Guidelines I Follow
In the beginning, I took it day by day.
I told myself I was going to lose x amount of pounds, and then I forgot about it. That way, when I looked on the scale, it wasn’t “_ more pounds to go!” It allowed me to revel in my immediate successes, rather than think about how much further I had to go. And I didn’t give myself a deadline. When I lost it, I lost it. I didn’t think about how I was going to handle eating healthy for the rest of my life. I thought about how I was going to eat healthy for dinner.
I eat on a pretty regular schedule.
My body’s gotten used to eating breakfast around 9, lunch around noon, a snack around 3, and dinner around 6 or 6:30. I go to bed around 10 or 11 during the week, so I don’t really get too hungry before bed. If I do, I’ll eat something very light (like a slice of turkey), and that’ll more than hold me over. The weekends are a little less structured, but I basically follow the same routine, since my body (and my appetite) is used to the schedule.
My heaviest meal is breakfast or lunch.
Think about it… shouldn’t your heaviest meals be when you need the most energy? You don’t need much energy to get you through the rest of the day by the time dinner comes around. Dinner is almost always my smallest meal of the day. If I’m going to splurge, I usually do it at breakfast (well good morning, pancakes).
Midnight snacks are a no-no.
This is an obvious one, but it gets harder after a night out on the town. You’ve been drinking a few, and everyone’s going out for pizza. This is the time where you have to stop yourself and remember that, while instant gratification in the form of a slice of meatlovers pizza might be appealing, it’s better to turn it down and chug water (because you’re going to need it come morning anyway). Which brings me to boozing…
Cut down your drinking and watch the weight melt off.
Yeah, you’ve heard it a bunch of times, and it’s true. But before you get discouraged, just know that it’s a temporary thing. You don’t have to be a teetotaler your whole life (where’s the fun in that?), but it’s probably a good idea to scale back big-time until your tolerance goes down. When I was in college, I could throw back 10 drinks during a 2 hour all-you-can-drink special. That’s about 1500 calories!
When I first decided to lose weight, I quit drinking altogether, and after a couple of months I was getting a buzz off 2 drinks. Anything over 4 drinks and I was done for the evening. Now that’s more like it. Even so, I still drink maybe once a week. I rarely drink during the week and no longer relieve stress with a few glasses of wine.
Another important factor, other than how much you’re drinking, is what you’re drinking. If margaritas are your thing, you should probably stick to one– they’ve got between 400-600 calories in one. I tend to drink vodka sodas with a splash of orange juice. Try it with a lime wedge– it’s good! And, though I love a craft beer now and then, I mostly drink Bud Light. For calorie counts on other drinks, click here.
I stick to whole foods.
I don’t eat a lot of processed foods. It bothers me when I have no idea what the ingredients are in my food. Almost none of my food comes in a box, and if I buy frozen meals for days I don’t have time to cook, it’s usually Kashi or Amy’s Organic.
I don’t eat processed carbs, either. When I eat carbs (and I love them, so it’s often), I stick to whole grains. Brown rice, whole wheat bread (or even better, sprouted wheat), and oats. They keep you fuller longer because of the fiber, and they don’t spike your blood sugar levels (Ever been in a carb coma? That’s your sugar crashing.)
I implement portion control.
You’d be shocked to know what a serving of cereal is. It’s not the size of your bowl. It’s one cup. That’s a coffee mug. If you want more than that, go with a cereal with a lower calorie count. Two cups of Kashi Go Lean is about 200 calories. Throw in some fruit and some skim or almond milk, and you’ve got a pretty decent, quick breakfast.
For a handy guide on portion sizes, click here.
I know calorie counts for almost everything.
I don’t count calories, but sometimes it’s nice to know that yes, you can have as many green vegetables as you want, because they’re only 25 calories a cup, but no, you can’t pile on almond butter until your heart’s content, because it’s 100 calories per tablespoon (that doesn’t stop me from adding a little smidge here and there!).
It’s also a good idea to look up calorie counts at some of your favorite restaurants. You’d be shocked to know what’s in your favorite salad at CPK (chances are, it’s over 1000 calories… I kid you not). Most chain restaurants have the info on their Web sites.
