My Food Plan

In a recent post, I talked about various strategies to get – or get back – on track. One of them was tracking my food. And that is my basic food plan. I am not on a diet where I restrict a list of foods. In fact, there are almost no “off limit” foods for me. So how does that work?

I started using the My Fitness Pal app (it’s the one I read about in Cooking Light, January 2014). It takes some effort, especially in the beginning. But the more you use it, the more it knows about the foods you eat, so they are easier to look up and enter. You can use the app on your phone or the website on your computer. I use both, depending on what I’m trying to do. I set up my goals by telling it some basic information: my current weight, my goal weight, how much weight I want to lose per week (I started with one pound per week and now have it set to half a pound per week), and my activity level. Then it comes up with target nutrition goals. I focus mainly on the calories but am also aware of fat and carbs, as those are of course the things I crave!

After that, I start logging. I am most successful at staying within my target if I plan most or all of my food the day before. Of course I still make adjustments throughout the day, depending on what happens or what I’m craving. But having an idea of what’s coming throughout the day helps stop me from mindless snacking.

As I said, I do not deprive myself of any foods. I’ve gone down that road enough times to know it does not work for me. If I say, for example, that I can’t eat chocolate, I become this crazy person who can’t stop thinking about food and ends up eating all kinds of other things that are really no better. I become so irritable and most unpleasant to be around! And wasn’t I just writing about how this is still supposed to be fun?! I may be trying to make changes in myself when it comes to my body and my health, but that doesn’t mean that my personality has to suffer (especially at the expense of the people around me!).

So instead of depriving myself, it’s all about portions and balance. I measure most of my food (unless it’s already pre-measured for me, like in those 100 calorie packs). I have to admit, the math geek in me actually enjoys measuring! And I have some fun playing the numbers game. It goes something like this: “I really want some chocolate. But I only have 50 calories to spend. Okay, so that’s about 2 dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.” I used to be the person who couldn’t have just one or two – I wanted a whole handful, if not the whole bag! But now I can be much more disciplined about it … most of the time 🙂 And I really savor those one or two little chocolates.

Of course, I do try to make healthy choices, too! That is sometimes a struggle for me. I use another app called Healthy Habit Tracker to try to eat enough fruits and vegetables and drink enough water each day. It’s amazing how a day can go by so quickly before I realize I haven’t had enough!

The balance comes from looking at my whole day. If I want to have some light ice cream at night (I’ve become hooked on Edy’s slow-churned mint chocolate chip!), then I can’t have a cookie earlier in the day. So maybe I’ll have that cookie the next day instead.

So I still eat cookies and ice cream and chips. We still have hamburgers and french fries. We still order pizza. And we still go out to eat. In fact, my husband and I have date night every Thursday! When I eat out, I look up the nutritional info online, if it’s available. That means eating at a lot of chain restaurants – at least in the beginning. But now that I’ve gotten a better sense of food, I feel more confident to eat at other restaurants, too. I just look up the food I want to eat on My Fitness Pal and choose one from the list that sounds about right. And when I know we’re going out at night, or ordering pizza, then it’s especially important for me to plan the day ahead of time!

What I really like about planning out the day like this and balancing my foods is that I really get to enjoy eating! It takes the guilt completely out of the equation, because I’ve already accounted for it. I can really dig in to that slice of cheese pizza. Or savor the creaminess of the mint ice cream and the richness of the dark chocolate chips. Yum!!

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Just Begin

I love chronology. Things in order. Nice and neat.

However, that is not how my life is most of the time.

And so, part of embracing my authenticity is being okay with the bits of chaos that I float around in all day long!

I would love to go back and begin my story somewhere at that beginning (although I’m still not even sure where that is). But it would take too long to catch up to where I am right now. And I want to write … right now.

So here I go. Into new territory for me. Jumping off into the deep end instead of carefully slipping my toes into the water at the first step of the pool.

That might mean it’s a bit difficult for any readers to follow along. Sorry about that. This blog is really for me, though. I’d love to know that some of the wisdom I’ve gained is helpful to someone out there. But for now, this blog is a way for me to sort through what’s going on and all that I am learning.

Last December I turned 39. Apparently, this is a really big year for people. I am no exception. It wasn’t exactly on my birthday. It was about 3 weeks later (after the chaos of the holidays had died down). On January 4th (yes, this was the actual day), something began to erupt in me.

ENOUGH. —  I. am. so. done.

I was ready for a change. A big change. It had been building up for a long time. A lifetime, even. But certainly over the past few years, things had really begun to boil and bubble inside. In my 30s, I met my husband, got married, finished my graduate degree, and gave birth to two beautiful baby boys. It was time to focus on me again. The timing was perfect.

After a lifetime of struggling with my weight and self-image, I was ready to look myself square in the eye (or body) and make a change. No more negative talk. No more judging perceived imperfections. Positive words only.

On January 4th, my husband and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite steak restaurants. But that night, the food wasn’t very good. Nonetheless, I sat there and ate it, maybe wishing the next bite would be better. But it wasn’t. I came home feeling over-stuffed. Heavy. Weighed down. It wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling, alas.

I happened to sit down on the couch and pick up the latest issue of Cooking Light. With the first issue of the new year came an article from the editor about losing weight. I’ve read countless articles on losing weight. I’ve done the yo-yo dieting, each time thinking I’d found “the one,” only to end up 10 pounds heavier than when I’d started. The weight had piled on. By the time I was getting married, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life.

But this time, something did click. I read about an app I could get for my phone to track what I was eating. Oh, I’ve done that before, too, and it didn’t work. Although, never with the ease of clicking away on my cell phone. There was a big learning curve as I taught the app all the foods I eat. I began tracking meticulously. And I weighed and measured all my food. That part, I don’t actually mind. The nerdy math side of me rather likes playing the numbers. I told the app about some of my behaviors and entered the focus to lose one pound a week. One pound. I could do that.

It wasn’t just the app, though. There has been so much more that has led to my success. For one thing, I was ready. That’s such a nebulous idea, I know. It’s one of the inexplicable things. You just have to feel it.

I also had this new idea. What if it took me until I was 40? Would that be so bad? Not really. I could definitely deal with that. So instead of wanting results in a month or a week, I had a long-term focus.

It’s now September. I don’t know how much weight I’ve actually lost. (One of the lessons I took away from previous dieting attempts: I can’t handle having a scale in the house. I become too obsessive.) But I’ve gone down 3 sizes. I’m wearing clothes in sizes I’ve never worn in my entire life. It feels amazing.

There is so much more to delve into. There are so many layers. So many aspects that have contributed to my success. I want to go into more detail in future posts. I want to process it all. And I also want to remind myself of all that I have learned. Because now I am entering the next phase of maintenance, and I do not – under any circumstances – want to go back. Not ever again.

I am embracing my new self. I am exploring this person. Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do I want to present myself to the world? Still many questions to be answered and explored. Here’s to the next phase of my authentic self!