Losing weight is a long and difficult challenge. It requires incredible self-control and persistence. It is all too easy to “fall off the wagon” and to not want to get back up. It actually takes a lot of energy and resolve to get up and try again, often to simply regain lost ground.
On 6/20/12 I mustered the courage to engage my personal “battle of the bulge” yet again. As you can see from my weight record, I have fallen down several times since 2012. The important thing however is that I keep getting back up.
I have struggled with weight issues the majority of my life. Sometimes I like to say that I inherited the “fat gene” from my parents but genetics is only part of the picture. My relationship with food is actually the greater culprit. The art of eating is learned, such as what is eaten, how much, how often and why we eat it.
“Waste not, want not” is an idiom that applied to my dinner table growing up; my parents forced me to clean my plate every meal regardless of how full I was. On the more pleasant side, dinner was always followed by dessert.
Improper eating can also be triggered by emotion. We all want to feel good, satisfied and happy. Food can be comforting when eaten alone or when enjoyed with others. It can be used for celebration as well as depression. It can help take your mind off of things you’d rather not think of. Food can stimulate the reward center in our brains and can in fact become a powerful addiction and a dangerous friend. For my path to begin I had to recognize this, that I had eaten for many reasons other than hunger. I could no longer continue this unhealthy relationship with food.
Diets do not work. There are no magic foods, exercises, herbs, supplements or medications that have been proven to help people lose a significant amount of weight and to keep that weight off over time. The only way to achieve this is through a change in lifestyle. This means eating in a way that is healthy, satisfying and able to be continued for the rest of your life. If you choose to temporarily eat in a unique way (a diet) or to use products you think will help you lose weight, what will happen when you stop? How will you maintain your weight without having learned how to change your lifestyle permanently?
In order to change my eating lifestyle my relationship with food has become very supervised. Hunger alone is an insufficient mechanism for me to control my eating habits. Now I try hard NOT to clean my plate. I eat slowly and try to stop eating the moment I feel satisfied, not when I am full. I now take the time to consider what I want to eat, why I want to eat it and if it’s worth the Calories. I imagine that it will always be this way. I will always be tempted to eat more than I should for reasons like I listed above. And that is okay. I can be observant and continue to make conscious decisions regarding my food choices.
As I have written before, MyFitnessPal has been instrumental in helping me to keep track of my eating habits. I continue to be surprised by how an innocent-looking food can be harboring a huge amount of Calories. Talk about sticker shock! Checking Calorie content before I eat allows me to make an educated decision about whether or not I really want to eat it. That’s not to say that I don’t splurge occasionally. I just consider the cost and decide if it’s worth it.
Calorie counting is a lot like balancing a checkbook. If I overspend I get in debt but if I under-spend I save. My daily Calorie allowance is my budget. If I overeat I gain weight and if I eat less than my allowance I lose weight. Sometimes I want to go out and eat more than my budget allows. I can “earn” extra Calories to eat by burning them with exercise. If I go the to gym and do the elliptical for 30 minutes, I burn 300 Calories. That’s 300 more Calories I can eat for the day.
My favorite meal of the day is dinner. I want to eat as normal of a dinner as possible so I budget accordingly. I simply eat less for breakfast and lunch. My typical breakfast is 1 cup of FAGE Total 0% Greek Yogurt mixed with a Del Monte Fruit Cup and a packet of Truvia (~250 Calories) or an omelette of 6 egg whites with 1 egg yolk and salsa verde (~250 Calories). For lunch I eat a protein bar (Nature Valley or Clif Bar, ~200-250 Calories). If I’m really hungry before dinner I choose low Calorie snacks such as string cheese (~80 Calories). For dessert I like to eat either a JELL-O Sugar-free Pudding Snack (~60 Calories) or Ghirardelli Chocolate Square (~60 Calories).
And then there is dinner. ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends a plate that is 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch, 1/4 fruit and 1/4 vegetables. My personal plate is more like 1/2 protein, 1/4 vegetables and 1/4 starch. I confess that I don’t eat as much fruit as I’m supposed to. Good appetite suppressants for me are coffee and pickles. Go figure!
Now I am more than halfway toward my goal weight. I look skinny enough perhaps by my picture, but I am still overweight by my BMI (see earlier post). It’s been a long road but I can see the finish line… well, at least the beginning of a less steep and difficult road up ahead.