Thursday, May 2, 2013

Evolution of a Diet Plan

When I started my quest for health, everyone stressed the importance of having a plan. I knew the basics of "healthy eating" because I'd gone to nutritionists and diet counselors before.

I knew I should be eating more vegetables and less carbs. I should stop binge eating when emotional tension runs high. I need to learn how to cook eventually if I want to eat healthy on a budget.

Yet, even with the basics, I needed something to cling to- a daily routine that would get me moving in the right direction and strictly control my portions- something that would dictate exactly what I needed to do.

Enter, Nutrisystem.

This was a great program for me. Honestly it allowed me to learn about portion control and it gave me the variety in foods that I needed to push through the first part of my journey without having to rely on my poor cooking skills. It provided a great online community for support and monthly challenges to keep me motivated.

However, there's not a lot of support for the physical side of things on Nutrisystem. They suggest 30 minutes of activity but they don't have many resources about what activities are best for weight loss or what different types of work outs can help you achieve. In addition, people get used to blindly eating whatever is in their entrees for the day. A lot people on the program have no idea WHY what they're doing is working and it keeps them returning the program because every time they leave, they aren't able to maintain what they've managed to lose. Lastly, it's debatable whether or not it's a "healthy" program. It certainly helps you lose weight. I lost over 100 lbs on Nutrisystem. It works. However, you are filling yourself with processed food constantly and that has it's own disadvantages. You get your four cups of veggies and your snacks, which can be fresh dairy, fruits, and nuts, but everything else comes in a box and is filled with chemicals and preservatives to give it shelf life and approximate the flavors of the indulgent meals you WISH you were eating instead.

I also recently came to terms with the fact that setting a weight goal based purely on BMI can have its drawbacks if you're one one severe end of the bell curve it uses. Let me illustrate.

These graphs were generated by Fitbit to show what qualifies as underweight (blue), healthy (green), overweight (orange), and obese (red).

Here's my chart. I'm 5'1". I am truly hobbit sized.
Here's my boyfriend's chart. He is 6'3". He is Hagrid sized.

He has a range of 52 lbs in his healthy weight section while I'm left with a measly 36 lbs for my target zone, not to mention he can be 240 lbs before he's considered obese! That blows my mind. Clearly there's a lot less of me than there is of him so on that level, yes, my target should be smaller, but also keep in mind that these numbers are applied arbitrarily because they don't take your actual body composition into account. It takes flat weight and does not reflect any knowledge that muscle weighs more than fat. There are professional athletes who would be considered obese on the BMI scale even though they're clearly performing at their physical peak! 

When it comes to any plan, you need to stick with it long enough to make sure you're giving it a chance, but you also need to recognize when it's time to adjust or move on. As your body evolves, your thinking and your knowledge base will as well. Go-to health snacks you were completely enchanted with will start to bore you, things you thought were super healthy may turn out to be the opposite, and activities you hated may become your favorite workouts of the week!

I've come to the conclusion that I'm ready to step away from Nutrisystem and move towards cooking my own food using the Paleo/Primal Blueprint as a model with planned indulgences for special occasions. What I've been doing has been very rewarding for the past 11 months, but changes are on the horizon. I can't stay on Nutrisystem forever anyways and I'm finding that I don't need as much structure to stay on track as I did in the beginning. In fact, the structure is beginning to drive me quite mad at times and that's causing more trouble than its worth.

My weight loss is slowing because I'm getting down to those last few lbs pounds and I've begun doing more strength training. My measurements are reducing drastically and I'm blowing my fitness goals out of the water for my "Big Damn Hero 6 Week Challenge" so I know I'm on the right track. Physically I'm where I want to be (despite having a bit more weight to lose), but I want to fuel my body properly for the work it's doing rather than feeling like I'm filling it with properly portioned chemical packs every three hours.

At this point, I want to focus on eating fresh, whole foods and I'd like to have a little more flexibility when it comes to going out to eat. I'm very tired of being a pack mule and carrying around days and days of Nutrisystem food and I am now confident in my ability to make informed healthy choices "in the wild." Having to stick so rigidly to the Nutrisystem guidelines is driving me more insane than it's worth when what I'm really craving is delicious stirfry for dinner and breakfasts of egg and vegetable omelets! I'm lusting after lean, fresh meat and grilled veggies, people. If there was every a time to make this change, it's right now while I'm excited about it.

Here's a basic idea of what my new diet will include.

Add in plenty of fresh fruit, veggies, and limited servings wheat (1-2 times a week), milk, and stevia for my coffee/tea in the morning and that's pretty much it. I will go into it in more detail in a future post but that gives a broad sense of what I'll be doing.

I never would have been able to handle this type of change in the beginning of this process, so having a way to eat mac & cheese or pizza was necessary to get me over the hump of just simply eating less and changing the basic composition of my meals. However, my palette has changed and I feel more limited by the program than I'm feeling helped. 

I've also got a great track record for choosing my days to indulge and hopping right back on my "plan" afterwards. I'm no longer afraid of breaking from my diet for a day. I don't feel like one off meal will keep me from my goals or destroy the eleven months of progress I've made. That's a huge achievement for me and I think with that should come the reward of more flexibility when it comes to fitting my health plan into my daily life.

So that's the plan moving forward! I intend to finish off this shipment of food, phase out my remaining Nutrisystem dishes, and keep track of my Primal diet using Fitbit to help me hit my desired deficit for weight loss 6/7 days a week. I have ten days till my breakfasts and lunches run out and sixteen until my dinners run out. That will give me enough time to slowly start phasing in new home made primal foods bit by bit. I'll let you all know how it goes and if anyone has any suggestions or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

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