi-Whip. It was only 200-something calories, but it satisfied him. (I'm not saying that eating a box of fudgesicles or a can of Reddi-Whip are healthy habits--please don't misunderstand me--but when looking at the less of two evils, those made more sense for weight loss). Here is the post with lots of advice from Pete.
- If I found myself eating too much of something (going back for seconds or thirds...) and I was on a slippery slope to a binge, I would get one more large bite ready, then throw the rest away. After it was in the trash, I'd eat that final bite.
- I ate popcorn for a bedtime snack very often, and I loved it! I would air pop the kernels, and then drizzle them with two teaspoons of canola oil (now, I would use coconut oil) and a heavy sprinkling of salt. This was very satisfying because it took a while to eat, and the fat and salt made it feel indulgent.
- I wasn't afraid of processed foods. I know that they are unhealthy, but when I was first trying to lose the weight, I couldn't make that many big changes (eating far less, no processed foods, adding veggies, etc.). So, I ate the processed foods because I enjoyed them. And eventually, as I lost weight, they appealed less to me. I started enjoying healthier foods. Now, I eat a mix of both, and I don't feel badly about it. Nobody eats a perfect diet!
- I cooked a lot of the same foods I made before I started losing weight, but I made them less caloric by substituting ingredients. For example, I used to buy ground beef, but I switched to lean (or extra lean) ground turkey. Now, Jerry and I (and even our kids) actually prefer the taste and texture of the turkey better! Most of the recipes on my recipes blog are things that I ate when I was obese as well as when I was losing weight; I just changed some of the ingredients to make them Points-friendly.
- By planning a weekly treat (whether it was a higher-calorie meal at a restaurant or a dessert that I'd been craving, or something else), I found it much easier to turn down temptations on the other days. Also, by planning for that treat, I didn't feel any guilt about eating it.
- I made a list of common foods or meals that I would eat, and wrote the Points value next to it--when I was hungry, but couldn't decide what to eat, I could just look at the list and something would inspire me.
- I ate a dark chocolate Dove Promise every evening, taking the tiniest of nibbles to savor it as long as possible. Sometimes I would have it with wine, or sometimes with hot tea.
- I started drinking hot tea as a way to keep from snacking. I never liked hot tea until I tried adding a touch of cream and sugar to it (half a teaspoon of sugar and a tablespoon of half and half).
- After a bad day of eating, instead of trying to make up for it by eating as little as possible (like I had in the past), I just continued on with what I was doing before. I found that by trying to make up for the bad day, I would feel deprived and binge, which turned into a cycle of bingeing and restricting--which is hard to quit! So by going right back to normal, I didn't feel deprived, and there was really no harm done.
- At a party, if there wasn't any food that I could fit into my plan (or that just didn't appeal to me) I ate before I went or after I got home. Nobody says you have to eat at a party. Sometimes, I would just have coffee or tea and sip on that while others were eating.
- When going to a party, I always asked the host what to expect as far as good goes, so that I could plan ahead.
- When drinking in a social setting, I would either have a 5-oz. glass of wine (or two) to sip very slowly, or I would drink the low calorie beers (Bud Select 55, Miller 64, or my favorite, Beck's Light). If I wanted something very high calorie, like a margarita, I would have to work that into my plan for the entire week.
- I brought my own food to my mom's house when she was making a big dinner. I wasn't doing it to be rude, but because I wanted to stick with my plan, and what was best for me.
- I committed to walking/running 30 minutes, three times per week.
- I registered to walk the Indy Mini-Marathon (13.1 miles). Knowing that I was registered for the race forced me to train for it. Exercise was no longer a choice, but something I had to do to prepare for the event. Skipping the training wasn't an option. Eventually, the exercise became a habit.
- I hated exercise, so I didn't start doing it until after I'd lost about 60 pounds, and then I started walking. I eventually set a goal to walk or run 30 minutes three times per week. I was willing to do that! I was not willing to aim for 6-7 days a week of hard cardio, so I chose not to.
- I got a treadmill so that I wouldn't have any reason not to run or walk when I didn't have anyone to watch my kids.
- I discovered that I really enjoy doing active games on the Wii--the Wii Fit has a lot of fun games that didn't even feel like exercise. And since I'm competitive with myself, I enjoyed trying to beat my scores.
- I always had a pair of jeans on hand that were one size too small. Every week, on my weigh-in day, I would try on the jeans. As soon as they fit, I'd buy a size smaller. It was fun seeing the sizes go from 24 to 4.
- I visualized myself at my goal weight--a LOT. I loved to think about going to Indy for the Mini Marathon with a group of family and friends, and not being the fattest one there. When I started running, I would spend the majority of the run thinking about crossing the finish line of my races. Visualization sounds so hokey, but it really helped me.
- I took full-length photos of myself every 10 pounds I lost, so that I could see a side-by-side comparison. Seeing that progress really helped me to keep going! The changes were never visible in the mirror, so the pictures were key for me.
- I read a ton of success stories on SparkPeople.com while I was losing weight. It kept me motivated to keep going.
- I wrote a list of things to look forward to when I was thin. Things like, "wrapping a bath towel all the way around me", "tying my shoes without getting out of breath", etc. It was so fun to check things off that list! Here is a list of non-scale victories that I noticed during my weight loss.
- As hokey as it sounded to me, I created a "vision board" of sorts. The ONLY thing that I put on there was the cover of People magazine's Half Their Size issue. I wanted to reach half my original size so badly!
- I made monthly challenges--things like getting in 10,000 steps per day or not eating peanut butter. I enjoyed the short, direct challenges and felt accomplished when I succeeded.
- I wrote out goals very often--I liked to imagine what it would feel like to reach those goals. Just listing them made me feel successful, in a way.
- While watching TV at night, I started knitting and crocheting to keep my hands busy in order to not snack. I also like doing puzzles, and I can't eat while doing that.
- I stopped looking for quick fixes. I knew I'd probably lose weight faster if I exercised more, or cut back on carbs, or whatever the trend was--but I stuck to what was comfortable for ME, and accepted that it might take longer than I'd like.
- I used a dry-erase board every evening to plan out the following day's meals. If something changed, I could just change it easily on the dry-erase board.
- I typed up all of my favorite recipes and calculated the Points value for Weight Watchers in each. Then, I put them all in a three-ring binder, so it was easy to find a recipe and see how many Points it was without having to calculate all over again.
- I didn't make excuses. Even on my busiest of days, I would make time to track my food or do my planned activity.
Okay, hopefully some of these are helpful! Please don't think of them as a set of "rules" I followed. These are just things that I sort of fell into while I was losing weight. I didn't make a lot of changes at once, because it was too overwhelming; instead, I just did what I felt *I* could handle. Now, I just need to get back to that place ;)