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

I was listening to a show this week (Sirius XM) on which the doctors were discussing weight loss, weight loss surgeries, and a whole host of diets (for the latter part, they were largely fielding questions.) What I appreciated most was that they really focused on “healthy lifestyle choices” beyond and above anything else.

“Diet” is a four letter word. And a BAD one. Diets don’t work for the majority of people largely because they are composed of meals, or supplements, or restrictions that aren’t going to hold up long-term. So yes…people might lose weight in the shorter term…but then they become discouraged when they go off track and gain it all back. It doesn’t have to be that way! 

Marketing sometimes has a way of presenting the false realities that such programs promise in highly appealing, shiny packages…but the fact of the matter is that our overarching approach is what will make the difference. If we can’t stay consistent over the longer term, it isn’t the “right fit.” 

Before you lose hope…there IS a right fit for YOU…you just need to uncover it.

Also important to mention here is that not all of the “diets” or programs out there bad – if a specific plan works for YOU, there is nothing wrong with that! The point is that it just needs to be a routine you can manage consistently…whether you are on the plan, or you go off it.

Some of the better known out there – for example, Weight Watchers – are going above and beyond and teaching people HOW to eat. Bravo! With Weight Watchers you learn portion control…how to do it, why it is important, and how to apply it even if you drop the guidelines of the program itself. It also teaches accountability. That stuff is really valuable, and it’s where a lot of folks go awry. How can you blame them? Seen portions in America lately? How about the marketing pushing more food for less money? It’s like, “why not, then?!,” right?  BAD NEWS.

I really believe that staying at a healthy weight can be reduced to a few key principles. In my mind, these are as close to “magic bullets” as you can get – now, they do take a little work and dedication, but they also result in the kind of “magic” that people are hoping for…and they deliver positive results consistently, and across the board, beating out any pill we can take.

Magic Bullet 1 – BEING HONEST and ACCOUNTABLE

The first of these is being honest and accountable. If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we are fighting a losing battle. It’s okay to say “I’m not where I want to be.” We don’t need to beat ourselves up, or bring ourselves down. But we do have to step back and recognize that we need a change, that it’s OKAY to need a change, and that change is achievable. It wouldn’t be on your mind if it didn’t matter to you, or you were feeling full of energy and the picture of health… The mirror is the hardest thing to face sometimes but when we do, we take full control of our life…meaning we can have what it is we are after. 

Staying accountable means that we not only recognize and admit to ourselves that we have room to do better, but that we really manage our choices. I think it’s fair to say many of us are our own worst critics and almost don’t want to admit what’s really going on. We need to remember that no one is going to punish us for being honest with ourselves, or for having the cookies we didn’t really need. But ignoring it isn’t going to get us on track either.

Magic Bullet 2 – LEARNING TO SAY NO

There’s a lot of pressure to love food in our society! Many cultures are food-centric – mealtimes are the perfect gathering place for friends and family, right?! Restaurants, bars, home kitchens, on holidays or for events…it’s were (and when) we tend to get together. But we don’t have to follow the masses when we order for ourselves…and we don’t have to go hungry either! If you are out with a group and they order tons of tempting appetizers, for example, you can always order something more healthy for yourself. While maybe not as tantalizing as the less-healthy options, you will have something to munch on that you’ll feel good about later. You don’t owe anyone any explanations or justifications.

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Along with this…when we are out and about on our own, we can also use “NO.” No, as they say, IS a complete sentence – and we need to stand our ground if we want change. It’s smart NOT to shop hungry, for one thing. It’s also important that we NOT buy thing things we know aren’t great for us – once they’re in our own kitchen, it’s easy to go downhill. When we don’t get it, we can’t be tempted by it. Period.

Magic Bullet #3 – IT ISN’T ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS…IT’S ABOUT FAT LOSS

The number on your scale isn’t always what you think it is… Because muscle and fat have different weight values, it’s possible to appear to be “overweight” on a scale and incredibly fit and healthy. Likewise, the number on the scale might read low, but the person (perhaps a slim frame) isn’t so healthy internally. When we think about Body Mass Index (BMI), however, we have a much clearer picture of where we need to be. These numbers, keep in mind, are guidelines…but they are more helpful as far as our overall health is concerned than the number on a scale (unless yours is fancy and calculates BMI!) 

A BMI that is too low will bring a host of issues with it, as will one that is too high. You can find a very basic calculator here, more about BMI and the mathematic formula hereand more information overall here and here. Or…you can head in for a check up and get a no-bullshit answer from your doctor.

