Need help w/information overload -- losing weight
August 23, 2015 9:48 AM   Subscribe

I really need to lose 20 pounds, and I'm psyching myself out before I even start. Help.

I'm at the highest weight I've ever been. I've had horrible eating habits lately -- WAY too much sugar, not nearly enough protein, way too many carbs, too much food in general, frequent emotional eating, etc. I've lost weight before with MyFitnessPal and WeightWatchers, but when I'm counting calories/points, I end up getting a bit obsessed, which isn't healthy. I wish someone would just tell exactly what to eat -- I tend to be a perfectionist, so when I start trying to lose weight by eating differently, I keep wondering if I'm doing it "right" and getting the right nutrients, etc., and sometimes that discourages me before I even start. I know a lot about nutrition and *how* to lose weight, but also am so confused about paleo vs. keto vs. low-carb vs. cutting calories vs. "clean eating," as well as all the contradictory studies that come out regularly... I mean, if doctors/experts can't agree how people should lose weight, how am I supposed to know what's right?

My complicating factors:

--I'm a vegetarian (ovo-lacto).
--I'm not a great cook, although I like baking.
--I'm an emotional eater w/a serious sweet tooth.

Some positive things:
--I work from home, so I have some more flexibility with what/when I eat.
--My husband is also trying to lose weight, so we can support each other.
--I have a treadmill desk at home, and a Fitbit.
--Physically, I am generally healthy.

If you've lost weight, how did you cut through all the advice/info about doing it the "right" or "best" or "healthiest" way?
posted by trillian to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I think the working from home thing is a complicating factor, unless you are super careful not to have sweets/baked goods in the house. Be really careful when you shop to make sure that these things are not available to you during the work day.

Also, you mention a treadmill desk and a FitBit, but I think that having fitness goals is really important. Can you sign up for a 5k and start training for it? Can you get to a gym?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:54 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I end up getting a bit obsessed, which isn't healthy

Why not? There are two interpretations of healthy here:
  • Physical health: it's pretty darn hard to hurt yourself by undereating for the short term (less than several months). As an overgeneralization, if you are having health issues and losing weight, you can back off on your weight loss and see if they go away. If you are having health issues and are not losing weight, you can try another diet. If you are not having health issues and are losing weight, you are probably doing something right.
  • Mental health: if you view yourself as being at risk of a eating disorder, you probably shouldn't be dieting without external supervision anyway. This external supervision doesn't necessarily have to be from the doctor - it can be from online forums or from simply monitoring your weight loss (again, if you aren't losing an extreme amount of weight, you probably aren't hurting yourself).
I wish someone would just tell exactly what to eat

In my personal experience, I found that restricting my choices in eating make dieting easier. I always eat the same breakfast and only eat a small selection of lunches. These meals are preselected to be easy to prepare and to be more or less nutritionally complete. That makes it so I only really have to think about snacks (which I try to avoid) and dinner. The less I think of, the better.

I mean, if doctors/experts can't agree how people should lose weight, how am I supposed to know what's right?

Let your scale be the determining factor. If a diet causes you to lose weight, it's a good diet. If the diet doesn't cause you to lose weight, it's a bad diet. Again, you are highly unlikely going to hurt yourself by undereating or eating the wrong foods in the short term. There are many ways to lose weight - just pick one!
posted by saeculorum at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hey, are we living the same life? :)

I was struggling with the same issues more or less. I lost 60 lbs the "right" way... Calorie restriction, lots of veggies and lean meat, exercise. Then the last 20 lbs would not budge for two years.

For the past two months I've been following a LCHF (low-carb high-fat) plan. It's been working quite well. You might want to check it out. It seems crazy but it really works. I am also a big sugar hound, love to bake. This diet, which is very low in sugar, will give your body and mind a good rest.

(I'm also working from home and that makes this diet much easier.)
posted by amy27 at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't overthink it. Specific diets work for people, for sure, but it sounds like what you need is just generally eating less unhealthy food. You say, " I've had horrible eating habits lately -- WAY too much sugar, not nearly enough protein, way too many carbs, too much food in general, frequent emotional eating, etc." which means you already know what you shouldn't be doing. Don't do those things and you're golden.

