Eating light and getting heavy

by Andie Mitchell on June 8, 2011

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This feels like a good follow-up to my most recent series

Years ago, when I set out to lose 135 lbs, my sister turned me on to Hungry Girl. It’s an e-newsletter you can sign up to receive daily that gives you tips, tricks, recipes, and product reviews about all things “healthy.” It was fun at first, to get the latest news about what products Quaker was pushing to the health-minded community, how I could slim down a Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse in the comforts of my own kitchen, and what Weight Watchers menu item had been added to the Applebee’s roster.

Hungry Girl felt like a Rick Steve’s insider guidebook to weight loss territory. The best ways to travel to Thinness, USA on a budget, and how to eat and live as the locals do. The thing is, it isn’t that.

I have lots of thoughts about moderation and mindfulness. You might know those by now. One piece of advice I have about losing weight is to not get wrapped up with “light” products. At one time or another during the process of losing a million pounds, I flirted with light breads, sugar-free fat free everything, 100-calorie packs, and just about everything with buzz words like diet, light, lite, and skinny. Their implication of lightness in product manifests itself as lightness of satisfaction.

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It made it easier to meet calorie or point quotas, when I could use a low carb, 100 calorie tortilla in place of the real 250 calorie version. You think you can still have an ice cream sundae when your ingredients are churned five hundred times over, whipped, fat free, and artificially sweetened.

The problem here is that when you stop trying to get skinny, when you’re finally the person who doesn’t need to perform a magic trick to make a favorite meal, when Fiber One isn’t the only bread crumb mixture you use, you will not know how to be “normal.” I use that word, knowing it’s different for everyone, knowing full well that there is no one definition, nor do I want there to be one. But be honest with me here, we know what we think of as normal eating. Aside from the whats, the whens, and the hows, it’s the style of eating that involves an ease of mind and body. The one without hesitation and regret and panic when the options your mom puts on the table are anything but light.

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You must learn to live as the person you want to be. This means finding a way of balancing what you love to eat, with what makes you feel good, with what you have available to you. It involves flexibility.

I used to eat two large bowls of Jello pudding each night (partially frozen). It was two full packages of Jello Sugar-Free Fat Free pudding mixed with skim milk. Roughly 500 calories for a treat. Did I know that for 500 calories I could have had two homemade chocolate chip cookies, a glass of milk, and a square of dark chocolate? Maybe.

I had a go ’round with light english muffins. Used them to make one hell of a slimmed down sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich.

When you grow accustomed to eating the light version of everything, you don’t know how to start eating the real versions of things once the weight is gone. You’ve filled a jar with two dollars in pennies rather than two dollar bills. And when you’re in a situation where your light options aren’t available,and you must eat a sandwich at a deli, your sandwich is a whole lot more than the one you make at home with Sandwich Thins, Laughing Cow, and Fat Free Mayo. This experience, for me, was a sad one. I wanted to be able to go to Ben and Jerry’s and not feel slightly sad that the kid sized cup I ordered was calorically equivalent to the massive bowl of sugar free slow churned I scoop at home. It’s not fun to lament that real food is more expensive to your caloric budget than the knock-off versions.

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The problem with all of these extremes- of eating and exercising, is that you’re not learning to live long term. You’re not discovering balance in the process of losing weight. And we both know that though we’re able to create an at-home version of a burrito that’s 300 calories, burritos are 800 for a reason. They are delicious and should be eaten in their full glory- without sacrificing cheese, without having to go low carb on the tortilla, without having to measure the rice and beans as though your life depends on it. We don’t need to process the food to make it smaller and more compact, to make it fit into our hungry bellies. The joy that comes from arriving at a place of moderation and balance and wholeness is worth taking the long, natural route.

Just trust me on this one.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

ally@GirlVFood June 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Although I do still love me some SAndwich Thins and Laughing Cow (if only because Laughing Cows are the perfect size to stuff into an omelette), I completely agree with everything you say here. It’s the reason why I’ve unsubscribed to Hungry Girl…why fill yourself with the 100 calorie cookie packs and sodium/processed/sugared substitutes when you can simply have dark chocolate? a bit of real ice cream? Avocado in bucketloads and not just a sliver? Granted, calorie counting still plays a part in my life…formerly obese people rely on them at home to make good and informed decisions on their intake. But when I’m out at a restaurant I trust myself to eat to the point of satisfaction, and that’s it. And Hungry Girl doesn’t teach that. What the heck is life without fat? It pads us and nourishes us. Not to mention it keeps our hair shiny! <3

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Miranda @ Living One Bite at a Time June 8, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Great, great post! I completely agree with you. Have you read the book In Defense of Food? It’s all about how eating real food can seriously impact your health for the better instead of subscribing to the whole “light” foods craze. Basically, your post summarizes the book, but he puts so much intense scientific research into it, it was very interesting. Thanks again for an awesome post!