This goes back to being honest with ourselves and really understanding the health concerns we might be unkindly imposing on ourselves. A lot of people called into the radio talk with questions about losing weight and the doctors we as much with me on this – it’s more about the fat loss, and getting to a healthy weight for our frame…which will then eliminate quite a few heath risks, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among many…many others.

Magic Bullet #4 – EXERCISE

There’s no pill that can give us the kind of benefits we get from exercise. There just ISN’T. And, as the saying goes, there is no chance we can out exercise a bad diet. Tough reality check but…it doesn’t work that way, and it never will.  

Exercise isn’t an easy one for everybody but… We were all children once upon a time and I’m willing to bet we all played lots of games and ran around. Best part? We probably LOVED it.  

What changed!?

When did it become work??! 

It doesn’t HAVE to be work. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be exerting yourself – you need to push a little bit! – but you don’t have to be miserable. Treadmills, for example, are torture for me. Instead, I might jog outside…or go for a hike where I’m walking, but doing so on uneven (but beautiful!) terrain. Volunteer work is another way to keep moving without having to do something I can’t stand (like cardio! 😉 ) I get it in by default in that case – win-win!

Adding in music that you know will get you going is a great option, as is finding a friend to pair up with. Think about activities you DO like doing and be creative – if you want to start by hula-hooping, do it! Getting moving is sometimes the hardest part…but once we do, it doesn’t feel as terrible as we made it out to be! 

Nutrition is probably 80% of the overall picture…but exercise will keep our body healthy too, whether that’s keeping metabolism up, our muscles strong (and with it often our bones), as well as keep the heart and blood pumping the way they need to. 

Magic Bullet #5 – CONSISTENCY, MAINTENANCE…and NOT GETTING DERAILED

Consistency is absolutely vital to success (across the board, frankly.) Maintaining is WORLDS easier than having to play catch up, and it is a lot less stressful to boot. If we can make healthy choices for ourselves and stick to them most of the time, the few blips and foibles aren’t going to have much of an impact. 

Along those lines, we need to be sure that we don’t make a mountain out of the minimal impact a slip may have…because that’s a surefire way to derail. When we start to beat ourselves up for enjoying a special night out, or having a treat once in a while, we might go into “well, I’m not doing well, so to hell with this whole ‘healthier me’ thing…” Don’t fall victim to that downward-spiraling trap – it isn’t necessary. If you choose a less healthy option, just let it go. Enjoy that you could have it…and move on with your better decisions.

Wallowing in misery begets more of the same…and it’s going to be a lot harder later to get back on track. Hold yourself to sticking to the plan most of the time, and you will be okay. One or two bad meals aren’t going to add ten pounds. Keep doing it, though, and you’ll have a lot more work to do down the road to get your health back… The easier road is to stay consistent as much as you can.

Magic Bullet #6 – MAKING GOOD CHOICES

Society needs to get away from fad diets and stringent plans – if you have health issues and something of that nature is required, that’s okay. But for the average population, they’re not a great idea, and generally a recipe for failure…the last thing we want / need.

No one can say exactly what, when, or how cavemen ate their meals – we are speculating based on what science has discovered.  Some cultures seem to have less illness than America does, so we might take cues from them…but there are many other factors at play including environmental and inherent…so even then there’s room for speculation. Then there are the “anecdotal”s where a method worked for a few, but we don’t know why or how, or whether the same positive results will apply to a broader population…

Instead of trying to be stringent or extreme, or abandon one thing for in total embrace of another…how about using common sense? What REALLY matters when it comes to foods…?

Processing vs. Natural – the less processed, the better. Processed often means a departure from natural states, such as we get with additives like dyes and chemicals, sugars, unhealthy fats. These human-derived products (meaning we weren’t designed to process them) are unhealthy for the body.

Sugars – a category in their own right – are a massive problem. Eliminating sugars, or the bulk of them (especially the processed kinds, vs. a whole, fresh fruit, for example) will lead to weight loss pretty quick, as well as a likely change in energy, mood, even sleep. The more we can stick with “whole,” non-sugary foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, eggs, nuts, lean meats, poultry and fish, the better our bodies will behave. Your car responds to the fuel you put into it, right? 

Balance – we don’t have to eliminate certain categories completely when we eat a diet of “whole foods” unless we don’t respond well to it. For example, I don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates – my body has decided they no longer work well for it. When I do eat them, I have variety of symptoms that make me feel sick and uncomfortable…so I know they aren’t the right choice for me. It’s about learning what works for our own bodies (maybe some trial and error) and going from there…

Portions – This is a big one. I love big portions because I love eating food…but my body doesn’t really need as much per sitting as my eyes or stomach are suggesting! Sometimes it helps to have a lot of small means more frequently and to start the day with a good breakfast (if you can stomach it – depending on the time, I sometimes need food right away (if it’s between 3 and 6am!) or I need to wait (if it’s after 6am.) Everyone is different but starting the day with fuel is important so you aren’t ravenous and out of control later… 

Here’s a link to my own tips and tricks for staying full 10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!) because not feeling hungry makes a difference!

