I know the first part of this blog post on how I lost 80 pounds was a lot to take in and even more to incorporate into ones’ regular eating habits. That’s why I wanted to give you some time to digest it before I introduced the last 5 things which might be more difficult depending on what your weaknesses are. This fifth thing will be hard to swallow for those who are meat eaters because the next change I made to my diet was to (5) cut down on eating meat. I know this one sounds kind of weird if not difficult, but let me explain my logic.
In America we eat more meat than most people in other countries and surely more meat than people ate 100 years ago. Consequently, along with the increase of our meat consumption, other diseases and health issues have also increased like high blood pressure, heart attacks, other types of heart problems, and obesity. Not to mention the steroids and what they feed the animals could or couldn’t be connected to the drastically high rise in various types of cancer. Nonetheless, nutritionally we don’t NEED to eat so much meat. Actually, the designated portion size that dietitians say the human body require is way less than what most people eat anyway. One dietitian told me that the meat we eat in any given meal should be no more than a box of playing cards. Yes, that small! With all this in mind, I decided that if I could cut back on meat not only would I reduce the amount of calories I was eating per meal, but I could increase other portions of my meal to make sure I got full that way I didn’t feel like I was starving to death.
After carefully considering what would work for me, I decided to only eat meat with dinner, unless it was a lunch meat sandwich for lunch or a few pieces of chicken on a salad but nothing bigger than that. For breakfast I would choose between oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, even french-toast, but NO MEAT! No sausage, fried hot dogs, or bacon. I know that this might be a difficult one for meat eaters. I can say that I was probably a meat eater myself because, if there was no meat with my meals, I would feel as if it wasn’t a real meal. However, I had to change the way I was looking at things and what I was use to. I realized that if I was really going to do this (lose the weight) the most important things to me was not always eating nasty stuff or walking around hungry. As long as those things were covered I could adjust to the drastic changes in my eating habits and actually stick to it.
Before I forget, let me add that I changed the kinds of meat I was eating as well. I cut out all beef, pork, any kind of sausage, and let’s not forget any kind of processed meat. I reduced the amount of chicken I ate, ate more breasts, never ate the skin, and significantly increased my turkey and fish. Not only did this help with weight loss, it also helped reduce my grocery bill.
The next thing that I did was (6) reduce my portion sizes. We have all heard this one, but many of us never really do it. Well, I didn’t anyway. The thing was, I was so use to feeling stuffed or full when I was done eating that if I didn’t have that feeling I thought I hadn’t eaten enough. And even when I would get full, I would force the rest down for the sake of not wasting anything. However, when I started to reduce my 3 pieces of chicken to 2, and my 2 beef burgers to just 1 turkey burger, I realized just how much I had been overeating because I wasn’t even hungry afterwards. (Another thing that is a good substitute for meat is beans, but don’t flavor it up with fatty meat. It defeats the purpose.) Even if or when I ate pizza, which was not a lot unless I made it from scratch, I would have 2 slices instead of 6. For lunch instead of two sandwiches I would eat 1.
At first, I was expecting to be hungry but I wasn’t, mainly because as I reduced my portions sizes I also (7) increased my fruits and vegetables. So for example when I decreased my chicken pieces, I would load up the vegetables which I made sure I had with every meal. Take for example one of my favorites: cabbage, my plate would be almost full of cabbage with 1 piece of chicken or two small pieces of fish, along with another side which was usually a small amount of carbs. So yes, I had macaroni and cheese sometimes, rice, mash potatoes, and some kind of pasta. If you reduce the portions sizes of what you’re eating, having a little bit of the stuff you like every now and then is not really a big deal. Even when I had a turkey burger, I would still have a small amount of baked fries and then a salad which I would also eat with my two slices of pizza. No matter what the meat was that I was eating, I would almost cover my plate with a vegetable like broccoli (which I love), carrots, or mixed. (Note that vegetables out of a can have more salt than frozen or fresh.) For lunch with my turkey sandwich or salad, I would have a huge bowl of fruit and a small amount of baked chips. I am normally not a fruit eater, but I found a few things I liked and stuck with them like pineapple, grapes, and oranges. Fruit and vegetables became my balance between less food and not feeling hungry and it worked out better than I had anticipated.
However, if or when I did get hungry in between meals (8) I would eat fruit, fruit bars, granola bars, or other small calorie snacks. At times I ate Special K bars, or Quaker Oats granola bars. I would just try to find anything in the store that was less than 100 calories and low in fat or sugar. This was big difference between chips, donuts, cookies, cake or whatever other fast thing I could grab to reduce my time in the kitchen. Not only was it a reduction in overall calories, I was giving my body the nutritional foods that it needed to keep me energized throughout the day instead of eating those empty calories that usually helped in making me feel tired. Even before I lost half the weight, I noticed an increase in energy which was great with my busy lifestyle.
Next, I (9) replaced anything that could be replaced with whole wheat, reduced sugar, or low fat. I was already eating wheat bread, but now I made sure it was 100% whole wheat. I switched to whole wheat or 100% whole wheat cereal, pasta, tortillas, and even pizza. For the most part, it tasted the same to me all except brown rice which I could never get use to. If there was reduced sugar oatmeal, I would get that one. If there was reduced sugar cereal, I would buy that one. I even went from 2% milk to 1% low fat milk. Everything that could be reduced sugar or made whole wheat, I reduced and made whole wheat.
Last but not least, (10) I allowed myself some exceptions. This last one might seem like a kind of relief but it is actually the hardest because it requires a different kind of self restraint. It’s one thing to not eat caramel popcorn for a snack, but another to eat a handful and stop. See on top of all the changes I made and was ok with for the most part, one thing that was hard to ignore was the times where I just wanted something sweet. So what I did was every once in awhile, not a lot at all, I would allow myself some exceptions but on a very restrictive bases. So instead of a bowl of popcorn I would have a handful, and NO MORE. Instead of 10 cookies I would have 2 and NO MORE. The same would go if I wanted something fried, I would have just one piece and NO MORE. If I thought I could not restrain myself from eating more, then I just wouldn’t eat it at all. However, if I thought I could I would have that small piece and be satisfied and not feel like I was living in a food prison. After incorporating all these things into my diet, I lost 80lbs in less than a year without even exercising (although I was breastfeeding at the time).
So here it is the changes that I made to my diet that helped me to lose 80 pounds in 9 months. However, I must also mention that I purposely used breastfeeding to increase my metabolism as well which I have been told is the equivalent to exercising 3 hours a day. Even now that I am done breastfeeding, and lost more than half the weight I wanted to lose, I still use a lot of these guidelines when I eat to help keep the weight off. The last thing I wanted was to be one of those people who lose the weight and then think they can go back to what they were eating before only to gain it all back. Even the times I ate more than I should or something I shouldn’t have eaten, I would simply skip or reduce my meals to make up for the extra calories I ate. If I knew in advance I was going to eat extra calories like for thanksgiving, barbecues, or a date night with my hubby, I would skip lunch the day before and cut back on food the day after sometimes eating only fruit for lunch. During these times if I did feel hungry, I would just find something to do to take my mind off of my hunger even if it was cleaning.
At the end of the day, I also wanted to be healthier, not just smaller. As of March 1st, 2016, I plan to buckle down again to lose 60 more pounds (40 of which was gained during a recent pregnancy). I am confident that I have what it takes now to get the job done. Overall, it’s nice to have one less thing to worry or stress about.
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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