Thursday, August 21, 2008

How Laurie Lost Weight

This is me! And the story of how I lost 15 pounds. I preach it now, calling it "watch out for the once-in-a-while's".

I'm a registered dietitian: I know how many calories are in virtually every food; I know how many grams of fat there are in a serving, how many grams of carbs are contained, what a reasonable portion size is, and which foods have little nutritional value; I know how many servings a day I should have of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and starches.
I know all of that. So why had I gained 15 pounds over the past 5 years and why wasn't it coming off? I ate reasonably well--I didn't binge, eat fast foods often, have desserts after every meal, or go out for ice cream every night. I was already eating what I thought was a fairly low calorie diet (about 1800 calories daily), so what could I change?

Right now I don't remember when it hit me, but it hit me hard, and I never forgot it: I was thinking about how well I avoided high calorie meals, struggling to figure out where I was going to come up with hundreds of calories a day to eliminate so I could lose a few pounds each month. I hardly ever ate fast food--maybe just every other week or so. I rarely had pizza because I knew that was a high-calorie dinner, so I wouldn't order one unless it had been a couple of weeks since the last time. Ditto with our local buffet restaurant, take-out chinese food, and eating out in any restaurant which served rolls and butter before the main meal. I didn't eat desserts often at lunch, even though they boasted quite a display of them at the cafeteria where I worked, so I would treat myself just once or twice a week. I very occasionally would indulge in a donut or sweet roll for breakfast, so it was especially enjoyable when I would give in every week or so. Sometimes I would be on the road during a trip and I would loosen the 'rules' a bit, allowing for snacks to help pass the drive; but that was only four or five times a year.

Are you seeing what I now see? I was trying to limit each of these indulgences to a reasonable frequency, but there were so many of them I wasn't being smart about all of them; I wasn't getting the meaning of eating the sum of them. I was, in fact, ingesting an extra 500 calories from something or other practically every other day: If I hadn't had pizza that week I got the extra calories from chinese and fast food meals; if I didn't have dessert I had already taken the calories earlier in the form of a donut; if I walked off the ice cream cone, I didn't exercise enough to walk off the cake from the office party too!

I thought I was keeping these "once-in-a-while's" down to once a month, but in fact I was "limiting" my choice 15 fattening foods to what amounted to 15 times a month--once a month for each of them--I had found the hundreds of calories to shave off my diet.
My new plan was to eat a high-calorie meal once in a while--only one. I could choose one day a week to have pizza or fast food or dessert or a donut. I couldn't rationalize that I hadn't had a cinnabon for six months if I just had a twice-a-year candy bar yesterday--that would never bring me the negative calorie balance I needed that week to lose weight.

I struggled with the idea of giving up pizza when it was so tempting to order out instead of cooking; giving up my favorite drive through restaurant when I was out and about and started to feel hungry; giving up my favorite donuts--just because I like donuts. But in the long run I realized I wanted to lose 15 pounds more than I wanted to eat donuts. There are plenty of foods I do like, and it's really just as easy to focus on all the delights I can enjoy than it is to pine away for the foods that bring me nothing but extra weight in the long run.

So I savor my fruits at snack time, munch on carrot sticks instead of potato chips, enjoy finding new and simple recipes to make for dinner, search for low calorie ice cream treats for the evening munchies, and plan ahead for times I don't feel like cooking. We eat out much less often and declare how much we've saved in money, gas, and calories at the end of our family dinner. It feels good to eat healthier almost all of the time instead of half the time. And, the bottom line for success: it feels much better weighing whatever I want to weigh than it does eating whatever I want to eat.

No comments: