Eating healthy is hard. It’s harder when you’re not feeling well. It’s harder still when it’s New York Restaurant Week, you have multiple reservations and you intend to eat a steak at every single one. Welcome to my week.
This blog is about my running goals for 2012, not my weight-loss history of 2011. But as I prepare to tackle the University Club’s seafood buffet tomorrow night (spoiler alert: my plate will include two lobsters), I think it’s time I revisited the strategies I employed last year to help me drop 30+ pounds and get me where I am today.
Many of you will remember me at my heaviest:
Despite belonging to a gym – where my workouts consisted entirely of twice-weekly sessions on the elliptical timed perfectly to coincide with Chopped reruns – my affinity for craft (read: high calorie) beers and craft (just kidding) pizza had me consistently taking in more calories than I was exerting. I was well aware 3,500 extra calories equaled one additional pound of body fat, but I wasn’t aware I could do anything about it. Wait, an asteroid isn’t going to hit Manhattan if I don’t eat this entire plate of buffalo wings?
When I made the commitment to myself last New Year’s Day to cut the BS and actually do something about my weight, I was shocked to learn that sustainable weight-loss was possible. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not using “possible” and “easy” as synonyms here, as anyone who may have witnessed me cry over a beet salad (you know who you are) could attest to – but it was finally attainable.
I always hear people say that what works for one person when it comes to weight loss won’t necessarily work for someone else, but I beg to differ. The basic concept – eating fewer calories and burning more – is a hard and fast rule, no matter who you are. The specific tools you employ to motivate you to follow that rule may vary by individual, but the underlying principle holds universally true. Believe me. It’s math.
Your specific tools may be different, but here’s what worked for me:
- Documentation. A lifelong grazer, I never imagined my occasional nibbles were costing me a single-digit dress size. Although I consistently ordered salads for lunch, I was never one to pass up a couple pretzels from a communal bag or a taste of birthday cake in the conference room. Most of those bites were just that – bite-sized – so I never heeded them much thought. When I began my weight-loss expedition in 2011, I downloaded a calorie counter app and proceeded to document every bite that made it through these lips, and – my god – my snacking added up fast, especially when I only had 1490 calories in my arsenal a day. Knowing I’d have to log that single tortilla chip – and that it would set me back 25 calories to boot – was enough of a deterrent to see me walk away from the bag. Many health sites will encourage keeping a food diary for a week to analyze your problem areas, but I kept mine for the better part of a year, and it paid off.
- Preparation. The Type As along us have a leg up on this one, but it’s an applicable technique for anyone trying to shed weight. The idea is simple: know what you’re going to eat 12 hours before you sit down to eat it. For example, if I knew I were going to a restaurant tomorrow, I’d hit up menupages tonight, select a healthy entrée to order and then write it in my calorie counter a whole day in advance. Sure, it took the spontaneity out of dining out, but it also took the impromptu bacon cheeseburgers out of my stomach, so I’d say it was a worthwhile trade-off.
- Activity. For me, it was running. For you, it might be competitive flash dance mobbing. Find what you love, do it and make sure to push yourself hard enough that you sweat a little more than you like to. (For more information on running, see: blog, this one.)
These tools – plus a very patient boyfriend– got me from here:
But wait! – you say – how can you be planning to eat multiple steaks this week and still call yourself a healthy eater?
As (I would have said Winston Churchill, but google says Petronius) once said: Moderation in all things, including moderation.
That, and always eat two lobsters at the seafood buffet.