"Ok, so, would it be...like...nosy if I asked you how much weight you've lost?"
"You're the picture of health," my step-mother said to me at a family cookout yesterday. This was, ironically, the day after having lunch with an old and dear friend that I hadn't spent much time with over the last few years.
"Wow, you look incredible!" are the first words out of her mouth. "Have you lost weight?"
"As a matter of fact I have," I answer with a smile.
A short while later, as we stand at the register to pay for our meal, she steps up to me and lowers her voice to ask me how much I'd lost. When I tell her, she can't believe it. "But that can't be right! It seems like so much more!" I try to hold back my witty tongue from slipping out a, 'What are you trying to say? That I was huge before?' What she doesn't realize is that the "looking awesome" part had very little to do with a drop in the scale, and much more to do with a rise in healthy habits. After a brief explanation of the healthy challenge I'd been following for the last 10 weeks or more, and the insistence of how simple it really is, I agreed to share my insights.
RULE 1: Cut out the crap.
This is especially hard when trying to get through parties or special occasions when you really, really want to eat that piece of birthday cake or baby shower cookie. A little tip I discovered that helps alleviate that insufferable sense of deprivation is to take some with you anyway and pop it into the freezer for cheat day. You'd be surprised at how much harder it is to say, "I can't have this," than it is to say, "I can't have this right now." You can choose other items you'd like to avoid, such as gluten, potatoes, or red meat (like I tried to do), but that's the great part of the challenge. It's simple enough for anyone to follow, and customizable to you!
RULE 2: Learn to love veggies.
Step 1: Have fruit with breakfast.
Next on the healthy challenge list: a combination of 5 fruits and vegetables every day. This isn't hard at all if you just know how to do it. "It'd be, like, 8 o'clock at night and I'd suddenly remember I hadn't had enough vegetables and I'd have to go open up a can of peas..." explained a friend of mine who'd joined the challenge with us. Yeah, sorry D., that's not how it's done. The trick is to substitute, not supplement. Cut out those pizzas and potato chips and replace them with fruit and veggie packed goodness. Just because it's healthy doesn't mean it has to be torture. You just need a tasty plan.
Just make sure you keep in mind the amount of sugar that's going into your shake. Read the labels on whatever protein powder you use. Products like Nectar or V Core have as little as 2 grams of sugar. Don't be afraid to throw in some extras, like Ovaltine or Vitamin C powder. Frozen fruit makes it thicker, and if you use refrigerated coconut milk (my favorite) you may need a spoon!
Step 2: Have a salad for lunch. Every day.
Step 3: Have a lean protein and at least two veggies with dinner.
Step 4: Always have healthy snacks on hand.
Having a protein shake every morning inevitably means I'm hungry by 9am. That's ok, it's just more of an opportunity to get more of those fruits and veggies in! The key is to follow the PRO rule. PROtein and PROduce. Some of my favorites include cottage cheese and pineapple, bananas and peanut butter, cucumbers and hummus, apples and almonds, fruit smoothies, Greek yogurt and raspberries, strawberries and cheddar, and cucumbers and tuna salad. The important part is to always have healthy snacks handy, whether in your own kitchen or in your desk at work (I keep nuts and dried fruit in my bag). Eventually you're going to get hungry. Having something healthy to reach for just makes it all that much easier.
RULE 3: Drink A LOT of water. (I mean, like, a TON.)
Next on our list is a minimum of 80 oz. of water per day (that's the traditional 64 plus extra because we'll be exercising). To give you a bit of an idea about exactly how much water that is, it's 2 liters PLUS 2 cups. Every morning I fill up a 16 oz cup and a 64 oz jug. I use the jug to continue to fill up the cup throughout the day, until it's completely empty. It's a lot of water--trust me, I know--but eventually you will get used to sucking on a cup of water all day long (add flavored drink enhancers if you have a hard time getting through it). You will also get used to going to the bathroom every hour or so. All of this sounds like a huge hassle, but the benefits of staying hydrated are phenomenal! Not only are you flushing toxins out of your body, you will find yourself more energized, and your skin will literally begin to glow! Just make sure you find some way to keep up with how much you're getting, whether filling bottles or jugs, and stick to that 80 oz. You'll be glad you did!
RULE 4: Move.
RULE 5: Get accountable.
Using the checklist above as a guide for your daily activities, each checkbox counts as one point (with every 30 minutes of exercise counting as one checkbox). There's even a section to add one area you want to work on daily that's not listed. The way we did it was to have a max amount of points each week (the above chart would equal 49 points, with all points "free" on cheat day) and then get extra points based on the total percentage of weight loss. FitWatch was the site we used to calculate the percentage of weight lost each week. There are other items that we included in our challenge, like adding an extra challenge point each week ranging from taking a multivitamin to flossing. Customize your challenge to meet your needs, but the basic outline and simple steps above will definitely get you started on the right track!
*Disclaimer: I am in no way a physician, dietician, trainer, or nutritionist. This is simply what has worked for me. Everyone is different and every body is different. Always consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness or diet plan.
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