. . .

When we abide by these common-sense principles, we will see changes in our health, our physique, very likely our moods, as well as our energy levels, and definitely our overall health and well-being – it’s impossible not to.

Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it is more about a consistent and overall approach, using common sense about the foods our body really needs to function optimally.

We don’t have to miss out on the fun (or good food!) in life, we just have to remember that moderation (e.g.: smart portions) is key…and maintenance is a hell of a lot easier than restarting all the time.

You have what it takes!!!

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Portion Control 101, by Mackenzie Arrington For Jiu-Jitsu Magazine

This article about portions – Portion Control 101 – came my way recently via Jiu-Jitsu Magazine.  

Jiujitsu Magazine

Jiu-jitsu Magazine

If you google “portion control” you will be bombarded with enough articles and charts to sink a ship – but amidst the plethora, they generally share similar advice. Phew.

(As a note, you might also be bombarded with innumerable photos of Professor Snape – The seemingly insignificant “r” in portions makes potions so close in the eyes of Google that you may as well be in the Harry Potter fan club.  Nutrition, magic.  Eating, dragons… I dunno…)
Learningzone Express

Learningzone Express

Portions are a tricky thing for me – I can definitely eat a lot more than I do, and have to make a concerted effort NOT to go overboard.  As a kid, my level of activity was so high that I needed to eat more than I did.  Nowadays maintenance requires mindfulness, and a good deal less where volume is concerned.  When I falter, I see the difference fast.

Everyone is different so each person will have his or her own needs and requirements when it comes to how much they need to take in on a daily basis. No need – EVER – to compare.

One of my personal problems is being bored or – just-because-for-no-good-reason – feeling like I need to chomp on something (even when my stomach is fine!) I can’t say chewing gum is the best habit either but…better that (in my case) than eating more calories than I need.  

Anyway. . .the article talks about using one’s own hand as a guide – it’s a useful tool, and one you never leave home without. Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are notorious for monitoring their diets – the Gracie family, for one is HUGE on nutrition.  In fact, they have their own diet and they unapologetically recommend their students abide by it.  

At the end of the day what works best for you to reach your goals may well be different than someone else, or that new and special “diet” (fad, doctor-recommended, whatever!)  That’s OKAY! 

What can help all of us is portions – minding the amount of food we take can be a massive help in obtaining results, regardless of what macronutrients our body needs, or in what quantity.  

I know I need to allow myself to feel full sometimes, for example.  Taking a drink of water and waiting a few minutes helps deter me when I feel extra ravenous.  If I’m still starving in a half hour, maybe I do need a little more protein – but better than having far too much in a sitting without really needing it. 

 

Healthy Snacks For Everyday

I don’t know about you but I love to eat.  Most of the time I find that people don’t believe me, often retorting with a snide “oh yeah, right.”  

I am generally a clean eater, and after all I’ve been through, I can’t say that I love food in the same way.  But. . .YES. . .I LOVE to eat, and I could easily eat too much.  Volume is key for me – I need to feel full or I will just keep munching.

It can get a little frustrating when people say “oh, but you work it off.”  Or, “you do so much that it doesn’t matter – you can have what you want.” Actually….

No.

I CAN’T.

If I eat too much (and for each of us, that amount will vary), I will see it on my waistline.  Most of the time I am clean, healthy, and quite active…but it takes work for me.  I can’t just eat whatever I want and hope that my exercise routine will balance it out –  I don’t get off so easily, and frankly very few people do. So what helps?  Being educated!  I know that I will be hungry so I try to figure out what I can do to:

A.) Not feel like I’m starving all the time…

But also…

B.) Stick to my goals

That’s where being educated about nutrition, and my own personal needs, comes in to play. Keeping in mind that I am not a nutritionist or medical professional, these are some of the snacks I have found to help me manage my hunger. . .and my waist size!

