I was so excited the day a photo crew came to shoot pictures of my house all decked out for Christmas — until I realized they needed a photo of ME, too.
I grudgingly put on a bright red sweater, convincing myself it was both festive and slimming.
Boy, was I wrong.
Seeing that photo shocked me into getting serious about losing weight. I wasn't just chubby, I was fat. In fact, I fit the clinical definition of obese. I was more than 20% above the ideal weight for my 5'3" frame.
Less than 2 weeks after the holidays, I decided I didn't want to look or feel that way anymore. At 48 years old, I was tired of being embarrassed by my size, my weight, and how winded I'd get simply by walking up a flight of stairs or rushing to a meeting.
I cringed at having to squeeze into a seat on an airplane, at a football game or in the theater. I knew, and I knew the people next to me knew, that I was taking up some of their space. I tried to keep my arms in my lap to minimize the invasion. I was miserable at so many events. I couldn't live like that anymore.
It was Jan. 9, 2007. I woke up and told myself it was the first day of my new life. I was going to get thin and healthy.
It took me 10 months, but I did it! I lost 61 pounds, dropping from a size 18/20 to size 10. Instead of shopping in plus-size shops, I can now walk into any regular department store and find something that fits.
I wear a Petite Medium.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a skinny mini. I'm just a normal-size person who feels better now than I have for a decade. And I don't stick out in a group anymore as "the big one." It's great!
Losing weight is the best thing I could have done for my health, my self-confidence and my family. My husband and teenage son have told me they're proud of my weight loss. Quite honestly, I am, too.
I knew what I had to do to lose weight. In fact, I'd known it my whole life. Eat less and exercise more. It was that simple.
As vice president of Taste of Home books, I had a distinct advantage: access to thousands of recipes published by Taste of Home magazine and its sister publications over the years. When I wanted a hearty stew for cold winter days, for example, I could find one that was low-calorie and satisfying. When I craved something chocolate, I found a cool and creamy dessert that did the trick without sabotaging my weight-loss progress.
In short, I didn't have to give up the comfort of food. I just had to make smart choices.
That's what the Comfort Food Diet is all about...still eating the food you love, but in reasonable quantities. The wonderful Taste of Home dietitians, home economists and editors have put together a diet plan and collection of delicious recipes that will help you lose weight, too.
I know, because I did it! To help get you started, I've pulled together a list of the top 10 things that most helped me successfully lose 61 pounds.
Heidi’s Top 10 Tips for Diet Success
1. Keep a Diet Notebook and write down everything you eat. It's the only way to keep yourself honest and make sure you reach your daily goals and don't overeat. Plus, you can look back weeks later to see what you were eating during your most successful periods of weight loss.
2. Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. You'd be surprised how many times a glass of water can ease what felt like hunger pangs. If I feel like I want a snack, I drink 8 ounces of water and wait 15 minutes. More often than not, I'm no longer hungry. If I am still hungry, I grab something sensible to nibble on (and of course I write it down). I've also found that if I drink a glass of water before a meal, I eat less and feel fuller.
3. Identify a treat you enjoy for a reward that keeps you on track. When I choose a snack, I try to pick something that's not only low in calories, but also high in fiber. That way I feel satisfied plus I know I'm doing something positive for my body.
4. Plan out what you're going to eat for both meals and snacks. For me, planning ahead brings success. If I haven't planned a snack and my stomach starts to growl 2 hours before lunchtime, I'm more tempted to grab something inappropriate that will set back my weight-loss efforts. But if I have a game plan, I stick to it. I plan every meal and every snack, and I write it down.
5. Weigh yourself only once a week, at the same time of day each time. I prefer to face the scale at 8 a.m. on Saturdays. A good weight loss from the previous week helps me make it through the weekend without going off my plan.
Weighing myself more often is counter-productive. I've found that my body naturally fluctuates. Even if I stay on plan, I can still be up a pound the next day. By checking my weight weekly, I'm seeing true progress and not getting upset by temporary water weight gain.
6. Incorporate unprocessed foods into your diet plan. The longer I've been eating healthy, the more my body craves simple foods. I can honestly say that a crisp, sweet Delicious apple or Bosque pear is a great treat, whether as part of a meal or as a snack.
When making dinner, I've found that I can keep myself from sampling if I munch on freshly washed radishes with just a hint of salt. They're crunchy and contain very few calories. In season, sliced fresh tomatoes with seasonings do the trick.
7. When you're really hungry, go for a big, simple salad as the main dish or as a side. My basic salad is big and satisfying yet has very few calories. I start with a spinach or spring mix, then add shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms, sliced red onions or minced green onions, sliced radishes and cucumbers.
Occasionally I'll add a sliced hard boiled egg, 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans
or a tablespoon of sunflower kernels, if it's my main course.
8. Choose salad dressings carefully so you don't spend all of your calories on them. I'm a huge fan of ranch dressing, but I haven't found a fat-free version that I actually enjoy. So, instead, I go for non-traditional flavors when choosing dressing. My two favorites are Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette and Fat-Free Sun-Dried Tomato Basil.
I've also learned to ask for my salad dressing on the side. I dip my fork tines slightly into the dressing and then spear a bite of salad. I eat less dressing and still get the flavor of it in every bite.
9. Set a cut-off time for all meals and snacks. I've decided that 7:30 p.m. is as late as I'll eat on any given day. After that, I tell myself, I don't have time in the day to work off any of the calories. This prevents me from slipping into mindless munching while watching TV, reading the mail or phoning a friend.
10. Avoid having "trigger foods" in the house. I know if there's a bag of potato chips in my house, I will eat them. All of them. I don't buy them, so I don't have to face the temptation. I've also asked family members to please respect my situation and not bring chips into the house. Remember, friends and family do want to help you succeed!
My last and best advice is to do something physical.
I started slowly. Four weeks into my new healthy eating plan, I began walking. Only 20 minutes every other day, at first. But I increased it by 5 minutes every week until I hit 60 minutes three times a week.
Now I actually enjoy a brisk walk. Sometimes it's just me and my MP3 player. Other times I walk with a friend. It helped speed up my weight loss, plus I feel better after I exercise. I've also added bike riding on occasion, and I've found a workout tape I actually enjoy.
I don't get winded anymore when I walk up a flight of stairs. I fit into airplane seats with room to spare, and I enjoy going to football and basketball games. I can watch the games now instead of thinking about whether I'm infringing on someone else's space. But the best part is I'm no longer embarrassed by my size.
If I can do it, you can, too! The Comfort Food Diet eating plan and recipes are already put together for you. You can enjoy the foods you love at the same time you're shaping a body and life you'll love.
It's worth it, believe me. The only thing you're giving up is your extra weight. And isn't that the whole point?
Here are some tips to keep you motivated when your weight loss is starting to show:
- Give away clothes that are too big. You'll feel better knowing you don't have your old "fat clothes" to go back to. And you'll look forward to the day you can buy clothes in the size you really want to be.
- When people start to notice you've lost weight and tell you how great you look, take note of what you're wearing. Those outfits that make you feel skinny are priceless. Wear them more often than your other clothes. They'll help keep you eating well and losing weight!
- Increase your activity level. Now that you've tasted success, push it along by adding an
extra walk, exercise class or bike ride once or twice a week. You'll feel better physically, too!