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Posted on May 25, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 20 comments

Weight Loss 101: 10 Healthy Diet Tips

Catching up? Check out my previous Weight Loss 101 posts to see how to begin your weight loss journey.

I know I’ve touched briefly on some healthful eating tips in the past, but I wanted to take the time to offer an actual list of go-to tips for you to potentially utilize in your new lifestyle change. After all, screw the cliche, that’s what this is! I offer my apologies in advance if any of this seems repetitive or just kind of like, duh, to you. But not everyone may know what you already know. And with that being said, let’s begin:

1. Sub whole wheat for white.

This one’s kind of a no-brainer, let’s be honest. Eat whole grains! White breads and pastas simply cannot compare nutritionally to the brown stuff. Just do it.

“But Gretchen!” you’re saying, “a slice of whole wheat bread and white bread has the same amount of calories!” Well, you’re right. But while you may not be saving on calories by making the switch, you are getting more bang for your buck nutritionally, which means more fiber to help you stay full longer. Full longer = less unnecessary eating = no weight gain. Win-win-win! Just remember: “Multi-grain” is not the same thing. Go whole or go home.

My tip if you’re iffy about the heartier texture of whole wheat pasta: overcook it slightly. Overcooking the pasta will break down the starches more so it has a softer texture that more closely resembles white pasta.

2. Embrace green.

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Kermit the Frog may believe it’s not easy being green, but I say it’s hella easy to get your greens. Spinach, romaine, arugula, collard, chard, kale, turnip greens, heck — I even hear good things about dandelion greens and they are literally right in your backyard! Salad ’em, steam ’em, stir-fry ’em, toss ’em in a smoothie, let ’em wilt under a plate of hot pasta… whatever floats your green boat! I personally am going to try incorporating steamed greens into what I have officially crossed over to say is The Most Important Meal of the Day. Enter tip number three:

3. Eat breakfast.

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Back during my life as Old Gretchen, I never ate breakfast. After all, I thought, I’m not hungry right when I wake up! Why waste the calories by forcing myself to eat?

Well newsflash, Old Gretchen: eating breakfast rocks. It kickstarts that metabolism that went to sleep when, uh, you went to sleep (duh! Why do you think it’s called break… wait for it… fast? IT BREAKS YOUR FAST.) And as long as you’re eating a balanced breakfast (I’m not talking Poptarts here, people.) it will keep you satiated throughout the morning and less likely to binge on crap at lunch. I used to try to go as long as possible without eating, thinking that I was burning tons of calories by depriving myself of food until 2 or 3 PM. And then I would be so ravenous by the time I finally did eat that I’d OVEReat pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Not quite the genius plan, amiright? A balanced breakfast should include fiber and protein. Think eggs, cottage cheese, oats, or whole grain cereal (If you’re like me and always rushing in the morning, try keeping a box of Kashi Go Lean and some milk at work!)

4. Fat is your friend.

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I know, I know. You’ve been told your entire life that fat is the enemy. Fat is why you’re fat. Well, let me just debunk that myth right here and now. Fat is integral to being able to feel full and satisfied after a meal! Just try to ensure they are predominantly the healthy kind, kay? Always utilize common sense and portioning, but don’t hesitate to embrace nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, nut butters, etc. When it comes to losing weight, my body responds much, much better to a diet higher in (healthy) fat than one high in sugar (which is usually what you get if you’re eating a lot of “fat-free”, “low-fat” stuff.) Which brings us to number six…

6. Eat less sugar.

Death by Chocolate.

