Best diet & exercise tricks evar!
June 24, 2010 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Diet & exercise tips & tricks, please!

I'm gearing up for another run at some serious weight loss (70+ lbs.). I've done this before, via Weight Watchers, and I'm fairly well-versed on the basics of tracking everything, portion control and the like. I am a realist and know that there are no short cuts or "tricks", so please don't admonish me for that. I have also read through 10 pages worth of previous AskMes related to dieting, but my question is slightly different.

What I'd like to hear from you is any tips, tricks or tools you use to help you control what goes into your mouth or your shopping cart, or to help you keep up with or push yourself toward more exercise.

For example, at WW I learned to ask for a salad with dressing on the side, and to dip my fork in the dressing before assembling a bite of salad. You end up eating a lot less of the dressing this way, while still getting some with every bite. Sort of looking for the dietary equivalent of setting your alarm 5 minutes fast to make yourself get ready on time, you know?

So, mefites, what do you do to make sure you take the best care of yourself?
posted by wwartorff to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
I drink a huge glass of water before every meal. I get 8 hours sleep a night. I never eat after 9:00pm.

(Ok, that is what I am supposed to do; sometimes I slip up.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:52 PM on June 24, 2010

I carry a small amount of food with me all the time in my purse (almonds, carrots, even cooked quinoa...) so I'm never caught having to buy something on the go, which is not likely going to be as healthy as what I've got. I also never use my large plates at home, and use side plates and bowls, which hold a smaller amount. Good luck with your new lifestyle!
posted by gillianr at 7:54 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is going to sound obvious, but I eat a big meal before I go grocery shopping so that nothing really looks good to me. That way, I don't buy yummy but fattening things-I truly shop with my brain and not my stomach. And if it's not in the house, I can't eat it. Good luck with your plan!
posted by supercapitalist at 7:56 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Appetite suppressants are terrific for weight loss and can make a world of difference. With over 70 lbs to lose, you shouldn't have any trouble getting a prescription from your doctor – just ask. It's how I lost my ten extra pounds without bothering to count calories or conscious dieting. I realize that appetite suppressing medication is controversial, but if help is easily available and can dramatically help you succeed, why not take full advantage of it?

Also, fiber supplements will keep you full. I like Metamucil Clear & Natural: it's virtually imperceptible in non-carbonated liquids including water.
posted by halogen at 8:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I take my favorite dishes at restaurants and find things to cut out. No cheddar on my Quiznos, no mayo on my Jimmy Johns, no oil on my Subway... I'm sure this is applicable to more than subs but I guess I really want a sandwich. At the grocery store: no bread at over 100 calories per slice, no frozen dinners over 350 calories, no dairy over 2% milkfat. The basic principle is to setting lots of little rules, and then making a habit of following them. It's a good way to skim off one or two hundred calories a day.
posted by ista at 8:02 PM on June 24, 2010

This is a weird and counter-intuitive one, but: I took a Psych class once with a professor who said one of the many reasons diets don't work is because once a dieter fails the first time, she or he sees failure as inevitable. We expect what we know, I guess. Somehow that turned around in my mind and actually works to help me eat healthier. Every time I start fantasizing about bingeing on junk food, I think: "If I can make the healthy choice now, I'll always be able to make the healthy choice. If I can do it now, I can prove to myself that I can do it always." The more you think it, the easier it gets: "Last week when I really wanted those onion rings, I got the fruit salad instead, and I lived through it. I can do it again right now."

Maybe the risk is that if you don't make the healthy choice, you'll never be able to, but I treat it like a new challenge every time.
posted by sallybrown at 8:02 PM on June 24, 2010 [16 favorites]

Oh, also, try cutting added sugar out of your diet completely for a while. I know it sounds drastic, but it made food (especially fresh fruit) taste absolutely effing delicious. After about a month I caved and ordered creme brulee while out to dinner and spent the whole next day in bed feeling like I'd been poisoned. That ended my sugar cravings for good.

(I can still handle the occasional doughnut, though. Thank god.)
posted by sallybrown at 8:06 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

always have healthy snacks available and ready to eat - some washed and cut veggies or fruit, for example - if you prepare them when you aren't hungry, it will be so much easier to have a healthy snack when you do get hungry, because it's right there.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:21 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I try to avoid drinking calories if at all possible. Basically, water. Lots of water. You can cut out a lot of calories this way with relatively little pain if you are drinking lots of non-diet sodas, sugary coffee concoctions, smoothies, etc.

If I absolutely must have a soda, then I pick diet soda. When I started this, I found the diet version of my normal soda of choice tasted horrible to me, so I switched to a different kind so I wouldn't notice it as much. But mostly water!

Drinking drinks with sugar in them now feels really weird. It's gross and sticky and I can't stand them.
posted by ZeroDivides at 8:39 PM on June 24, 2010

Sriracha sauce makes even the blandest of bland diet food into a spicy and delicious dining experience.
posted by theraflu at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2010

Mental outlook is incredibly important. Do everything you can to keep your exercise regimin from becoming a "slog." Don't allow your diet to become an exercise in self-persecution and blandness. You don't have to do everything all at once, so don't. It's much better to make long-lasting changes a bit at a time than it is to make a bunch of huge changes that you'll probably end up dropping after a few months anyway.

