Friday, August 2, 2013

What "clean eating" means to me in weight maintenance

 My Clean dinner, July 2013
 I often leave comments to other bloggers who are working within a weight loss goal or in their first year of maintenance. I say "Keep your food choices clean".

Why do I do that? It worked soooo well for me. It was the difference that changed a 40 year situation.  My 40 year emotional eating never took a day off. Brain fog from sugar and wheat stayed for days and weeks. Before clean eating, I was not the person I felt I was meant to be.

I realize that clean eating can have many definitions for each stage of weight loss and maintenance. I would encourage you to define what it means, where you are,  and consider changes to optimize for your current life situation.

Clean Eating for me: Eating within my current food template to fuel my body, maintain my health ( including weight), while keeping a clear mind and my emotional eating in remission. Every. Single. Meal. Each. Day. For.Life.

Weight loss Clean Eating : Meant staying within my pre-packaged meal plan and within the lean and green guidelines.  Did I go off plan? Yes. Rarely, and I noticed I did not feel good when I went off plan. I was paying a lot of money for this weight loss program, so not eating clean meant a stall in weight loss and $$ out the window. It also meant that I had to deal with emotional or mini-binge eating. Eating clean forced me to deal with that. Huge leaps forward for me in setting up a stable transition.

Weight loss transition to weight maintenance clean eating: I used the recommendation from Barbara Berkeley, MD to do a 90 day "opt out" (see the book Refuse to Regain) Three months of eating Primarian (no starchy foods, no grains, no processed foods) and one allow able off plan food (mine could not be trigger me to over eat).

Opting out helped me ease  into maintenance and kept me from resuming old habits. It worked well for me. I could have repeated my past history of going back to old habits and slippery slope thinking. Did I go off plan? Yes, a few diet cokes here and there, my off plan allow able  foods were medifast bars or pancakes. Those were the days! I was a little nervous about regain, but I could see the diet transition going well. I could start the mental changes of a major transition while my food stayed stable.

Weight Maintenance the first year, clean eating: After May 3, 2012, I  started a gradual transition into a more Paleo template. I noticed that I needed to be on the lower carb side (110 to 80 grams a day) for the first half of the first year, and now a little lower (50-75 grams a day) for the start of the second year. Did I go off plan? Yep, I bought a huge bag of the best raisins I've ever eaten from California's central coast and drove down California Highway 1 eating way too many raisins (just like skittles!). I realized it and got back on track. During this time, I phased out slowly the Medifast, Lara Bars, and artificial sweeteners. I did not go back to my old habits or caught it early.  I stayed +/- 3 pounds of my goal weight. Eating bars for snacks was a tough habit to break.

Weight Maintenance the first half of the second year, clean eating:  During Jan-July 2013 I did a Whole30 Challenge. Clean eating was set up by the structure of the Whole30 plan. Did I break them, yep, nothing big. I had some sesame oil inadvertently one night with dinner. Big deal- not. I did not stop the challenge or start over. I learned so much- kicked the bar habit, decreased the Medifast to 1-2 products a month. Fewer urges to emotional eat. I slept great!!!  I also did a low carb challenge that helped me transition off nuts and Medifast. It prepared me for the next six weeks of complete stress, grief, and joy.

Clean cruise food, yummy!
Weight Maintenance at a year and half clean eating: Paleo type food template with some 85% chocolate and coffee. Very few if any thoughts of emotional eating. I did not eat emotionally after the death of a close relative (stress), I took a cruise and stayed clean eating (the scenery was joy) Did I go off plan? Yeah! I did. I ate some mint jelly with some lamb at one of the dinners on the cruise. The sugar in the mint jelly really fired up the old pathways. I felt like crap.

Imagine this: I laid on my bed like the people on the lower decks of the Titanic. My thoughts went something like: "I'm sinking and going down with the ship... oh, uh,... crap!  really it's just a lapse, it won't be a relapse." I thought to myself.  No worries. Back on plan the next day, back to clean eating" And, I did. Ship didn't sink, life got back to normal, I gave myself huge props for addressing it head on and moving on to the rest of the trip. It started with the right mind set and next clean meal.

Lunch in the Space Needle, Clean eats, hot day, crisp salad made in the hotel room

What didn't work in the past:
1) Weight loss- I ate trigger foods within my WW pt range (tootsie pops!?, skinny cows- mooo, and multiple 100 calorie packs)
2) Weight Transition- I kept eating trigger foods and did not address small gains.
3) Weight Maintenance: I did not stay here long and did not put an effective plan into place. Large gains.
4) Weight Maintenance long term: never made it to 1 year out. I gained my weight back.

I encourage you to define clean eating now, use it as a tool to reach weight, health, life goals and be prepared to fine tune as you go. It's never too late. It's not set in stone. What is your definition of clean eating. Can you feel it when you don't eat clean? Do you change up when life changes so your goals are still met? Do you change up your food when it's no longer working? Discuss.

This newly transitioned frog (size of my thumb) found a bug, natural fuel for froggy


  1. I would love to know how you handled eating clean on a cruise? I am going on one in a couple of months. It has been my experience they offer little in the way of fresh veggies & most of my options ended up being loaded with salt.

