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Dieting for weight loss can be a stressful experience. Although it may be tempting to think that you can overhaul your entire diet in one night and reap results, it can be much more effective to ‘tweak’ your current diet. By creating gradual changes to your diet and trying new foods, you can find a diet that suits you well and doesn’t feel like a chore to eat. I weighed 220lbs at the start of 2018 and only 110lbs by the end of the year. From my experience, dieting for weight loss is evolutionary and changes as your body adapts to new forms of exercise, stress and weight loss itself. In this article, I talk about the different diets that I’ve tried, the positives and negatives and the importance of diet flexibility.
When it comes to eating for weight loss, the options are endless. There are so many diets and meal plans that guarantee results. After losing half of my body weight, I’ve found that eating for weight loss is much less about choosing a set schedule and sticking to it and more about tweaking your current eating habits. Eating for weight loss should be viewed as an evolutionary process rather than a dramatic overnight change from one diet to another. Let me take you through how I evolved my diet over a year to create a healthy eating habit that stuck.
I weighed 220lbs when I first got serious about losing weight. My diet at this time consisted of take-away food for five nights each week. I would normally order enough food for breakfast and lunch the next day as well. During the peak of my weight gain, I worked at a fast food restaurant and because I was given an employee discount, I thought it would be a good idea to eat fast food every day to save money. The savings were nowhere near worth it. I struggled to fit into my clothes and came up with a myriad of health issues. In January of this year, I had an epiphany and decided that I wasn’t happy with where my life was going. The first thing I changed was that I quit my job. As soon as I stopped consuming fast food on a daily basis, I began to feel better but I also had more time to realize exactly how much extra weight I had gained.
220 to 187lbs – Becoming A Weight Loss Warrior
At the beginning of my weight loss journey, I really loved the idea of not having a diet and instead changing your lifestyle. The first thing I did was that I resurrected my old burnt out passion for cooking fresh food. I started watching cooking shows on TV every night and I became really inspired to cook food that my family would enjoy and show off some of the cooking skills I’d learnt from watching TV. At this point in time, I was still eating the same quantity of food as I was when I was eating fast food every day, but I wasn’t eating the same quality of food. I would make batches of organic banana and coconut cookies or low-calorie choc chip cookies for breakfast. Lunch and dinner would normally be the same meal reheated. I took inspiration from cooking shows and would make tzatziki chicken wraps with fresh tomato, lettuce and onion, or pan fried chicken breasts in BBQ or teriyaki sauce with a big salad on the side. At this point, I wasn’t consciously cooking for weight loss, I was cooking for my health. After about a month of this, I felt confident enough to get on the scale and was pleasantly surprised when I found that my weight had dropped down to 187lbs! I had taken up about half an hour of very light dog walking each day during this time (Which i highly recommend as a form of weight loss in my article How I Lost 33lbs With The Help Of My Pets), but other than that, this weight loss was just a result of tweaking my diet.
187 to 165lbs – Counting Calories For Weight Loss
I was ecstatic with my weight loss results from light walking and swapping to healthier foods. Check out the Top 20 Easy Healthy Food Swaps for a list of some of the swaps I used during my weight loss journey. The best part was, it was just so easy! Actually, it was a bit too easy. Every single day I would get on the scale and see my weight slowly trickle away. But one day, I hit 165lbs and the scale just would not budge. Initially I blamed the scale and bought a new one. I was continuing to eat EXACTLY the same food and doing EXACTLY the same exercise without fail. What was wrong with me? Eventually, I decided that this stall in weight loss was taking too long and I took matters into my own hands by researching online. I started reading about calories, how to count them and how many you burn each day. After using an online calculator, I discovered that I was eating the exact number of calories that I needed to maintain my current weight. I had never thought about adjusting caloric intake as I lost weight, and this completely revolutionized my diet. I still ate pretty much whatever I wanted during this time as long as most of it was healthy, but I recorded every single bite. I would specifically search for low calorie cookies for breakfast and would limit myself to only a few. I still had chicken wraps for lunch, but I would limit myself to one and count how much sauce I added. I also started eating more stir-fries and vegetable soups, as well as implementing some handy tips, like making sure that I ate my salad before I ate anything else and drinking a glass of water before each meal which stopped me from over-eating. At this time, I implemented the ‘Eat as much fruit as you want’ rule and started falling in love with strawberries, blueberries and watermelon as midnight snacks. I started intensifying my exercise. I still walked the dogs each day, but I also started utilizing a gym in my apartment and counted how many calories I burnt on each machine. As long as 90% of the food I ate was fruit, vegetables, bread or meat, I allowed myself to eat packaged or fast food for the last 10%. This worked really well for me, right until I hit 165lbs.
