Losing Weight Quickly With Diet Tweaks
Which diet are you trying?
Which diet are you trying?
Starting Out Overweight
You can probably guess how everything started out. I was the kid growing up that was always eating something -- whether it was carrot sticks with ranch dip, chocolate bars and Skittles, sour beef and dumplings, or string cheese. Obviously it was all a blast as a kid -- I would eat delicious yummy eats, and the only times that it worked against me were when I went to the dentist and had a mouth full of cavities, and when kids picked on me for being "big boned".
But once you get into middle school and especially high school, you start to see the mirror in the pupils of the person you're talking to. Everywhere you look, you see the worst possible image of yourself, and for me, that meant I was...not elegant. I had a bit too much stomach, thighs which made me wear pants that were too big, and a lack of real interest in skin care or hair care.
The quality, or lack of, that mom always wanted to talk about was weight. I was 15 going on 200 when I moved to a new city with new classmates, and fortunately, new cuisine. For the first time, I hated the food that was around me all the time, and so I slowly started losing weight until I became a more svelte 185. Hell, I felt like David Hasselhoff with my chin up high once I got under 190. And I even made my way down to 180, then 175, and made a semi-permanent home at 170 pounds.
With the gift of high metabolism, I kept my weight more or less constant during the high school years even though I stuffed myself with disgustingly poor nutritional choices. And everything caught up once I got into college and I decided that playing video games deep into the early morning, and wildly irregular sleep patterns shattered my metabolism. I gained pounds by the handful and added a freshman 15, a sophomore 10, junior 15, and senior 5 for a grand total of 215!!
For my average height, 215 officially put me in the Obese category on the BMI scale, and boy did I feel obese. Not only was I out of breath after climbing two flights of stairs, but even sleep didn't serve me well. I would wake up 5-10 times a night and I showed symptoms of sleep apnea which I'd never had earlier in life. I donated clothes from my skinnier days and took a long look at myself in the mirror, and noticed how I was sticking out on the left and right since I'd added some inches to my waist. And yet food was my anchor, my savior for when my self esteem hit new lows -- there was always a new burger to try at McDonald's or Wendy's, and french fries at every establishment within a five mile radius. It was all downhill.
And then I went to a wedding. After jamming myself into a suit 2 sizes too small, I waddled my way around the event with my face turned down so that relatives couldn't recognize me from my high school days. I felt ashamed on a lot of levels and listened as I heard people saying things about how healthy I used to look, and how my mom must feel since I'd gained that much weight.
The guilt made me right the ship. And so I began a new food journey.
Much like a football team that just fired a strict coach goes to a player's coach, I decided to go from fast food heaven with sodium-preserved burgers and fries to a paradise of colorful vegetables. I knew that if I went full vegan that I wouldn't stand a chance when eating out, so I accepted milk, cheese, and eggs for the immediate time. After all, I wasn't trying to earn certified vegetarian status, I just wanted to lose weight and find my old self!
I learned to taste and enjoy kale chips, falafel, roasted peppers of all colors, oyster mushrooms, sesame leaves, broccoli with cheese, and I ate a lot of brown rice to try to keep full. It's amazing how quickly my body started to change. Within 3 months, I had already dropped 10 pounds, and was only waking up a few times a day. My snoring had started to lessen and I no longer had the sick feeling that I associated with eating Big Macs and Whoppers.
Unfortunately, I also got tired of just eating vegetables very quickly -- 97 days to be exact. For all the weight I had lost, I felt like it had cost me several pounds of muscle in addition to the fat around my waist. I was energetic yet could no longer pick up heavy items, and I've never had so much trouble moving from one place to another. So I decided to make a couple of tweaks to keep my momentum going.
Eat Your Veggies
The next frontier
So now that I've fought off the bulk of my weight gain and established some better eating habits, I set my sights on some new habits to protect my current status:
- Lean on iced tea and coffee to keep away the liquid calories. It's amazing how much damage 1 Big Gulp at 7-11 will do to you.
- Learn to bake "fried" chicken and other lower fat alternatives. Cut down on fried food for slightly healthier alternatives that are just as satisfying to my palate.
- Eat lots of nuts. Health fat proteins like almonds, hazelnuts and cashews keep me from grabbing potato chips and cookies, and keep my metabolism fires roaring.
- More raw eats. Aside from raw meats, I'm embracing raw nuts, vegetables and fruits. There's nothing like tasting the vitamins in something you're eating!
Even though I started with cheese and eggs, I honestly didn't eat either all that often. Deep down inside, I wanted to be vegetarian because I assumed that being vegetarian would guarantee quick results. But after 97 days, it was time to widen the net of what I ate.
My biggest problem was eating out with friends, or going to the bar after work for happy hour. I was restricted to french fries most of the time, which couldn't be any worse for my health, and I became such a regular at the falafel place that my order was ready by the time I was paying at the front of the line. So I made a bold decision to add some proteins:
- Fish and seafood -- Steve Jobs ate seafood in addition to vegetables so I could do the same
- Chicken -- Everywhere you look people are eating chicken breast when they're working on their bodies, so I should be doing that too
- No red meat or pork -- I've come this far without red meat and if I open the door to burgers then I may never find my way back to healthy eating
- Goodbye soda -- To compensate for giving myself more items to eat, I let go of my sugary vice in soda.
It's as if I had plateaued as a vegetarian when I made these choices in the same way that you would with exercise. So instead of doing chin-ups all the time, I added push-ups and the weight melted away.
Over the next 6 months, I had dropped 20 pounds!! My cheeks were getting smaller, my waist shrank, my thighs no longer rubbed against each other as I walked, and I had the joy of having to buy a brand new wardrobe again! I had constructed a diet that was flexible enough so that I could eat chicken tenders at the bar, or seafood with the family, since my family loves seafood! This 2.0 diet basically got me back to my hayday in 10th grade and I'd never felt better.
Roy Choi @ Google
Hold the sodium
The latest big change has been to limit sodium. Now I don't know the science behind it, but I can say with certainty with sodium blows, and bloats. I grabbed 2 chicken sandwiches from Burger King which exceeded my daily sodium requirements, and I've never felt so thirsty and sick in my life! I would drink water, which doesn't make me any less thirsty, but just goes straight to my stomach to balance out the sodium. No wonder I felt sick!
Since then I've made a conscious effort to look at how much sodium is going into what I buy. At home, I hold the salt for the majority of the time, and that keeps me from having to drink bottles of water and having my stomach sloshing around as I walk.
My recipe for weight loss
In a nutshell, here's what I've concluded from personal experience which will help anyone lose weight:
- Cut fast food to the extent that you can
- No more sugary drinks. Get used to iced tea and coffee, and take sugar in more satisfying forms like baked goods or peppermint candies.
- Cut the sodium and processed foods.
- Add more vegetables with fiber so you feel full.
- Eat nuts because they've got lots of health fats and protein. They're also easy to pick, and will keep you from unhealthy snacks.
- Switch up your diet so that you don't plateau. Don't live to diet, diet so that you can live a fuller life.
I believe that being frugal and making smart money choices is like any other exercise. As we continue to practice good habits in saving money where possible, finding deals for what we want, and having a good time at it, then we become better at dealing for a living.
I'm committed to sharing my experiences with getting the most out of using credit cards, saving and spending tips, and I might even add a slice of perspective without trying to be a psychoanalyst like some other personal finance folks out there.
Please let me know what you think and if you'd like to hear my take on a specific topic.