It felt so good, that one little comment made by a friend after Mass on Sunday. “Psst, Amy, have you lost weight?” Someone noticed! In fact, I’ve lost 19 pounds in the past few months. For the first time in years, I have to keep pulling up my shorts, and my shirts are hanging on me. It feels good, and honestly, it has been easy. Yes, I’ve had to completely re-evaluate what I eat, how much I eat, what I cook, and what I order out (the hardest of all). I’ve had to come around to a whole new way of looking at meals, but you know what? It worked. And I’m not starving, nor am I giving up my favorite foods. It was a learning process, and I’m happy to share it with you.
- Weight Watchers was a starting point but not a crutch. I joined, after the encouragement of a few friends, but I knew I didn’t have the time for meetings, so I joined using the app. I found that I only needed to be a member for about three months in order to see what I was eating and how it affected my diet (that’s diet with a small “d” because I don’t feel like I’m on a Diet). I had to learn what foods I was eating that needed to be scaled back or cut out. It was also a great help in restaurants as I shifted into eating things that would satisfy but not add too many calories. I was able to track my food as well as my exercising and learned how each affected my weight. It was also nice to see the weight chart go down each week! I’ve stopped using the app, but I’m still applying the principles, and I’m still losing weight.
- Breakfast was hard. I won’t lie. I’m not a big fan of breakfast food. I love bacon, but it doesn’t love me. I don’t eat doughnuts or pastries or waffles or bagels. They just leave me feeling bloated. I enjoy a good pancake but not enough to eat them very often. Cereal works for me, but only about once a week. My go-to breakfast has always been yogurt, but it just doesn’t fill me up. What I really love is oatmeal, but plain, unflavored oatmeal? Yuck! So here’s my recipe for a tasty, healthy, and satisfying breakfast: I cook one serving of plain, instant oatmeal, add a quarter cup of fruit, a half cup of plain, Greek yogurt, and a dash of cinnamon. Mixed together, it’s just the right temperature, tastes great, and leaves me satisfied until lunch.
- Lunch was even harder. Okay, don’t laugh. In my mind, I was eating the healthiest lunch I could possibly eat. I ate a piece of fruit, a small helping of crackers and light cream cheese, and a serving size of dark chocolate almonds (hey, it’s dark chocolate, the heart’s vitamin). The first day I loaded the meal into my app, I was shocked. My little tiny lunch ate up half of my allowed points for the entire day! It took some time, but I learned what I can eat that will be nutritious and keep me from snacking before dinner. A healthy sandwich (my favorite is peanut butter and banana on Foldit 5 Grain Flax Bread), a piece of fruit, and a serving of crackers keeps my stomach happy until dinner. I’ve even gotten to where I can forego the crackers and go heavy on the fruit and still be satisfied. Or I substitute the crackers with Half Naked Popcorn. Yummy!
- Finding new dinner recipes was fun, and everyone chipped in. Nobody complained when I wanted to try something new. Katie is a vegetarian, so she happily helped me create new meals that were to her liking. The key was making sure that the meal was heavy on fruits and veggies and light on carbs. To be honest, it’s easier than it sounds. Spaghetti, a staple in our home, was even within my point value if I made it the right way. I have always make my sauce from scratch, so that helps. We only use whole grain noodles, so that’s another plus. Ken hunts, so elk burger is our meat of choice (if I’m adding meat). Another plus. It was the portion size that was really the issue, but when served with a nice salad, a smaller portion was easy. Once I learned that not only was I satisfied with a smaller portion, I also felt less bloated, then all was good. And that garlic bread we all like to have on the side? No problem. I just made sure that whatever I ate the next night was lighter. It’s all about balance, but haven’t we been hearing that for years?
- We found new ways to make old favorites. I wanted food that was satisfying and healthy, so we found ways to add veggies into things. For example, our favorite new recipe is baked ziti. No, I’m not kidding! It was Katie’s idea that put it over the top. I made the whole grain noodles and my homemade sauce. At the same time, I sautéed fresh spinach in garlic and olive oil. I then mixed the spinach into a bowl of fat free ricotta cheese. I layered the noodles, cheese, and then the sauce and baked it. It was fabulous! Served with a salad, it was filling and rich but not heavy. And I even enjoyed a glass of wine with it and felt no guilt at all.
- Ah yes, the wine. That was a killer. If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely, it’s a good glass of Italian wine with dinner. Perhaps that was my problem. I like to eat and drink like I’m in Italy, but I don’t walk everywhere I go like they do in Italy! So I had to decide, eat a filling meal or drink a glass of wine. My stomach won out, and I cut my wine consumption to one glass per week. Okay two, because…
- I always take a day off. It seems like there is always one night, usually over a weekend, when we go out to eat, attend a party, or entertain guests. That’s my time to relax, have a drink or maybe two, and eat what I want. I forget the meal plan for that one meal and just enjoy myself. Here’s what I learned, though: eating everything I want just leaves me feeling miserable. So I’ve learned to eat what I want within reason. If I know I’m having a couple of drinks or really want that specialty dessert, I go with a light dinner. And I spend more time thinking about the company I am with than the food I am eating. Life is too short to spend every minute worrying about something, so I just let go and enjoy.
- Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. I’ve been doing yoga for almost four years. I try to go three times a week. I do the fitness yoga, or strength yoga, so I’m working my body and not just clearing my mind. It works for me, and I feel good about myself when I leave the gym. And I try to stay active even when I’m not able to make it to class. When we vacation, we don’t spend a week sitting on the beach. We see and do everything, and I mean everything. That usually requires a heck of a lot of walking and often other activities such as horseback riding or mountain climbing. As far as I’m concerned, exercise is about moving, no matter what form of movement you choose to make.
- Snacks and desserts are well-deserved. And every now and then I will indulge in a small hot fudge sundae or even a cookie. But I snack all the time and don’t feel guilty. Remember the Half Naked Popcorn? It has become my go-to pick me up along with whatever fresh fruit is in season. We’ve eaten a lot of watermelon this summer, and I do mean a lot! We’ve also kept the strawberry and blueberry growers in business along with the peach farmers. I will miss the fresh fruit when winter sets in, so feel free to let me know what winter varieties you enjoy. I’ll be sure to check them out. As far as sweets, I haven’t given those up entirely either. This week, we made a homemade strawberry shortcake for Rebecca’s final dinner at home before she went back to school. It was made with angel food cake and fat free Readi Whip. I ate a piece without any remorse, and to be honest, I had another piece the next day.
Live life. Enjoy yourself. But be healthy. I haven’t felt this good in years, and I’m hoping that some of my tips and examples will inspire others to start eating right and getting healthy. There’s only one time when it’s too late to start, so what are you waiting for?
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.