Only recently have I joined SparkPeople online. It's a free resource that-honestly-is the best thing I've done in a long long time. If you don't know what it is, it's an online community and resource that is simply irreplaceable. You have forums and articles and the support of millions of other people, but you also have a nutrition tracker (where you can track every thing you eat so you can fix and maintain your eating habits), a fitness tracker, and free videos that show you everything from how to make the perfect meal to how to perform a bicep curl with free weight. There are even full-length exercise videos available for free. FREE!
I've learned that losing weight-and maintaining your goal weight-is 20% exercise (cardio and weight training) and 80% diet. You can work out all you want, but if you eat crap, you're never going to drop those pounds.
Last night I was awake, thinking about the 3 most important things I've learned when it comes to diet. And when I say "diet", I don't mean "Only eat ______ for 3 days" or starving yourself. "Diet" to me means lifestyle. Eating to live, not living to eat. In any case, here are the three things that I feel are MOST important to being successful in being healthy and being at a healthy weight:
1) PORTION CONTROL - this is, for me, probably the most important thing to be aware of when eating. Most people eat WAY too much. A regular serving of rice or pasta is 1/2 cup, not those huge bowls piled high that you get in a restaurant. Also, that bottle of soda you're about to drink actually has 2.5 servings in it, so when you read the nutritional info on the side, you need to multiply it to get the actual count. Tricky.
2) EAT SMART - sure, you have a range of calories you should consume in a day. Mine is set according to my activity level, current weight, and nursing status. I aim to consume between 1800-2400 calories a day. I try to stay near the low end, but some days I just want more, so I go into the higher end. I'm still seeing weight loss, so it's working.
Having said that, the part about being smart is this: 100 calories of crap isn't going to do much for you by way of filling you up or providing any nutritional value. Have your treat of a couple pieces of dark chocolate, if you have a craving, but don't eat that entire family-sized chocolate bar.
Eating smart also includes healthy fats: almonds and other nuts, olive oil, butter, full-fat milk products, lean meats, and coconut oil. We don't eat any other type of oil. Highly-processed vegetable oils contain nothing good for you. In addition, you need to eat fat. Fat is instrumental in delivering many vitamins (A,D,E and K) as well as making you feel fuller for longer. I dispute the lipid hypothesis in that eating fat makes you fat-I think eating unhealthy fats make you fat. Think McDonalds, highly processed foods, and high-fructose corn syrup. Disgusting stuff.
3) DRINK WATER. I can't stress how important this is. Not only does virtually every function of your body require adequate amounts of water to be at optimum levels, but drinking water makes you feel full. Many times when I felt "hungry", I was simply thirsty. It's amazing how much better I felt (and looked) once I started drinking 8-10 glasses (or more) a day. Lines that have been on my face for YEARS look shallower and in some cases have even disappeared. My hair is shiny. I have tons more energy, and I feel great. I think a large part of that is due to my increased intake of water.
The first thing I do when I get up in the morning (after bathroom break and weighing in) is to drink a full glass of water. Then I drink my coffee, have some breakfast, and have another glass. I keep a 750 mL glass jar with lid full of water through the day and drink at least 3 of them. I drink a glass of water before each meal and that ensures I don't overeat.
I barely miss drinking other beverages. I would much rather EAT my calories instead of drinking them. Of course, once in a while, I'll have a bit of juice or a half-glass of soda. Most of the time, a glass of kombucha totally cures my craving for a coke. Otherwise, water totally satisfies me. Sometimes I'll throw a bit of lemon or lime into the jar or pitcher of water for a bit of added flavour and some vitamin C.
All in all, I think these three things are the most important things I need to do in order to be successful at losing and keeping the weight off. Follow these rules and you should be on the track to good health. Good luck!