So... as someone who has experienced success in this department, I figured maybe y'all might like to know how I've done it. I do need to point out here that I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not a doctor or nutritionist - this is just what has worked for me, so please remember to take everything I say with a grain of salt.
First of all... the numbers. I'm 5 feet 8 inches tall. At my peak I tipped the scales at about 175 pounds and wore a size 16, or thereabouts. At my skinniest I got down to 120 pounds and a size 2, but ultimately decided that weight was a bit too skinny for me, and not the healthiest.
These days my weight ranges from about 132-142 (I always wish those would be nice round numbers like 130-140, but they just refuse to be). I usually wear a size 6, but I've got stuff in my closet that includes sizes 4-8 - it all varies depending on how much I'm exercising, sleeping, and stressing, how good I'm being about sticking to my eating principles, and of course the cut of the clothing (why are some size 4's bigger than some size 8's?)
So here's my basic approach to this stuff.
First, and most importantly, you have to completely forget the idea of "dieting" as most of us understand it. This is not some sort of temporary thing where you follow a bunch of crazy rules for a short period of time and then go back to "normal".
You have to think of this as creating a new way of eating and moving that is sustainable over the long haul. Trust me, if you return to your old behaviors, you'll return to your old body too.
OK - so the cliff notes version of my system can be boiled down to two words: Vegetables and Exercise! Basically, in a nutshell, my success is due to increasing the amount of those two things in my life.
Of course, it's not that simple, so here's an outline of my basic principles.
- Three Meals a Day. I have the best luck when I eat 3 square meals every day with no snacks. I know some folks say you should eat 4-5 small meals per day but this has always been a disaster for me because it leaves me feeling hungry ALL. THE. TIME. I do best when I keep it simple an stick to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Carbohydrates are for Energy. I vary the amount I consume considerably depending on how much exercise I'm getting. Unless I'm gonna be out cycling for 2-4 hours that day, I try to keep my consumption down to about 2 small servings per day.
- Sweets are Treats. I used to think that it was OK to have sugar regularly if I ate it in moderation. But for me, this is a recipe for disaster because A) I have no willpower... once I start I can't stop. And B) it just wreaks havoc with my blood sugar and throws me into a cycle of exhaustion and hunger. So while I don't completely abstain from them, I only have them once in a while. For me that means once every few months. To get my day to day sweet fix I eat fruit - about 3-4 servings per day.
- Beware the Simple Carb. Things like white flour, white rice and even alcohol are converted to sugar almost the instant they hit your system, so they can end up having the same effect as eating a pile of candy. I limit this sort of thing to my once a week movie night with CatMan. Usually this means either some white rice with Chinese food or pasta in lasagna, popcorn and a glass or two of wine.
- Protein is Power. I make sure that I've got a nice serving of protein at every meal because it makes me feel satisfied and keeps my blood sugar stable. For me that means one of the following: 2 eggs, one small piece of chicken, or one small piece of fish. On rare occasions I'll have a small serving of beef or maybe some legumes, but things like tofu, soy and fermented veggie proteins give me migraines so I try to avoid them.
- Veggies are your Friend. I try to build all of my meals around a big hefty serving of veggies. They're filling, low in calories, low in carbohydrates and loaded with nutrients. I think I heard somewhere that you should try to "eat like a gorilla" so I enjoy hefty portions of greens, salads, roasted veggies, stir-fry's and vegetable casseroles.
- Move to Live. Somehow in the modern world we've managed to separate "exercise" from every day living. Part of my approach is to make movement a part of my day to day existence. This means that I do things like walk or bike to run errands, garden, fix things around the house and just generally try to make sure that I include movement in my day to day life.
- Sports are Fun. Since I was a little kid I've always enjoyed sports. I'm a huge sports fan and unashamed of it. During my fat years I used to feel like I needed to "work out" all the time and it felt like a big chore. But then I re-discovered sports and remembered how much fun it was. These days it's mostly cycling, but at other points I've been obsessed with hiking, skiing, swimming, softball and yoga. (OK - yoga isn't really a "sport" but you know what I mean.) If you can find something that you love doing for the pure joy of it, it stops feeling like work.
- Muscles, Muscles, Muscles. The one place where I do a bit of traditional "working out" is with strength training, but it's not what you might think. I do what's called "slow weight lifting". This just means that I keep some hand & ankle weights along with a yoga mat by the television and try to turn some of my "Netflixing" time into "NetFLEXing" time. I find that having a bit more muscle mass really helps me to maintain my weight, plus it just makes everyday stuff easier because it's easier to lift things etc.
- Sleep is Sweet. I read a completely non-scientific study once where they took a group of stressed out women and had them commit to getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. They all lost about 20 pounds effortlessly. I think there are studies that show that when you don't get enough sleep your body actually metabolizes food differently, and you go almost into a pre-diabetic state. I know from my own experience that when I'm sleeping well it's much easier to maintain my weight.
- Drink More. Water, that is. They say you should drink 8 glasses of water per day, and while I don't always get there, I try. Staying well hydrated gives me more energy and satisfies my need to "have something" between meals.
- Be Happy! I know it sounds crazy, and that it's sometimes easier said than done, but keeping my stress levels down and just generally giving myself a break makes it soooo much easier to maintain my weight. I think there's actually science to back this up - stress releases cortisol which is a steroid hormone that causes you to gain weight. Anyhow, allowing myself to goof off when I feel like it and not sweating the small stuff is a big part of my system.
So there you have it! I'm not sure if it will work for anyone else, but that's the plan I used to lose weight and I really have kept it off for 20 years now.
Sorry this post was so long, but believe it or not, this was the condensed version! Anyhow, I'd love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you!