Why I Like Hungry Girl’s “5 Weight-Maintenance Tips That Work”

I got this Hungry Girl article in my e-mail a few days ago: 

“5 Weight-Maintenance Tips That Work”

I’ve followed Hungry Girl for years – literally from the beginning. I was recovering from two severe eating disorders and found the site’s positivity both helpful and encouraging. To this day, I still get the newsletters, and still appreciate what she (Lisa, the founder) is aiming to do – help others live a healthier life beginning with THE key factor —-> nutrition.

Nutrition is something I think about all the time – not only because of my experiences, but because I am still an athlete. At 40, things are vastly different then when I was 20 – I’m constantly tweaking my routine  and my nutritional intake in order to achieve my goal(s) of maintaining a healthy life. One, I might add, that is sustainable (what’s the point if you can’t stick to a plan?!)

Anyway…I really liked her article because these ARE tips that can help when trying to maintain weight, or lose a little extra. She isn’t launching into unreasonable means of achieving these things, and therefore not insinuating that anyone need to do anything drastic. It’s about little, overall changes. It’s about learning why / how those changes work, and being able to stick with them for the longer haul. 

Here are Lisa’s tips (click on the link above for her take!) paired with a few comments of my own:

1 – RE-EVALUATION OF OUR DAILY, CALORIC INTAKE

I don’t advocate necessarily counting every…single…calorie, every…single…day. With a past like mine, I know that’s dangerous territory for many people (even those who haven’t dipped into eating-disorder-land.) This kind of hyper-micromanagement can lead to paranoia or OCD / addictive / controlling behaviors for certain personality types. Rest assured, that can only end poorly – trying to control to the umpteenth degree on a daily basis can cause a program to fail (impossible to maintain over time) OR a rebound (“let me just eat everything in sight because I can’t take this stringent restriction anymore!”) Restriction doesn’t work.

HOWEVER…

Being aware of our caloric needs, and focusing in on what the foods we eat contain calorically CAN help us to reprogram. We can paint a better picture of what our personal best nutritional plan is by:

  1. Making an effort to understand what an appropriate portion really is.
  2. Learning how many calories certain types of foods contain.
  3. Checking into what our specific bodies need calorically (Lisa shares a calculator in her article.)

Keep in mind, we are all different. Calculators, too, aren’t 100% (the best basal metabolic calculator is generally a test done at the hospital, or using one of those new, fancy-pants “pods” designed to account for other factors beyond height, age, and activity level.)

The point is, it is crucial to understand whether we need 3,000 calories a day, or more like 1,500 – we may be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing. Exercise can help you boost this number, by the way, so don’t consider a super low number a horrible fate. You can help it along.

2 – KEEP WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

I love that she points this out. Jumping on the diet-fad bandwagon isn’t going to save you – even if you lose a few pounds short-term (summer beach season is coming up – don’t be tempted!) you may well find the weight you lost coming back. Why? A “fad” isn’t a lifestyle change by definition! 

What works then? Take a look at your history… Is there a time you remember (beyond being a teenage-metabolic-furnace!) where you found you were feeling and looking your best? What were you doing at that time to achieve those goals? As above, things change as we get older BUT…if you were exercising more, think about adding some movement back into your schedule. Think about the KINDS of exercises that work best for you…

You may love long runs so you can zone out and decompress… Maybe you like cycling outside, or doing zumba with a group. If HIIT for only 20 minutes seems to help your body shed the most effectively, look at finding room for that two or three times a week.

Along these lines, if a certain nutritional approach worked, maybe it’s time to revisit it. I can’t eat processed carbohydrates without feeling horrendous, so that’s something I avoid, as one example. Maybe a Weight Watchers type approach works for you because it holds you accountable, and helps you recognize how much you are really taking in. Perhaps it’s Mediterranean in flavor….that’s great too. We are not all going to respond to the same plan. If it worked for you in the past, break it down and think about WHY and HOW it worked. Find ways to incorporate those hows and whys into your current routine.

