I've had some people ask me how I've done it and I meant to write this in a post for quite awhile. The last couple months my weight has plateaued (and threatened to creep back up) and I've slowly been slipping back into some unhealthy patterns, so I figured this was as good a time as any to write it all out. And, hopefully, this will be the refresher that I need.
I have always struggled with my weight. Always. From a slightly chunky child to an anorexic pre-teen to a yo-yo dieter/binge eater as an adult, I could write the book on what NOT to do in setting proper eating habits. In the past, I've tried seriously restricting & counting calories, low-fat diets, vegetarian diets, eating baby food diets (no kidding!). You name it I probably tried it.
Around the time I got married, my weight had settled somewhere between 150-160. I wasn't thrilled with this weight but it seemed relatively healthy for me & seemed to be where my body naturally wanted to be. Then I started having children (4 within 6 years) and went through the cycle of gaining a LOT while pregnant, losing some & then starting over with another pregnancy.
By the time my 4th child was born, I was at my all-time non-pregnant high and I lacked the motivation or the energy to do anything about it. I became resolved to the 'fact' that after four children my body was never going to be the same....and apparently I was going to be heavy.
But, then in the year or so after my last son was born I started experiencing major mood swings. I have also always struggled with depression so mood swings weren't entirely strange to me. But, these were severe and they seemed to correspond with my monthly cycle. There were about 5 days a month where I couldn't seem to keep myself from sobbing uncontrollably.
I was aware that hormones were probably playing a part in my mood swings. I also have a personal preference not to use medication to assist me in this way. (And, for other personal reasons I don't use birth control that introduces synthetic hormones into my body - so I knew this was all my own hormones out of wack). I knew if I went to see a doctor they would probably recommend medication of some sort. So, I just continued to suffer through it.
Then, I came across this article : Are Your Hormones Making You Miserable? by Dr. Mark Hyman. I even wrote about it in another post. And, the article suggested natural, practical ways to adjust your eating habits to help get your hormones back in sync. Everything he talked about in the article were healthy eating practices I already knew I should be doing. But, somehow this article really struck a chord with me. And, I was desperate.
And, so without further ado....here are some of the changes I made in my eating habits to become a healthier and happier person....
1. Make it a lifestyle change....not a diet: This might seem like a no-brainer. But, I really had to adjust my thinking. I was so used to 'going on diets' that I always looked at any healthy changes I made as temporary. I had to identify new ways of eating and I had to be able to live with them! Along with that - no food is off limits. If I want a piece of cake, I'll have a piece...a small piece. And, it can't be every day (although I usually DO treat myself to a small piece of dark chocolate every day). Moderation is key.
2. Make the changes gradually: Another big downfall for me in the past is that I'd become overwhelmed. I couldn't jump from completely unhealthy to completely healthy in one day. 'Oh my gosh', I used to think as I read other blogs & articles. ' I should be eating completely organic, hormone free, completely made from scratch, no sugar, etc..' And, it seemed like too big a jump. Instead identify a couple changes you want to start with & go from there. Just start!
3. End night-time snacking: This one was huge for me and was one of the first changes I made. I probably lost a good bit of my weight from this one alone. My husband and I used to have a major snack at night after the kids went to bed - nachos, cheese & crackers, chips, etc. I'm sure I used to consume the equivalent of another meal in that night-time noshing.
4. Think of food as fuel: Here's another major mindset I had to change. I've always associated food with pleasure and comfort. And, I'm sure an aspect of that will always remain. Let's face it. I love food! But, I started trying to think in terms of what my body needed. After lunch if I was still hungry, should I grab some crackers or chips from the cupboard? Or should I grab some fruit or nuts instead?
5. Keep a food journal: While I didn't want to commit to counting calories or food points (it didn't seem like a long-term lifestyle change for me), I did want to be more concious of what I was eating. And, in being more concious I could become more intentional. So, I've been keeping a food journal. I mark the date, my morning weight, and what I eat that day for all meals and snacks. At the beginning I was very specific about marking down exactly what I ate. For instance, here's an early entry...
