Recently I was talking to a friend about weight loss. She asked me what I would recommend that she do to lose a few pounds. Our conversation got me thinking how I have a few tweaks that I incorporate into my lifestyle when I need to focus on toning up for a week or two.
How do I balance happy and healthy?
I haven’t counted calories and my size has stayed about the same (minus baby time) for years. Notice that I said “my size” because I don’t weigh myself! I just go by how I look and feel. So when I start to feel like I’ve gained a little weight, I (very loosely) put this plan into action. It’s customized to me because I know what is important to me and what I can live without. So rather than tell you to, “cut out chocolate” or “never go to Starbucks”, I’m giving you a mad lib of sorts to fill in the blanks and figure out your own weight loss plan.
Choose a deal breaker.
Subtract one or two foods you won’t miss from your day and keep in a deal breaker, the only purpose of which is to make you happy. Obviously you have to cut back on a little something, so calories in < calories out. Ask yourself, “What makes me most happy?” A glass of wine? Dark chocolate after dinner? Your daily Starbucks treat? An evening snack? You don’t have to cut out everything to lose weight. What foods do you live for and what can you live without? I live for a glass of wine with dinner, so that’s something that’s important for me to keep in my routine a few nights a week, but I can pretty easily go without dessert or an evening snack, so that’s the first thing I cut back on. Keeping in something that makes you happy means you won’t feel deprived, and we know that’s important!
Go lower carb.
(Unless that’s your deal breaker!) To me, lower carb doesn’t mean never eating bread or forcing yourself to eat cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles. Again, you don’t want to feel deprived. But prioritizing meals lower in carbs and higher in protein and (good) fat will help you tone up. In the same mindset as my deal breaker point above, cut back on carbs you won’t miss (for me that’s a starchy side at dinner) and leave in the ones you need (oats at breakfast!). Cut your toast serving in half, have a salad instead of a sandwich at lunch, double up on veggies at dinner, choose a sweet potato instead of a refined-flour roll as a side, have a yogurt smoothie instead of cereal for breakfast, make bean or quinoa salad instead of pasta or potato salad for the potluck, snack on almonds instead of crackers. And always eat more real fresh food! Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with potato salad or a sandwich, but minimize them for a bit, and then enjoy them wholeheartedly when you do have them.
Make some happy and healthy swaps.
In the same spirit as this post, it’s easier to add than subtract. And it’s easier to swap than delete. So make some healthy swaps. Maybe you actually love zucchini noodles and you like swapping them for refined pasta. Maybe you don’t notice when you cut back from two snacks to one. Try removing something and see if you miss it. You might not! Work on your beverages too. “Flossing isn’t important,” said no dentist EVER. Similarly, 100% of dietitians will agree that drinking water is a good thing. Hunger and thirst are often confused. Ya’ll know I love me some La Croix! And lower-calorie kombucha makes a great swap for a cocktail. Maybe you just swap your 400 calorie pint of craft beer for a 120-calorie glass of red wine. Hey – it’s something!
The common theme in the above suggestions is that you have to do you. And that requires being mindful and aware of your personality, quirks and habits. No diet fits all because we are all so different. So fill in the blanks to your healthy living mad lib and find the crossroads of happy and healthy.