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Natasha June 9, 2011 at 12:02 am

I feel like you’re the only one out there saying what’s real. I have literally heard this from NO ONE and it rings so, so true with me. Thank you.

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Johnny June 9, 2011 at 1:47 am

BRAVO…BRAVO..BRAVO!!!!! This Post is exactely why we love you! It sounds so…simple, yet I know it took some real tough experiences to get to the conclusions. We’ve all been there, quickly loose 15 or 20 lbs on that weight loss plan and then they dump you to try to figure out what to do now. Oh, weight watchers will keep you going on their maintenance plan, but if you stop paying them you’re done. AND YOU ARE STILL LEFT TRYING TO FIGURE OUT, “WHAT NOW”!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! :)

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Johnny June 9, 2011 at 1:48 am

Oh, and that salad looks FANTASTIC!! :)

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet June 9, 2011 at 3:37 am

This is so interesting and I agree with you to some extent. However, there are some foods that I’d just rather eat a healthy version of at home than out. There are also some substitutes that I understand don’t make up for the real thing but can be appreciated for what they are. For example, I know using a low carb tortilla with light cheese and sauce isn’t real pizza, but for a healthy easy weeknight dinner I can enjoy it. But, if I also want to have real pizza on a Friday night, I can enjoy that too in a different way. Or sometimes I just want a huge bowl of a sweet frozen dessert and slow churned or frozen yogurt make me happy. But when I’m on vacation and see somewhere with homemade ice cream, a scoop of the real thing is amazing.

I think there is a balance, though. Lighter foods are only a part of what I eat and most things I make at home are just real whole foods anyway.

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Laura Jane @ Recovering Chocoholic June 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

Yep, I agree with you. It is about balance.

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The Teenage Taste June 9, 2011 at 4:11 am

I totally agree with you. I’d rather eat whole, real food instead of pre-packaged “knock offs” anyday. :-)

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Natalie June 9, 2011 at 4:50 am

Great post! I’ve struggled with only losing and gaining. Right now I’m teaching myself how to just maintain. In order to maintain you must learn how to eat real food. I completely agree with everything you wrote! I’ll take the real chocolate chip cookie over sugar free “desserts” any day!

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Carissa June 9, 2011 at 5:04 am

I love every sentiment you expressed in this post! The other problem with all the “diet” foods is that they’re so processed! They’re not whole foods…fruits, veggies, real & delicious.

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Shannon Gish June 9, 2011 at 5:10 am

My friend pointed me in the direction of your blog and I have really enjoyed reading it ever since. This was yet another brilliant posting. Thank you.

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Paula @ Eat: Watch: Run June 9, 2011 at 5:15 am

Great post! I just found you through another blog I read (can’t remember which one). Anyway, I did WW for 3 years and lost 26 lbs and I’m back on it now. I also get the HG newsletter and have most of the cookbooks.

My husband constantly tells me I need to eat more good fats and need to stop eating fat free and sugar free all the time, but it’s true…I don’t know how to do it without gaining weight. So, until then I order no butter, no cheese, and no sauce on everything I get at a restaurant and it sucks. But before I eat normal foods again, I also need to learn portion control and I definitly don’t have that down.

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Marste June 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Paula, I was where you are for a long time, and finally switched over to Intuitive Eating last year. The more I paid attention to my hunger signals while eating “real” food, the more my portion control pretty much took care of itself. After an initial “OMG I CAN EAT WHATEVER I WANT” period wore off (let’s be honest – :D), I realized that I was eating MUCH smaller portions, because I was full sooner. I was never successful at “controlling” my portions when I was dieting; it was only after I started eating real food that I started eating less. (Ironic, you know?)

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat June 9, 2011 at 5:23 am

I totally agree with you – sometimes (and most times) it’s just better to have the REAL thing. For me, packaged oatmeal and Greek yogurt are prime examples. There’s a ton of “diet” yogurts out there, but I’d far prefer the creamy thickness of the Greek kind. And oatmeal – I’m sorry, but you couldn’t get me to eat the flavoured kind that comes in the packets!

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Katherine June 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

Not to mention the fact that so many of these “diet” food and convenience products are loaded with so many artificial ingredients that aren’t even good for the body. I agree that moderate portions of real, whole foods is best. Great post.