The problem with most dieters is that they make this sudden, all-encompassing decisions that they'll fight this weight tooth and nail, whatever the outcome. Problem is, once they hit the wall, they don't have any fight in them and they end up retreating into a (probably worse) situation than they were in before. If you think that dramatically changing both your diet and exercise habits at the same time would be more than you can handle, just change one for now. Let your body adjust, then add another layer of diet to your diet.

Most of all, do and eat things you enjoy. Decided you're not gonna eat red meat? Fine. Vegetarians have plenty of culinary fun. It just takes some thinking outside of the box. Fed up with the gym? Screw it. Go for a jog in the park, play some tennis, rock climb, try a new variation on some exercise you've been doing on a regular basis. If you're bored with your routine, you'll stop, so change it quick!

Oh, and whatever you do, don't watch the scale. Weight is a horribly inaccurate measure of progress in the diet world. Fat % measurement is much better, although I'm not sure how accurate those scales that do fat % are. It would probably be best to make the changes you wanna make and not worry about the results for a while. Your goals should be the life-changes themselves, not a specific number of pounds or percentage points.
posted by genericdave at 8:46 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

After you are done eating a meal, drink a small cup of green tea. Make a habit of it. Tea bags and hot water are easy to have around. The green tea will settle your stomach, and it could operate as a signal to your body that you are finished eating.
posted by Slap Factory at 8:56 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm terrible at exercising, but I'm pretty strict about my calorie intake - knowing is most of the battle. I gain weight very quickly if I'm not actively monitoring everything I eat, so it's become a lifestyle and second nature for me to estimate (over-estimate, to be safe) what's in my food. Experience in guessing your points or calorie content comes from lots of research into ingredients and portion sizes.

I analyze nutrition information if I'm eating out or shopping for groceries. Since I like to eat my ration of sugar in sweet dessert food-form I avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup in other grocery products, including drinks. I don't drink much alcohol. I don't drink juice. I drink coffee and tea black.

Always order sauces and dressings on the side, since you probably don't know what's in there. If eating out, always try to swap your side dish for a vegetable (broccoli instead of potatoes, salad instead of fries). If I really want the starchy side dish, I don't eat (at least half) the bread in the entree. Ask your server NOT to bring the free bread or chips before your meal.

I also drink a ton of carbonated water. I love the fizziness, it fills my stomach and distracts me from thinking about junk food, and it's calorie free. Don't get the brands that have artificial sweeteners.

And finally, the suggestion to add hot sauce to your meals is an excellent one. Super spiciness boosts your metabolism and forces you to drink more water, plus it tastes great on boring diet foods like beans and vegetables. Win-win.
posted by funfetti at 9:00 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

> Super spiciness boosts your metabolism and forces you to drink more water, plus it tastes great on boring diet foods like beans and vegetables.

Good advice, but bad culinary sentiments. People who think beans and veggies are boring just never gave them the chance. I thought I hated broccoli as a kid. Then I tried steaming a bunch of broccoli and seasoning it with salt and fresh cracked pepper. I couldn't believe that I had never had broccoli like that before. The problem was that my mother tended to boil the crap out of her broccoli, then compensate with velveeta cheese (which I never liked).

My point: Just because it's healthy doesn't mean it tastes bad, you're probably just doing it wrong.
posted by genericdave at 9:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

I find protein very filling, so I eat high-protein foods for my snacks and make sure to include protein in every meal--especially breakfast, because it keeps me from being ravenous later in the day.

I have weaknesses at work--sugary drinks and chocolate. To avoid soda and candy bars, I make sure to bring things with me every day that fulfill those cravings but are more healthy. Usually it's iced tea I brew myself (in order to control the sugar content) and semisweet chocolate chips (little bit of sugar, no extra fat, easy to portion out). Basically, you can't deny yourself everything forever, so it's better to have healthier alternatives available to help you resist the temptations of the really bad stuff.

Eat sloooooowly. As an easily distracted person, I do this naturally, but it really helps. I end up eating much less than my eyes think I want. Serve yourself small portions, and if you can't fill space with conversation, try reading a book or farting around online in between bites. Then you give your body time to tell your brain that you're full.
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:32 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't have anything in your house that you wouldn't want to eat while on a diet.

That means no cookies, ice-cream, chips, bacon, etc. If you ever need these things for like company or something, get it only when the situation calls for it.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:36 PM on June 24, 2010

Super spiciness boosts your metabolism

Super spiciness also makes you crave more food and eat more. Sort of like super spicy hot wings that are making you cry but you just-gotta-have-one-more. Spicy foods are yum but don't overdo it.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:40 PM on June 24, 2010

Ask for a to-go box when you order in restaurants. When your food arrives, immediately put half in the box. Eat as much of the remainder as you like. Take the rest home, or give it to a homeless person on your way out. Restaurant portions are generally 2-3x appropriate size portions.
posted by judith at 9:43 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with most of what has already been said here, but here are some tips that I find work for me:

Getting rid of calories in liquid. I remember the first time I totaled up the calories in a homemade smoothie *GASP* bad news. Now I keep Perrier (plain, lemon, and pink grapefruit) ice cold in my fridge. Most of the time when I reach for a soda, I'm really just thirsty but I don't necessarily want distilled water.

