I kid you not. I still remember the night a few years ago while watching The Biggest Loser when Bob Harper made the statement that I knew for sure was outright wrong. I remember turning to Cassie and making a snide comment emphasizing just that. But from this challenge I’ve realized just how mistaken I was and how amazingly right he was about what he said.
Before I tell you what he’s right about, let me tell you just how ironic this is. Cassie and I used to watch The Biggest Loser each week. We loved to watch the successes of those that were on the show. And while we watched, we ate. And I’m not talking about healthy, clean eating. Nope. I probably ate frozen pizzas, Doritos and other great junk foods right as we were watching the workouts and weigh-ins. So hopefully you’ll see just how arrogantly stupid I was in my response to what he said.
You see – back in my early twenty’s I thought I was fit. I ran, lifted weights, did step aerobics and Lean ‘n Mean – an aerobics/weight class my local gym offered. And on top of that I ate whatever I want. I thought I knew everything when it came to fitness and thought if I worked out hard enough I could just skip the diet. Of course, I then got older, married and lost “all the time in the world” to work out; you can probably guess that my eating didn’t slow and I gained weight.
Fast forward almost 20 years. Before this challenge I have tried to start running again a few times. I had tried classes, weights, and even a boot camp. None of them worked. Until this challenge. And I can’t tell you how much more amazing I feel – even more than I remember when I was back in my early 20’s.
So what was it that Bob Harper said that night while I was stuffing my face? He said that diet is more important than exercise in losing weight. You can even see where he says it in this article. And after what I’ve seen throughout this challenge I can claim from my experience that he is right. For you see I’m not doing much different than I did a year ago (or the year before, and the year before that, etc) as far as my exercise. But this time while I’ve been watching what I eat with MyFitnessPal (a free, online food database that helps you track what you eat), I’ve been seeing the pounds fall off. I’ve seen my weight go from a starting 240 pounds down to 203.4 pounds (a 36.4 lb decrease) in just short of 90 days. And I don’t see my weight loss stopping. I’m just a short time away from One-derland (weight starting with the digit ‘1’) and want to see just how much healthier I can get.
And I believe with all my heart its because of my changed diet.
I want to give you some of my thoughts that have been developing for me throughout this challenge regarding my diet. If you take only one thing from this article, I hope you hear that Diet does matter! I know my thoughts will only evolve for the better through the next weeks, months and years as I work through this little journey of health. And I am sharing more on our Instagram (@ThriftyHealthCouple) account and our private Fitness and Health Facebook page as well with new things I learn and experience.
But at this point, I want to share with you 10 simple tips that I have learned throughout this challenge about just how important diet is:
- Portion size was a huge eye opener – When I started my challenge it was important for me this time around to make sure I was following my diet. And as we mentioned in the post detailing the gym alternatives and tools I have been using for this challenge, I purchased a food scale on Amazon which has been critical for my success. I started off by watching everything I ate – and included what I can refer to as non-optimal (not healthy) foods. I started to realize just how much extra over the serving size I had been eating; maybe it would be more appropriate to state that I had been eating multiple servings when I thought I was only eating one. And because I was able to weigh and measure my food and ensure I was only eating the amount that I should, I really became excited because I started to see a huge change in my numbers on the scale almost right away.
- You can each a lot more healthier food (in general) than junk – As I started to watch my diet each day (again, not cutting food groups by being more reasonable) I started to see that when I made healthier choices I could eat more food. The funny thing is that as I progressed through the challenge, I noted that I was feeling healthier with the result that I wanted to consume healthier options automatically. Those fast-food grilled chicken sandwiches (with waaaay too much sodium – I think I only ate 2-3 total) just started sounding less appealing whereas chicken grilled at home with a fresh salad became much more desired by my tongue and body – and what was great was I could eat more of those fresher options.
- Healthy eating became way more than watching calories – For the very first time in my life, MyFitnessPal got me thinking that my food options needs to consider more than just calories – fat, carbohydrates, sodium and sugars all started to be watched each item I added to my food diary. Sure, I could eat a Snickers or even a yucky fast-food meal and stay within my caloric goal for the day, but ironically my fat, sodium and more would go through the daily ceiling just from that one item. There were a few days that I still had calories left but since I exceeded some of my other levels (e.g., fat or carbs) it didn’t leave me with much to eat. Essentially I learned quickly that there was more to food than just a caloric number.
- Stay out of the restaurants as much as you can – I know this might be a bit controversial. I don’t deny there are gourmet health restaurants; I’m not talking about them (although I still remember a visit to Cafe Zupas that ruined my day – when I logged it in MyFitnessPal later I found it would have been healthier for me to eat a Big Mac when comparing fat and calories – so watch out!). I’m talking about most restaurants you’ll find yourself in with you family, your co-workers and your friends. Even when I couldn’t avoid a restaurant (e.g., it was someone’s birthday or other celebration) I found that the healthiest options were generally extremely high in sodium. Just try to put in some of the healthiest entree options into MyFitnessPal you’ll see exactly what I mean. And no, I’m not commanding anything (hope you know that) but in general a habitual visiting of restaurants while you’re trying to become healthier just makes keeping your diet extremely difficult, if not impossible.
