Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Lessons Learned

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that weight management for most people is an ongoing challenge. We don’t struggle to reach our goal weight then simply “coast” for the rest of life. Far from it. At the same time I can tell you that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is easier with some solid knowledge about food and nutrition, self-awareness, motivation, and successful strategies.

Whole Oranges

Eat a whole orange for more dietary fiber and nutrients instead of drinking orange juice.

I can put on weight faster than just about anyone else I’ve ever met. My gender, height, and age are not working in my favor. I’m a woman, which typically means having a slower metabolism than a man of the same height, age, and weight. I’m short and that translates to a slower metabolism than someone taller. I’m getting older and so I am affected by the inevitable metabolic slowdown that begins around the age of 40.

However, the one thing I do have control over is exercise. Sometimes I get the exercise I need and sometimes I don’t.

How about you? How do you fare with metabolism? Do you understand how it works, what your metabolic needs might be, and how to keep your metabolism running smoothly? If not, I would encourage you to read a series I wrote on what we currently know about metabolism.

It must be my metabolism: Part One

My basal metabolic needs hover around 1200 calories. That’s what I need to keep my organ systems functioning well even if I were at complete rest for 24 hours. If I do anything at all, but am mostly sedentary, my total caloric needs are just 1400 calories per day. That’s why I write a lot about low calorie diets. I have to watch what I eat and make sure I get the exercise or other physical activity I need. Not being vigilant can mean putting on weight FAST.

Fortunately, I’ve learned many things over the years in my work as a Nutritionist that helps me manage weight more easily. I’ll share some of the things I’ve discovered in recent years that have helped me a LOT. Maybe you’ll find a tip or two that will work for you. I’ll also share some of the ways I could improve.

Some Lessons Learned and Heeded

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned with respect to what I have on hand to eat is the need to have “enough” lean or low calorie protein foods. Striking the right balance is a bit of a challenge because if I have too much on hand, I end up with waste. Not having enough means I may not get the protein I prefer to have to not only meet my basic needs with respect to physiology but also to keep me feeling full and satisfied.

At the beginning of each week I decide which lean protein foods I will be purchasing. Most of the protein foods I buy will get incorporated into meals. This might include a lean cut of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or beans.

I also have protein foods for quick, easy, and nutritious low calorie snacks. One week it might be a carton of low fat cottage cheese. Another week it might be lean slices of chicken or turkey. Or I might choose to boil 4-5 eggs at the beginning of the week to have hard-boiled eggs readily available in the refrigerator. There are plenty of other choices but these are some of my current favorites. Having some kind of quick-to-eat lean protein matters.

In addition to having lean protein available for meals and snacks, I need to have other healthy low calorie snack foods on hand such as fruit or raw cut veggies. Something else I’ve been enjoying recently are my own homemade nutrition bars made of peanut butter, dried fruit, oatmeal, a little honey, seeds, and sometimes nuts.

Although I like these bars, I’m still experimenting with coming up with the right mix of ingredients. I make each bar small to keep the calorie count down. I find them to be very satisfying as well as nutritious. I also keep one or two small commercially prepared snack bars such as Larabars in my purse. This way I have something handy to eat if I’m away from home and hunger hits but there’s nothing available that’s low calorie or healthy.

Best Nutrition Bars for Women: Part One

Another tip is to avoid having tempting snack foods at my desk. Having something available for those times when I’m too busy to break away to eat properly is important. BUT if I have too much of what I like, I can easily get carried away eating it at times when I’m not necessarily hungry.

I keep a small amount of almonds and a carton or two of soymilk near my desk but in a location I cannot see. I only rely on these if I am actually hungry but cannot stop work to go eat.

Here are a few more changes I’ve made in recent years:

I now eat whole fruit most of the time rather than drink juice. For example, I gave up on drinking orange juice quite a while ago because I get more dietary fiber and other nutrients when I eat a whole orange.

When eating out I’ve learned to look for lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, or fish without breading or high calorie sauces. In addition, I choose to substitute the carb part of the meal such as white potatoes, white rice, or pasta with an extra serving of veggies. If the portion size is very big, I’ll only eat half and take the rest home. By doing these things it helps me to cut down on calories and lowers my overall carb intake for the day.

I do plan for one or two cheat meals each week when I am allowed to have whatever I want. If you try this strategy, I encourage you to plan for something that’s really tasty and satisfying (otherwise why bother?). In addition, you need to eat slowly so that you recognize when you are full and stop before overeating!

What have YOU learned about yourself or your way of eating that is making things easier for you now? Please share!

My Ongoing Challenges

The one challenge I struggle with more than anything else is overestimating how many calories I burn when I exercise. By doing this I have a tendency to allow myself to eat larger portions and less than healthy foods because I THINK I have burned lots of calories.

Something I experimented with this past year to avoid this problem is the BodyMedia Fit armband. In a previous article, I shared how much I learned about the calories I burn each day. What an eye opener! When I stop wearing the armband, in just a short 2-3 months I begin to forget. I may need to wear the armband for a few days 2-3 times a year as a gentle reminder of my caloric needs.

Something else I find to be very helpful if I actually use it is a pedometer.

I also need to work on limiting the number of potential treats and less than healthy foods in my house. I do buy some of these items but my dear husband tends to bring home more of the things I would rather not have around. My current solution is to at least put the food where I do not see it every time I walk into the kitchen!

What kinds of things are you struggling with? Would you be so kind as to let me know in the comments? Thanks!

