Growing up, I was always “chubby”. I would want to lose weight, but treats always got the best of me. It wasn’t until 8th grade that I finally got serious and started a diet that I stuck with. Eventually, that diet turned into more of an eating disorder than anything. I read every book that I could about anorexia so that I could get “diet and weight loss tips.” I went from 130 pounds to 110 pounds. I started out by just eating a yogurt for lunch, then cut it down to an apple, to eventually not eating anything and skipping lunch. My other meals were very small as well. When hunger struck, I told myself to stay strong and push through. Even at 110 pounds, I did not feel “skinny”.
Over the years, my weight had bounced back and forth. I had tried every diet there was, and each time I lost weight I still did not feel “skinny enough”. My body image was terrible, and I often thought of myself as at least 20 pounds heavier. After my youngest was born, I was at my heaviest non-pregnant weight. I was so frustrated and did not know what “diet” to do. I found the book Body for Life, by Bill Phillips, and finally something “clicked” and I lost 20 pounds. It as a great starting point in my fitness journey. It focused on eating six meals a day, balancing protein and healthy carbohydrates. It also focused on strength training. I broke free from the “little pink dumbbells” to lifting heavy weights. A trainer at the gym had actually asked if I was training for a bodybuilding competition, since I was writing everything down in a journal and was lifting heavy. I usually ate about five meals a day. I would start my day with oatmeal with an apple cooked into it and a tablespoon of peanut butter mixed in. I usually had a protein shake or bar as a snack, and then lunch was a salad with protein such as chicken. For my next snack I would have cottage cheese and piece of fruit, or yogurt, or a protein shake if I hadn’t already had one. Dinner was a little less strict, but still followed the protein/healthy carb rule.
After a while, my body (or maybe my mind?) got bored with the limited food choices and saw lot of co-workers doing Weight Watchers. I liked the idea of being able to have whatever I wanted, but tracking points. With my body weight being lower, I was on the lowest point range, which meant I was “starving”. Back then, Weight Watchers counted fruits and vegetables as points, so I would often skip the fruit in order to have my little Weight Watcher cupcake treat instead. I could either “spend” two to three “points” on a piece of fruit, or have a little sugary treat for two points. My tastebuds got the best of me and I would choose the treat. I had joined and quit Weight Watchers four times before I finally became “Lifetime,” meaning that I had achieved my goal weight and had to remain within two pounds of my goal weight and weigh in monthly. After I became Lifetime I stopped counting points and would go up and down in weight. I’m not bashing Weight Watchers at all, but for me in put me in a weird frame of mind and made me obsessive about counting foods all day rather than choosing healthy foods.
After gaining about five to ten pounds back, I found the Paleo-lifestyle, which is also called the “Caveman Diet” and focuses on foods that our ancestors ate. It cuts out grains, gluten, dairy products, beans or legumes, and anything processed. It was a very healthy way of eating, but I would still crave other treats and it was hard to follow with a family that did not eat the same way. What fascinated me was that TONS of people were losing a lot of weight, it was great for auto-immune disorders, and focused on healthy proteins, fats, and healthy carbs (such as sweet potatoes). In a nutshell, it consists of healthy meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts (and no, peanuts are not a nut, they are a legume), and healthy fats such as avocado and coconut oil).
I now realize that the best “diet” for me is a balance of everything that I have learned over the years. I have found that I need to find what works for me. I have been listening to the “Balanced Bites” podcast, featuring Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe, and focuses on eating Paleo, but with a balanced approach (hence the name). Through listening to their podcast, I discovered that most of the “Paleo people” did not actually eat Paleo 100% of the time, and some will include things like white rice or gluten-free bread on occasion.
My new way of eating contains a balance of everything. I have discovered what works for my body, and done away with all of the fad diets or rigid rules. I have found that my body does better with higher protein, three meals a day and one snack between either breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner, and stopping eating after dinner. Some things may be out of my control, but I still try to make the healthiest options at least 80% of the time. I still treat myself to a weekly Starbucks drink once a week, but instead of the 600-calorie drink that I would love to choose, I have found one that I enjoy for 120 calories. I know that for my body, I enjoy an occasional treat, but I will fail myself if I use a whole day as a “treat day” since it becomes hard for me to get back on track the next day and it may turn into a “treat week”.
I know that everyone is different: you have to do what works for YOUR body. It’s important to not follow the latest diet craze or newest celebrity detox. Focus on clean, God-made foods, and your body will naturally take care of the rest. I will be sharing more in other blog posts about what I do to stay healthy, and research that I have found that will help educate as to the *why* of eating that way. Please let me know if you have any specific questions on healthy eating, and I will try to answer those as well!