What works for me. [Food]

In the past six years, I’ve lost almost 90 pounds.  In the past six years, I’ve been asked (more times than I can count) how I did it, or what my secret it.  Let me begin by sharing the one disappointment I discovered many times over – there is no secret.  Well, if there is, I will sell you my soul for it!

But, rather than getting frustrated and assuming that anyone truly thinks it was an easy journey for me, I realized – they just want to know what I found to work.  And, I completely understand.  Because I have found 100 ways that it didn’t work for me.  Let me indulge in sharing a couple –

Miracle Monday

This is where you are ready to change your life, get into clothes you never dared to try on, and feel the energy of 10,000 suns…but you don’t dare start today.  Today, you will write out your plan, and enjoy the last hours of eating however you want.  Because, Monday.  Monday is the day the miracle happens.

So, I first plot out a weight-loss chart to see that if I lose a measly two pounds a week, I will have lost 100 pounds in a year from my “Miracle Monday”.  I would be motivated by picturing myself next to Cindy Crawford and not being mistaken for her 100-pound overweight assistant.

Next, I started my grocery list.  It was time for healthy meals, snacks, and all kinds of great meal prep.  The list wouldn’t include bread, pasta, sweets, or potato chips.  Basically, if it was outside of the produce or white meat section – it couldn’t be on my shopping list for my upcoming transformation.

Then, I would binge eat on the things I knew held me back, but I loved so dearly.  A family-sized back of Wavy Lays paired with a large tub of AE French Onion or Party dip; fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gluttonous gravy, and corn; and anything in my line of vision that contained any amount of chocolate.

Then, it was Sunday.  Time to clean out the fridge and cupboards, then head to the grocery store.  Once I was waiting in the check-out line, I knew it was smooth-sailing from here.  After all, it’s easy to eat healthy if that’s all you have in your house, right?  I usually came close to $200 in produce, lean turkey, and skinless chicken breasts.  I guess there were also the low-fat, sugar free packaged snacks too.  Well, all this made me conclude, “Man, eating healthy is expensive!”

Let’s fast-forward a couple weeks.  Usually, I was throwing away wilted spinach and all kinds of other “healthy” food that went bad.  I may have lost five pounds in the first week, but became discouraged the next week when it felt like I could only be successful if I lived on boring celery.  So, then it usually crashed entirely in one day.  That day I completely jumped the hell off the diet wagon, and ran to the closest all-you-can-eat buffet.

That’s how my Miracle Monday always went, no matter the duration I was on-track, I always threw myself off the wagon, feeling like I was missing out on some great grub.

The No-[Insert Current Trend] or All-[Insert Current Trend] Diet

You may have done them.  You may have found success.  I’ve done them.  But, I never found long-term success.  I tried a diet that consisted almost solely of cabbage soup.  I cut out all starches.  I juiced.  I high-protiened.  I low-carbed.  I one time willingly tried “Satan’s Diet”.  What in the world?  How did I think anything tagged with Satan is a good idea?

Some of these would do the trick.  The problem?  When you give up carbs, they will find you.  So, unless you are ready to run from them for the rest of your life (I do not have the willpower), it can crash.  When you juice, you get angry and may find yourself on the edge of going postal around those who are eating food they can chew.  And, when you try Satan’s diet – well, you may as well just beg to sit in eternal flames – or for as long as you can do the 10-day crash diet.

So, I decided to begin my journey with Weight Watchers.  I am a big fan of WW’s methodology (at least where it’s been for the last 15 – 6 years).  I like that I don’t have to say “no” to anything, but just have to make sure I allot points accordingly, while making sure I hit my daily intake goals for fruits and vegetables, and water.  So, I joined (for my third or fourth time), to make sure I was up on the current point values, and to have some structure to begin my discipline.

After losing about 30 pounds with WW, I ventured off on my own.  I realized I had to truly invest in myself by being patient, having realistic expectations, and not having an “all or none” attitude.  I wanted to find success, not set myself up for another failure.

So, I took steps.  I took one step at a time.  I made sure each step was truly a habit – not just because 21 days had passed, but because I felt better than before I started and wanted to continue feeling better.  I’ve listed the steps below, but it’s always evolving.  I really focus on making sure my plate is consistently healthy – but I allow myself some French fries and alcoholic beverages in moderation.

It can sound daunting, but it really is about changing the trajectory of your life.  And nothing that important or great happens overnight.  So, I really had to focus on making progress, not achieving immediate (and impossible) perfection.