Sugar. Oh, honey, honey. Sigh. Sugar is delicious, there’s no two ways about it. And sugar is in everything. And a little sugar here and there is perfectly fine. No, not even just fine, it’s necessary (for me, at least!) But foods that are high in sugar come at a price. Sugar is your body’s first source of fuel. So if you’re like me, and you have a job where you sit on your glutes for 8+ hours a day and aren’t leading an incredibly active lifestyle outside of that… well, your body doesn’t exactly have a need for all that fuel, does it? So what happens? It gets stored away for the day that you are in dire need of it — stranded on a deserted island with nary a coconut in sight, or pioneering across the country in a covered wagon between buffalo kills. And it’s being stored as fat. The bad kind of fat. The kind that sits on your thighs and arms and around that oh-how-I-wish-it-were-even-a-2-pack midsection. Pay attention to the grams of sugar in your foods. Lower = better. Zero = best. Oh, but just for the record, fruit doesn’t really count IMO. I say fruit for everyone! πŸ™‚

7. Dress your salad lightly.

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This tip actually comes from my friend Meredith, so I can’t take credit (though believe me, I’d like to!)

So, you’re on a “diet”. Despite my feelings about the true meaning of that word, let’s just accept it. And as such, you are probably well-versed in the art of eating salads. It’s pretty much a “diet” staple, am I right? Well, I’m about to turn your dieting world upside down. Whether you’re at home or at a restaurant, forget about the whole concept of “dressing on the side”. Instead, ask for your salad “lightly dressed”, or measure out your dressing carefully using, yes, measuring spoons. If you have a container of dressing on the side, the chances are you’re going to end up using the entire amount in the container anyway which is almost always a much larger portion than you need. There’s nothing wrong with spicing up a bed of greens with a little flavor, just make sure you’re not drowning in it.

Additional tip: hummus makes a fabulous salad “dressing”. Forgo the oil & vinegar and just plop a little bit on top of your salad or include a smidge with every forkful. Super flavorful and super good for you!

8. Find a substitute for your junk food triggers.

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I am a chips girl, plain and simple. If given the opportunity, I could demolish an entire party-sized bag of Lays. Oh yes, that sucker would be crushed in a matter of minutes. But obviously that kind of behavior is not exactly conducive to losing weight. Nevertheless, the cravings do occur. So, what did I do? I found a healthier/less caloric substitute. I’m not saying that Popchips are the healthiest choice. I recognize that they are super processed, so don’t get me wrong here. But, if I’m experiencing a maddening salt-and-fried-potato craving, what’s better? Being able to snack on a 100 calorie, pre-portioned bag of Popchips? Or inhaling an uncontrolled 500 calories of oil-laden, greasy, even-saltier Ruffles? I think we know the answer here.

This rule applies to whatever your own snack food achilles heel may be. Crazy for candy bars? Try a Luna or Larabar instead. Can’t live without chocolate? Try an Attune Probiotic chocolate bar instead of Hershey’s. Mexican food the bane of your diet’s existence? Sub greek yogurt for sour cream! You get the idea.

9. Juice!

I need to get back into juicing like whoa. I was doing awesomely with my weight loss when I was juicing regularly. Having a big, frothy green juice in the morning before breakfast 3 times a week made me feel energized (goodbye coffee!) and helped keep me surprisingly full. Just make sure that if you’re going to be juicing a lot that you’re still getting fiber from other sources throughout the day, since you can’t count whatever fiber there may have been in the fruit/veg that you just juiced. Here’s my foolproof green juice recipe: 1/2 cucumber, 1 green apple, 4 stalks celery, a big bunch of kale or spinach, a slice of lemon, and a sliver of ginger. I am going to need to do some serious produce shopping now. I wanna get my juice on!

I realize that juicers can be another expensive piece of kitchen equipment not everyone has/can get (I stole my mom’s, hehe.) Since a blender is much cheaper, feel free to experiment with fruit & vegetable smoothies instead! My favorite smoothie recipe: a banana, frozen berries, almond milk, milled flaxseed, and spinach.

10. Taste the rainbow.

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This is probably the one healthy eating tip you’ve heard the most, so I’m just shoving it in here at the end to give me a nice even 10 tips in total. And no, do not take my clever wordplay to mean that I’m telling to shove a bag of Skittles down your throat. The general rule is that the more colorful your plate, the better it is for you. Of course, this does not apply to anything that is bright and cheery solely because of Blue #14 or any kind of powdered orange cheese, haha. A colorful plate is more appealing for the eyes, more appetizing for the stomach, and more nutritious for the body. Embrace meals that are comprised of multiple colors: red tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, oranges, purple eggplant, black beans, and green, uh, greens. You know the drill!

