No matter how much I wanted to believe otherwise, it does come down to basic math. The energy balance equation states that if energy consumed equals energy output you will maintain you current weight. In the same manner, if your energy consumed is greater than you energy output you will gain weight. And, yes, if your energy consumed is less that your energy output you will lose weight.
I used to find myself saying that I'd tried everything and it wasn't' working. I felt like I would watch what I ate and nothing would happen. I felt like I would start exercising and nothing would happen. I blamed it on God at times....that He must have made me "broken" (I know, a bit blasphemous...forgive me, Lord). I blamed it on my bad genes and thyroid problem. I blamed it on everything else. But, truly I know now that it really does come back to a basic math equation. Yes, there will be a variation in how the math plays out in a life, but the same principle is at work.
So, with that disclaimer aside....for me I began with choosing a method by which to track, journal, or record my daily energy consumption. I tried an actual journal b/c I believed that it would be helpful to carry with me at all times. But I didn't love the difficulty of finding an item I'd consumed before in order to copy it's information onto a new day. I tried the computer post-it note method, but didn't like that there was no record of the day before since I had to trash them or become post-it note cluttered each day. But, these might work for others. Would love to hear from you all if you have something that you love. For me, it has been an excel spreadsheet diary. I configured it to include each month, each day of the month, and a column for food names and their associated value. That way it calculates it for me and I can constantly be looking to see where I am throughout the day. The down side is that I don't bring my computer with me everywhere so I have to be sure to either remember everything I put in my mouth or jot it down and transfer it over later. But despite the down side, I love this method. Besides making it easier to copy common foods from one day to the next, it also gives me a better look at the big picture. I can evaluate where I'm failing and make changes. So, just find something that works for you. Again, if it doesn't work you will NOT stick with it. Oh, and if any of you want my excel journal to use for yourself, just email me and I'll send it to you read to use.
Once I decided on where and how I'd track my food, I had to decided what value I was going to assign to food. Because I had done W.W. in the past and knew the points system so well, I opted to go this route. For a friend of mine, it was easier to determine how many calories she should be consuming in a day and do it that way. What I like about the W.W. method is that because of their equation, you are often choosing foods that are lower in fat and higher in fiber in order to feel satisfied and use your points for the day. What I like about the straight calorie method is that it doesn't require any additional material, tools, training. It's so organic that you can use it wherever you find yourself. So, again it comes down to what makes it easier for you. I will say, that I've tried to become more aware of the calories associated with the points system this year so that I'm not just doing something easier, but also learning how to do it on my own should I ever need to. And if any of you opt to do the W.W. method but would like to know more about their equation and additional (free) tools out there to help you, let me know.
So, I mentioned a few posts ago that I began working out last September without tracking food. I barely lost even though I thought I was watching my food choices more closely. The problem is...no matter how good you think you are doing with food, you won't know until you write it down and see it on paper. It's much like budgeting your money. A little there and a little here adds up and all of a sudden you're wondering where all the money went! So, in the end of October I began tracking my food and staying within the right range, and guess what? Yep, it fell off me. I lost 25 lbs. by mid December!
Now, I knew from previous experience that if I tracked my food I'd lose weight. And I knew that the previous time I wasn't even working out and I lost a bunch of weight. But, like I said...I didn't just want to lose weight this time. I wanted to get healthier and more fit. So, I didn't give up going to the gym once I recognized that the food part was a lot more of the equation for me. And boy am I glad.
See, getting out of our habits is bound to happen. Life gets in the way as we attempt to form new habits. My prayer is that eventually my new habits won't be changed by life's happenings, though, as they become more ingrained in me. But, for now I struggle to keep them in place. And sure enough I got off track in the new year. But this time instead of gaining weight, I maintained because even though my food tracking had been thrown for a loop, my exercise habit stuck! Yea! A small victory. In fact, I've struggled most of this year with my food tracking, but my exercise has kept my weight steady. I don't say that with complete pride, as I'd rather be able to tell you that both have been formed as new habits and I'm at my goal weight...but not yet. And that's okay. I'm still heading there, still in process, and am prepared to keep at it no matter how long it takes. In the meantime, my body is still appearing slimmer because it's reshaping as I continue to tone it through exercise. People keep telling me they think I've lost a lot more since they last saw me, but I know that it's all muscle and not the numbers on the scale. Which is a great thing!
So, my new goal....it to get back to tracking my food and really making a commitment to it...again:) It fell away because there are so many new balls (habits) taking shape in my life and I couldn't keep them all in the air. But, I feel good about the ones that have taken route and now want to add on to those.
Some changes I've made in food this past year are small and some are big. Some are more personal goals of mine and some are general rules of thumb. I thought I'd log some of them here either way...
- learning to drink my coffee black so as to avoid extra calories from creamer/sugar and to cut out artificial sweetener.
- having protein as a part of my breakfast each day so that I feel fuller and have more energy for workouts
- drinking 64 oz. of H2O/day
- limiting myself to one diet coke/day (I'd like to cut this out completely b/c I believe I could do w/o the artificial sweetener and caffeine. But, I'm not in a rush do make this move b/c right now it is a good pick-up in the afternoon, it curbs my desire for something sweet, etc.)
- switching to breads and pastas that are higher in fiber. I love the Ronzoni Smart Taste pastas. They taste like real pasta but have 3x as much fiber...even more so than a lot of the wheat pastas. And for breads I love The Alternative Bagel made by Western Bagel. I can only find them at Publix here, but they are worth every penny. I LOVE bagels and yet know that most bagels are either high in calories or they taste like cardboard. This one has 110 calories and 7g of fiber! I love their roasted onion bagel the most b/c I can use it for breakfast and even for sandwhiches at lunch. Oh, I'll also mention the Jospeh's pita bread. They are 60 calories and 5 g of fiber. I use them at lunch time and spread them with light laughing cow, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. for a delicious veggie sandwhich. Or I also use them in the afternoon with a little smear of almond butter and sliced apple. Very good.
- leaving casseroles off the dinner menu. I've tried to make our dinners consist of a meat, and two veggie sides. Sometimes I'll sub in potatoes, couscous, or whole grain rice for a change. But a lot of times we grill a meat and have one hot veggie and then a salad. I just find that I can control my intake a lot more because I'm not bogged down in determining how many calories each ingredient in a casserole is, dividing it by serving size, etc. Yes, it does mean we have a lot less of our "favorite" home cooked meals...but we're getting by. We do still do them occasionally and everyone seems okay with that. But even with the old favorties we are trying to make changes that make them healthier...like using leaner meats, more veggies, less starch and cheese.
- seeking out more variety in meal planning and reworking old recipes even more so we don't feel "cheated".
- learning how to prepare new veggies....in other words expanding our palates and abilities.
- cutting down on alcohol. We often have wine with dinner, and I enjoy that, but I find that sometimes that leads to another glass or two after dinner which isn't necessary. I mean there's nothing wrong with it outside of the fact that it is empty calories that I don't need. I like to consider 2 the max at all times, and really maybe only do it a few times a week at most. Just a good place to cut calories.
- stop snacking after dinner. Because I eat lightly all day, I'm often hungrier at night. I'd like to implement two day time snacks and then be done with eating once dinner is over. One problem I have here is that with kiddos we eat super early...like around 5-5:30. So, there is a huge stretch of evening with which I have to contend with. I know I should probably make myself a cup of hot tea and find something to occupy my time better than t.v., but there has to be a balance. I've thought of taking a walk after the kids are in bed (if the hubs is home), scrapbooking (if I can get motivated), or just limiting myself to one small snack before 8 p.m. I don't know quite what is realistic for me, but I'm open to suggestions:)