Food is my weakness. Let's face it, I wouldn't of gotten close to 300lbs if it wasn't because of the food that I put into my mouth. There were days that I would eat from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed. There were days that I hardly ate anything all day - and then when the last meal of the day came, I was so hungry I would eat enough food to feed three people!! Hearing the word diet meant one thing to me - salad...UGH!! The truth is, though, that diet is a word that should be used to describe EVERYTHING that you put into your mouth. If you live on hamburgers, pizza, and soda - then that's your diet. If you eat nothing but salad and veggies - that's your diet. My diet is, now, full of flavorful and healthy foods. I eat six times a day, and never feel hungry, deprived - and I've found that if I do skip a meal - I miss it A LOT!
So, lets start by discussing the eating 6 times a day. When I was first told that I needed to eat 6 small meals a day, all I could think was "are you crazy? I want to lose weight, not gain!" Then the words "protein" and "carbohydrates" and "fats" were thrown into the conversation....I really thought "this is nuts!" But the truth of the matter is, eating 6 times a day DOES help you lose weight, and protein, carbs, and fats are what make that happen. A lot of people think that eating 6 times a day means eating the three basic meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then eating three snacks in between. That is NOT the case. Each meal should contain approximately the same amounts of protein, carbs, and fats - and should all be about the same portion sizes.
Why do you need to eat six times a day? Because your body needs constant fueling, because your body burns fat from eating smaller meals more at a faster rate than if you're eating three bigger meals a day, and because eating every couple of hours will stop you from feeling hungry and grabbing for the nearest bag of chips or pint of ice-cream.
I know you're probably sitting there thinking the same thing I did a few months ago: "who has time to prepare and eat six times a day?" I didn't think there was any way that I would be able to fit six meals into my day...I barely had time to fit lunch and dinner in - let alone 4 additional meals. At first, I really struggled with fitting in everything that I had to eat. Then, after a few weeks, my eating became a habit. I put myself on a schedule, made sure that I made plans in case interruptions came into that schedule, and within no time I was eating literally like clockwork the same time every day. It's all comes down to planning...but before you can plan, you have to know what you can eat.
Rather than coming up with a list of all the foods you can eat, I'd rather come up with a list of foods to avoid. That list is much shorter. Before we talk about that, though, let's talk portions. Every single meal that you eat (all 6 of them) should contain protein, carbs, and a small amount of fat. There's a mathematical formula that can be used - but who wants to do that every day?? NOT I!! The easiest way to figure it out is by using something you carry around with you everyday: your hand! Each serving of protein and carbs should be about the size of the palm of your hand. The palm of your hand is a perfect tool to use, because everyone has a different size hand - but gives them the perfect portion size for them. Each meal should contain one serving of protein and two servings of carbs. Now, if you actually LIKE doing math - then you use a 1:2 ratio of protein and carbs. That means you should eat double the grams of carbs than the grams of protein. An example would be: if you're eating a piece of chicken that has 22 grams of protein, your carbs should be about 44 grams. The formula comes in handy when you're not eating foods that can easily be measured with the palm of your hand. It's very easy to look at a label and see the grams of protein and carbs - and see where you stand in terms of the 1:2 ratio. How many grams should you eat? That's where things get a little trickier. The best way to figure it.. pick your ideal weight, not what you weigh now but what you'd LIKE to weigh. That's the number of grams of carbs you should try and eat each day. That being the case, you cut that number in half to figure out the amount of protein you should be eating each day. I wouldn't worry about that, for now, though - just stick to limiting your portion sizes with your hands...and once you get to used to that - you can start looking more at the numbers.
OK - so that was all pretty confusing...but I assure you, once you get into the groove - it will all become very natural for you. So, back to foods that you should be eating. The easiest way to get protein is from lean meats: chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of beef and pork. You will also find protein in soy products and low-fat/ fat-free cottage cheese. Another GREAT source is eggs, although it's best to use egg whites or egg substitutes as they have less fat but the same amount of protein. Later in the week, I will discuss supplements - which are an excellent source of protein - but for right now, we'll just stick to foods.
So, now on to carbs. Many people shudder at the word Carbohydrate. If you're one of those people - relax!! Carbs are good - the right ones anyways. "Good" carbs come from fruits, veggies, whole-grains, and dairy products. When selecting carbs to eat, select whole-grain breads, and stuff made with whole-wheat/ grain flours. Try to avoid things made with "refined" anything..such as white breads or anything made with white flour. That means your rice should be brown, your pasta should be whole-wheat....you should be eating brown, not white. Fruits and veggies are great - there's only two veggies that you should try and avoid: corn and peas. Both aren't really beneficial - basically wasted calories...so try and choose something else. When it comes to dairy - it's pretty obvious that you should choose the lowest fat possible. If you can stand fat-free milk, opt for that - I can't, so I use 1% milk. I buy fat-free/ low-fat cheese and fat-free yogurt.
