On Health And Weight Loss

Scale in a doctor's waiting room.The other day I was surprised to discover that even with the bizarre month of July I’ve had, I still lost a little weight this month. Four pounds, to be exact, bringing me up to a total of fourteen pounds since May. I’m going to tell you how I began to lose weight, and how, miraculously, I continue to lose and the weight isn’t coming back. It may not work for you, but it may help you decide what your needs are and how to achieve your own nutritional goals. I hope it does!

Because of my friend Andrea’s continued updates on her trials and successes in this department, I decided to create a little post of my own on the subject of weight loss and healthy nutrition in general. I may even make a series of posts. Yes, I know how envious you are of this demonstration of my organization and planning skills. Don’t grovel. It’s unattractive.

A bit of history and background on my fat, and/or lack thereof, in a convenient bulleted list:

  • Anyone who knows me will know that I was obsessed with weight. In fact, I still probably am, but I’m working on it and get better every day. In the past , I spent years thinking I was “fat,” when I wasn’t. I dieted all the time. I worried all the time. Part of this was body image, and part of it was just, well, who the heck knows? Anti-depressants and mood stabilizers seem to help.
  • When I got married eight years ago, I was heavier than I had ever been before, due to quitting smoking, being depressed, and later taking lithium for bi-polar disorder. I gained a total of 35-40 lbs. This was not awesome, but worse, I couldn’t lose it. I lost some before the wedding, but it popped right back on again because the diet was ridiculous and un-maintainable.
  • The only way I started to lose weight was a) by accident and b) by focusing on health and a lifestyle change that I can maintain. I highly recommend that everyone focus on health first. As Count Rugen (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Princess_Bride_(film)) correctly asserts, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”

Now I’m going to outline the steps I’ve been taking to achieve not only better health, but also (apparently) weight loss for my chunky self. My husband is on the same “diet”: he just eats more to maintain his weight. He lost a little in the beginning, but he’s stabilized. I don’t starve myself either, I just eat until I feel satisfied. Here are my rules for eating things:

