I am jealous of my younger self. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted (including ice cream on almost a daily basis) and never had to worry about gaining weight since I was always active. Now the most strenuous exercise I can get is taking a short walk which really doesn’t burn a whole lot of calories. For awhile after my back surgery I was in denial about my weight gain. My pants did seem tighter but I figured it was just some residual swelling at my abdominal incision. I never bothered to weigh myself at home so I was shocked when I stepped on a scale at my doctor’s office and realized I had gained 15 lbs.
Now I know 15 lbs doesn’t seem that excessive but I am rather short and with a family history of diabetes any weight gain made me nervous. Plus carrying extra weight can make back and joint problems worse. While I was upset about the weight gain I wasn’t that worried; I had always been able to maintain a healthy weight in the past so I figured if I tired I could lose it pretty quickly. It turned out I was very wrong about that, at least the “losing it quickly” part.
Weight loss is fairly simple. You just need to burn more calories than you consume. But simple in this case doesn’t mean easy. My back problems prevented me from doing any strenuous exercise, or even doing light exercise frequently. The only way for me to lose weight was to consume less calories which I failed at because I was always hungry and only craved unhealthy foods. My failure at losing weight caused a lot of stress and made me feel guilty about eating which resulted in more weight gain. However I can now happily say I am on the right track and am almost down to my goal (pre-surgery) weight. Below are some tips on what to do, and what not to do to lose weight even when you can’t exercise.
Don’t feel Bad About Your Body!
I know this is easier said than done but I also know first hand that when you beat yourself up about your weight you just risk gaining more weight. Stress and other negative emotions have been shown to increase food cravings, especially cravings for carbs and fat so this isn’t a big surprise. Don’t obsess over your weight by jumping on the scale every day. Instead of focusing on the negative focus on the positives; come up with a plan for your weight loss and be proud of yourself for having the intelligence and determination to make a positive change in your life. Be confidant that you will achieve your goal.
Make Eating Healthy Easy
Some people overly complicate the idea of eating healthy. You do NOT need to juice your food, taking the fiber out of fruits and vegetables is the opposite of what you want to be doing. There is no real evidence showing juicing or raw diets to be beneficial. And while you should stay away from processed foods since they tend to have lots of sugars and chemicals you don’t need to be an experienced chef to make a healthy meal.
Keep it basic. Focus on consuming fresh produce and lean proteins. For lunch I typically have a large salad consisting of romaine lettuce and a small amount of walnuts and dried apricots. For protein I make a smoothing with almond milk, a banana and vegan protein powder. It’s quick and easy and the natural sugars from the dried fruit and the banana satisfy my cravings for carbs.
There is No Magic Pill…But There Are a Few Tricks
Don’t bother with diet pills, they are a waste of money and some contain harmful ingredients. But if you find yourself craving food all the time there are two things you can use to trick your body: fiber and water. Taking a fiber supplement 30 mins before each meal can help you consume less calories by making you feel full faster. And if you find you are hungry between meals drink a glass of water before you decide to snack. Sometimes being thirsty can feel like being hungry. I also make it a habit of only drinking things that naturally have no calories like water, coffee, or tea (with the exception of the one smoothie I previously mentioned). Calories from soda, juice and milk can add up quickly without you even being aware of it. And no, “diet” drinks are not a good alternative. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to neurological problems like an increased risk of stroke and they actually make you crave sugar.
Make Gradual Changes
The key to not only losing weight but maintaining a healthy weight is to make lifestyle changes that you can actually stick to. If you eat a lot of unhealthy junk food it may not be realistic to cut out all processed foods overnight. I tried to give up all processed sugars cold turkey but that just made my sugar cravings worse. The only way I was able to kick my habit was by doing it gradually. Instead of eating a whole candy bar, which can contain 250 calories or more, I would eat just a few semi-sweet chocolate chips. Eventually my body adjusted and I was able to switch to eating fruit instead of chocolate chips. Now I find fruit much more satisfying and I rarely ever want candy.
Keep a Food Journal
If you think you are eating well but still can’t seem to shed pounds you might benefit from keeping a food journal for at least a week.
Calorie counting isn’t fun but can help you figure out why your diet isn’t working. Sometimes foods we think are healthy end up containing a lot of calories. Avocados for example contain a lot of healthy fats but those fats also make avocados high in calories compared to other fruits. A food journal can also help you figure out when you are consuming the most calories. If you aren’t eating a lot during the day but are spluging at night you aren’t giving you body a chance to work those calories off. Aim to eat your biggest meal at lunch, have a hearty breakfast and try to keep dinner light. There are a lot of apps and websites out there that can make calorie counting easier, Live Strong has a pretty good one.
And finally remember to be realistic. You’re not going to drop a ton of weight quickly and that isn’t a good idea anyway. But your persistence will pay off. Motivate yourself with daily reminders of why you want to lose weight and be proud of yourself for any progress you make.