3 – 80/20 = SUCCESS LONG TERM

The “80/20” rule is a far more realistic approach to changing our not-so-healthy habits to good ones with success. What this entails is that you stick to your healthy eating and exercise 80% of time. There are going to be days where you are completely over your eyeballs. There are going to be others where you’re simply too exhausted (to the point that exercise might not be your safest best – bad form can mean injury potential.) There will also be days where you might be traveling for work and can’t maintain your home routine…

Life HAPPENS, and sticking to the “perfect diet” 100% of the time isn’t realistic for anyone. Instead, aim for being on point 80% of the time – this allows you a 20% buffer where you can deviate without sabotaging your many efforts to achieve your personal goals. 

4 – BE ACCOUNTABLE and HONEST

Accountability and honesty are absolutely integral when it comes to personal progress. NO ONE likes criticism. No one likes to admit shortcomings. BUT…if we don’t’ address personal concerns we know to be true, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. 

We ALL have room to grow – it’s okay to have areas that need improvement, and it’s okay to not always stay on track. What will never be okay, however, is lying to ourselves. Honesty is the best policy not only with others, but in our internal dialogue as well – we know what our goals are, we know if we are falling short, and denial will only perpetuate the problem.

Own up to whatever it is that needs some tweaking and watch how much you can progress once you take that ownership. Even small progress is a step forward, and it is astounding how much those gains can contribute to overall self-motivation and confidence. 

You don’t need to live up to anyone else’s standards – what other people think is their business only. And you definitely don’t need to be hard on yourself! This is simply about owning our truths and recognizing that we CAN make changes once we are open to admitting them.

5 – REWARD YOURSELF

Equally as important as the rest! Maintaining and losing weight isn’t always super easy, especially as we get older and we see that our tried-and-true doesn’t work anymore. Make sure to take time to do something nice for YOU – buy a non-food goodie, repeat some extra affirmations, take a day to do a special activity you don’t always have time for, take a trip to the spa…! Whatever it is, treat yourself and remember how many things you are doing right. 

 

Food Humor – Chocolate Is Paleo

I can picture someone doing this and launching into their own defense with a “I had to hunt and gather for it!!!” rationale… Chocolate makes people do crazy things!

Autism Humor – Same Old

I have a profound compassion and respect for individuals with autism, their families, and their caregivers. The world in which they live is one that the majority will not only never understand, but one few make an effort to comprehend on a deeper level.

Though many of my own eccentricities and experiences pale in comparison to these individuals, I believe I am drawn to them because I do – on a minor scale – commiserate. There are certain tendencies or challenges that I deal with such as:

  1. Misophonia
  2. Intense preference for / sensitivity to certain sounds (therefore, at times, need for full silence…or music…or earplugs)
  3. Difficulty focusing or concentrating unless under certain conditions
  4. Sensitivity to light
  5. When I was younger, anxiety surrounding social interaction (I couldn’t even ask for food at a snack bar!)
  6. Need for a heavy blanket or pressure when I sleep, or the sense of being in an alcove in order to be comfortable 
  7. When I was younger, I also had trouble making friends – I’m still very much a lone wolf and need massive amounts of space and time to myself
  8. A tendency to take words very literally, and not forget them
  9. Too quiet and too chatty!

And…though I’m not ultra rigid to the point of breakdown, I have a strong preference for routine. When it comes to food, for example, I stick with the same (fortunately healthy) things. ALL the time. In part, its preference. In part, my body prefers it that way, not unlike some individuals with autism.

I used to feel badly about my “quirks” – embarrassed even! But I’ve realized that not only am I not alone in these traits, (and also not less of a person because of them!) but that they afford me the ability to help others who suffer greatly as a result of extreme variations of them. Certain sounds push me to the edge but then I think about the fact that understanding what that feels like gives me an edge in understanding the more extreme experience someone else is having. . .and that means more compassion. Compassion is something this community deserves in spades.

My “quirks” have also taught me the humor of it all. In life we all face challenges, both big and small. If we can find the humor in our situation, we can help others find the humor as well, not to mention keep ourselves on a healthy wavelength most of the time.

The community I have the great fortune to work with teaches me about not taking everything so seriously all the time…about finding the beauty in each of us in spite of some differences (and we ALL have “stuff!”)…and that a positive approach will help us see the gifts we’ve been given…even those born of adversity.

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(Some Of) The Habits That Derail Our Diet

I am a firm believer that diets are not the answer for the majority. Diets can help jump-start weight loss and / or fat loss in the shorter term. To have long-term success with weight / fat loss or maintenance, however, we need a nutritional plan that we are both willing AND able to stick to. Let me therefore state upfront that “diet” here is referring to the way that we eat, and what we eat – our nutritional plan and lifestyle, so to speak – not a special or “fad” weight loss diet.

