The first step is a desire to change. You'll find that this is crucial for any habit you are trying to break or change. If you aren't committed, you will likely fail and the effects will not last. This is exactly how I began. Sometime in June, I decided I needed to cut way back on my sugar in-take. I have diabetes on both sides of my family, and sugar has always been my biggest diet-related weakness; I would even call it an addiction for me. So I asked my wonderful fiancee, Morgan, if he would help support me in this goal. He was more than happy to help!
Soon after cutting back my sugar, I decided I wanted to eat better in general, and again asked Morgan to help. I do not like counting calories, so this was one way Morgan was a huge help. I began by making a list of foods I normally eat. Then, Morgan looked up the calories and serving sizes for me.
Another concern was my energy level. I used to sleep a lot more than I do now, but I seemed to always feel sleepy and sluggish throughout the day. Morgan helped me to pick foods that would give me energy, and identified foods that would make me more tired. He also helped me pick out proper proportions of protein, veggies, fats, and good and bad carbs, which I could incorporate into each meal and any snacks.
Here's what worked best for me. We began with a 2000-2200 calorie goal for the day - I have no idea how many calories I was eating normally at that time, but it was most likely too high. The goal with eating was to not eat until I felt full, but to hit that content feeling between hungry and too full. Mornings are tough for me; I'm not a morning person at all! So for breakfast, I mostly ate protein to energize me right at the beginning of the day.
At lunchtime, we wanted to avoid the mid-afternoon energy dip - that time when I would always take a nap if at all possible. To accomplish this, I ate a ratio of about 10% carbs, 50% protein, 40% fruits and veggies. A lot of times it ended up being a ton of vegetables, which helped fill me without adding a ton of extra calories.
- When I feel like I need a snack throughout the day, I stick to protein and/or fruits and veggies.
- I don't want to waste my calories on drinks, so I only drink water - I've always liked water, so this wasn't hard for me. Another option is Powerade Zero - zero calories and zero sugar! Occasionally I'll drink a Powerade Zero.
- I cut my sugar WAY back - at the beginning I only ate a sugary treat at the end of the day if I had enough calories left-over (I usually made sure I had calories left! Haha). I wasn't ready to give up sugar yet. Once I was willing to give it up almost completely, I cut back more. Now, I only eat sugar-free desserts under 100 calories (I enjoy sugar-free chocolate pudding or Jell-o), and once a week I allow myself something sugary up to 200 calories.
- I have recorded what I ate since I began, and this has helped me to stay on track and to learn what I can eat without looking at the nutrition facts as much. Now, I can typically look at a meal or recipe and anticipate whether or not I should eat it.
- As you can see from the above food log, my diet is not so restrictive that I can't eat out. In fact, I still eat a lot of the foods I've always loved, including at restaurants I've always loved. I eat out about once a week; I'm just smarter about where I eat and what I eat when I go to restaurants. I've discovered that it's better to look up nutrition facts for restaurants before I go. This isn't always possible, but we usually know when and where we're going to be eating out, so I do try to look up menu items beforehand so I'm not tempted.
Three things that I think have been most important for my continued success:
- I had to make the choice to change
- I have an awesome support system in my fiancee, Morgan :)
- I had a desire to learn about nutrition to be able to eventually do most of this on my own