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. 

 

Eating vs. Training

I frequently get questions about which exercises to use to “spot reduce” certain areas, and the answer is always the same – it’s more about the food we eat than the exercises.  

Spot reducing does not work, It can’t hurt to focus on an area, but without a comprehensive approach, efforts are often in vain, leaving disappointment in the wake of (some) concerted efforts.

Clean eating has a bad rap, though, among the masses – it isn’t about depriving at all which, in my mind, is 100% doomed to fail. It’s about the overall consistency (treats are allowed here and there!) and choosing healthier, whole foods as the primary sources of nutrition. When we are *generally* fueling our bodies with healthier options, having a goodie once is a while is NOT a big deal.

I don’t know this Instagram page – @vshred4women – but this image cropped up this week in one of the App’s ads (hence my post.) Much that sponsored material makes me crazy, I did agree with what was being presented. I always say that our nutrition accounts for 80 to 90% of the results we see and feel.

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This particular image shows meal prepping at it’s finest.  Not everyone feels like they have time to do this, and that’s okay – you don’t necessarily need to.  I tend to cook several pounds of chicken at once myself because I find that’s easiest for me.  If I’m also making veggies, or I think in a day or two I’ll be preparing a different meal, I may chop up those extra veggies ahead of time since I’m already at it!  Do what works best for you because that’s what will keep you on track.

Getting back to eating clean though…it’s all about setting yourself up for success.  I shared a few of my personal tips in this post – 10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!) – a few weeks ago, and they really can help.  

Not buying foods I know will derail me is one of my key tactics, and filling up on foods that will keep me feeling full longer is another…but again, it’s about works best for you.

I think the misconception about healthy nutrition is that one mistake is the end of the world – many times people will eat poorly for a day or two, even a week (vacation, anyone?!) and then go into “weeeell, I’m failing as it is, may as well give up!” and they continue with poor choices. It is NEVER, EVER too late to have a fresh start, so toss that negative notion to the waist side. PLEASE!

Each day is a new opportunity to try again. If there is a strategy that you know works / has worked for you, re-employ it! If there isn’t, take baby steps and make a point to notice your progress – a tiny step forward is still in the right direction!

It’s also important to remember that little changes can make a huge difference.  Some examples:

  • Switching from cream to milk in coffee
  • Switching from whole milk to 2% or skim if you are a milk drinker
  • Having a whole fresh fruit versus putting a few fruits into a blender 
  • Using lettuce wraps instead of bread, or making an open-face with just one slice
  • Adding veggies to the base of your meal, or doubling the portion you already have
  • Switching to healthy fats like avocados, portioned nuts, fatty fish, or egg yolks instead of the kind you get in sweets
  • Having slow-cooking oatmeal instead of sugary cereals
  • Swapping your regular yogurt for Greek
  • Putting dressing on the side and just using what you need, vs creating a salad dressing swimming pool for your greens
  • If you must have a soda, try a zero calorie version. . .

There are so many possibilities, you just have to look! 

Fueling our bodies with the right foods also aids our training efforts, and the results of all that hard work. Without the proper combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat, we won’t function optimally, and we may not see the results we would otherwise if we did nutritionally support the exercise we are doing (for example, lifting weights and skimping on protein means you aren’t going to see the muscle mass you would if you had the appropriate protein intake.)

That ridiculous saying that abs are made in the kitchen? It is more true than it isn’t. Our culture is a food-centric one, so saying “clean eating” is sometimes meant with scoffs and dismissal, if not considered a bad word / phrase. But it isn’t some horrible, unachievable state of being that should scare or intimidate anyone. Unless you are working on preparing for the Olympia competition, there’s probably room to tweak (and even then!) 

Healthy changes…

Don’t have to be monumental…

You don’t have to go cold turkey (unless you know that is an ideal method for you)…

You don’t have to follow some stringent fad diet!

And you don’t have to say goodbye to all the things you enjoy.

Recognizing that you can see the results you want with some adjustments to your nutritional intake is actually very freeing – it’s something you have total control over, and can customize as it works for you. The key? Being honest and realistic with yourself – YOU are who matters the most, and there is no reason you can’t enjoy life, enjoy delicious food, and also have the results you are looking for.