Novel Idea for Motivation

I came across an intriguing idea in a USA Today article for weight loss motivation. The tip was to hang up a pair of skinny jeans in a place you see often, possibly even the kitchen! Now this could work for any outfit that you’d like to fit into soon. Choose one that might fit better with the loss of just a few pounds (1-5). I think that’s a creative idea!

For more ideas on doing what works for YOU, you may want to read the article Weight Loss Advice: Tips from Others that I wrote not too long ago.

O.K. these are just a sampling of my recent experiences and ideas. I hope I’ve inspired you enough to get you thinking about the past year with respect to what is working for you and what isn’t when it comes to achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. What might you change?

Wishing you the very best for Happy Holidays! I will be off Christmas week visiting my mother and other family. I hope to be back publishing sometime the first week of January. Happy New Year!

 

 

  • Erin McAdams December 23, 2011, 10:30 pm

    Lori,

    The nutrition book my class used was Understanding Nutrition by Whitney. I believe it was the latest edition…its a white cover with lots of fruits and veggies floating on it. I had a web book of it, and ended up copying everything to PDFs so that I can use it in the years to come since it wasn’t a hard copy. I guess another of my issues with meal replacement or weight loss shakes is that they end up giving you so many vitamins and minerals. Having too many of certain types seems like a bad thing, while having a lot of others just seems like a waste. Who needs 1333% Vitamin B12? Would love to read your ebook! Will let you know how my weight loss meal plans go. I am trying to keep it simple and not do many fancy recipes the first few weeks…I just want to keep it basic. Here’s to hoping it goes well! Have a nice Holiday too.

    • Lori January 2, 2012, 9:34 am

      Hi Erin,

      I am so sorry for the delay in responding to your comments. The holidays were very busy with LOTS of travel to visit with extended family and my elderly mother. I am only just now beginning to get caught up with my online work.

      Thank you for offering to take a look at my ebook! I am not quite finished but hope to have something I could share in another week or two. I created the ebook with the Mac program Pages and I am crossing my fingers that I can successfully convert the file to a pdf without losing all the formatting. Wish me luck.

      You are wise to keep your meal plans simple. If you come up with a system that works you can always add more variety later.

      Best of luck,

      Lori

  • Erika December 22, 2011, 2:30 pm

    I needed to read this today! I’ve done nothing but eat Christmasy treats the last two weeks! The good news is that I have maintained my weight loss, and actually CRAVED lettuce the other day! haha I am ready to get back into my exercise and healthy eating habits. You realize after eating healthy and taking care of yourself for a few months that you feel SO MUCH BETTER!

  • Erin McAdams December 19, 2011, 11:21 am

    Thanks for writing this article! Would love to know your current recipe for protein bars. I am in the process of making up a diet plan for my husband and I to follow after we get back from holiday trips. I need 1200 calories, but he needs 1600 calories. Right now I am thinking to have the same foods, but he would be able to have more protein, veggies and fruit. I just finished a nutrition class at my community college, and the book we used is invaluable to creating a meal plan and knowing what nutrients you need to fit in. Also, have you written any articles on meal replacement or healthy snack shakes? With the meal plan I made up based on the nutrition book, I still have 150 kcals left as discretionary. I know filling up on some extra veggies would be a good way to boost fiber and nutrients, but what about wanting a nutritient chocolate flavored something after dinner? I was thinking the Boost shakes didn’t look too bad. Also, I might eat a few of these the first week or two while getting used to the lower calories. It would be nice to have a treat in the midst of balanced meals that caters to my chocolate monster!

    • Lori December 20, 2011, 9:28 am

      Hi Erin,

      Sounds like you are doing well with the modified diet plan for your husband. Including more protein, veggies, and fruit should work well. You also might want to allow for more servings of whole grain.

      What is the name of the text book you used for your nutrition class? It’s always good to get more ideas when it comes to teaching others how to create a healthy and workable plan. I have an ebook I am finishing up that attempts to do just that for women on a 1200 calorie diet. Maybe you could take a look at it and tell me what you think. I won’t have it completed till the beginning of the New Year.

      The only article I’ve written on meal replacement is the one I share in this article on meal bars (nutrition bars). I have not been a big fan of shakes because all too often they get to be quite high calorie. However, I will be taking a closer look at these in the coming year.

      As for having a little chocolate fairly often I can definitely relate to that! I have a few chocolate cake and brownie recipes that combine veggies with chocolate. I bake up a tray and then freeze the pieces individually. They last quite a long time and taste remarkably good when I defrost a piece. Each piece has less than 100 calories if I remember correctly. I will be sharing those soon. I developed them for my Chocolate Veggies blog that has been sadly neglected. (Been too busy with my move from one state to another this past year.)

      In the meantime you might want to give the recipe for Chocolate Bliss Bites on the Prevention Magazine site a try. Made with healthy unsweetened cocoa and egg whites (and yes some sugar) they are delightful and only 25 calories each. I don’t know why they only rate 3 out of 5 stars because both my husband and me like them quite a bit! Something else that satisfies my chocolate monster is to have a bar of Chocolove Chilies & Cherries in Dark Chocolate on hand. Only one or two squares satisfies me (about 50-60 calories)!

      I think Boost shakes are o.k. and having a few your first week should be all right. However, I’m not a fan of these shakes for regular use.

      Will share my protein bar recipe soon. It’s not quite ready.

      Happy holidays,

      Lori