In my previous entry, I highlighted the things I eat since I changed my diet. But, I didn't talk about what steps I took that I think contributed most to my weight loss. So maybe it is helpful to share some of the changes I have made that have resulted in better eating habits.
Essentially, the biggest change I made was committing to cooking my own food. Like a lot of people, I used to think of cooking and meal planning as a dreaded chore. As a result, I cooked as infrequently as I could get away with. At most I would cook two or three dinners a week, eating the leftovers for the rest of the dinners. If there were no leftovers to eat, and I didn't feel like cooking, we would eat cereal, even popcorn for dinner!!! For lunch, I never had a plan for what I was going to eat, so I would eat something inappropriate, and then would end up grazing all afternoon because I didn't feel full. So, now here is what I do:
- I cook breakfast from scratch every morning. I can't remember the last time I bought a pre-made cereal or instant breakfast product. I used to eat huge bowls of cereal for breakfast, and sometimes for snacks, and as I mentioned, sometimes for dinner... If this seems like a lot of work, I have found a few shortcuts that help. If I make pancakes or waffles and don't have time to cook the whole batch, I cook only what is needed for that meal, and then I place the rest of the batter in the refrigerator. Then the next day, all I need to do is heat my griddle and the batter is ready to cook. Or if I do have time to cook the whole batch the first day, I do. Then the next morning, to reheat the waffles or pancakes, I just place them briefly in the toaster for an instant breakfast. Or another thing I do for breakfast, if I have a small amount vegetable leftovers that isn't enough for lunch, I will add them to some scrambled eggs, etc.
- I eat a balanced lunch. The best part of it is that I normally have to make no effort at all to eat a healthy lunch now, because most days, I eat the leftovers from the previous night's dinner. If for some reason I find I am hungry after lunch, instead of snacking on sugary junk food, I think about my lunch to see what was missing or lacking in it: maybe I need to eat some nuts to get a bit more protein and fat to feel more full or maybe I need some carrots or fruit.
- Now I cook a fresh dinner every night. This is the major change for me. But the best thing that came from it is that I now find cooking to be entertainment. Often DH will arrive home from work while I am still cooking dinner, and he will help. It is actually fun to cook together. On weekends for entertainment, sometimes we will think of a complicated dish and will spend hours cooking it. Sometimes it will mean going to the farmer's market first to get the fresh produce we will need for the meal, etc. And every week DH makes homemade bread, etc. We know that anything we prepare at home is going to have more value (price value, nutrition value and intrinsic value) than any meal we would get at a restaurant. We rarely eat out, and when we do, it is because we are out of town.
The other thing that helped me lose weight, besides eating balanced meals, is that I broke my addiction to refined sugar. It is out of my life, and I don't miss it at all. I still eat sweet things, but I sweeten them as little as possible, with natural sweeteners like agave nectar. And I make sure that my desserts aren't just empty calories; there must be something nutritious in it: whole grains, fruit, nuts, etc.
Another thing that has really helped me is changing what I drink. I don't drink anything that has calories or that is artificially calorie-free. I only drink water and herbal tea; my indulgence is a cup of espresso per day. I drink my coffee black or with whole milk, but I never sweeten it. Other than adding milk to my coffee, I don't drink it as a beverage. (I used to drink milk and soy milk as a beverage). Extremely rarely, only on special occasions, I will make spritzers made with ice and lemon or lime or other fruit and agave nectar.
Anyway, those are some of the highlights of my new habits. Mainly, I am now cooking more than I ever have in my life. I think using more of my time for cooking is a worthwhile endeavor. The extra effort it takes to cook my own food rewards me with vastly higher energy levels than I've had since my early twenties. In the past I would use my extra time doing sedentary things, while eating unhealthy food, resulting in continual weight gain. Now, I am spending less time on the computer or in front of a television, because I am now cooking and eating healthy, and my life is much more enriched.