Food is fuel. Food is nutrition. Food is medicine.
Food is not love or acceptance or a drug. It doesn't soothe loneliness or stress or depression. It can become a crutch or a habit or a compulsion. The best way I deal with it is to become analytical (which admittedly drives people crazy when I do that.) But when I approach food as a tool, as something necessary, I can separate myself from obsessive behavior. I have to teach myself again and again to be mindful in what I eat, and to eat when hungry. Right now, I'd love some popcorn, but my stomach is full. So I'm sipping on green tea instead.
Some of the best eating programs are just common sense. I was once put on a diabetic diet and I've never felt so much natural energy in my life! Spark People is an online tool where you can track your daily calories, and it also analyzes your nutrition. For free. Its got a great community and a lot of support. I'll be heading back there soon. Weight Watchers teaches portion sizes and accountability. These are tools you can use, and there are more out there.
I'm not a nutritionist, but I worked with a slew of them for five years when I was with Public Health. My daughter is a chef who specializes in medical diets and my other daughter is a dental hygienist, and had to study nutrition for her degree.
Here's some of what I learned from my experience, and from their expertise:
- Don't skimp on protein. If you remove protein from your diet, your body will rob from your muscles.
- Don't cut out grains unless you are intolerant. Without the B vitamins and omegas that whole grains provide, you are robbing your brain.
- Don't fall into that "Fruits and Vegetables are just sugar" trap. They are higher in carbs, but they are complex carbohydrates. Go easy on juice, as its doesn't have the fiber that is necessary to slow digestion.
- Do fill your plate with color. Seek out vegetable proteins to take the place of animal proteins. On another note, fruits, vegetables and fiber are your best weapons in the fight against certain cancers. Use them.
- Don't go on starvation programs, extended fasts, detox programs or fad diets. (I remember in the '70s, my sister used to go on crash diets. Ugh.) And for God's sake, don't try to put yourself into a state of ketosis. I don't care what Atkins said, its not safe for most people.
- Drink water. Keep hydrated. Your skin, kidneys, liver and digestive tract are your detox system. Treat them well. Water is your friend. And fiber...
- Avoid "white" foods: processed sugars, flour, bread, pasta. Look for whole grain, unprocessed alternatives. Generally, white foods are processed and are simple carbs. Whole grain, unprocessed foods are complex carbs. I suspect when people lose weight by going gluten free, its largely because they are cutting out simple carbs.
- Do indulge. There's no harm in treating yourself...in moderation. I love pizza. I can eat one slice as a meal. When I was seriously losing, I allowed myself two Hershey's Kisses a day. Unfortunately, two turned into four, then eight, then a dozen...LOL!
- If you're going for a real lifestyle change, cut or reduce one unnecessary item at a time. For me, I totally eliminated soda and alcohol. I had about an ounce of Coke the other day and that was enough. Likewise, I'll have one drink at an event...maybe four a year. At this point, I'll be halving the sugar I put in my tea and getting a grip on my candy compulsions. Sugar is my devil and must be wrangled back under control.
- Don't hurry. The optimum amount of weight you should lose...for permanent loss, is one to two and a half pounds per week. Sometimes you might lose nothing. Sometimes you might drop quite a lot. Bodies are weird that way.
- Be realistic in your expectations. Calm down. Meditate. Journal your feelings. By the time I lost about 40 pounds, my appearance changed so drastically that I went through a true emotional crisis. I couldn't look into a mirror because I didn't know myself. I reached out to others who'd lost a lot of weight and found that wasn't unusual.
- Take care of yourself. Love yourself and accept yourself, even as you are making changes.
- Exercise. Ugh. Yes. It helps. Take three ten minute walks a day, or whatever gets you to that thirty minutes. FYI, I have a gym membership I've never used. LOL! But someday I will!
There's a reason nutritions and dietitians study "food science." Its complicated and is rooted in chemistry. They are the experts. I used to have a doctor that urged me to live on apples and cheese sticks. Really. If you're having problems or need expert advice, try to find a practice that will refer you to a nutritionist.
Sometimes you can get away with a short term diet plan, but unless you alter your lifestyle, that ten or fifteen pounds will come back. For me, and for so many people, losing, and then managing weight is a total lifestyle overhaul. Don't fall prey to depression or despair. Earlier today, I was literally down on my back, thinking about how my world sucked. Then I found those old pants. And they gave me a reason to be cheerful.
Me in my happy place (Bath, UK) and at my happiest weight. Take note, that wasn't when I was at my thinnest, just my most comfortable.