Since I started blogging, I’ve heard a lot of the following:
“Uh huh, that’s great about the motivation and the working out and everything, but what about your diet? Can you tell me what you eat and don’t eat? What should I eat and not eat?”
The truth is, I don’t feel particularly confident blogging about my diet, because I don’t have any silver bullets. If anything, the process of losing and keeping off 100 lbs has forced me to realize that there are no silver bullets. There’s only hard work, and who wants to hear that?? Nobody.
I can’t provide you with a food plan. I don’t have a list of what should be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even for myself! But, I have guidelines that I follow and rules that I abide by, and of course I’m happy to share.
Step One: Calculate Your Baseline
Take a minute to figure out your resting metabolic rate. Online calculators are readily available. These calculators are not precisely accurate (you’d have to get medical testing for that) but, they are handy tools for figuring out your ballpark. Once you know what your resting metabolic rate is, you will know how many calories you can afford to consume each day.
I, for example, have a resting metabolic rate in the neighborhood of 1500 calories/day. So, if I want to maintain my weight, I need to eat and drink 1500 calories/day. If I eat more than that, I gain weight. If I eat less, I lose weight. And, of course, working out earns you some wiggle room.
Not that I ever grit my way through a workout in the name of earning enough wiggle room to enjoy a glass of wine or anything…
Step Two: Food Journaling
When people ask my advice on diet, I always recommend starting a food journal. Write down every single thing that you put in your mouth. EVERYTHING. Every bite, every sip, all of it. If you’ve never tracked your food before, you’ll be astonished by how quickly those little nibbles add up.
Food journaling helps you to learn what 1500 calories (or whatever your target may be) really looks and feels like. When I first began my food journal, I was knocked entirely sideways by how little 1500 calories really is! Holy SMOKES! No WONDER I gained so much weight in the past. 1500 calories is a mere fraction of past norms.
Your food journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a scrap of paper will do. All that matters is that you have somewhere to track your consumption, so you know where you stand at any time during the day. Here’s a sample of what mine looked like when I was staying in a daily calorie deficit:
See? Nothing fancy, but worth it’s weight in gold. It would be really easy to forget that random stick of string cheese if I didn’t write it down and add it to my totals.
(Sidebar: My food journal reflects my personal preferences. As you can see, I’d rather eat as little as possible through the day in the name of the sensation of indulgence in a big, delicious dinner. This won’t feel good for everyone. If you would rather space out your calories, then do what works for you. This is only meant to demonstrate the tracking of it all.)
Step Three: Don’t Eat or Drink Anything That Isn’t Labeled.
It’s awfully hard to keep track of your calories if you don’t know how many of those little buggers are in the foods you’re eating and the drinks you’re sipping. So, if the object of your desire doesn’t provide nutritional information, don’t eat or drink it.
This means a lot of home cooking. It means careful inspection of what a serving size really is. When I track 110 calories on pretzels, it’s because the label says that a serving contains 110 calories, and that a serving is 18 pretzels. Think I’m that crazy person counting out 18 pretzels, one by one? You bet your ass I am.
When I make dinner for my family at night, I track the calories in my ingredients as I go. Then, when I have a full-meal total, I know what percentage of it I can afford to take for myself.
And that’s about it. Hope it helps!
It’s not easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. It’s just a long string of little choices, all made in the right direction.