Dieting Shouldn't Be Your New Year's Resolution
It's January! The month of new beginnings; the perfect time to start fresh, to learn something new, or to finally change those bad habits, right?
Story and Photography by Kerry Guice
Last January, like most Januaries, “get healthier” was right up there on my list of New Year's resolutions. Unlike most Januaries though, I decided I wouldn't focus on my weight—I wasn't going to “go on a diet.” I wasn't going to step on a scale every day and judge myself based on a number. I wouldn't spend half the day counting calories or carbs or grams of fat. I wouldn't even have a “goal weight” or a timeline to get there. I, like so many moms, have always tried to find a quick fix to lose weight. I wanted to fit into a certain size like it was the only way I could be happy, yet when I didn't achieve that it was a double loss, because I was still overweight and I had also failed at reaching a goal.
Last year, I decided not to follow the latest “diet plan” that gave a one-size-fits-all regimen that wouldn't take into account my love for cooking, what my personal metabolism is, or how my body reacts to certain foods vs. others. I decided what I would focus on is how food made me feel. What was my body telling me when I ate certain foods? What did my body say after going for a run, or drinking more water, or getting a good night's sleep? What did it tell me when I didn't drink enough water and didn't get enough sleep? I finally decided to try what all those “spiritual gangsters” I follow on Instagram always say: listen to yourself.
In 2017, I lost 49 pounds. I'm not even sad about not losing that one last pound to be able to say 50, because it's not about the number. I've learned things about myself that I never noticed before—good and bad. It wasn't just a weight loss journey anymore. I think I'm most proud because I've finally started taking all the great advice I give my 8-year-old daughter: “Eat healthy and exercise because you LOVE your body, not because you hate it. Forgive yourself. Mistakes are lessons—be grateful for them. Be the same friend to yourself that you are to others.” Our daughters (and sons) listen to our actions and it comes through crystal clear to them, while what we say with our mouths is often as muddled as the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher. Taking care of myself is the best gift I can give my daughter, because it will teach her to love herself, too.
My friend and Little Rock native Natalie Freeman is a registered dietician, and her advice is “don't diet.” She'd much rather see people make lifestyle changes that have enough flexibility that they can maintain these patterns long term. In other words, don't change your eating habits unless you plan to do so for the rest of your life. Know going in that you have to find a compromise you can live with, or it will be impossible to maintain. This has been a big part of my “listening to yourself ” journey. You have to really think about your own strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to work with them rather than against them. I wrote down the reasons why past diets didn't work for me, and I made sure not to put those same restrictions on myself anymore. Freeman also talks about avoiding trendy diets.
“Fad diets such Adkins and Keto are always coming and going, but these two in particular do not use your body's natural metabolic pathways and are known to actually cause long-term complications,” she said.
Fitting in a size four may not be worth actually changing how your body is supposed to work! She says slow weight loss is ideal; around one to two pounds per week. “Most people who maintain long-term success are those whose eating plan allows for some flexibility, and those who don't overly restrict (such as very low calorie or eliminating a macronutrient).”
All that being said, I'm someone who had to find a compromise between making a big change and learning to live with those changes. It's obvious that moderation is key, but that doesn't work for all of us. If it were easy to just eat right and exercise, we'd all be fit and healthy. I've decided to completely give up processed sugar and wheat (yes, forever), and although it was difficult, it's what's worked for me. It is a big sacrifice, but the compromise is that I don't have to count carbs or weigh portions. I don't have to worry about “cheat meals” because that usually turns into cheat days and then “I'll just start over after Valentine's Day.”
It sounds like it's overly restrictive at first, but I've arrived at a place where I don't even have to think about it. What works for me won't work for everyone, so I won't claim this is the magic formula and promise results. For some, counting calories and weighing food is the only thing that will work for them. The point is this: If your goal is weight loss and a healthier life, you are facing a big challenge because it's not as easy as following someone else's rules. The real challenge is finding out what your rules are and promising yourself that you'll stick to them.
I've learned to avoid putting myself in a hard situation by keeping nuts, seeds, dried fruit, jerky, and/or almond butter in my car at all times, along with a stainless steel bottle of water. The console of my car currently looks like a small pantry! I never have an excuse for going through a drive-thru or to not drink water throughout the day. I'm always busy, but high protein snacks are the perfect way to hold me over until I can get to a healthy meal. When I'm craving something rich, my go-to treat is a banana topped with almond butter and berries with a light sprinkling of cinnamon. If I'm in a hurry I'll just use a spoon and switch bites of banana and small spoonfuls of almond butter! It's rich and satisfies my sweet tooth.
For meals, I've always loved a lazy weekend breakfast, so this thoughtful fried egg “breakfast salad” really hits the spot. No need to punish yourself with boring egg white omelettes. This pretty plate is loaded with nutrients and will leave you feeling full well into the afternoon! For dinner I try to stick to lighter ingredients, and even though I'm late to the spiralized veggie game, I'm currently obsessed with cucumber noodles (coodles?). This cold salad of boiled shrimp, cucumber and jalapeno with an Asian-inspired dressing is refreshing, yet filling, and it's been on rotation for a while at my house.
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 radish, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
12-18 thin asparagus tips (about 2-3 inches from the top)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Set oven to broil, then place tomatoes on a sheet pan. Drizzle with about 2 teaspoons olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper (about ⅛ teaspoon). Broil about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to burst. While tomatoes are broiling, sautee kale over medium heat with about 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt until it just starts to wilt. Set aside. Boil a small pot of water and boil asparagus tips for 2 minutes, then immediately place in a bowl of ice water (this stops cooking and keeps the spears bright green). Fry the eggs with about 1½ teaspoons olive oil over medium heat until desired doneness. Thinly slice radish and avocado. To assemble, start with the kale on the plate, then layer with the egg and the rest of the toppings. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
COLD SHRIMP AND “COODLE” SALAD
Serves 2 (or 1 large portion)
About 8 ounces (1 cup) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups water
1 cup ice water
1 lemon, sliced
1 large cucumber, peeled then spiralized
½ small jalapeño, very thinly sliced
1 green onion, sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, torn
½ teaspoon black sesame seeds (optional)
Juice of ½ lime
½ teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Bring 5 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add raw shrimp and boil, stirring occasionally for only 3 minutes. Remove from heat with slotted spoon and place directly in bowl of lemon ice water. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and whisk to combine. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine spiralized cucumber noodles, jalapeño, green onion and shrimp. Pour dressing in and toss to combine. Carefully toss in avocado, then serve cold, topped with cilantro and black sesame seeds. If not serving immediately, do not add avocado until ready to serve.
ALMOND BUTTER BANANA BITES
1 large banana, sliced into thick rounds
About 1 ounce (or 1 single serve pouch) plain almond butter (with no added sugar)
Blueberries (or any berry you like)
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Slice banana into thick rounds and set on plate. Top with a small dollop of almond butter, then top with a berry, then very lightly sprinkle with cinnamon. Be sure not to overdo the cinnamon, it's not sweet on its own!