In addition to the Perrier, when I drink water with a meal I fancy it up. At dinner, I put my water in a wine glass. It makes it seem like an active choice.. "I would like to have some ice cold water with a bit of lemon with my pasta" rather than... "I'm not supposed to have soda, I don't really want wine, well, I guess I'll just have water." Also, I don't know why, but I LOVE drinking out of wine glasses, so it's a positive association as well.

I always try to eat, before I head to the market to do some serious shopping. In addition to that, I heard somewhere (but currently do not remember where) receiving advice to only shop on the outside of the supermarket, trying to avoid the interior aisles all together. I start in produce and try to fill at least a third of my cart there. I've now gotten to the point where I don't even acknowledge the frozen foods aisle (except for the occasional ice cream negotiation... "do I want it, how badly, will it taste as good as I think..."). Of course this doesn't work 100% (I mean, I think I would rappel into the coffee aisle if I had to) but it's for the most part effective, and has really changed my diet to include primarily fresh foods.

This leads to me having great meals that are really filling. For example, I love salads and I usually eat one a day. I love salads because of all the fresh foods in them. There's usually tons of flavor, and texture (I always add sliced almonds and croutons) and I have enough to eat until I'm full. Including the dressing (which I do not put on the side) I'm coming in at 400 calories, I'm satisfied, and could not eat another bite. One tip I learned that I use for salads is to replace your cheeses. I don't think I could ever completely cut cheese out of my diet, it's just too divine. So I substitute a more flavorful cheese (feta, Gorgonzola, blue cheese crumbles) for less flavorful cheese (just about any packed shredded cheese, including cheddar). I usually only use a tablespoon of the cheese, but it's enough flavor that I'm actually tasting it in my dish. I find that with cheddar, I often have to pile it on to taste it at all. (Which is why I don't really eat cheese on burgers or sandwiches, I don't really taste it, so what's the point?)

This one I find most important. I do not want to set up only negative associations with food, so when I want something, I don't agonize over the choice or feel guilty for eating. God gave us the ability to make doughnuts for a reason. So, occasionally I have a different negotiation (usu. including the SO who seems to have an internal gravitational pull to the doughnut section). When I know how long it takes to burn off the calories and how hard I have to work to loose a pound (and how some days I absolutely HATE the tredmill) it makes the doughnut less appetizing, so I'll settle for a small bowl of cinnamon toast crunch. Not a healthy snack, but I'm not eating doughnuts that I don't want, I'm just getting rid of a craving. Another time this happens is when my SO and I both want to be devilishly bad, we go for it. Which means, ordering the smallest portion, splitting it, and thinking about what we are eating. Usually it doesn't taste as good as you thought it would (esp. if you usu. eat fresh foods) and you get over it, but if you don't you're not living in agony about all the restrictions of your diet.
posted by Term of Art at 10:11 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you live in a suitable location, walk to the grocery store when you need to buy food. This has three main benefits:
1. You get exercise from walking back and forth. I live about 10 minutes away from my store, up a gentle hill. It's a nice walk.
2. It limits what you buy to what you can carry home. Walking to the store pretty much stopped me from buying pop, ice cream, lots of meat and anything else heavy. Also, big bags of chips are pretty awkward under your arm. As a bonus, fruits and veggies tend to be fairly light.
3. You have to carry a decent amount of weight home, so you get bonus exercise!
posted by just_ducky at 10:13 PM on June 24, 2010

I was going to compose a longer post, but others have covered many of my points. However, one thing I do that I don't believe has been emphasized yet is to take full advantage of engineered (artificial / imitation / etc) foods, including:

-Artificial sweeteners (splenda when possible; others in pre-packaged foods/drinks).

-Artificial butter substitutes:
----Fat-free "I can't believe it's not butter" when possible; 5 calories per 2 Tbsp
----"I can't believe it's not butter" spray otherwise. It actually contains almost 1 calorie per spray but is still a decent substitute in many cases. One should count and log the sprays just as any other food intake.

-Skim milk instead of milk that tastes good. Yeah, it's not that great, but sometimes you _need_ milk for a recipe or mixture that you enjoy. In my opinion, organic skim milk tastes better than regular skim milk, but this could be a result of the placebo effect.

-Low-fat and (especially) fat-free cream cheese on bagels and other bread products

-Other low-fat cheese products (not necessarily artificial) instead of higher fat/calorie cheeses

-Beverages and bars engineered to be high in protein and low in fats/carbs: I am not trying to watch my fat or carb intake per se, but I find that these give a lot of bang for the calorie buck in terms of keeping me from feeling hungry over time.

-High quality whey protein powder mixed with water and splenda. Tastes oddly pleasant, has very few calories, and is an excellent addition to keep me full for more time after enjoying one of my many favorite low- or no-protein meals.

-Purpose-grown human nutritional yeast: Only if you think it is delicious (which I do). Otherwise, this can be replaced with protein powder and vitamin/etc pills.

-This is somewhat less artificial than the rest, but there are a surprising number of fairly tasty ready-to-eat canned soups on the market, for which 12-16 ozs contains only approximately 200 calories.

-Caffeine: I've never been a big fan as it doesn't tend to stimulate me very much. However, I do notice that consuming approximately 50 mg twice a day (morning and very early afternoon) tends to reduce feelings of hunger.


-Caffeine is addictive. Some people are tempted to escalate their dose. I wouldn't recommend doing so.

