What worked: Balance and Portions
There’s something incredibly rewarding about hitting the 10lb diet-marker. In my case it’s that I’ve actually been working my program properly and persistently long enough that it’s starting to become a habit. I still have a substantial way to go, but portion control and balance are two things I think have made the biggest difference in my progress so far, and I hope to make them lifelong habits.
I’m afraid I can’t credit this properly because I read it a while ago and I don’t remember the source, but apparently one of the big contributors to the North American obesity statistics is our portion sizes. (Yes Canada, that’s us too, there’s no pointing fingers at the noisy neighbors on this one.) If I remember the article correctly, so many of us are so out of touch with our body signals, that we don’t know when to stop eating so we just keep going until we’re stuffed or the food is gone AND that most of us could actually cut our portion sizes in HALF and still be eating too much food. Disturbing, but true. I was really surprised after cutting back that I was in fact satisfied. I wasn’t full, but content. I had a lot of energy, and wasn’t getting hit with cravings and crashes. Now that I’ve gotten used to eating smaller portions, I don’t actually like feeling full any more.
There are a lot of programs that advocate reducing portions and eating more frequently throughout the day. It keeps your energy distribution consistent which is great for your metabolism and keeps your body from going into storage-mode because it doesn’t know if it’ll be hours and hours before it gets another boost. Also, if you stay ahead of being hungry, you’re less likely to stuff yourself with salty, sugary, convenience food.
I can’t speak for everybody, but I hate the idea of hauling out a kitchen scale every time I want a snack. Luckily, there are some really handy visual reference guides for portion control like:
- One deck of playing cards equals one serving (three ounces) of meat, poultry or fish
- A tennis ball is about the size of 1 cup of rice
- Your thumb equals one serving (one ounce) of cheese.
- 2 tbsp of peanut butter is about the size of a ping pong ball
- One ounce of snacky-stuff like pretzels or chips is about a handful
Knowing this kind of thing has allowed for some treats here and there, which frankly has been instrumental in keeping me from going on any major sugar benders in the last month.
The other thing that helped enormously was making sure that I was getting the daily minimum of the things my body actually needs, which is trickier than you might think. When you’ve gotten used to diets and programs that tell you to starve yourself or eliminate food groups altogether, eating in balance feels really weird at first because you’re eating all the time. It doesn’t feel like a “diet”. For instance, my program recommends 5 servings of fruit and veg every day. (Combined, not each.) If I’m eating 5 servings of fruit and veg, that doesn’t leave a whole lotta room for chips and sweets. Add to that 2 servings of milk products, (calcium is so important for healthy bones but it’s a little known fact that it also helps melt belly fat), 2 servings of lean protein, (very important for lean muscles) and 2 tbsp of healthy oils (olive, safflower, sunflower, flax seed, grape seed oils, all good fats, no trans fats) to keep things… (Ahem) moving, and then a few servings of whole grains each week. (Brown rice, whole grain cereals, oatmeal or bread). After I’ve eaten all that, there are still my multivitamin and 8 glasses of water every day! Granted it doesn’t have to be water, I’m a big tea drinker, (I try to stick with greens and herbals though to keep the caffeine intake down).
Lastly, and I’ve said this before, but getting back into a more active lifestyle has helped me complete the circle and keep up my momentum. Exercise has been imperative in dropping the numbers, but more than that, it’s reducing my stress levels, improving my mood, giving me something else to concentrate on and have all to myself for at least an hour, three to five times a week. Do you have any idea what a treasure that is to a busy person? One hour all to myself! I can’t believe I let myself slide on something this valuable for so long.
What needs work: Keeping up the momentum
I’ve said this before but I do think it’s extra important this time of year to be aware of how fast the holidays catch up with us. I know I’m not going to maintain my strictest discipline in the next two weeks, and there will be some indulgence, but I’m going to keep my pedometer on my belt as my touchstone. For every treat there’s some treadmill millage to be served. Speaking of which, I’m off to the gym, and then back to the drawing board! More regular comics posting has been my other goal for a while and I haven’t given it nearly enough attention.