And that’s ten! Now, as always, take everything I say with a grain of salt since I am not a nutrition professional, medical doctor, or anything like that. I’m just a girl who has used the above techniques to lose 50 pounds all on by her lonesome. But bear in mind that what worked for me might not work for you! It’s about finding the balance that works with your lifestyle and your body. Good luck!

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Posted on May 6, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 18 comments

Weight Loss 101: Eating Out

Hello all! It’s been a little while since the last installment in my Weight Loss 101 series, so I thought I’d get back in the game with an addition of some more of my losin’ tips & tricks. On the docket for today: going out to eat.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to eat out. A lot. I fully recognize that food intake and calorie counting is easiest to do if you cook for yourself, but it isn’t always reasonable to assume that you’ll be able to do that for every meal. As I’ve had to find out the hard way, if you deprive yourself of things that you enjoy, you will only end up crashing and burning harder later. It is totally, 100% possible to still eat healthy and lose weight even if you like to go to restaurants (or in my case, if you like to go to restaurants a LOT, haha.)

You’re going to want to go out to eat. Even if you’re absolutely hellbent on cooking for yourself while you’re losing weight, what about when you move onto weight maintenance? Hopefully you can glean something from this post if you find yourself resisting wanting to spend time with friends or try out a new place for fear of what it may do to your weight loss.

General Tips

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1. Look up nutritional information online beforehand.

This is the number one, most important thing that you can do to make smart choices about what to order at a restaurant. Most restaurants (especially chain places) have all of their nutritional information available online nowadays. Granted, some places may be trying to hide it a little more than others, but it’s usually there. Do a quick online search or head straight to the restaurant’s website to check out your options. In today’s uber-technological world, you probably even have the technology to look up this kind of stuff on the go! So even if you are out with a group of friends and make a last-minute, game-time decision on where to eat, just borrow someone’s smart phone and get Googling.

If looking up the information online isn’t an easy solution for you (or if you’re just looking for another resource), I also highly recommend the “Eat This, Not That” books. The standard book pretty much all existing chain restaurants listed with the best and worst dishes to order, and the special “Restaurant Survival Guide” (I own both) includes even more info as well as some general guidelines on eating out.

2. Budget for dessert (or skip it altogether!)

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My sweet tooth only rears its ugly head every once in a while, so not having dessert when eating out isn’t something I have a fundamental problem with. However, I do know that a lot of people really go to restaurants almost solely for the decadent desserts. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Just keep your cravings in mind, and plan out the rest of your dinner accordingly. Ask to take a look at the dessert menu along with the regular menu ahead of time (as they often offer it separately) so you can identify if there’s something that you just HAVE to have on there.

3. Ask for a takeaway box when your meal comes out, and put half of your portion in there.

I don’t really do this myself, but you’ve probably heard it as a trick for dealing with restaurant portions before, too. Restaurant portions are typically HUGE. They are far more than a person needs to eat in a single sitting, especially if you have any kind of appetizer, soup, salad, or dessert course involved as well. If you’re a devoted member of the Clean Plate Club, you may need to utilize this tip so you don’t end up overeating. Also, revoke that membership. It may be appropriate for kids who refuse to eat their broccoli, but you are under no obligation to finish everything on your plate every time you sit down to eat.

4. Drink water.

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Why drink your calories when you can eat them in the form of delicious food instead? Forgo the soda, juice drinks, fizzy cocktails, and whatnot and just drink refreshing, good-for-you water with your meal (with lemon or lime if you’re feeling adventurous!) Naturally, if you are out for happy hour or something and want a glass of wine or light beer then you should go for it, but just bear in mind that liquid calories are calories all the same, and they won’t fill you up.

