Instead of Focusing on Weight Loss, Focus on This One Key Thing

Managing your weight and diet is a form of self-care.

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Paying Attention To Your Diet Is Self-Care

Most people think of self-care as taking a bath, getting your nails done, or having a latte, but self-care is also caring for your body.  Weight and diet is part of that, not diet as in cutting lots of calories, but diet as in eating healthy foods.  

I’ve never been a fan of dieting by cutting calories and deprivation.  Instead, when I, or one of my clients, wants to lose weight, I encourage adding more healthy foods in place of removing foods.  

One year, freshly out of college, I decided to lose the extra pounds I had put on from drinking too much alcohol, and eating too much fast food.  I read the book, The T-Factor Diet, which was about removing foods with a lot of fat.  That was the big fad at that time, fat-free foods.  However, that book gave meal suggestions that included lean meats and vegetables, not the overly processed, engineered foods, that popped up on every shelf.  

I just started reading the book, Fast, Feast, Repeat, by Gin Stephens.  It’s funny, because she mentions that book, The T-Factor Diet.  She said the reason that diet was successful is not because of the fat-free part, but because it recommended real, whole foods.  It didn’t recommend fat-free cookies, breads, sodas, and candy.  

This Is the Real Key to Managing Weight

The real key to managing weight and diet, is to eat more servings of vegetables and fruits.  That’s where we get the energy and fuel we need for a functioning, healthy body.  I knew when I left college, and again, when I was going through health struggles, that adding more vegetables and fruits was more important than worrying about cutting out sugar, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, dairy products, or whatever the latest fad was (low carb, low lectins, etc.).  

When you eat 7–9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you start to crave less sugar.  You get more fiber, which helps keep you full, and by the time you fit all that in, you don’t really have the desire to eat sugary foods and junk foods.  Of course, lean meat and protein is important too, but most of us get enough of that.  

When we get stressed, it’s easy to turn to comfort foods.  They give us a dopamine (feel good hormone) boost, which helps us feel better in the moment, but that doesn’t last very long.  During super stressful times, you may find yourself eating more and more sugar, and fast foods to keep that dopamine high coming.  

It’s such a downer to think about cutting all of that out.  How will you feel good?  How will you feel joy?  

For me, it was thinking about eating more food in the beginning.  I wouldn’t cut out sugary foods and drinks, I would just make sure I had 1-2 servings of fruits and vegetables with every meal.  I figured out I could get at least 2 servings if I had a smoothie for breakfast, instead of a bagel smeared with cream cheese.  I made a smoothie with a cup of mixed berries, a heaping tablespoon of almond butter, and coconut milk.  It was good, and it filled me up.  At lunch, I would add a salad or an apple to whatever I brought to work that day.  It became like a game.  “Oh!  I can get even more servings if I have vegetable soup!”  At dinner, I would add a few sides of vegetables too.

I started to feel really good!  I had more energy, my stomach felt less bloated, and I even lost some weight.  Eventually, I cut out fried foods, artificial foods, and gluten (I realized it was causing some digestive problems).  I didn’t crave sugar nearly as much.

My morning routine of self-care, and spending more time taking care of me, helped me get all of my excess pounds off, and keep it off for years.  Instead of using food to help me feel good, I did yoga, meditated, and read inspirational books.

Then 2020 hit, I had hormone changes, and a few stressful family situations, and the weight has climbed up again.  I also stopped eating all those fruits and vegetables.  I do eat healthier than I did all those years ago when I first began my health journey, but not as well as I did when I lost the weight.  

Start Small 

The best way to manage weight, and begin a new habit, like eating more vegetables and fruits is to start small.  This is what I will be doing to get back on track.  Don’t think of eating healthy as a punishment.  Think of it like fueling your body with the best energy you can.  

Instead of thinking: Think:

I shouldn’t eat sugarI will have this cup of blackberries, and then eat the sugar if I still want it
I can’t have fried foodsI will have this big salad before the fried shrimp
Dairy is fatteningI’ll have a sprinkle of parmesan on my roasted broccoli
I no longer eat dessertIt’s fine to eat a little dessert if I still want it after my meal of lean steak, cauliflower and asparagus

Eventually, maybe you will need to cut down on sugar, processed carbohydrates, and other low nutrient foods.  But, you can work your way slowly to that type of diet.  For now, you can begin to crowd them out with healthier options.

I like to think of eating like my ancestors did.  My grandparents had a farm that had been in my grandmother’s family for generations.  They had a large garden, and when we went to visit, we ate whatever was in season at that time.  They rarely had junk food in their home.  Sodas were non-existent.  We had breakfast, that my grandmother cooked, around 8:00 am.  We had a sit-down lunch, and dinner was around 5:00 pm.  The kitchen was closed after that.  There was no late-night snacking.  We had scheduled meals, that ended after dinner, with possibly one snack between lunch and dinner.  

All meals, including breakfast, had vegetables from the garden.  Dessert was usually watermelon, or peaches from the farmer’s market.  Occasionally, my grandmother would make cookies, or cake from scratch.  Usually that was reserved for birthdays or when company was coming.  My grandparents never had weight struggles that I know of.

It would be hard to eat like my grandparents did, with fresh vegetables from the garden every day, but wouldn’t it be great if we could get close?  Eating a diet high in produce is the one key thing to help you take care of your body, and manage your weight.  We’ll talk later about how much your immunity will improve.

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