8-9-11 (Tuesday) 182.6
Breakfast: 3 slices turkey bacon, Chobani Greek honey yogurt, 1 peach, coffee
Lunch: 1/2 Jalapeno & cheddar tortilla wrapped with hummus, sauteed veggies (onion, pepper, mushroom, zucchini), & tomato. Cherry Chocolate Baked Oatmeal, Seltzer water
P.M. Snack: Carrots and Hummus
Dinner: Baked Cod, Broccoli, Mac n Cheese, Peachy Salsa & Tortilla Chips, 1 pc. dark chocolate & 1/2 scoop frozen lemon yogurt
And, here's a more recent entry....
2-9-12 (Thursday) 157.4
Breakfast: Coffee, Granola, Banana
Lunch: Spagetti & Meatballs, Cheesecake
Snack: EmergenC, Sunflower Seeds
Dinner: Chicken Ravioli, Peas
And, somedays I don't remember to write it all down. But, this has been a good exercise for me. Plus, when my weight fluctuates in a way I don't expect or like, I can also get a visual on why that happened.
6. Eat fewer carbs/eat healthier carbs: I really do like my noodles & breads. But, I found I could eat less of them and actually feel fuller/ more energetic. And, when I do eat them, I try to eat as whole-grain as much as I can.
7. Eat a low carb, protein rich breakfast: I usually would grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast...and sometimes I still will. But, eating protein in the morning makes a huge difference in my energy levels & how long I stay full. For breakfast I try to eat egg omelets with veggies, or Greek yogurt & fruit, or fruit and cheese. Smoothies made with fruit, greek yogurt, & spinach were a summertime favorite. I'll admit, I get tired of eggs. But, getting some sort of protein in there is so helpful.
8. Snack More: You might be saying, "Wait a minute! Wasn't #3 'no night-time snacking'? Yes indeed. But, I've found that to keep my energy & metabolism up during the day I actually have more success in my weight loss when I snack. A small healthy morning & afternoon snack can be a useful weight loss tool. Some snacks I enjoy: fruit, raisins, nuts, apples & cheese, carrots & hummus. I do try to steer clear of crackers...even whole-grain, mainly because I have very little self-control when it comes to crunchy, salty snacks.
9. Eat more fruits & veggies: Fruit was easy for me to sneak in extra servings because it's easy to grab & can stand on it's own. Veggies were harder. I don't usually like raw veggies unless they have some rich creamy dip on the side. I did discover that I enjoyed them with hummus (got more protein in there too!). Also, I started eating giant salads for lunches topped with veggies that were sauteed in a little olive oil. Onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, etc. are all super tasty this way. I also ate a lot of wraps that were mainly sauteed veggies with a little cheese thrown in too.
10. Eat fewer processed foods: This one was fairly easy for me. As it is I do make most of our foods from scratch...or almost completely from scratch. But, this opened my eyes to really watching labels when it comes to cereals, crackers, etc....stuff we pretty much accept that we have to buy already packaged. It really is shocking when you start looking at what we so willingly put into our bodies....it's not really food. And, this might seem counter-intuitive to health and weight loss, but I use real butter...not margarine. Try to purchase thing in their purest, most whole form possible. Sometimes it requires more prep on your part, but it's worth it.
11. Exercise: Confession. Apart from the 2 months or so that I was running to prepare for a 5K, I haven't been exercising. I meant to give myself a little break over the holidays, but haven't gotten back into the groove. And, guess what? My mood is starting to suffer again. I can't begin to emphasize how GOOD I felt when I was doing some form of exercise. So, this is for me as much as it is for you...Get moving!
12. Don't beat yourself up: Another one of my huge downfalls used to be that as soon as I had a bad day or a bad week, I usually ended up giving up. This is another tough mindset to break. And, I'm struggling with this one right now. I mentioned at the beginning that I needed this post as a refresher for me too. I'm falling back into some bad habits and the numbers on the scale are starting to move back up. But, as soon as I get mad at myself or frustrated at myself it starts this whole 'stinkin thinkin' track in my head "You're gonna get fat again. You're pathetic. You can't do this." Get the picture? Give yourself some leeway & some grace. Then, just keep going and keep trying.
I think that pretty much covers it. Practical stuff right? Common sense stuff. Trust me I know it's not easy. But, it is absolutely do-able. I still have a little farther to go. I'd love to weigh right around 140 pounds. But, more importantly I want to treat my body kindly & be a good steward of my health.