  • No Fast Food, Ever. James (http://www NULL.ambardia NULL.com) and I did eat fast food. In James (http://www NULL.ambardia NULL.com)‘ case, it was a lot of fast food. It was easy for me to stop, because I never really liked it that much, anyway, except I was a fool for the Chick-fil-a biscuit. Now I don’t even think of it as food, really. It can be a pain when looking for convenience, but this is your body. Why would you just shove random crap into your body? I know! When I thought about it, it was so weird to think I saw food with chemicals and way too much salt and fat in it as “normal.”
  • Daily Salad. Leafy greens! I try to have at least a double fist sized portion of greens a day. It can be difficult, especially since I don’t like iceberg lettuce — it’s gotta be romaine, baby spinach, or spring mix, or I won’t eat it. I’m also weird about creamy dressing, because it’s kinda ew, and I actually prefer to make my own dressing anyway.
  • No White Flour, White Rice, or White Sugar. If you are going to eat bread, rice, pasta, etc, it should be brown. And don’t eat very much of it, anyway. Especially sugar and sweets. Sugar/sweetener replacement options include small amounts of honey, maple syrup, and agave sweetener. Agave sweetener has a relatively low glycemic index (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Agave_nectar).
  • Eat More Veggies. It’s hard to eat your veggies. If you have a hard time with it, start with a small amount and work up, or start with ones you like. Have a small salad with your meal, in addition to your “daily greens.” Some veggies are better than no veggies at all. Oh, and sorry: corn is a grain. It is a grain with little or no nutritional value and lots of sugar. View it like a candy or something else that is to be eaten only on special occasions or as a treat when in season. Eat veggies that are in season! They are cheaper and tastier!
  • No Preservatives, Artificial Colors, Artificial Flavors or High-Fructose Corn Syrup. All natural or nothing. No Splenda, no Nutri-Sweet, no nothing. After a while, you’ll actually be able to taste the difference between foods which contain this stuff and foods which do not. I had to stop drinking Diet Cokes. I thought I would die of withdrawal, but I now drink unsweetened green tea and love it. I can buy a better quality of green tea because of all the money I save not buying Diet Cokes. Oh, and I cut back on caffeine and have more energy now, not less. And the high-fructose corn syrup? It’s just a filler and is cheaper than real, natural sugar. If you eat too much of it, as we all have, it can mess up your response to insulin, which regulates your blood sugar. Some people get permanently messed up, but others just feel vaguely crappy all the time. Eat real sugar, or none at all. Sweet craving? Fruit really is “nature’s candy.” I know, I know, I still have a hard time with that, too, but I’m working on it!
  • Some Fat is Good. Fats from nuts, seeds, and animal fat (if you eat animal products) are not so bad. If you are cutting back on carbs, you need to get energy from somewhere. Upping your protein helps, but if you are getting good fats, like from olive oil, real dairy products, fish, and eggs (Omega-3) are all ok. Now, don’t think you can just chow on fats, because you can’t. But don’t be too afraid of them either.
  • Avoid Anything Heavily Processed. Sadly, this includes a lot of cheese, so make cheese an occasional treat. But the rule should be that if your food does not (for the most part) resemble the form in which it is found in nature, you probably want to choose something different.
  • If You Must Snack, Eat Veggies, Nuts, or Fruit. Watch out for the sugar in fruit, especially dried fruit. I know my blood sugar plummets later if I chow on a bunch of dried fruit.
  • Cut Back on Red Meat. I aim for red meat only once a month, using fish, chicken, turkey, or beans and soy for protein the rest of the time. Sometimes we cheat and get “no added nitrate/nitrites” beef hotdogs, although I try to use the turkey ones if I can find them. Red meat isn’t fabulous for digestion or fat intake, and the American diet contains far too much fat as it is. I love a good grassfed all-natural steak as much as anyone, but I try to make it a special treat.

I think that’s it. It’s not really a diet. I plan to eat this way for the rest of my life. I don’t want to put artificial crap into my body. I don’t want to eat preservatives or stuff that’s coated in bread or salt to make it taste “good.” I want to eat food that tastes good in its natural form. The food I eat now tastes better than that other crap! If it’s more expensive, or inconvenient, I consider the pros to outweigh the cons. Now I must admit that bread is my heroin, and when I fall off the wagon James (http://www NULL.ambardia NULL.com) has to tie me to the bed while I beg him for “just one fix” to get me through the worst of the detox, but we usually get through it. And I’m learning some sprouted grain and spelt bread recipes — so we can get some all naturalĀ grass-fedĀ beef and make yummy burgers on homemade buns!

And if we “cheat” or splurge occasionally, it’s ok. It’s not the end of the world. We usually don’t eat foods twice that make us feel bad, though. If I eat a meal that makes me feel run down or like I have to “recover” after eating it, a lot of times I won’t eat that again for a while, or maybe ever. It’s a different feeling from “full and lazy,” if you know what I mean. If you don’t, and you still eat fast food, go pick up a value meal and eat the whole thing. That cruddy, overfull, exhausted feeling is what I’m talking about. I feel much better now, in general, than before the diet. My moods are more stable and I’m more motivated.

I have theories why eating this way has also helped me lose weight. One is that I am headed toward my natural healthy weight, and all the chemicals in the crap I ate before were preventing my body from knowing what that healthy weight was. My other theory is just that eating the previous amounts of fat, salt, sugar, and carbs that I thought were “normal” were not normal and the new amounts are better for my health and metabolism. In any case, I know drinking all that Diet Coke with artificial sweetener in it every day was bad. I know that eating artificial preservatives and colors was bad. Even now I look around and see people consuming what, essentially, is inedible. It’s the same as if I were to eat this computer or the table it’s sitting on. Groceries are filled with shelves and shelves of non-food. I now shop in maybe 25% of a grocery store. Just a little food for thought.

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