The question is how to not do them. Personally, I have terrible will-power when it comes to food so what I do is try to never keep unhealthy, ready-to-eat food in the house. If my options are (a) eat a fruit or vegetable or (b) have to do work to produce unhealthy food, I am in much better shape. This even extends to things like bread, which I keep in the freezer so I can thaw it out for a meal but not just grab a hunk and munch on it. I know that if I worked from home regularly, I would have to get much stricter with myself about this (e.g. hot cereal only so I wouldn't just eat cornflakes all day).

Good luck!
posted by goingonit at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you've lost weight, how did you cut through all the advice/info about doing it the "right" or "best" or "healthiest" way?

For me, losing weight is a really important health goal in and of itself, so it's on balance probably better for me than not losing weight, even if I don't do it perfectly. My focus on those health goals and benefits helps me keep the downsides of not doing it "perfectly" in perspective. So to balance out the risks of dieting imperfectly, I have to keep in mind that:
  • I have a family history of type 2 diabetes and obesity is a major risk factor;
  • I have a family history of terrible, disabling orthopedic problems worsened by weight;
  • I personally have reflux, low energy, and trouble doing as much physically as I'd like
It's also important to note that you're not eating "perfectly" now! So there's no reason you have to start eating perfectly just because you're "on a diet". It's ok to make mistakes, the key is that you're trying.

Dieting along with increased exercise just doesn't work for me. My body flips the hell out and I'm starving all the time and it's hard to plan and it's uncomfortable on top of the discomfort of cutting calories and ugh. Ultimately, you can lose weight just with diet.

The whole "diet AND exercise!!" thing seems to be a lot to change and add to your life at once, and unless you're running for hours a day, it's hard to exercise so much that you don't have to continue to intensely manage your diet anyway. So you might as well save yourself the time and hassle and stick to just managing your diet.

I am really motivated by seeing the scale move, so I lowered my caloric intake really drastically for the first week or two I dieted. This was a great way to get immediate feedback that I was doing things "right" and losing weight.

You don't have to keep doing the same things over and over if they don't work! Every week or so you can evaluate what worked and what didn't, how you feel, whether you think you're getting enough protein, or whether you think what you've been doing is sustainable. You can change your game plan, you can decide to take a week off from cutting calories and just eat sensibly.

You might find that you're not losing--then you'll know that you should cut calories more. You might find that you're not feeling satiated, and you might plan to have a more protein-heavy breakfast and dinner. You might feel like a given thing you're in the habit of eating isn't really nice enough to be "worth" the calories and stop buying it. These are all adjustments you can make on the fly and still be successful.

Fear. I personally emotionally overeat in part because of a fear of hunger. I recommend accepting that you will feel hunger, and sitting with it in a spirit of acceptance, and doing it a lot. Once you stop being afraid of being hungry, your entire approach to eating and food will change to one where you feel much more in control.

Good luck!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I stopped eating dairy, I lost weight - no cheese, no ice cream.
When I stopped drinking soda, I lost a little weight. I drink tea with 1 spoon of sugar or iced tea with lots of ice. Or water. Well, also beer, but there are some tings I won't give up.
When I make sure I have a glass of water before eating, that helps me manage my weight.
Exercise - you don't actually lose much weight by burning extra calories, but it helps your body regulate its sugar-insulin balance, and helps manage hunger.
Fiber - again, it helps your body regulate its sugar-insulin balance, and helps manage hunger.
Get adequate sleep.

If you want menu plans, there are plenty out there.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

You're a vegetarian, so that's probably your biggest trap. It's way too easy to not get enough protein, then eat too much in carbs to not be so hungry. I'd say step #1 is identify as many protein sources you're willing to eat as you can without boring yourself to tears, then start from there. Each meal = a protein source + about twice that volume of other stuff.

Crossfit's diet recommendation, which I think originally came from Robb Wolf is simply: In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar.

Little starch and no sugar is easy to say if you're not a vegetarian. We go through the same thing with my wife, who's also vegetarian. She's done the Weight Watchers thing, which works sometimes and not other times. She's tried other things. What I'VE noticed, is that when she makes an effort to get enough protein, it works. When she doesn't, it doesn't.
posted by ctmf at 11:20 AM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Stop buying sodas, sweets, and anything processed. You have chosen a perfect time to start a new lifestyle as there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in season right now.

