Friday, February 8, 2013

Losing weight without dieting

I've been instructed by myfitnesspal to limit my calorie intake to something significantly lower than what I'm used to eating. And it has been a struggle, to say the least.

First, it's hard to say "no" to beer and peanut butter cups on a nearly daily basis. But I've gotten pretty good about consuming those things only when I really want them instead of out of boredom. That's cut down on my calories quite a bit.

Second, decreasing my portion sizes and relearning what a normal meal is has also been a challenge. But with measuring cups and scales I've been able to readjust my understanding of what I should be eating and I don't look at my meals like, "That's it?" nearly as much as I used to.

But the most difficult part of all this has been finding a way to eat all my regular foods without going over my calorie allowance. I've said before that I don't eat a lot of junk food (with the exception of beer and chocolate). I don't really like sodas and I've never felt the need to smother everything in cheese and butter. That is not to say I don't like cheese and butter, because I very much do. But I grew up on a normal dose of this stuff so cutting it down to normal levels hasn't made as drastic a change weight-wise as it has for other people. And I really like fruits and vegetables. Always have and always will. I eat them voraciously which really can be a problem.

As a result, I don't have weight-gaining habits that are easily identifiable and thus changing the most common things hasn't had as big of an effect on my weight-loss as it does for other people. I simply need to eat less of everything I currently put into my mouth, whether it be fewer trips to the pho place (take-out portions are deliciously ginormous!) or less ice cream in my bowl.

My goal for losing weight this time around is to make it sustainable and learn to live a life that will last me for years after I've reached my goal weight. For that to happen, I can't eliminate entire food groups, like carbohydrates, because I can't stay away from bread and pasta forever. Yeah, I could probably do it for a year or two, but not forever. As soon as I bring carbs back into my life, I'll most likely gain weight and/or have to learn how to moderate it then. I'd rather do the learning now instead of putting it off until I'm (hypothetically) thinner.

Another thing I'd like to avoid is eating the stereotypical diet foods like mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes or Crystal Light instead of the occasional soda. Normal-sized people eat full-fat ice cream and mashed potatoes and manage to stay normal. I have a regular metabolism, so why shouldn't I be able to do that? (Besides the obvious...because I'm losing weight and need a calorie deficit to make that happen.)

I can't always control what is being served to me at dinner parties, restaurants, or a cafeteria, and therefore it will most likely be the farthest thing from diet food. As a result, I want to be able to function in the real food world without always worrying about full-fat meals being put in front of me. This doesn't mean I will always order the 4-cheese macaroni and cheese bowl every time because my skinny friend does it. But I don't want to be that person who doesn't go out to eat with people or avoids dinner parties because I'm worrying about what will be served.

So the question becomes, how do I eat fewer calories without changing my diet? I guess it all comes down to portion control, will-power, exercise, and moderation. I can still have my gnocchi but I won't make it the main part of my meal. Baking cookies can still be fun and delicious, except I won't be eating the entire batch of cookie dough in one sitting*. And that beer will cost me an extra 15 minutes on the bike. I'm okay with those things because they all seem so normal, while having spaghetti squash instead of pasta just isn't.

None of this will be easy but I am seriously getting the hang of it slowly but surely. I still slip up occasionally and sometimes I can't resist the allure of that chocolate bar on the coffee table. But I try to make sure I earn my nights out and don't eat more calories than my body burns. If I learn to survive and be happy on 1500-1600 calories of normal food now, I can definitely keep that up for longer than this diet will last. As I get thinner I'll lose weight more slowly if I keep with these calorie goals, but I can offset that by exercising more. Or by that point I will have learned to get more bang for my buck with regards to food so dropping to 1200-1300 calories won't be so shocking for my body. And when I get to a more manageable weight, I do plan on being more active. My out-of-shapeness is holding me back from doing things right now, and I hate that.

Maybe I'm being incredibly naive and should embrace this new life of "dieting". Maybe I just need to suck it up and accept that I will no longer have those potatoey mashed potatoes. But I really don't want to. I want to be normal in the food world because for as long as I can remember I've been the opposite of that. I've worried too much about my weight and about what I eat and I'm so sick of it.

I know that food and choosing what I put into my mouth will always be a problem for me, and I will always struggle with my weight in one way or another. But I'd like to minimize this crap by at least eating normal foods, maybe less of them and less frequently, but normal foods nonetheless. I can't be on a "diet" forever, so why should I be on one now? It simply goes against everything I hope to accomplish with this current lifestyle change, one that seems to be working...for now at least.

*Notice the positive verbs I'm using here? "Can" instead of "can't" and "won't" instead of "can't"? It's been shown that people who use power words have better success with whatever they're trying to achieve.

And I can totally see that. Saying I can't do something is depriving myself of it and when I feel deprived, I don't continue with the "diet". So now I just don't do things instead of not being able to do things. It's worked surprisingly well for me.

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