LEE ANNE GRACE: Eating habits: Don’t change too much, too fast

By Lee Anne Grace

My stomach was in knots as I waited for the gun to sound. I was at the starting line of my first race, a local 5K, held during the sweltering heat of summer.
I anxiously looked around at the veteran runners at the starting line, trying to mirror their pre-race stretching, attempting to fit in.
The gun sounded and the race was on. I sprinted out near the middle of the pack of fellow runners. Then, after the first half mile, the race was over for me.
I had made the classic mistake of inexperience and had gone out too fast. I walked the last two and a half miles of the race. I quietly made my way across the finish line.
I learned an important lesson about pacing myself that day, not only when running, but in many other areas of life.
Pacing is also important when making changes to eating habits. With each new attempt at losing weight, I would start a diet and commit myself to it 100 percent. I wasn’t successful because I was going out way too fast, trying to change too much at once.
Why do 95 percent of dieters regain the weight they’ve lost? I can speak only from personal experience, but I think it comes down to one thing: Eating patterns during diets are seen as temporary. No permanent changes are made to our long-term habits. It’s the all-or-nothing mentality: We’re either on a diet or we’re not.
Instead, focus on changing eating patterns for the long term. Make small “forever changes,” one at a time. When those habits are second nature, integrate other changes.
There are many changes one can make to cut back on calories:
n Reduce or eliminate carbonated and sugary drinks. If I’m going to consume that many calories, I want to eat them, not drink them.
n Eat a well-balanced breakfast.
n Plan what you are going to eat before you eat it.
n Don’t wait until you feel as if you could eat the paint off the wall, then end up making poor food choices. Eat small meals throughout the day.
n Keep a healthy snack with you in case you get hungry. Fruit, granola bars, yogurt and baggies of premeasured cereal are some of my favorites.
n Make a list of things to do instead of overeating when the urge hits. Post it on your refrigerator or cabinet.
n Write down everything you eat. If you bite it, write it.
Remember, pace yourself. Changing eating habits is a marathon, not a sprint. Go out slow at first, saving something for a finishing kick.
One question I get asked frequently is how things are different for me now that I am at a healthy weight instead of about 170 pounds overweight. Well, I sure do feel a lot better. I don’t get sick as often, and I have a lot more energy. I’m more self-assured than I was. I love being outdoors.
What I wish I would have known, though, is I was literally putting my life on hold until I lost weight. I would think to myself, “Yes, I want to do this or that, but I will after I lose weight.”
In retrospect, I was letting life pass me by because of some preconceived notion about how life would be if my outward appearance changed.
All of us have things we want to change about ourselves. We are all a work in progress. Don’t push the pause button on life until you think things are ideal. Embrace the day you are in, and live life to the fullest. It’s not about the destination, but instead, the journey.

Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for two years. She continues overhauling her eating, fitness, mental and spiritual well-being, and still considers herself a “work in progress.” She is passionate about helping others who struggle with the same issues she does. She is the proud mother of two teenage daughters and enjoys running in her spare time.