|Whole Wheat English Muffin with Peanut Butter & Banana!|
Please keep in mind that all the changes I discuss were made over the course of years. I think it would have been impossible for me to make all these changes at once. For me, that would be a recipe for failure. Rather I baby-stepped my way through these changes, one at a time and didn’t make another new change until I was totally comfortable with the previous change. Our bodies crave comfort and familiarity and maintaining some of those comforts gave me the strength to succeed with each new change. Some of these changes were tiny and easy to make, others were very difficult and took a long time to accept and absorb into my ‘normal’ life. However, with each change I felt healthier, had more energy, and the pounds were coming off, albeit slowly, but this validated my efforts and motivated me to continue on my journey to better health.
The first and most painful change I made when I wanted to start eating healthy and lose some pounds was I stopped eating a plain bagel with cream cheese for breakfast every single day. It was a hard change, but I knew I had to start somewhere and I knew that bagel and cream cheese was not a healthy way to start the day (even though it was so delicious!) So I switched to eating cereal. Then I switched to eating healthier cereal, then to high fiber cereal, then to flavored oatmeal in water, then to plain oatmeal in milk with maple syrup and walnuts, then to plain oatmeal, no syrup, cinnamon and walnuts. Then I reduced the amount of OJ I was drinking to 5oz. This is working so I’m in a holding pattern with it. But I like it, it fills me up and provides me with whole grains, protein and the complex carbs needed first thing in the morning to get going and fuel my day!
Here is a brief summary of how awesome oatmeal is for you:
Bread, Pasta, Couscous
I love pasta and I used to just sit down with a huge bowl of pasta nearly every night. I used all different types of ingredients and sauces, but there was always one constant – pasta! With bread of course. I didn’t watch portions; I only thought fat was bad and pasta was low fat, so it must be good. Well as the tides were turning in the health world and there was more talk about good fats and watching overall calories I realized I was downing a lot of calories and I’d typically end up with a very full belly and feeling very sluggish afterwards, sometimes even painfully full.
So I started cutting back on how much pasta I was eating in one sitting and how often I ate it. Eventually I switched from eating white pasta to whole wheat pasta. Then I made the switch with other grains, such as: white couscous to whole wheat couscous, white bread, to whole grain/ whole wheat bread, basmati rice to whole wheat basmati rice. All the while I was also cutting back step by step on portion sizes and how often I ate them.
Of course, when you cut back serving sizes of grains, you have a gaping hole in your plate, so I started adding more veggies to fill the gap. Veggies are naturally low in calories so this was a great weight substitution, not to mention all the extra vitamins and nutrients I was ingesting.
Now I realize that I feel better when I’m eating more veggies instead of the pasta, bread and couscous I used to eat, and my dishes are lower in calories and I don’t feel sluggish after meals anymore. I do not miss that painfully full feeling one bit.
To be clear, I have not cut pasta or bread or rice etc. out of my diet, because I really enjoy them, but I consider them a special treat now, to savor every once in a while, instead of every single day. And I typically measure to be sure ¼ - ½ cup total on my plate so I can’t over do it!
One thing I did to increase my Veggie intake was start creating meals that I referred to as "Veggie Blasts". Simply put, it would be any meal that provided multiple servings of Veggies. Typically these meals provide 4+ servings in one sitting, hence the "Blast" title. These can be raw or cooked variations of Vegetables and include some protein (typically beans, but also nuts and/ or meat/ fish as well). Many of these meals are listed in the "Main Dishes" section, found here:
As well as the Salads section, found here:
|Arugula and Baby Spinach Summer Salad|
Yes, I started eating more salads. I used to hate salads until I realized there was a simple way to make one that was super yummy & filling: put ingredients in them that you love and always be sure to include some protein and good fats, to accompany the fiber of all those veggies! In a couple easy steps, you can always have an Awesome Salad. To read my take of How to Make an Awesome Salad Every Time:
For years I did all sorts of aerobic type exercising, from Jazzercise, to walking and/ or jogging, to all kinds of exercise tapes at home. However, I was never thin. Of course at the time I was working at a sedentary job (sitting at a desk in an office all day) and was still up to all my previous eating habits: eating tons of low fat simple carbs (pastas, breads, bagels etc) and not nearly enough veggies/ fruits or whole grains, and plenty of desserts and high calorie drinks. It wasn’t until after the following changes that I started to see the pounds come off:
- I started changing my eating habits, one little change at a time, as discussed in this blog.