Lastly, we'll touch on fats. Everyone has to eat fat - without it we'd be in trouble. Fats help insulate our bodies, lubricate our joints, and absorb nutrients into our system. Of course, you have to be sensible with how much fat you consume. The fats are the easiest to maintain, because you get most of your fats from eating the protein and carbs. If you do add fats into your diet, though, (such as oils) you should use olive oil, canola oil, or sesame oil. Stay away from vegetable oil, peanut oil - stuff like that. Butter is another fat - so try and use butter sparingly. A great way to do that is by buying the no-calorie butter spray.
Now you know you have to eat six times a day, and have an idea of what you have to eat....so how do you do it? PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!! Planning takes a little time getting used to, but it's worth it. When I first started planning, I felt like my head was going to explode....trying to find the right foods, figuring out what I was going to eat and when....CRAZY STUFF. It took about 3 weeks before I really got the swing of things - so if at first you get a little frustrated, DON'T GIVE UP!!
I have to share a funny little story....last week, due to the extreme heat we've been having, my hubby told me that he didn't really feel up to cooking much. He wanted us to just "wing" the week - and opt for stuff like sandwiches and salads...cooler stuff. We decided we wasn't gonna plan the week out, just stock up on stuff like sandwich meats, veggies - and just decide what we'd eat when the day came. It was the worst week I've had in 6 months!!! I felt so out of whack...completely unprepared...lost, even. Not having my meal plan and shopping list had me walking around Wal-Mart like a chicken with their head cut off. By the end of the week, I was so stressed and frazzled I decided that we could NEVER do that again!! It's amazing how planning becomes a part of your normal life - and without it, it really puts a damper to your lifestyle. Anywho, I digress...
I have gotten into the habit of designating Sunday as my "planning day". After I do my blog, I sit at my computer and come up with my weekly meal plan. I make a weekly plan of all of my meals that I will eat each day...all six of them. It started out being a task that took me a couple of hours (what with kid interruptions and stuff), now I have it down that I can have my whole week planned in about 30 minutes. I start out with dinners, because that's the one meal that my whole family eats together. This is a great time to bring family up. If you really want your lifestyle to work - then you have to involve your family. Trying to plan meals for you, and meals for everyone else is a daunting task - and a pointless one. There's no reason why you can't encourage your family to eat healthy. I'm assuming you'd like your kids to be healthy just as much as you want yourself to be healthy - so make them! OK, so I start with dinners. One of the joys I've found with this lifestyle is coming up with new recipes to try. If you like to cook, then you're going to have a great time. Not a fan of cooking? Don't worry, you can plan simple meals. I bought a bunch of healthy cookbooks and started cooking...and I've loved every minute of it. I try to plan it so that each night we have something different: chicken, pork, beef, fish, turkey - most weeks we have 2 chicken dishes or 2 fish dishes but not two days in a row. When cooking, remember that spices are your friends. Adding spices to your foods creates flavor, but doesn't add any calories - so experiment, you will be surprised at how much flavor you can add to your foods. We eat brown rice in our house A LOT - probably 4 times a week. I invested in a rice cooker - and it's probably the most used appliance in my kitchen. The best thing about rice is the fact that you can also add spices to change the flavor. I usually cook the rice in 98% fat free chicken broth, and then I add spices like curry powder, onion powder, garlic powder, Greek seasoning, lemon-pepper seasoning....the options are endless. If I don't eat rice with my meat, then I stick to eating steamed veggies. Maybe once a week, I'll eat potatoes. There's nothing wrong with potatoes - I just prefer rice or veggies. If you LOVE mashed potatoes...don't fret - I found a way to make mashed potatoes that cuts out the fat: instead of adding milk and butter, try using fat-free sour cream. It gives the same creaminess as mash. If you like the butter flavor, spray a few sprays of calorie-free butter spray on your potatoes when they are served on your plate.
Once dinner plans are done, I move on to planning the rest of my meal plan. I don't keep my family to my meal plan for the other meals because they don't eat six times a day - and they eat different foods for breakfast and lunch. When coming up with your other meals, the best way to be cost effective - and making the task less daunting - is by repeating the same meals throughout the week. For example: This week, my breakfasts are Kashi Go Lean cereal with 1% milk on Monday and Thursday, Protein Vanilla Oatmeal (oatmeal with a scoop of vanilla protein powder) on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, and 2 eggs (substitute) with 2 slices of whole-grain bread on Wednesday and Saturday. That way, I still have variety - but I'm not buying a ton of different foods. All I need is one box of cereal, oatmeal, bread, milk, and egg substitutes. I will repeat those same breakfasts next week too - because the stuff from this week will last through next week. My lunches consist of tuna sandwiches, ham sandwiches, and ham slices with steamed veggies. I buy the bags of microwavable steamed veggies, and on the days that I eat the veggies for lunch - I save the rest to eat with dinner. At the end of the day, if you can come up with two or three days worth of variety then you can fill in the rest of the gaps with the same foods - just alternate days, so you're not eating the same things each day.
