We all know there is much conflicting advice on what, or even how, to eat. High carbs or low carbs, high fat or low fat, high protein or low protein, and don’t forget whether or not to eat gluten. Eating has been so complicated!
I am not a nutritionist, or medical professional of any kind. I am – or was – a professional dieter. That’s right, I’ve probably tried too many to count diets over the years. I’ve lost weight and gained it back again as soon as I returned to my regular eating. In retrospect I see three challenges that I faced:
- I was addicted to Diet Coke. Seriously. For years I drank the stuff in lieu of water. Ironically, I drank caffeine free Diet Coke at home thinking it was healthier.
- I’ve always tried to be active, but my activity rarely helped me to lose or maintain a healthy weight. And when I was consumed by my new career and let exercise fall by the wayside my weight ballooned.
- Adult onset diabetes runs in my family (both sides) and I’ve always had the fear of giving myself this disease.
When I hit my late 40s my weight had risen to a very unhealthy 243 pounds for my 5’7″ frame. I wasn’t happy but was sure slow at doing anything about it. Then one day my son and I were hiking…I was huffing and puffing when two women passed us while running and chatting their way up the trail. I decided then that I was going to try again to get fit and running seemed easier than hiking up a mountain.
I started running in 30 second spurts. And I started another diet, this time trying lo-carbs only to quickly discover that lo carb eating and running don’t go well together. I realized that healthy carbs were important! I even began eating oatmeal which I’ve never liked, but didn’t really change much else (except to count calories). The weight started to come off and I continued to run. I probably lost almost 40 pounds int eh two years leading up to my first marathon.
That marathon was two years ago, and to my unpleasant surprise I gained wait as the running distances increased. I probably weighed around 210 for that first marathon and ran it in just under six hours. For the next 7 months I struggled with my weight (up and down within a 10 pound range). There was nothing that I seemed to be able to do to get those pounds to go away and yet I had no problem getting them to come back on. Ha! Maybe you or someone you know has had a similar experience. It was incredibly frustrating.
The one good thing that happened in my diet during this time is that I cut way back on the Diet Coke, only drinking it when we were eating out. Eventually it no longer tasted good and I had my last Diet Coke (or anything artificially sweetened in April of 2015).
In May of 2015 I joined a running group and started training for my second marathon. I didn’t want to gain weight like I did the previous year. I also knew from experience that I would have days (or weeks) when I would be incredibly hungry. So I decided to embark on an experiment: to eat whatever I want as long as it didn’t have added sugar or was processed in such a way that the ingredients list included a bunch of words I couldn’t pronounce. (exceptions to this are below!)
This new way of eating was both easy and hard. The easy part was in not stressing over how much or when I could eat. I just ate when I was hungry. The hard part was in discovering that just about everything has added sugar so finding a quick snack was a challenge…until I settled upon fresh fruit and nuts as my go-tos. I read somewhere that we should “eat the rainbow,” as in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and its been fun doing this. I was also flexible in my eating, so that if a special occasion called for birthday cake or some other treat I ate it and enjoyed it. This is not a diet in the sense of calorie restriction, but rather diet as in eating healthy, eating abundantly, and eating food that really tastes good.
Has it worked? This morning I weighed 163 for a total weight loss of 80 pounds. For a runner I still have more to lose, but as an every day 53 year old woman, I’m pretty happy with my weight. I figure that my body will stop losing weight when its done losing weight! In all it’s taken me about four years to get here…so some really slow weight loss and I’m good with that!
So what are those exceptions to the no added sugar and processed food diet? Food for running…gels and fluids for long runs basically. And I have a favorite breakfast biscuit/cookie and it has sugar so I only indulge in this treat on the mornings I will be running. It works great!
If you too struggle with weight, it’s certainly worth the experiment.