If you have an open floor plan, store everything in the pantry and keep the pantry door closed. Kitchens that have to be seen and passed through 50 times a day cause more weight gain than the entire soda industry. Oh, and, yeah, never, ever drink a soda. Not even a diet one. Throw away anything in your home that has the word 'diet' on it. If diet food was successful, those companies would run themselves out of business.
posted by myselfasme at 11:47 AM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

My boyfriend and I are dealing with this right now, as we both go back to graduate school and will also both be working. Fresh fruits + veggies are a pain, but we realized that by cutting out meat and most processed foods/snacks and focusing on fresh produce + dried beans and grains, we are saving money and trouble in the short AND long run.

We've been down the low-carb (Whole30) road before, and while we felt good, we both agree that it's more about "clean" eating in general than erasing all carbs. Like not eating a lot of bread and dairy is very useful to us, but if we occasionally eat a big farro salad with chickpeas or something, or a bowl of rice with kimchi or avocado, that is perfectly valid food. Eating totally fresh is a big help because you cut down your sugar/snack cravings and you're more likely to snack on a cucumber or something than a bag of Doritos, and lo, weight loss.

We also run, but honestly I don't think it's done much for us weight-loss wise. If I were exercising for the sake of weight loss, I'd probably focus on strength training, biking and elliptical-- low-impact, can go much longer than on a treadmill, and working more muscles. Plus, if you eat a big slice of cake and you're like "ugh seriously self," you can easily work off 600-700 calories on an elliptical, which you canNOT do running if you're not amazing at it already.
posted by easter queen at 12:07 PM on August 23, 2015

Portion control.

At one point I consciously decided to always serve myself half as much as I naturally would. I would always turn down any offer of food. No food after 9pm (or whenever).

It takes willpower, but I found these pretty "cut and dry" once I set my mind to it. I still turn down food almost always.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2015

And yes, diet food is useless, and I deal with most of my sugar cravings through fruit (bananas if I want something carb-y) and putting a little raw sugar/agave in my coffee or tea. I doubt it matters what kind of sweetener, honestly, but making myself think about different sources of sweetener is usually overall helpful in cutting down.

You say you comfort/stress eat, which is my main area of trouble also. I dealt with this by powering through a week of low-carb, clean eating-- after doing that, if you comfort-eat a giant cinnamon bun or a bag of Fritos, you pretty much want to throw up. Now when I need "comfort" I drink tea with a little milk and sugar and I feel much better (plus caffeine from the tea helps).
posted by easter queen at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2015

My personal rules:
1. Don't drink calories. Drinks don't fill you up, but they can be a lot of hidden calories... No fruit juices, no milk, definitely no soda. Avoid alcohol, but if you must then stick with vodka and calorie-free mixers: diet soda, club soda, etc. Generally, try to stick to water and black coffee as your two allowable beverages, with skim milk and Splenda in the latter if you absolutely must weaken it.
2. Agreeing with someone's comment above: no dairy. Cheese is just empty calories, and ice cream is a nightmare: it's just a pile of sugar and fat. If you know you need calcium, get a supplement while you're trying to lose the weight rather than consuming it in foods.
3. Minimize carbs. Yes, they're energy, but they can spike and crash your blood sugar. Try to get you carbs from things that give you nutrients or protein, like fruit and beans, instead of empty carbss from things like bread and rice.

Particular to your situation: take a hiatus from baking. Don't bring junk into your home, whether it's junk from the store or something you made. There's already enough temptation out int he world, you don't need a pound cake looking back at you from the counter.

Most simply put: eat protein and veggies, and exercise.
posted by charlemangy at 12:40 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: if doctors/experts can't agree how people should lose weight, how am I supposed to know what's right?

You might enjoy reading this book: The Cure for Everything by Tim Caulfield which addresses this issue. He looks at the nutrition and science behind a lot of diet/weight loss/exercise advice that is out there and looks at what works for most people and what doesn't. We really do know what works for most people. Caulfield sums it up: Simple eating (unprocessed foods as much as possible). Smaller portions. No poison (junk food, empty calories). Healthier choices (pick a better option when you can).

