Having your cake and eating it too
I don’t know about you, but I look forward to eating. Every meal is 15-30 minutes of pure heaven where I’m clocked out from life and all that matters is me and my fork. With that in mind, I only prepare food that I can be excited about eating! After my struggles with consistent and sustainable dieting in the past, I live by the concept of “eat more good stuff and less bad stuff”. Dieting is a balancing act inside your head. I don’t believe you can eat 100% good stuff and be truely satisfied, and I know from experience that eating 100% bad stuff will leave you bloated, sick, and unhappy. I had my work cut out for me when I started my diet, because growing up “vegetables” meant either canned green beans or buttered corn. As a child, I had never been exposed to healthy foods except for the few times when my Uncle David came to town and gave me grammar lessons at the dinner table over a steaming plate of asparagus and artichokes (which I still hate, sorry Uncle David).
When I started my diet, I knew I needed to prepare nutritious meals that would not only fill me up, but also discourage my long-standing affair with drive-through restaurants. With visions of Pinterest meals dancing in my head, I drove to Starbucks with a notepad, a pen, and a 100% charge on my iPhone. I got to work, Frappuccino in hand, scrolling through various sights writing down ONLY the things that actually looked appetizing to me. When I got done, I looked at my list and was shocked. It was foods I already liked eating, but prepared in a healthy way! I made my way to HEB late that night to ensure I would be one of the only people in the store and could take my sweet time looking at the labels on the food I was considering. It took me several hours, but I made what I thought were healthy selections and went home to prepare the meals for my first week on my diet.
Starting out, I prepared a lot of steamed vegetables and granola bars. Not joking. That’s what I saw heathy people eating, so that’s what I prepped. However, I realized that as the week went on and I grew tired of the bland meals in my lunch box, I was more vulnerable to cheating and ultimately falling off the diet wagon for good. I noticed my body craving carbs, sugar, and meat on a daily basis, even when my belly was full from a recent meal. I know that when pregnant women crave weird things, it’s because their body is lacking a mineral found in that food. So with that concept in mind, I altered my very strict diet to include food I’m eating today, like whole wheat tortillas, high fiber blueberry muffins and sourdough pretzels.
Imagine a smoker whose been smoking for years. They are without a doubt addicted to the nicotine in their cigarettes. Now imagine that person stopping cold turkey. The nicotine cravings would be horrible (which is why most people start smoking and never stop). New studies support the idea that a body can become addicted to refined sugars and caffeine just like it can become addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. My body was taking in between 3000 and 5000 calories a day, most of that being carbs and sugars. To try to stop that intake cold turkey and go to fruits and vegetables wasn’t healthy for my body and it was downright destructive to my mindset. Looking back, I realized I could not have made a better executive decision. For me, the choice was easy. It was a choice between eating vegetables and granola bars and inevitably cheating several times a week, or making meals I enjoyed with a healthy serving of carbs and lean meats.
This won’t be my diet forever. I’m slowly adjusting my carb and sugar intake, such as a smoker might adjust their cigarette consumption when trying to quit. My mother always taught me to listen to my body – and that principle has truly shaped the way I diet today. My body tells me it needs carbs, I give it carbs. My body tells me it needs caffeine, I give it caffeine. And since I have started allowing my body small, healthy portions of carbs and caffeine, my cravings for fast food and processed drinks have decreased almost to the point where I don’t have any at all (maybe one a week).
Allowing my body to have healthy amounts of carbs has played a monumental role in my weight loss. I truly cannot hype this enough. I no longer cheat during the week and when I go out to restaurants on the weekends, it’s second nature for me to choose a healthy option whereas before I might have overindulged and ordered the worst thing on the menu without a second thought. Dieting does not have to be a death sentence to you happiness. I guess sometimes you CAN have your cake and eat it, too.
I’m very blessed to have a job I love, that just so happens to make it easier for me to lose weight. I am on my feet all day, overseeing jobs and monitoring the actions of other employees. I work long shifts, which not only increases the amount of physical activity I do throughout the day, but it also enables me to take short breaks which I use to eat.
My typical day looks like this. Wake up at 4:45, leave the house at 5:15. Drink a cold bottle of water on my way to work, and clock in at 6:00. I normally drink 32 oz of water between 6:00 and 9:00. At 9:00 I eat my breakfast, which is normally 2 high-fiber muffins or a Special K Protein Shake. Between 9:00 and noon I normally down another 32 oz of water. At noon I eat my biggest meal of the day, always. No matter what I have prepped to eat for the week, I always eat the meal that takes up the most room in my lunch box at noon. Between noon and 2:00 I drink about 16 oz of water, and at 2:00 I have my snack. My favorite snack is either cubed cheese and gluten free pretzel sticks, or 2 hardboiled eggs. Between 2:00 and 3:30 I drink another 16 oz of water. I normally go to the gym right after I leave work, putting me there around 3:45 of 4:00. I drink at least another 32 oz of water while I’m at the gym, sometimes more. When I leave the gym I either drink my protein shake or a small Gatorade, depending on what I did in the gym that day. I normally get home between 5 and 6, shower, and go to bed shortly after.
**disclaimer: I really really really like sleeping**
So that’s my daily routine. Water all day long, as much as I can drink. 3 small meals, and 1 workout. Any given day I take between 5,000 steps (just a light work day) to 15,000 steps (heavy workload and cardio after work).
My biggest challenge on a daily basis is drinking water. I hate water. But water is ESSENTIAL to weight loss. My smallest challenge on a daily basis is cheating. When I’m at work, I only have the food I brought with me that day. I don’t keep snacks in my filing cabinet and I don’t keep candy on my desk. Cheating is literally the last thing on my mind.
On the weekend, though… That’s a totally different story. They might as well slap a sign on my forehead that says “Caution: Struggle bus coming through” because I struggle with everything. I struggle to get exercise, because I normally have plans all weekend long and my gym is 25 miles from my house. I struggle with the temptation of food, because it’s all around me. I struggle to get enough sleep, because somehow my weekends are busier than my weekdays (really don’t know how that happened because I love sleeping). I struggle with water intake, because I’m normally running around a shopping mall or getting my nails done. Weekends are really hard for me. I try to choose healthy options at restaurants. I try to eat smaller portions of home cooked meals. I go for a walk around the block if I can fit it in. But weekends aren’t typically good for me.
Yet somehow, through the cheat-induced weekends with little to no exercise and little to no water, I’ve still managed to lose almost 30 pounds in less than three months. I credit my success largely to the strict schedule that I maintain throughout the week. I give my body the nutrients and calories it needs to keep going – no more. I don’t indulge. I eat small, prepared meals throughout the day. I track my calories eaten vs. calories burned with the apps Lose It! and Fitbit. And I try to get a workout in at the very least three out of the five days of the week. I sleep as much as I can, but at the very least I get 7 hours a night.
I'm not saying life doesn't happen, because that would be a lie. If I have to come to work at 4:00am, I still eat my breakfast at 9:00. If I have to stay late, I will have a shorter gym session and not as much sleep. If I have a headache, I might down a Coke Zero. If I have a bad day, I might go out to eat with a friend. Life happens. And the main difference between my current weight loss journey and journeys I've taken in the past, is that NO MATTER WHAT I get back on my schedule the very next day. So I broke down and went to McDonalds. Okay! I'll just try not to do that tomorrow. So I was craving Starbucks and went and got myself a Venti Caramel Frappuccino with no whipped cream. Cool! Don't do that again for a while. Forgiveness is important. I forgive myself for cheating the same way I forgave myself for being fat. I accept it, and try every single day to change it.
I already know what happens when I give up. I want to see what will happen if I don't.