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Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy June 9, 2011 at 5:37 am

I think it’s about balance. I make sure that I splurge on the “good stuff” every now and then but I also find a lot of pleasure in recreating healthier versions of the foods I love for day-to-day meals. But I think you make an incredible important point which is that you can’t just hide behind “light, diet, low-___” forever because it’s like learning to swim with floaties. You’ll never make it when they throw you in the pool without them.
Oh and I <3 you :)

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Ali June 9, 2011 at 5:39 am

Perfectly stated. ‘Nough said.

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Jess @BeingMrsBeer June 9, 2011 at 5:40 am

Completely agree with you. I unsubscribed from Hungry Girl over a year ago for many of these reasons, and now make an effort to eat real food all the time – even if its more Weight Watchers points. I’ll just have a little less so I can still enjoy the real thing!

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Liv @ The Salty n' Sweet June 9, 2011 at 5:47 am

I never had a problem with sugar free, lite, whatever foods. My problem was always with eating those whole foods that were virtually sugar, fat, cholesterol free. It took a long time for me to embrace peanut butter, avocados, non-skim milk and the like, but once I did, my life felt whole again :) Thanks for another amazing post!

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Katie Photiadis June 9, 2011 at 5:53 am

Andrea, sorry I haven’t commented very much lately. I still have been checking in though, salivating over all your amazing photos =)

I can really empathize with this post. When I first started doing Weight Watchers, it was light everything–bagel thins, cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, ice cream, you name it. And what I’ve learned over the past year is that you can’t live a “light” life. As you so succinctly put it, there’s a reason why real burritos are 800 calories and why real New York pizza isn’t like a Lean Cuisine. Over the year, I’ve learned what foods I will not compromise on (bread, cheese, butter) and what foods I will. For now, it’s a balancing act for me (since I still need to lose 20ish pounds). But once I hit my goal weight, I hope to incorporate more “real foods.”

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Brenda June 9, 2011 at 5:55 am

This is what I’ve been struggling with for over a year and the reason I’ve yo yo’d the same 5 pounds over and over and over. 49 pounds down on WW; it’s the only thing I know. I try to eat as healthily as possible but sometimes that 800 calorie burrito is the only thing that will do. Need to make peace with the 5 pounds and just eat reasonably. I look better with the extra 5 anyway.

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Amanda June 9, 2011 at 6:00 am

I so totally love this post. “Lite” food isn’t real food. The point of healthy eating is to eat real food, especially plants, just not too much of it.

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Meghan June 9, 2011 at 6:01 am

man. this post hits close to home. i struggle with this everyday. i can’t seem to find the right balance. it’s so much easier for me to count my calories with 100 calories packs and 60 calorie yogurts and 45 calories turkey slices but at the end of the day I know I’m not satisfied. I’m trying to find the right balance so I stop cheating and sneaking that cookie at the end of dinner but it’s hard. Thanks for your blog. Your words are always so encouraging!

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Kristen @ Chocolate Covered Kristen June 9, 2011 at 6:02 am

And again… I love you.

I have a problem with labeling foods as “good” and “bad,” especially with children. I hate that they are taught to label whole milk cheese as “bad for you” and that the only way to maintain a healthy weigh it to eat carrot sticks dipped in fat free ranch dip.

I grew up in a house where – to this day – my mom only buys full fat everything, but balances it with healthy veggies, lean proteins, and keeps a bowl of fruit out for us. We are all healthy and active because we embraced moderation and learned that enjoying a little heavy cream here and there won’t kill you.

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Alexa Ray June 9, 2011 at 6:17 am

This was wonderful, something I needed to read today. You’ve been such an inspiration and guiding star for me on my own path to bettering myself and getting healthier and stronger. Thank you for this!

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Alexa Ray June 9, 2011 at 6:18 am

Also that salad looks absolutely freaking amazingly delicious. O_O

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Laura @ Meet Virginia June 9, 2011 at 6:20 am

I must say, I simply love your blog. It is hands down the best one I am reading these days. I read in the morning while I’m eating my breakfast, and then I find myself thinking about bits from it for the rest of the day. Thank you!

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Cynthia (It All Changes) June 9, 2011 at 6:22 am

This couldn’t be more true. I don’t know when I made this realization. I might have been the deli sandwich, or the full fat manchego cheese I wanted to remind me of Spain or being able to read the ingredients.

I eat less now in volume but am more full filled.

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Mary June 9, 2011 at 6:23 am

COMPLETELY agree (by the way, I’m Mary, and I’ve been reading your blog silently for about three months now. Hi)!

After marrying last fall and gaining what my doctor gently put “happy weight,” I re-joined Weight Watchers. The first time I joined was at the end of college three years ago, where I lost a toddler (my affectionate name for 33 pounds. It was also known as beer belly, dessert stomach, and late night pizza zone).

