Last week I was at a party with a group of friends. We were all standing in a circle in the kitchen. At one point the conversation turned to weight loss. One friend explained that she is a believer in the paleo diet. She lost ten pounds in a few weeks. Another friend said she loved the grapefruit diet and had lost quite a few pounds with that. It was clear that they all found ways they could lose weight but were all there still talking about needing to do it again. I couldn’t help wondering why they never asked what I do to stay thin. I’ve been the same weight for 25 years, give or take 5 pounds here or there (BMI between 18 and 19).
Perhaps they thought I am one of those “freaks of nature” who can eat whatever they want and don’t gain a pound. Maybe they thought I don’t experience the same struggles they have with food. Or maybe they thought I would judge them for their struggles.
Here’s the thing. All are untrue. I have to be careful about what I eat, or I will gain weight. It is a struggle for me, especially in a culture that is set up for us to be overweight. As far as judging other people, I don’t pay much attention to weight issues in myself or in others. In fact, I’ve felt judgement about my weight. I’ve had people comment when I’ve put on a few pounds, or make comments about what I am eating.
I would have loved to share my thoughts on the matter, so I decided to write them down. I am not a dietary expert. I’m just a person who has found success in maintaining a healthy weight, sharing how I’ve done it. My running coach always said that if I want to be a fast runner, I must get inside the head of a person who is already fast and try to adapt their way of thinking.
So here it is — the things I do to maintain a healthy weight:
1. No Diets
What I would have said to my friends is that I don’t diet. Ever. Even when I’ve gained a few pounds over the holidays. In fact, I fear losing too much weight too fast because I know the dreaded hunger and weight gain is just around the corner. My biggest fear isn’t gaining weight, but getting stuck in the vicious cycle of diet, gain, diet, gain.
2. Exercise for Long Term Results
I exercise but I don’t use it to influence my weight. I think exercise is great in the long term for helping with a faster metabolism, and I notice that when I exercise hard, I get a little hungrier, but for me the best way to maintain weight is through diet. Exercise is something I do to enhance my life. It helps with staying trim, but more in the long term, over years, not weeks or months.
3. Eat a Healthy Base Diet
I focus on my base diet, which is my every day, normal diet. If I have a good base diet, there is room for eating cookies or chocolate at a party, or as a treat. As a rule, I don’t keep junk food in my house. What is in my normal diet? Fruits and vegetables of course. I haven’t always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, but the more I eat them, the more I appreciate them. I’ve found success with fruit/veggie shakes (the kind where I put whole fruit and vegetables in a blender, fiber and all).
I also eat nuts, almost daily. For dinner I mainly eat chicken 3–4 times per week and vegetarian meals the others. I sometimes eat red meat and pork but keep it to a minimum. As for junk food, I save it for parties and holidays, and maybe occasionally otherwise. I won’t lie, every few shopping trips I buy some dark chocolate, but I only eat a square or two a day and I try to make it last a while.
4. Eating Out in Moderation
I don’t eat out much. I seriously don’t know how people who eat out regularly could stay thin. The portions are too large and the food too calorie rich. I know it is hard because we are all so busy. I am too. However, I think it is important for overall health to learn how to plan and cook good food. I could not cook until well into adulthood. If I can learn, there is hope for everyone. On a side note, I don’t enjoy cooking all that much, but I’ve learned to like it more. I do it for my health.
5. Watch Alcohol Intake
I might get hate mail for this one — I don’t drink a lot of alcohol. The one thing I notice is drinking more frequently causes me to put on unwanted weight. When I do drink, I stick with one, maybe two drinks, but never more. It messes me up for several reasons, I don’t sleep well when I drink, I have more cravings, and I don’t feel my best. Last holiday season, I went to more parties than usual and got in a cycle of drinking wine more regularly. I noticed a higher than normal weight gain. When I took a break from drinking, I lost the few pounds I gained, and I felt so much better overall.
6. Focus On Happiness
I try to be relaxed about my weight. For instance, I don’t weight myself much — maybe once or twice a year. I try not to focus on the numbers because it puts me in a more obsessive state of mind, which makes me gain weight. Instead, I try to focus on things I can do to make me happier. I believe being thin doesn’t make you happier but doing things you love will. Furthermore, if I focus on my hobbies, I don’t think about food and therefore, don’t battle it as much.
7. Getting It Right Is a Process
If I have a day where I eat too much, or eat too many bad foods, I move on and don’t worry about it. Having a good diet is a process not a decision, so I just try to do better next time. Every day is a new day.
Let me be clear, I don’t expect everyone to do the same thing. We all have different priorities and lifestyles. I am merely expressing what has worked for me. I also believe we all have different body types, and different shapes and sizes, all beautiful in their own way. The article is only about what has worked for me and to encourage others to find their own success without those dreadful diets.