Cuisine Guidelines

Naturally, you won’t always have the luxury of being able to look up restaurant information before you go. You may be visiting a small local place that barely even has a website, let alone one that has nutritional information posted on it. So you want to be equipped with some basic knowledge about good things to order that won’t affect your waistline too severely, even if you don’t know the specific caloric count. Here’s a breakdown of tips when dining on some of the cuisines I most often partake in:

American:

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American cuisine is usually full of robust, full salads and light fare. Stick to lean proteins like chicken or fish, and vegetable sides. Ask for dressing on the side. All pretty standard stuff in terms of menu navigation. You should have some good options here.

Recognizing the obesity epidemic that we are all facing, many American-style restaurants even include some sort of “Light Fare” section on their menu. And you should never feel awkward asking your server what some of the healthier choices on the menu are. It might surprise you — I would never have known that the Hong Kong Style Seabass at Coastal Flats was the lightest choice on the menu if I hadn’t asked once. And it was deeeelicious!

Asian:

Sushilicious

Asian food can be a really great choice for diet-friendly food, or a really bad choice. Sushi (my fave!!) is usually a pretty safe bet. For all you ‘phobes out there, just because it’s sushi doesn’t mean it has to be raw! You can get lots of delicious, fully-cooked fish rolls. The ratio of protein to carb is usually pretty good, and it’s extremely filling with all that rice. Ask if they offer brown rice, and enjoy other healthful, vegetable dishes like edamame and seaweed salad as well to round out your meal.

Pad Thai Shrimp

Thai food (another one of my absolute favorites) can be a little trickier. Ka Pow (so fun to say!), Cashew Chicken, or even Pad Thai Shrimp aren’t too bad (bearing in mind that you watch the amount of rice/noodles you actually end up consuming.) But beware of thick curries, which are almost always made with coconut milk and have a high saturated fat content (but are oh. so. good.) Steer clear of thick noodle dishes like Drunken Noodles and Pad See Ew, and be aware that many times the tofu in vegetarian dishes at Thai restaurants comes fried.

Mexican:

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Mmm, Mexicano. Mexican food can be surprisingly good for you… if you know what to do. First things first, always ditch the tortilla. Flour tortillas (and even corn ones!) add hundreds of unnecessary calories to your meal. Do it like Chipotle and eat your burrito bowl-style. Turn your fajitas into a salad. And just, you know, don’t get enchiladas. The same rules applies for the shell of your taco salad, as well as the big basket of chips that inevitably get parked in the middle of your table. I know it can be difficult, but practice restraint and you can reward yourself with an extra spoonful of guac.

Super Guac

Speaking of which, guacamole > sour cream. Always. Guacamole may have a lot of calories, but it comes from healthy fats. Ditch the sour cream altogether, and be sparing with the cheese, too. Feel free to load up on the salsa though! I’m not how true this is, but I hear a lot about how spicy foods help slightly speed your metabolism so the hotter, the better! Fish tacos are UHHmazing and a much better alternative than beef.

Italian:

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Well, I have to say that this is a toughy. Italian food involves pizza, pastas, heavy meats, creamy sauces, and extreme deliciousness. My basic tips would be to always choose a tomato-based sauce over a cream-based sauce, forgo pasta dishes for lean proteins (hello mussels!) and vegetable sides, and recognize that Caesar salads, despite their misleading name, are actually not very good for you.

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And leave that bread basket alone! Almost all Italian places (and most nicer restaurants in general) will offer you a bread basket to gnaw on while you’re perusing the menu. Granted, I rarely ever actually follow this rule because I love bread, but then again I also have only lost like a total of 5 pounds in the past two months. So take from that what you will, huh?

Eating out is part of having a life. It happens. And it generally results in good times and (hopefully) great food! Hopefully some of the things I’ve listed here will help equip you to make healthy (or at least, healthier) choices when eating out. Diet may be a four letter word to some people, but it does not in any way mean you have to stop enjoying your life. I certainly know it’s not stopping me from enjoying mine!

What other cuisines are you looking for tips on how to dine healthily on? Do you have any tips that I’ve missed? I want to hear from you guys!