I got a great article from Hungry Girl today about habits that can cause us to miss the mark – not only when we are trying to lose weight (which the article is focused on) but also if we are trying to maintain it (which goes hand-in-hand, in my opinion.) I often find myself nodding in agreement with some points in any given article, but disagreeing with others. In the case of this one – 6 Habits Ruining Your Diet – I agree with them all.

A few of my previous articles on the topic:

The “habits” in question are incredibly common, and things most of us do without thinking…sometimes on a daily basis. The great news? With a little attention, they are relatively easy to catch…and correct! 

  1. Snacking While Watching TV
  2. Boredom and Avoidance Eating
  3. Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full
  4. Grazing 
  5. Snacking Instead of Sipping
  6. Meal Skipping

My personal thoughts on Hungry Girl’s sneaky traps:

Snacking While Watching TV (or Movie Theater)

Growing up, we often had dinner while watching tv – between school, homework, and sports, there wasn’t much downtime.  Back then it wasn’t such a big deal because we were not only growing, but incredibly active. Enter adulthood, however, when the metabolism takes a nosedive and we are doing less activity (generally.) Pair that with the ability to purchase our own food (and we don’t always make the best decisions when we have free choice!), and it becomes easier to slip.

It’s easy to sit down to watch something and nibble as we do…but it’s a dangerous habit because we WILL lose track of how much we are munching, often eating more than our body needs (watching a show steals the attention, leaving the satiety signals to hoot and holler to no avail.) If quitting cold-turkey is painful, try portioning a smaller amount of your favorite snack to avoid going overboard (HG agrees on this point too.) A cup of tea, for example, could be another idea – we have to sip the toasty stuff slowly (meaning –> we are occupied longer!)

Scary…but true! Most of us do this at home, or at the movie theater!

Boredom and Avoidance Eating

This is one of THE sneakiest pitfalls of all! Eating because we are bored is the kind of habit that can easily weasel its way into your daily routine. When there’s downtime, snacking seems like and easy and harmless option. It ISN’T! And it adds up. Munching mindlessly is never a good thing and it can creep up when we are trying to avoid something, not just when life is humdrum – maybe it’s laundry, or cleaning the house…whatever “it” is that you are trying to get out of, you might grab a snack to aid in your efforts to procrastinate. Bad idea!

How to address it? MOVE! Do an activity of some kind, keep your hands busy (beyond grabbing food!), and distract those false signals that you need to eat to get through the boredom.

Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full

I don’t know about you but I grew up hearing that other children were (legitimately) starving in other countries and that I therefore had to finish my meal. The reality is…my leftovers probably could have been leftover a little longer (meaning I didn’t HAVE to pig out whether I was full or not, I could nibble the rest later.) But, it was the way it was back then – there was always a focus, even in school, on finishing everything on my plate at every meal. Is that really the best way? 

The better idea is to listen to our bodies. If we are feeling full, that means a few areas of our body are registering that we have had what it needs to function optimally – we don’t NEED more. When the satiety signals sound, it’s it ideal to listen to them – we can always have more later if we find we are still (truly) hungry. Stuffing ourselves not only allows needless calories to build up, but it also confuses our bodies (which are desperately trying to say “I’m FULL! I don’t need more.”) When we keep eating, we get used to blocking those signals and, worse, we start to not really “hear” them. 

Grazing 

This one needs to be defined a bit. When I generally say I “graze” I mean that I consciously eat mini meals many, MANY times a day. Grazing in the case of Hungry Girl’s article appears to refer to snacking all the time, and doing so mindlessly. It’s the snagging a few bites of the kids’ food (which, let’s be honest, isn’t always a healthy item), or grabbing office “snacks” here and there during the day (also not usually the “healthy” stuff.) It could be that you are cooking and eating as you go, or even just going to the pantry frequently on a day that you are home.

Eating more meals with smaller portions throughout the day often helps folks stay satiated longer (than, for example, three larger meals per day.) That doesn’t mean EVERYone, mind you, but generally when people eat smaller meals more frequently, they find that they don’t overindulge as much.