The first time on WW, (and using Hungry Girl to attempt to cook at that point), I lived off of SmartOnes. I was student teaching at that point, so I needed a quick lunch. I went ahead and bought ones for breakfast too, and sometimes even dinner. My body got very used to all that sodium, and the “lifestyle” change that I got didn’t last long after I hit my goal.

That’s something that bothers me about this type of program. Everyone seems to be (at least at meetings) trying to find the closest high-fiber, low calorie, low-fat, butter substitute to eat what they would normally eat when not on the program. That seems like cheating to me. But I can also see the stress that comes from being frustrated about a date night burrito (actually, that happened to me last night with a taco, but not because of missing a low-carb version at home. I think those kind taste like paper). It’s hard when those who are losing weight have to navigate through a system of “eat this, not this, this is good, but it’s processed so watch out, buy whole produce, but your salad may be boring, also it will cost you an arm and a leg, when the $1.50 box of Mac n’ Cheese is staring at you begging you to grab it.”

Enough from my inner dialogue. This is why I really enjoy reading your thoughts – it’s easy to get disenfranchised with the food system in this country, so your passion for eating (and life in general), is refreshing. It’s refreshing like the sip of a chilled apple pinot grigio on the first warm day of the summer (my attempt to write passionately. Corny? Yes).

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Kelly June 9, 2011 at 6:23 am

I TOTALLY can relate to this. I used to be an avid HG fan and would make a lot of her recipes. But the problem is exactly as you said…when faced with a situation where the so called healthier version was not available I paniked. It made eating out not enjoyable. It made going to BBQ’s at friend’s houses not enjoyable. It gave too much control to food and that was not fun. Plus I would not make the arguement that the 500 calorie bowl of sf jello wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as the cookies. Cookies have fat and fat always makes food taste better and be more satisying. It took my a long time to realize that it isn’t about getting the most quantity for your calorie buck but rather getting the mose satisifcation for your calorie buck.

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Holly (Faith, Food, Fitness) June 9, 2011 at 6:31 am

I love this. :) I struggle with it, though–I have been trying to lose weight for over 4 years now. I’m at a healthy weight now, but of course there is always those last 5-10 pesky pounds!

I have found that the only time I am ever proud and comfortable with my body is when I’m eating real food, enjoying true indulgences, and exercising moderately.

When I turn to the low calorie versions of everything and eat my sugar free desserts and make sure I burn X-amount of calories a day through exercise….I end up gaining.

There’s just something that isn’t satisfying about eating food designed to be less than what it’s supposed to be. When I allow myself the real versions of things and become mindful of what I’m doing, things just somehow work. Unfortunately, I go through phases with this. Mindfulness, although more peaceful, can be hard to maintain, too. Although I would say that I’m currently doing well in mindfulness, I know I still have a long ways to go before I can truly be at peace with food.

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Carol @ LuckyZucca June 9, 2011 at 7:04 am

You are absolutely right! I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. I’m so glad to see someone stating it in such a well-worded and convincing way. Your posts are so elegantly worded and I really enjoy reading. Keep up the great work!

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Mojito Maven June 9, 2011 at 7:09 am

This post? Is what I’m currently struggling with. Every day. I just hit lifetime on WW. Woot! And while I always cook my meals at home, a part of me is *scared*. Scared to eat full-carb pasta and full fat cheese and the full-carb version of a tortilla. Scared to see how my body reacts. Scared of the weight I might gain back because of it, even if I am eating those foods in moderation. I’m trying to find that balance, but honestly, during the week (i’m not counting friday nights because that’s when I go out to eat and consume whatever the heck I want, i.e. mac and cheese) I don’t know how to change my mindset and eat those full fat/carb/etc versions.

As a former WW member, how did you make the switch? Did you incorporate different foods slowly and then monitor your weight/how your body reacted from there? I want this to be long term. I want to stay this size for years to come. But I know it won’t happen if I don’t do exactly what you’re talking about. I just don’t know how to do that. And I need help :(

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Mila @ loftyappetite June 9, 2011 at 7:10 am

I totally agree. I used to love Hungry Girl too, but after a while it was too much of the “light” “diet” versions of everything. I find that those items only make you crave food more. Whatever they put in there to subsitute the sugar and fat only makes you feel less satisfied. I use lighter options for some things like dressing or yogurt. But butter, cookies, and most drinks don’t compare to the real deal and are not “worth” (reference to ur last post) putting in my body.

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Amelia June 9, 2011 at 7:37 am

I just recently started reading and I am l-o-v-i-n-g your attitude.