- My job as a full time stay at home mom forced me to be on my feet all day long. My workouts became running around after two active boys: around the house, around playgrounds, around the yard and neighborhood. Also I have had lots of opportunities to do walking with the stroller as well. When I’m not running around with them or pushing the stroller I’m standing: to wash dishes, cook food, blow bubbles, fold laundry etc. I spend most of my day on my feet which of course helps with the caloric burn.
- I started doing some exercises with weights (a 5 pound weight in each arm) and doing various exercises to maintain my upper body strength so I could continue to comfortably pick up, hold or carry my two growing sons. Roughly 15 minutes, twice a week. Muscle mass requires more energy = it revs up your metabolism 24 hours a day!
- At the same time as I do the arm exercises I also do squats as well, in an effort to keep my legs strong; a lot of squatting is required with 24 hour mothering! Strange side not here: I was having balance/ form issues with squats and tried doing them in heels – much easier! And the burn on the thighs is more intense, so it’s a win-win. I’m sure it looks ridiculous, but I’m not going to complain about the result!
I realize that as my sons grow bigger and more independent and go off to school I will have to adjust the amount of exercise I need to do to maintain my health and weight. But at this point, this level of exercise coupled with my lifestyle and eating habits seems to be working for me and of course leaving room for improvement for more little changes to improve my overall health.
Pizza Night Changes
Friday night has been pizza night in our house for years. I had no desire to eliminate pizza from my life – I love it! So I had to figure out a way to make it healthier for me and my family. We used to eat Frozen DiGiornos Cheese pizza nearly every Friday night. It was affordable, easy, yummy and filling. But I knew it was loaded with sodium, carbs and saturated fat, with little nutritive value. So we switched to making homemade pizza, with store bought refrigerator pizza dough. Then we made the switch to using whole wheat pizza dough (thanks Trader Joe’s!)
Around the same time we started adding veggie toppers like onions, olives, garlic, mushrooms, arugula, avocado etc. Once comfortable and used to the whole wheat dough/ crust, we then switched to a lower sodium tomato sauce. After trying various sauces, we ultimately ended up using a ‘no salt added’ marinara sauce for our pizza (Thank you again Trader Joe’s!) which was actually delicious even though there was no added salt! We now often use the part skim shredded mozzarella cheese instead of the full fat option, or other lower fat cheeses, like Feta or Goat Cheese or fresh Mozzarella. And guess what? It still tastes awesome! It is still pizza after all.
We made these changes slowly enough that I think it would be a shock to our mouths and bodies to eat a DiGiornos at this point. We love our new pizzas and we love feeling a little less guilty in knowing that we have made some healthy changes to decrease sodium, calories, sugar and saturated fats, while increasing whole grains and nutrients in the meantime. Nobody should have to live without pizza!!
For years I ate chocolate every single night. I would buy a ton of the ‘fun size’ candy bars, all different types, and then every night I would sit down pick out two to eat for dessert. Years of this. Then I switched to healthier chocolates that didn’t have artificial sweeteners or colors. Then I switched to dark chocolate. Then I started eating an apple for dessert once or twice a week, like on a Monday or Tuesday. That increased to more nights a week.
Now I’m up to probably 5 nights a week either eating a healthy/ fruit dessert or no dessert at all, thus saving 1-2 nights a week for a special treat of some sort, chocolate or otherwise, I have a sweet tooth I have to appease after all! And I firmly stand against deprivation, which seems to be the surest way to fail when you are trying to improve your health or shed some pounds.
And it is easy to enjoy those apples for dessert knowing that in just a few more days I can enjoy a little bite of something really yummy and decadent, like a chocolate. For me an apple is the perfect dessert because it is sweet and requires a lot of chewing which makes me feel like I’m eating a lot, even though I’m not, and it cleanses my palette, thus discouraging me from eating anything else.
The changes I made for dessert time are among my most recent, as they were the hardest for me to make. Every time I was ready to make another healthy eating change, dessert fell to the bottom of my list. I wasn’t ready to give up that special treat/ chocolate every night. All my other changes seemed possible if I knew that at the end of the day I would have that chocolate/ dessert treat. However, after making so many of the above changes through the years, I knew eventually I would have to change my dessert eating habits and took it very slowly. I consider this change to be my biggest achievement in making new healthier eating habits part of my life! And now instead of feeling deprived, on the contrary, I feel more deserving of my treat, and as a result enjoy it more, because I know I ‘worked’ throughout the week to deserve it :)
The above is part of a series which will discuss different types of changes that I have made to my eating habits, my lifestyle and even my home, over the last ten years, that have helped me drop pounds. Other topics include changes I’ve made regarding: eating grains, snacking, beverages, breakfasts, portions, exercise and meal planning, among others. This of course, is a work in progress!
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