Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and she asked me an interesting question which started a 30+ minute conversation and then got me thinking that maybe I should make a post about this… We chatted about how I am working on my health and losing weight and regaining my life back. She was very happy for me and asked me what I changed in my diet to support the weight loss because it is common knowledge that weight loss and fitness is more than just exercise and it in fact starts in the kitchen!
While there is more to my fitness journey than food, like supplements and vitamins, no one wants to read a 20-page blog post (I’ll save that for my dissertation). Below is a view into what my diet consists of and why.
This is always drilled into us as the most important meal of the day and the skipping this is detrimental. Well, I have to admit that breakfast is almost never on the table (ha, literally) for me -weekdays or weekends. I usually wake up around 6:30am during the weekdays (and that is after hitting snooze a few times) and have to get ready for work and out the door in a little over an hour (yep, I push it close). So sitting down to have toast or cereal or oatmeal…none of that is on my morning list of things to do. So long as I have a few minutes to have my coffee and grab the headlines, I am good to go.
Now you could say I should wake up at 6:00am and make time for a meal but beyond time, I am also simply not hungry. I do not want, nor find the need, to consume calories when I am not hungry. It is almost like eating just for the sheer fact of eating and that is not at all necessary. In fact, the days that I eat breakfast like when I am on a vacation or at a conference, I feel sluggish and bloated.
So what do I have? I have my coffee with almond milk and agave, along with a few vitamins that I can take on an empty stomach, and I’m good to go. I gave up dairy milk about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back though I do consume dairy-based cheese and ice cream so this is not due to an lactose intolerance. I just simply did not like the taste of dairy milk nor did I like the treatment of cows to get said milk but that is for another day. I use agave over stevia or sugar or any other sweetener for a few reasons. Agave is a natural sweetener from the blue agave cactus so if you have ever had tequila, you’ve basically had agave. It has a lower glycemic rating than sugar and because it is liquid, it will mix better in hot or cold beverages. It has a slight earthy taste by itself but once mixed with my coffee, it cannot be tasted. I have tried stevia and have not liked the taste or aftertaste so I stopped testing the 1385 variations I found in the grocery stores. I don’t like other sugar alternatives because of the chemical compounds and eventual breakdown (equal and sweet-n-low have been linked to unsafe levels chlorine once dissolved).
If I start to feel hungry, I will grab a handful of raw or roasted, unsalted almonds. Almonds are low in fat and have been recently linked to heart health when consumed on an empty stomach because it acts similar to fiber in pushing out that gunk. I may also have a banana to help with my potassium intake and my very small sweet tooth.
This is always the heaviest meal of the day for me because I know I am going to be able to burn it throughout the day. I will make sure that I take the time to eat my meal too because a lot of times we are rushing through the day and scarf down whatever is available. I bring food from home that I cooked earlier in the week whenever possible and will make sure it is balanced with some sort of starch and some protein; when I have a salad, I will make sure to have a protein like tuna or chicken and a few crackers. This will keep me going throughout the day without feeling hungry. I also make sure to portion out my food and will usually only take one small individual-sized Pyrex with my whole lunch. Quick to heat and easy to eat.
When I feel a 3pm-dip coming on, I always have some sort of snack on hand that is not a candy. bar, a donut, or some other heavy food. Again, I tend to turn to a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, or dark-chocolate raisins. Sometimes on the weekends, I will have some string cheese and a few crackers since I know dinner will most likely be late. If it is going to be a long day, I may snack on a protein bar or a granola bar as well. I will also have a detox tea without sugar or honey -this just helps keep my tummy full and regular without bloat or gas.
First rule for me is that I will not eat a heavy dinner. Second, 7pm is my cutoff. Why? Because I know I need to be in bed by 10pm and sleeping by 10:30pm — sleep is one of the other BIG weight loss and healthy actions for the body and I need at least 8 hours. So when I do eat, I tend to have a like protein like chicken or fish and always have to have some sort of vegetable -salad, corn, asparagus, broccoli…
When I do workout, because of my work schedule, it happens to be at 6 or 6:30 in the evening so when I do eat “dinner” it is always after 7pm. When that is the case, my “dinner” is almost always the same –a good-sized bowl of greek yogurt with granola that I buy at Sprouts or Whole Foods and I will add chia seeds and flax. The chia seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein while the flax is a fiber-source; the yogurt is full of enzymes that help regulate my digestive tract as well as, for women, help with our lady parts; the granola serves also as a fiber and expands in the stomach to help me reach that “full” feeling and not feel deprived. Sometimes I may change things up and add a few shakes of my “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s or a little honey for a hint of sweetness.
Never ever deprive yourself of something because that is when you will fall off the wagon and spiral. Now I do not tend to have a sweet tooth but when I want something sweet, I have yogurt ice cream bars in my freezer which surprisingly are delicious (coffee flavored of course) or some fruit -cherries, watermelon, figs and peaches are my favorite when in season.
Now this is what I like to call my secret weapon since I refuse to count calories, cut carbs, or heaven forbid drink those disgusting and useless shakes. Water is the staple for our bodies since we are over 70% water and every organ and system needs water to sustain operation. I actually have an app on my phone that reminds me to consume more water so on my days when I have horse-blinders on and forgot to even eat, I will always remember to drink my water. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day and when I have a workout day, that is the bare minimum.
When I feel adventurous and have the time, I like to add some flavor to my water by adding fruit or herbs. This helps keep things different, adds some vitamins and minerals, and serves as motivation to drink more. It is amazing how adding a few strawberries to your bottle will make you want more water.
Water also helps keep me feeling full so I will always drink a glass before a meal and I will have at least one glass during my meal, whatever that may be.
As I mentioned before, I do not and will not deprive myself of the things I enjoy just to shed a few pounds faster because when you have a “cheat day” or a special occasion, you are essentially counteracting everything you do on your other days and may even feel depressed which is detrimental to the success of the journey.
So when I want a beer or some wine, I will consume it in moderation and will make sure to balance it out with my meal, my workout, and my water consumption. For example, if I have a bottle of beer with dinner, I will have a glass of water as well. If I have some popcorn or chips, I will make sure that I will go an extra 10 minutes or take a small walk. If I have some tempting gelato or pizza, the next day will be a salad and few extra ounces of water.
I also have to mention that I will not turn to meal supplements like SlimFast or shakes that promise to help you lose weight. I have done more than enough research and those are all a part of fad diets. I do have protein powder in my kitchen and protein bars at my desk at work. I will admit that I have tried quite a gambit of shakes and meal replacements in my day and they are not effective, especially long term. Yes, you may feel better the first few days, but the longer you deprive yourself, the worse it gets and the harder it is to stay on track. Also, if you want the vitamins and minerals that these powder drinks offer, you may want to look at actual vitamins that your body, based on your needs, will actually help.
So tell me, what diet have you tried that has helped you? What is your daily food regimen?