61 Pounds Lost: Lauren’s Crash Diet Becomes a Lifestyle Change
Name: Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN
Location: Green Brook, New Jersey
Before: 180 lbs.
After: 119 lbs.
What was the “turning point” that prompted you to lose weight?
I had been overweight my entire childhood, as early as preschool. After a decade of diets and weight loss attempts, my senior year in high school was my “turning point”. I promised myself that I would not begin college as an obese teen. After years of teasing, the opportunity to start over where nobody knew me was incredibly motivating. The appeal of a fresh start fueled my determination to finally lose weight and keep it off.
When did you start trying to lose weight?
I remember attending Weight Watchers meetings as early as age 7 or 8 where I sat in group meetings with adults. I tried dozens of diets over the years! From organized meetings, to fad diet books, to Slim Fast and many more, nothing worked for a sustained period of time. I even attended “fat camp” twice! Spending two summers at sleep away weight loss camps, I lost weight, but shortly after I returned to my home environment and routine, the scale started creeping up.
How did you get started?
My mom and I researched the “diets” available at the time and discovered one that offered packaged food. I do not recall the name, but the plan was drastic. Most days I consumed somewhere between 600 and 800 calories. Knowing what I know now, that was not the safest or most ideal way to lose weight. The meals definitely lacked appeal and I quickly substituted my own foods into the meal plan. Breakfast consisted of 2 Tablespoons of a granola type cereal with black coffee, lunch included lettuce, a Tablespoon of dressing and 6 crackers with a diet soda. My afternoon snack was a pudding mix, dinner allowed 3 ounces of protein and a vegetable, and after dinner I had a “diet” cookie. I religiously drank 2 quarts of water per day. Clearly, this was not well balanced and while I lost weight quickly, my metabolism definitely suffered.
What was your biggest challenge?
I was 17 years old at the time, going out with my friends was a huge challenge. I remember many rides through the drive thru where I sat in the back seat eating lettuce and crackers while the aroma of fries filled the car. The truth is I was SO focused on my goal that it was easy to pass on tempting foods. The bigger challenge was heading off to college at my new weight and trying to maintain it.
Were there any times when you wanted to quit or give up? How did you stay motivated?
I recall going out to dinner with my family for a birthday celebration. I stared at the menu and actually started to cry because I had a moment of feeling sorry for myself. Plain grilled chicken and lettuce did not suffice that day. I excused myself, took a walk for a few minutes and refocused. One of my goals was to wear a strapless dress to my senior prom. As soon as I thought about that, it became easy to sit through the meal. Fast forward 25 years, it’s still an everyday struggle to stay on track. As a busy working mom, it’s tough to take care of everyone and myself simultaneously. As a Registered Dietitian, my greatest motivators are my clients. Inspiring others to achieve their weight and health goals fulfills me more than food ever could. Exercising and eating well gives me the energy I need and keeps my weight in check.
If you reached a weight loss plateau, how did you break out of the rut?
Unfortunately at the time, I was not exercising due to injuries I sustained in a car accident. That made losing weight more difficult. It also slowed my metabolism as my weight decreased making the maintenance phase more challenging. We all hit plateaus and just need to be patient while our bodies work through them. After arriving at college, I began walking several miles per day around campus as well as beginning an exercise routine with my friends. I joined a gym and started enjoying different classes. I slowly built up my endurance and made workouts a mandatory part of most days.
What’s your current exercise routine?:
Currently, I switch up my exercise routine regularly. Once per week, I work out with my awesome trainer. I try to attend one spin class, and I have a treadmill and bike in my home. I also love Jillian Michaels DVD’s! Some days I choose to do a full body HIIT workout just using my body weight. I include exercises my trainer has shown me as well as some complete workouts I find on the internet. Over the years, I’ve suffered a few injuries that limit certain activities. They trick is to know your body and learn what works for you and what doesn’t.
What’s your daily diet look like?
