I'm going to start off with, I'm no expert. I only know what's working for me. I'm just trying to use some common sense. Stuff I've cobbled together through years of failed diets. My thinking now is, a good diet is about making good choices, and practicing moderation in those choices. Look, there are no hard and fast rules. Luckily (and unfortunately), I like most food. So switching up my diet isn't too difficult. The problem is, I need the changes to stick. I need to change how I think about food. I could say, I need to change my relationship with food. What I've found so far that works for me, is gradual change, small steps.
The first part is about making good choices. Only eat real food. By that I mean, I try not to eat anything that's pre-made with something I don't know what it is. The toughest part in doing this is, it's more time consuming. Not just in the preparation of the food itself, but I also have to go shopping more often. Healthy food also costs more. Prepared foods are cheaper, in my opinion, because they are made with cheaper ingredients, and stuff that isn't really even food. That's why they aren't healthy to eat. If I need to buy something prepackaged, I read the ingredients. If there is anything artificial, or chemical in name, I move on. Soda is the worst offender to me. It's why I removed it, or as much as I can, from my diet. There is nothing in soda that I need. The reason I'm thirsty is I need water, so I'll drink water. Another offender is fast food. I have no control over what fast food is made of and therefore I prefer not to eat it. Of course, like the quitting of soda, this didn't happen all at once. For me, it's all about small changes, and choices.
I'll start, as I do every day, with breakfast. This was actually the easiest change. For years before I even started all this, I used to go to Jamba Juice and get a smoothie. Then when I decided to start my new life. I began to evaluate everything I eat. So, I started to notice that all their smoothies had either frozen yogurt or sorbet. That meant it all had a bunch of sugar in it. So I decided to make my own. It turns out, It's cheaper too. I buy a bag for frozen fruit, bananas, and OJ. This allows me to "eat" my breakfast on my way to work. People ask me all the time, does that fill you up? It doesn't have to. That's not the point. The question is, does it keep me from getting hungry, which it does. I'll get into this "getting full" verses "no longer hungry" later.
Let's move on to lunch. Lunch is a little tougher. This is the only thing that I switched out quickly. I stopped getting fast food and started making lunch and bringing it in. For me sandwiches are it. Turkey mostly, but PB&J too. One of the things that makes it tough, is most bread is full of crap, as is most peanut butter, and jelly too. For me, I just want the stuff I eat to be as basic as possible. That means bread with no high fructose corn syrup, or other stuff that isn't necessary to make bread. Eventually, I'll get a bread maker and then I have more control over what really goes into it. For now though I read the label and try to make sure that I get the healthiest I can. A great example of the "basic ingredients only" idea is peanut butter. What is needed to make peanut butter? Peanuts and a little salt. That's all. Most peanut butter though has sugar, as well as a bunch of other junk. All that crud isn't needed to actually make peanut butter. Why then use it? I think it's because people don't like to see the peanut oil floating on the top, as is seen in basic "peanuts only" peanut butter.
It's dinner time. The really good thing is, I love vegetables, fish, and chicken. I used to have steak or hamburger just about every night for dinner with boxed mashed potatoes. I mean what's easier then Hamburger Helper. That needed to change, and yeah, I could have switched it out to something more healthy quickly, but I want this to really stick. Bad habits are the hardest things to change. It may sound stupid but I started with pork. Pork loin and chicken actually, with rice instead of potatoes and vegetables. Pork was my way to transition from steak. I'll still have a steak, but just occasionally. I slowly moved from pork to fish, and away from white rice to brown, to not having any rice. It's not that rice is bad, I just don't think there's anything in rice that I need. Now most nights I have a piece of fish with vegetables. That's it.
Choosing good food helps, but I needed to learn some moderation too. The basic concept is easy, I eat when I'm hungry. Food is not the enemy. I'm not hungry because there's something wrong with me. I'm hungry, because my body wants food. I'm not talking cravings here. I'm talking about actually being hungry, and I needed to learn the difference. When I eat too, I eat until I'm full or at the very least satisfied. Like with my smoothie breakfast. I just don't eat until I'm stuffed. I don't want the opposite either. I don't want to sit down to a meal and still be hungry after, that doesn't work either. I'm not talking about food portioning either. I'm not going to measure things out, because that's just too cumbersome. I'm still working on this, as it's taken years to program myself to eat until I'm full. My old thinking was, I'm only going to have 3 meals for the day. It's going to be hours until I'm able to eat again. So I had to make sure that I wasn't going to be hungry until then. Then over the years the line has moved from just full to stuffed. Now I have to move that line back, and get rid of the idea that their should only be 3 meals in a day. I can't be afraid of leftovers. Just because it's on my plate, doesn't mean I have to eat it. I'm working on something new to help me do this. Eat half of whatever I've made. Stop and sit for 10 min. to let that part of the meal process. Ask myself if I'm still hungry. If no, stop. If I get hungry again in an hour or two I can always come back to it. If the answer is yes, eat half of what's left. Sit again for 10 min., and ask the same question. This is very tough. Sometimes I think food is too good, it's like a drug and hard to stop. I'm not programed to stop, and it's has become a habit. It doesn't help that I love food. I mean, I really love food. I get lost in the meal sometimes. It tastes too good to stop eating it. You could say, I'm a food addict. The problem is, unlike other addicts, I can't quit food. I have to eat. That was a real revelation. I just have learn to eat less, and make better choices in what I decide to eat.
This is all a work in progress. I still have work to do. I know that I'll have friends or family read this and say, "Hey, I saw you eating this or that". All I have to say to that is, there are no absolutes. I've found that if I don't treat myself from time to time, that I'll quit altogether, or at minimum I'll gorge on something that I really shouldn't have. Like sit down and eat a quart of ice cream or a bag of candy. If though, when I have a craving for something, I allow myself to indulge just a little, it will keep me from going overboard later. So instead of eating an entire box of cookies, if I just allow myself to have two, and I'll be satisfied. The best part though is, this is a life style change. If for a day, or for a meal, I decide that it's OK for me to eat something very indulgent. It's not the end. I don't beat myself up and think all is lost. Like I said, food isn't the enemy. It's over indulgence, and poor choices that are the true enemy.