I’m 5’ 7”, 132 lbs, and have a 29-inch waist. People often ask me how I stay slim. The quick answer is, “Eat less, walk more!” That’s the basic idea (limited calorie intake, and regular exercise), but there’s much more to it. Awareness is the key to my weight management success. I think about food a lot. There was a time when I would automatically order two of just about anything, or impulsively snack on fattening foods, without giving it a second thought. Not anymore. Now, I’m conscious of everything I eat. I think about WHAT I’m going to eat, and WHEN, and I like to plan my meals in advance. It’s very comforting to have dinner ready fast, or at least have all the ingredients at hand, at the end of a tiring, stressful day. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to end up ordering out (pizza – again!) or making something quick and convenient but overloaded with calories.
Let’s get this straight, folks. FOOD IS GOOD! I love to eat. Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A common Chinese greeting is, “Have you eaten?” Meals in France and Italy are the high points of the day. It’s a time to relax, unwind, and savor good food that’s well prepared. Here in America, it seems, dinner is an afterthought, a time of panic and haste. It often means fast, and very unhealthy, food eaten on the go. I don’t like that option, so I plan ahead. That way, I’m in control of the situation instead of the other way around.
I’m not a dietician by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m not here to advise you as to what you should, or shouldn’t, eat. If you want to lose weight, especially a substantial amount of weight, you should consult with your doctor first. Except for a couple of brief periods I struggled with losing weight for many years. This time, however, I found success, and it doesn’t involve fad diets, pills, or expensive club memberships. I wrote this article to show that a common sense approach applied with discipline can be very effective.
Here are the six basic principles that help keep me slim;
1) Counting Calories Comes Naturally
The recommended daily calorie intake varies depending on age, gender, height, weight, and level of activity. According to the FDA, the average male adult needs 2,500 calories to maintain his current weight (2,000 calories for average female adults). I aim for the 2,000 calorie mark, and it’s worked well for me.
I know people who will consume, at one sitting, a one-pound box of pasta with one other person. Well, consider this. The box has eight servings. Each serving is 200 calories. That’s 1,600 calories for the whole box, or 800 calories for each person. Add sauce, meat, and some bread to go with it and they probably consumed more than half of their daily limit. With just one meal!
Honestly, the recommended serving of pasta isn’t very much if that’s all you’re having. I’ll go up to a double serving if the pasta is my main course and it doesn’t have meat and sauce. The key, again, is awareness. As I eat throughout the day I keep a mental record of my calorie intake. I know the calorie content of all of the foods I eat regularly. It became second nature after a while. I like a variety of foods, but I try to stay within a fairly well-defined calorie range for my main meals.
2) I Deal With Hunger
I read an article claiming that thin people are always hungry. I do feel hungry a lot, but it’s rarely that sort of intense craving that makes me want to eat the first thing I can get my hands on. It’s more of a subtle awareness that I haven’t eaten in a while. How do I deal with it? I acknowledge the hunger. You can’t just pretend that it doesn’t exist. It’s a real feeling. Then, I realize that I’m not lost in the woods or stranded in my car somewhere. I’m never far from food, and I can eat anytime I want to. I’m not going to starve.
3) Foods That I Try Very Hard To Avoid
I’ve seen white flour at the top of quite a few lists of foods you shouldn’t eat. White bread and white rice are simply containers for loads of empty calories. I buy whole wheat bread and brown rice instead. It’s pretty difficult for me to avoid white bread entirely. I like a soft pretzel once in a while. Some of the sandwiches that I love and indulge in occasionally are served on delicious rolls made with white flour. But, those are rare exceptions to the rule. If I make a sandwich at home or have a choice at a restaurant it’s always whole wheat bread.
Sugar is a big no-no for me. I don’t put any in my coffee, and I very rarely drink any kind of soda. I was never much of a candy eater, but I do like a little bit of chocolate pretty often. Cakes, pies, and desserts in general are reserved for special occasions or the end of a nice restaurant meal.
Fast food, aside from being very quick and convenient, couldn’t have grown into the huge business it’s become if people didn’t like it. I’m no exception. I love Burger King! Sometimes I lust after a double cheeseburger and fries. But, it’s a love affair I keep at a distance. When I drive by one I try hard not to look. I usually indulge maybe two or three times in a year. So far this year I’ve been there ONE TIME! That’s right, just once. I can’t think of any other time I’ve had fast food this year.
Philly cheese steaks are another weakness of mine. I love them! Years ago I ate them pretty often, twice a week or more. They taste awesome, but the fried meat, gooey cheese, and big white flour roll are guaranteed to expand your waistline, not to mention clog your arteries. I haven’t given them up entirely. They’re just way too good to resist. I would sacrifice some longevity to keep enjoying them. I have one every couple of months or so. It’s a much-anticipated event for me.
4) You Know That What You Eat, You Are
The Nutrition Facts box and the Ingredients List are the most important things on the package, as far as I’m concerned. I can easily see the SERVINGS PER CONTAINER and CALORIES PER SERVING, and I also know exactly what I’m eating. I look for as few ingredients as possible, and certainly nothing for which I’d need a chemistry textbook to look up. I absolutely avoid buying highly processed foods like those quick powdered side dishes in packets, deli meats, or refrigerated/frozen convenience meals. They’re loaded with fat, salt, and who knows what else. My pantry doesn’t have much in the way of canned foods except for tuna, imported whole tomatoes for my sauces, and maybe beans if I don’t have time to soak and cook fresh ones. I buy frozen vegetables as an option to fresh.
My diet consists mainly of pasta, chicken, fish, fruits, vegetables, and salads. I don’t eat much red meat, maybe once or twice a week in moderate portions. Breakfast is mainly cereal with a banana, oatmeal, or eggs with toast no more than twice a week. For lunch I like yogurt with granola and blueberries, a salad, a tuna or turkey sandwich, or an occasional slice of pizza.
5) No Snacks In My House
Seriously. I don’t keep potato chips, dips, cookies, cheese and crackers, or most any other kind of common snacks laying around. They’re tempting. I’m human. It’s not that I don’t snack. Sometimes I have a bag of pretzel nuggets from which I’ll take a handful then immediately put the bag away. I usually keep some nuts, mainly plain almonds, around. Again, I’ll take just a few then put the can or jar back away. Sitting down with a can of nuts assures an empty can before long! Most of the time, if I feel like a snack, I’ll have a carrot, celery, or some fruit. I know what you’re thinking. “Celery? Is he for real?” It works for me.
6) Keep On Walking
One of the most ridiculous images I ever saw was a photo of a health club in California somewhere. The main entrance was elevated, and next to a flight of stairs was – are you ready for this? – an escalator! Exercise is an essential component of an effective weight management program. I don’t go to a gym. It’s not because I don’t think they have any value. I just don’t have the time. But, I walk. A lot. If it’s a pretty long walk I don’t think about how far away my destination is. I just take it one city block at a time. Along the way I take in the sights and sounds, or just let my mind wander. In addition to the calorie-burning benefits a long walk relieves stress and lifts my spirits if I’m feeling down.
© 2010 Frank C. Guariglia. All rights reserved.
Frank C. Guariglia has diverse career experience including entrepreneur, telecommunications manager, and day trader. He’s currently developing a website, How I Stay Slim, to inspire others to maintain an ideal weight. Frank is always interested in potentially profitable opportunities.Send him email