I've still got a long way to go, but here are a few things I've learned so far.
1. Substitutions Aren't Natural
When substituting foods I was very hesitant. I didn't want to NOT eat meat for lunch. I didn't want to eat more fruits and veggies. I liked my diet, when it came down to it. Sure I could talk a good game and psyche myself up to eating a salad for dinner a few times a week. But when it came time to sit down and eat a salad when everybody else was having, well, not salad, I faltered.
I've learned to TRY a substitution, if only once or twice, maybe up to a week. Slowly your habits will change. It will be easier to substitute items in your meals, or entire meals because you'll see that you're not going to starve. You'll thrive. Also, strangely enough, what you crave will change.
2. Food is Energy
I love food. I appreciate fine food. I've had to realize that not every meal has to be a blow-your-socks-off meal. Food is energy and our bodies need a continuous, steady and high qualify flow of energy in order to run efficiently.
Sometimes it will be in your best interest to identify some macro-nutrients you need and then find an appropriate food. It may not be in your current menu! What you'll probably find is that you will soon crave that food because it's providing you something you need.
For me, that was tuna. I found myself insatiably hungry. I went rifling through the pantry and the fridge looking for something. I found a can of tuna, popped the lid, drained it and shoveled it down. It was fantastic. Now remember how I said I love fine food. It's true. Canned tuna is NOT find food. However, my body really needed either the fatty acids or the proteins and my pleasure sensors were lit up in reward for consuming the right thing.
Fiber. Eat more of it. Insoluble fiber. Eat more of it. Fiber. Eat more of it.
Oatmeal, vegetables, fruits, beans. Wheat berries, Fiber One cereal. Fiber. It's awesome.
Basically, it makes you feel full. It promotes a healthier digestive tract. There is a huge list of benefits and they're all tangible, real, and begin very quickly. You'll notice.
A note of caution. Add fiber to your diet slowly! Increase water intake with increased fiber intake.
4. Variety May Be the Spice of Life...
When trying to lose weight, the bigger objective is really to keep the weight off! Studies have shown that people who tend to keep the weight off for a full year do a good job of keeping it off forever. However, the vast majority of people do NOT keep it off for a year.
So what do those long-termers do? They have a steady and consistent menu. That is, they eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. Boring, right?
Through trial and error I'm developing acceptable menus from which I can freely choose meals five days a week. On the weekends, I'll just try and play it safe. The mantra, "You don't have to eat perfect all the time, just eat well most of the time," succinctly states the idea.
For a meal or food item to belong on my menu it must:
- Fit within the dietary requirements
- Make me feel full
- Be enjoyable to eat
5. Arm Yourself
Amazon sells 63,619 diet books. Most probably aren't worth reading.
Many diet books are written by people like me. I don't know anything. Many diet books are written by general practitioners. They have minimally more nutritional education than I have, and certainly nothing that you couldn't discover in a trip to the library. Am I making that up? Nope. I read it in a cited book. Does that mean it's true, I guess not! But it makes sense to me.
Nutritional books, written by people who specialize in that field, are where to look for information. Be cautious of any gimmicks or new spins or earth shattering break-throughs.
I'll share a few key points I've discovered in my reading.
- Misinformation is more plentiful than accurate information. Most of the accurate information has already been printed, so if you want to be published, you have to have something new.
- Eating after exercise is a must. Your body will use that food in ways different than if it were consumed at any other time.
- All major diet plans ultimately restrict caloric intake. If you have a deficiency of 3500 calories, you'll lose a pound of weight. The problem is, are you losing fat or muscle, and for how long? (see #4)
- Nutrition is a increasingly important as you age. Kids just need calories and they can perform athletically. That's not the case for the rest of us. If you're over 30, eat a candy bar and drink a coke, now go on a run.
John Steinbeck's The Pearl, describes a cultural standard among the indigenous peoples along these lines: Speaking your intentions is to betray them. I've spent many hours thinking about this and have many arguments showing its merit. I'll spare you though. But...
Don't tell anybody of your intentions. Just do it. If you want to be healthier, start taking steps in that direction. Don't talk about it.
7. This is a Fight
"It's not an adventure until something goes wrong" Yvon Chouinard
Make no mistake. This is a fight. You're going to have to be tough, mean, steady and patient. If
there is a knock out blow delivered, you'll be on the receiving end. If you're going to win this fight, you're going to have to last the fifteen rounds. Then, you'll have to defend your title for the rest of your life.
Nobody can step in the ring for you. You have people in your corner though. The trick is to know what they can help you with, and what help will ultimately hurt your cause. See, methods used to attain your goal (win the fight) will not likely match what you envision, so keep an open mind. Along the way you'll get stuck, relapse and get frustrated. Refocus, regroup. When you get stuck it's not that you suddenly have a problem. You've always had that problem, it's just that now you're aware of it. That's an opportunity to improve and fix it! But it's your fight. You're going to have to fix it.
Or, you could resign yourself to your fate and only take what comes easy. Really, it's your call. People can argue the merits of either choice. But me, I'm a fighter. Why? Because I decide to be.
8. Set Goals That Aren't on the Scale
While a deficiency of 3500 calories will result in a pound of weight lost, weight loss is a tricky thing. Your body sometimes refuses to lose weight. Sometimes you'll burn fat really fast, regardless of what you're eating. Sometimes your body will build muscle. Sometimes something akin to voodoo is occurring because you'll have done everything right and yet the weight won't budge.
My weight has been the same for about 3 weeks now (well, within the normal fluctuations). However, I've dropped a pant size in the same time period. Why? I have guesses, but who knows.
The point is, if my main goal was seeing a lower number on the scale, I'd be frustrated. While it is mildly frustrating that the number isn't dropping, I know I'm more fit and have less body fat. I can see it. Everybody can see it. Not to fret!
It wasn't always that way. I hit plateaus about every ten to fifteen pounds of weight lost. Early on, nobody, save my wife, could really tell I was losing weight. Again, not to worry. It will come off.
This, when you get stuck and the weight will not come off, is a good time to revisit your plan. Don't make sudden, knee-jerk changes because these plateaus are part of the process. However, you may discover that you're eating too many carbohydrates. Or, maybe you'll rediscover that you're eating too many processed foods, but earlier you weren't motivated to give them up.
I found that when I hit a plateau, and stayed there for a while, I was more willing to make those substitutions that seemed unnatural than I was when things were going well.
I do not subscribe to herbal remedies and holistic medicines. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't either. I do have an open mind. What I am suggesting is that if you are having swelling an joint pain you take 4 grams of ginger a day instead of ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol or Motrin).
Ginger has been clinically proven to be a more effective anti-inflammatory medication than all other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. This is solid science. You won't need to believe it for it to work. Give it a week and you'll see. You can buy ginger capsules at Wal-Greens.
Turn off the TV, put away the phone. Pick up a book, read. Go to bed. Sleep reduces recovery time. Try it.
Now, turn off the computer and go outside and do something.