Saturday, August 25, 2012

Losing Weight or Changing Lifestyles

I wrote about this in The Long Hair Community and I sort of wanted to post about it elsewhere potentially in depth.

I've always seemed to have a problem with loosing weight or maintaining my weight -- I've had unhealthy eating habits so I have a huge focus on trying to remain happy and healthy when attempting to loose weight. For a bit of background, I was overweight as a kid, then as a teenager, the pounds fell off as my depression skyrocketed. I went into a stage of anorexia and then bulimia which ended quickly after a stint in the hospital. I regained the pounds when I ended up on antidepressants and then when I got off of them, my weight went back down. My weight increased slowly over time even though there were no changes to my diet since my hospital release (which was back in 2001) and I've been battling my weight since then. In 2009, I became worried that my frame and weight weren't in a good place, so I hired a trainer but only lost 5 pounds. In 2010 I decided to stop trying to loose weight and instead focus on habits.

Now this entire time, there are a few things to mention. I don't like junk food and I'm not kidding, I'm also not a chocolate fan. I don't like sugar either and I tend to go all vegetarian at times (but I am not a vegetarian). My eating habits have been as always, on the healthy side but there were a few crutches along the way. I'm hypoglycemic and anemic so sometimes dieting would throw me for a loop. So here are the gradual changes I made -- they were simple and spaced anywhere between 1-2 months apart.

As you're reading this list, add approximately two months in between each step. If you saw my post in the community, this is slightly more detailed then the original. I also did not count calories and I did not have a target weight to achieve. This was crucial to me since I wanted to make sure I was focusing on being healthy and changing my lifestyle versus trying to just loose weight.
  • I decided to eat a banana every single day. I would also try to eat a yogurt a day, but there were no restrictions on the type (Greek, low-fat, no-fat, chocolate, whatever). Drink a cup of water everyday. 
    • A single piece of fruit a day was mandatory in this new change -- I decided that bananas were the most accessible. If I ate any other fruits for the day, they would be in addition to the banana and not a replacement for the banana.
    • Yogurt was tricky because sometimes I couldn't get my hands on packs at Safeway and would have to buy singles at Whole Foods. This is why I felt like it was okay if I skipped it but I did try to have it as much as I could.
    • Sometimes I'd eat my banana with a spoonful of peanut butter.
  • Stopped eating toast for breakfast. I was eating just plain cinnamon raisin toast (with no butter or anything on top and then switched to cereal (only Rice Krispies or Cheerios though). 
    • I tried to have whole milk but usually only low-fat was available. It didn't really matter which I was having but I would take my vitamins right after eating my cereal and whole milk makes it easier to swallow them.
  • I then removed bread from other meals as well. So if I had a burger for lunch, I'd just remove the bun.
    • For those in the know, In-N-Out does a great protein style burger which is without the bun and wrapped in lettuce. 
  • Cut out rice and supplemented with either meat or vegetables.
  • Cut out condiments (this for some reason was the hardest thing to do). 
    • Mustard is my favourite and usually the only condiment I went after. The reason for this step was that I started noticing the mayonnaise (which I also love) on my burgers or being slipped into other meals. 
    • Another reason why this step is crucial and hard is learning to love meals for what they are at their basis. 
    • I stopped eating a spoonful of peanut butter with my banana since that became a condiment in my eyes.
  • Switched breakfast from cereal to plain oatmeal.
    • No sugar, no additives, no instant packets with flavour -- just plain oatmeal.
  • Ween down the portions, only slightly though -- so I'd give up meats at times and aim for more veggies or fruits for lunch only.
    • Sometimes whatever I had for lunch I'd split it and have the rest for dinner.
    • Not all meals could b split -- there's no point is trying to starve yourself -- be reasonable as you are weening the portions down.
  • Stopped eating known starches.
    • No rice, no corn, and no potatoes.
  • Changed my coffee habits:
    • Now this is an interesting one -- one thing I refused to do was stop having my mocha lattes. Remember, I'm anemic so a decision I made years ago was that I'd add sugar to my coffee in the morning and I'd have a mocha mid-day to facilitate the rest of sugar intake. Seems odd but this was the only way I could assure myself that I was getting a dependable source of sugar. (Fruits weren't enough for my body, trust me, I tried it). Mocha lattes were the only chocolate item that I had. 
      • At this point I switched my mocha lattes to cappuccinos.
      • Only used real sugar (no artificial sweeteners) -- so I used a whole packet now in the mornings for my half of cup of coffee. 
  • Yogurt now had to meet a specific criteria:
    • Whole -- they could no longer be non-fat or low-fat.
    • Sugars should be below 20g. 
    • Greek yogurts did not have to meet this criteria but they were a treat that I could only have once in a while.
    • Double check the labels and make sure they have the live cultures (some of them actually don't).
  • Allowed myself to have a sweet treat once a month . 
    • I know I said I wasn't a fan of junk food and right off the bat and usually I don't get cravings for such items. But I wanted to make sure that I did integrate a treat into my "diet." Treats weren't the enemy especially since the body could use a break from time to time.
    • You don't have to have the treat for the month but they don't rollover either. Take for instance the red velvet cheesecake that I had last night. My BF and I went to the Cheesecake Factory and after I had a SkinnyLicious Veggie Burger (ate the salad, the lettuce, the tomato, pickles, and the patty) we then ordered the cake slice and split it. The cake was a treat -- a happy indulgence because I know that tomorrow I won't want any other cake or other pastries. I don't think of it as "earning it," I think of it as a necessarily indulgence that is part of eating healthy. 
  • Dinner meals were lowered in portions. This now meant that all meals at this point were in lower portions.
  • Maximum target weight loss was established. I could NOT go lower then 110 (this is necessary since I have a problem with eating disorders).
  • Reintegrated condiments back into diet.
    • The beauty about this one is that by now I've established the joys of not have condiments with my meals so I noticed that the only condiment that I really enjoy having is pepper.
    • I did start having my spoonful of peanut butter with my pre-dinner banana. 
  • Added a muesli mix to my oatmeal in the morning. I now pour out 1/4 a cup of oatmeal and the rest of it I add a museli mix that is 35% dried fruits and low-fat. On days that I don't have museli, then I have a normal serving of oatmeal.
  • I enjoy foods on the weekend. (Note, I don't "treat" myself, I enjoy it for what it is -- so I might have a slice of pizza on the weekend for dinner but I make sure that my breakfast and lunch are healthy). I try to make sure on the weekend that I have two healthy meals for the day and one maybe not-so-healthy meal.
    • I eat healthy during the weekdays and try to have "simple" meals. Things that are lightweight and not drenched in condiments or extra things.

And that's where I'm at right now. I try to avoid anything that says low fat or no fat (though sometimes I allow my Greek yogurt and peanut butter to break that rule). I eat all the normal stuff with my BF, but we've kind of compromised. If we're eating pizza on the weekend, then I get a veggie slice and I'll be eating healthy during the work week. I stay away from starches (like corn, rice, or potatoes) and I try to stick to mostly veggies.

I think the most important thing is that sometimes, a slow change can really help. That entire process I outlined took about a year (honestly it was more like a year and a half) to achieve but because it was kind of drawn out, making slight changes along the way didn't make it feel like a diet but rather a lifestyle change. I think the most important thing was monitoring my attitude and not my food.

Snacks: 1/4 a cup of oatmeal goes a long way, if you have nuts make sure you limit the amount (I generally go with less than a handful), or fruits.

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