Everyone has strong opinions about this topic. I am not a doctor or nutritionist (please consult one that would best fit your lifestyle first if you are planning to make any changes). The following should just be viewed as one personal approach of many in an attempt to change eating habits.
Throughout my 32 years of life I have had a weight that was always in flux. The most recent weight change took place about 8 years ago. After graduating from college and meeting my eventual wife (AKA official mom of The Mommy Bunch), I started to settle down from a more outgoing lifestyle. I was working more in an office and doing less of the fun stuff that college kids do. This weight gain took place over the next 2 years, in which at that time I was around 300 lbs (always a give or take). That is where I had been at for about the last 6 years (which is about 90 up from 10 years ago).
In the years since, I have thought about things that I should do to lose the weight. Go out more? Eat less? Exercise more? I have had a couple of gym memberships during this time. One went almost completely unused over the span of a year, and the other did get used on and off but with no set schedule (basically whenever I felt like it). I gave a half hearted attempt at using Alli years back. Late last year I decided I should probably take weight loss more serious.
In December, while talking with my dad, he mentioned that he had been reading that the most sugar a person should have in a day is the amount in one can of soda (more recently this story has appeared on USA Today, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, CBS Philly, and more.). That stuck with me. I could drink a lot of soda in a day! If I go to a restaurant I would have at least 2 fountain sodas (those waiters/waitresses are too nice!).
As December rolled to a close and the holidays had passed, I started to think about things that I could change. I knew in order to make changes that would work; certain foods would have to go. I had already quit drinking caffeinated beverages about 5 years ago (and a 4 day headache to go with it), and aspartame (along with most artificial sweeteners) had been removed from most foods last summer. Soda seemed like a natural item to add to the list (hard to do – here is another account of giving up soda all together).
I also decided to give up most bread and pasta items (which was really hard to do as before I was eating peanut butter toast for breakfast every day that I worked in the office, and some sort of deli slice sandwich for lunch, simple pasta for dinner, and we got a new bread maker for Christmas). On top of this I decided to give up most meat (but not all, I still do have a little bit every now and then but significantly less than before I started with these changes). The most important thing about this lifestyle change was to make sure that I stay hydrated while getting enough protein.
On the approach to New Year’s I saw many people posting things on facebook along the lines of dieting/weight loss and memes alike (kudos to them for being so bold to proclaim online, I myself wouldn’t be able to do that. Um, wait, kudos are bad, have some almonds instead 🙂 ). One of my friends’ posts was about losing 30 lbs and many others were commenting that they wanted do the same. I thought, well, 30 pounds sounds good to me. So that was my original goal at the start.
On the evening of New Years Eve the wife and I went to McDonalds where I cashed in a free chicken wrap coupon and eggnog shake. As I sat there eating those delicacies I wondered to myself if this truly would be the start of something new or if this would be the same old. I debated the merits of eating this stuff in moderation, but it isn’t as if I had been eating this all along. I had to be all in.
On January 1st I stepped on the scale to read 294. That was lower than I expected, but that meant my goal was 264. One of the thoughts I kept having is that starting this on New Years day is stupid and arbitrary, but I guess a person has to start somewhere. After thinking about it some more, why not then! The food holidays have passed, and the best time to crash off some weight is before the spring when it is time to go out to do stuff. New Years day has come and gone. That day I started to eat less, dusted off the treadmill and walked for a little while watching the Badgers go down on New Years again. Much time has been spend looking at labels for sugar content, and fat content too. To me, at this time, cutting back on the sugar has been the most important part.
What have I been eating?
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The following items have been staples of what I have been eating:
Low Fat re-fried beans and currently switching to plain black beans that I cook myself
Steel cut oatmeal
Vegetables and Fruit
Cottage cheese (skim or low fat)
Milk (typically skim or 1%)
Salsa (my own mixture/medley of tomatoes, peppers, onion)
Greek yogurt (currently a greek light and fit vanilla, but as time goes on with these changes I find this may be sweeter than necessary and have started to eat plain greek non-fat yogurt instead)
Chia seeds (pretty sure these things are poison, but I like them. One was stuck between my cheek and gum for an hour and it was sore for the next day)
Chopped almonds – almonds – plain
Chopped flax seeds (chopping them myself in a coffee grinder)
Brown rice (very sparingly)
Dressing – switched from ranch to making my own vinaigrette
Cheese (in limited amounts, though I have found a reduced sodium and reduced fat cheddar I like and feta too)
Ensure protein shake (many protein shakes and meal replacements have a lot of sugar in them, but this one has a fraction that the others do while supplying a good portion of protein; because this has many complex ingredients I have started to try different unsweetened vanilla protein powders)
Some chicken (grilled)
Mixed green lettuce and spinach
Cooked egg whites
Here is a typical salad that I may eat (cottage cheese, spinach, tomato, grapes, broccoli, cheese, and homemade dressing):
An easy breakfast
In the summer of 2012 I bought a bunch of steel cut oats from an Amish bent and dent. I used some of them, but most had gone unused and were almost near the expiration date. No time like the present then to use them up. I have this super fancy rice cooker that I bought many years ago (this one) that makes perfect rice (my friend of Asian descent wasn’t impressed “dude, its rice … yes, I have had rice before… no, it wasn’t crunchy” I digress…). It also has a porridge setting for these steel cut oats which works out perfectly for me. I would use the timer setting to wake up to cooked oatmeal. On the third day of the new me, I woke up to a twenty minute mess. Gooey water all over the floor, gooey water all over the counter, my rice cooker was a complete mess. I still don’t know what went wrong, but my guess is that I used the wrong setting.
