How To Lose Weight Without Counting Calories - And Keep It Off!
Who am I to be telling people how to lose weight? I am not a doctor. I am also not a nutritionist. Heck, I'm not even employed!
What I am is a person who has been overweight my whole life.
I've done some of the fad diets. I've taken some of those pills. I've done outright dangerous things to myself just to try to lose the weight. Some of them worked over the short term, some of them managed to make me sick. All of them left me discouraged and hating myself even more than I did to begin with.
The bottom line is that many of these things do not work for many people. Everyone is different and one diet plan does not fit everybody.
The reason that I am writing this Hub is to share my experiences and to hopefully give someone out there the inspiration and the tools to do it too. Though I'm far from thin and may, in fact, never be, I've done a lot of work to change the way I eat, what I eat and why I eat it.
Please take the following to heart, though: Before beginning ANY diet plan, consult your doctor. You may have special nutritional needs that need to be met or specific things you may have to avoid. The following information is for only for people who do not have major medical concerns that are affected by diet.
In the Beginning...
If it tastes great, it's bad for you.
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, this is true. My weaknesses are Doritos, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls and Wild Cherry Pepsi, and none of these things are good for me.
Strict diets work when they are followed correctly, but I couldn't handle the psychological problems that came with failures. If I went over my 1,000 daily calories I felt worthless and the guilt was awful. If I gave in to a craving, I felt I'd let myself and everybody else down. If I went a day without counting calories, I figured there was no point in continuing to do it. And off the wagon I went. Obviously these things didn't work for me, and they likely didn't work for thousands of other people, too, or we wouldn't be a fat nation. So, I decided to do things a little differently. I decided to change my life.
On week one of this new 'lifestyle change,' I quit drinking pop. On week two, I cut out the cakes and other sweets. Week three saw potato chips and other salty munchies go out the window. On week four, I said goodbye to fast food. And it worked.
I found that by removing the things that caused me the most problems with my weight gradually, I found I didn't want them as often. I stair-stepped my way out of junk food. For every item that I removed from my life, I added something that was healthier for me. When I stopped the sugary sodas, I started adding water and diet drinks (though, since I found out about the side effects of aspartame, I've dropped the diet pop). I ate yogurt and granola bars instead of cakes. I'd bring carrots and ranch dressing to work to have instead of chips. I started ordering Chinese food steamed with the sauce on the side and brown rice or a turkey breast sub on multi-grain bread instead of my daily Quarter Pounder with Cheese and bucket o' fries.
And it worked. I am lucky in that I genuinely like a lot of the more healthful food, so it really wasn't as hard for me to make these changes than it would be for someone who hates vegetables and granola. The trick is to replace the bad things with the good things that you actually like.
I did not count calories, carbs or fat grams. I did not measure my food or deny myself anything. I did keep track of everything I was eating on Spark People, not to count fat grams, calories or anything else, but to have a visual tracker for everything I ate.
Moderation absolutely is the key when trying to lose weight. We can eat literally anything we want, it's just that some of us tend to eat entirely too much of it. It takes willpower to pare down the amount we eat. It isn't easy. There are a few things that I did to accomplish this.
First of all, people tell you to only eat when you're hungry. This didn't work for me. I found that, when my metabolism is at it's lowest, I rarely get hungry. So I forced myself to eat small amounts of food several times a day. I stopped skipping breakfast, and ate about the same time every day. My schedule went like this:
- 7:00 AM: Breakfast, usually a couple of granola bars, some oatmeal or fruit.
- 10:30 AM: Snack. An apple, or a handful of nuts or even a small serving of potato chips.
- 12:30 PM: Lunch. Often a sandwich on whole grain bread because I prefer it, with some yogurt, cottage cheese or some fruit. I'd also occasionally have steamed Chinese food instead of stir-fried.
- 2:30 PM: Snack. Sometimes I'd have fruit, pretzels, granola, or I'd save an egg roll from lunch and have it then.
- 5:30 PM: Supper. This is almost always a smaller meal than lunch, and a plateful of food with mostly vegetables, or a salad.
- 8:00 PM: Last snack. This is often a bowl of cereal - I like Honey Nut Cheerios.
This really did work for me. By eating small amounts at regular times I noticed I was getting hungry occasionally. I'd sped up my metabolism and I started losing weight faster than I had by skipping meals or calorie counting.
The thing about eating the cake is true. If you want it, eat it. I found that denying myself something made me concentrate on it and obsess over it. By allowing myself to have it when I really wanted it, I didn't focus on it as often.