If I really add it up, I generally consume around 1200-1400 calories per day. That seems low, but I have always been “metabolically challenged”. My 2 basic rules are to always balance meals and snacks with a mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and to avoid drinking calories whenever possible. I LOVE breakfast! There are several recipes on my website Nutrition Babes that I love including Overnight Oats and Oat and Chia Breakfast Pudding. They both include plain Greek yogurt and old fashioned oats, two items that are very filling. Lunch is usually some kind of salad with protein such as chicken, turkey, tuna or beans. I add fruit and a crunch factor like lentil chips or whole grain crackers. I may roll up turkey breast with a little hummus and tomatoes, and add some whole grain crackers and veggies/fruit. I dip mid-afternoon and have a skinny latte or a homemade smoothie. Sometimes I choose an apple with almond butter, celery with peanut butter, or some pistachios. Cottage cheese with berries is one of my favorite snacks! Dinner is often some type of entrée salad (you can toss almost anything on a salad) whether it’s a piece of fish, grilled chicken strips and roasted veggies, even turkey taco meat. I love whole wheat pasta, and it works well as long as I measure the portion. My favorite way to serve it is with a seafood medley and low sodium Fra Diavolo sauce. Healthy fats are a must, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, or seeds. I try to minimize processed foods and stick with whole foods as much as possible. Bottom line-portion control is the key!
What’s your favorite healthy snack/meal?
Unsweetened vanilla almond milk is sent from heaven. At 30 calories per cup, I use it in smoothies, cereal, and to make overnight oats and chia pudding. It’s amazing to cook oatmeal, breakfast quinoa and freekeh, and much more. Plain Greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, and egg whites are absolute staples to provide meatless sources of protein. One of my favorite “best bang for your calorie buck” meals is an egg white veggie omelet with whole grain toast and a side of fruit. That works for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Do you have specific suggestions for avoiding temptations?
Planning is your key to success. NEVER get caught hungry without a plan. I always carry a snack in my purse just in case I am delayed somewhere when it’s time for a meal. Making food decisions when hungry almost always leads to poor choices. Have a protein filled snack like a hard-boiled egg before going to a party or a big dinner. It will take the edge off of your hunger and allow you to choose wisely. Gum is also a lifesaver! When you are finished eating, pop a piece into your mouth. You will see that mint flavor and food do not mix well. If you must have something decadent, stick to the 3 bite rule.
What’s your life like after weight loss?
The first year following the weight loss proved the most difficult. I began college with a brand new body and a “fat girl” living in my head. I definitely missed out on many typical collegiate experiences. I often ate frozen meals in my room instead of the dining hall to more easily control the calories. I very rarely took part in ordering pizzas, and spent many nights as the sober friend because I did not want to consume the calories in alcohol. Ultimately, I avoided the “freshman fifteen” and I chose to study to become a Registered Dietitian in order to learn the most I possibly could about food and nutrition. I love what I do and it keeps me honest every day. People think that losing the weight is the hard part, but keeping it off is the lifelong challenge. I have been blessed with two children, ages 13 and 10. Navigating pregnancy was tricky for me. Gaining weight on purpose definitely challenged my rational side. Even though I gained only 28 pounds with each pregnancy, it took approximately two years to lose the last few pounds after each child. Every now and then I have one of those moments as I browse for clothes in a department store. If someone could have told that heavy teenage girl who wore a size 16-18, that one day she would wear a size 4, it would have spared many tears.
If you have any suggestions to others what would they be?
I have hundreds of suggestions but this is the basic idea… there will ALWAYS be a reason to eat. Always an opportunity to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, holiday, night out with friends, vacation, etc, etc, etc… I look at food as medicine for my body. Eating healthy, whole foods on a daily basis is what allows me to keep my weight down and feel great. Do I go out and enjoy myself? ABSOLUTELY! By spending 80-90 percent of my days eating well and exercising, it allows me to indulge on the occasions that matter to me. Also, don’t give up on yourself, nobody is perfect! If you slip up, regroup for your next meal. A healthy lifestyle is what you seek, and it comes one day at a time. Think Healthy…not Skinny!
Source: Everyday Health
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