A lot of people ask me what kind of diet I follow to maintain my weight. I work a desk job which makes weight loss efforts a little more difficult. Coworkers see me eating healthy snacks and meals at my desk, for the most part. But the truth is, I’m not the healthiest eater out there. I make myself bring healthy food to work because I know I will eat it. At home or out at a restaurant, however, is a totally different story. I definitely don’t deprive myself if I’m craving something because I believe in moderation. If I’m craving In-n-Out, I eat it. On the rare occasion that I crave Taco Bell, I go for it – although that is usually accompanied with 48-72 hours of shame and indigestion. Typical snacks for me include pretzels and hummus, popcorn, maybe granola with almonds mixed in. Not terrible, but I could definitely increase my vegetable intake. I have recently started cooking healthy recipes in bulk and putting portions in plasticware in the freezer so I have healthy and tasty options on hand.
I started working in corporate America in July 2014. When I started my new job I was the thinnest I had ever been (I was actually a little too thin for my liking – I like some meat on my frame). Before the new job I was managing a swim school, where I was constantly on my feet, in and out of the swimming pool, for over 40 hours a week. I had started working out at Lifetime Fitness that spring and was taking full advantage of the classes and equipment the facility has to offer. This was the first time I was working out on a regular schedule since I had gotten injured and was very focused on my workout regimen and healthy lifestyle.
However, that all came to a screeching halt when the new job started. As active of a lifestyle as I had been leading I hadn’t had to worry about my calorie intake, and with the change in job also came a change in the amount of free time I had to work out. I gained twelve pounds in the first year on the job. At 5’3 and on a petite frame, twelve pounds is definitely noticeable. I was determined to reverse this trend, and not a minute too fast. I started tracking my calories and working out more consistently. At this time I fluctuate from being down about six to eight pounds from where I was at my heaviest last summer.
I am not necessarily trying to get back to as thin as I was, but I do still have a couple pounds to lose to get to my goal weight. I have tried different diet trends in the past and have found that they just don’t work for me. I cannot stick to something that deprives me of certain foods or forces me to eat other kinds. I’m good on a “diet” for about three days before I throw in the towel, and inevitably throw out all of the food I bought for the diet. However, there were a couple things happening within my body that I wanted to put a stop to. Why can’t I lose these last couple pounds? More importantly (because it’s not just about the number on the scale, but also how you feel), I was lethargic, and constantly bloated and gassy. On days I did long runs (eight miles or longer), my stomach would be violently upset all day to the point that I could barely eat; these are definitely days I didn’t want to skip meals, either. During the week I would get off work at six pm and feel beyond exhausted, and I hated that feeling. I started doing a little research and discovered that there might just be one common denominator in the foods I was eating that is leading to all of these symptoms.
I have watched enough Netflix documentaries to seriously consider cutting back on sugar. I didn’t even know where to begin or how much to cut back. The FDA does not require food manufacturers to list a percentage of daily sugar intake on nutrition labels, just the amount in grams. After a quick “how much sugar should i consume” search on Google, I found that the American Heart Association recommends 100 calories, or 25 grams, of added sugar per day. Added sugar? Even as someone focused on a healthy lifestyle, I do not have the time or the patience to determine which sugars I consume are added and which are natural. I don’t even know which sugars are natural and which are added in some cases. Food packaging can be very misleading, and I’m learning not to trust the “health benefits” listed on the front of a package. So I did a little more research and discovered that the World Health Organization recommends 25 grams of sugar per day, cut almost in half from what it used to recommend.
25 grams? That’s what I’m going with.
I didn’t want to start right away because I had a few high-sugar items in my fridge that I needed to do away with first, and I was a week away from a half marathon and didn’t want to make any drastic changes. So in order to get in the right frame of mind I started paying attention to how much sugar I was consuming. I was shocked to see that it was around 100 grams per day. And I eat healthy! If you start paying attention to sugar you will be astounded at how much sugar is in foods. One cup of the skim milk I have drank for years has 11 grams. One of the managers at my office keeps a basket with little chocolates in it. A fun sized Kit Kat bar, Milky Way, or Snickers can have 4 grams! And if you think that’s bad, don’t even look at soda.
I made the switch in my diet on February 1 and I can’t believe how easy it has been. My sweet tooth has basically disappeared. I would stop by the candy manager’s desk multiple times throughout the day before, but I haven’t craved candy at all. All of the symptoms I mentioned above have gone away. I’m now alert and energetic throughout the day (no more 2 o’clock slump for me!) and am (almost) never bloated. I’m hungry and eat consistently on days that I complete long runs. I am still continuing to work toward my goal weight but seem to have crossed over that plateau. The way I knew for sure that my diet tweak was working was when I went to Vegas. I went last weekend with some girlfriends and did not hold back on what I ate or drank. (I’m talking drinking for twelve hours and then eating McDonald’s or a chili cheese dog at three am – even typing it now makes my stomach turn!) I felt all of those symptoms that weekend and was reminded of how much better I have felt now that I have been eating cleaner. And I was pleasantly surprised to step on the scale when I got back – I only gained 3.2 pounds on my trip and have lost all but one of those pounds.
I would definitely encourage you to do some research on the harmful effects sugar can have on your body. If you are in a diet slump or a weight loss plateau, that may be the tweak you need to get back on track.