Archive for December 17th, 2012

Weight loss


This is the first time that I’ve seen this notice on MyFitnessPal and I don’t expect to see it often.  I’ve been using the app to track my calorie intake, and using FitBit to track my calorie output.  MyFitnessPal estimates your daily calories based on whether you work at a desk job or are more active.  Sometimes my calorie output from FitBit is much lower than the estimate.  Today, I didn’t get a lot of exercise in, and I was really good about eating.  Or not eating as the case may be.

The great news is that I’m finally seeing some success and actually sticking to my change in life style!  I’d call it a diet, but a diet always seems temporary, and I’m changing the way I eat and think about food permanently.  I’m a seventh of the way to my goal that I set the week before Thanksgiving.  It is going to take months, but it took years to get where I am, so I guess months is only fair.

It has also taken years for me to actually see any real success.  But over those years, I’ve learned a few lessons.  Here are some of them.

Shop in the outside aisles

The outside aisles are where all the fruits, veggies, and wine are.  Avoid packaged and frozen foods because they are full of sodium and extra calories.  The outside aisles are also where you will find meat, cheese, and bread.  These are good, but always in moderation.  I suppose the wine should be in moderation as well.

Become vegetarian

Becoming a vegetarian might be excessive, but meat adds a lot to your calorie and fat intake for a day.  I became a vegetarian because I never look at a cow and think, “Mmmmm, dinner!”  In addition to saving the animals and saving calories, not eating meat is another way I can help save the planet.  From a Marketplace story today about Bringing the Climate Fight to the Table,

If an American family of four ate no meat or cheese one day a week, it would be like taking a car off the road for five weeks a year, according to estimates by the Environmental Working Group.

So, if you want to lose weight, cut back on the meat and dairy.  You don’t have to give up meat like I did, but it shouldn’t be the center of every meal.  Your vegetables should be the predominate ingredient.  Fish occasionally is also good.  I do love sushi and still seem to be okay with killing fish.

Eat smaller portions

Large portion sizes are contributing to the US obesity problem. So get a to-go box when you go out and put half of your dinner in the box before starting to eat.  I don’t always do this, but I try to cut my portion in half and only eat half. Then I can save the other half for lunch the next day.  This also saves money and helps the environment by not wasting food.

Count calories before eating them

If I know I am going out for dinner, I find the menu online, decide what I’m going to eat, and put it into MyFitnessPal before eating breakfast.  That way I can still have a veggie burger, salad and two pints of Guinness when I go out to the bar because I split the remaining calories between lunch and breakfast.  No guilt when I get home from quiz night!

P.S. Guinness is actually pretty low on the calorie scale at 125 calories without feeling like you are drinking light beer.  A Budweiser is 143 calories.  Red wine is another good choice at 25 calories per ounce.  No reason we can’t still enjoy life.

Make your own rules

I have a bunch of rules.  One rule—that I broke today for a piece of pumpkin pie from Whole Foods because it smelled good—is that I don’t eat store bought sweets.  If someone makes something from scratch, then I will eat it, but I try to only eat half of the serving.

Packaged candy is definitely out.  Now I just smell it and remember that the Twinkie I ate recently was not nearly as good as I thought it was.  The pear with vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar that I had as a snack the other day was way better than any candy bar.  And lacking all the chemicals.  Part of changing how I eat is realizing I don’t want to be filling my body with chemicals.

After avoiding chips for a while, they all taste so greasy now.  Instead of french fries, I like to roast chunks of root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips and beets.  I toss them with a little bit of olive oil to coat them very lightly, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper.  Sometimes I use fresh rosemary sprigs from my deck or other herbs that go well with them.  They are so much better than french fries!

Fight your weakness

Everyone has a weakness.  Mine is pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes.  I love me some starchy carbs!  So I have to be very careful to make sure that I don’t overeat them.  I try to only ever have one of them at any meal.  That means no garlic bread with my pasta and I have to cut back on the squash ravioli.

Brush your teeth

I never feel like eating right after I brush my teeth.  So when I don’t want to snack, I brush my teeth.  It is a great way to end a meal or to finish snacking for the night.

