20 October 2012

Losing 50 lbs (or more) in ten steps

I have been fortunate enough to lose over 50 lbs since July (thank you!) and a lot of people have asked me how I did it. So I figured I would share some details with you. I am obviously not a doctor or dietitian. What works for me may or may not work for you. So keep that in mind.

First, let's be clear. There are no secrets, no miracle diets, no amazing remedies that will magically melt the pounds away. If any particular diet sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, if you're only planning to go on this or that diet for a short period of time, you're probably doing it wrong. Losing weight is about lifestyle changes. I am not on a "diet." I've tried to change the way I eat, for the rest of my life.

Second, an important caveat. I started at 325 lbs. So I had a lot to lose (and still do!). Some of the things I have done work better when there's more to lose. I fully expect that as I continue to lose weight, these methods will begin to lose their effectiveness.

Ok, so here we go. #1: Reduce carbs. We had to sit down and identify the really carby foods in our diet and eliminate them, or change them with lower carb replacements. Pasta, for example, is a high carbohydrate food. I haven't had much luck with that until we found Dreamfields pasta which is much less carby and tastes good, too. You'll end up forking over more because it costs more, but in my experience it is very much worth it. We have also found lower carb bread and other replacements that expand the variety of foods you can eat. Notice I didn't say eliminate carbs--just reduce them. It really does work.

#2: Reduce sugar. This goes hand in hand with #1. If you haven't taken sugary sodas out of your diet, now is the time to do it. Get your sugars somewhere else (preferably with fresh fruit). Being diabetic and having to control my blood sugar definitely helped with tracking my sugar intake. Over time, you will find that your body reacts differently to different types of food (regardless of what the content is), and that might be different from other people, too. Diet sodas are probably OK in moderation, but I've moved mostly to flavored water or other drinks. I even found Arnold Palmer Zero and Diet Snapple Tea, both are staples for me now.

#3. Pack my lunch. On days that I have school, I am gone all day. Sometimes 6AM to 10PM! So I have take three meals. Tracy helps me pack the night before and I can control the types of food I take. Even if you're just packing a lunch for work, you can stay away from going out for lunch. This also helps you to stay away from catered food at work which is almost always high in carbs.

#4. Portion size. You don't have to starve yourself, but take a look at the portions that you usually eat and gradually reduce them a bit. This goes hand in hand with #3. When I pack my meals, I intentionally keep my portions moderate so that I don't overeat.

#5. Find healthy snacks. Or at least something that isn't going to ruin all the hard work you've done over the day. One of my favorite snacks is beef jerky! Also: cheese sticks, yogurt, cheese cubes, grapes. When I pack my meals for the day, I also try to take along something as a snack between meals to avoid cheating between meals.

#6. Plan ahead. This goes hand in hand with #3. You won't have good choices for meals if you don't shop for good foods (and don't shop while you're hungry; it's never a good idea). Tracy does an amazing job keeping our kitchen stocked with good choices. Also, consider your options when you're going to be traveling. You might need to bend some of your rules when your choices are limited. On the other hand, you do have some flexibility. If you're living out of a hotel room for a few days or even a week, you can stock up at a local grocery store and avoid eating out all week long. Don't let these changes to your environment keep you away from your goal.

#7. Variety. It can be very easy over the short term to lock yourself into the same foods because they work for you. But this will get old, very fast. As a result, you need to keep searching for new and different things. Instead of cutting out something, find a replacement that has less sugar or less carbs. We found low carb bread that has 5 carbs a slice (as compared to twice or more for "regular" bread). So I can eat sandwiches instead of eliminating them. Instead of traditional bagels, we found lower carb "thin" bagels.

#8 Cheat. Didn't I say above that you shouldn't cheat between meals? Yes, I did. But yes, you can cheat every once in a while on your meals. I love pizza. And Tracy even makes a very good low carb pizza. But every once in a while it's nice to have a couple slices of your favorite pizza. As long as you don't make the exception the rule, I think it's very good from a mental aspect to be able to reward yourself. To me, I feel like once a week or so is a pretty good interval by which I can do this. It's something you'll have to figure out for yourself. But if you find yourself cheating every day, or making excuses why you can't follow your plan, you're probably not committed in the first place.

#9. Share my success with others. Your mileage may vary, but I have found that talking about my experiences with other people definitely serves as a motivator to me. Other people tell me about their stories, and what worked (and didn't work) for them.

#10. The gym. Lastly, you have probably wondered where working out fits into my routine. Well, it hasn't, yet. When I started losing weight, my doctor advised me to start losing weight before I started going back to the gym. So I did. And I'm still losing weight and haven't been back to the doctor yet. I don't want to ignore this though, either. I know that sooner or later that, as a stated previously, some of these methods will begin to lose their effectiveness as I lose more weight. So I will need to start making the gym a regular part of my routine.

I have a long way to go. But so far, so good. What things have worked for you?
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