I’ve struggled with the weight roller coaster all of my adult life, trying diets and losing weight, only to have those diets be unsustainable long term and gaining it all back plus more. Then, during my 3rd pregnancy, I had a growth form in my trachea, cutting off my ability to breathe, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle, major surgery, high dose steroids, and a 100 pound weight gain.
This felt incredibly overwhelming to me… in the past I had only had to lose 30 to 50 pounds, and I knew that the methods I had tried in the past had never been a long term solution. I had a 4th baby with that extra weight, nursed him for a year and a half, as I did all my other children, and slowly contemplated how to get healthy again.
I decided that whatever I chose to do, it needed to be sustainable forever. That ruled out any diet where you completely avoid a food group, or where you have to eat special “food” that’s different than what the rest of your family eats, or one that requires lots of calculations for every single bite you wish to eat.
I did a lot of research into the latest health and nutrition information, and found some interesting things. First of all, studies comparing diets showed that no matter how people lost weight, just the act of losing made them healthier. Low carb, low calorie, whatever… no matter the method, losing weight by any means improves your health.
Next, there are intriguing studies that show that a long term reduced calorie diet promotes longevity, specifically, a diet of 75% of the recommended calories for your age, gender, and height. Eat less, live longer! Another related study on diet and longevity promotes eating less often, or “intermittent fasting.” Time magazine’s feature article this week was on longevity, and these studies were in there.
I also had a thought that if I ate less frequently, my meals could be larger, and could include higher calorie foods that my family loves to occasionally eat, such as pizza and dessert.
And so, I came up with my diet plan. I began with the calculation for how many calories my body should need. This is based on your age, gender, and height. I am a short (5 foot 2 inch) woman in my late 30’s, so that came out to be 1650. Take 75% of that, and I got 1200 calories per day. I decided to split that among 3 meals per day with no snacks, and I would do intermittent fasting at least once a month, cutting down to just 1 large meal that day.
So how has it worked? I’ve been on this diet since June, and I have lost 60 pounds so far! I have been able to eat with my family, normal foods; the foods we love. I try to make what we eat balanced and healthy, with dessert being once a week or less. Planning my meals has been a huge key to my success. Every week, I plan the dinners, as I’ve shown on this blog, then, every morning, I plan my meals, starting with the dinner I have scheduled. I put my dinner in the free my fitness pal app, and get the calories. Then, I plan my breakfast and lunch accordingly. On holidays, I use the intermittent fasting approach and have the large holiday meal be my only food for the day.
Having my meals planned out helps me stick to my calories each day. If I have a craving, I can think of the next meal I have planned. I really imagine it; how delicious it will taste, and how much I am looking forward to eating it. Basically, I switch my craving to the planned meal. Since I eat real, delicious, homemade food, this is easy! With my craving switched to my planned meal, I can easily pass over whatever it was that was tempting me.
It is also important to me that my children don’t see healthy eating or weight loss as a terrible burden. I have 3 girls, and I want them to grow up with a good self image, not memories of mom saying, “I can’t eat that because I’m fat.” I don’t eat some fake food-like diet meal, while they eat delicious food. We all eat the same, real food together.
I also feel like eating larger meals less frequently helps me out mentally. Why do we overeat? Because feeling full feels good. We know that the brain releases all kinds of feel good hormones when we stuff ourselves. It’s a surivial mechanism from back when food was scarce. Because I divide my calories among fewer meals, I have at least one meal a day, usually dinner, that is large and filling. I feel full and happy, not deprived or starved, like when I would try to graze all day on tiny snacks on other diets, trying to follow the advice of never letting myself feel too hungry or too full. But, psychologically, that takes a lot of the enjoyment out of eating. When you’re hungry, you enjoy the meal more, and feeling full is satisfying. For some reason, we have trained ourselves to be afraid of feeling hungry, but that’s actually a good and natural thing to feel! Having natural cycles of hunger and fullness helps me mentally stick to my diet.
I hope that my experiences can be helpful to others. That was a main motivation for me to start this blog! So, thanks for reading, and happy planning!