You hear a lot about edge case people who need something else. Medications can do this, as can mental and physical health problems. As you've seen above, a lot of people have a thing that works for them (or doesn't) because of their particular habits, personalities or metabolism. So, good! But really whatever moves the scale and is sustainable for you is what works for you. For me it's low calories and decent exercise. I am lucky in that my body is a machine and responds in a good way. If I am staying on My Fitness Pal I am doing okay. My weight creeps up when I do not. What I like about the MFP approach is that how even if you have an "I ate cake all day" day (hey, it happens) you've only pushed back your weight loss goals, not obliterated them. That helped me think more sensibly about what I was eating. Having a birthday cake one day or Thanksgiving where I ate more than usual (or more than I "should") just postponed my goals and sometimes that was worth it and a choice I could make.

I also keep junk food (mostly) out of my house and am sparing with sweets. I try not to eat out much. I exercise for an hour or more several times a week. I drink a lot of water. I have a bunch of small meals. I have "treat" food that is decent on the calorie scale (tofutti cuties, chocolate rice cakes, some dark chocolate squares, ladyfingers) and work it in to my food plan, not have it be extra food. It's not perfect (I did a lot of socializing this summer where I found it hard to eat at home as much) but it mostly works. Start paring back and finding things that mostly work for you.
posted by jessamyn at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, as a vegetarian, have high-protein, low-carb snacks available at all times. I primarily eat a vegan diet, and relatively low carb with the help of a favorite protein shake and a favorite protein bar. It is possible with preparation and practice!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:09 PM on August 23, 2015

Agreeing with someone's comment above: no dairy.

Oh man, I really disagree with this as a blanket statement. As a vegetarian who hates eggs, fat-free Greek yogurt has been like a miracle food for me in keeping a healthier weight.
posted by threeants at 1:59 PM on August 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I've lost the hell out of some weight. I did it by cutting out sugar and simple carbohydrate. You can do this without pain or with. First I tried Atkins and it works beautifully, but the problem with it is that "induction" makes you insane from the cravings. I trust instead the taper-down. It's how I became a vegetarian, and that "way of eating" lasted five years, so I think it's sound.

Here's how it is done: What's the worst, most sugary thing you eat? Taper off that first. Let's say it's delicious, revivifying Coca-Cola, the elixir of life. So you'd first stop drinking it straight out of the can and start icing it to death so that it's less like mainlining glucose. Then doctor it with plain soda; reduce the ratio of Coke to water until you get down to water and are no longer subsidizing Big Diabetes.

What other outright horrible-for-you stuff do you ingest? Substitute similar carbohydrateless things or reduced carbohydrate things. If you eat candy, start dried fruit and candy, then mix in some roasted nuts then taper off the candy then taper off the fruit. Eat all the nuts you want for the rest of your life. They're great for you.

Grains, potatoes, and other starches need to get more fibrous and then they need to go completely away. If you eat pasta, it becomes whole wheat pasta, and then it gets vegetables mixed in and then the pasta gets phased out. Same with rice and cereal and bread and all that. Bonus: that stuff is pricey. Bigger bonus: not having to eat it means not having to go to the grocery store.

Some pointers:
Fruit will make you fat as a tick. It's supposed to be enjoyed in moderation in season, but thanks to fossil fuels and slave labor, we can now eat it year-round. If you're eating "healthily" and you're still heavier than you would prefer, look at your fruit intake and reduce or eliminate it. I, for one, am currently a colossus because pineapple is in season. That's fine: I love pineapple and I'm not going to not eat pineapple when it's in season just to be less huge. But I'm also not keening and rending my garments wondering where my sudden gut came from. It's the pineapple.

Stop drinking all caloric things--if you drink coffee with sugar, taper off sugar 'til you're at black coffee. If you drink juice, water it down until it's water.

Don't ingest things with artificial sweeteners.

Say your cousin gets married and you have a slice of wedding cake the size of your head and then say damn the torpedoes and spend the next week eating Snickers and Fiddle Faddle. It will take three days for the cravings for Fiddle Faddle to wear off. Then you'll be back to normal. You just have to wait it out.

Say you've been eating nothing but vegetables and eggs for days but the number on the scale isn't moving down--maybe it's even moving up. What you're eating now is going to make the number move weeks from now. The number on the scale represents what you were eating three or four weeks ago. What were you eating three or four weeks ago? Was it Fiddle Faddle? Yep. Wait out your weeks-ago Fiddle Faddle and trust in your body. All will be well in time.