 

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Krave Bars

I was pretty psyched to see these new Krave Bars – they are available in-store and online, and come from a popular jerky snack brand, Krave. 

When trying to stay clean on trips, it’s always a struggle to find non-refrigerated protein options.  It isn’t at all impossible, mind you, it just requires forethought.  The great thing about these bars is that they offer savory flavors, and a dose of protein for minimal calories minus the need to have a cooler.

Stats range from:

  • 1 bar: 110 – 120 calories
  • 1.5 – 4g total fat (0 – 1.5g sat fat)
  • 240 – 290mg sodium
  • 12 – 13g carbs
  • 0 – 1g fiber
  • 6 – 11g sugars
  • 8 – 10g protein

There is a bit of sugar in there, so keep that in mind if you need to steer clear.  That said, sometimes a snack like this is better than wheat you’ll find at rest stops!  It’s also smart to have healthy snacks on hand so you don’t end up going hungry, and eating more than you’d like to later.

For those of you who don’t do red meat, the turkey one sounds pretty delicious, and very Thanksgiving-ish. 🙂 

The other thing?  There isn’t much IN these, which is always nice. AND…you can pronounce all the ingredients.  Refreshing!

  • Turkey, Cranberries, Quinoa Flour, Candied Orange Peel, Granulated Sugar, Sea Salt. 
  • Contains 2% or less of the Following: Thyme, Sage, Granulated Garlic, Onion Powder, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Black Pepper, Celery Powder. 

Traveling Nutrition IV

I’m always amazed – and sincerely touched – by the support of social networks from like-minded but total strangers.  We all have different goals, needs, and circumstances…but it’s neat to see the general camaraderie surrounding the broader aim to stay healthy, and make good choices for ourselves.  I posted a few photos from a recent trip and was touched by how many folks even cared.

I’ve enumerated at length how utterly terrifying traveling used to be for me – the eating disorders that accompanied my PTSD made leaving my parents’ home, at the time, nigh impossible – forget getting in a car for hours, or – god forbid – getting on a plane.

I worried about what I would eat, if I could eat, who would be eating what types a foods around me. . . The prospect was enough to launch a generally debilitating panic attack, so to be able to travel at all now…and with some ease…is a gift I never take for granted.

What makes it a TON easier is to have the support of those closest to me – I’m not sure where I’d be without it, to be honest.

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The most recent – a rather last-minute – trip was to a car show out in California.  Long flight, several hours in the car on both sides, and lots of fast food (that my stomach couldn’t handle if I wanted it to!) When I travel I always pack a plethora of snacks, but in this case, I brought extra.

The great news beyond that, though, is that SO many places have options – they may not be main menu options, but they do exist, you need only ask. Yes, even on the plane!

Protein can be a little tricky to travel with but there are packaged options that don’t need a refrigerator, such as turkey and chicken jerky, nuts, and tuna, chicken, or salmon packs. I get a few looks sometimes but I feel my best when I eat as close to my “usual” as possible so it’s all good. 🙂 

Whole fruits like apples and freeze dried version are a sweet option to tote along, as are pre-portioned snacks like peanut butter crackers. When out to dinner, fish and chicken prepared as simply as possible are great choices, along with veggies to fill you up.  One of the restaurants had a “salsa” as cocktail sauce with their shrimp and I actually used it as a salad dressing because it was so good, and had very little in it (versus a heavier dressing whose ingredients I’d be unable to decipher.) 

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As for airports there are lots of options hiding out – turkey slices or chicken breasts are generally available where sandwiches are made, salads are always available, fruit cups are offered at coffee bars and meal establishments…even boiled eggs can be found in some places as well (sometimes they are even in pre-packaged salads too!) It may be a mix and match but you can definitely find options that work.

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So don’t lose heart if you have to be on the road or away from your usual meals at home.  It is definitely doable to eat clean and to be satisfied – a few snacks in your bag can help when cravings hit, and most of the time a restaurant is MORE than happy to prepare something more simple.  Don’t be afraid to ask!

