Losing weight takes discipline and time. I know, because it took me a year and a half to lose 25 pounds. My weight stayed at 115-117 pounds until my husband I went to a conference in Warsaw, Poland. Conference and restaurant meals took their toll and I gained three pounds (one clothing size) in a week.
We stayed at the Marriott Hotel, which has a “Splendid Breakfast Buffet.” Before I took any food from the buffet I surveyed my choices. I ate a healthy breakfast every morning: orange juice, fresh fruit, and low-fat yogurt sprinkled with granola. However, it was difficult to eat healthy lunches and dinners because I had few options.
Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious and artistically served. But leaving half a meal on my plate and skipping desserts didn’t balance my food consumption. How could I get back to my healthy weight? The Harvard School of Public Health recommends a “defensive eating” approach to weight loss/maintenance.
Defensive eating has seven steps: selective eating, small portions, stopping before you feel stuffed, few desserts, eating slowly, sensible snacks, and awareness of why you’re eating. I added these steps to my personal plan. Here are my 10 tips for maintaining a healthy weight.
1. EAT BREAKFAST. Nutritionists consider breakfast the most important meal of the day because it fuels your day. I get up at 5:30 a.m. and by 9:30 a.m. I’m ready for lunch. Solution? I eat half of my breakfast (two fruits and cereal) at the crack of dawn and the other half of my breakfast (fruit or wheat toast) mid-morning.
2. KEEP A FOOD DIARY. I don’t keep a written diary, but I keep a mental list of everything I eat. This list includes every cookie, every cracker, and every pretzel. If I’ve eaten too much sugar, fat or salt I cut back on these the next day. My food diary has led to a collection of healthy recipes.
3. EAT LOW-ENERGY-DENSE FOODS. Mayo Clinic developed a Healthy Weight Pyramid to “encourage weight loss, weight maintenance and long term health.” Low-energy-dense foods (lower calorie foods that make you feel full), are an important part of the pyramid. Fruits and vegetables are low-energy-dense foods and you may eat all you want.
4. STOCK UP ON HEALTHY SNACKS. I keep healthy snacks – carrot sticks, celery sticks, apples, and other fresh fruit – on hand.
For a quick, filling snack I eat sugar free applesauce. Unsalted peanuts and walnuts help me to curb hunger pangs, but I’m careful to eat small portions. When I travel I bring healthy granola bars with me. (Yes, I took granola bars to Poland.)
5. BECOME SIZE WISE. By size wise, I mean portion sizes of the food you eat. You may be eating super-size portions instead of “normal” ones. For example, one serving of spaghetti is half a cup, not a mountain of pasta. According to the American Obesity Association, people who maintain a healthy weight eat five times a day, on average, and consume about 1,400 calories. In other words, they eat small meals often.
6. LIMIT CERTAIN FOODS. The American Obesity Association says 92 percent of those who maintain a healthy weight limit their intake of certain food, such as fast food. When I shop for food I avoid foods that have “empty calories,” high-calorie foods with low nutritional value. In case you’re wondering, I rarely eat at a fast food restaurant.
7. CUT CONDIMENTS. What’s the second ingredient on the ketchup bottle? It’s high fructose corn syrup, sugar you don’t need. Mayonnaise has 90 calories per serving (one tablespoon) and 90% of these calories come from fat. Soy sauce is liquid salt. This extra sugar, fat and salt may cause weight gain. You don’t have to give up condiments, just buy healthier versions of them.
8. KEEP MOVING. Regular physical activity is critical to Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Weight Food Pyramid. And according to “Why Won’t ‘Diets’ Work?”, an article posted on the Internet by WOAI in San Antonio, healthy eating and increased exercise are keys to weight loss /maintenance. This combination “can actually increase your metabolism,” the article says. I try to walk 10,000 steps a day and track my steps with a pedometer.
9. QUENCH THIRST WITH WATER. Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you and you think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. A glass of water can ease your hunger. Instead of sugar-loaded soda pop drink water. I like no-calorie, non-carbonated flavored water and orange is my favorite.
10. GROCERY SHOP AFTER EATING. This is your main defensive eating tactic. Before I go to the grocery store I make out a detailed list. I rarely eat food samples because I’m allergic to soy (it’s everywhere) and don’t need the extra calories. Besides, these samples are often high in salt, fat, and sugar.
Thanks to these tips I was back to my healthy weight in two weeks. Now I practice defensive eating on a daily basis. The best part of the plan is that I control what I eat and am enjoying delicious, healthy meals. Bring on the holidays because I’m ready!
Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson. To learn more about her work go to http://www.harriethodgson.com
Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with co-author Lois Krahn, MD, is available from http://www.amazon.com