It will take some work to get into the mindset of eating less and more healthy. For me, it didn't happen overnight - it took weeks to get it right. But I found I had more success doing it this way than picking a day and completely rearranging my diet all at once. It's almost like a four-step program.
It is extremely difficult to change our eating habits and lifestyles, or else we would all be able to do it. But keeping yourself encouraged is probably the most important part of losing weight. Here are a few things that are working for me.
- Again, if you want the chocolate cake, EAT THE DANG CHOCOLATE CAKE. It's not rocket science. Nobody said you had to eat half the cake, but eating a small slice (and eating it slowly) will satisfy the craving. If you allow yourself to have small portions of the things that are bad for you, but only in moderation, you are removing one possible way to fail - and the guilt that goes with it.
- Something else I did was the hamburger trick. It sounds weird, but go to your grocery store, find a package with a single pound of hamburger in it and pick it up. Feel how heavy it is. Look at how large it is. Then imagine one of those for every extra pound you are carrying. It is staggering to understand the reality of it. Just reading this won't do it. You actually have to hold that pound of meat in your hand so that you will comprehend exactly what that extra poundage really feels like. Now, when you've lost ten pounds, go to the grocery store and put one pound of hamburger beside ten pounds of hamburger. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but think about it. You can see the first pound you lost, and you can see what the next nine you lost look like too. It is a stunning visual reminder of the success you have already had as well as a powerful incentive to continue.
- Everybody has fat days, so don't give up if your favorite pair of jeans that were falling down a couple of days ago are a little less loose today. It will happen. And understand that it could happen for no reason, especially if you retain water. It is not the end of the world if you do gain back a pound anyway. You lost it once, you can do it again.
- I stayed as far away from a scale as I could. I did not want to see the numbers going up occasionally, even though I knew they would. As a result, I have no idea what I weigh now. I toyed with the idea of buying a scale, but nixed it on principle. I've come this far without one, I don't need it now.
- If you've made progress, tell somebody. If you've dropped five pounds, make a Facebook status about it. Tell your best friend, your husband, your kids - chances are they have already noticed the changes, but getting a pat on the back for any other achievement is acceptable, so is losing weight.
This kind of lifestyle change has to come with responsibility - you owe it to yourself to do this the most healthy way you can.
I would caution you here about 'diet' products. I found myself buying a lot of those 'freezer' meals - you know, the ones with words like 'healthy' in their product names? These are okay occasionally. What I found was that the portion sizes are way too small for a body to get full, and they are absolutely LOADED with chemicals and added salt. I'm much better off eating a bowl of salad with some left over chicken breast in it than any fancy-worded gourmet something that I found in the frozen food section of the Food Lion. In case you are wondering, I do not eat low-cal or fat-free salad dressing, either.
Low-calorie butters or butter-substitutes are also not good for us. Google the effects of these things and then decide if you still want to eat them. A pat of the real stuff won't hurt you, just don't eat a pound of it.
Likewise, watch out for low-cal, low-sugar, low-everything snacks. What they lose in taste, they make up for with chemicals, preservatives and other nefarious ingredients. My general rule of thumb is: "If I can't pronounce it, I'm not eating it." I fail with this fairly often, because Oreos have all kinds of ugly things in them - but they taste so good! I do not, however, kick myself in the butt for eating the Oreos. Remember that.
And I know a lot of people swear by diet soda, but that stuff is NOT good for us at all. Scientific studies have shown that most artificial sweeteners are not good for our bodies and can cause a host of ailments. Diabetics should be especially careful with them, as recent studies show that NutraSweet especially can cause blood sugar levels to rise, as well as giving people intense sugar cravings. People with bi-polar or other psychological disorders should pay careful attention to the side effects of this stuff, too. If you need a glass of pop, drink the real thing - but in moderation. Yes, your calorie count will suffer for it (If you're counting them), but you will be better off having a glass of fully-leaded pop than slowly poisoning yourself with those chemicals.
Hello New You
I still have a long way to go. After topping out at 397 pounds, I'm down to around 275-ish. I've lost the weight, found it and lost it again, rinse and repeat. I'm 5' 3" and 41 years old, and I sometimes think about how many years I've tacked on to the end of my life with the weight I've already lost.
The one thing that sustains me, even though I have ditched my 'lifestyle change' occasionally for even months at a time, is that I need this for me. I love myself enough to do it. I'm not doing it for you, for my family, or anyone else.
The whole point of this Hub is to give you a different view of how to lose the weight. Use my suggestions or don't. Mix a few of them with your favorite diet plan and get out there and walk off your butt.
You owe it to yourself.
© 2012 Georgianna Lowery