I am not on a diet. I am retraining myself to be healthy. When I reach a healthy weight, I may have to add some calories to stabilize, but I hope to have a foundation of healthy eating principles. I don’t want food to rule my life. I don’t want to obsess over junk foods and binge, or to analyze everything I eat and count calories. I want to get the principles of eating healthy and think about food less.
I’ve already shared that I don’t eat “diet” foods. So, what do I eat? You can see my family’s weekly meal plans here to get an idea. There is also a great book out called the Mayo Clinic Diet that sets forth some principles (no calorie counting!), but here are some general guidelines I try to follow:
Small meals throughout the day.
When I first started trying to eat better, snacks were the enemy and my goal initially was to cut out all snacks. After eating better foods and burning 200-300 extra calories each day through working out, I realized I need to refuel more often. I eat when I’m hungry, usually 3 meals + 2-3 healthy snacks each day, for a total of 1400-1500 calories, which is the goal set for me by My Fitness Pal. My snacks are like small meals in most cases, peanut butter and crackers, bean dip with cheese and tortilla chips, tuna salad with crackers, fruit with cheese and crackers, etc. I try to balance carbs and protein in my snacks. My snacks are not cookies, cakes, candy bars, etc.
Bye-Bye Sugary Treats
For now, I am mostly avoiding junk food. I might eat a homemade cookie 1-2 days a week, or a small handful (literally 6 pieces, 21 calories) of regular m&m’s now and then, but for the most part I steer clear of junk food and drink mostly water. I realized I need to be eating things that are nourishing and not harmful. (Yeah, I know…what a concept!) If you’re finding it difficult to count calories and give up the junk food, there is also the concept of 80/20, which in simplistic form says that if you eat healthy 80% of the time, you can splurge the other 20%. I don’t splurge that much, but this is a good guide if you’re just starting out.
The Quarters method.
Before I started trying to be healthier, I was eating completely out of proportion. My average meal was 60% carbs/starches, 20% meat, and 20% veggies. Now, I’m trying to retrain myself, through following the plate method. Though I have seen this recommended for diabetics, it seems to be a good healthy standard for everyone. Separate your plate into quarters, ¼ should be lean meat, ¼ should be starch/carb, and the remaining ½ should be veggies. I have cut out the bread from most meals, which is huge for me. You can see from my menus that I’m not diligent about this, but it’s the goal and I have found that I feel better when I follow this guide.
Make smarter choices.
This is really a no-brainer, but here’s the deal, if you are on a “diet” and feeling deprived, you’re probably eating the wrong foods. If you eat healthy (low-calorie) foods, you can eat more of them and still feel satisfied. If you eat junky food, you get much less of it, which is going to mess with your blood sugar, and leave you hungry. Not only is a more balanced meal better for me, but I feel better when eating it.
A part of this for me means no eating out. An average meal out for me carries 1,200-1,500 calories. An average meal at home is more like 300-500 calories.
Eat “whole” foods
No, my family doesn’t eat all organic foods, or even all whole foods. However, we do try to eat more whole foods and less processed foods. Less processed foods mean less unnatural chemicals and substances entering your body. More natural foods are a good thing! PS– if you’re just trying to figure all this out few, easy to pronounce ingredients is usually a good indicator of better foods. The ingredients of real butter: sweet cream, salt…go look at the ingredients on a container of margarine.
I am NOT a nutritionist; this is just what I have found to work for me. Please consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise plan.
Now for the numbers:
Heaviest Weight: 201.8 (I am 5’6″, so this put me in the category of being medically OBESE)
Current Weight: 181.8 (down 20 lbs!)
Next Milestone: 170
Final Goal: 135 (Healthy weight for my height is 115-145)