One of the most helpful things I read in my own weight loss journey was something like “it took you x number of years to reach your current weight, it’s OK if it takes you a long time to take it back off”. Rather than try to overhaul your entire diet in one big swoop, take small steps and be proud of yourself for achieving them. You have a lot of habits to unlearn so be patient with yourself. Below are some steps you might take. Choose any order but just remember that anything you do from this point on is a positive change!
Step One: Drinks
Do you drink soda? Track how many you have in a day. Cut back or go cold turkey. Consider a healthy intermediate because I know it’s hard to go from soda to straight water. I personally use crystal light packets or mio flavoring in my water.
Step Two: Fruits
Yes, I know, vegetables are better for you but you’re not used to eating them. As a first step from eating processed stuff, fruit is an easier step. Try to eat a serving of fruit a day. Eventually you can replace a snack with it instead.
Step Three: Portions
Without changing what you’re eating, you can still cut calories by just eating a little less of it. Cut your portion in half? No way! Too big of a change. Your body will complain and you might not stick with it. You’re making a change for the rest of your life, you’re not temporarily depriving yourself. If you see it as temporary then you’re just trying to survive it like punishment and you won’t actually be learning a new lifestyle. Don’t eat until you’re so stuffed you have to loosen your belt. Instead, eat until you’re not “starving”. My best recommendation here is to find something engrossing between meals — a hobby, a good book, a silly addictive game. Sometimes we fill our lives with food because we forget to fill it with something else.
Step Four: Cooking
This, to many, is the scary one. But remember — we’re taking small steps; nothing too big. We’re not going from 0 to 100. You are going to cook maybe twice a month. If you’re absolutely new to cooking, start with very simple recipes. Maybe chicken breasts in the oven or baked potatoes with a few toppings. There are tons of YouTube videos or books for the beginning cook. Everything is laid out for you in an easy to understand way so you don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re more experienced, maybe try a recipe you can hide veggies in… maybe spaghetti with some shredded zucchini in the sauce. Each time you find a recipe you like, make a copy and write it down on a separate notebook or make a note file on your computer or smartphone. Add a new recipe each month and look inside your little recipe book for inspiration.
Step Five: Desserts
Stop making each day a special occasion. By now you’re drinking more water, starting to cook, and eating some fresh fruit each day. Maybe you’ve cut down on your dessert portion, too. Now it’s time to lessen sugar’s hold on you. This is very hard, I know. If you’re an emotional eater, you can come up with a million reasons why you deserve dessert today. Start trying to think of non-food methods to reward yourself. Depending on how often you have dessert, lower the amount you consume. If you have one after every meal, cut down to one per day. Dessert every day? Try to cut down to one per week. Find small things to help replace them if you’re having a hard time. Try sticking a container of yogurt in the freezer or make a simple fruit smoothie (fruit, milk, ice cubes, banana to sweeten so NO sugar) or have a small pre-portioned piece of dark chocolate.
Step Six: Vegetables
Yeah, they’re pretty scary. Start as small as you need to. Maybe some baby carrots smothered in enough ranch dressing you can’t taste them. Then add some celery sticks. Steam some broccoli and drench it with some cheese sauce. I know, I know, dressing and cheese sauce aren’t very healthy but remember — we’re training again. Once you’re eating more vegetables, you can lower the amount of stuff you’re covering the vegetables with. Later on, try some new vegetables and some new cooking methods. Roast cauliflower in the oven with olive oil and garlic salt until brown. Try the same with asparagus but also add Parmesan cheese. Steam some squash and add salt and butter. Try hiding some spinach in your fruit smoothies. You might even surprise yourself and find there are now some vegetables you like.
Step Seven: Junk Foods
Lose ALL of it?!?!?!
Yes; but not right away. Remember: baby steps. The less junk food you have lying around the house, the less of it you’ll eat. If you have some around, by now you’ve learned about portions (hint: it’s ‘Step Three’ above). If you slip a little, that’s OK. Just look back at all the positive changes you’ve made already and remember you’re on a life-changing journey.
Trust me, I know the panic that can come when you see an overwhelming obstacle and how easy it is to not change and not try. I hope showing you a path through might help, even just a little bit. I’m rooting for you.