I have always been a big girl, and I recently had a baby, and have been struggling to find peace with my new, post-partum body and to not fall victim to diet crazes and the temptation to just eat “light”. My goal is no longer to be skinny, but rather to be healthy and to be a good example to my daughter.

Reading this blog makes that much easier to do! Thank you for sharing!

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Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic June 9, 2011 at 7:52 am

I used to like Hungry Girl too but stopped reading it when I realized that I want REAL, WHOLE foods – not artificial, preservative-filled skinny versions. It took me a long time too enjoy food, as in really enjoy food, without feeling guilty or having the urge to go to the gym to “make up for it”. Great post!

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Megan (Braise The Roof) June 9, 2011 at 7:58 am

If there was an “agree” button, I would click it. I had a major moment of resentment when I turned on the Food Network the other day and saw Hungry Girl “cooking” on her new show. Not to get overly hostile here, but why, oh, why would they give her a show??

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Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio June 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

What a wonderful post… and you’re so right. It is so easy to become fixated on the light, lean, low fat versions of everything and never really learn how to utilize moderation. I am no master of this as I am trying to figure out what I am going to do about my body weight. I think this is why I’m having such a hard time on WW… I just feel constricted to my points and striving to maximize the amount of food I eat for the lowest amount of points. I really appreciate your post. It gives me a lot to think about.

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KaraHadley June 9, 2011 at 8:30 am

Hungry Girl endorses these tofu noodles/pasta-things that are like negative 2 calories per serving or something ridiculous like that. I ate them a few times when I was of the light mindset and thought they were the greatest thing. I ate them again few days ago and they were disgusting. Watery and completely unlike pasta. That’s when I realized that my mindset had actually changed. I would have much rather had a small bowl of actual pasta (or my beloved zucchini noodles) than eat that crap.
It’s such a great feeling!

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Leanne (Bride to Mrs.) June 9, 2011 at 8:33 am

I think it’s really hard to find that balance. I know what you are saying is the truth, but in a silly way — it’s scary to consider a 800 calorie burito when you’re trying to lose weight!

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Evan Thomas June 9, 2011 at 8:34 am

I 100% agree with this post

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wendy June 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

Man, this is EXACTLY how I feel about food. About 2 years ago I was enjoying my life a little too much (good food, good friends, good beer) and put on about 15 lbs. I’m STILL trying to take this off. Yes, I could have went on a “diet” and did it quickly but I’m not that type of person. I watch my friends and family rave about the new 100 calorie this and Hungry Girl that. But I watch them struggle over and over.

I’ve been finding my way to a perfect balance of good friends, good food and good beer and still get back to my feel good weight. There’s no way I’m going to give up my good things, so I have to find a way to live with them harmoniously. I’ve lost 10 of those 15 and I’m still enjoying my life a little too much. I’m not on this rollercoaster of losing, gaining, losing, gaining. I’m not staring at the burrito longingly in my friends plate – I eat it and love each bite. I always say after you get off these “diet” foods and diet-count-calories-to-death lifestyle you have to come back to the real world and it’ll always slap you in the face.

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Brenda the Barefootcookingirl June 9, 2011 at 9:09 am

I totally agree. When I initially started my current weight loss journey(one of many over the years), I went on the HG bandwagon and bought the books, cooked the food….then read that aspartame was in the Fiber 1 cereal. I asked HG for her opinion on that substance, but was ignored, even though I mailed her & her company several times…so, HG you are Unsubscribed!
I realized I’d rather have greek yoghurt with real fruit than the low fat version with some gloop at the bottom. Or a couple of squares (or more)of really good chocolate (and peanut butter) than some frozen, fluffy air whipped nothing… or a bowl of really great pasta alfredo once in a while, not something concocted out of lite, low fat STUFF….
REAL FOOD – not a pale mirror or distorted image of the real thing. Choosing real food. Mindful of what’s going to be on my plate. Appreciating it. And enjoying it without guilt.
I also recently found an incredible book called The World’s Healthiest Foods. It was an eye-opener and an inspiration. Right before me was everything I ever wanted to know about all foods! I am inspired to eat my kale, cause I know why it’s so good for me. (I actually crave kale now….whoever would have thought that????!!) I also now have great suggestions on how to healthy saute and cook all those foods. You can see for yourself on http://www.whfoods.org – I highly recommend it. (The book is a hefty tome though, but I still read a part every night in bed :)) Learning even small things like cutting or mincing your garlic, then letting it sit for 5 minutes so the health benefits to your food and yourelf are greater….no one ever told me the WHY before on how to prepare foods. Yes, I knew fruit and veg are good for you….but to know exactly WHY…..they should be teaching this in schools these days. Now, as I end my weight loss journey, hopefully this month, I know I can keep on eating the clean and whole foods I’ve been enjoying and keep the weight off (including those indulgences). And I know I can have what I want, wherever I may go to eat, and I know I will be mindful of what’s on my plate, and enjoy every mouthful…. Sorry to ramble on so….I’m sure you’ll get many more responses to the HG topic. Thanks for another superb “Daily Dose of Andie”. You’re a superstar! :)

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Lauren June 9, 2011 at 10:41 am

This is such a beautiful post, and that salad looks AMAZING! What is it? Do you have a recipe up for it?

