In the process of my weight loss, many people approached me and asked what I was doing to lose the weight. Many of them, that were also overweight, had a look of amazement in their eyes as if I had performed a magic trick on myself. I knew that they responded that way because just like them, I previously thought that it was impossible to lose weight. I felt that I had given many honest attempts and was just simply unsuccessful. At a certain point I just tried to accept that I was going to be 200 plus pounds for the rest of my life and that there wasn’t anything really wrong with it especially, if I didn’t gain anymore. However, when I finally got sick of being “big,” I was surprised to discover that radically changing my eating habits wasn’t as hard as I had always thought it was. After doing a little research and compiling the little knowledge I had about food and the human body, I put together a plan of how I could eat healthier–permanently. After all, I was not a kid anymore and time was no longer my friend.
The first two things I came up after my research were that I needed to (1) stop eating process foods which also included (2) fast food. Processed foods are quickly becoming almost essential to our fast paced way of life in American urban culture. In between my studying, running errands, giving baths, combing hair, working, and the thousand other things I had do on a daily basis, throwing some breaded chicken strips, pizza, or hot wings in the oven (or even better the microwave) was a regular thing. This is not to mention the french fries, breaded chicken patties, frozen dinners, and anything else that didn’t take longer than 30 minutes to cook. And when I wasn’t doing that I was grabbing some burgers, fried chicken, or pizza from a restaurant on my way home. The fact is that these kinds of food were adding many more calories to my diet than I even realized. And even though they were not the source of my initial weight gain, they helped at keeping me that size. These foods easily contain the amount of calories that you should get from two meals, and even sometimes a full day. And if you eat them and then still eat your other two meals, considering you eat three meals a day (hopefully they are not also fast or process foods), you have sometimes eaten the amount of calories that you should be eating in two days and in worse cases three.
Take for example a value meal at McDonald’s (which is a pop, fries, and sandwich) is easily over 1000 calories. And if you go by the standard daily calorie intake which is 2000, you would have eaten half of those calories in ONE meal. However, if you replace that with a chicken sandwich, no fries, fruit or even chips, and water or flavored water, you could not only get full but eat the right amount of calories for one meal. It’s almost just as bad with process foods because it is more food for your money which would usually cause you to eat more and even still, leftovers. So I made a pact with myself to cook things from scratch and stop eating things that were already made and only needed to be heated. The reality is that these food companies are sometimes almost as bad as the cigarette companies because they are only interested in enticing your taste buds even though they know a lot of their food is extremely unhealthy. So why should I give them my money only to help them cut years or quality off my own life?
Not eating fast or process foods forced me to have to plan my meals ahead of time and cook large portions so that when I got hungry I could easily grab something out of the fridge. So instead of chicken fingers, I would cook up some chicken breasts and have it ready to put on a salad, make into a sandwich, or chicken wrap. Instead of french fries, I would eat a salad, fruit, or oatmeal. And instead of my kid’s leftovers, I would have fresh and healthy food set aside. It was a big change to start cooking things from scratch, but it motivated me to be creative and try new foods. At one point I was even making my own pizza.
The third thing I did, which is a dead give away to any plan of better eating, was to (3) stop eating fried foods. Now I have to admit that I didn’t really eat fried foods that much anyway because it was always easier to throw something in the oven instead of standing over a hot stove. But like most of us, I still needed to cut back. So anything that I was tempted to fry, like catfish, I baked it instead. Furthermore, when I was out at a restaurant (which is mostly when I ate fried foods) I would opt for something, anything that was baked. Even though anything baked is not always the tastiest option, it is still better any day than something fried. Doing things this way helped to reduce the amount of calories I was previously eating per day which before had helped to support and maintain my larger waistline. I think this one was the easiest to do because baked stuff is just as good as fried. It’s not like you have to force yourself to eat nasty things for the sake of losing weight like most people do or even assume. If you season it right, baked foods are just as good.
The fourth thing I did was to (4) stop drinking juice and pop. Personally, I don’t like water very much. I mean I will drink it, especially if I am thirsty and its cold, but with my meals I like something with a little flavor. However, many of us don’t realize how many extra empty calories we add to our meals by drinking juice and pop. These drinks easily put us over the limit for the amount of calories we should be eating (and drinking) in a day. Many of these drinks have the same amount of calories as eating a sandwich with chips. Sometimes if we would cut out the pop or juice, we could eat another sandwich or another serving. Who would knowingly drink juice or pop in place of food? So instead, I looked for new things to drink that had 0 calories. That way I could still have some flavor without reducing my food or increasing my calories. It was an adjustment from the sweeter more bubbly stuff, but as long as I had some flavor I was ok. The three things I drink now are sparkling water, Crystal Light, and Arizona Diet Green Tea.
Just by doing the four things I mentioned so far, I easily cut my calories down almost by half each day and probably more than that by the week. This not only helped me to keep calories down, but it gave my body time or space to burn the extra fat; because if you are over shooting your daily caloric intake, your body is burning that food more than its burning off the fat that’s sitting on your arms, thighs, and stomach. In the beginning you have to make it a point to eat less than what you need and after you lose the amount of weight you want, you can increase your food a little so that you maintain your weight and not keep losing it, but not gaining it either. I will reveal the next five things I did in part 2.
Stephanie Kekeocha was born and raised in Chicago, IL. She has a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Read more
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