I am a believer in everything happens for a reason (most times that is, not always), and that led me to this blog where she had the exact same rice cooker. I have since gone from draining the excess water off my steel cut oats, to now having oats with the perfect consistency every time. All I add is a banana (maybe these aren’t good for people either – bananas bad for monkeys) and cinnamon during the cooking process, along with some chopped flax seed and chopped almonds and I then have perfect oatmeal (recipe here). In the past I would add a bunch of sugar, but I no longer do that as the oatmeal is sweetened by the fruit.
Old habits die hard
I went to a friend’s gathering about 2 weeks into this change. I let my guard down and slipped back into habits from the past by eating a bunch of brats (with the bun) and snacking all through the night on junk-food. I had a great time, but also had a bunch of great tasting food. By the time I had gotten home I just felt miserable mentally and physically. That sequence of events was important as it made me realize that what I had been doing was working.
Is it working?
Every morning I have been stepping on the scale to see where I am at. On February 1st the scale read 271. At that point I knew that I had to refocus my goal. After thinking about it, I decided on 5 lbs a month for the rest of the year. This didn’t mean that each month would only be 5 pounds, but that I would have an overall goal for the end of the year at 216 (so 5 lbs/month would be an average). The morning of day 44 (February 13th) marked the point I had reached my original goal of losing 30 lbs (264). On March 1st the scale tipped at a total of 41 lbs less (253).
One of the big national topics of debate lately is the winner of The Biggest Loser. Did she lose too much weight? Is she too thin? This made me start to look up the history of the biggest loser winners. As with such an extreme change (diet and exercise) it wasn’t a surprise to see that almost all of the contestants had gained some weight back, however what was most impressive was that most of them were still a good chunk less than what they were before. Since the bulk of what I am doing is just with diet, one of my hopes is to avoid the gaining back after crashing off weight.
I didn’t tell many people that I was going to try and “crash” off some weight. Now that some of the weight has come off, some people have started to ask. One of the things that I tell them is that I have cut out a lot of sugar. When I mention that the most sugar a person should have in a day is that in a can of soda, they say that is a lot of sugar. Ah, but if you have one can of soda, then you cannot have any other sugar for the day (no pasta sauce, dessert, – there is sugary goodness all around us, just ask my kids who received valentines at school).
One restaurant that is in our area that I have taken a liking to is HuHot – Mongolian Grill (nope, not a paid spokesperson, but I am willing to be 🙂 – email me!). I have been making changes that suite my current change to eating habits. There is a sauce there called “burn your village barbeque” that I think is excellent. The problem is that if I strictly use only that sauce, then there ends up being a bunch of sugar in my meal. As a substitution, I only use a couple and scoop some other sauces in it too (such as lemon juice or garlic broth). I also skip the house/asian salads as they aren’t that good for a person and I have salad at home on a regular basis. I also only have the chicken (if I choose to have any meat) and don’t eat the Chinese noodles. I will have up to 3 plates of food that is mainly vegetables! If I have an appetizer, the only one I will eat is the steamed pork potstickers.
Final thoughts on changing your eating habits
Ever since the documentary Super Size Me was released about 10 years ago, there has been a significant discussion about the food people eat. Now there are many documentaries about food and TV shows about losing weight (The Biggest Loser and Cook Your Ass off are a couple of examples). As long as these subjects remain relevant, more and more people will become educated about this problem that has caused an epidemic in this country.
One night, well into these changes, I stumbled onto the movie Hungry for Change. This movie was very enlightening, and I would recommend it to anyone before starting a diet regime or change to a diet in general. Not everyone will agree with all the points in the movie (there are plenty of critiques out there – and personally I would like to eat my broccoli versus chopping it up and drinking it), but there are many good points. The movie touches on the how the body turns bread into sugar and stores as fat. Also an important point is made that people should say vegetables and fruit (usually said fruit and vegetables, but the other way around stresses that the vegetables are more important).
So time will tell what the end result will be and this has been a constant learning process. As time goes on I would like to switch more of these items to an organic substitution (Organic almonds are how much??), and have the end products that I am eating have as few ingredients as possible. I would like to also consume much less salt (it almost seems as if items that have scaled back on sugar still have a lot of sodium – anyone have substitutions for low salt cottage cheese 🙂 ). I need to focus on exercising more than I currently am (outside of being in an office/office environment 56+ hours a week). I would like to find more foods that I can get my wife and kids on board with eating. I also notice that I am feeling colder, though I am not sure if that is an attribute to the current weight loss or the fact that I am ready for spring to be here.
Though I do miss foods and beverages such as pizza, Stonyfield organic vanilla yogurt (too much sugar), Gatorade, beer, etc., I haven’t been feeling hungry (which is an accomplishment in itself). My wife asked if I took a before picture. Nope, I already have plenty of those.