Hello my name is Holly, and I am a sugar addict. While I am not in any attempt trying to make fun of those who suffer from addiction issues such as alcohol, drugs or gambling; I definitely suffer a big sweet tooth and have a problem with sugar. I could eat a huge, healthy meal; and not feel fully satisfied unless I had dessert or something sweet. Gradually one never turned out to be enough. I had to have a dessert with every meal, or something sweet with every snack. I had sugary foods from my first meal of the day, to the my last.
The problem was, I knew it wasn’t healthy. I disregarded it as I was young and could wait. Then last year it really hit me. I was getting close to the big
4-0, was the heaviest I have ever been, and just felt miserable. I had tried dieting before, but never really committed. In January of 2018 I decided it was time not just for a diet, but for a lifestyle change. I know it's super cliche to start a diet in the New Year, but what better time. My office does a weight loss challenge every year in January and I thought it was a good opportunity to finally go at it for real. I am happy to say that I lost 30 lbs and felt great. Several people had asked me how I did it, and I always answered the same, “Eating healthy and exercising.” While that is true, I thought I would break down more of what I did and try to continue to do to this day. To avoid making this a super long blog post, I am doing a two part post. This first one is diet, next will be my exercise routine.
Before I being on my food diet, I want to preface this with I am by no means an expert. I am not a doctor, nutritionist, dietitian, fitician, or have any sort of degree in this field. This is not to be taken as medical advice. I firmly believe in discussing these things with your doctor or an expert, especially if you have health problems. This is simply what I find works for me.
I Follow a Mostly Clean Eating Diet
There are a lot of key words out there when it comes to diets. Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean, and Clean Eating. There are a few definitions of what clean eating is, and it can be used liberally. How I define it is doing my best to avoid processed foods, fried foods, lots of gluten, and especially refined sugar. I try to eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and as organically as possible. To me a “clean eating” is just fancy label for eating healthy. I read food labels and try to avoid foods with unnecessary additives. There are several clean food diet plans out there but my absolute favorite is Clean Food Crush by Rachel Masser. It was her 4 week, 30 day program that turned me on to this lifestyle. I highly recommend checking out her site; and considering this program. The recipes I got from this (and continue to get from her) are some of my most used recipes. Her program is a great introduction to this lifestyle and comes with support to get you started on your journey.
I Eat 5-6 Times a Day
That seems like a lot to some people, but I eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks every day. I eat breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. If I am really hungry I may have an after dinner snack. I try to eat smaller, portioned controlled meals as well. The smaller meals keep me full throughout the day. Later I will give an example of what I may eat for each of thee meals.
I Meal Plan
Being prepared works for me. I find that if I know what I am going to be cooking and having food available, it is easier to stick to my diet. To meal plan, I create a spreadsheet in Google Docs. I go from Sunday to Saturday. I have my 5 columns for each meal of the day. I tend to plan ahead a few weeks, so if I get busy I am all set. Screenshot below of what my sheet looks like:
You will notice that I usually have a couple of nights dedicated to leftovers. I only have to cook for 2, and most recipes make enough for more than two. When I first started, I would plan a meal for ever night. I always ended up leftovers and hated to see them go to waste; so now I build them into my meal plan. However, I usually have something around I can toss together just in case. I would start by planning 1 meal for every night and adjust after a few weeks if needed.
Next, on a separate sheet in the file, I have a grocery list. As I am meal planning, I write down all the ingredients I need (minus staples). Then at the end of the week, I will do a quick evaluation of the following week. I’ll check the grocery list to see if there are things I may have already in my pantry or fridge. Sometimes I don’t get to cook a meal I planned for various reasons, but still have the ingredients. In that case, I’ll move it to the next week and remove something else. Sometimes I will switch out a meal idea as well if I find I have a lot of leftover produce or food from the week before. I do my best not to waste.
I mentioned staples above, and I do have ingredients I also keep handy and replace as soon as I am out. I will mention those items in the 3rd blog post.
I Meal Prep
Every Sunday I spent time in my kitchen preparing and prepping a good chunk of my meals for the week. Since I work in an office 5 days a week, 2 of my meals and 2 of my snacks take place while there. It also is the place that is the most tempting to cheat. Having all of these items prepared ahead of time and ready to go, makes it easy to stick to my meal plan. I just grab them in the morning and I am set for the day.
I will say that meal prep can seem daunting at first to do this. The first time I meal prepped, I spent close to 4 hours in the kitchen. Over time though I learned faster ways to do things, and adjust. Now I most of my meal prep time is 1-2 hours. I do try to do the entire week on Sunday, but some items may not last the entire week. In that case I may have a small mid-week prep, but that usually is a quick one that takes less than 30 minutes.