-Excessive protein intake is harmful to the human body. My typical unrestricted diet is quite low in protein and my new "diet"-diet falls well within the recommended limits even with intentional supplementation.

-Some of these engineered/artificial foods may be unhealthy in any number of ways not currently known or accepted by western biomedical science. However, being 50+ pounds overweight is unhealthy in many factually-proven ways. My approach is to cross one bridge at a time; after attaining a healthier weight, I will likely consider replacing some of these engineered foods with more-natural ones.

-I consulted a nutritionist 2 weeks into my diet (first time serious dieter; have been on it for about 8 weeks now) and brought exact food intake logs to the appointment in order to find out whether the diet was likely to cause any health problems. I was informed it was not, but it is probably a good idea to check for yourself if possible.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 10:15 PM on June 24, 2010

Why don't you ask for oil and vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette instead of doing some salad "trick?" Just make the right choice to begin with so you don’t need to feel guiltily or like you need to control what you’re doing.

You say know how to eat, select proper portions and what is healthy for just do it.
It just comes down to how much you actually care about meeting whatever your goal is. That's what motivates me. Everyone has the willpower to do so.

My biggest recommendation is to not eat or drink any crap for 30 days. Don't drink fruit juice, don't eat candy, cake, processed junk, beer, artificial sweeteners, etc. I really believe this has a profound effect on the taste buds and the body. I did this in a pretty extreme way (vdiet) and it changed my life. I love vegetables now and I really couldn’t care less about sweets. I never thought I’d type that. I still love pizza though… =]

Don't think you've "earned" X amount of anything and you're just going to “reward” yourself. Junk isn't a reward it's just another thing holding you down. All those small things accumulate where they take you miles away from where you could be without it.

I’d also recommend slowly incorporating these healthy lifestyle choices so you stick with them. Changing too many things at once can lead to none of them really sticking.

Misc info:
Seven Things You Need to Know About Carbs
Seven Things You Need to Know About Fats
Lots of other great articles there btw...
posted by zephyr_words at 10:35 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is a problem for you, but I often have trouble telling whether I'm actually hungry, or just bored or thirsty. To deal with this, I first try hydrating, then I ask myself whether I could eat a delicious grilled steak (or other delicious, savoury meal) right now; if this sounds like awesomeness, then I am hungry--if not, then I need have a cup of tea or find something else to do.

Also, eating slowly and voluptuously, and really concentrating or thinking about what you're eating helps you gauge fullness more. This is really freaking hard to do but once you get into it, the eating experience becomes much more enjoyable and satiating than absent-minded munching.

This depends on whether you're low-carbing it or not, but I really dig whole grains. YMMV but I've noticed that they keep me fuller for a longer period of time.
posted by superquail at 11:06 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Good advice, but bad culinary sentiments. People who think beans and veggies are boring just never gave them the chance. I thought I hated broccoli as a kid. Then I tried steaming a bunch of broccoli and seasoning it with salt and fresh cracked pepper.

But that's exactly what I was saying. Plain steamed vegetables are typically considered boring. Many people feel the way your kid self did about vegetables because of cafeteria canned mixed veggies or some such. Your anecdote hints that you weren't converted by the natural pure flavor of raw broccoli, but by a shift in its preparation from cheese-covered to simply seasoned.

Vegetables with seasoning - whether its salt & pepper, garlic, hot sauce, curry, whatever floats OP's low-cal boat - are more appealing to most people (who are used to sodium-saturated processed food). Now granted, salt is more subtle than hot sauce, but my point is that using salt and black pepper to make your food more interesting or palatable isn't that different from using salt, red pepper, and vinegar to make your food interesting or palatable.

I agree with the sentiment that eating the least-processed/unsalted/raw vegetables is probably best, but that can get really tough when your dieting mind starts tempting you with deep dish pizza, and how easy and quick it would be to order Chinese, and how delicious a chimichanga would be right now, and so forth...

I also remembered one more magazine-diet-advice tip: Put something minty in your mouth after eating your portion, and you're less likely to want seconds. Or dessert.
posted by funfetti at 12:47 AM on June 25, 2010

If this is not your first time around and you have trouble sticking with a diet because of strong cravings, you might want to consider controlling your carbs. I have to do a carb-controlled diet for health reasons (blood sugar), and I found that it led to a decrease in cravings - for the first time, there was actually no need for "controlling what I put in my mouth", as you put it. Also I have no trouble with the "five a day" recommendation anymore. I actually like eating fruit and vegetables now. Strange, but that's what happened. It feels very natural and relaxed. No "tricks" needed.

I don't do a specific plan (Atkins, South beach etc. are too rigid for me), I just cut out all sugar, pasta, rice and bread and eat vegetables/salads instead. And lots of protein and fat (those are not restricted at all). You just need to find out what kind/amount of carbs triggers your cravings and go with it. This varies from person to person - e.g. I avoid brown rice and whole grains because they seem to affect my blood sugar just like "white" carbs, but YMMV.