Go Mediterranean

One of the things that I learned from my 23andMe profile—besides being genetically predisposed for obesity and diabetes—is that my genetics say that I’ll lose weight best by following a Mediterranean Diet.  This diet, according to the Mayo Clinic,

was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

It bases every meal on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, herbs and spices.  The olive oil replaces butter, the herbs and spices replace salt, and meat is eaten sparingly, so this diet goes a long ways to reducing cholesterol and sodium.

I also love it because it recommends red wine.  In moderation of course.

Drink water

I’m pretty much down to two drinks: water and wine.  I will occasionally have tea or a latte, but I avoid fruit juices because of all the sugar, and soda because of the chemicals.  That and I hate the taste of diet soda.  When I get bored with straight up water, I drink carbonated water.  But I avoid the ones with added sugars or artificial sweeteners.  If you really can’t convince yourself to drink plain water, then start cutting your drinks with water.  Sometimes I’ll get an ice tea, drink some of it, add water, drink more, fill it up with more water, so that by the end, I’ve had not only the ice tea, but an equivalent amount of water.

Jesus turned water into wine, right?  So it must be okay.  And it is definitely the Mediterranean thing to do.

Eat local and in season

How will this help you lose weight?  If you are eating local and in season, you are eating fruits and vegetables.  And helping to save the environment at the same time.  You can join a CSA.  I get the small fruit and veggie box from The Fruit Guys each week.  It has taught me what is in season and the recipes have helped me learn how to cook.  I highly recommend finding something in your area.  Thanks to the random items I get in the box, I actually know what to do with eggplant, kale, collard greens, rainbow chard, and fennel.  There are lots of great places on the internet to find free recipes.  I just type in what I have for vegetables and search for a recipe for which I have the ingredients.  And that isn’t going to empty out my calorie allotment for the day.

You don’t have to join a CSA, but you should at least shop in the outside aisles at the grocery store.  And read up about when vegetables are in season.  This chart is for Northern California, but here is one for New Hampshire.  Tomatoes don’t grow in winter, so eat your root vegetables in winter, and your tomatoes in the summer when they will taste the best.  I’ve also learned a lot by going to local farmer’s markets.  It is pretty obvious when things are in season.

Give yourself a break

Every few days, I have a setback.  I eat too much or not the right things, and I don’t exercise enough. But I don’t let it get me down.  I just get back on the wagon again.  We can’t be good all the time.  The important part is to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Don’t beat yourself up for it.  I went to a Christmas party Saturday night where I drank cocktails and ate cheese and bread and had a slice of carrot cake.  I just have to remember that not every day is a special day.

Since I go out a lot, eating like that all the time is not appropriate.  So I try to pick one day during the week that is my freebie day.  I don’t totally go crazy that day, but I don’t worry if I go over my calorie limit.  I’d planned ahead for the party by making Pasta with Cauliflower and Collards and Roasted Fennel from the vegetables  in my CSA box.  That with the pear with vanilla-fig balsamic vinegar came to 547 calories and was pretty filling.  And I have had leftover pasta for lunch yesterday and dinner tonight.  Lunch today was leftover ramen from dinner out last night.  I’ve still got one more meal of pasta to go.

Take it at your own pace

It has taken me years to get to this point where I’m actually succeeding.  I’ve slowly been trying to do more and more of what I’ve written about above.  I don’t always get it right, but now that I’m actually comfortable with cooking and being creative with vegetables, it is getting easier and easier to be able to stick with these changes.

So my challenge to you is to pick just one thing to change about what or how you eat.  Just one.  Do it until you feel confident about it and do it on a regular basis without thinking about it.  Then you can make another change.  Don’t try to change your habits all at once because that will just set you up for failure.  Just pick something and stick to it.  And don’t get disappointed if you have a bad couple days.  We all do.  The important part is to keep going.

And remember, you have to do this for you.  Do it because you respect your body and what you are putting inside it.  Do it because it makes you feel better.

Do it because you matter.  Because you do.  =)