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Posted on Apr 5, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101, Working Out | 15 comments

Weight Loss 101: Get Movin’

Hello all! I hope you’re having a grand morning so far. In the first two posts of my Weight Loss 101 series, we discussed resources to help prepare you for embarking on your weight loss journey, and the steps you can take to really get your new, healthier life started!

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So at this point you’ve probably started to revamp your eating habits a little bit. Maybe you’re just looking at what you’re eating more conscientiously, maybe you’ve calculated your BMR and are seriously calorie counting – whatever level you’re at, you’re doing it right! Knowing is half the battle (thanks PBS!) so just being cognizant of your eating habits goes a really long way in terms of weight loss!

Today’s post really only has one theme, and I’ll admit that this is the part of my journey to health that I continue to struggle with the most: exercise.

1. Move.

That’s it. Just move. One bullet point. That’s my big message for today.

Don’t get me wrong, guys. I hate to exercise. Like, really, really don’t enjoy it. So I feel your pain, and I see your eyes rolling, and I see that finger just itchin’ to X out of this window because you’ve heard it so many times before. I really, truly get it. ‘Cause that was me! I mean, shoot, let’s me honest: that’s still me.

I don’t like being sweaty, I don’t like feeling out of breath, I don’t generally like the thought of being in pain… I’ve just always been this way. The last time I played a sport was in 8th grade. And only because when I was younger it was “strongly recommended” by my parents that I play a sport (read: I was forced.)

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Exercise has never come easy to me. But I do know that in order to live a truly healthy life, exercise has to be a part of it. So I’ve tried really hard to broaden my horizons and test out different things: Zumba, running, yoga, Bikram, and even a VERY misguided attempt at P90X.

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I still haven’t discovered exactly what it is that I LOVE doing, but I am enjoying being able to try out new things, be active, be social, and be healthy! I’ve been surprising myself lately by actually wanting to go out and do something more active than catch up on overflowing DVR some afternoons. And admittedly, it is pretty sweet to be able to say that I’ve completed not one, not two, but THREE 5Ks (something that I would have outright LAUGHED IN YO’ FACE if you had suggested it to me 9 months ago.)

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Nobody’s asking you to train for a marathon, or even to start running at all. Start walking. Or swimming. Or biking. Or dancing. Join a meet-up group that has kickball tourneys. Or an ultimate Frisbee team (as it continues to warm up, that’s my plan!) I’m still trying to find the things that I love to do while getting some exercise in, but I really do believe there’s something out there for everyone, and it just takes a little experimenting to find it! πŸ™‚

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I know I say this a lot on my blog, but seriously. If I can do it, anyone can do it. It just takes a little determination, a little willpower, and a LOT of willingness to look silly. But it’s worth it when you can pick up a 50 pound weight and say:

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Holy crap on a stick! This amount of weight used to be ON me! And it is REALLY frackin’ heavy!

Or, you know, the same sentiment in a much classier way. πŸ˜‰

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Posted on Mar 28, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 26 comments

Weight Loss 101: Getting Started

First of all, thank you all so much for your kind comments in response to yesterday’s weigh-in post! I really couldn’t have gotten even this far without all of your support. And while I still have a little ways to go, it’s kind of strange to have such confidence that I’m going to actually get to my healthy weight this time! Who knew? πŸ™‚

So, my first post in this whole “Weight Loss 101” series o’ mine explained my weight loss story, how I decided to finally start doing things the right way, and listed some resources where you can do research on the proper way to lose weight before actually changing anything about the way you live. Today we’re going into some action items. You ready? πŸ˜€

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, registered dietician, or medical doctor. All following information is simply based off of my own experience and research in attempting to live a healthier life.