I'm never hungry, I don't miss the sugary stuff, no need for "controlling" myself anymore. Feels great, I definitely won't go back to eating carby stuff. Give it a try.
posted by The Toad at 1:41 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

One thing that is working for me is taking my focus off food entirely and making it a point to walk everywhere or nearly everywhere instead. While I'm not saying to you, "Walk everywhere!" I am saying it is sometimes useful to not focus exclusively on food intake - if you are like me and tend to obsess and overcompensate by under-eating, then crash and burn. Find an exercise you love, and focus on doing THAT. I am the laziest person in the world, but I can't recommend physical exercise enough. You can feel your body getting stronger and that is worth diamonds.

Also, this thread might be of interest to you.

Thank you for posting this question! I will be watching it with interest.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:46 AM on June 25, 2010

I've read that pickles and olives and that sort of thing are good at fighting off cravings for less-good things (chips, sugars, etc.).

If late night snacking is a problem, try brushing your teeth instead. It's easier to convince yourself to not eat when you've got a clean fresh mouth.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:41 AM on June 25, 2010

Trips to the grocery store - if it's a smaller trip, no basket or cart - only buy what you can carry in your hands. For a bigger trip, only what you can carry in the basket.

No liquid calories. None, not even suppose good ones like health smoothies. Only exception is if I am really low on protein for a couple of days, i will make a very low cal almond milk protein smoothie.

Pickles are a good snack (I know they're salty, but they work for me). So are jalapeno stuffed olives. I know olives have like 20 calories each, but I find if I eat the jalapeno ones I eat fewer and enjoy them more, and I'll have that for a meal.

If you have an iPhone, get an app to track your diet and fitness.
posted by mrs. taters at 5:59 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cook at home. PERIOD. I just lost 30lbs in about 2 months, and it all came down to being able to know exactly what I was eating. At a restaurant of any type, the calorie information (if available) isn't necessarily accurate. If you aren't weighing things out yourself, on a scale, you don't know what's going in your mouth.

Track every calorie. Track all your exercise. Weigh yourself accurately every morning. Record it in excel or google spreadsheets or wherever. Graph it. Plot a trend line and a line showing your desired weight loss. Use the data to figure out how many calories your body needs (which is a function of activity level and your weight). For me, it was something like 15 calories per pound of body weight, plus however much I was exercising. That made losing weight easy, 'cause even at 1500 cal/day I was losing something like a pound every other day. Try to keep yourself well hydrated on a nice schedule so that your water weight isn't fluctuating so much that it's hard to see the real trend line.

All that matters is those numbers. Live by the numbers. The food you choose to eat doesn't matter, though you'll figure out pretty quickly what is and isn't worth eating. There's huge comfort in that for me. It's all in your control and you get constant feedback. All you have to do is find the food and eating schedule that works best to keep you sane. For me, that was eating nothing before dinner and focusing on bulky stuff, but maybe it's a tablespoon of butter every hour for you.

Losing weight is no fun, but suffering isn't so bad when you can see progress.

This is the graph I used to track my weight. Blue line is actual weight, red line is what I calculated my actual weight should be based on my cumulative calorie deficit. I'm still kinda amazed by how astonishingly accurate it was. Calories in, calories out. Your body won't violate the laws of thermodynamics.

Oh, and after you're done losing weight, continue to track your calories and weight for the rest of your life. That followup part is where I've screwed up in the past. Not this time, damnit!

Mefi mail me if you want a copy of the template I used.
posted by pjaust at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2010

The one thing I found most helpful was to accept feeling hungry at first. I found the first few weeks of weight loss very difficult and distracting, but after a while, I got used to it and it didn't bother me.

Also, I found eating breakfast later in the day helped, too.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:40 AM on June 25, 2010

No Frankenfoods.

Lots of people seem to do well with artificial sweeteners and fake fats. Those foods are completely not satisfying for me and I overeat the fake food trying to be satiated. One real cookie is a better choice for me than a box of Snackwells crap cookies. The calorie advantage of the Frankenfood is often negated when I over-consume it.

Real foods taste good - Steel cut oats with bananas for breakfast. Salad with protein for lunch (make an extra protein portion at dinner and you've got tomorrow's lunch ready.) Fresh watermelon, peaches and mangos for snacks. That's all yummy stuff which is very satisfying.
posted by 26.2 at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Use walking / bicycling as actual transportation. As said above - go grocery shopping on foot or bike if at all practical. Bike to work if you can. Bike or walk everywhere you can.

This way you get "stealth exercise" and often don't even notice and by the end of the day you've spent many many minutes with your metabolism in a zone conductive to weight loss and fat metabolism. AND if you can exercise frequently throughout the day - 10 minute walk to and from the store, then 15 - 20 minutes of walking over the lunch hour, then more exercise for a few minutes in the evening you can gradually reset your metabolism to favor fat metabolism over carb metabolism. Further, every bought of exercise leaves your meatbolism in a faster running state for quite some time after you exercise. So by exercising - even a little - frequently throughout the day you can end up with hours of the day during which you are above your resting state metabolism.

Agree with nearly everything above, just thought I'd add this.

Also, if you are going for weight loss the intensity of exercise needed is far less than most folks think. You don't need to be sweating or panting. In fact, if you exercise at an intensity that you are breathing hard enough that you can't easily converse then you are burning energy so fast you are relying on stored carbohydrate and liver glycol, not fat. This is a less efficient path to fat metabolism.

