A lot of folks have asked me what program I’m using to lose the weight. (62 lbs in a year, as of today). And I never have an easy answer for them. I can’t say I’m doing KETO or Weight Watchers or HerbaLife or anything like that. Last year, I armed myself with some basic research on handling pre-diabetes with diet and sort of created my own plan from there.
The easiest answer for most people to take in is: “I reduced my processed foods, refined carb and added sugar intake.” Or, as I like to call it, “The Eat Less Crap Program”.
It’s never as easy as it looks, though. And I’ve had to look around for some ways to make things a little easier or a little clearer as I’ve gone along. From day one, I’ve needed some tools. And here they are:
The least expensive and most accessible tool that anyone can use to help with their diet and exercise goals:
A scratch pad, a journal, and a writing instrument.
Making a meal plan is as easy as writing down what you plan to eat for the next 24 hours. That’s it. A post-it note will do. A scratch pad. Anything. Just write it down for the next day and at the end of the day, go back and look and see how you did. Then do it again for the next day and try to improve a little bit.
Now, I also use notepads to brainstorm meals for the week, to write down lists of stuff I already have in the fridge so I don’t overspend at Trader Joe’s, to make shopping lists, etc. I write the list of lunches and dinners on a piece of paper and put it on the fridge for the week, where I can see it regularly.
Yeah, I roll it old-school. But taking a half an hour each week to meal plan, make a shopping list, and post the list really helps to take the guess-work out of my week.
I also use a moleskine journal to do a weekly assessment of how well I stayed on plan each week and what I need to change up or be aware of for the next week. It is also where I record my weight and body measurements each month.
Yeah, you thought I was going to leave you back in the 20th century, didn’t you? But really, the rest of the tools I use are related to my phone in some way or another. I use apps on it, listen to podcasts, take photos of food preps and meal plan lists, browse recipes on Pinterest, read blogs while I’m in line, use reminders to remind me to take the chicken out to defrost so I don’t screw up my dinner meal plan. . . the list goes on and on. If you aren’t figuring out a way to enlist your phone into your health improvement plans, you really need to start.
The My Fitness Pal App
The app has tracked my food intake every single day for over a year now. It tells me I have a 379 day streak of logging food on the app. It doesn’t just track my calories, though. It also does a pretty good job of dialing in the carbs and sugars I eat as well, which is actually more important to me in the long run.
I pay the annual fee of $49.99 on it each March and it gives me tons of extra data and features, most of which are quite useful. I can input recipes that I’ve made at home and it will break down the nutritional value by serving size and will keep track of meals I repeat often. I also generally enjoy the blog as a daily motivational tool and they offer some excellent recipes and meal prep tips, too. I’ve never delved into their community there, but a lot of folks find it offers some good support (as long as you can ignore the concern trolls and fat shamers that inevitably wander around such online communities.)
I have a diet and fitness notebook in Evernote where I record snapshots from my phone of meal plans I liked, the strength training routines I’ve used, articles that are relevant or motivational, ideas for future goals, anything health or diet related. It is sort of a grab-bag of ideas and data but it can really be a helpful place to dump a lot of data and information so I can sort through it later.
Another online app for journaling on my phone. Yeah, I know three may seem excessive, but what I love about Grid App is that it is a great way to do a daily or weekly assessment on the fly without a ton of pressure. It works with prompts so you answer the questions you want to tackle from day to day. It allows you to think for a moment why things went well that day or why they didn’t. You can tailor the prompts so that they work for you or you can use prompts from their diary. The basic single-template version is clean and free.
(BTW – this is also an excellent app for folks who want to record what they’re eating but DON’T want to record calories. You can make a Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Alcohol, Exercise, ETc. template and just record what you did/ate each day so you see it in a clean and organized way – with out paper, pencil or numbers freaking you out!)
I use it as a quick daily assessment to state whether I ate on plan and why I made the eating choices I did. Getting to the why behind my food choices and overeating has been key to retraining habits and (hopefully) not regain any of the weight once I’m in maintenance.
After I hit about 35 lbs lost, I found myself in need of some new ideas, inspiration, and guidance. I had had a couple of sessions with a nutritionist at Kaiser Permanente who said I was on the right track. She mentioned calling a KP wellness coach for more support, but I’m kind of a loner about this stuff. So I looked up some diet and health coaches to see if any had any podcasts. These have really helped me learn some new strategies and approaches to the mental game around weight loss and improving habits.
Losing 100 Pounds with Phit-n-Phat: Corinne Crabtree is a sassy, southern (and occasionally foul-mouthed) weight-loss coach who basically doesn’t pull any punches. I liked her immediately. She’s kept off 100 lbs for 13 years and goes waaay into the mental bullshit we pull on ourselves to sabotage our work. I listen weekly, and hit up her Facebook Lives on the regular when I feel like I need a kick in the ass.
Half Size Me Podcast: Heather Roberson has lost well over 100 lbs and also deals with the habits and mindset that got here where she is. She’s a kinder-gentler version of Corinne, but don’t let that fool you. She speaks with honesty and often interviews folks who are doing well in her program to find out what’s working for them.
The Life Coach School & Take a Break from Drinking Podcasts: Okay, so these aren’t weight-loss podcasts, but their lessons can be applied. Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School is actually the coach to several of these podcasters, so her way of reframing our thoughts into actions gets reinforced throughout these podcasts. And if you respond well to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you’ll like all of the above podcasts. They aren’t CBT, mind you, but they are all about understanding how our circumstances, thoughts, feelings and actions are all connected and how we can take responsibility for them.
The Phit-n-Phat Free Course:
After listing to Corinne’s podcasts for a few weeks, I decided to take her free course which was excellent and gave me some new ways to approach my diet after I had run out of steam after five months or so. She doesn’t count calories or restrict foods, she encourages eating reasonable, healthy foods, and focuses on building sustainable habits and starting where you are at. I highly recommend them for anyone who just wants to get their eating habits a bit more under control.
She sends you a video and some easy worksheets via e-mail to teach you her general methods. She does have a pay-for course and coaching on offer, but she offers A LOT of free content on the regular via e-mail, Facebook, and webinars. I’ve continued to lose steadily just taking advantage of her free stuff.
While I still use My Fitness Pal so I can keep myself honest about nutritional values, I have slowly backed off of obsessing over calories for each meal. Corinne’s work has helped with that a lot. Focusing on her techniques, I generally hit recommended caloric ranges anyway, so why freak out?
I keep it really simple. I have a cutting board, knives, a food scale, measuring spoons and measuring cups. I don’t use them on every single thing. But I DO use them from time to time to test that what I THINK is 3 oz of chicken or 1/2 cup of yogurt is ACTUALLY 3 oz of chicken or 1/2 cup of yogurt. Not lying to myself about this stuff is so important!
But I don’t have a lot of fancy cooking gadgets and I try to make cooking as easy as possible.
Pinterest and Paprika App:
Pinterest is the best google for recipes ever. But Paprika App ups the game. With this app, you can organize your recipes, put them on a calendar, create grocery lists, all kinds of things. It is incredible. If you cook and like to be able to send recipes through your phone to others, this is a great app.
I use a binder to keep any worksheets or free course printouts I like. I go back to them to keep the tools and skills fresh in my mind. I also keep all of my scratch pad meal plans in the binder pockets and mark which ones were good weeks. That way whenever I am not inclined to figure out a new week plan, I can repeat one that worked well without having to think too much about it.
Worksheets like these:
or any of these Free Tools from Phit-N-Phat