Getting Started

While in the first post I went over some resources and tools for you to look into prior to starting your weight loss journey, these are now my general weight loss tips and to-dos:

1. Figure out your current caloric intake.

rapid_weight_lossBefore you even start dieting, you need to figure out how many calories you’re actually consuming. Carry around a small notebook for the day, or download an iPhone/Android app, and log every single thing you’re putting in your mouth. This includes not only meals and snacks, but that peanut butter finger you’re sneaking after breakfast, the two Hershey’s kisses from the candy jar at work, and don’t forget about LIQUID calories! You may not even be aware how many little things you’re overlooking on a daily basis, and those little things literally add up.

2. Calculate your BMR.

Weight LossWeight loss really is pretty simple math. Calories consumed – calories burned = weight gain/loss/maintenance. It really is that simple! You can easily figure out how many calories you naturally burn just by being alive (your Basal Metabolic Rate) utilizing one of the ten kajillion online BMR calculators out there. Just remember, the more overweight you are, the more work it is for your body to function and the more calories you’ll burn naturally. For example, right now (at 196 pounds) my BMR is 1728.5 calories/day. However, at my starting weight of 246 lbs, it was 1946 calories/day. That’s over a 200 calorie difference that I now have to make up by either further limiting my intake or upping my exercise and burning more throughout the day.

3. Start Losin’

weight-loss-tips1 pound is said to equal about 3500 calories. So if you know how many calories you burn, and how many you’re consuming, you can calculate your intake/outtake for a 500 calorie deficit and lose 1 pound a week. If you discover that you were previously consuming 2300 calories a day, lower it to 1800 and see where that puts you. I started out by lowering my caloric intake to 1500. Obviously, the heavier you are to begin with, the more calories you’re likely to burn just by breathing and thus the more weight you’re apt to lose (I lost nearly 11 pounds my first week – unthinkable!) Use a calorie counter to help you with this! Estimating in your head will NOT be enough in the beginning. You may be able to get to that point in time, but for now you really should be counting every single thing you eat in order to get a realistic perspective of how to balance the rest of your day.

4. Eat! (Nutritiously.)

Healthy_FoodI know that I’m putting a lot of emphasis on calorie counting here. And I do think that is important, and is the most integral tool in how I’ve lost my weight so far. However, I made the mistake when I started this journey of only concentrating on the caloric content of food, and not any other nutrition facts. I was living off of frozen Lean Cuisine dinners and diet sodas for the first few weeks before I started getting really tired of eating all that processed, sodium-laden crap. So, my suggestion for anyone who is contemplating starting a journey of their own is to start eating whole, nutritious foods right off the bat! The good news is that many of the foods that are so good for you, are also super low in calories! You can eat more, get more nutrition, and feel less deprived. That’s a win-win-win in my book. πŸ™‚

Go crazy with your fruits & veggies, though be wary of high-calorie ones like , potatoes, avocados, and bananas. Definitely eat these nutritional powerhouses – they taste awesome, after all! — but just be sure to factor in their caloric density. Leafy greens, apples, pears, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes (different than reg. potatoes), celery, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mushrooms, sea vegetables… the list is endless. And delicious.

Stick with lean proteins – poultry & fish. Red meat is much higher in saturated fat and calories. Obviously don’t deprive yourself of steak if you’re feeling a serious craving for it, but measure your portions (a 3-ounce portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.)

Try out new ways of cooking that don’t require the use of lots of oil or butter. Steaming is a fantastic option. In fact, I would say to cut out butter as a cooking ingredient completely if at all possible, replacing it with heart-healthy olive oil instead (but still be sure to calculate the oil into your daily caloric intake!)

Replace all white flour products with whole wheat. If you’re going to be eating things bread, pasta, and rice anyway, you might as well make it better for you, right? Go for the whole wheat varieties of these carbs. They are better for you, will keep you full longer, and taste really good! I love the hearty texture of whole grain bread (and be sure you’re getting “whole grain” and not just “multigrain” varieties — they’re not the same.) Try Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Flourless Bread for something different (and uhhhmazing!) Just be aware of the fact that just because it’s whole grain (and good for you) doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want — I’ve made this mistake more than a few times, haha.