More Deliciousness

Nutrition – The Easy Way To Add Volume

I definitely need to eat “volume” – a small snack will never cut it for me, despite that I am constantly snagging something to munch on.  I need to feel satisfied not only because I don’t want to feel hungry, but because my body doesn’t react well without the appropriate, and fine-tuned, amount of fuel.

The easiest way to add volume – the most obvious, also, but for some reason not as often as looked to as you might expect – is to load up on veggies.  A few sites are good about recommending this simple, incredibly effective “trick” but I feel like people still neglect to use it.  

One of my favorite recipes is an enormous sauté of vegetables and ground chicken – I use my Curtis Stone pans, with which I don’t need to use a stitch of oil.  (Yes, oil IS good for you, so a dash of olive isn’t the end of the world, but I try to be mindful, and not use it all the time if I don’t need to.)

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I sauté diced onions for a few minutes so they brown, then I add in fresh mushrooms (and, often, peppers too – red, yellow, and orange preferably, since they are the sweetest!) I later add diced tomatoes to it to make kind of a “sauce” – one, mind you, that is more vegetables than sauce! In a separate pan, I sauté the chicken, with nothing more than himalayan pink salt and spices.

Separately, I steam – in a BPA free microwaveable container, of course! – diced (or pre-riced!) cauliflower.  If I don’t have pre-diced (sometimes it is hard to find), I steam cauliflower florets – when they are done, and nice and soft, I use a potato masher to make little “diced” or “riced” type pieces.  You can use a food processor to do the same thing – this just takes less time and clean up to use a masher. 🙂 

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I have everything going at the same time, and will reduce the “sauce” to a simmer if necessary.  Once the cauliflower is ready, I mix it – and the “sauce” – into the pan with the chicken. And that’s it!

It makes a HUGE amount a food, and because of the volume of vegetables, each serving is less calories than it would be with just chicken…not to mention, it lasts longer, so you get more meals out of it. 🙂  

Nutrition – Sweet (Healthy) Snacks

There’s really no need to reach for candy – I know it’s delicious BUT…when you haven’t had it in a while, it truly becomes TOO sweet.  It tastes unnatural and overboard, and never as good as it sounds.  That said, cravings are notorious for overriding your best efforts and willpower from time to time… A great option?  Nature’ sugar…!

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Eating TONS of grapes or mounds of fresh fruit isn’t necessarily recommended…but generally you don’t need nearly that much to satisfy a sweet tooth.  A small amount, a snack here or there…that WILL do it. Fresh fruit is also best (as opposed to dried, in which your sugar concentration is much higher) because it’s VOLUME – you get to eat a good amount of it.  The water and fiber content will help to fill you up, and it will be more than a spoonful of the other stuff.  

My favorite options are a couple of sweet grapes – I LOVE Grapery! Cotton Candy grapes, Moon Drops grapes – organic Fuji apples, or pineapple.

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Give your body a healthy option first – you might be pleasantly surprised that the craving for something that will derail you actually disappears.

Other in the world of DELICIOUSness…

Healthy Breakfast When Dining Out

This really is my usual cast of characters, so it’s fair to say that MOST of my dining-out breakfast options look a lot like this (which, for me, is a good thing!) 🙂  

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There are always a lot of great options, though – you never have to have full fat milk in your cereal, or even milk at all, for example – most places offer skim (lots of protein, less calories and fat), or soy or almond options.  You also can ask for greek yogurt in most establishments, in place of plain (less protein than greek, and often more sugar.)

You can absolutely ask for any condiments on the side, lest your dish come out drowning in something more caloric than you need.  Fresh fruit and a tall glass of water are also great as they give some volume and a feeling of fullness…without being bad for you!

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For me, the combination of healthy fats, protein, fiber and water content helps keep me satisfied a good while – I’m the kind of person who eats a LOT during the day, so consider that I probably need to eat more often than most.  In this case, the fact that I am satisfied for a while indicates that the food items are doing their job nicely…withOUT being bad for me!

More Deliciousness