Monday, February 16, 2009

Entering the Gimmick-Free Zone

I have tried lots of gimmicks to lose weight -- and I'll bet you have too. The gimmick that worked best for me was Weight Watchers points because after a while it's easy to count the points. However, I'm on a no-gimmick eating plan.

Basically, I sat down and asked myself what foods I really wanted to eat. This was so liberating! For probably the first time since I started gaining weight, I was focused on what I chose to eat and not what I "could not" or "should not eat." Then, I divided these foods into daily foods and things that --while I still want to be able to eat them--I want to limit. So, for instance, I have ice cream on my once-a-month list.

My next step was to figure out how many calories I could eat and still lose weight. The fab guys at Fat 2 Fit Radio suggest that you eat the number of calories you need to eat in order to maintain your goal weight. To do this yourself, you really need the help of a BMR (basic metabolic rate) calculator. I found instructions for calculating this in lots of places on the web, but the simplest way was to follow the instructions I found at Fat 2 Fit.

The reason this works has to do with the law of thermo-dynamics. Calories are energy. If you consume more calories than you use up (burn), it is stored in your body as fat. Although there are lots of claims for supplements that speed up the metabolism, there are risks with nearly all of them. So it seems much healthier and simpler to just do the math. If you exercise a lot, you burn more calories than if you are sedentary. But in the end, gimmicks aside, it really does have to come down to what you eat. You simply cannot lose or even maintain weight if you eat more calories than you burn. So no matter how you are working your weight loss goals, you do need to know how to do the math. [Actually, it's much more complex than this and if you really want to understand the nuances, try reading this article on the thermodynamics of weight loss on a night you can't get to sleep! I have opted for assuming I won't burn anything extra and not worrying about the nuances ]

Finally, I just matched up what I wanted to eat with my daily calories and, viola, instant food plan! I like it and it works for me on every level: it's full of vitamins, it's food I like, it's a low-carb plan because that works for me, and it's simple. Nearly everything has calories and recording them is easy. When I climb close to my daily total, I start thinking about how hungry I actually am. Obviously I would benefit from thinking about this all the time, but that just isn't always on my radar!!

This has also helped me curb my cravings for less-supportive foods. Weight loss programs always tell you that you can eat whatever you want to - and it's true -- but of course you have to mark the points or deal the cards or whatever. It's not free - it goes back to the math. I love ice cream - I mean I really love it. I think it is one of the most amazing recipes ever invented. However, it has a lot of calories for the amount of fun I get to have eating it. I can eat a lot of bowls of yummy pumpkin soup or put a big pile of shredded low-fat cheese on my salad for the same number of calories. When I realized that, my craving stopped. Actually, it screeched to a halt. It's just not worth it to me.

So that's my plan. It's simple, it's real, and it's very healthy. I focus on real foods - not processed ones - and cook almost all of it from scratch. I'm happy, my family's happy and we are all getting what we need from our food. No gimmicks - just real food and true satisfaction. Ahhhhh.