Sunday, June 24, 2012

Healthy food can be accessible

Years ago I played wheelchair sports  - and then, due to injuries, etc. - I stopped.

Unfortunately, I kept eating the same way. I gained weight.  Big surprise, huh?

About four months ago, with the support of my friends, I committed  to losing weight. I chose Weight Watchers, mostly because health professionals told me it was healthy and that it would work as a long term solution and lifestyle change.

I've lost about twenty pounds so far and am well on my way to my goal weight. More importantly, my weight has moved from the 'unhealthy' range to the healthy one.  I feel much better physically too.

I felt ambiguous blogging about this , since I've always disliked it when anyone pressured me to lose weight. So please know I'm only sharing this for folks who are interested and it's not meant to preach at anyone or tell anyone else what to do. 

Blogging about this, however, might help someone else in a similar position. My issues due to my disability? I couldn't exercise much, so I had to stay within the point range (for me 26 pts a day). And I needed to plan carefully as my food is prepared by aides. This means fruit and veggies have to be cut up ahead of time; meals have to be ready to eat and snacks need to be opened. It seemed like a daunting task when I started. Part of my weight gain was from grabbing easy to reach food that was 'accessible'. Now I realize that there are lots of healthy foods that are also accessible.

Here's how I started: on the assumption that what I was eating was contributing to the problem, I completely changed how and what I ate.  Total clean slate. This was the hardest part for sure.  I wasn't sure how I'd do eating so differently. Looking back, I realize that taking this leap of faith- and then sticking to a commitment to change how and what I ate- was the biggest stumbling block in the past when I tried losing weight and didn't.

Anyway, getting past that was the worst part. Here's what I do now:

Instead of just two or three meals a day, I eat three smaller meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and at least one snack in between each meal.  Each snack I have consists of a one ,two, or three point protein rich item (e.g. Laughing Cow cheese, Greek yogurt) and a piece of either fruit or a veggie which are zero points. I do have to count what I'm eating so I don't go over my points.

My meals range from 4 to 6 points, which is low, but this permits me to keep my metabolism going by having snacks throughout the day.  This  is important since I can't move much due to paralysis. 

My meals are generally a multigrain english muffin for breakfast and fish or lean meat with a veggie or salad or a lowfat Subway sub (six inch ones are about 7 points if you're careful what you put on them).  This approach has worked well, at least for me, to curb hunger most days. I feel comfortably full.

On days when I experience an increased appetite, I'll eat a one point rice cake or popcorn and drink more water to fill up.  I tolerate a bit of hunger, but if I'm still very hungry and running out of points, I chalk the day off and go ahead and eat 29 instead of 26 points. My rule is that I don't go to bed too hungry.  I have to do this once a week or so, but it's worth it. I find that the next day I'm less hungry and, in the long run, the additional three points don't cause weight gain. More importantly, I don't go off on a tear and eat unhealthy foods.

I do not use the extra 49 points a week Weight Watchers allot you.  This was a decision I made along the way based on my low activity level and my goal to lose the weight steadily so I remained motivated. When I start maintaining my weight, I can tweak that decision a bit.

I was very concerned that I couldn't do this successfully without being able to exercise a lot, as I would when I played wheelchair tennis. It's true that I don't get to offset what I eat with 'activity points' as Weight Watchers call them, but doing this wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be - and staying with it is turning out to be easier over time. 


Dana Marshall/DanaWheels said...

Thank you for this! I am about 220 lbs... my goal weight should be around 135. I have no transportation other than my husband so exercising is iffy. I'm not a quad, but I have issues with my arms/wrists due to carpel tunnel. I am going to be looking into this now that you've mentioned it, and see how much more it will cost me than what I'm paying now for meals. I REALLY REALLY need to lose this extra 100 lbs.

Ruth said...

Hi Dana,
One option is that Weight Watchers has an online program that's pretty affordable- lots of recipes, tips, etc. I'm happy to share information if that would help.