After learning I had lost 100lbs with only diet and exercise, someone asked me a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head: “How did you quit eating?” I can’t remember what I said, because the question caught me so completely off guard. I’m sure I didn’t say anything very helpful or astute, but the question is a really good one.
The problem is the answer isn’t very satisfying. I didn’t quit eating. In fact, when people ask me what I ate, I tell them that I ate the same things I did when I was so heavy. I just ate them smarter. And it’s weird, when I look back on my journey. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the eating and the exercise were really easy. (Let me be clear, the exercise itself wasn’t easy. Ever. But showing up for myself in that way became the best part of my day, not something I dreaded.) It was keeping my brain headed in the right direction that was hard. It was changing my habits that was hard. It was keeping the energy to build something new when the “comfortable old” was right there in front of me that was hard.
So let me show you what I mean about eating smarter. I ate breakfast at Golden Corral the other day (laugh if you want… it’s one of my favorite places! The food is consistently great, and there is a huge selection), and because it is one of my favorite places, I would have eaten there 5 years ago. The other day, I had about a cup of scrambled eggs topped with mushrooms, onions, and green peppers, plus two slices of bacon annnnnnd wait for it… a cheese blintz with cherries. It was about 2″ square. The difference is that five years ago, I would have had 2-3 blintzes that were 6″ in long and covered in powdered sugar. Or I might have had several big pancakes with syrup. I would have had a tiny blob of eggs, and wouldn’t have ever thought to put vegetables on them. I would have had bacon, but I probably would have had 3 or more slices.
I’m certain that the only reason I succeeded this time, when I had failed so many times before, is that I had a very good Master Trainer (such a weird title, but it’s the highest certification in our field) with a lot of experience. The absolute truth is that I never felt deprived. And when I was following a meal plan–which ok, ok, wasn’t always the case (hence the comment about keeping my brain in check!)– I never felt guilty about eating, even if I ate a pop tart or chocolate or a small slice of cake. It was figured into my calories, and for the first time ever, I was in control of what I was eating. If you’ve ever struggled with your weight, you know what it is to feel like food controls you, not the other way around. You know the whole be really strict about your diet/ binge because you can’t take it anymore/ feel guilty/ vow to do better cycle.
These days, I eat to fuel my body and brain, not based on the emotions of moment. Here’s why I chose to eat how I did the other day.
Start with protein: It’s the Big Mama of Macronutrients. (If you don’t know why or how to get it, check out Myth #23: Women only need 42 grams of protein, Men only 56 or Myth #11: The Type of Protein You’re Eating Doesn’t Matter). Your body needs it to keep every tissue in your body from your eyeballs to your fingernails to your muscles working properly. But it’s also your best friend when it comes to weight loss because it helps you feel full. (Note: carbohydrates do not behave this way! Ever eaten 4 donuts and felt hungry 45 minutes later? No, of course you haven’t…but take it from Pudge!)
Make sure you have some fat: Your body needs some fat not only to transport your fat soluble vitamins– A, E, D, and K (you can read more about fat here) but fat also helps you feel satisfied. This is handy in your quest not to eat the whole town.
Have a little fun: Carbohydrates are your fun foods like bread, sugar, waffles, pastries, etc… and also your fruits and vegetables. They provide quick energy to get your body moving, and also keep your brain happy. If your brain goes all Crazy Train and feels like a pouty 3 year old because it isn’t having any fun, it will halt your weight loss progress right fast. Typically 30-40% of your calories should be from carbs, depending on your lifestyle. (You can read more about carbs here) That means hypothetically, if you were eating the RDA of 2,000 calories, you would need at least 660 calories worth of carbs (or 165 grams). You need to spend most of your carb calories on vegetables and fruits so you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but take 100-200 calories out of your daily carb budget to have some fun. If Jelly beans are your thing, you can have about 40 Jelly Belly beans for 150 calories. (Seriously? Are there other Jelly Beans?!) If it’s donuts, 1 Krispy Kreme glazed donut is 190 calories.
I know, I know… someone somewhere is going to try to put me in Trainer Time Out for suggesting this, but here’s what I know from living it: You have to start where you are. If you’re carrying around too much of your own “pudge”, you didn’t get there by eating carrots or brussels sprouts. And if you try to immediately start eating like a clean eating rockstar, you will fail. As you get more into the lifestyle, your tastes and cravings will start changing, but for now, just start where you are.
Don’t give up foods you love! Just Eat smarter…