New Years 2011 found me at my heaviest point ever. I was 230 pounds. I didn’t feel good, I had no energy, and it was time for some changes. I started trying to eat healthier in January, but, having been overweight for much of my life, I had tried that many times in the past without success
In the past, I had always wanted to lose weight, but I don’t think I ever really WANTED it. It was something that I wished I could do, but never could really commit to. It was never important enough to force me to muster the will power to make permanent lasting changes to my diet.
There was also one other problem. Quite honestly, I didn’t really have any clue what to eat, and what NOT to eat.
At first, I just started with some simple things. Portion control. Just eat less. That was a start, but then what? What else could I change? I decided another good idea would be to start cooking at home instead of eating at restaurants so much, and especially avoid fast food. Another step in the right direction, right?
So, now I’m going to cook at home, and eat less. Great. But… What do I cook?
I received some advice about cooking healthier meals. That advice was to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, and avoid all of the boxed processed foods down the aisles. Focus on the fresh produce, meats, and dairy items instead. Cooking with fresh ingredients became the last step to eating healthier to try and lose weight.
Had 2011 progressed like any other year, I probably would have yet again failed. I had a plan for a few simple changes, but there were two things missing. First, I still didn’t REALLY know what to eat and what not to eat. I had no idea what was making me fat, I was just doing some things that common sense told me would help me lose weight. Second, I still lacked that all important motivating factor that would stay with me for the long term.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait long for that motivator. In late February, Becky and I found out we were going to have a baby. Right then and there, my life was changed, and I had found my motivation. I made the decision that I was not going to be a fat dad. It was just that simple, and that definitive.
By that point, I had probably lost somewhere around 5 pounds. I had seen some results, but nothing staggering. I decided that I needed to make a few more changes. Still not knowing what to eat and what not to eat, I decided to eliminate food items that added no real nutritional value to my diet. It seemed like the obvious next step.
As a result, I eliminated “empty calories” from my diet. Essentially, I stopped buying chips, and pretzels, and other snack foods. I also stopped buying pop, and beer. I replaced the snack foods with fresh vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and peppers. Pop and beer were replaced by water.
I continued with this plan for about 5 months, and saw slow but consistent results. Around the time that Warren was born in September, I had lost 20 pounds. I was down to 210 pounds and I knew I still had quite a ways to go. It was at that time that I came across a book called “Why we get fat, and what to do about it.” It isn’t a diet book. The author doesn’t present a diet, but rather, presents information. He discusses study after study that have been conducted surrounding weight loss, weight gain, and nutrition. Ultimately, the book made me realize that much of the popular wisdom about diet and weight loss is wrong. Completely, and totally.
After reading this book, I finally understood why the changes that I had made to that point had worked. In addition, I now had a better understanding about how the food we eat acts inside our bodies and what REALLY causes us to get fat.
I was able to make a few more tweaks to my diet. I stopped worrying about fats as much, and became much more careful about sugars, and processed carbohydrates. I also made a real effort to add whole grains to my diet. For snacks, in addition to my veggies, I started eating small servings of cheese, and other protein rich foods like hard boiled eggs, unsalted raw mixed nuts, or beef jerky.
With these changes, I felt more satisfied, and my wight loss continued.
As of yesterday morning, I reached my goal weight of 175 pounds. I have more energy than I have had in years, and I feel great. It took a little over a year, but I have lost a total of 55 pounds. What excites me the most though is that I finally feel like I am equipped with the knowledge to make this a permanent change in my life. I will never allow myself to get fat again.
In the end, the changes that I made were simple, although, not always easy. It meant giving up foods (and beverages) that I really loved, but in the end, those foods aren’t worth the price when it comes to my weight and my health.
Here 12 tips, based on the things that I have learned over the course of the last year.
- Portion Control – Eat sensible portions. Don’t eat something just because it is there. It is OK to push your plate away when you are no longer hungry.
- It is almost impossible to eat healthy when you eat out. Make your choices carefully, and substitute sides if necessary. The “cheap bulk” items (usually side dishes) that restaurants use to pad their profit margin and make you feel full are generally the worst things for your waistline. Restaurants also tend to bring you servings that are about twice the portion size that you should actually eat.
- Cook at home if you can, and focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.
- Eliminate snacks from your diet that add little to no nutritional value. If you want a snack, eat something that offers your body the things that it needs!
- Watch your beverages. The liquid sugars and carbs can kill your diet! Don’t drink pop. Period. It isn’t good for you, it’s full of nasty ingredients, and it makes you fat. This goes for diet pop too. Don’t be fooled by the artificial sweeteners and the zero calorie claims. If you go to the coffee shop, skip the high calorie sweetened and flavored mixed drinks. Go for coffee, or an americano. Cut out beer. This is another difficult change for many people (myself included), but it will be worth it. Once you reach your goal, enjoy a beer occasionally, but it shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet.
- Keep an eye out for saturated fats and trans-fats, as they are known to be bad for us, but don’t sweat the fats quite as much as conventional wisdom has led us to believe.
- Buy quality meat. It will taste better, and generally be leaner.
- Be careful with simple carbohydrates and starches. This includes pasta, rice, and potatoes. Especially watch out for fries and hash browns. Luckily many fast food restaurants have started making salads or fresh fruit like apples available as a side instead of fries.
- Make sure you’re looking for whole grains. When you buy bread, make sure that you buy whole grain bread. The first ingredient must be whole grain or whole wheat flower. If the first ingredient is enriched flower, put it back on the shelf. When you buy pasta, buy whole grain pasta. If you buy rice, buy long grain brown rice, or wild rice. Avoid sugary instant oatmeal, and instead buy the old fashioned kind, and don’t load it up with sugar!
- Make sure you get plenty of protein.
- Avoid sugar. This applies to processed sugar and high fructose corn sugar. It’s everywhere, and it’s difficult to avoid, but you must. Some people are even sensitive enough to sugar that they need to be very careful with fresh fruits and honey.
- All that commitment is tough. Find ways to treat yourself without blowing your diet. A small bowl of frozen cherries or other fruit usually did the trick for me. A small serving of ice cream every few weeks can be a nice treat, but skip the toppings, they can easily double the calories your ice cream dish.