Dieting. It’s in every woman’s vocabulary. And the meaning of this word varies.
1. Killing yourself slowly.
2. Starving strategically.
3. Skipping foods you like only to eat them later when no one’s looking.
4. Being really good for weeks (or days) on end and then bingeing like food is going out of style.
5. Trying every damn diet that is deemed popular until you give up because it’s not working. (see #3)
6. Losing the same 5 pounds over and over again.
7. Gaining more weight each time you introduce a new diet to your system.
8. Cutting out pictures of fashion models as motivation to keep from eating that leftover piece of pie in the fridge.
9. Thinking murderous thoughts about that fashion model as you eat that leftover piece of pie in the fridge.
Can you tell I’ve been on the dieting roller coaster?
Every year I have strived to get back to my pre-baby body. Several times I came close. I tried Atkins and ate more meat than I could handle (and had the digestive problems to prove it). I tried South Beach, and kept having to repeat Phase #1 over and over every time I cheated and gave up for a stint. This resulted in a summer without fruit that I will never get back. I tired low carb diets that always ended in a complete massacre of anything that even closely resembled a piece of bread. I tried the no flour, no sugar diet, and realized I was missing the point when I was eating plates of French fries because they contained no flour and no sugar. I would go hungry only to eat more than I usually would when I could stand it no longer and gain back even more weight than I originally started out with.
Frankly, I was losing a no-win battle.
For a time, I gave up altogether. Food was my friend, I decided. I liked to eat. Good food made me happy and kept me comfortable. When anything else let me down, a nice piece of cheesecake or a grease dripping burger could always bring me up. You see where I’m going with this, right? I was using food to soothe my needs, and was only creating a monster out of my food addiction. I had no willpower left to turn down a cream based platter of noodles if they were set before me. Parties with a buffet table had me guarding the area so I could try every single item twice. Going out to eat meant foregoing any rational thinking when it came to what was going to haunt me later. After all, I may not be able to try that food every again. I was becoming a slave to food.
Not to mention my stomach – not just the pooch that was becoming more prominent, but what was going on inside. While I loved eating a lot, eating a lot did not love me. I would be left with the worst stomach aches, and my digestion was just shot. I was left without energy or motivation. And the depression from these problems only caused me to eat more.
There comes a time when enough is enough. And 6 months ago, I reached that point. I was no longer able to button my pants. And the thought that I would have to buy pants in a bigger size depressed me. I was already in a size that was more than I could handle. To go bigger was not an option. So I changed EVERYTHING.
First thing I changed was my exercise. I had been going to the gym every morning at 5:30 am. That meant I was getting up at 4:45 am. When I have to put the kids to bed at 9 pm the night before and then finish all my household chores, I was not getting to bed until 11 pm. Going to the gym in the morning was not allowing me to get enough sleep. So I decided to stop going to the gym. Now don’t get me wrong, exercise is important. As a supplement I would take walks around the neighborhood or on an occasional lunch break. But I was definitely burning less calories than I was when I was going to the gym. But, I was getting way more sleep. And this allowed me to have more energy throughout the day. I mention this not to get people to stop going to the gym, but to encourage anyone reading this that you HAVE to get rest if you want to see any weight loss. Tired bodies and brains result in uninhibited eating habits. Let’s face it, when you are exhausted, you are too tired to really care about what you are eating. And getting up and moving at any point of the day, whether it be parking on the far side of the lot or taking the stairs, is too much effort to make. So rule #1, get enough sleep.
Because I was not exercising a lot, I knew I had to really focus on the foods I was eating to encourage any weight loss. But from past experience with diets, I knew I could not go full force into a strict dieting regiment. Also from past experience, I realized that I would lose a couple pounds whenever I took the focus off of dieting and just ate when I was hungry. So it became clear that I was putting too much emphasis on food itself. So rather than tell myself I couldn’t eat certain foods, I ate whatever I wanted. But I ate only half. If I ate out at a restaurant, I ate half the plate and then boxed up the rest for leftovers. For lunch, I ate only half a sandwich. I ate dessert, but split it with Mr. W (he loves this part, by the way). By doing this, I wasn’t really putting any thought into what I was eating at all, and I wasn’t depriving myself of tasting foods that I liked. I’ll admit, it was a little hard at first. But my stomach soon got used to the smaller portions and it became easier. Rule #2, start with a small change.
One thing that I learned in these early stages was that I had an obsessive habit of snacking whenever I was not doing anything. If I was at my desk, I had a bag of nuts or something to keep my mouth occupied. In fact, any time I was sitting, I was munching on something. This was one habit that I had to break entirely. I first tried carrots or other healthy foods to keep my mouth happy while not consuming a bunch of empty calories. But it was clear that I wasn’t eating because I was hungry, I was eating because I was bored. So I started substituting a glass of water whenever I had the urge to snack. Funny thing about water. When you aren’t in the habit of drinking it, water is one of the most dreaded things to consume. It just doesn’t taste refreshing. And I was not a water drinker. I like coffee, tea, diet soda – anything with a taste. Water was bland and boring. But over time, I came to crave water. Now, I love water so much that I have to have it around me at all times. And I sometimes feel like I can’t breathe unless I drink a glass of water. Not only that, but water is filling. At times when I feel like I might be hungry even though I have just eaten, I will drink a glass of water. That’s when I realize that I was craving the water instead of craving food. Rule #3, drink LOTS of water.
