Eating To Live Well: 7 Suggestions That Helped Me Lose Over 50 lbs
That past year has been an extreme journey that has shaped how I view my body and physical fitness. In reflection of that time, I came up with these seven suggestions that have helped me lose weight and fuel my body for success.
Tip 1: No diet works for everyone.
Before you make your meal plan, the first thing to consider is to understand that eating is not a one size fits all approach. You will meet people on your journey who will swear by veganism and have the data to back it up, you will meet people who swear by Whole 30, and they will have the data to back it up, some people will swear by Keto, and Paleo, and every single lifestyle eating plan that exists. However, no one strategy is perfect for everybody. The most important part about eating to live well is choosing foods and a food plan that you will be consistent with as a lifestyle. Your body is built to adapt, so you will see changes when initially engaging in any diet or fitness plan. However, the data shows that once you tire of a plan and go back to your usual patterns, those benefits, especially weight loss, are usually undone.
Tip 2: Assess your fitness goals, your cultural, and social life.
Think about your life. What are your specific and measurable fitness goals? How does your cultural and social life look? These questions are essential because you have to be realistic about what norms and traditions are regularly a part of your life. If you have a life built around gathering with friends and family over food, how challenging will it be to adhere to your chosen or created plan. What about meal planning in your immediate family? How will the makeup of your home affect the time, energy, and resources you have to live by your meal plan? This component was huge for me because as a wife and mother of 6 very active children, choosing my meal plan meant I had to raise some questions about my life. I had to consider what my family would eat, and I asked myself the following questions:
Would I be tempted by what my family was eating if it was not on my plan?
Would I have time for the additional meal preparation?
How likely would it be that we would have to eat out during the week?
Would my family be getting enough nutrients from whatever plan we chose?
Ultimately I decided to start with a conversation with my entire family about my personal goals and how that would be affecting meal preparation and food choices. My older children saw the benefits immediately and began to set their individual nutritional goals, which made me happy. My younger children were excited to try some new things and were extremely vocal about what they liked and what they did not like. It took a few months to hit our stride, but we certainly found our way to some values and presets that we could adopt as a lifestyle.
Tip 3: Perform a food audit.
Once I reviewed my lifestyle and decided on some parameters that would work for me. The next thing I did was a food audit of my pantry and refrigerator. I took time to write down everything in the fridge and pantry, and then I began to cross the things off the list that no longer served us. I threw out the things that I knew I would no longer be eating, and I committed to trying my best not to purchase those things anymore. I also had conversations with my family about why I was making healthier choices and the importance of focusing and re-evaluating our health at every stage of life. I also felt foods that were not terrible, but they were foods that either myself or a member of my family tend to binge; they were items to toss. I did this because even healthy or moderately healthy foods can become an issue if you overeat or binge.
Tip 4: Start with whole foods that you love.
My next suggestion for eating to live well is to choose whole foods that you like. Write or print out a list of whole, non-processed foods that you like or love and use that as the basis for your plan. If you don’t particularly like a food, the worst thing you can do is choose a meal plan that suggests that food every other day. Most of us may start out well-intentioned, wanting the plan to work because we want to lose weight, or gain weight, or whatever the case may be, but as time progresses, eventually you’re going to abandon that plan because you do not enjoy the food. So avoid that pitfall and start strong by choosing protein, fruits, vegetables, and grains that you like to eat. Trying new whole foods can be exciting and break up the monotony, and I suggest that as well, but too many new things at once can have an adverse effect.
Tip 5: Make a plan.
The easiest way to lose traction before you get a routine going is to fail to make a plan. It may seem like a lot at first, but eventually, the plan will become second nature. The more you plan and then execute the plan, the easier it is to make a real lifestyle change. Eating to live well should not be a diet or a phase, but rather a plan that you can adhere to in order to make your life more full, because after all, what good is success if you spend it feeling unwell. Get a food journal, make your own food diary, use an app or even choose a lifestyle eating plan that resonates with you, like veganism, Whole 30, Paleo, or the like. All of these lead to one path — knowing what you will eat before it’s time to eat. There is nothing like failing to plan, being extremely hungry, and trying to figure out what to eat — it almost always ends in a less than desirable food choice.
Tip 6: Indulge, but don’t binge.
I added this to the list because it was and is a personal struggle. The foods you choose should not be super restrictive because your meal plan must be realistic and sustainable. So remember to be inclusive; that means you can have birthday cake at a friend’s birthday celebration and enjoy that buffet on your next cruise. When I first started on my weight loss journey, I was restrictive to the point that when I had a piece of cake or a cup of ice cream, it would turn into four pieces of cake or three bowls of ice cream because I felt that I had “failed” to eat perfectly so I might as well binge on all-of-the-things. However, I would be “off the wagon,” so to speak, bloated and miserable. However, one day I was listening to a podcast that shifted my perspective. I began to look at a less than perfect eating choice as allowable. I would have that bowl of ice cream, and then I would still focus my next meal on eating whole foods, hitting my macros, and consuming nutrient-dense, healthy foods that made me feel good. The slight shift in perception helped me realize that the occasional indulgence was just as necessary for my mental well-being as the regular consumption of whole foods was for my physical well-being.
Tip 7: If your goal is to lose weight, track your macros.
Understand your macros and adjust them for weight loss. The best way to understand and adjust your macros is to track them. Data is your friend, and reviewing and applying the data you collect will be the difference between short-term gains and long-term success.
Tracking your meals has never been easier. The purpose of tracking your meals is because data is king. You cannot lose weight if you are not in a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than your body is burning). You cannot gain weight if you are not in a caloric surplus (eating more calories than your body is burning). With that being said, the only way to know if you are achieving your goals is by tracking. In the same vane, if you are not trying to lose or gain weight, but simply trying to maintain your healthy lifestyle, tracking your meals is much like journaling for mental health; it is a lot easier to see where you are going and build on the journey if you keep track of where you have been. Use this data to assess weekly or monthly, decide what’s working and what is not.
What are macros?
Macros is short for macronutrients. They are the three groups of foods that provide you with the energy to fuel your body. The macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fats. You should know how many grams of each per day work for your body. The only way you can understand this is to track and assess your progress regularly. I use My Fitness Pal’s app to track my daily food intake, set macro goals, and adjust my eating based on my success. I started with a gram of protein for each pound of my body weight and adjusted fat and carbohydrates to eat in the low carb range for my meal plan. So, since I knew how much protein I wanted to eat, the app told me that protein would be 40% of my macros. I then divided the remaining 60% of my macros between carbs and fat, with my fat percentage being higher than my carb percentage because my body responded best to this breakdown.
Over the past year, I have managed to lose and keep off 50 lbs. Along the way, I decided to become a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor out of my thirst to understand what was going on with my body, better address my family’s health, and best serve my community. As a mom of six, one of the essential pieces of my life is knowing how to share information with those around me so that as I experience personal growth, they also experience personal growth. That is why community is so vital, and sharing this information is so important to me. These tips have helped transform my life and helped me to become a better version of myself for my six children, my husband, my family, my friends, but most of all, for myself. I hope that these tips can also help others become the best and strongest version of themselves for their own journey.
Raquel Phillips is a writer, digital creator, CPT, certified group fitness instructor, and entrepreneur. She is a wife and mother of 6 amazing children. She resides in Virginia Beach, VA.
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