As I sit here, sipping some iced tea, with a dash of milk, I realize how much my body changed. First off, let me tell you something about weight loss. It is not easy. Sometimes what complicates it are things not in your control. I had one of those. It was a medication side effect, and this drug is no longer in the market. One well-known side effect was rapid weight gain. in my case, this was over fifty pounds in less than three months.
When all was said and done, I was able to lose about thirty, but then started to slowly regain. I have kept a food diary for years. These days I use Lose It because it is easy to use, and lives on my phone. So I knew it was not my diet, necessarily. As I wrote earlier in the year I then had a tooth infection and a three-week course of antibiotics. This changed my gut biome, my taste buds, and my hunger level.
On the plus side, I lost weight to the point that I am about ten pounds from a healthy body mass index. And to be brutally honest, if I do not lose more, I am happy. If I do, that be a bonus.
Regardless, I have learned a few lessons. They matter if you decide that you need to lose weight.
The first and most important lesson is that you need to discard physical reasons for your weight gain. And by that, I do not mean eating too much. If you are constantly hungry, or you have trouble losing weight, you need to think about medications and underlying issues. There are many medicines that have weight gain as a well-known side effect. Most are not as dramatic as Avandia, but you do need to have a conversation with your medical provider.
You also need to discount thyroid issues, which could be a problem. There are other underlying medical reasons why you may be having difficulties. PCOS is not that rare, and if you are a woman, have a talk with your primary doctor.
You also need to keep a food diary. Why? We tend to underestimate how much we eat. It’s just the way we humans work, and we evolved to gorge ourselves in times of plenty. In that sense, you will be fighting human evolution. Having plenty of food all the time is not the historic norm. Nor is having so much processed food available at all times. Food diaries come in a variety of forms. I use an electronic one. You can do this with paper and pen. I find the convenience of the electric diary to be superior. But this is my experience. Also, there are several platforms, so you may not line one, use another.
We also use smaller plates for our meals. This is a good tactic and works well for us. Remember, plates were smaller even twenty-five years ago. Our larger ones average three hundred extra calories on the plate. We also tend to have smaller portions of things like pastries and bread (in my case Gluten-Free Bagels), since those pastries tend to be larger than they used to. Listen to your body, and when you are full, STOP! This also means learning to recognize this. However, we still have a bad habit, we still eat in front of the TV. I know better but cannot get my husband to just move to the table. We used to join Connie for dinner, she is our sun conure who we miss. Choose your battles, and this one is not worth fighting. So being aware of how distracting the tv can be. I concentrate on my dinner.
Avoid processed foods as much as you can. I cook at home and do it often. It has fewer fats, sugars, and salt. It is better for you, and we know that processed food leads to more calories consumed. Learning to cook has other benefits. You know what goes into your food. And there are some things you cannot find at the store…mole de olla comes to mind.
Eat at a deficit, but don’t go crazy. Meaning, there are safe caloric minimums for you to lose weight and get all your nutrients. Meaning, do not go under 1200 calories per day. Slow and easy wins the race.
It seems logical that if calories are the problem, you would want to eat as few of them as possible to speed weight loss. As a general rule, people need a minimum of 1,200 calories daily to stay healthy. People who have a strenuous fitness routine or perform many daily activities need more calories. If you have reduced your calorie intake below 1,200 calories a day, you could be hurting your body in addition to your weight-loss plans.
“The big picture is to consume enough calories with a balance of nutrients and engage in physical activity for good health management to achieve one’s weight goals. Consuming less than 1,200 calories per day may make it difficult to meet vitamin and mineral needs via food,” says nutrition therapist Andrea Spivack, MA, RD, LDN, with Penn Behavioral Health at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Men tend to lose faster than women. It is the way it is. And this is critical, do not compare yourself with others. Some people have an easier time than others.
Exercise…and here we get into a major sticking point. Many people hate exercise. And to be honest, again, this is human psychology. However, this is not necessarily to help you lose weight. As much as we all would love to think that hitting the gym will help us with that, not necessarily. Realize, a nice walk is an exercise.
We need to move. It is good for our joints. It is great to reduce insulin resistance. Oh and one last thing, change your exercise routine every so often and add resistance training. One thing you will lose as you age and lose weight is muscle mass. You need to maintain it, so do weight training. This is also good to keep your bone mass.
But, but deprivation! If you go on an extreme diet with whole groups of foods forbidden, I guarantee that you will break that sooner or later. There is more, unless you need to cut a food for health reasons, variety is the spice of life. See that food diary above, account for it. Hey, I enjoy chocolate; it just has to be good quality, from time to time. However, I do not eat anything containing gluten. I am allergic, and I get sick. So avoiding it is a no-brainer for me.
This is the most important lesson. Weight loss or gain is not related to will power. Nor is this a moral failure. As more research is done in the field, we are finding how complex this is. Hormones play a role, including hunger hormones which tend to go up as you lose weight. Your body has an idea of what weight it should be at. And like it or not, sometimes that is higher than you want it to be. Why I do not care if I stay ten pounds or so over my ideal weight. I may have hit my set point, and I am happy with that.
The most important lesson is this, enjoy life and do not become fixated on food. You need a healthy relationship with it. Remember, ultimately food is fuel. That does not mean that you need to eat cardboard. By all means, enjoy your food. Be mindful of the memories made around it. Realize we all have to eat. So don’t make this an enemy of yours.