Wellness Wednesday – Basics

Seven years ago, when I was on my first weight loss journey, I began with some very basic principles. My goal was to eat “healthy but reasonable,” a way I could eat for the rest of my life. I would cut back on excess junk and snacks, but not cut it out altogether. I would make myself eat more produce, a hard task for me. I would also follow intuitive eating cues, both by removing all distractions while I ate (no phone, no tv, no books, no computer, etc) and by eating until “no longer hungry” rather than “full.” On the exercise side, I planned to do 5-6 hours a week of primarily cardio with some strength training, mixing up higher- and lower-intensity workouts. Additionally, I restructured my life so that it included more balance, more interests, more sleep, and better habits. After two months, I added calorie-counting via Sparkpeople to my routine.

This basic plan worked for me for quite some time. To get an idea of a typical day’s diet for me, you can look at my review of Around the World in 80 Diets. That was an actual day’s food around the time of that review, and is more or less representative of what I was eating at the time: a healthy-but-reasonable diet. After nine months and a lot of weight lost, however, I ran into a bit of a wall. Insomnia struck in a major way, and my weight loss rate cut in half no matter what I did. And what does any self-respecting data-nerd do in this situation? They tinker. And I did. I changed up my exercise routines and plans, my macro-nutrient ratios, my number of calories, all sorts of things. Through the tinkering, I managed to continue to lose, albeit slowly, until around when I hit my original goal (Feb 2013). After that, my body just stopped.

I wanted to lose another 20 lbs, so stopping was frustrating. No matter how much I tinkered, nothing happened. That made me desperate, so I began trying out crazier and crazier things. Cutting all processed foods: good but unsustainable. Shakeology: Ugh. Weight Watchers: way too little food! Heavy weight lifting: major PCOS-related inflammation and gain. Gluten-free due to a medicine issue: no change. Whole 30: excellent, but not sustainable, and caused massive regains with the slightest deviation from the plan. A less-strict Paleo: caused massive dehydration within five days. And so on.

I’ve tried so many things over the last few years, and nothing has helped. Even cutting out sugar to minimums only helped for about two weeks! I’m 70-80 lbs over where I’d like to be and that’s not really changing. Sometimes it feels that I’m simultaneously standing in my own shadow and blocking my own path. You’d think it would be easy to forget everything I’ve learned over the last few years and just go back to those very simple “healthy but reasonable” basic goals: Eat moderately, increase produce, exercise often but not overly much, and pay attention to your body’s cues. It’s not simple, though. It’s not simple to follow these rules and watch how slow the scale crawls when you’ve seen how it races while doing Paleo. It’s not simple to keep going as your body resists because it’s trying to protect you from the famine of losing. It’s not simple to eat well when you’ve suffered from nearly seven years of constant insomnia that no doctor has been able to diagnose or help.

(meal from late 2012)

Still, I’m trying. Trying to stop standing in my own way with all the extraneous information and baggage I’ve picked up since 2013. Trying for basics. I need to remember the things I learned in the beginning: I’m more likely to eat a salad if I throw a couple croutons in it. Having some frozen chicken nuggets in the freezer as a back-up emergency meal is better than needing to grab fast food. If a sprinkle of sugar helps me eat a bowl of berries, that’s better than not eating the berries at all. It doesn’t matter if the boys don’t like the vegetables we prepare for dinner, we need to prepare them anyway.

Reasonable macro-nutrients and calories. Reasonable amounts of sugar or junk food. Reasonable amounts of exercise. Reasonable attempts to sleep. Reasonable amounts of screen time. Just…reasonable. Sustainable. And hopefully, in the long run, productive.

About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
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9 Responses to Wellness Wednesday – Basics

  1. gricel d. says:

    I’ve gone up about 20 pounds in the last year and a half and, while I know some of it is hormone-related and/or tied up with the change in my thyroid meds, I think that some of it is rebound weight after my Whole30/light paleo phase. I learned a lot about the foods I shouldn’t be eating, but it really isn’t sustainable over time and the amount of protein and fat I was eating led to some weird side effects. It’s incredibly disheartening to make changes and see little progress, but I think you’re right. Sustainable and hopefully productive are the way to go.


    • Amanda says:

      That rebound was really rough for me, too, especially because it was easy to think it was my fault when really it had more to do with the body shifting modes. I’m always tempted to go back to eating more paleo-like but I try to remember that it’ll only hurt me in the long run!


  2. Michelle says:

    I think many years from now, scientists will look back on all of these diets and laugh at us for falling for them. I think that in the end, it all comes back to calories in versus calories out and that we make sure the calories in are well-balanced.That exercise does not have to be over-the-top but that we all need to move more than we do. Healthy habits that we know our bodies need and crave. Reasonable and sustainable will be the only “diet” people will follow in the future.

    Good luck!


    • Amanda says:

      Unfortunately the calories-in-calories-out model has never worked for me in any way, because my body reacts differently based on the nutrients and components. 2000 calories with a high carb content will cause me to gain, while 2000 with a high fat content will cause me to lose quickly. I’m trying to find the balance between those – not making my fat content so high that I feel awful and have that tough rebound after an off day, but also not eating so many carbs that my insulin-resistance kicks in and causes gain. It’s ridiculous.


  3. Kristen M. says:

    I am really trying to move toward “reasonable and sustainable” on my own because, now that I’ve pretty much got my exercise where I want it, it’s time to focus on food and the thought of counting calories again like I did last time is making me stressed and anxious and has me remembering everything I hated about doing that. I know that my portions are a bit bigger than they should be right now and that I’ve let some things slip back in like chips but, because I know these things, I should just be able to fix them, right? Heh. Never quite that easy but the stress is going to work against us. Find the path of least stress. That’s a good plan. šŸ˜‰


    • Amanda says:

      Heh, I keep chips around to have in small amounts just to make sure I don’t go binge on them! I just try to keep around ones that I wouldn’t enjoy binging on. Salt & Vinegar kettle chips are good because I can only eat a few before my tongue starts protesting, haha!


  4. Word Lily says:

    Yep, yep, yep. I keep hearing all the people having success on Keto, but 1) not sustainable, especially the way many of them do it … and 2) the last time my carbs were that severely restricted my life suuuuuucked.

    Probably just need to be patient with slightly smaller portions of the good, healthy food I already eat, watch my sugar intake, and continue to find ways to move (that part remains hard right now).


    • Amanda says:

      I get the impression that keto works better with male physiology and hormones, from the things I’ve read. I haven’t tried it, mostly because it’s too close to paleo and I know what that does to my body, but I do wonder about its longterm effects and sustainability (as well as rebound).


  5. Pingback: Wellness Wednesday – Starting From Scratch | The Zen Leaf

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