Sidenote: If you have an issue with the heartier texture of whole wheat pasta, my suggestion is to overcook it. Cook it longer than you’re “supposed” to, and it will more closely resemble the softer, looser texture of white pasta.

Enjoy nuts, seeds, nut butters, Β with a conscience. These are amazing for you, and will help keep you full and satisfied. However, they are also VERY calorie-dense. Just measure out your servings and you’ll be fine!

If you don’t already own a set of measuring cups, spoons, and a food scale, invest in them. Measuring your portions takes time and can be kind of annoying, but is especially important in the beginning. I bet you’ll be surprised from both sides when you actually start measuring. For example, 2 ounces of pasta (about the width of a quarter when you wrap your hand around it) is admittedly less than thrilling when you measure it out, but 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is actually a lot! I was really surprised by how off my own personal estimations of portions are.

I feel very strongly that you need to have a realistic idea of how many calories you are consuming and burning in order to lose weight properly. My weight loss journey has NOT been a miraculous, speedy one! It’s taken me almost 8 months to lose just shy of 50 pounds, and I’m most definitely not done yet. But I really feel, and believe me, I know how hard it is to hear, you have to lose the weight slowly in order to do it right. I’ve lost weight quickly in the past (crash diets, Atkins, etc.) only to have it surge back in a vengeful fury weeks later (and naturally, it brought along a few extra pounds, too!) You didn’t gain 20, 50, or 100 pounds overnight, so you can’t expect to lose it that quickly either.

I hope that someone is able to find these posts helpful! Please comment with your own weight-loss tips, to-dos, or regimens! Look forward to future posts covering fitness (what I’m still working on most!) and meal planning (another thing I suck at, but want to improve on.)

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Posted on Mar 23, 2011 in Dear Diary, Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 17 comments

Weight Loss 101: Where to Begin

Since I’ve started my weight loss journey, I’ve received a lot of questions from friends and family about my methods. Questions about what program I’m on, what miracle diet I must be undertaking, or what magic pill I’m popping (oh goodness how I wish there were a magic pill.) It’s gotten me thinking that rather than solely use this blog as a means to extol my daily activities and meals, I’ll try to be at least somewhat educational as well. I know that I give an overview of my methods on my Goals & Progress page, but it’s not really a place to get information for where to go next if you’re looking to further educate yourself on healthy living.

The other day I received an email from my coworker asking the following question:

“Do you have a website or blog you could recommend on nutrition? I want to be knowledgeable!”

After responding to her email, I decided to use the list of resources I sent her as a basis for this post. These have been proving instrumental to my health and weight-loss success thus far. I’m thinking that I may try to turn this into a kind of Health 101 series if I keep getting questions about things and if people are still interested in hearing it!

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, registered dietician, or medical doctor. All following information is simply based off of my own experience and research in attempting to live a healthier life.

Where to Begin

So the majority of your life has been spent ordering take-out and your best friend is the guy who mans the drive-thru window of your local Wendy’s? You’re in the right place.

So you’re a seasoned dieter who has consisted for years on Diet Dr. Pepper and Lean Cuisine frozen dinners? You’re in the right place.

So you’re a disordered eater, with vague concepts of health and nutrition but feel unable to translate that knowledge into real-world application? You are definitely in the right place.

And even if you’re a health nut, nutrition expert, and just looking to brag about your already rad skillz, you’re in the right place (even if only to elaborate on what I’m trying to say!)

It all begins with your story. How you came to be where you are, and what made you decide to change.

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March 2010

My Story

When I made the decision in August 2010 to lose weight, I was all of the above (save for the whole knowledgeable health nut part of the equation, haha.) I was caught in a vicious cycle of binge eating and deprivation, living off of junk food and processed frozen diet dinners, diet sodas and desserts. I dabbled in bulimia, never exercised, was depressed, unhappy, and unmotivated. I was sitting not-so-pretty at 246 pounds, which even at 5’9″ is way, way, way too much. I was unwilling to admit that I had expanded into wearing size 18 jeans and showed no signs of stopping.

