Fast forward a few years and I returned from my 18-month mission to Brazil with an extra 20 pounds or so (blame it on the rice and beans I guess!!) I came home, immediately started training for my 2nd half marathon and the weight came off again fairly easily. Again, no calorie-counting was involved, just watching what I ate and exercising everyday.
Then in 2006, I approached obesity for the first time in my life. It was the summer after I had my first child, and despite the fact that she was almost 5 months old at the time, I stepped on the scale for the first time since she was born and felt utterly disgusting. I realized I was the same weight that I was on the day I went into labor. I was so exhausted from being a new mother that exercise had been on the back-burner and my eating was horrific (I guess I figured I could just live it up since I was burning so many calories nursing...WRONG!!) After this despairing moment, I vowed to get the weight off, and for the first time I began an actual "diet" (weighwatchers.com). I was no stranger to WW since my mom was a lifetime member and was on or off the program my entire life. It seemed like a pretty sensible program to me and I was very successful at it. Within a year I was able to lose all of my pregnancy weight plus a few extra pounds and started training for my first marathon.
A few months later, I found out I was pregnant with baby #2. I was at a healthy weight starting this pregnancy and I exercised until the day I gave birth. After a few months, I started on weighwatchers.com again and lost the pregnancy weight within a few months. However, over the course of the next year, I gained and lost the same 10 pounds over and over again and felt at times like I just didn't know how to eat in order to properly fuel my body. I exercised like crazy (and I love working out) but I would also eat huge quantities of food, often foods that were very nutritionally unsound.
In January of 2010, I made a goal to learn how to eat better. The one thing that I didn't like about weight watchers is that as long as you stay in the points range, you can eat whatever you like (They do encourage high-fiber and more filling foods, but on their points system, a food item is given a certain number of points based solely on their calorie, fat and fiber content, regardless of whether it was a twinkie or an apple.) I know when I was following the program, I would never eat any kind of nut (a really healthy fat) because they were just way too high in point value, but I would think nothing of eating multiple 100-calorie packs of highly processed foods (low points, right!!) I just felt like WW wasn't something that taught me how to really eat for fuel and essentially how to eat for the rest of my life. It felt more like a "diet" in the sense that it was something that you went on and off rather that a "diet" in terms of the way you eat for the rest of your life.
For my birthday this year, I received this handy little gadget...
Image from here
It's called a "BodyMedia FIT" and it's basically an easy way to track how many calories you burn throughout the day, how much physical activity you are doing, how many steps you take and even how efficiently you sleep at night. You wear the armband all day and all night, input the foods you eat and it will tell you your calorie balance (the basic idea of calories in vs. calories out.)
I used it for about 3 months and got a pretty good idea from that about how many calories I was burning each day from my normal daily activities. I also spent a lot of time tracking my calories each day to make sure that I was at a calorie deficit (since I was actively trying to lose weight.)
I admit that this system was very successful for me. I lost about 15 pounds and have been able to keep it off since March of this year. However, the calorie counting got to be way too obsessive for me and way too time-consuming. It wasn't something I enjoyed doing at all and I still felt I needed to learn how to train my body when and what to eat rather than rely on some calorie count.
I think the things that were most beneficial for starting me on my "eating for life" experience were reading some key books and watching an interesting documentary. I started the year by reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" for my book club which opened my eyes to the ways that we get our food and the kinds of foods that I was eating. After finishing that book as well as Michale Polan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" and watching the documentary "Food, Inc." I started to make some changes in the foods that I was buying and eating. The culmination of my quest in learning how to eat was the book "The Eat Clean Diet" by Tosca Reno. Clean eating isn't something new, but she gave me ways that I could incorporate it into my everyday life and see and feel the results from it that I had been seeking.
I am still not perfect by any means, but I try to eat in order to fuel my body well and to feel good. I still eat processed food at times, but I definitely look, and more importantly, feel better when I eat a cleaner diet. I'm a work in progress, but I definitely feel like I am on the right track now!