  1. Don’t drink thousands of calories a day! I eliminated gourmet coffee drinks, fruit juice, milk, soda, etc. I had iced coffee with cream and sweet & low. Then, only water (I started with 48 ounces a day, but now average 200).  I would allow libations up to two nights a week (I haven’t followed this perfectly in the past several years, but do great now).  I also now allow myself about ½ a Pepsi, about once a month.
  2. Eliminate those carbs you love, but aren’t burning. I avoided restaurants offering unlimited bread with your meal.  Let me tell you, this lady can do some damage with bottomless bread!  I made meals that didn’t center around mashed potatoes, pasta, and bread.  If I had to have it, it was only one meal a week.  I promise, if you do this for a month and focus on how different you feel, it becomes much easier to turn it down.
  3. No fast food. This was tough for me. I was truly addicted to it and always felt miserable afterwards. There were some days that all five of my meals were fast food (yes, you read that correctly – “five”).  I repeated this awful cycle almost weekly.  I can tell you now, I haven’t craved a fast food anything for years.  It is a complete turn-off for me.
  4. Start your meal with the healthiest part. Whether it is a salad, roasted vegetables, etc. – start there.  Then, go down the list until you’re full.  I didn’t load up on sugar-free and fat-free processed snacks.  I tried to keep most everything fresh and unprocessed.  I would double-up on vegetables and add a baked potato (no butter and sour cream, but salsa and hot sauce are great). This is where I skipped fried anything.  I am sure there are some Iowans who would shun me for such talk!
  5. Sweets were never a huge problem for me. But, they didn’t help even when they weren’t frequently an issue.  If I allowed a cheat day, I’d go nuts and ruin all progress.  So, I allowed one cheat meal, I planned it, and tried to put it at the end of the week.  It was easier to skip past a Monday donut if I knew I was having Cheesecake Factory on Saturday night.
  6. I allowed myself unlimited vegetables (not so much with the starches – corn, peas, potatoes). But, I do eat about six baked potatoes each week (they truly are good for you)! I used them when I was hungry between meals.  I also made sure I drank 24 ounces of water at the start (and throughout) each meal.
  7. I moved to a plant-based diet with a continued focus on unprocessed junk. Did you know tater tots and Oreos are vegan? Yeah. Don’t do it! This only began at the end of July 2017. But, you wouldn’t believe that I probably eat more than most people do, pound for pound. I love large portions – and continue to have them, just not in the form of buttery, mashed potatoes.  I love flavor – and really learning how to cook plant-based meals has expanded my spice repertoire!

What kept me on track?  I really paid attention to my body and how it felt as I progressed.  It’s great to drop sizes, but the best part is remembering how you used to feel and how you feel now.  I have my lazy days, but the constant sluggishness is gone.  I am very tuned in to my body and can quickly tell if something is off, so I can enhance my diet and correct it. I can now tell you if I am up two pounds without looking at a scale – not by my clothes, but by my body, what it does, and how it feels.

I often hear that following a plant-based diet means that it’s hard to get all the nutrients you need.  I mostly am asked how in the world I get enough protein and calcium.  I use my Samsung Health app to track my food – and believe you me, I am hitting the marks in each area.  The more you know about what you’re putting in your body, the better off you are in making sure you’re getting what your body needs to be at its best.

And, I often hear how expensive it is to eat healthy.  I’ll be honest, I bet I am spending less than you are in food, each week (per person).  When you stop buying meat and dairy – and are focused on only buying what you will eat before it expires:  you surprise yourself.  I am not trying to sell you on plant-based – I am just sharing what’s worked for me!

Below, I included what I eat on average for most days.  It is a lot of food, but it works for me!

I think I have left you with a lot to digest (pun, intended).  So, I will bid you adieu, for now.

May your ride be smooth and your drinks stiff!  Cheers!

*****

I’ll share that I probably only have breakfast maybe twice a week.  I usually eat at 11a, 1:30p, 6:30p.  But, I am coming out of the closet with my newest habit – I usually have ½ or a whole PB&J sandwich around 1:30a!  It’s all about what works for you!

Breakfast (one or the other)

2 slices toast, 1 T peanut butter, ½ sliced banana, 1 T honey (not vegan, I know, but I believe the bees want me to have the honey)

1 c hash browns (lightly oiled for crispiness) with veggies (tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, etc.), 4 T salsa, 2 T hot sauce

11:30a Lunch

Baked potato, 4 T salsa, 2 T hot sauce

2 c grilled vegetables (zucchini, onion, yellow squash)

1:30p Lunch (one or the other)

Veggie Sandwich (sourdough, pickles, cucumbers, tomato, onion, spinach, spicy mustard)

½ c spinach, 1 ½ fresh mushrooms, red onion, sunflower seeds, croutons, tomatoes, Italian or Balsamic dressing

Dinner (one of the following)

12” veggie sub from Subway with guac, and baked Lays

Veggie fajitas from any Mexican restaurant (no sour cream, cheese, beans) with extra guac, hot sauce, and pico de gallo – and I eat them ALL!

Veggie sandwich, a can of beets, and a can of spinach (or sometimes a bag of frozen Brussel sprouts or other vegetable mixture)

PB&J, coconut milk yogurt, banana

Vegan Pizza – Mama Mia’s Thin & Crispy crust, pizza sauce, and all kinds of veggies.  I usually eat one large pizza, or two minis!

And, don’t forget a PB&J at 1:30a!  🙂

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