I was thinking today about how easy it is, really, for me to lose weight when I put my mind to it, but also about how difficult it is for me to actually eat healthy - balanced diet, not too much sugar, fat, or sodium, enough vitamins, etc. I figured I'd share some things I've learned over the years with you. These tips can be applied to pretty much any diet, or to a healthy lifestyle change in general.
Me 1-1/2 years ago, at close to my skinniest, enjoying some strawberries, brie, chocolate, and wine: proving point #1
1. Don't give up your favorite foods. Yes, eat in moderation, but there is really no point in giving up what you love the most, or even what you're badly craving at the moment. If you're miserable, you'll probably give up on your diet. Sit down, though, and think hard about what foods you really, really love, what foods you're so-so on, and what foods you don't like. For example, I like potato chips, but I've not had them for months without noticing anything missing. On the other hand, cutting chocolate cold turkey might kill me. If something you kind of like but aren't in love with is incredibly bad for you, then it'll probably pretty easy not to eat it - not necessarily giving up entirely, but just don't eat it once a week.
2. Keep a record of what you eat. It seems time consuming, but then you get into the habit and it's no big deal. Keeping a record, even if you're not on any diet, will make you eat healthier, just because you're paying attention. When I'm not writing it down, I'm given to random binges where I just keep eating and eating, but if I write it down, I don't do that. It's also a good way to find out, if you use a program or website that can give you a fairly detailed nutrition analysis, if you're eating way too much of something or way too little of something else. It helps you balance because you're seeing on the screen just how much bread and potatoes you're eating (or whatever).
3. Ease into smart shopping habits. Throwing out all the tasty food in the house won't put you in a very good mood, but once you've done the analysis in step one, you can stop buying the junk you don't honestly love all that much and phase in some healthier choices. Vegetables and fruits can be surprisingly filling, and make good snacks. An apple with a moderate amount of peanut butter keeps me going in the afternoon and doesn't have that many calories at all. Frozen veggies are similarly my lifesavers. As you start shopping healthier, decide whether you want to buy things fat-free or sugar free or reduced or lite or whatever. I recommend buying a single unit of whatever it is in a reduced version and seeing whether you like it or not first. For example, I can't tell the difference between reduced fat and regular cheese, but after years of never touching real butter, I learned that it really is superior for some baking products. Also, I don't mind diet soda, but using splenda in tea or coffee makes me ill. Figure out your preferences and replace things when you can't tell. Keep butter around for when you need it, but don't use it on your veggies or toast if you like margarine just as well.
4. Don't go long periods without eating. Once again, being miserable about your diet is a bad idea. Being hungry is miserable. Space your meals according to when you get hungry. It's amazing how much weight you'll lose if you normally overeat and then start eating only when hungry - but always eat when you're actually hungry. For example, I eat a medium-sized breakfast like a bowl of cereal or a bagel, and if I got up early, need a morning snack, but if not I won't get hungry till around 11:30 and I'll have lunch. I may need a couple of afternoon snacks to make it till 6:30 or 7 for dinner, but I don't need anything after dinner most nights. Figure out what works for you. Similarly, eat moderate portions and stop before you feel full. Wait twenty minutes, and if you feel hungry still, have another portion, but usually, if you're eating a moderate amount, you won't be hungry later. This is especially true if you take your mind off the food by clearing away the dishes right away and doing something else.
5. Drink plenty of water. Like vegetables, water is really good at keeping you from being hungry all the time and is healthy besides. Obviously, water is not going to keep away a major hunger pang, but if you drink it regularly you'll go longer between periods of feeling hungry.