Don't weigh every day; that's just a way to work up a nice long depression so that you can tell yourself it's hopeless so that you can eat more Fiddle Faddle. Weigh weekly or biweekly.

Get enough sleep. Sleep when it's dark.

Don't eat when you're not hungry. Eat slowly and stop when you stop feeling hungry.

Squish all the eating into the middle of the day--stop eating earlier and start eating later. They say if you miss breakfast you'll eat crullers all day but this is simply not true. Anyway, it's impossible to miss breakfast. The first meal of the day is breakfast, whether it's at 7 in the morning or at noon.

I disagree that you need to stop eating cheese and other dairy stuff. Cheese is great and life without it is too horrible to contemplate. You should eat mostly vegetables, and if you throw parmesan on vegetables, they're delicious. Don't buy low-fat anything. Fat makes vegetables more delicious and satisfying, so you'll eat more of them and be happy while you eat them. What's the sense of losing a ton of weight if you have to eat tragic things that make you sad? That's what fat is for! I like: coconut oil, olive oil (barriani is amazing), and butter.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:13 PM on August 23, 2015 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I know a lot about nutrition and *how* to lose weight, but also am so confused about paleo vs. keto vs. low-carb vs. cutting calories vs. "clean eating," as well as all the contradictory studies that come out regularly... I mean, if doctors/experts can't agree how people should lose weight, how am I supposed to know what's right?

- If you have a family history of Type-2 Diabetes and/or you're a woman with the usual constellations of hormone-related physical problems and/or you carry most of your weight in your abdomen, go as ketogenic as you possibly can. LCHF or even the really, really extreme versions bodybuilders or epileptic people use.
- If you don't have any of the above issues, start with a standard set of macros and eat like a normal but healthy person: 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein. Adjust as necessary for what works for you, but it's a decent place to start.
- If you have real food allergies and sensitivities (ie, not a crazy orthorexic who is convnced gluten is the devil), avoid those foods. This includes any kind of dairy if you are lactose intolerant or sensitive.
- Restrict your calories. Most online calculators are too lenient; take away about 200 calories from your initial budget.
- No soda or liquid calories.
- No processed junk or convenience foods.
- Generally speaking, if it's it's in your macros and it's not junk, it's okay. There are some things that are easy to throw a wrench in the works if you have blood sugar issues (like most fruit or milk or potatoes), but if that doesn't affect you, they are fine. Basically, any kind of food is fine as long as it fits in your macros and it doesn't act as a powerful brain drug to fuck with your ability to regulate hunger. That's why carbs are Satan, sugar is of the devil, etc, and why diabetics and other people with similar issues do so well on ketogenic diets. It's not anything nutritionally wrong with carbs per se, it's the way they mess with an already busted and compromised insulin regulation system.
- If you aren't lactose-intolerant, cheese is okay. Butter is okay. Sour and heavy cream are okay. Get as full a fat version as your system can tolerate without feeling gross; ~lite~ stuff is of the devil. As long as it is in your macros, feel free.
- Pick out one set of balanced meals you will be happy to eat every day. Include snacks if that's what you need in order not to over-eat. Work out the nutritional information for them so that you're meating your calories + macronutrients for the day, then eat only those. If the same thing every day is too much, go for the minimum amount of variety necessary to keep you on the diet. While you're re-educating yourself, keep things as easy as possible. You should know the exact porportions, general idea of calories+macros per serving for everything you make. Keep track of this throughout the day, but not obsessively. Just "okay, I've had 800 calories, 10G of carbs, 20G protein, 15G fat" or whatever, so you know how much more you need to eat and when you've had enough. Vitamins, minerals, etc aren't important, nor is being super duper precise. My personal rule of thumb is that you count calories by the 100s for meals, 50s for snacks, 5G for carbs for fat, carbs, and protein. Round up.
- When you have time, energy, and a substantial track record of sticking with the basic meal rotation you came up with before, go ahead and figure out new, equally healthy and balanced meals and add them to your repetoire.
- Supplement fiber if you need it.
- Drink a ton of water.
- This is critical: exercise, fitness, and mobility are basically completely seperate from weight loss and nutrition, and to get in shape effectively you need to have your diet and eating completely under control. Contrary to that, most weight loss and gain is related to diet, not exercise. Fix your diet and eating habits first, then work on fitness if it is an issue. Under no circumstances use exercise to lose weight unless you already know how to maintain your current weight and be disciplined in your diet. If you want to get fit or enjoy exercise naturally, go for it and just include it in calculating your necessary calorie intake and macros. If you don't, don't worry about it until the weight is under control.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:40 PM on August 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: when I'm counting calories/points, I end up getting a bit obsessed, which isn't healthy