Paradoxically, if you want to lose fat a 45 minute brisk walk may do you more good than 45 minutes of fast running (at least until your body fat percentage is down. At body fat percentages in the low to low normal range this changes but if you have 70+ lbs to lose you are not at that point.)
posted by BrooksCooper at 8:36 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Juffo-wop's advice is seriously making me cry.

Here's the best tip I can give you: fat is your friend. Sugar is not. Fat will fill you up and keep you satiated, not to mention give you beautiful skin, hair, and nails. Sugar will make you crave more sugar. Fat has more calories per gram than a gram of sugar, but a gram of sugar will make you ravenous for three more.

Eating "clean" according to this program was an extremely important and effective experience for me, and I recommend it strongly.
posted by telegraph at 8:41 AM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Here's what I do:

Eat as few processed foods as possible (so I'm nthing the suggestion above to cook at home).

Eat relatively little refined sugar. I used to have the biggest sweet tooth but now don't really care for sweets too often. When I do want something sugary, though, it's usually a specific craving, and I try to completely fulfill that craving if I can.

Shave off unnecessary calories that aren't a sacrifice anyway. Term of Art mentioned not being able to taste cheese on burgers or sandwiches -- I can't either, so I forego it. By the same token, I only eat something if I really want it. When I cook breakfast on a weekend, I'll cook bacon for my boyfriend but will only have some myself if I'm in the mood (which I'm not, sometimes).

Try to eat low-carb during the morning and afternoon. If I do this, I find I get fewer junk food cravings and also have a TON more energy. In general, I'm more careful with what I eat during the day because I'm just eating to fuel my body. In the evening I'm off work, and the meal is more of an experience that I can relax and fully enjoy. So if there's a particular meal I have a hankering for, I'll usually cook it for dinner so that I can get maximum enjoyment out of it.

Don't compromise on staples that are important to me. For example, I adore milk and would feel deprived on a regular basis if I forced myself to drink skim. So I drink my preferred 2%. I also take cream in my coffee. There are probably a few items like this that are important to you, so try to build them into your plan.

And on preview, telegraph is right about fat and sugar. That's why I don't mess with "lite" products -- they are often higher in sugar. Also, I think lite versions of foods have a negative psychological effect. You know you're not having the real thing, you're not satisfied, and the craving will linger. If you eat a little bit of the real thing, though, chances are you'll be satisfied and then you can move on and forget about it.
posted by spinto at 9:22 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

The one thing I found most helpful was to accept feeling hungry at first.

Yes! My Jedi Control Trick when I feel the grumbly in my tummy is to pretend that what I'm feeling is PacMan running around eating all my fat cells. So rather than dulling that feeling by eating, I cheer him on! Go PacMan! Try my hips next!

Also, sometimes, what we interpret as hunger really means we are thirsty. (I tried googling a source for this, but all links I find seem to be weight loss gurus repeating this as fact, but no links to actual medical research, so maybe it's an urban legend?) Anyway, I find if I drink a nice big frosty glass of cold water, maybe with a lemon slice in it, I don't feel so hungry afterward. Could be another mind trick, could have a basis in medical fact, but it works for me.

I also am one of the lucky few, apparently, who can read while walking on a treadmill. So I save my favorite reading (trashy mysteries, mostly) for the treadmill only. Also, if you can swing it, your own treadmill in your own house is great motivation. Hard to blow off a walk/run when the treadmill is only 10 feet away.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:13 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

One thing you will notice here is that there is a lot of contradictory advice. This is because different things work best for different people. For instance, genericdave says "don't watch the scale," but for me, weighing myself once a week is absolutely crucial. However, I also had to learn to not assign too much value to the week-to-week fluctuations of the scale, and that took a while.

So I think that weight loss/getting in shape/etc is really a trial and error process for most people. So definitely take the advice you're getting here, but don't take any one rule too seriously until you know it works for you. And if something stops working for you, because your tastes or lifestyle have changed, don't be afraid to try something new.

That said, here's what works for me:

- Found a really good Weight Watchers leader. I like the consistency of the weekly meetings and weigh-ins, but some leaders encourage unhealthy behavior and some meetings are just full of whiners. I've had the best success on WW when I had a good leader who encouraged positive discussions and didn't push the WW products too hard.

- I only eat foods I like. I made a list of food I really like, and then I figured out which were nutritious and relatively low in points (a few: eggs, homemade greek salad, blueberries, grilled chicken). I built my diet around those things. This really clarifies things for me. If I'm tempted to have something greasy and high in calories, I think to myself, "is that on my list of things I really like to eat?" If it is, and I have the points for it, I eat it without guilt. If it isn't, I don't eat it.

- I don't eat foods I don't like. Similarly, I don't eat low-calorie foods that I don't like just because they're low in calories. No depressing "diet food" like fat-free yogurt or Lean Cuisines. I also don't eat super-healthy foods I don't like just because I feel like I should. I used to force myself to eat things like quinoa and zucchini that I just don't like because they're healthy. Surprise, surprise, I often found that eating these foods would make me feel like I deserved something less healthy as compensation for eating the "good" food and so the net effect was not great. It also made me associate "healthy foods" with "foods I don't like," which is obviously not a great mental link if you want to lose weight.