165 to 143lbs – Eating Real Food
At this point, I had come so far only to hit another wall and be stuck at 165lbs. It was time for me to get serious about my weight loss. I decided to crack down on my diet and go almost completely raw. During this time, I ate predominantly fruit, vegetables, meat and allowed myself corn tortillas. I didn’t drink coffee during this time. I had cut out dairy and packaged and fast foods. All the food that I ate was certified organic and the highest quality I could find. For breakfast I would eat cookies made from fruits and coconut flour. Lunch would be vegetable soups, roasted vegetables or salmon. Dinner would be a piece of organic meat marinated with BBQ, teriyaki or satay sauce with either roasted vegetables or salad. Late night snacks were either fruit or homemade organic cakes. I really enjoyed this diet and as I hit 155lbs, I decided that I wasn’t really enjoying that daily serving of meat each night and that I’d like to try going vegetarian. I LOVED going vegetarian and felt the benefits really quickly. I kept the diet the same and would still cook meat at night for my family, but just eat the vegetables in sauce for myself. It was a lot of fun making vegetarian deserts and trying new ingredients. Going vegetarian helped me to get to 143lbs, but then I found that my weight loss had stopped once again and I had lost a lot of energy. When I had gone vegetarian, I had assumed that it was just eating fruit and vegetables and didn’t consider what other vitamins and minerals I might have been lacking. I was eating the same types of fruits and vegetables each day that weren’t high in protein. I hadn’t done my research on how to successfully pull off a vegetarian diet. I didn’t know this at the time, so I gradually reintroduced meat to my diet. My energy levels returned, but my weight still wouldn’t budge.
143 to 132lbs – Keto Craze
In an effort to kick-start my weight loss again, I joined a local gym. After voicing my problem to other gym members, there was one response that I got over and over: Try Keto. After hearing all the rave reviews and receiving a lot of encouragement to try it out, I gave the Keto diet a go. The plateau that I had reached at 143lbs was incredibly stubborn and nothing that I did shifted my weight in the slightest. Keto gave me a boost and helped me break through this wall and get down to 132lbs. Check out The Keto Food List if you’re interested in learning more about what you can eat on a Keto diet. Bulletproof coffee was my first meal of the day and I would make it using a mix of coconut oil, thickened cream, coconut milk and espresso. I ate bacon, eggs and sausages for a late brunch and then ate a chicken or beef dish for dinner, which would normally incorporate cheese in some way. I also ate a lot of hot dogs and would have haloumi or cheesecake as late-night snacks. Keto helped me to shift a bit more weight and move closer to my goal, but I became bloated and felt so backed-up that I had to visit a doctor. After visiting a doctor, I discovered that a high fat diet was not suitable for my body and that my physiology naturally leant itself to a more plant-based diet. I took a lot of great lessons away from the Keto diet. I gave up breads and pasta entirely during this time and I felt so great that I have never eaten them again since. After feeling sick and stopping the Keto diet, my weight loss stalled again at 132lbs.
132 to 110lbs – The Final Stretch
I still wasn’t happy with 132lbs and I wasn’t prepared to give up on my goal. I started increasing my time at the gym to between one to two hours each day and tried fad dieting. Nothing seemed to work. I was exhausted and frustrated. I decided that I was going to give up for a few days and just eat whatever I felt like. I ate fruit for breakfast, salmon for lunch and chicken and salad for dinner. I would occasionally have take-away food so long as it was organic or at least healthy. I decided to reintroduce coffee to my diet. I took a break from the gym and found that my weight had dropped! All of that pressure that I had placed on myself to lose weight was actually stopping me from achieving my weight loss goals. I coasted pretty easily down the remainder of my weight loss goal and soon found myself weighing in at 110lbs, which I still weigh today.
A key factor in this last part of my weight loss goal was meditation. I had always been very strict and hard on myself and this had initially helped me to reach my weight loss goals. But towards the end, this strictness with dieting and exercise was holding me back and I really needed to relax. I started meditating during this time, initially for only ten minutes each day which soon grew into almost an hour. I made sure to take time for myself each day and do something for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. When I’m bored, I keep myself busy so that I don’t eat and when I’m stressed, I look for activities like painting or yoga to stop me from binge eating. Today, I dabble a little bit here and there with my diet. I still feel the best on a plant based diet and tend to err more on the vegetarian side of things. That being said, I do still regularly eat meat. I eat everything organic and I find that this plays a big role in maintaining a healthy weight and for general wellbeing. I stay completely away from bread, bread products and pasta. A normal day for me today would be fruit for breakfast, a coffee (with almond or coconut milk) as a midday snack, salmon or a chicken salad for lunch and a variety of dinners such as balsamic roasted chicken and vegetables or slow cooker BBQ pork chops with a side of corn, peas and carrots. I will usually spend half of the week not eating any meat at all and have roasted vegetables, cabbage soup or baked beans for dinner. As well as matching my own personal metabolism, these meatless days also help me to maintain my weight as they are usually quite low calorie.
I have learnt so much through the evolution of my diet. I don’t regret any of the diets that I’ve tried and I find that each diet has its own unique benefits. I find myself constantly swinging between vegetarian, keto and paleo diets and I think that’s why my diet is successful. It’s important to keep in mind that when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s a marathon, not a sprint and there’s nothing wrong with evolving your diet to suit your needs over time. People who attempt to perform crash diets overnight tend to give them up just as quickly as they start them. When you make gradual changes, it becomes a natural process that you don’t have to fight and it lays the foundation for a healthy habit that will keep you fit in the long term.