SWEET

  • Fresh Fruit or Fruit Salad – I don’t eat a ton of fruit.  I prefer vegetables, and I don’t want to go overboard on the sugar.  But having some fresh fruit can help satisfy a sweet craving, without causing you to pack on the pounds you might with a candy bar or other deserts!  (Dried fruit is also a culprit, having much more concentrated sugar per serving than the fruit when it is fresh.)
  • Berries with a dollop of Yogurt – Sweet, plus a little protein, and lots of antioxidants. 
  • EatPops or something similar – I loved these when I read about them!  Healthy, not at all crazy in the calorie department, refreshing and sweet.  I also love the Almond Dream bites, in moderation, since I’m a chocolate fan.  If you don’t want to spend on prepared, you can always blend and freeze your own.
  • Cooked or Baked Fruit – so many great recipes out there that turn regular fruit into something sassier!  I sometimes slice and apple, add cinnamon and sometimes a dash of sweetener and bake in the convection oven until warm and slightly softer.
  • Peanut or Nut Butter – There are some nice brands who offer single serving packages – Some have up to 200 or so calories, so be mindful of that (it is about what you’d get in one serving from a jar, but you can’t go overboard with one package!)  I have seen some that just have 90, which I like better.  Either way, you get heathy fats with a nice dose of protein. You can add a little to some apple slices for extra sweetness.
  • Sugar Free Chocolate – Not the best nutritional option but sometimes one sugar-free peanut butter cup helps stave off inhaling something much worse, and in much higher quantity!

SALTY and SAVORY

  • Hummus with Baby Carrots –   I like to put a bit of hummus in a bowl with some carrots (or other veggies) so I’m not eating right out of the container (which might cause me to eat too much.)  Raw veggies can be tough on the tum, so just be mindful of the ones you choose.  Broccoli and cauliflower that hasn’t been cooked, for example, can cause some digestive troubles.
  • Greek Yogurt or Cottage Cheese – I can no longer do dairy, so this is out for me.  BUT…these are excellent choices, giving you a nice amount of protein per serving. Only thing to watch out for is extra sugar, as some Greek yogurts are sneaky. 
  • Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios) – Nuts are a great option BUT… But, but, BUT…you HAVE to be mindful.  Nuts are calorically dense and incredibly easy to overdo.  Many brands offer 100 calorie bags, which are a fabulous idea.  You can certainly portion out your own, but buying the ready-made is a great option. Pistachios are one of the best where calorie and protein per serving is concerned.

MINI-MEAL ITEMS

  • Muffin-Tin Egg Frittatas – Not everyone loves eggs, but these are a ton of fun. You can make them with egg whites, egg beaters, whole eggs, a mixture…whatever!  Add in a few sprinkles of soy crumbles, low-fat turkey, steamed vegetables, even salsa, and you have a dozen awesome “bites” for later!  Sometimes I want to much on something, and this will do the trick.
  • Shrimp Cocktail – Lots of protein, not a ton of calories.  A little bit of cocktail sauce and spices are okay, and won’t break the bank (whereas something like tartar sauce will.)
  • Beef or Poultry Jerky – One has to be mindful about the salt content here, and it is always good to look at ingredients to be sure there aren’t crazy preservatives.  But this is one of those savory protein snacks that can come in handy when you need to nosh.
  • Turkey or Chicken Slices – I’m careful to avoid nitrates here, as many deli meats are laden with such preservatives.  Organic is great if you can come by it, but just being mindful of the ingredients is a good idea.  You get a lot of protein for not a ton of calories, so you will feel satisfied longer.  Roll them up and dip in mustard, siracha sauce, salsa…!
  • Sliced Chicken Breast or Lean Meat – I love ground chicken.  I will eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND for a snack.  Nothing wrong with having lean meats when you are hungry!  I mix mine with a hefty dose of steamed veggies (remember: VOLUME) for a snack when I feel I’m teetering on “ravenous.” You can also pair with greens or add to a light broth for volume.

TRADITIONAL SNACKS

  • Popcorn – Okay, so it isn’t the best snack nutritionally speaking… But there are brands that have as little as three ingredients (think a touch of salt, popcorn, and a dash of olive oil) that you can have in more quantity without going overboard.  Air popping your own is a great idea also (love the microwave ones but many contain some incredibly unhealthy chemicals, so best to avoid as much as possible!)
  • Chips and Salsa – Crunchy, salty, maybe a little spice… What to watch out for here is having too many!  Just take a few and put them in a bowl – sometimes just the act of portioning it out makes you feel like you are having more, or a special treat, instead of wolfing down the whole bag mindlessly.

The key with any of these is to just be mindful of portions – when you can either prepare a smaller portion of what comes in a HUGE bag…OR…you can get ready-made items (such as the 100 calorie almonds), you will find you can stick to the plan a little better.  There are also a ton of wonderful blogs with recipes for lower calorie snacks (I prefer those also high in protein because that’s what my body needs.)

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A few of the snacks I take on trips here and here.

I also have a ton of fun recipes bookmarked here.