I lost 120 pounds, and I did it without a gym membership, a weight-loss club, a supply of special fat-burning pills, a freezer full of packaged “diet” foods, or a personal trainer. Those things can be very expensive, but the good news is they’re not necessary to lose weight and keep it off.
My successful weight loss journey began by first making two very important commitments. The first commitment was that everything I did to lose weight would be oriented toward improving my health.
Secondly, I resolved that this time rather than going on a “diet”, I was going to learn to change my habits so the weight I lost could be permanent.
One thing I knew was that a task of this magnitude would certainly not happen overnight. It did, in fact, take me three years to achieve my goals. Much like the tortoise in his race with the hare, however, I did eventually “win” my own personal weight loss “race.”
Most diets fail because feeling constantly deprived and living in a state of semi-starvation simply cannot be tolerated mentally, emotionally or physically for any length of time. Since I knew I was in this for the long haul, I made it my mission to find a way to stay feeling as full and satisfied as I could. To achieve this goal, I created meals emphasizing nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, whole grains, oats, legumes, fruit, and soy. When these foods are eaten in their “whole-foods” form, with minimal processing, the fiber and nutrition they contain contributes to a full and satisfied feeling, not to mention their benefits to health. Restaurant meals, fast food and take-out are notoriously high in fat and calories, not to mention the expense!
To achieve my goals, I made the commitment to spend some time in the kitchen learning to prepare healthy foods. I began by first developing something I call my “Top 40” list of favorite, healthy foods. These nutrient-dense foods that I truly enjoyed became the mainstay of my daily diet. I turned it into a game to see how jam-packed with nutrition and low in calories I could make my meals, so I could eat a satisfying quantity of food and not feel deprived. I had fun revising existing favorite recipes by substituting high-fat ingredients with lower-calorie / lower-fat foods until I came up with a weight-loss friendly version of something that also tasted good. I enjoyed sneaking as many vegetables as I could into a dish, to up the fiber content. I experimented with foods I had never before tried (and thought I didn’t like) such as Brussels sprouts, Cannellini beans, and soy.
Because I’m a busy person, I focused on developing meals and snacks that could be prepared easily – in about 15 minutes. The more I learned to make quick, easy and enjoyable recipes that I liked to eat and that truly filled me up, the easier it was to stick to my weight-loss plan. My abilities to create quick and easy snacks and meals evolved and improved over time, and I began to refer to my technique as being the “How Low Can You Go?” method.
There was another interesting and unexpected “How Low Can You Go?” component to this process of learning to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods. When I first began to shop for them, I made a startling discovery – it’s pretty inexpensive to eat well! I could buy split peas for $.39 per pound! Whole-wheat flour cost $.49 per pound! Fresh fruits in season are quite reasonable, and full of sweetness. Frozen vegetables were readily available and were often on sale. Staples such as carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes and oats are easily incorporated into many recipes, available year-round, and inexpensive. A wide variety of legumes (beans) are full of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber and B-vitamins. Beans are quite versatile for making soups, dips, side dishes, salads or as a main course, and are also very filling. They are regularly on sale in my grocery store for only $.89 per can.
Eliminating most packaged and processed “convenience” foods and relegating more expensive items such as meats and cheeses to be a smaller, flavor-enhancing part of the meal really helped stretch the grocery budget. Developing the habit of limiting restaurant meals and packaged “convenience” foods and, instead, planning, and preparing nutrient-dense meals and snacks in my own kitchen helped me achieve my health and weight loss goals. My new “How Low Can You Go?” habits will not only help me keep the weight off, but may help contribute to me enjoying a long and healthy life. The economic benefits associated with selecting nutrient-dense foods become even more obvious when comparing the long-term costs of eating healthy foods vs. eating not-so-healthy foods. Healthy foods are truly a BARGAIN when compared to the astronomical costs of treating diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, gout, kidney failure, and arthritis.