Cutting my meals in half was starting to get easy for me. And this was a good sign. I was no longer mindlessly snacking, and I was starting to see a shift in my weight. Nothing is more motivating than watching the number go down on the scale, or seeing a little looseness in your pants. It made me realize that losing weight was possible, and made my goal feel a lot more attainable. This is when I decided to kick it up a notch and start getting more serious. But knowing me, I could not do a diet that told me I could not eat certain foods. As soon as I gave myself rules like that, I was bound to go straight for that forbidden food. So instead, I set myself up with Livestrong.com and starting keeping track of my calories on their “Daily Plate” function. I decided a realistic amount of weight I wanted to lose per week, and by calculating my current weight, Livestrong gave me a calorie allowance for each day. From my iPhone, I was able to jot down my calories for every single food I ate. At first it was an eye opener. I couldn’t believe how many calories were in certain foods that I had never given much thought to. And I went over my goal consistently for the first month. But little by little, I was able to whittle down that number until I was keeping inside my calorie allowance. I treated this number like a bank account. I planned out my meals to a tee, giving myself a little wiggle room in case I needed a treat in the afternoon. I never once told myself that I couldn’t eat certain foods, but instead asked myself “Is this food worth it?” Sometimes the answer was yes, I NEED that scoop of ice cream. And I allowed myself to have it. But in return, my evening meals would suffer as I had to make them lighter to compensate for the higher calorie food I indulged in. Having suffered though several way too light meals, I learned really quickly that sometimes it really was NOT worth it, and that I didn’t want to eat that “bad for me” food. But on the other hand, there is always an allowance in my calorie count for a piece of chocolate in the afternoon. And I look forward to it every day. Rule #4, don’t focus on what you CAN’T eat, but be aware of what you are eating.
I lost 35 pounds and am now at a point that I don’t really want to lose anymore weight. I am in a size that I didn’t see since before my kids were in existence, a size I didn’t think I’d ever see again. I am still keeping up with my calorie counting, however, though not to lose weight. I can be a little more liberal in what foods I am putting in my mouth, but I will never be able to eat high calorie foods without abandon again. Before dieting, I found this truth to be unfathomable. You mean I have to give up cheeseburgers for the rest of my life? No, not really. I can have them in moderation, and in smaller sizes. But as far as eating like I used to? No. That will never be. Back then this was hard to comprehend, and made it difficult for me to want to continue. But a funny thing about changing your eating habits and the way you view foods, those desires leave as well. I don’t miss eating fatty foods. And I don’t miss the digestive problems that went with it. I don’t miss food comas, or keeping my pants unbuttoned when I sit, or raising my legs a little when I’m sitting so that the “spread” isn’t so prominent. And I don’t miss the lack of energy, either. I have resumed working out, this time in my own living room (30 Day Shred, remember?), and can actually get through a sweaty workout without wanting to die. And amazingly enough, I actually feel great afterwards. And the continued results make it worth it even more. Rule #5, don’t give in even when your goal has been met.
A couple more things to remember:
– ALWAYS eat breakfast. I eat an egg and a plain piece of sourdough toast every morning. I have to. I wake up early first thing because I am eating lighter in the evenings. And it gives me the energy I need to get through the first part of my day.
– Set up an eating schedule. I eat at the same times every day, 5 times a day. And all my eating times consist of almost the same amount of calories.
– Know what foods trigger your weaknesses, and get them OUT OF THE HOUSE. I keep snacks in the house that the kids like but that I could care less about because if I like them, I’ll gorge on them. It’s just not worth it.
– Eat your meals one at a time. If you still feel hungry after you have eaten, wait. Give yourself at least an hour before eating again. Drink water, do something constructive, just get your mind off of that food. If you are still hungry after that hour, by all means, eat. But give your stomach a chance to decide if it’s satisfied or not.
– Have a buddy. I dieted with one of my best friends, and together we kept each other accountable for what we were eating and doing to be more healthy. We were there to offer each other support whenever it got hard, and to give each other tips when we found something that was working. It always helps to have someone around with new ideas for healthy recipes. Not only that, but a little healthy competition goes a long way.
– When you have lost a size, buy a new outfit. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be in your new size. Wearing your baggy “fat” clothes will not show off the progress you have made. But a slimmer outfit will. And the compliments you will receive will further your motivation to keep going.
Are you on the dieting roller coaster? How frustrating has it been? Or maybe you’ve found something that is working for you. Share your story in the comments!
(For more on weight loss, be sure to check out my previous blog titled Battling the Baby Bulge)