I really love food. Really, really love food. Ever since I can remember I ate a little more than what was necessary, and I can still hear various family members and friends telling me so.
Growing up in Romania, we didn't have many choices, or the luxury of being picky, whatever was in front of us, we had to eat.
I remember my first day in USA over 10 years ago, opening our refrigerator was an astonishing experience, as I've never seen so many food varieties in a refrigerator at once. Later that day we went downtown San Diego, where my husband introduced me to the irresistible Cinnabon and an American classic, Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Everything was new to me, tasted great and I wanted to try all the various cuisines that my new home had to offer.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and boy was I happy, or so I thought, indulging in all the amazing foods I was discovering every day.
Needless to say, 6 months into my new life I wasn't fitting into any of my clothes, and every time I went shopping I was buying a bigger size. I have been on the chubby side for the most of my life, but this weight gain happened at a very fast pace, from 150 to almost 200 pounds, all within a 6 month period after arriving here is the US in late 2006.
Me at 195 pounds
In the meantime, I donated most of my smaller sizes, convinced that I would never be able to wear them again.
That was my wake up call, I knew I wasn't comfortable with my weight anymore and something had to change.
First step in this new life style approach, was to learn about these tiny creatures called calories, that just sneak up on us when least expected. I had no idea about protein, carbs, fiber, etc, but I started writing down what I was eating throughout a day and tallying up the astonishing amount of calories I was actually consuming daily. The best thing that came out of this project, is the fact that I had realized how much we tend to underestimate what we really eat in 24 hours.
Not wanting to go on a specific diet, I decided that I would not change the amount of food I was eating, however I would adjust the calorie quality.
Slowly, I started seeing a few pounds dropping here and there, which began my confidence building, and a desire to actually learn about food and nutrition. During this process, my only exercise was 30 minutes a day of stationary bike; I am convinced that when it comes to losing weight, 80% is what and how much we eat, 20% is exercising.
There is no mathematical equation for losing weight though, and everyone responds differently, find what works for you.
Reading labels when grocery shopping is a key factor, that's how I became more mindful of stuff that doesn't contribute to my body's health. Slowly, replacing empty calories with food that is less processed came more natural.
Finding simple swaps you can live with is key to feeling fuller and happier during this lifestyle adjustment. I don't like feeling hungry, so for me being able to eat a decent amount of food but not calorie-dense was huge. That's how I started introducing more fruits and vegetables into my every day meals, life changing! Never ever did I feel bad or guilty for enjoying fresh produce, and I still love it today, craving it when I don't have it.
There are so many alternatives out there, for example, eating whole wheat pasta instead of white, the same with rice, bread, and so many other grains to try: kamut, amaranth, bulgur, farro, buckwheat, and of course the very main stream quinoa.
I definitely don't want to sound like this whole thing of losing weight is not a big deal, easy breezy you just wake up one morning and you have it all figure out. And feeling deprived sucks, so have that buttery croissant or whatever it is that makes your taste buds sing, but once a week, not every day. 80-20 rule, as I call it, those 20% are to enjoy reasonable amounts of whatever you want.
It's all about finding a healthy life style we can maintain and enjoy. That's why I don't care for diets and meal plans, it's not realistic, what do you do on vacation, or when out at a nice restaurant, where there's no Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig?
There will be days when you think nothing is working, you have hit a wall, this is too hard, all these anxiety inducing thoughts, but never give up. Even if you miss a week or two of clean and healthy eating, just stick with the plan, get back into the routine and you won't be disappointed!
Me at 143 pounds and healthy!
The road may be bumpy, but stay committed to the process, it's a learning experience and most of all it should be enjoyable and maintainable.
Get plenty of sleep and fiber, two of my favorites, can't tell you enough how important they both are for the overall wellbeing.
Throughout this process I learned that I enjoy cooking very much. Going to the grocery store is an experience every week, as I pick up fresh ingredients and think about ways to transform them into delicious and nutritious meals.
I believe food doesn't have to be complicated or take hours and hours, and if you allow me, I'd be honored to share some of my ideas with you.
Feel free to ask questions or leave comments!
Hi Angie, thank you for your support. A rule of thumb for me is to have fiber with every meal, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. They fill you up and help digestion. Some of my favorites for breakfast are: avocado toast, scrambled eggs on leafy greens, oatmeal, plain yogurt with chia seeds, nuts and fruits, sauteed mushrooms with eggs. It keeps me pretty full, therefore I don’t need much for lunch, maybe a fruit salad, trail mix I make myself, a protein bar,( by the way, the best bars out there are Quest, loaded with fiber & protein). And for dinner, I have a protein: fish, chicken or meat, grains (one of my favorites are lentils) and a salad or roasted veggies. Sometimes I make pasta, or we’ll share a pizza with salad, or try something fun and different I picked up at Trader Joe’s as the main dish with a salad on the side. It all comes down to being aware of how many calories are in the foods we eat, once we get used to reading labels and apply it in real life, it becomes a little easier.
For those of us who aren’t good cooks, could u share a whole day of how you see a good balance? For instance Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack?
And, it would be terrific to share some recipes with us that you like…for weight loss and normal eating. Congratulations and Thank you. Angie
Hi Kris, thank you for your comment. I believe that counting calories is the most successful way to lose weight. First, determine how much you should consume daily to meet your goal, that can be done with a calorie-count website or app. It all depends on gender, weight, height and activity level, once they make a suggestion, try and stick with that for a little while and you’ll see changes. This is what got me becoming aware of how much I was eating each day. Be diligent in recording everything, it’s really not that time consuming and you’ll get a better handle of where to go from there.
I went to high school with John. I really enjoyed reading about your journey. I struggle daily with this because I have a thyroid problem and it’s really hard to keep weight off. I watch what I eat and drink a ton of water daily. Do you have any suggestions for me? I follow the 80 20 rule as well.
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