Food was the thing that I figured I would struggle with the most. I didn’t know where I was going to find the willpower to say no to my favorite foods (I have a sweet tooth for sure!). As with most things along this journey things weren’t quite what I expected. Saying no became the easy part, it was tracking what I was eating that was the hard part.
So let’s start with the question I get asked more than any other question: What did you eat?
I am the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something I will fight with all I have if I need to in order to prove you wrong! I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to! The same thing happens with me when it comes to food. If you tell me I can’t have something it becomes all I can think about. I HAVE to have it! For a girl who loves herself some carbs and loves ice cream this is not a good thing when you are trying to get healthy.
This is why diets have never worked for me before. You limit what I can eat and it will set me up for failure. I would try a diet that limited certain things and as soon as I failed (and I did many times) not only was I upset that yet again I didn’t lose any weight but I had the added shame and guilt of not being able to control what I put in my mouth.
So rule number one for me this time around was that I would not cut a single food out of my diet completely.That’s not to say that I didn’t cut back on things but I refuse to go to a birthday party and not have cake! I refuse to go to Thanksgiving and not have pumpkin pie! And you know what, I go to birthday parties and eat cake and I go to Thanksgiving and I kill that pumpkin pie and there is zero guilt and I still lost weight and continue to keep it off.
The secret for me (and it’s really more of a hard reality than a secret) is portion control and tracking literally EVERY SINGLE food I put in my mouth everyday at the beginning of my journey! If you have tried to lose weight in the past you have heard someone say you have to track your food intake. I had heard it a thousand times but never felt I needed to do that. Boy was I wrong, in those early days of making lifestyle changes keeping a food “diary” made all the difference in the world. There is no way I would be where I am today had I not done it.
That being said it was by far the most involved thing that I did in the beginning. There was a time when I am pretty sure there were more photos on my phone if nutrition labels than of my children.
The first step to create my food diary was figuring out how much to eat each day in order to lose weight and do it SAFELY! I was willing to do what I needed to do to see changes in my body but I would not go hungry and I would not do anything that would put my health at risk. I started doing a lot of internet research to start about the right amount of calories needed for someone like me. After I felt like I had a pretty good idea of how many calories I should have each day (as well as my exercise plan) I made an appointment to meet with my doctor and go over my plan with him to a) make sure what I was planning on doing was healthy and b) to have someone to hold me accountable.
After chatting with the doctor and getting the go ahead I had to come up with a way to stick with my calorie count each day. For me that meant logging into SparkPeople multiple times each day. There are a ton of “food diary” sites out there but with all the features (food diary, exercises, community, etc) that you get for FREE with SparkPeople I decided it was the site that worked best for me. Some things were easy to track like single serving foods. It was recipes made from scratch that became the real work.
I had a pretty good idea of the amount of calories I wanted to have for each meal. I wanted to eat often enough to keep my metabolism moving so I made sure to eat every two hours. 3 meals a day with 3 snacks in between. I then split up my calories among those six meals/snacks. It was figuring out how to stick to those numbers that caused the most work. Now, I will admit I am a spreadsheet kind of gal! I love me a good Excel document! So what worked for me was creating an Excel document that had a column for each item on the nutrition label and each item that I put in a recipe would get its own row in the spreadsheet where I would enter the nutrition information. So if you can imagine me in the kitchen with my phone taking a picture of a nutrition label putting the ingredient in the pot and repeating the process until I have pictures of every ingredient in a recipe on my phone you can see that anyone walking into my kitchen those first couple months would have thought I was insane. I would then grab the laptop while the food was cooking and enter everything into the spreadsheet. That then gave me the total nutrition information for that particular recipe. I would then divide the total by the number of calories I allotted for that meal and that told me how much of that particular recipe I could have. So I could eat what I wanted but if it was something on the not so healthy side I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat as much of it as I would be able to if I had made a healthier choice.
Writing it out it seems so complicated and while it is time-consuming (I won’t lie about that) it really made all the difference. It made it a lot easier to make better choices. I could look at my calories for the day to see how I was doing and it actually made it super easy to say no to that Dairy Queen Blizzard at 7:30 at night when I could look and see that I had stayed on track all day and I really didn’t want to ruin it when the day was almost over.
While tracking everything was what I believe made the biggest difference that is not to say that I didn’t change my eating habits at all. It became more about making little changes, slowly. We are a family that doesn’t have a lot of time between the time we get home and bedtime so we are always in search for quick dinners. We would easily eat at least one if not two frozen pizzas a week. We now have pizza once a month and make it at home and you know what, it takes less time than cooking that frozen pizza. Instead of ice cream a couple of times a week I will treat myself a couple of times a month. That birthday cake we talked about before, I will split it with one of the kids. It’s little changes like these that made the change to better eating habits relatively easy. After a while my tastes changed and having a lot of something sweet didn’t even taste good. I got used to not having that sick feeling you get from eating too much and now I know it’s not worth it. A little taste of something not so healthy is enough. The first bite really does taste just as good as the last bite. I don’t need an excessive amount of bites in between.
I am obviously not a doctor or a nutritionist and this is just what worked for me. Hopefully though you have found some helpful information here.
Until next time!