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Riss June 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

I could hug you for saying all these things. Then block the door and force you to share your secret of how to make this magically “happen!”

You’re right… it’s all about learning to be flexible–something that dieting DOES NOT teach. In a diet, “flexible” means being able to eat “ice cream”–even if it’s really a knock off version that never truly satisfies. We’re being naive if we think we can actually “trick” our body into being satisfied with sugar free half-frozen chocolate jello pudding when what we’re jonesin’ for is Phish Food.

Oh, if I could have learned this lesson years ago… before I became so jaded.

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Online Sunshine June 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

I totally agree!!
One thing that I didn’t see anyone else mention is: “Are those lighter versions of food even good for us?” Most of them are just “fake” food and what does that do to our bodies? Perhaps all this fake food we’re eating is what is partially attributing to cancer?
I prefer to eat real food. Real butter, real cream, real pizza, real cheese.
When I have a craving for something, having the so-called “diet” version doesn’t do the trick so then I end up eating what I was actually craving so now I’ve eaten way more than I should’ve. If I’d just had what I wanted in the first place, I would’ve been okay….just eaten less in another area of the day to compensate. Or walked a bit more to burn some extra calories.
I’ve also found that eating diet foods that you don’t like is a fast track to failure. I’ve been trying lots of recipes and I keep only the ones we like. I now have quite the collection of recipes for dinners that are within our calorie range that we actually enjoy.
My biggest “diet” trick is this: I make double what we need for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch. I am not a soup/salad/sandwich kinda girl. I want real food. So, whatever I had for dinner is also my lunch for the next day. It saves me from having to figure out what to have for lunch, saves me from eating out, and saves me time in preparation.
Last nights dinner? Chicken Tamale Casserole! 500 calories for a yummy helping of comfort food. :)
Everyone at work always threatens to steal my lunches, says they want to pay me to make them food, and just plain drool over what I have.

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Gina June 9, 2011 at 11:10 am

I 110% completely agree! I stopped reading Hungry Girl when I tried the Better’n Peanut Butter she recommended…’nuff said.

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Joyce June 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Amen Sister! When I was a member of WW several years ago I would try to explain to people that I would much rather eat “real” food and less of it than all the lite, light, free, etc. They thought I was crazy! So I quit WW. Have since lost weight and am still losing eating good tasting, real food.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I love your food/eating philosophy. How did someone so young get so smart?

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Brenda the Barefootcookingirl June 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I mentioned this site to my co-workers today and they’ve all gone online and checked this out. You’ve got several new fans! of course we all had to have a good chin wag about HG and diets and mindful eating….and we all had a blast (on our coffee break, mind you :)! Wow, what a topic. Thanks for putting it into such perfect words. BCG

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Parita June 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm

“The joy that comes from arriving at a place of moderation and balance and wholeness is worth taking the long, natural route.” Agreed!!! LOVE IT!!

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Alexa @ Simple Eats June 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I know exactly what you mean! I used to LOVE Hungry Girl and then I looked at the stuff and thought, this is pure crap. It’s light, but it’s high in sugar and horrible ingredients. I understand and appreciate her concept behind it, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.

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Brooke @ Waiting to Rise June 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I completely agree! I myself used to be an avid fan of HG (so much so I even emailed her and asked for a job)….BUT, I have truly freaked out too many times if there wasn’t a healthy food option…not to mention it was hard to sell my boyfriend on anything breaded in fiber one cereal…and those shirataki noodles were really smelly to be honest….

Thanks for being so honest and sincere. I really enjoy your posts and look forward to your commentary. Thanks for having such a healthy approach to eating…you are beautiful inside and out!

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Stephanie June 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I just found your blog & love it. What an amazing story…holy cow!!!! You rock!!!

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Michelle June 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm

So true! I lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers years ago by eating all the fat free and light products out there. Now, I’m back up to my old weight and miserable. I just can’t stand to eat all that kind of food again. I think you have hit the nail on the head!

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Junia @ Mis Pensamientos June 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm

great post…wow. seriously, thanks for sharing. :)

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Douglas June 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Want to lose weight and improve your cholesterol?

