So as I looked down at the scale this morning, I felt like confetti cannons were blasting off around me and there was celebration music playing (think the Biggest Loser Finale-ish). Ok, so maybe it was just in my head, but who cares! It is time to celebrate! I have met a big goal....I have lost 10% of my body weight since January (when I really started tracking my weight and diet regularly)! I am still in shock and it seems so surreal! I can't believe I have actually been doing this, stuck with it and been successful. This is a place I have never been before...such unfamiliar territory! And there are more milestones right around the corner....in less than 5 pounds I will hit the 50 pounds lost point and I will hit 10% lost total (I started losing weight in Aug, but didn't really start tracking until Jan).
So as I reflect on the success, I wanted to share what I have done, what has worked for me, in hopes that it may inspire someone else to continue or begin their journey. Certainly not a guarantee that this will work for everyone, but I am a believer that ideas help. I am not an expert....Please keep in mind that you should consult with your doctor before you begin anything.
Step 1 - MAJOR overhaul of my diet and eating habits.
My diet used to consist a lot of super-sized fast food meals. I didn't seem to have time in my busy schedule of work and mom to plan and cook dinner - or so I told myself. The truth was I didn't MAKE time. Because I chose to take the lazy way out, I would justify in my mind that it was easier to pick something up from the nearest drive thru rather than make a dinner for my family. When January rolled around and it was time for resolutions, I knew I desperately needed to make some changes in my life. I needed to be a better role model to my family. So I committed to cooking meals more and eating out less. But I also knew I needed to find some healthier recipes than those I had grown up learning to cook. To be successful at this I knew I needed to find recipes that I would like and wouldn't be a punishment to eat. So I spent A LOT of time on Pinterest gathering new food ideas. Oh how I just LOVE that site! I have gotten some GREAT recipes from there!!
Part of the reason I used to hate to cook dinner for the family and copped out for fast food was because I wasn't prepared. I would literally go to the store nearly EVERY night after work to get the ingredients I needed. That soooooo was not working! No wonder I opted for fast food! So I committed to planning my weekly meals. I made a weekly meal plan sheet. I made a list of the meals in our rotation and i would pick a variety for that week. I made note of our family schedule so on nights we would be busy with appointments or activities we could have an easier meal to prepare or leftovers. Then I make my shopping list based on what I need to make those meals and I shop once a week (ish - if I make sure to get everything on my list and don't forget anything). This has made things sooooooo much less hectic at our house in the evening! And I can happily announce that we eat fast food probably only 1-2 times a month now.
Which brings me to my next point about food - start by making better choices, not necessarily the BEST choice. If going to a fast food place, opt for a chicken sandwich (or better yet) instead of the greasy burger. Order a smaller meal than you used to. Don't large size it. Get diet soda instead of regular. There are some great books out called "Eat this, not that" to illustrate this point. It also aligns in some ways to the Weight Watchers methodology of nothing is off limits, but owning your choices. In my opinion, this was instrumental in beginning this journey for me. I am not sure I could have made it by going cold turkey....the temptation to give up and cheat is too great. So I was able to justify the sacrifice in my mind by saying I was doing better than I used to.
I also realized that portion control was one of my biggest issues so I committed to trying to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. I eat breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner. I have found that I am naturally eating at a more consistent time of day. I am not as hungry between meals. In fact, I have started to notice that I have to make an effort to eat all of my allotted calories on some days. I have also noticed that I am starting to eat smaller portions - I notice when I am getting full and I am no longer so obsessed with food that I want to keep eating it, even when I am full. I have been doing body by Vi shakes twice a day as a meal replacement, and feel that it has helped me in many ways. It's helped me stick to my 1250 calorie a day goal. It has helped me focus on portion control, listening to my body about when I am full, to see bigger loss on the scale, which has helped me so much mentally. I will not do this forever and I am not sure I would have been successful if I hadn't already had the foundation in place of eating better before I started them, but it's working for now.
Step 2 - Eliminate soda, drink water
Anyone that knows me knows that I used to be a MAJOR Dr. Pepper junkie. I would drink 60+ ounces a day at my peak. The sugar and caffeine was the fuel that kept me going....and what contributed significantly to my weight gain. So I switched over to diet coke and reduced the amount I was drinking to 1 a day, then to 1 a week, now to hardly ever. Pretty much the only thing I drink anymore is straight water. Sometimes, if I am needing a change I will add a Crystal Light type flavoring (Cherry Limeade is my favorite!). I drink at least 64oz of water a day.
Step 3 - Tracking my food intake
Until you really start putting on paper EVERYTHING that goes in your mouth, you do not realize how quickly those calories add up! I started out doing Weight Watchers on my phone and tracking using an app called "Ultimate Weight Watcher Diary" on my phone. I have since switched to using "My Fitness Pal" and tracking Calories, Protein and Fat and I LOVE it! It helps me to stay within the calorie goal I have set for myself (1200-1400 calories a day) and really make the conscious choice of do I really need/want to eat that food because I have to own what it does to my calorie log.
Step 4 - Track your progress - analyze what's working and what's not and make adjustments
Since January I have been keeping a spreadsheet to track my progress. I started out simple, just tracking my weight, but I have tweaked it and added to it along the way. Currently I am tracking my daily weight, whether I am +/-, my total weight loss since Aug, my weight loss since Jan (when I started tracking), how many minutes a day I exercise, how many miles I walk in a week. It is probably way more information that some people would want to track and could be overwhelming. Again I am a firm believer in doing what works for you. Make it as simple or as complex as you want. But it has been invaluable in helping me to see what's working and what's not. It's helped to to realize that while the loss was at times small, it was there and I was making progress. It's helped me to stay motivated and continue to push myself.
Step 5 - Exercise
This has been the hardest part for me to get going. I started on the food part and kept trying to get more exercise in, but it wasn't my focus. I knew I could only handle so much at a time, so I put this on the back burner. I have never been a very physical person nor have I ever really liked it, so I knew that if I tried to do too much here I would get frustrated and quit. I think one of the motivating factors for me with the exercise was being diagnosed as pre-diabetic. The dietitian told me that 150 minutes of exercise a week would make a big difference in my sugar levels and I have read that several times before, so I finally committed almost 3 months ago now to making this my weekly goal. While I did not meet it at first, it was a goal and I began working towards it. As with everything on this journey, at first it was excruciatingly painful trying to coax myself into getting up off the couch. I had to force myself to do it, sometimes kicking and screaming in my head like my 2 year old, but as time has gone on, it has gotten easier. I actually find that I often look forward to it. And I am now to the point where I am meeting, and now starting to exceed my weekly goal. WOW.
My encouragement is to just get started. Make the decision to begin, the commitment to changing something (no matter how small), and follow it through and see where it leads. You may just surprise yourself! I know I have. And if I can do this, anyone can!!
If you would like a copy of my weekly meal plan template or my weight tracking spreadsheet, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org