Though my diet is generally healthy, I’m sort of an on-again-off-again healthy eater. I go through phases of amazing discipline, and I go through phases of junk food fiendom. I also have wavering activity levels. I go through phases extreme vigilance and phases of absolute slothery. Luckily, I find that a combination of my strict school schedule and straightforward, realistic dietary and exercise goals actually help me stick with my health plan.
The first thing I want to mention is that I am not a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. I have no authority to give anyone else advice about working out or eating, but I do have knowledge of what works for me and I see a doctor regularly. Keep in mind that everything I’m describing is my plan for myself. You will have to modify these plans to suit your needs if you decide to do this along with me!
So, now to devise a plan.
I started the summer off with the PopSugar 21 Day Flat Belly Challenge and liked the results I got. I didn’t do the eating plan, just the exercise, but it really did work! I am going to end my summer with a modified version of it because I found that I liked the routine of it, but not necessarily the exact workouts they chose. I actually prefer the FitnessBlender workouts to most of the PopSugar routines.
Once the 21 days are over, I am going to go to the “3 miles or 30 minutes” routine. It’s just like it sounds – every day you do 3 miles (running or walking) or a 30 minute workout. I’m going to give myself a lot of flexibility here and say my goal is to do this at least 3 times a week. It sure beats my usual zero times a week during the school year.
I used to be the type of person who could eat any amount of whatever I wanted to eat. When I wanted to lose a few pounds, I just went on a diet for a month or so, and the weight just came off. Then I turned 34. The same methods still work but much more slowly, and that’s really hard because a lot of diet plans are quite restrictive.
In the past, I have done a few restrictive diets: calorie counting, low carb, and no added sugars. These were fairly torturous.
Calorie counting took too long because I had to log all my food every time I ate. It worked really well, but I did feel deprived all the time, and I ended up eating some weird snacks like cucumbers with tomato juice and green olives.
Even though I have some really good low-carb recipes like Sriracha Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, Cheesy White Bean Dip, Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps, and White Bean Cauliflower Mash, going low-carb full-time actually makes me depressed. After I just can’t take it anymore, my diet goes quite wildly in the opposite direction. It’s actually the aftermath of this diet that has put me in my current state.
The only one that I think I might be able to sustain at some point is the no added sugars diet because I really believe in it, but this one really needs to be a huge lifestyle change. I am not at a point in my life where I ready to make that shift. There are way too many things that have hidden sugars, and it is impossible to eat out. Maybe when I retire. Right now, I need something easily sustainable!
While watching Good Eats this summer, I saw an episode called Live and Let Diet. Alton Brown discusses his response to the startling realization that he was getting quite, well, fat. He created four lists to live by:
- Daily: Fruits,Whole Grains, Leafy Greens, Nuts, Carrots, Green Tea
- At least 3 x weekly: Oily Fish, Yogurt, Broccoli, Sweet Potato, Avocado,
- At most 1 x weekly: Red Meat, Pasta, Dessert, Alcohol
- 0 x weekly (i.e. never): Fast Food, Soda, Processed Meals, Canned Soups, “Diet” Anything
I love this idea, and I believe it is really sustainable because it’s not really diet. It’s just making sure you fill up on things that are good for you.
Many people have commented on how “wrong” some of his list items are, but it is my impression that this is his personal list constructed for his personal needs and tastes. I actually agree with many of choices, but I decided to modify his lists very slightly. I plan to stick to this list for the entire school year (as long as it is working for me). I put it into a colorful table to make it official:
There are some items on the lists above that I feel I need to explain (or maybe defend). Here are some notes on my daily list:
1. Fruits: I know a lot of people avoid fruits. I don’t. It is a good replacement for foods with added sugar and they have great nutritional value. I have never heard of anyone getting fat off of eating too much fruit.
2. Whole Grains: Many people also avoid grains, even whole grains. Again, I don’t. If you are eating whole grains in moderation, they shouldn’t cause weight gain, and since I find these filling and satisfying, they will hopefully prevent me from binge eating other foods.
3. Chia/Flax: I added chia/flax to my daily list. Both are nutrient rich and high in protein, fiber, iron, and magnesium. Chia also really helps me feel full and hydrated for a long period of time. I mix two teaspoons with 12 ounces of water and let the seeds soak up the water overnight. I drink it throughout the morning, and I don’t even need a morning snack!
4. Raw Vegetables: Also, I changed carrots to raw vegetables for my daily list. I will likely eat carrots as my raw veggies often, but I tend to get sick of eating the same things over and over. I figured I needed to be a little more flexible so I could switch to celery or cucumbers if I wanted.
Notes on my 3 x per week list:
1. Beans: I exchanged oily fish for beans (and lentils and such). While oily fish provides omega-3 fatty acids and protein, I just can’t see being able to have this three times a week, especially since John doesn’t care for fish. The chia and flax that I added to the daily list are good plant sources of omega-3s, and beans are a good source of protein with the added benefit of fiber. Plus, they are super cheap and versatile!
2. Plain Yogurt: Alton Brown eats yogurt 3 or more times a week, but I added “plain” in front of the yogurt. Other types of yogurt have a TON of sugar in it. I usually add low-glycemic fruits to plain yogurt to sweeten it naturally, and I think it tastes great!
3. Cruciferous Veggies: I also changed broccoli to cruciferous vegetables for the same reason as I explained for carrots above. We love broccoli, but sometimes cauliflower, brussel sprouts, or other cruciferous veggies make a better choice for a particular dish.
Notes on my 1 x per week list:
1. Red Meat: Limiting red meat is another choice that I’ve seen people nay-say. Yes, red meat is high in protein and iron, but I get both of those from the other things on my lists. Plus, red meat takes an extraordinary amount of water to produce, so I choose not to eat too much of it.
2. Sweets, white starch, and fried foods: These items are specifically my vices, but I can’t put them on the 0 x per week list. I need to have some wiggle room. I’m still trying to figure out if a donut would count for just one or all three…
Notes on my 0 x per week list:
1. Juice: While juice does have vitamins, it is packed with sugar. Fruit contains the same nutrients as juice, but also has fiber and it keeps me fuller longer. I won’t be drinking my calories.2. Artificial Sweeteners: There is all kinds of controversy surrounding these. I don’t know what’s true, but I don’t care for the taste of them or how they make me feel, so they are the 0 list.
What would you put on your lists?