I recently shaved 30 lbs. off my 5 foot 6 inch frame. I did it slowly, incorporating small changes into my daily routine. The only food type I cut out was gluten, and that was mainly for the purpose of controlling my chronic reflux problems. I also increased my fiber consumption to improve my gut health. With patience and diligence, I managed to slim down over a period of 4 months without feeling deprived. Here are 6 tips for losing weight and keeping it off through lifestyle modification.
- Eat more food in the early part of the day. Breakfast is usually my largest meal, and, like the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings, I often eat “second breakfast” in the mid-morning. Eating larger, more substantial meals earlier in the day not only loads your body with necessary caloric energy, it also makes it much less likely that you’ll overindulge later in the day. Staples of my morning meal(s) are omelets packed with fresh vegetables and meat, apples and dried figs and sometimes leftover soups made from scratch with fresh vegetables the night before. Sometimes I make gluten-free pancakes bulked up with dried coconut and fruits for added fiber.
- Eat small, high-fiber snacks. This practice can head off a potential binge, especially if you eat high-fiber foods that are filling. I keep bags of dried fruits on hand to take the edge off my hunger at various times of day. I have to be careful to read the ingredients on commercial packets though, as almost all of them contain added sugar. Dried figs, pitted dates, and dried apricots are the only widely available options without added sugar I can find around here, but I can still manage, even in the middle of a rural food desert (25 miles away from the nearest grocery store). Fresh fruits and nuts are also good choices, and sometimes I make gluten-free muffins with black beans and added coconut.
- Don’t Eat After 7 p.m. I started this practice to minimize my reflux problems, but it also ensures that I don’t binge on late-night snacks. Sometimes this practice makes me hungrier in the morning, but I feel much better about overindulging for breakfast than I would about a midnight fridge raid. I have all day to work it off! I have sometimes eaten slightly later in the evening, due to various activities that keep me from a regular schedule. When that happens, I usually stay up later to avoid reflux problems. The general rule is to eat a very small evening meal.
- Lose your attachment to the “regular” American diet and fast foods. Typical American fast food is loaded with empty carbohydrates, which are the enemy of a healthful lifestyle. They encourage binging and provide few nutrients. When I gave up gluten, I had to get creative and busy in the kitchen. I mourned the loss of sub sandwiches and Little Caesar’s Hot n’ Ready pizzas, but I found that I could simply top my dinner salads with sandwich fillings. I added ham, bacon bits, cheese and really odd but yummy stuff like octopus and nori to create some epically tasty salads. Because I use fairly calorie-dense toppings, I never use traditional salad dressing, opting instead for rice vinegar and lime juice. As for pizza, I occasionally indulge by making my own crust out of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour blends. I also make my own sauce and use fresh toppings, so my pizzas are high in nutrients and fiber too!
- Keep a food diary. I keep a record of my food intake, and I pay little attention to the total calories beyond a general range. On some days I eat 1600 calories, and on other days I eat 2500 calories. Keeping a food diary can help you recognize and rein in any bad eating trends before they derail your weight loss efforts. If I find too many consecutive high-calorie days in my diary, I will examine my intake and cut it back. I also note my general level of well-being, so that I can identify and eliminate any foods that might be harming me. It is all about paying attention to what you’re putting into your body.
- Falling off the wagon is not the end of the world. Just climb back on, and don’t beat yourself up about it. I am a sugar addict, and I love my chocolate treats. Sometimes I end up eating the entire bar of dark chocolate when I only meant to eat a few squares. This is not a disaster. Simply admit the lapse and get back on track for the next meal. Don’t restrict that next meal as penance, either. That sets up a negative motivator that can frustrate your efforts to improve your overall eating habits. Slow and steady wins the race!