So, what about those other 3 meals? I said in the beginning that you shouldn't be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then three snacks in between. That's not entirely the case - I still eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. What I mean by that is, the other three meals shouldn't be any less than your main meals. You should still be eating protein and carbs at the 1:2 ratio for the other meals. That doesn't mean that you have to eat chicken and rice each meal - it just means you shouldn't just be eating a piece of fruit or a yogurt in between meals. The easiest way to fill in the gaps is by using supplements. Again, I'll discuss supplements later in the week. Right now, I'll discuss other things that you can eat. My favorite "in between meals" are things like apple slices and peanut butter (natural peanut butter), 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and whole-wheat crackers, and ham slices and string cheese. They look like snacks, but each meal has a serving of protein and two servings of carbs.
When making your plan, try to shoot for planning the time that you will eat every day. Rather than writing: Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack..etc. Try writing: 6:30am, 10am, 12:30PM..etc. Then - STICK TO THAT SCHEDULE!! It doesn't have to be exact - but getting yourself into the routine will build the habit, and the habit will make life a lot easier. When you're done with your plan, put it on the refrigerator so you can see it at all times. If you have a very busy schedule, try making the foods that you can ahead of time so they're easy to just grab out of the fridge at the right time. So, what about the days when you're at work or your going out - or some other distraction is at play? Plan ahead!! Make your meals the night before, and then use baggies or Tupperware and take your food with you. There's no excuse why you can't eat what you have planned while on the go. If you've planned sandwiches, make the sandwich and put it in the fridge. Schedule yourself to eat your first meal before you leave the house - and plan accordingly. Take your meals with you in a cooler. When I talk about supplements, there will be other ways for you to avoid missing meals and ways to make things a little easier for crazy schedules.
Now, this is totally optional on your part - but apart from Sundays being my "planning" day, I also opted for Sunday to be my "treat" day. My treat day is a day where I indulge in something that steers away from the realms of healthy. Maybe we'll order pizza for dinner, and I'll eat 2 slices. Maybe I opt for dessert after dinner and enjoy a bowl of low-fat frozen yogurt...maybe I'll cook the whole family a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Now, treat day doesn't mean spending the whole day binging on things that you shouldn't be eating. I just look at Sundays as a more "relaxed" day, and reward myself for all the hard work I've done during the week. Sunday doesn't have to be the day you choose - just pick a day, any day, and designate it. Just remember - you only get ONE day!! Maybe you alternate days each week...that's fine...just don't opt for Sunday and then Monday....keep distance between the days. Maybe one week you plan to go out and eat one night - that's your treat day, don't do that AND have another day. That way, you get to satisfy that naughty craving - and it's something to look forward to each week.
So now you're done with planning your first week of meals - now what? Well, now you have to buy the food for your meals. Before my lifestyle change, I HATED shopping lists. I loved going to the grocery store and wandering around the isles and grabbing things that I thought looked or sounded good....and now you see why I got to be close to 300lbs!! I know you've heard this one before: make a shopping list and ONLY buy what's on the list! Go through your meal plan and make a list of the foods that you're going to need. I even went one step further and made my list according to areas of the store. I have a dairy, center isles, meat, frozen, and produce list each time I go to the store..LOL When you make your list, place the amounts of stuff you need. If you have a family of four - design your list so that you buy enough to feed all 4 of you for dinners. When you buy things like cereal, rice, or spices - those things will stretch over 2 weeks...so not every list will be as big. I hear a lot of people complain that eating healthy is too expensive. Well, I will tell you now that before doing this I would EASILY spend close to $150 - $200 A WEEK on groceries while browsing the store. Now, my grocery bills are much cheaper. Just yesterday, I did my shopping for the week - and spent less than $100...and that bill included all my food, supplements, and the "other" stuff - like the kids' cereal, their snacks, etc. DO NOT BUY things for your family that you shouldn't eat such as potato chips, ice-cream, cookies...that's unfair to you, and it's unfair to them in the long run. My kids eat things like 90 calorie granola bars, Sun-Chips, and fruit Popsicles. They usually eat 2 snacks a day - between lunch and dinner, and then some kind of dessert after dinner.
Wow - that's a lot of information to digest. Again, don't feel overwhelmed...things get much easier. If you have questions, please feel free to post them...or add a discussion to my Facebook page.
Tomorrow, I will discuss exercise. That won't be as exhaustively long to read. Remember, you can do this!! It just takes a little time, patience, and motivation. I'm here for you - and want to help any way I can.
Later in the week, I will dedicate a post to recipes - so hopefully, that will make things a little easier too.
Now, as promised from yesterday, I told you I would post my original "before" pic and a pic of me now. I took the second pic this morning, and that's now my new "before" pic. It still has a lot of work - but hopefully you can see the changes I've made:
Till next time. ;)