A little fat is your friend.
Fat’s important. Know what’s made of fat? Your brain.
Because of my genetic borderline-high cholesterol, I limit the amount of saturated fat I eat– and I almost never eat things with trans fats in them. But unsaturated fat is actually really important to your diet. Nuts, fish, olive oil, and avocados are some of the best sources of unsaturated fat (but should be consumed in small portions– they’ve got a lot of calories). Unsaturated fat’s been shown to help cholesterol levels (it boosts your HDL– or good cholesterol– levels) and can even help reduce tummy fat. And don’t forget the importance of your Omega-3s.
Diets extremely low in fat are no bueno for your body and can lead to hair loss and brittle nails.
I’m not afraid to try new things– with food or with exercise.
The best way to break out of a food or workout rut is to expand your horizon. Sick of broccoli? Try brussels sprouts roasted with balsamic vinegar. Sick of rice? Try quinoa (pronounced “KEEN-wah”). Sick of running? Take a group exercise class at the gym, go for a swim, or try a workout video on Exercise TV (free OnDemand with most digital cable subscriptions). You might just find your new favorite food or workout!
I embrace delayed gratification.
Living a healthy lifestyle takes discipline at first. When you’re feeling a little tired and are considering skipping your workout, ask yourself “Will I be happy with this decision later?” “Am I too tired for 30 minutes at the gym?” The answer (unless you really are tired, so be honest with yourself) will most likely be no.
When you’re out to eat or at someone’s house for dinner and the time rolls around for dessert, ask yourself “Is it worth the work I put in?” Try eating fruit instead. It always cures my sweet tooth. If not, pop some gum in your mouth.
It’s going to be tough in the beginning, but it will get easier. Give it a few months. I promise.
I don’t cave to peer pressure.
No, your friends and family don’t want to make you fat. But they may give you a hard time, and that’s okay. Suck it up and make your own decisions. If they persist, stand up for yourself gently but firmly: “I don’t give you a hard time about what you eat, so I’d appreciate the same.” My uncle just loves to crack jokes about “that California girl and her healthy crap.” I just smile and pat his beer belly.
I make time for exercise and healthy eating.
Yes, it takes time out of your day to work out. Yes, it’s easier to throw a frozen meal in your bag for work than cook a healthy stir fry. We’re all busy. But we make time for what’s important to us. So make time for your health. Edward Stanley, an Earl from the 1800s, says it best: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
I take my vitamins.
Iron is the most common deficiency in women– especially active women. Calcium is another biggie. I take a Flintstone multivitamin with iron (Don’t laugh! They taste like candy and they have an entire day’s worth of iron for adults!) and two of those chocolate calcium chews every day. I also take an Omega-3 supplement once a day.
I know I’m not going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model. Flat stomach? I can do that. Size 0 jeans? No way.
I don’t look to magazines to tell me what I should look like. As much as I love Self and Women’s Health for their recipes and workout tips, the celebrity interviews are totally misleading. Most of the celebrities they feature can’t say enough about how they love their dessert and they love their carbs. They may love them– but they sure as heck don’t eat them. I also read one interview where a certain celebrity says she takes Pilates three times a week and that’s all it takes to have her flawless body. I then saw an article (in another magazine) about the same celebrity who says she works out constantly and only eats spinach leaves and seeds and is miserable and always hungry. See? Misleading.
I’m 5’7″ and I’ve got boobs. That means, while it’s good to be slim and fit, it’s not natural (or healthy) for me to be stick thin. And I’ve heard not one complaint about my curves.
Most importantly… I cheat.
I heard about a burger joint near me that was so good it was actually on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Did I go eat a burger? Damn right I did. And fries. You know why? Because life is short. Too short to react to everything with “Well, I can’t eat that.” Who says?
It’s totally okay to indulge, but when I do, I make it worth it. If I’m going to eat a burger, it’s going to be a burger that’s so good a celebrity chef went on national television to say so– it’s not going to be a double cheeseburger at McDonald’s.