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April 2010

While I did have a specific moment where I finally decided that I was going to, once and for all, get healthy and lose weight, it didn’t come as the result of seeing an unflattering photo (I have many) or a comment from a crude observer or concerned friend (had plenty of those, too.) It was just like one morning, it clicked. I was fat. I was unhealthy. Each day I went on living that way, I was putting myself at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, joint, muscle, and bone problems, and the list goes on. So, I decided at that very moment that I was going to start this blog so I couldn’t wimp out like I had in all my past diet attempts, and that was that.

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I knew that this time had to be different. I had tried it all, literally: Atkins, South Beach, Slimfast, diet pills, cabbage soup – you name it, I’ve probably tried it. And each time I lost any weight, I gained it all back and more in the end. So I knew that this time just HAD to be different. And while my motivation might have been slightly different, in the beginning my means and methods really weren’t. I still started out with nothing on my mind but calorie counting, which was most easily achieved by buying pre-portioned things like “100 calorie snack-packs and the aforementioned Lean Cuisine frozen meals. I still wasn’t exercising with any regularity (though let’s be honest, I’m still not, hahahaha.) While the weight was coming off regardless, I still wasn’t feeling that much better – physically, emotionally, etc.

So I dove in to trying to figure out what it really meant to try to lose weight “the right way.” And I turned to the following resources in an attempt to broaden my nutritional knowledge and figure out where to start:

Do Your Research

1. http://eatright.org: the website for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

This website is a wealth of information about healthy living, nutrition, and just how to get started in general. If you’re ever interested in pursuing a career as a nutritionist or dietitian, this is where you want to go as well.

2. http://fannetasticfood.com: the food and fitness blog written by Anne P., my sister’s high school bestie and aspiring registered dietitian.

Anne’s blog was the first healthy living blog I started to read and what ultimately inspired the creation of Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! She has tons of easy-to-navigate recipes (including ideas for 5-minute packable lunches that I have found instrumental in making healthy eating at work feasible!)

3. http://caloriecount.about.com, http://calorieking.com, http://dailyburn.com, etc.: a calorie counting website.

While I don’t count calories as strictly anymore (though maybe I should be, since perhaps that’s been a reason I’ve struggled to get through my recent plateau!) in the beginning it was especially crucial for me to really log my specific caloric intake. That way, I knew exactly how to portion out caloric intake throughout the day. There are plenty of great calorie counting websites out there, I just randomly chose Calorie Count and also downloaded their mobile app to my iPhone to help me track calories easily on the go (they also have a great forum to get inspiration from / questions answered!)

On the road again

There are tons more websites and personal blogs dedicated to live lives that are healthy and happy, so I encourage you to also check out my Blogroll and find some other means of encouragement and education out there. Also, if you’re not on my blogroll but would like to be, just let me know! I often forget to update it when I start reading new blogs… this is a good reminder. πŸ™‚

I wish that I had done more research in the beginning of my weight loss journey on proper nutrition and balanced eating, but I’m trying to catch up now. I started off dieting the only way I knew how – with processed, sodium-laden “quick fix” frozen meals that ultimately don’t leave you satisfied. In future posts, I hope to dive into further detail on the components of my diet, how I’ve gone from complete couch potato to 5K completionist (pretty sure that’s not a real word, but I’m rolling with it), and showcasing other resources (including books and movies) that have contributed to me making the diet and lifestyle choices that I currently am.

Where to?

January 2011

I know it may seem overwhelming when you think about overhauling your entire lifestyle in an attempt to get healthier. Which is why the purpose of this series will be to show you that you can take it one step at a time. Do your research first, start educating yourself, and we can slowly begin implementing changes next. πŸ™‚

Hoooo boy! This has been a lot longer than I anticipated. I’ll leave you for now, but if you have any questions or suggestions for specific areas of knowledge that you’re interested in learning more about, please leave a comment and I will get to it in future posts. Like I said before, I’m hoping to turn this information into a series that covers all the how-tos of starting to live a life that’s happy, healthy, and free!

‘Til next time! πŸ™‚

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