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Making food work: 10 things I’ve learned on a calorie budget.

I finally got to see my wedding dress for the first time since January, and it was just as gorgeous as I’d remembered. It fit perfectly, but it’s crunch time, y’all. Time to make sure it continues to fit that way.

I’ve been using a calorie tracker to make sure I’m in line leading up to the wedding. Sadly, that means fewer fun dessert posts. But I still love food, and this journey is teaching me to see it differently. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way so far:

  1. Use an app. I use MyFitnessPal, and it’s super easy to use. It makes it feel like a game, almost, as it tracks my steps and gives me back my calories as I exercise. You can scan barcodes, search for restaurant items, and even log your own recipes. It takes out the guesswork, because guesswork usually means you’re underestimating calories.
  2. Add foods into the app early on in the day. If I know I’ll be having dinner out, I’ll go ahead and add in my Panera meal. That way, I will eat the rest of the day with that meal in mind, guaranteeing I’ll have the calories available for it. Or if I really want to make sure I get to have my peanut butter banana smoothie for dessert, I’ll add that in in the morning.
  3. Find out what’s important to you when you eat. For example, would you rather have a small amount of a food item you love (for me, fries), or a bigger plate of healthy food (that still tastes delicious)? For now, I almost always choose a full plate of low-calorie foods instead of a small amount of high-calorie ones. Mostly because if I’m gonna eat fries, I want all the fries, not just ten or so. True story.

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-18-11-am
    And I ate it all.
  4. Olive oil. OH THE CALORIES. Measure it.
  5. Start the day with a walk and earn your breakfast calories back.
  6. Use spices and seasonings. I can’t just add butter anymore, so salt and pepper are lifesavers, in addition to other yummy combinations. Especially on chicken–it’s low calorie, but it doesn’t taste like it when it’s well-seasoned.
  7. Temporarily unfollowing half your Instagram feed is a good idea. I only have so much willpower when I’m scrolling past bakeries and food blogs, people.
  8. Plan ahead. The hardest days have been when I accidentally overeat at lunch and then must have a smaller dinner, or when I can’t have a snack at the end of the day. Plan so that you can eat the way you want to! (And prep ahead. Freeze fruit for smoothies!)

    screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-11-17-25-am
    Smoothie prep: freeze fruit on a rack, then place in a sealed bag. Smoothies at the ready!
  9. Be creative. Today I made a quesadilla with cheese, chicken, spinach and onions. I wanted something other than a sandwich for lunch, so I made it work. And it was only about 360 calories!
  10. Eat delicious food. Sticking to my calorie budget doesn’t mean I eat spinach all day long (though some days it feels like it). There’s still bread and ranch dressing and chips and salsa and pancakes, just in a moderated way. I’ve found that I can still eat what I love, but a little more healthily. I feel stronger and lighter, and there’s nothing better than feeling powerful in your own skin, am I right? (The only bummer: dessert. There just aren’t any more pies or cookies or crumble toppings or ice cream. We’re on a break.)

How do you stay fit and healthy? Tell me in the comments!

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