My original intention centered on introducing my approach to weight loss by focusing on the all-important emotional aspects that others in the field do not typically address. Having discussed topics like longevity, consistency, hunger, and slippage, I did not find it surprising when a growing number of readers began to request information about the basics of getting started. "What should I eat?" became the e-mail refrain. Therefore, in response to your questions, I am going to dedicate this article to the meat and potatoes (!) of how to begin your journey to weight loss and improved health. The information I plan to share today might surprise those of you who have relied on gimmicks and other outlandish eating regimens in the past. I do not rely on gimmicks: instead I plan to reintroduce you to the truth about how your body physically handles food and teach you how to work with that knowledge. I do not guarantee results based on food intake: instead I plan to introduce you to the truth of how your psyche emotionally handles food. I will teach you to use self-awareness and reflection to understand how your mind complicates what is essentially a simple biological process. In short, there are no gimmicks and no miracles, only common sense and truth. Interested?
Before I begin, then, let's look at a few of those truths. First of all, if weight loss were easy to achieve, everyone would be thin; therefore, let me be honest and affirm what you have, no doubt, experienced. Sometimes weight loss is difficult, and less often it is very difficult. While most people need a little help and guidance to achieve their goals, they actually need much more support and guidance to maintain their success. The truth is, many people reach their goal weight and then inevitably find themselves right back up where they started-and the majority of these find themselves carrying a few additional pounds.
Why? Well, because they did not learn the Whys of weight loss. Why are you up in the first place? Why is it so hard to lose? Why can't you keep the weight off? No matter who you are, if you are more than 30 pounds overweight, I can tell you one thing: it is NOT because you have been very hungry for the last couple of years; it is NOT because you are weak and worthless; and, it is NOT because you haven't tried with every fiber of your being to lose the weight! Then what is there to do about it? You can try to accept yourself just the way you are. Surely, that's something we should all strive for, but can you truly accept what your medical tests indicate? Can you feel comfortable with the image you see in the mirror? If you cannot, then allow me to help you understand the truth about the Whys.
First, let me say a word about support. After I answer your questions about what you should eat, you will know, intellectually, exactly how to lose weight. I promise. Here is the thing: you must understand from the start that very few of us can hear what we should eat, follow the directions without slipping, and achieve our goal weight without any support. You do not need support because of inherent weakness on your part. You need support so you can reeducate yourself about how weight loss occurs. You need support to help eradicate the misinformation that has bombarded you for a lifetime. You need support to say NO to the "diets" that are not based on healthy eating much less healthy lifestyles. You might not want to hear it, but the truth is that most of what you have learned about losing weight is false. Especially insidious are the chemical substitutes you have learned to use in place of fattening foods. Saying no to those diets should not be too difficult; after all, how has saying yes benefited you in the past?
If you decide to say a whole-hearted YES to my approach, I will break it all down for you so that you understand not just the basics of proper nutrition, but also the truth about how our deeply embedded emotional issues are connected to our use of food and the condition of our bodies. When it gets hard as it sometimes will, I will help you. In fact, I have prepared for this moment by publishing these articles and e-zines you will find useful in the first weeks of your commitment to discovering the new you.
Are you ready?
Wait. Before we get to the food, I need to tell you that you must, must, must, be Consistent. Your body needs you to commit, from the start, to Consistency. You must be Consistent in what, when, and how much you eat. At first, Consistency is going to look like a very repetitive menu. Why? Why not a varied menu plan? I'll tell you why. The moment you accept the challenge to change your life, you invite obstacles into your day that are far greater than merely choosing the right foods from among the wrong ones. Therefore, we are going to head off any stumbling that might arise were you left to wonder, "What should I make for breakfast/lunch/dinner?" This is not the time to invite the Barefoot Contessa in you to surface; it is the time to one-up Rachel Ray every evening and brag, "I make 15-minute meals." Got it?
Okay, here it is...
I believe in a high fiber, low fat diet. Period! This is the way to feed your body so it functions at its best. Period! In addition, you must drink four to five 16 oz. bottles of water every day. Drink, drink, and keep drinking! Lastly, get a notebook and plan to document everything you put into your mouth starting today. Itemizing your food intake is a crucial step toward self-awareness! You will be astounded at what you eat without thinking.
Basically, I want you to plan a different menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You will vary the meals from day to day, but only slightly. I want you to eat the same portion size every day. No matter what! Even if you feel hungrier one day than you did the day before, you must not eat more. Know in advance that you will be eating a healthy, nutritious, and well-balanced diet, a food plan that is healthier than any you have followed in a long time. Because of this, you will begin to lose weight. Slight feelings of hunger are the body's signal that it is about to give up some of its excess weight. Go back to my blogs for a detailed explanation.
Now, the following are beginning guidelines to direct your menu planning. If you follow them, you will lose weight because they work: it's as simple as that. While there are many, many different types of foods that will support weight loss and keep you balanced and healthy, these guidelines will get you started and help you begin to explore your relationship to food. In upcoming e-zine and blogs, I will continue to help you explore what has really been stopping you from achieving your goals; for now, this is a good way to start.
