I am far from an expert on weight loss. But since I began running last fall I’ve lost 21 pounds. The last time I weighed this little I was in my 20’s. I’m officially at the top end of ‘normal’ for my height which is a huge victory. Running was a part of my success. But learning how to handle food differently was just as crucial. I ran for two months without losing a pound, and started losing weight only when I made changes in diet. I thought I’d share some of the thoughts and actions that have led to wiser decision-making with food. Keep in mind this is just what worked for me. Anyone on a quest to lose weight needs to think through this aspect with their own needs, weaknesses, and tendencies in mind.
- Cut out most drinks with calories. For me that means juice and coffee at breakfast, and water the rest of the day, with very rare exceptions. In the evening, a hot cup of tea makes me feel like I am pampering myself without overdoing calories. It is super easy to stack on lots of calories just with drinks. I’ve decided to save most of my calories for food, not drinks. Also keep in mind that thirst sometimes feels like hunger. Getting a big drink of water before eating makes you less prone to overeating.
- Make a one-serving rule at mealtimes. At meals I take a medium sized serving and
ifwhen the urge for seconds comes, I remind myself I can eat more later on in the day. For some reason, I have better luck telling myself to delay rather than trying to tell myself I can’t have something at all. Sometimes I’ll very deliberately get up from the table after firsts, telling myself that I will get more in ten minutes if I still want it. Nine times out of ten I find I am already satisfied and don’t need to go back. And here’s the truth: ten minutes after dinner I feel just as physically satisfied whether I’ve eaten a single serving or a double. Except — this is huge– when I stop after one serving, I can feel good about my choices instead of feeling guilty that I overindulged. If it is a goodie we don’t have very often, I’ll sometimes stash a single serving in foil in the freezer as a promise that I will be able to eat it later. I don’t NEED that second cookie, or that second serving of mac and cheese. It’s better to save it til later when I am truly hungry, instead of eating just because it is yummy.
- Count calories. I know, it’s a lot of work. But really knowing the calories in various foods has been a huge help for me in staying accountable and facing what I am really doing to myself when I pick up a fork. I use Livestrong.com. For the first 9 months or so of counting, I literally did it every day. These days I do it 5 or 6 days a week. I aim for 1500 calories, divided into approximately 300 calories at breakfast, 400 at lunch, 500 at dinner, and 300 at bedtime. I allow myself a little more on Tuesdays and Thursdays when my schedule allows me 90 minutes of exercise time at the rec.
- Save some calories for bedtime. I know that lots of folks recommend not eating after 7PM. But I decided I’m not willing to give up my bedtime snacks. This is why I deliberately ‘save’ 300 calories or so for bedtime nibbles. Sometimes when I am tempted towards seconds at dinner, I’ll remind myself that I’m saving those calories for bedtime.
- How many miles is this? When I am looking at something yummy, I’ve gotten into the obnoxious habit of guessing how many miles I’d have to run to burn it off. A medium-sized person can burn a hundred or so calories by running (or walking) a mile. So that yummy chocolate chip cookie? A mile. A second serving of mac and cheese? Three miles. Are you groaning yet? I know, me too sometimes. But that type of thinking is at the core of accountability and good decision-making. I had to get honest with myself before I could start making wiser decisions about food.
Things I don’t do:
- I don’t skip butter. Love the stuff. I also love olive oil and coconut oil. What I eat tastes good.
- I don’t eat low-fat or diet versions of anything. No fake sugar. It just tastes wrong in my mouth.
- I don’t eat differently than my family. I just eat less now.
OK, I’d better quit before I start sounding like a know-it-all, which I am so NOT. Remember, the point is not to adopt someone else’s plan whole-hog, but to figure out where your weaknesses and strengths are. I make bad food choices every week, but I just keep chipping away, aiming for more good choices than bad. The more your plan fits you, the more it can address your own little mental weaknesses, the more likely you are to be able to sustain those choices over a lifetime. That’s my aim.
What about you? If you’ve had some success at weight loss, what has worked for you? I’d love to hear your ideas.