That's a question that I am asked occasionally after losing a bunch o' pounds. So, for the curious, I have written the longest blog post I've ever written. To the possibly dismay of friends and family, this is a topic I could talk about all day. ;)
1. Eat breakfast.
Eat breakfast every day as soon after you wake up as you can. I prefer something with eggs, and my favorite easy breakfast is a frozen breakfast sandwich from Aldi that is an English muffin, egg white, cheese, and Canadian bacon. A couple minutes in the microwave and it's ready. If I'm having oatmeal, I like to also have a hard boiled egg. Eggs seem to keep me satisfied longer into the morning than other breakfast foods. I still occasionally eat McDonald's breakfast - an Egg McMuffin or Egg White Delite. If one of those was on the dollar menu, I'd eat it a lot more frequently!
2. Don't get too hungry.
I snack often. We eat lunch late at work, so I will have one snack and sometimes two in the morning and always one after I get home before dinner. If I let myself get too hungry, I find that I don't make very good decisions about what to eat. So, you may even see me snacking before going out to eat. If I'm not super hungry, it's easier to choose a healthy meal out rather than just the biggest thing on the menu. Here are some of my favorite snacks: hard boiled egg, string cheese, applesauce, grapes, banana with a little peanut butter, penguin crackers (like Goldfish, but from Aldi), pistachios (20), almonds (12), Triscuits and salsa, carrots and ranch, 100 calorie pack of popcorn. All of those are easy to take to work, so I try to have a couple of choices handy. If I'm really hungry after school or know it will be a while before dinner, the popcorn is my favorite. It takes a while to eat and you get quite a bit of it.
3. Make exercise a habit.
We joined our local Y last January. Since then, I have been at least 12 times a month for MOST months. One month we were on vacation for over a week, making it difficult to make it 12 times, and one month I had a cold off and on for a couple of weeks and figured no one would appreciate my contagious presence. My health insurance sends me a check for $40 every month I go 12 times, and I've found that is a great motivator for me. Those times when I might settle for 8 or 9 times a month, I find that $40 carrot keeps me going back! That doesn't mean that I WANT to go, but it's become kind of like going to work. If it's Monday, Wednesday, or Saturday morning, I'm just going to go. I'm always glad that I did it and have never once left thinking, "well that was a waste of time!" Usually it's more of a mental high five and a yay me! for going even if I didn't want to.
4. No food is off-limits.
If I had set out last January to eliminate "bad" foods from my diet, I am not sure I would have been very successful. Just the thought that I couldn't have something would have made me want it more. I still eat all the foods I love, but I try to eat way more "good" foods than "bad" foods. I think of good foods as being those that have some sort of nutritional benefit. For these foods, the benefit makes the calories worthwhile. Fruits, vegetables, beans, eggs, lean meat, nuts, lean dairy all fit in this category. Bad foods are things that have more calories than nutritional benefit. Potato chips, candy, cookies, fried foods tend to fall into this category. I really LIKE those foods though, and I still eat them...just not every day for every meal. I saw an eCard that said something to the effect of "you don't get thin by eating one salad just like you don't get fat by eating one cheeseburger." I liked that perspective, and I like cheeseburgers! A lot! If it's something I can't stay out of, I just don't bring it home. If I have potato chips - any brand, any flavor - at home, I can't leave them alone until I reach the bottom of the bag. So, no potato chips at home. I might have them when I'm out, especially if they're in a small single serve bag.
5. It's not a diet.
People have asked what I did to lose weight. I suspect they're looking for the magic bean, and they're probably bored with my answer. I changed what I eat and I started exercising. It's the formula we all know, but really don't want to follow. I can't even say that I eat significantly less than I used to. Really, I just eat differently. I still have a snack after school, but instead of leftover tater tots covered in Ranch dressing and melted cheese (yes, really!), I have a serving size of tortilla chips and salsa. Or an apple. Instead of dipping an unlimited number of french fries in mayonnaise (yes, really!), I eat serving size of fries with a little ketchup. Instead of having a sausage biscuit for breakfast (430 calories), I have an Aldi breakfast sandwich (210 calories). Small, manageable changes have made a big difference!
6. Food is fuel.
Food is energy for your body. It is not a reward. It is not a cure for a bad day. Try to eat mostly things that benefit your body. If you have a bad day, pet the dog, go for a walk, swing on a hammock. But don't eat those feelings!
7. Compliment yourself.
Instead of focusing on how far you have to go, focus on how far you've come! Have you exercised 3 times this week? Reward yourself! But not with food! When I lost 10 pounds, I ordered a pair of earrings that I liked. When I lost 25 pounds, I bought a necklace - the tree of life, which I thought was fitting. After that, the lost pounds were their own reward. Also, buying smaller clothes was pretty rewarding! I enjoy getting dressed now. Rather than stare into my closet trying to figure out what to wear, lamenting that I don't like any of it, I get to choose something that I like and feel really good in! Confession time...I have some outfits that I like so much, I've taken selfies in the mirror because I want to be able to look back at those later. You won't see those pictures here...they're just for me, to occasionally say "well done!"
8. Read serving sizes. I'm not even telling you to follow serving sizes, just be aware of what they are. Did you know that a serving of Pringles is not a whole can? Shocking, isn't it! A serving of Pringles is a very generous 15 chips though. That's a pretty big stack!
9. Plan ahead. As David often says, plan your work and work your plan. If you're going out to eat, check to see if the restaurant has nutrition information posted online. If not, most places will at least have a menu online. Decide before you go what you're going to have, then stick to that plan! Grocery shop with meals in mind. At the beginning of most days, I know what we're having for supper. I can enter all that in Lose It!, and plan accordingly. If you're traveling, pack healthy snacks, drinks, and some breakfast options so you're not tempted by the offerings of fast food or gas stations.
10. Create a support system.
I was really lucky. As I began this journey, I had three friends at work with the same goal. That really helped me get a good start. David, my parents, and other friends have been supportive and great cheerleaders, as well as partners in working out and eating better. Compliments from coworkers have given me a boost when it was needed. A old classmate (not that either of us are old!) who writes a fitness blog has been a great source of information, inspiration, and cheerleading. You never know who will be in your support system, you may be surprised!
In January 2013, when I was part of a team in a Biggest Loser contest, I started at 173 pounds and hoped to lose 20 pounds. As I found success and got closer to that goal, I revised. I wanted to lose a total of 33 pounds to see 140 on the scale. When I got to 140, I wanted to see 139. As a lady never tells her weight, I won't give you an exact number, but I will say that I lost about 45 pounds in 8 months and have maintained my August 2013 weight for about 8 months now. Even though I reached my weight goal, that isn't to say that I'm done. I don't want to lose any more weight, but I do have room to improve my eating habits (less candy and diet soda) and I'd like to be stronger.
Last night as we talked about exercise and eating right and all those good things, my friend Christina handed me a 10 pound weight. It felt really heavy, and I carried the equivalent of at least 4 of those around on my person on a daily basis for years.
If you're looking for a place to start, here are some blogs and a website that I've really enjoyed:
Lacy's Fitness Blog (my classmate's site)
Roni's Weigh (Talk about strong!)
We Beat Fat (this couple has come a really long way together)
Diary of a Fathlete (We met Kathy when she drove the van to take us to our kayaking tour in Key West. She is hilarious, and proof that you can start wherever you are in life. You don't have to be skinny to be an athlete.)