Photo: Donna Trope/Trunk Archive
I’m almost done with my battle against obesity. I hit an all-time low nine years ago, which led to the consumption of lots of fast comfort food and alcohol. When I finally dusted off my scale two years into that binge, it revealed the cold, hard truth: I’d gained 100 pounds.
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It took another three years before I visited a doctor. With a family history of heart disease on one side and diabetes on the other, I was told, “If you don’t change your ways, you’ll be lucky if you just have a mild stroke in the next five years.”
The message was clear: Drop the weight and change your eating habits, or life as you know it will cease to exist.
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Two years later, I’ve lost 85 pounds, and I’m working on the last 15. The number-one question is always how I’ve done it. While I started out trying various diets, none of them ever presented a sustainable way of living and eating, which resulted in yo-yo weight gains. What has resulted in the long-term, largest amount of loss is consistent exercise (I work out for an hour, at least five times a week) and changing my diet, one food at a time:
Photo: Courtesy of the author.
High fructose corn syrup
I started here because it’s pervasive. I had to scrap everything in my pantry: pasta sauce, salad dressing, bread, breakfast cereal, juice, crackers, even cough syrup and some vegetable soups. I relied heavily on packaged, processed foods, so it took almost a year to accomplish, particularly when traveling. Once a week, I just removed one more thing.
Cook at home
I can live and die by Seamless, but a weekly run to the Farmer’s Market and Fresh Direct followed by a Sunday night spent cutting and cooking keep me honest. It’s cheaper and makes a world of difference when you’re watching what you eat.
I used to live and die by the drive-thru, so I had to start taking a different route home. There’s no other alternative other than to stop eating it. I had a couple of items from one of the chains about six months ago after nine months of abstinence and promptly erupted into hives. It’s off the menu—for good.
Cookbooks like The Kind Diet and The New Moosewood Cookbook have really helped, and I love cooking blogs like Cookie and Kate, which is filled with whole food and vegetarian dishes. I try one new dish a week. I’ve also learned that just because it’s vegetarian/vegan/raw doesn’t mean it’s low in calories. Salads? Chow down. Guacamole? Slow down.
Soda and Artificial Sweeteners
I immediately made the transition to diet soda and artificially-sweetened seltzer waters, but found they made me crave sugar more, which I just didn’t need. I went cold turkey on diet soda earlier this year and artificial sweeteners three months ago, and my digestive woes have stopped. Plus, the sugar cravings are less frequent; I don’t find myself on a quest for candy at 4 pm.
It took me almost a year to get into stevia. I also found I was mainlining grapes, which are loaded with concentrated sugar. I now have an apple, berries, or a grapefruit a day, and that stops the sugar cravings.
If you cover it in batter and introduce it to oil, I want to be its friend. However, my circulatory system and I disagree on that relationship. I had to learn healthier recipes of my favorite “bad” foods. I eat what I want in moderation, but fried foods — even just a taste — are a slippery slope, so I eat baked versions of my favorites like chicken fingers and fries, and have the real deal once every couple of months.
I’m still working on this. I love it, but now I bloat instantly, my sinuses clog, and it binds me up in the worst way possible. If I crave it, I eat it, but now it’s really infrequently. I also love organic almond milk now. Who knew?
The more Mediterranean I eat, the better I feel. I try to buy local and ask about farming techniques and the diet of the fish. I’m toying with becoming vegetarian, but one step at a time.
Man, this is still hard. I love a good steak, but it’s just too hard to digest. I’ve had exactly two hamburgers this year, but I got there by doing turkey burgers on a George Foreman grill once a week to satisfy my cravings.
I don’t drink at all anymore, but that’s not realistic for everyone. Boozy beverages are loaded with sugar and can become a gateway for all sorts of bad decisions. Just be mindful and try to drink water when you imbibe.
Nut butters and avocado
I fell in love with all-natural nut butters and avocado instantly. They just feel decadent. I add them to almost everything.
I still love bread and pasta, but it affects me much in the same way as dairy. Meet the Babycakes bakery and cookbook. I’m not allergic to gluten, I just don’t like what it does to me, and their cookbook helps a LOT.
Low-fat “diet” foods and processed foods
I used to live on “diet” everything, but got caught in a vicious cycle; anytime I stopped, I gained weight almost overnight. If it doesn’t come from the outer perimeter of the grocery store, I don’t bring it into my house.
The bottom line is that slow and steady wins the race. I’m happy that I’ll soon reach my weight loss goal and that I did it my way, one food at a time.