I'm on another go-round, too, with a lot of weight to lose. I think the most important thing to remember is that every time you try, you learn new things about yourself and about the process. Practice makes perfect, right?
posted by lunasol at 11:53 AM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think it helps a lot to start out figuring out where to place your focus in terms of what your goals are, then breaking that down into something manageable and if possible quantifiable, at least to begin with to get a good sense of things. For example, I decided my targets in more specific terms were going to be to up my calcium, protein, and B vitamin intake while making sure I was getting enough fiber and water and trying to curb carbs, particularly refined ones. I also decided I was not going to obsessively calorie count. To achieve this I did some research upfront that took some time and effort finding out what foods were best to reach these goals, and came up with general daily targets in terms of how many grams protein, fiber, etc. and monitored that stuff initially (use something like Cronometer, SparkPeople's nutrition counts,, etc.). Quickly I figured out a general sense of what I needed to be consuming and when--a strong shot of protein 3 times a day, fiber-rich food first thing in the morning, at least 2 if not 3 strong helpings of calcium-y products, 6 tall glasses of water throughout, etc. And what my limits were per day for what I was trying to curb too (sometimes a good piece of fiber-rich fruit, milk sugars from getting my dairy-necessary glasses in once or twice a day, some fiber-rich cereal first thing, and maybe orange juice and/or a whole grain version of pasta or tortilla wraps around when I exercise and that's it). The initial rather anal calibration and all that isn't my style but helped me get to where I didn't need it at all, I had a good intuition of what was what. So I recommend setting up your major targets, obsessively figuring out what needs to happen each day for you to reach them, and then slowly letting go of the monitoring once you're used to what you need to feel good.

I also figured out personally that designing the most nutrient-dense efficient breakfast+mid-morning snack I could think of works really well for me, though YMMV--by midday between a small breakfast and a mid-morning snack I've given myself over 2/3 of my fiber balanced well between soluble and insoluble, over 1/2 my calcium, 1/3 of my protein and iron, a ton of B vitamins, some omega 3, 1/4 of my vitamin C, etc. and the whole is still less than 350 calories and involves real, substantial food that keeps me energetic and full well into the afternoon. (FWIW I have a high-fiber low-sugar cereal with a glass of milk and/or greek yogurt, some berries or other fruit, and some whey protein sprinkled in, and my standard omega supplement). This has worked beautifully because first thing in the morning I don't really care as much about variety or the deepest pleasures I get from food and eating (social bonding, creativity and spontaneity and variety/seasonality in cooking, etc.); I'm half awake and just need something to get me going. So being more regimented first thing insures I get a good start, I don't mind the more diet-planned nature of it, my schedule is more set in stone so I know I can manage the same thing every morning, aaand it gives me a little more leeway in the second half of the day (that part of my day is way less planned, pretty much it's just "entrees of protein + veggies, and snacks ranging from nuts to cheese to dark chocolate to a glass of red wine, and eating out socially sometimes is ok") which is good for the "I'm not willing to give up food for its pleasure soscial and otherwise" aspect as well as the fact the second half of the day is a lot less set in stone schedule-wise than my mornings.

I learned (from AskMe actually) that a lot of important nutrients cannot be absorbed by your body all at once which lends credence to the notion of spreading out your meals and avoiding over-the-top supplementation if you're health-conscious. You cannot physically get all of the day's requirements for calcium, protein, or iron in a single go. So eating at least 3 times a day if not 5, making conscious and balanced meals and snacking a part of your approach, really is a good idea when you have the time. And I get the feeling it subconsciously helps me with portion control too--now that I know I can't get more protein in one sitting than is in, say, half a chicken breast or so, I find I don't want to eat more than that at a meal because it feels like a waste of calories and money.

Whatever sugars or carbs I'm going to eat for the day, I eat them either in the morning or right around when I'm exercising, and always with some protein and/or fiber. It helps avoid the crashing thing that causes rollercoasters in mood and cravings.

It's cliche, but for me it works much better to remind myself NOTHING is banned. I was raised in a very "everything in moderation, the more variety the better" household, so even if I'm trying to limit carbs/sugars now I remind myself I can eat anything I want, but to choose it mindfully--when I want some chocolate or a croissant, I'm having some chocolate or a croissant. But when I do choose that, it's to savor, and it's something I make the most of, and I don't binge on it. Ditto eating out--I can still do it, and do, but it's a treat I cherish each time, and I usually find myself taking half my meal home with me to enjoy slowly. Telling myself I could never ever eat something wouldn't work for me, I'm sure. Ironically, I'm finding this is making me appreciate food and the pleasure it brings even more than before. I don't take great treats for granted anymore, so I enjoy them that much more now.

As for exercise, it varies so much. Just find what you love doing, that's the key. I despise running and know I'd never stick to it if I tried to make it part of my routine. Ditto gyms of any kind--I'm an outdoorsy activity-ish nature-loving person, and that's the ticket to exercise for me--walking/hiking somewhere I love, swimming, rollerblading, skiing--so that's what I do and it makes me look forward to it. I actually get moody and sad when I can't walk every day. I also figured out the best time to walk for me--I live in hotter-than-blazes sunny Memphis and it's only reliably cool enough to walk outdoors and still safe at dusk so I made some changes to my dinner-making schedule to accommodate that--and now it's so routine. Wear comfortable footwear or whatever is applicable (and sunscreen!); an injury or discomfort will set you back considerably. Muscle-building and HIIT (jumprope and stairchasing!) is quite effective, but honestly I still feel like what works varies person to person (if I don't get my heartrate up for a while I don't see results).

Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories gets mentioned all.the.time on Mefi but for good reason in my opinion; it's excellent. Worth checking out if you're curious why doing what conventional wisdom says you should be doing to lose weight isn't working--I had that experience for the first time the last 2 years and was so discouraged and defeated. Taubes explains a lot of what I've lurkingly suspected since forever, and if you don't know from Stats 101 about how flawed and politicized most studies are it'll also be eye-opening to you.
posted by ifjuly at 1:07 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Begin every meal with vegetables. Even breakfast. Raw, cooked. Seasoned, unseasoned. You will be full. Just follow with some protein. The rest is "gravy" and you won't want the "rest" because you will be full.

Make vegetables and fruits a full 50% or more of your diet.

Your body will adjust to lots of vegetables in a matter of a week. Don't worry about feeling bloated. It's okay. And, ultimately, you will feel as though you can "fly" you will be so cleaned out and energetic.

Going out to eat? Pizza on the way? No problem - you just have to have this salad /plate of steamed green beans with sea salt/ sweet potato with black pepper/ some raw broccoli first. No matter what.

And this is a silly little tip (maybe not the healthiest/most earth friendly, but it works for me in a pinch):

Paul Newman makes a lite honey mustard dressing that tastes absolutely nothing like anything "lite" usually tastes, and it takes very little of the dressing to achieve the full flavor effect.

A tiny bit of this dressing when mixed with shredded carrots or broccoli slaw (already shredded /available in the produce aisle) is incredibly yummy, satisfying and you can eat a ton of it and the damage is still only about 200 calories.

For that matter, anything mustard-related is going to be low in calories, and there are lots of very interesting mustards out there. I mention this because I rely heavily on mustard, myself. It's 5 calories versus mayo's 200.

Same goes for ginger, curry, masla, pico de gallo, salsa, giardinara, etc. Spice it up.

Good luck!
posted by marimeko at 5:34 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I found wearing a pedometer and setting an "I will walk 10K steps every day" goal really helped in establishing a walking habit -- it takes it out of the abstract "did I get enough of a walk today" and into a concrete "did I meet my goal today".

And put a gold star on your calendar every day you meet the goal. It's fun.

Running has had a dramatic effect on me -- not just in weight loss, but also in general feel-good fitness. I did Couch to 5K because it gave a structure to follow; and by the end of that I found I rather enjoyed it and carried on on my own. Never would have imagined myself as a runner, but there you go. It seems to be my "works for me" exercise.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:07 PM on June 25, 2010

I always have to balance saving money with reality. Yes, a whole watermelon is cheaper, but only if I actually chop it up. If it rots in my fridge it's way more expensive than buying pre-chopped watermelon. There are certain foods that, regardless of my best intentions, I won't end up preparing.

Also, I know that I will snack. It's in my nature. If I have a bowl of celery sticks in front of me, that's what I will snack on. So, I make sure that the things I have to snack on are things that I won't feel guilty eating mindlessly. I will never feel guilty over eating a giant bowl of plain celery sticks. Or a giant bowl of plain popcorn (put some plain kernels in a small brown bag in the microwave. BOOM. Popcorn. No guilt.)

Mostly, figure out what is realistic for you to actually do, and hack it so it will benefit you instead of hurting you.

For me, I found that the only way I'm going to lift weights twice a week is if I pay someone to make me do it (a personal trainer). That's what works for me, and it's worth the money.

Figure out what you need, and how to make it work for you.
posted by duckierose at 4:11 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I didn't read all of the tips so I don't know what was said already, but my best tip is this: fill 1/3 of your plate with carbs, 1/3 with protein, and 1/3 with vegetables. Then allow yourself unlimited second servings of vegetables.

This will help you full while keeping your calories low and your vitamin intake high. It works.

Also, eat really slowly. Savor your food and be picky. Tasty, healthy food is more satisfying.
posted by mintchip at 1:47 PM on July 1, 2010

If I like doing something, I'll do it, often at the expense of something I need to be doing instead. Years ago, I stopped playing video games, because I played them too much; my brain isn't wired to balance the long-term loss of other hobbies vs the short-term gain of playing five more minutes of Team Fortress. I know this, and simply don't challenge myself on those things; I didn't have an XBox.

Flipside; I hate solo exercise. It's boring as hell. I can't stick with it.

So I bought myself an XBox, Team Fortress 2, and stuck a friend's unused recumbent bicycle in front of it. As long as I keep the pedals at 70+ rpm, I play up to an hour a day. If I don't feel I'm getting a good workout, I increase the resistance. Any game that involves fast reaction time plays really well with this. Any game that involves slow action, turn-based thinking? Right out.

My legs and lungs haven't been in this good of shape in ten years.
posted by talldean at 7:49 PM on July 3, 2010

Heck, my other favorite trick is implied by my first trick.

Keep a *ton* of food around the house. Keep no food around the house you'd ever regret eating. Don't buy unhealthy things, and make sure you still have stuff to eat in spades, and you can't really eat unhealthily.

As an important note, also, when you eat, make sure eating is the *only* think you're doing right then. If you snack while you watch teevee, you will eat way, way, way, way more. Focus on food, then go do what it is you want to do.
posted by talldean at 7:52 PM on July 3, 2010

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