Eliminate carbohydrates and sugar from your diet and stay away from any type of substitute.

It’s that simple

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Nikki June 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

*fist pump* YES! I tried WW at one point too and was hungry aaalllll the time. It was awful. So I asked a fellow WW about it and she said, “Oh, you’re not eating enough 1 point things.” She was referring to processed “light” foods that I refused to eat. So I quit. I eat real food. I enjoy. According to the doctor’s office BMI chart I need to lose 15 pounds. I’m ok with that, I’m working on it. And twice a week I eat ice cream. I think happiness is an undervalued part of being healthy. A happy person is a healthier person.

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Jen June 9, 2011 at 6:18 pm

You’re so right – I really, truly, honestly do not want to continue eating light, low-fat, reduced-calorie this and that for the rest of my life. I just quit Weight Watchers, I’ve never EVER tried a Hungry Girl recipe (even though they clutter my inbox from Monday-Friday and ALMOST intrigue me enough to buy the ingredients) and joined SparkPeople instead. I think that their philosophy and approach to weight loss are much healthier and will teach me how to live a wholesome, healthy life – for the REST of my life, rather than for the span of my diet.

I’ve challenged myself to exercise every day and eat real, wholesome food in moderation – rather than eating food that’s been processed a thousand times over to my heart’s content. It’s an uphill battle, but I’ve realized that I would rather take 5 years to lose the rest of the weight than lose it in 3 months by eating food that I don’t even like. When I embarked on this weight loss journey as a fat 16-year old 7 years ago, I did it the old fashioned way. After 5 years of yo-yoing on Weight Watchers, I’m right back to the weight that I achieved by running around my neighborhood 7 years ago. I’m taking a lesson from myself and going back to what I know will work.

In sum, my longwinded post really means: I agree. Wholeheartedly.

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey June 9, 2011 at 6:41 pm

You took all the words I would have said about this topic beautifully. I am just in the last year findin gout what is “normal” with eating. I was a “diet food” girl for a long long time!

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Leah @ Why Deprive? June 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Yes!! I love that you called all that low calorie junk “knock offs”. That’s the perfect description. Just like a knock off designer bag, it looks similar on the outside, but when you look close its junk. and those 100 calorie packs, they always tasted like ass. I’d rather have a real cookie thank you.

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AndreaSomething June 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm

I sooo needed to read this today. After a few weeks of indulging I’ve been finding myself drawn to “low fat” and “low calorie” foods as a quick fix of sorts. Nope. That is NOT how I want to eat. Thanks for the reminder! I’m going to savor every bite of my whole, unprocessed, dinner tonight. :)

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Amieei June 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I think we are like BFFs that have never met. Yes, we are. HEE HEE. I love your post!!!! I am an “x” Weight Watchers person myself. I joined probably 3 or 4 times. ONE of those times I really stuck to it and lost lots of weight (40-50 lbs?) and looked amazing. I did it with a good friend and it HELPED us keep motivated. I was single at the time, exercised like a madwoman, and basically was hungry 24/7. I did the same thing as you, always trying to get the most QUANTITY of food for the leasT “points,” and always sorely dissappointed that I still did not feel full. When I’m told “you can’t eat that” it just makes me obsess and want it more. I also have been a follower of Hungry Girl and just got to the point of shrugging my shoulders to their site. All the artificial, expensive, cheap, “we-promise-it’s-so-good” food items just got old and boring. And who wants to eat a chocolate cake in a mug that has like 10 ingredients you can’t even pronounce??? BLECH.

I guess my point is is that now 7 years have passed, I’ve had 2 children since then, and I’m also 70 pounds heavier. 70! Eeks! I am miserable in my own skin. I started reading “Intuitive Eating” and so far I like their philosophy. I just want to be NORMAL around food and not feel like I have to eat 2+ servings of everything. Or eat something just bc it is there in front of me. Or eat it bc subconsciously in my mind I know I need to “diet” again and I am trying to fatten myself up before the starvation begins–no matter how far down the road that may be.(case in point–trying to get pregnant again and of course i want to lose weight first–but ironically I am eating more and gaining MORE bc I am thinking about dieting–vicious cycle!)

I guess now I wonder, “what should i do next?” I have started walking thanks to your advice and I bought a pedometer. It’s all I can allow myself to do at the moment. OH, and keep reading Intuitive EAting :) RIGHT???