I completely surrendered to feeling like an obsessive freak by counting calories. Why? Because it was way easier than navigating a custom diet of not eating this or that. I could still go to birthday parties, I could still impulsively go on dinner dates with my boyfriend, and I could still eat that surprise donut at work. All I had to do was keep track of the food I ate and adjust my other portions accordingly. Yes, calorie counting feels like a crazy person thing, but it ultimately helped and it meant I didn't have to make other changes to my lifestyle. That might not work for everyone but it my case it felt pretty successful; I lost 20-30 lbs.

(And then sometimes I read online dieting forums and reassured myself that I wasn't that extreme.)
posted by redsparkler at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I read this in a Prevention article years and years (and years!) ago: “Crave One, Add Two” (I know it as The Three Food Rule). It boils down to this: every time you eat, you have to eat three things, each from a different food group, and one item must be a protein. The five food groups are: Fruits, Veggies, Dairy, Grains, and Meat (includes fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes).

I can’t find that article online, but here is a later article about the same thing. The article also includes sample meals and snacks.

“Want cookies? Fine, but also have a glass of milk and an orange. Macaroni and cheese for dinner? Great. Just include two more items, such as fresh green beans and a fruit salad. If you want seconds on the mac and cheese, that's okay too, but you must have seconds on the beans and fruit salad as well. […] Pies, cakes, and other sweets are allowed within 15 minutes of any meal. Otherwise, any sweet snack should be enjoyed as one of three items in accordance with the three-food rule. […] As a rule, count mixed dishes, such as pizza, sandwiches, and stews, as one item. For the healthiest combinations, include a fruit or vegetable as one of your items whenever possible. Beverages, except milk, are "free" items and not considered part of the plan.”
posted by bentley at 4:47 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On rereading the OP a bit, the basic thing you need to keep in mind is this: it really is as simple as calories in < calories out. Every piece of "the right way" advice is something you need to evaluate with that principle and your own personal situation in mind, because at the end of the day it is the only thing that actually matters. Cutting out processed food works for almost everyone because it's easier to feel full and eat a satisfying amount when you're eating healthy foods that have higher nutritional value. Exercise is counter-productive for some people because of the effects on hunger and calorie requirements, but for some people it helps with discipline to change their life all at once because it keeps them motivated.

No matter what the advice or behavior is, that should be the lens you're looking through: is this going to help me eat less than I do currently? And if your problem is that you feel overwhelmed, go as simple and uncomplicated as possible and don't worry about random minor shit like nightshades or "clean eating", just start at the simplest possible set of nutritionally adequate, healthy food you can eat sustainably and go from there. If you can include the occasional candy bar and soda in your diet and still stick to your calorie and macro goals, and they are realistic and low enough that you will actually lose weight, great. If you can't, that's the sacrifice you have to make. Ignore the gigantic industry intended to reduce you to the state of analysis paralysis you're in, and go for the principle of greatest effective indulgence: if you can eat it/do it/not do it, and still lose weight, it is okay. The really, genuinely unhealthy ways to lose weight are either incredibly unpleasant or illegal. You will know if you are doing them because they suck unbelievable amounts of ass and they're really hard, you will not do them accidentally. If it works and it doesn't suck to have to do, it's not unhealthy, so don't waste mental energy on it. There are multiple paths to "the right way", the only thing to worry about is the wrong way, and it turns out the wrong way is shitty and miserable and no one does it accidentally.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:00 PM on August 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is going to sound a bit silly, but: small dishes. I have tiny plates and tiny bowls and I only drink coffee out of tiny teacups. This is because I feel totally miserable when I remove carbs from my life, so limiting the amount based on dish size was kind of a turning point for my own weight loss.*

(I also looooove soda, and one way I deal with that craving is by occasionally drinking a shot's glass worth throughout a meal. Mmmm.)

