Ok, so I am one of the masses who, with the dawn of each New Year, decides to try and lose a few pounds. Although I consider myself a healthy person – I exercise regularly and intellectually know the right way to eat, I have noticed pounds slowly creeping on. It is imperceptible to most except me, as I struggle to button my favorite jeans and shy away from tucking shirts in. Not good.
I have fallen prey to pretty much every diet out there – of course without lasting results as here I am still trying to lose those five pounds. In high school I dabbled in some some dreadful diet where you ate something like nothing but lettuce on day one, canned tuna on day 2, and canned beets on day 3 (I haven’t been able to look at a canned beet since). In college I did go down the Weight Watchers road, which is one of the smartest ways to go, yet had a hard time balancing all of the fruits and veggies with my beer and pizza consumption (my will power was at a low point at that time).
In my 20′s I experimented with the Cabbage Soup Diet, where you could eat an unlimited amount of a cabbage, tomato and onion soup, combined with, mysteriously, a giant steak on day four. I didn’t make it past day two and a half when my co-workers forced me to walk down to the newspaper stand and buy a pack of peanut M&Ms. And I have had a tough time with tomato based soups since. Then in my 30′s I decided if Beyonce could do it, I could too and tried out the Lemonade Fast diet where you exist on warm water mixed with a lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper concoction. Yes, the pounds fell off, but I was living in some alternate fugue state and went to bed every night by 7pm for 4 days. Oh, and the weight of course came racing back.
I also tried a gluten-free stint (no, I don’t have a gluten allergy – don’t ask). Then just last year I bought out my local grocery store’s supply of green algae powders – I decided I could look like Gwyneth Paltrow too if I followed her recommendation of various green smoothies and raw foods (gag). This was another short-lived experiment. Oh, and I forgot about my multiple trips to carb-free South Beach (wow, this diet catalog experiment is enlightening – and embarrassing).
So what is my take away from all of these failed attempts at diets? Don’t diet. I have realized I don’t do well on diets and I don’t like someone else telling me what to eat. I need to eat foods that are non-processed and as close to their natural state as possible. And my latest conclusion? It’s the calories, stupid (thanks James Carville). So join me and just say no to diets and hello to healthy eating and portion control. To lose five pounds, the average person needs to cut 500 calories from their diet each day, which will allow you to lose about a pound a week. Here are some easy ways to do it:
Measure your portions. While I am a healthy eater, I wasn’t paying any attention to my portions. Another helping of rice at dinner? Sure, thanks. No clue that a recommended serving was 1/2 cup (120 calories). I was easily eating three times that. If you want to have seconds, opt for veggies or salad. A good rule of thumb when serving yourself a meal is that one half of the plate should be veggies, one fourth protein, one fourth starch. Measure while cooking too. I was extremely heavy handed with the olive oil when roasting veggies, for example. Had I measured the amount of oil I was using, I bet it could be up to 1/4 cup (475 calories) or more when I could have gotten by with half that amount.
Sit down to eat meals and snacks. I was of the school that if you are standing up and eating, the calories don’t count. No such luck. I don’t think your body or mind registers the food either if you don’t sit down and really enjoy it. Plus, if you sit down and put the six cookies on a plate that you would stand up and eat in front of the fridge, it’s a reality check.
Stop eating your kids’ leftovers. A quarter of a grilled cheese here, leftover mac and cheese there – it all adds up. A lot. And it doesn’t taste that good.
Keep a food log and take advantage of online calorie counters. I like www.the caloriecounter.com which is a free website that is a comprehensive database of all foods. I use an iPhone free app called Lose It! where I log food and exercise each day to track where I am for the day based on a set amount of calories to lose a pound per week.
Bump up your exercise to create a calorie deficit. For example, just an extra 30 minutes of walking burns another 120 calories.
Easy food substitutions (to reduce calories) that have worked for me:
- Drink your coffee black and save as much as 75 calories per coffee cup from dropping cream and sugar
- Ditch the mayo (100 calories per tablespoon) on your lunchtime sandwich for light mayo (50 calories per tablespoon), fat free mayo (11 calories per tablespoon) or mustard (20 calories per tablespoon) and save up to 90 calories. Take the top piece of bread off the sandwich and save another 70 calories.
- You can still have chips but make them baked (56 calories for ten) vs. regular fried (120 calories).
- Choose the right salad dressing. Ranch dressing is 148 calories for 2 tablespoons while a fat free Italian has 14 calories for the same serving size. A squeeze of fresh lemon with the tiniest drizzle of olive oi is a delicious option.
So I will keep plugging away and continue to be vigilant with my portion control. I will eat a cookie if I want, yet I will probably have to skip the roll at dinner. I lost a pound last week – so far so good……