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Caitlin June 10, 2011 at 8:45 am

“When you grow accustomed to eating the light version of everything, you don’t know how to start eating the real versions of things once the weight is gone. You’ve filled a jar with two dollars in pennies rather than two dollar bills.” <—- quite possibly one of the greatest lines you've ever written and that I have ever, ever read. Wow. I love the way your mind works. Can we print this and distribute to the masses of women who believe that light, skinny, sugar free, no fat and diet are GOOD words? You said it here – those words only rob our bodies of fulfillment, nourishment and nutrients. Kudos yet again Andrea.

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MindaC June 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Perfectly said.

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ASuburbanLife June 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Another excellent post, thank you! I went through that same cycle of buying nonfat and making cakes with cake mix and diet soda or Fiber 1 and chocolate chips. I won’t buy sugar-free any more-better to put sugar into my body than Aspartame. Thank you for this quote: You must learn to live as the person you want to be.

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Nicole June 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

I wish everyone who struggles with dieting could read this! It took me awhile to learn the lessons you wrote about here, because I too was caught up in the diet, low-calorie versions of my favorite foods. I had to stop because I found my body couldn’t digest those fake sugars and processed crap. So I became physically sick. But then I realized that I could eat real food — and my favorite foods — it was just about moderation and balance. About listening to my body. Yes, another great article, my friend. :)

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Jen @ keepitsimplefoods June 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

Brilliant! I couldn’t agree more. For me, it’s all about getting satisfaction from food- valuing quality over quantity. I don’t buy the “light” version in order convince myself that it’s ok to eat the whole bag, rather I buy the regular, full fat version to ensure that I won’t eat the whole bag.

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Anne June 13, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Totally get what you’re saying. I actually hadn’t been a Hungry Girl fan- I’d only heard of her but was excited to watch her new show on Cooking Channel. The first episode I ever saw had her making ‘faux mashed potatoes” with cauliflower, fat free sour cream and fat free NON DAIRY CREAMER. Yup. I mean, I understand using 2% milk or maybe fat free Greek yogurt but non dairy creamer? We’re getting into weird and fake food territory here, folks. It just struck me how odd it was that in order to get a big portion of “mashed potatoes” they have to be fake….which defeats the entire purpose of having mashed potatoes, right? I’d rather have a small bowl of REAL mashed potatoes than something made up of a bunch of chemically treated ingredients.

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Petrel August 3, 2011 at 7:56 pm

I am a new reader of your site (just discovered it today) and I am so inspired by your philosophy towards food and weight loss.
I just started Weight Watchers (their online program) at the end of May and so far have lost 20 lbs. And it wasn’t through eating light foods. The new WW program stresses eating fresh fruits and vegies (they are 0 points unless high in fat, like avocado) and, let me tell you, I have not eaten so much fruit and veg in years–in fact I don’t know if I ever did).
I HAVE changed my way of eating. I’ve experimented more, I eat much healthier than I used to, but also I have learned portion control. (I feel much better about myself and it isn’t just the fact that I’ve lost weight.)
I refused when I started the program to give up real cream in my coffee. I refused to eat “light” foods or to buy pre-made meals–because I couldn’t see myself living like that after the weight is gone. I want this to be a lifestyle change, not just a “quick” fix solution.
Thank you for reaffirming this for me.

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Alex October 29, 2011 at 9:29 am

From one 26 year old trying to stay healthy living in Seattle to another, I thank you. I’m on a fun little journey of trying to lose weight after having twins and I’m pulling my hair out sticking with these diets. You and this post is just what I needed. Hopefully I can run into you one day at a Starbucks or Noah’s and give you a hug of thanks!

Warmest Regards,
Alex

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Alice November 7, 2011 at 5:31 am

This post is very close to home for me, and something I struggle with and am trying to learn.

Thank you for writing it, because I don’t feel quite so alone when my darling mother asks me if I want to halve a slice of cake with her and my brain starts screaming “you will never be thin if you eat cake”.

I ate the cake, btw, a beautiful polenta and wildberry slice with caramel drizzle topping. And the moment with my mother was cherished.

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Weight Loss November 8, 2011 at 4:58 am

I?m now not certain where you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend a while finding out more or working out more. Thanks for great information I was searching for this information for my mission.

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Johanna January 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Loved this post- such true words of wisdom! You’ve hit the nail on the head on the difference between a quick-fix (miserable) diet and living a sustainable, (enjoyable) healthy lifestyle: Quality and moderation!

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Elizabeth March 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

“You must learn to live as the person you want to be.”

What a great line. I hope you write more on this topic in your book.

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Wendy May 7, 2012 at 8:12 am

The salad on this post looks so good!! Can you give me the recipe to the dressing you are putting on it? Thank you so much….you are an inspiration! :)

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Kelsey December 12, 2012 at 5:19 am

Completely agree, I was also eating 2 cookies (homemade of course) whilst reading. Spooky x

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