I would ask one more thing of you: try not to look at this as anything other than an experiment. If you stick to this simple eating plan, you might see that many emotions begin to arise. I have asked you to keep a food journal to encourage awareness about what you eat, and I want you also, and even more importantly, to keep an emotional journal. In this journal, you will begin to explore what is really going on when you feel compelled to eat. The idea is for you to distinguish between eating because you are hungry vs. eating because you are angry. Writing down what you eat, along with how you feel emotionally, throughout the week will provide you with the information you need to take control, finally, of this terrible cycle of gain and loss. So, no matter how hard it is, do not veer off the path: explore within and write it down.
Choose one and have it every morning to pave the way toward Consistency, or mix them up, if you are so inclined.
1. Oatmeal. A reasonable portion is served in a cereal bowl not a mixing bowl! Please sprinkle some fruit on top-any kind, even a banana, if you like. I prefer berries for their antioxidant benefits.
2. High fiber cereal. Look for something in the healthier section, with low sugar content. The Kashi cereals are great, but if you don't like them, Whole Grain Cheerios will do the trick. Again, add fruit.
By the way, it is always fine to add fruit to anything. Many people omit fruits because they have been taught that some are high in sugar. What you have not learned is that the sweetness in fruit is a product of nature, not a chemical created in a laboratory, and your body knows how to process it. In addition, nobody is significantly overweight from having consumed too much fruit!
1. Eggs. If you have a cholesterol issue, use egg whites. Add some spinach or broccoli for fiber.
2. Chia Seed Pudding! Look for the recipe for this absolutely delicious treat in e-zine of 1-21-2010. Chia seeds provide protein, fiber and plenty of omega 3's.
Regardless of how you feel at breakfast time, do not double up. Eat the same amount every day, and if you are particularly hungry one morning, be strong knowing that you are about to lose weight and your body is fighting it! Always remind yourself that you are now eating for the weight you want to be, not for the weight that you are now. Hang in there and let your body adjust. Adjustment looks like weight loss.
1. Dinner leftovers. Something that you can pack up the night before and have ready to go in the morning. Plan to make extra for dinner, so you always have a great lunch waiting.
2. Green salad with plenty of veggies. The darker the green the better. For protein add some beans, chickpeas, fish, tofu (if you like it), organic chicken, or tuna fish. Use your imagination. Oil and vinegar are your best choices for dressing, but if you won't eat salad without blue cheese dressing, then add some. I want you to enjoy your healthier food choices so that you are sure to finish every meal. A bit of blue cheese will do you no harm!
3. Whole wheat veggie wrap. This looks much like your salad, just wrapped up! Spread the wrap with a little humus.
4. Soup. This is only if you make it yourself with low sodium broth (under 250mg). Try Trader Joe's low sodium vegetable broth. Please, please, please stay away from all restaurant or pre- made soups! Actually, I want you to stay away from all prepared foods. Those Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, and many other supposed frozen "diet" meals are all loaded with sodium. It is very difficult to lose weight when you include sodium in your diet. I will discuss this in greater detail in future e-zines; please, just trust me on this one.
5. Sushi. The problem with sushi is the soy sauce. If you can do without that, then enjoy. If you cannot, forgo it in favor of one of the above choices because the sodium will do you in.
Dinner should look very similar to lunch, but it should be the lightest meal of all. When you go to sleep, your body will continue to burn off some food, and what it has not burned off, it will store. How will you know if it is going to burn off enough to lose weight? Well, are you a little bit hungry? Not starving-that would mean you skipped a meal somewhere-but just a bit hungry? Well, that's your body telling you that it is on track to lose while you sleep. How hard is that?
1. Fish with a side of steamed green veggies.
2. Chicken with a side of steamed green veggies.
Keep this simple and on the smaller side. Use a small plate so your serving looks larger and you don't feel deprived. You do not need a salad, appetizer, main protein course with more veggies, and a starch. This would be far too much food! Remember, the last thing you want to feel is full after a meal. You want to feel just about satisfied, not quite full, but close. Remember, if you don't have enough calories from your meals to burn while you sleep, you will burn stored calories and this will result in weight loss. Keep dinner light!
Please make sure to space your meals between four and five hours apart. You want to feel hungry for your next meal, but not out of control! Also, girls, let's stop using such words as "starving." Look on the Internet to see what "starving" looks like. You are not starving; you ate a mere four hours ago. You are not being victimized; you are proactively limiting your intake of food so you can lose weight and feel and look better. What you are doing is a choice: YOUR choice.
If you must go more than 5 hours between lunch and dinner, then have a snack. A snack gets you from one meal to the next. If it fills you up, then it is dinner.
1. Fruit. I don't care what you choose, just be sure it is only one serving: a small apple, a dozen
grapes, 2 slices of pineapple, etc.
2. Veggies. Celery and carrots with, perhaps, a bit of hummus, will do.
3. Nuts. A SMALL handful! UNSALTED almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts are your best choices.
Again, these are the guidelines to get you started. Eat the same sized meals and similar types of food every day. Stay away from sodium!! Do not put it on your food, and do not eat processed foods that are loaded with it.
Okay, that's how you do it. Simple? Yes and no. If you take out all of the emotional reasons why you have a hard time sticking to a program, then it's easy. But....that's the catch. So, get started with this, today and every day-weekends included. If you hit a bump please reach out for support - I will will continue to give you more and more information about why we eat what we eat, why it's hard to stop eating certain foods, and what all of this is doing to us internally, emotionally, and physically.
You can do it!