It’s the first Monday of the new month, which means it’s time for another edition of AIM: Adventures in Maintenance. I promise you that there is absolutely NO tie to April Fools Day in this post! (At least not in my post. I can’t speak for my cohorts. )
This month’s AIM topic is by reader request and focuses on one of my favorite aspects of the healthier life: food! Specifically, we were asked to write about our day-to-day approach to healthier eating–what do we eat and how/if we plan and organize. That sort of thing. Or, of course, anything else that catches our fancy. The whole point of AIM, after all, is to get a variety of takes on a subject.
As I wrote in my last AIM post, my approach to losing weight was to identify a healthier way of eating that I enjoyed and could sustain for life. Thus, I never really had to transition from a “diet” plan to a “maintenance” plan. The plan is the plan and generally stays the same. For me the basics of the plan translate to:
- 5-7 fruits/vegetables a day
- lean proteins (turkey, tuna, lentils, chicken)
- whole grains (oats, corn, quinoa, whole wheat breads & pasta)
- healthy fats (nuts, olives, oils)
I’ve been following those fundamentals since May 2007. More or less. My goal is 90-95% compliance (with a little room for a “splurgette” in there to keep me happy), but there are days that drops to 75-80%. Life happens, but I always return to the basics.
As we know, it’s entirely possible to have too many calories of even the healthiest of foods. To manage weight (losing, gaining or maintaining) and better health, we need parameters. I use what I call “Calories+”, which means calorie counting with nutritional goals in mind. I’d be all too happy to eat five Snickers Bars and call it a day, but I’d get scurvy or something and die, so I keep my basic goals in mind when I’m choosing my chow. Food is fuel for the gym and the great outdoors, and the Snickers route won’t help much there. No matter HOW tasty it might be!
My nutritional goals might be fairly static, but my calorie target is something that does change from time to time. During my loss phase, I started at 1500 calories/day on average, but as I continued to strength train and develop muscle, that number got moved up to 1700-1800 calories/day. When I first moved into maintenance, I was exercising vigorously about an hour a day, six days a week, and could average 2200-2300 calories without gaining. To be honest, though, I rarely got that high for more than a few days. When you’re eating (mostly) real food, it’s actually hard to eat that many calories. At least for me. (And trust me, that’s not something I ever thought I’d write!)
These days I target 1700-2000 calories per day, depending on how much I exercise, and some days are a little higher, some lower. Averaging in that range seems to work well for me right now.
If you’re wondering how I keep up with how many calories I’m having, I’ve got a couple of approaches:
- Go with what I know. I tend to eat the same meal combinations repeatedly, and I know roughly how many calories are in those meals. Generally speaking, breakfast will be 250-400 calories, lunch & afternoon snack will be about 600-700 calories, dinner will be about 400 calories, and my yogurt sundae/nighttime snack will be between 100-250 calories.
- Get it in writing. Every now and then, either out of simple curiosity or because I suspect something is amiss, I log what I eat. Sometimes I use written notes in my daily planner; other times I use SparkPeople.com. Whatever I feel like I need at the time.
So how do I adjust when I need to? *sigh* It’s the splurges that take the hit every single time. The basics are required; splurges, to my everlasting disappointment, are not. If I start feeling blobby, I know what needs to be reined in a bit, and it’s never, ever the blueberries. Damn it.
As for meal planning, I don’t do much of it. I’m cooking for one here, so I usually rely on batch cooking to ensure I’ve got something on hand to prepare. On the days when I forget to pull something from the freezer or run out of provisions, there’s always my old standby, scrambled eggs or a can of tuna. Or a good excuse for going out to dinner.
In a nutshell, that’s the food plan that gets me through most of my days. It’s basic, it’s repetitive, and it works for me. Because these are foods I like, I’m able to stick to it most of the time, both because I feel better eating this way and also because I like to let loose a little on real vacations and real holidays (not to be confused with work trips and Arbor Day) and enjoy some of the more decadent foods I like.
How is YOUR plan similar to or different from mine? (No, I did not just ask you to compare and contrast! ::shudder::)
AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!