I Follow the 90/10 Rule
I have seen with dieting some people go to extremes. I knew if I were to say I would never eat a cupcake or cookie again, I would go crazy. Instead I try to eat healthy 90% of the time and cheat 10%. I have also seen people instead follow the 80/20 rule, so cheating 20% of the time. When I am trying to lose weight faster, I do 90/10. I do more of an 80/20 rule when at my ideal weight and trying to maintain. How I break this down is that I roughly eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. I look at it at an entire week. So that is 21 meals and 14 snacks. That breaks down to 2.1 cheat meals and 1.4 snacks per week. I make that 2 meals and 1 snack. The extra .5 is usually a glass of wine or a beer.
My cheats are usually on the weekends (usually because we go out to eat), and it’s become sort of a fun game for me. I can think about all week where I want to go and how I want to use my cheat.
If you know me, I am not a bad cook, but I am not a chef that can whip up stuff from scratch. I prefer to follow recipes and besides Clean Food Crush, here are some websites and cooks books I love and use often. Each name is a link to their site or cookbooks.
The Gracious Pantry (Food Blog)
Pinterest. (Just search clean eating recipes)
Hungry & Clean (cookbook)
The Healthy Meal Prep Cook Book
I usually will note on my meal planning spreadsheet were the recipe came from as well, in case I forget. Finally don’t be afraid to just Google clean eating recipes, and you can even narrow that down by adding in ingredients like chicken or veggies.
Here are what my typical day may look like.
Breakfast: I usually either do some sort of egg dish or overnight oats. For an egg dish I like to mix veggies with eggs and bake them into a muffin pan or create a frittata or quiche. I love overnight oats or puddings, and they are so easy. Usually just fill a container with oats, almond milk, and some other ingredients based on what flavor you want, and toss in the fridge (just do a search online for recipes). Then the next morning you are all set!
Tip: invest in some mason jars with lids. They work great for meal prep, especially overnight oats.
Lunch: This can vary a lot for me. In the colder months, I love to make a nice hearty soup, usually something with beans and veggies. I also may do some sort of chicken or turkey item (I love Rachel Masser's turkey meatballs from week 1 of her 30 day program). I accompany any sort of protein with some sort of veggie side dish, an sometimes a healthy carbohydrate like quinoa or sweet potatoes. One of my go to items is a tuna salad wrap. I used canned tuna with Greek yogurt instead of mayo. I may sprinkle in some real celery or celery seed; then red onions or onion powder. I put it in an Ezekiel wrap and top it with red peppers and spinach.
Dinner: A meat protein such as steak, chicken, or fish with a a veggie side dish. I love oven roasting things and sheet pan recipes. Mexican style food is a staple in my house and usually once a week we have some sort of Mexican inspired meal. For example, I love browning up either ground beef or turkey with pepper, onions, spices, and some beans. Skillet recipes in general are a favorite of mine. I also enjoy some Asian inspired dishes and try to work in a vegetarian meal at least once a week. I don't have a consistent pattern. I just try to have a nice variety, limit my red meat intake (due to cholesterol), and try to find something that doesn't take long to prepare. Since I meal prep on Sundays, I don't want to spend long hours in the kitchen through the week.
Snacks: Smoothies, fruits, almonds, veggies with hummus are my main go to snacks. I get bored quickly though, so every couple weeks I need to mix it up. I may do some Siggis or Fage yogurt; or make a healthy bread. There are some great clean eating approved banana and apple breads out there! I also have found some great protein balls and even some more dessert type things to enjoy (all clean eating approved). If I do an after dinner snack its almost always some sort of clean eating approved. If I need chocolate I love Lily's Dark Chocolate Bars or the HU Bars
I try to keep a balance of items with a nice variety of grains, veggies, fruits and meats across all my meals for the day. A balance of the food groups; like those pyramids from school. For example, if I am having overnight oats for breakfast, I won’t have a healthy bread as a snack; just because that is a lot of carbs. I may choose fruit or veggies for my snack that day.
Finally, I want to say I am flawed. I did start to slack when I was only 5 lbs away from my main goal because I was happy enough. I indulged a little more, but I was great most of 2018. Then I fell off the wagon pretty hard during the month of December. The holidays will do that and I picked up some old bad habits. While it was nice to celebrate I realized I was starting to feel more depressed, anxious, and just overall blah. I ended up putting on about 10 pounds. Well I am back at again and already my first week in, notice huge improvements in how I feel. Remember before how I said I am no expert? I may not be but I think those who are would agree, "It matters what you put into your body."
Feel free to hit me up with any questions of if you are on a lifestyle change and looking for support.