Snacking Instead of Sipping

Being in tune with our bodies means listening closely to the signals it sends us – some of them “sound” so similar that we might actually make a mistake. For example, thirst may “sound” like hunger to us – we may reach for a snack, having felt that we needed to, only to find out that we translated the urge incorrectly. A great way to ensure that we ARE on the right track – and to avoid eating excess calories (that we probably don’t need!) – is to have a solid drink of water before reaching for food.

If we are dehydrated, water will do the trick right then and there. Having a nice glass of water will also fill us up a bit so if we happen to be thinking about food – but our body doesn’t necessarily need it at that moment – the drink will satisfy us longer. It’s also a great trick when going out to dinner – having a full glass of water can save  you from over-ordering (it’s the grocery-shopping-while-hungry scenario – not a good idea!)

Meal Skipping

This is a HUGE non-no, especially if you’re skipping breakfast! Don’t. Do. It! I do know a few folks who can’t eat immediately when they wake up – that’s okay. Depending on the day, I may eat an hour or two after getting out of bed. The idea is that you are providing your body with the proper fuel to get rolling, and your stomach something to work with. When you skip a meal, you are a great deal more likely to go overboard later. I’m sure you know the feeling… Don’t want breakfast, too busy to get a good lunch…dinner comes around and you basically inhale your whole fridge and pantry! Try to give yourself a fighting chance, and be kind to your body – have SOMEthing healthy at mealtimes to keep  yourself from going from zero to ravenous. Getting to the point of “I can eat a horse” will leave you to sabotage all of your other efforts.

So those are my personal thoughts about Hungry Girl’s habits – they aren’t at all far-fetched (there are of course others, but these are common culprits in our society!), and they are possible to fix (good news!) 

If you are serious about weight / fat loss or maintenance it will take attention, patience, and consistency – but it isn’t as hard as you think. Once you eradicate a few of these saboteurs, you’ll find yourself dropping weight without altering anything else. Nutrition accounts for probably 80% or more of how we are doing weight-wise (don’t kid yourself!) The wonderful news there is that we CAN do something about that.

 

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(Our) Healthy Weight Really Is Made In The Kitchen

They say “abs” are made in the kitchen and it is actually quite true in many ways. Now that said, we all have a different “healthy weight.” We don’t need to be muscular to be healthy (that only indicates a specific level and / or type of fitness taking place for a specific individual.)

What is important, however, is that we recognize what we put into our fuel tank matters. It’s never easy to change our routine – therein lies the secret. . .

When we can make healthy long-term changes (ones we are willing and able (most importantly!) to stick to over the long haul) then we are on the way to seeing that lasting change we want.

Having been on the side where I had far too little for a time, I intimately  understand how sensitive this issue is – whether we are carrying dangerously little, or too much weight. Our self-confidence can be bound to these realities, and our relationship with food can become terribly unhealthy.

I’d also like to add, it isn’t so much the number on the scale kind of “weight.” Losing extra fat that our body doesn’t need to function (or that is impairing our proper and healthy function), and getting our BMI down to a better figure, is far more important. That number may go up if you are adding muscle mass while adjusting your meal plan…so don’t feel derailed by the numerical values necessarily.

I’ve shared other posts such as: 

10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry is Horrible!)  and, 

Healthy Lifestyle – The Way To Achieve A Healthy Weight…Without The Failure Of “Diets,”

These posts offer some ideas and thoughts about this journey, as well as some tips and tricks. There is NO reason you can’t find success with your goals but sometimes we need a little encouragement, and more understanding about how to get there.

Each of us are different – our body types sometimes are wildly different. The “outside” doesn’t always reflect immaculate healthy internally either (yes, there ARE “skinny fat people” (a term, but the way, that I don’t really care for – to me, “fat” is incredibly derogatory because of the connotation it’s gained. Unless I’m talking about an avocado, salmon, or egg yolks (etc!) I use “fuller figured” because it isn’t always about what “fat” implies. We don’t need to be using that term for ourselves either because chances are…it makes us feel worse, which is not where we need to be mentally!) 

It’s all about the manageable changes. We CAN achieve what we want to but we need to be consistent, honest with ourselves, and make changes that we are going to be able to stick with. Again, even more so, we need to make changes we can LIVE with longer term.

I don’t know about you but drinking my meals for the rest of my life sounds terrible! I’d rather eat my food, eat healthy portions, and create a plan I can live with indefinitely. 

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