*this approach is largely borrowed from a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story, though I have inverted the moral, because the incalcitrant child in that story would only eat tiny portions and therefore had to be Taught A Lesson.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:01 PM on August 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Agree with much of the above. Mostly, do not stress about the "right way". First of all, you could probably follow any kind of diet and get results if you follow it rigorously, simply because you're paying attention to what you eat. There is no magic cure, and no magic formula for results. A simple Mediterranean diet has worked well for me. I'm not strictly veggie, but I don't eat red meat at all. I would advise avoiding all absolute diets unless you have some kind of medical condition which necessitates them. Just eat with balance.

What worked for me:

For exercise, focus initially on walking more. Walk whenever you can. Take the stairs. The fitbit is good, but do not pay any attention to the calories it says you can eat. That's too metabolism-dependent to be accurate and may increase bad eating habits. I'm a runner, but running doesn't help me lose weight. Walking regularly, however, has helped.

I can also be a comfort eater. The best way to combat this is simply not to keep sweets or snacks in the house. I also won't bake unless I know that I'm giving most of it away. Keep fruit and cut veggies and nuts, and you'll tend to eat those if you want to comfort eat. Counting on discipline is unnecessarily stressful, and doesn't work for me, at least.

For a while (a few weeks?) keep a list of what you eat-- I use myfitnesspal. Get a sense of what you really eat before you try to change it, and see what you can hack. I'm having to rebalance myself right now, and I did this and discovered that since I was craving salty snacks then I was eating-- I substituted popcorn with no butter for chips. Simple hack. I was still satisfied. Many less calories. I also realised my one glass of wine a night had crept up to 2. I cut out the second glass of wine and the chips, and 3 pounds off without any other effort in a few weeks.

Fruit juices are the devil-- pure sugar. Fruits are great.

Smaller portions help too. Small bowls, small plates. If you really want something unhealthy, give yourself a small amount. But leave the house (or your workplace) to get it. Don't keep it on hand for rewards.

Good luck!
posted by frumiousb at 7:13 PM on August 23, 2015

One thing I'd add to the advice above is to reframe your thinking about food from a lovely and delicious part of your day which gives you much delight to thinking more like an athlete:

You're consuming fuel in order to get peak performance from your body. Cutting out sugar, unrefined carbs and all that, that's giving your body clean fuel to run effectively.

I do better when I start hardcore and then slowly add things back in, YMMV. So I basically eat the same not-super-delicious-but-they-give-me-good-fuel-and-weight-loss foods like: tofu chips, chickpeas, eggs, fat free Greek yogurt, all the colorful vegetables, olive oil and a ton of water. No bread, pasta, fruit, potatoes, butter. Lots of clean eating. A boatload of kale salad.

I can knock off 10 pounds pretty quickly this way. It's boring but for me it works because it really does shift my mindset into food that (literally) makes me feel crappy to DANG! I have so much energy and my skin is clear and my belly is flat! I feel SO much better and it's not just the weight loss. There's definitely an element of trying something hard for me and getting through it with very positive results, but if you have any elements of disordered eating, this probably isn't for you.

After the initial 10 pounds go, I start adding in sweet potatoes, brown rice, apples, nuts, grapes and corn. This always stalls weight loss so I play with it.

Along with eating like an athlete, I set myself a new athletic goal, like running a 10k or depending on your current fitness level, walking a half hour daily.
posted by kinetic at 3:44 AM on August 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

When ever I abandon the South Beach Diet way of eating, I gain weight. I KNOW THAT THIS WILL HAPPEN. And yet.

So, for one thing, review SBD principles - High Protein, Low Carb. I have lost like 6 pounds in the first two weeks of getting my shit back together because that's what happens in the first two weeks. It's a hell of a reward and helps me keep going. After that you get into the 2nd phase and it's a little easier as you can add back some carbs. Since you're ovo-lacto, this will be easier - Eggs are fair game for you and are super.

Also, if you read the actual SBD book, his tone is very conversational and realistic and not militant. You have permission to backslide and start over, or make mistakes. It's okay.

And there is no fucking counting. Which. Thank you lord. I can't with counting long term.

A good blog of things to eat if this is what you want to try is Kalyn's Kitchen .
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:12 AM on August 24, 2015

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