Last week I emailed a friend who'd asked for weight loss suggestions. As I typed away, I felt like I'd been making the same list for a lot of people lately, mostly because the crap that gets sold to us about "Getting Thin!" seems to me unsustainable at best and usually unrealistic. If I hear about one more shake or juice fast, or workout that requires IV fluids afterward, I might actually throw things at my television, which would be bad because then what do I do with my kid on Saturday mornings?
I worked for six months to lose 25 pounds and have been (mostly) maintaining it for over two years. I've learned what I personally need to do to keep from slipping back up the scale. I've also learned where I feel my best; right now I wear a size 12 in jeans and an 8 top. I know what it feels like when I'm gaining and what I need to do to get it back off. After spending two-thirds of my life fighting my thighs, I'm finally okay with them, even the way they move as I walk. I like my body enough that I'd never consider taking on a near-death exercise routine. I know my limits, both in what I'll stick with and what I can and can't binge on.
This list is a compilation of what I've learned over the past three years. I think it's practical, level-headed advice but I recognize that every person has a different goal and set of habits. Here, pretty much verbatim, is the email I sent my friend:
- Stock your house with more whole or high fiber foods — except brown rice because that shit takes forever to cook. Couscous, wheatberries, farro. I don't like quinoa, it feels like I'm eating tiny, exploding bugs.
- The only "light" stuff I ever use is light wheat bread and Cabot 50% Cheddar. No fake sugars. Non-fat "half and half" is an abomination and an insult to dairy cows, and haven't they suffered enough? Use two-percent Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
- Know what you can't eliminate — there was no way I was giving up beer, cheese or using cream in my coffee. Keep what you love and work the rest of your food around the givens.
- I use Anna's chalk wall to track my "Points" but you could do something similar to track just food or calories or whatever. If I don't write down what I'm eating I gain, no questions asked. This is key.
- Salty snack: hummus and pretzels, or Fage and pretzels. Sweet snack: keep a bar of dark chocolate around, break off a square. Sometimes my snack is just one glorious glob of peanut butter on a spoon, sometimes on an apple.
- This is such a check-out rack magazine tip I can't even stand it, but use a kid's plate at dinner. I've been eating off of an eight-inch plastic M&Ms plate for three years now, unless we have company.
- Get a dog to give the kids' leftovers to. Short of that, compost it before it's in your mouth. It was really hard for me to stop feeling awful about wasting food, but not feeding her at all is frowned upon.
- Give yourself a forgiveness day. Once a month I want to clean out the fridge with my face. I do it and move on. Usually once a week I have a big splurge, 3 good beers or my favorite mint chocolate chip and hot fudge in a 1:1 ratio. It's something to look forward to.
- Don't be an exercise hero. The workout isn't what makes the weight come off, but it's a nice boost. I have a simple goal of walking one mile a day, then I try to do things like ride my bike to the grocery store or to take Anna to school as often as I can manage.