    1. I'll do a post about eating on cruises. Hardest thing was to stay gluten free, but I did it. The head waiter did a great job of helping me with it.

  2. I don't think I've ever eaten as "clean" as you Karen. For me clean eating is wheat free - the rest of my choices are made on a gut feeling. If there is something not so great I can live with that. For me it is eliminating those foods that got me overweight.

    To the poster above - KajunDee - it depends on the cruise but don't expect to have great choices with oils etc. When we cruised we stayed wheat free and low carb. Don't try to be totally primal or paleo, it is just too hard. Life is for living. Don't worry about salt, I don't think it is the enemy, especially for a short while. There is always a meat selection, a salad selection... we asked for bunless burgers and had no trouble at all eating well on our cruise last year. Make a few rules and stick to them - the entire point is to remain in control, not ruin your holiday :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lynda. Yeah, if I could eat a little less clean, say a sweet or a desert like a full fat custard or flan now and again, I do think that I would. I would have half and half in my coffee if dairy wasn't a problem. The primal blueprint sort of thing.

      Between my dairy sensitivity and my brain chemistry, not in the cards.

      I'll do my cruise tips over the weekend, with some photos. Eating in the formal dining room was the easier, tastier option.

  3. Thank you for this post. I did not transition well and have seen a regain of 25 of the 90 I released. I am humiliated and ashamed...yet try to push that aside to focus on positive and get back to the mindset of total control, domination, and peace (weird combination). Your "what didn't work in the past" is a total wake up call for me. Thank you.

    1. A, I re-gained 70 pounds one time (post WW/baby) and about 25 pounds another time. I did stop blaming myself at one point. I can think back to life as a 5-6 year old and it's just the way my body is.

      Trouble is, all the moderation advice kept me really super sick and super stuck. Breaking free of that and getting to a place of both weight maintenance also brought me to a place of super good health. So in that way, it's a win.

      Onward, no blame, keep trying what works and the answers will reveal. I figure within the weight loss/weight maintenance world there are fewer people who have to eat by abstaining from sugar/wheat. For those of us who do, it's important to talk about. You are not alone.

  4. I've regained 60+ from the major loss in my mid 40's, and 60+ from the major loss in 2009. I've lost 50 now, but it's totally different. I always feared maintenance, but like you say, Karen...that is because I might have talked the 'its a new lifestyle' game...I didn't LIVE it. This time, as I say, is totally different. I'm not only 'all in' for this as a permanent lifestyle change, I'm passionate about it. I know to the bottom of my toes I will not fail.

    You are such a great guidepost and inspiration Karen. I'm so thankful I have found you and your blog. Thank you, and have a great weekend!

    1. Gwen, I'm so enjoying your progress and your blog. It's a whole other ball game when you are able to find what is sustainable and the talking match the walking. That feeling is SO powerful.

      When I hit my goal in Feb 2012, I knew I could sustain the loss for a big reunion in 2014. No doubt about it. Awesome, powerful, life changing.

      Keep up the good work and it's so good to be in company with others who are finding both weight and health.

  5. I've had at least three major weight losses in my life that didn't stick because I went back to my old way of eating. We agree that so much of this is mental and realizing that I was going to have to continue what I was already doing to maintain was critical. Having already settled on a way of eating that was totally acceptable also helped.

    I am one of those really weird people that think of a cruise as pure torture. Just imagining myself on a ship out in the ocean with three to five thousand other people makes me anxious. That said, I've known tons of people who mainly went on cruises because they could eat continuously right up to the midnight chocolate extravaganzas. I know I would like the food, but not much else so there is no chance I'll ever try it. :(

    1. Caron, you've really maintained well. When I was reading blogs while overweight, I knew, knew,knew I could do it because you and the others were also maintaining. Glad you were able to focus in on an effective solution.

      I did an inside passage cruise in Alaska- lots of scenery, walking, and photographs. I had reservations about the cruise (food, price, etc). It was a trip of a life time, glad I did it. I can see how it is confining at times. I spent over half of my time on the outdoor walking track, taking photos and spotting cool animals. Can't wait to blog about the cruise food,. more to come.

  6. I love this information, Karen. And I linked to it on my new Facebook page. :D

    1. Thanks, Marion... :) I'll have to check out your page.

  7. I am now 4 years out from my current maintenance level (and 6 from my original one, lost 20 lbs more after two years of holding at original).

    It is so much easier to deal with each day with realistic taste buds (and therefore realistic WANTS).

    My food gets cleaner each year. And it was pretty darned clean to start.

    1. Thank you, Vickie. It was so helpful to read your comments and blog while I was in the first year of maintenance (still is!). My diet really has evolved over the last year and a half. More fine tuning than I ever thought I would do.

      It's amazing what cleaning up a clean diet will yield. Love it. Definitely more work than loss was for me, just as rewarding. :)

  8. Congrats on the loss.
    It is amaizng that you stayed on track while cruising.

  9. Food is one thing that you need to consider when you want to stay fit and healthy. The number of hours you spend on training and exercise doesn't really help you in achieving your weight goal if you don't watch what you eat. You have to know what and how much you should eat everyday. You need to balance everything out to succeed on this task.

    Noel Jessen @ So Cal Boot Camp