I’m not a doctor. I’m not an expert. I know only what I’ve been doing and how it’s been going for me. I’m not telling anyone what to do or making a recommendation. This is what I’ve been doing for the past year and it’s been working well for me so I thought I’d document the process a bit.
All that being said, let me explain a bit of background. I’m a pretty average American guy with more then a few extra pounds hanging around that I would like to get rid of. Generally speaking, I’ve never been one to eat a lot of fast food but I do have a sweet tooth. I enjoy spending time out side but don’t often find myself with the extra energy to really get out and exercise with any regularity. When the weather is good I play tennis with friends and do some biking but when the weather isn’t good, I’m much more likely to stay in.
As tends to happen with me, I gradually became aware that I was much less healthy then I wanted to be and over the course of a few weeks I began to form in my mind a plan to try and fix that. The number one thing that came to mind was to absolutely, under no circumstances go on a typical ‘diet’ to lose the weight. I don’t want to be one of those people that looses and gains weight like a yo-yo trying every new fad diet that comes along. I decided that I would correct my eating habits and let my weight fall where it may. My hypothesis, based on no research of any kind, was that if I ate normal amounts of healthy food my weight would come down.
Step one for me was to evaluate what I was eating, when I was eating it and what I expected that meal to provide. My first target was breakfast. I love breakfast. Most days started out with a rather large breakfast of food that was mostly good, but in the wrong quantities. I would have 4 slices of whole grain toast, or what amounts to about 4 servings of a whole grain cereal. Most days I would then skip lunch and just have snack around 3pm to get me to dinner. It goes without saying that that snack was not something especially healthy…
So, I reigned in my breakfast portions and then found myself starving by 11am. I could eat lunch at 11am but I would still end up heading home for a snack at 3pm to get me through till dinner, not the outcome I was looking for. I started looking for some kind of moderately healthy snack to get me through till 1pm when I could eat lunch. I landed on yogurt. I like yogurt and always have, I just didn’t normally eat it. Now, if I’m hungry and it’s not lunch time yet, I eat a container of yogurt and I’m good to go until 1pm or so.
Something else that I added to my diet is tea. I love the stuff. I went all out and I steep loose leaf tea at my desk two or three times a day. It offers a few things. Number one, proper hydration is key for me. I used to live my life right on the cusp of dehydration. It was normal for me and I didn’t realize I felt badly.. it just was. Now though I’m always well hydrated and I feel better for it. Secondly, tea is really good for you. Especially green tea, which is what I drink 90% of the time. Something to note though, I don’t add milk, cream, sugar, honey ect to my tea which means it’s virtually calorie free. If you start adding things to it that won’t be the case, and I understand it may also reduce the good it does to your body. The third thing tea offers me is that in some ways it’s an appetite suppressant. If I’m drinking a cup of tea over the course of 45 minutes or an hour, I don’t feel the need to be eating anything. Every little bit helps.
Once I got my breakfast sorted out I had to add this extra meal to my day. I didn’t normally eat lunch because I had overeaten at breakfast. I had to start thinking about what to have. I landed on a pretty standard menu consisting of either leftovers from dinner or sandwiches. Nothing ground breaking. I tend to make things a little more interesting though and make good use of the toaster oven. Last nights grilled chicken sliced and put on a ciabatta roll toasted with some mozzarella on top is much more appealing then cold turkey and mayo. I find if I’m looking forward to a meal, I tend to snack less leading up to it. I want to enjoy the meal when it arrives. I do tend to eat chips or something with the sandwich though and I do so without feeling guilty about it. Like I said before, this isn’t a diet it’s a new way of eating for me. Chips aren’t that great for you, but they are tasty. I buy chips in a variety pack every couple of weeks and one single serving bag with lunch has been great. If you prefer something else, go for it.
After lunch if I’m hungry before dinner I may go for some more yogurt or depending on what’s a hand a gronola bar or an apple ect. I still find myself snacking from time to time, I just try to find things I like that aren’t just empty calories.
From there I eat dinner, whatever that may be. Could be a casserole one night and take out pizza the next. I try to get a serving or two of vegetables in at dinner of course but, like with most things, I’m not really worried about what it is. As long as I mange my portion size to something reasonable I’m good to go. Something that has helped in that department is counting on dessert.
If I sit down to dinner and it’s the last thing I eat before breakfast I tend to take and eat more food then I would if I plan to eat a bit of dessert. Dessert for me could be a number of things. Sometimes it’s milk and cookies, some times it’s an ice cream sandwich. The only thing I’m worried about, again, is that it’s a realistic portion. I don’t want to down a gallon of milk and a bag of cookies. A small glass of milk and a few cookies is all I need. I don’t eat dessert directly after dinner, I try to wait an hour or so. If I’m not hungry for it by around 8pm, I don’t eat it at all.
I don’t count calories. Increasingly though, I do look for two things on food labels. The first for me is the ingredients. If I’m looking at tomato sauce, I’m looking for ingredients that I can understand, I don’t want a list of chemicals. Tomato sauce should have tomatoes, olive oil, some spices and that’s about it. The second is the fiber. It’s not glamorous, I know, but trying to get enough fiber makes life easier. I don’t take any supplements to bolster fiber or vitamin intake.
So, all of that said, I’m not loosing weight at a super fast rate. That wasn’t the goal. I tend to loose a pound or two a month though that has been increasing as I hone my eating habits. With this lifestyle I do feel a lot better. I used to get headaches all the time due to my eating habits, going from stuffed to starving every day and being so dehydrated.
Also, when I first started fixing my habits, my body revolted against me. I couldn’t gauge when I would be hungry and I was crashing all the time and looking for anything I could eat. Once I learned to add in yogurt when needed and keep drinking tea or water things got much better and even when I push things and have to delay lunch I don’t have any real issues. Sure, I get hungry but not so bad that I’m shaky. Just as I trained my body to live with the bad eating habits I had, I was able to train my body to live with the good ones.
That’s my story and it’s working for me. There is more work to do but every day I get closer to eating right and living right. Finding a way to exercise is my next hurdle (pun intended). Eventually I’ll find something that fits my lifestyle. As I move closer to growing my own food, I think some of the work involved in that will take the place of a traditional exercise regimen