When I first started gaining weight in my 40s, I commented to an older, fatter friend, “It’s only five pounds.”
“Yes, and if you gain five pounds a year, in seven years it will be 35 pounds. Look at me.”
For most of us, the Holidays are to blame for the typical annual five-pound weight gain. How can we enjoy all the parties and special family meals and still keep our weight under control?
I have managed to keep 20 pounds off for the last 15 months, surviving the Holidays, immobility after knee surgery, constant travel, lots of eating out and living alone—where the temptation is to graze rather than cook. Here is how I’ve done it.
Stop! Get on Your Scale Right Now!
Write down what you weigh. Ideally, you haven’t had anything to eat or drink yet and you’re not dressed. Your goal is to weigh the same on January 2, 2017.
Today is Saturday. Clean out your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Get rid of all carb- and fat-laden foods with little or no nutritional value. Empty all the candy dishes. If you don’t have pasta, white bread, flour tortillas, chips, sweetened cereals and beverages, cookies, candy, ice cream or rich cheeses in your home, you won’t eat them.
Eat a Big Breakfast
Next, plan your meals and snacks for the upcoming week. Eating a big breakfast, rich in protein and vegetables every day is essential. I ate cereal for breakfast all my life; so cooking eggs, breakfast meat and vegetables every morning was a huge challenge. Just learning to eat a cooked breakfast without toast or orange juice was tough. I have blogged about all the ways I cook eggs here.
That big breakfast will tide you over until noon, when you can have a salad with balsamic vinegar. (Commercial salad dressings tend to be loaded with sugar as well as fat.) Add skim milk cheese, a few nuts and/or lean meat or fish for protein. Or cook a big pot of vegetable soup with some lean meat. Freeze in individual portions for busy days throughout the holidays. I usually keep a rotisserie chicken on hand for salads and soups as well as an entrée for low-calorie dinners at home.
Load Up on Healthy Snacks
Keep healthy snacks on hand—hard-boiled eggs, raw vegetables with a yogurt dip, portion-controlled packages of almonds, apples, pears, applesauce and string cheese. A late afternoon snack will take a bite off your appetite before you go out to dinner or to a party.
My rule of thumb since I’m trying to maintain, not lose, weight is to eat two very healthy, low-calorie meals and have some common sense about meals out. I look for complex carbs—whole wheat bread and pasta, black beans instead of refried beans and rice, guacamole dip instead of chile con queso, green vegetables instead of a starch, broiled meat instead of fried, fish, chicken or pork instead of steak. Occasionally, I go vegetarian. I try to resist the temptation of dessert, but when one is set in front of me, I am going to eat it.
Count Your Drinks
I know too many people who have made a conscious decision to exempt alcohol from their diet plan. A generous serving of wine, a cocktail or mixed drink, a beer each have about 150 calories. At my age and activity level, I need to keep my calorie intake to 12-1500 calories a day. I find it very hard to eat enough to avoid hunger and to have good nutrition on 1200 calories. I have to count drinks if I don’t want to gain weight. The biggest problem is the generous host or the eager waiter who keeps refilling wine glasses before they are empty.
Tomorrow? Get on the Scales Again
During the years when I ignored the five Holiday pounds, I did not weigh regularly. Cultivating the habit of weighing every day has been an important key to my success. I allow myself a five-pound weight range. I have spent a fortune altering and replacing clothes. Right now they fit. If I drop any lower, they’re baggy. If I gain, they’re tight.
After a fancy dinner, a big party, a Tex-Mex meal, I can almost guarantee I’ll weigh an extra pound the next morning. However, one day of rigidly avoiding all carbs and fats will take off a pound or two. It’s much easier to keep my weight steady during the Holidays and on trips than to try to lose five pounds in January.
One Final Breakfast Tip
Eggs are an important source of protein, but they also add fat and cholesterol, and my cholesterol count is higher since I adopted this diet. My doctor thinks the benefits of my weight loss outweigh the risk, but I have made a few tweaks recently. I cook just one egg except for omelets, when I now use one whole egg plus egg whites to equal 1/3 cup.
Here’s the math: A whole egg contains the following percentages of our daily food allowance: 6% fat, 62% cholesterol, 12% protein, 5% Vitamin A, 6% Vitamin D, 6% iron, 2% calcium and 70 calories. Instead of doubling those numbers for an omelet, I add 25 calories and 10% protein with egg whites.
Sorry. I must go. I need to beat the weekend crowds to HEB.
Center photo: A tiny lean pork chop and egg are “fried” in Pam on a griddle, while a medley of of lima beans, purple hull peas, corn and tomatoes thaw and warm in the microwave.