- Plan ahead when you do go out to a restaurant – Viewing a menu is not the right time to decide how to maintain your healthy diet. True, there are a few restaurants that can give you a menu that breaks down all the calories, fats (and fat types), carbs (and sugars), fiber and sodium. But in general its easier to come up with a plan ahead of the visit by visiting their online menu. Often you can also use the free tools out there (like MyFitnessPal) that will allow you to view many of those entrees in their database with some modifications (e.g., burrito without cheese, entree without sides, etc)
- Meal preparation for lunches one night per week will be a HUGE help for your diet – Trying to plan your lunch for the day while you are running late, you have a meeting in just a few minutes or while everything seems to be falling apart in the morning is a quick avenue for the excuse, “I’ll just get something out today and do better tomorrow”. I have found that mapping out my lunches for the week and even just getting the main entrees ready (like grilled chicken, turkey, etc) with a lot of healthy sides in my fridge (like salads, whole-grain breads, fruits/vegetables) get me most of the way there. That will not only make it easy to stop the excuses, but give you a ready excuse when your coworkers ask you to lunch; when you bring your lunch, it will be easier to turn them down every so gently. 🙂
Grill extra chicken for lunches that week
- Watch the ingredients as labels are deceptive – Just because a bread says 100% whole wheat or Multi-grain doesn’t make it the healthiest option. I was frustrated on a recent trip to a Kroger store when I tried to find a healthier french bread option. The healthiest, darkest loaf of bread claimed to be an artisan multi-grain bread loaf where the first ingredient showed an enriched wheat flour (and not just a healthy, whole-grain flour) where many of the nutrients have been lost. Not to mention if you’re looking for a food without any trans fat (fat that raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers our HDL (good) cholesterol – as Mayo clinic calls it, a “double whammy”) you need to look twice; the US allows any food with <0.5 g trans fat to display it as 0 g on the food label (stay away from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil). Essentially I’ve learned to be a smarter shopper and select my foods more carefully.
- Clean/Healthy eating has become more important to me – I know each of these are a subject in and of themselves but this one especially. As I continue to make this a whole life change, I’m learning that simple, whole foods are a much better options than many processed, stripped foods or those with a lot of unhealthy additives. I won’t go into this too much in this article (maybe another in a few weeks if anyone is interested?) other than to say not only have I learned how much healthier I feel when eating clean and healthy, but also how much more tasty the foods have become.
Eating Clean is Tasty!
- Stay creative in the kitchen – Sure, I could eat the same exact lunch every day of my life, but I know myself that if I get too tired of it that I’ll want something else. Mixing up my meals with a ton of different flavor and variety has really helped me look forward to my healthier meals.
- Get your family involved – If you are over by yourself eating a healthier option meal while they are chowing down on a pizza will make you feel like you’re missing out and could be the temptation to push you over the edge. If you can get your family to eat healthier and adopt those habits now, it can not only help reduce your temptations but also encourage your children and other family members towards a healthier lifestyle as well.
I know that I’ve quickly mentioned just a few tips (and I hope to share more in future weeks – both more tips and more about some of the ones above) but I thought it critical to let you know to make sure you are focusing on your diet throughout this challenge. Don’t think that just merely getting out of your chair and exercising is going to help you achieve those goals you set weeks and months ago. Evaluate your diet, see where you can improve and make it work for you!
As you work through this challenge, don’t forget the Health & Fitness Planners we have to help you track not only your workouts, but your diet and water intake and help you plan out your meals.
Feel free to either leave a comment below on other ideas you might have, questions you might have regarding any of these tips or even those you might disagree with or come over to our 90-Day Fitness and Health Challenge group on Facebook and even share with us your own as well!
And make sure to keep in touch with us on this challenge:
- If you haven’t signed up yet – come join us from the very beginning by clicking on the 90-Day Fitness and Health Challenge and sign up to start receiving your automated challenge from the very beginning!
- Come join our Fitness and Health Challenge with The Thrifty Couple Facebook Group HERE and ask to join us there. Everyone is sharing their updates, asking questions and encouraging one another on in their journey – we would love to have you join in as well! You can invite friends and spouses too to keep you going as well.
- Follow our journey on Instagram – Thrifty Health Couple – a place where we share daily updates of diet, health and how we are doing! You can also check out #90dayhealthttc to track everyone else that posts for this challenge as well.
Disclaimer: We are not licensed health professionals. We are only a couple that are excited to offer you a place where you can find encouragement and resources to help you in your quest for health, weight loss and fitness. Any tips we share should not be construed as medical advice but is only there to let you know of other options for your health. If you have questions or before starting any weight loss or fitness challenge please make sure to talk to your doctor.