Here's the picture that started it all:
If you are a woman and not eating 1200 calories AT LEAST that actually can be a huge problem (men have different requirements but I'm sure those can easily be looked up). It's better to be over by a couple hundred than to not eat enough. You would need to eat like 1600-1800 calories a day to consistently GAIN weight (according to what I've read on the internet) so if you sometimes eat 1300 or 1400 you don't need to fret. I found the biggest impact in my weight loss when I started using MyFitness Pal religiously. I use it more to learn good habits though than to really stress out over it. If I eat something and then later realize how much it is, I don't freak out, I just learn for the future what is and what is not "worth" the calories. I find that keeping up motivation is key. This has been the background on my computer screen since I started trying to lose weight:
I run a lot but not every day. I found a plan and stuck to it and that's probably the easiest way to do it (at least for me). You don't have to do a half marathon, you could do a 10k or a 5k program. I have found that Hal Higdon is the best. There are even iphone apps for hal higdon so you can check off every day that you are following the plan.
Incorporating strength can be amazingly helpful in weight loss because it helps you burn calories even while you are sleeping. I don't have specific plans but I do like the app iPTrainer. You put in your goals (lose weight, tone etc.) and it will tell you what to do every day or however often you go. It chooses the muscles to work and tells you what to do, including instructional videos (without sound so they don't interrupt your music!). If you want to work different muscles, it's easy to change the selected muscles (it's usually 4-5). I've found that to be a huge help with regards to strength training. Honestly, I need to do more strength training but with all the running, I'm usually too tired to do both. After the marathon in a month I plan to get back into more strength training but right now mostly all I do is run. I also bought a Groupon for a month of unlimited CrossFit and can't wait to try it out!
I would suggest, if possible, don't eat after dinner. Go to bed hungry. I don't do this every night obviously because I think depriving yourself is a huge hinderance to weight loss. If I'm really hungry I eat a snack (not fruit because it is higher in sugar) but usually like greek yogurt or something. Sometimes I'll throw in a green tea or chamomile tea (there are also teas that are in these bright cans and one is called "Get Lost" and it's like cinnamon flavor and incredible, I think it might be Republic of Tea but I'm not positive).
I have basically cut out alcohol and I think this makes a huge difference. When I drink, it's almost always wine (sometimes a light beer if I feel like it) and it's only a glass or two, once to twice a week max. Alcoholic drinks mixed with soda or juice are the worst. Not only are the mixers high in sugar, but so is hard liquor (especially margaritas...which are like my FAVE, so I let myself have them occasionally...like once every few months). I think this is something that is often overlooked or viewed as not making a big difference but I have found that it has. Make sure that you drink a LOT of water. If you are cutting out sodas that is HUGE but just make sure you are replacing it with water instead of just not drinking anything. I always drink water or unsweet iced tea. I have a coffee most mornings but I make it myself and use Skim Milk instead of half and half or cream... I read somewhere that drinking a cup of coffee a day with half and half and sugar can add 10 lbs a year! scary... So I try to keep that in check by making my own. Coffee is actually quite good for you if you have 2 cups max (it supposedly increases your metabolism).
For breakfast it depends. Usually during the week I'm in a huge rush so I drink an Ensure. I know, I know, these things are for old ladies who can't eat food and need nutrition but they are so incredible. I get Dark Chocolate. You can get them at the drug store or any grocery store in the medicine aisle (not like Whole Foods or Fresh Market but in places like Harris Teeter or Kroger). They are 250 calories and fill me up til lunch. They are also freaking delicious, especially when refrigerated. On the weekends when I have more time, I typically eat a Bagel Thin (by Thomas... I love "everything" and "cinnamon raisin") with 2 TBSP of peanut butter (not exact measurements but no more than that, it might even be less), a coffee, and either a half grapefruit (no sugar added) or a single serving of applesauce (I like Mott's Natural). If I'm especially hungry, I'll add a greek yogurt to go alongside. Fage 0% is my favorite greek yogurt. I don't add any sugar to it because I like the bitter taste. Sometimes I have cereal (Special K Red Berries, Special K Cinnamon Almond, or Peanut Butter Cheerios) and sometimes I have low-sugar oatmeal by Quaker.
I eat Subway a lot for lunch. I used to hate Subway because I didn't think it was very good, but I found a couple sandwiches I love, and it fits my lifestyle perfectly because I know exactly what I'm putting into my body. My go-to sandwich is: Turkey on Wheat or Honey Oat (depends on mood) with provolone (toasted) with onions, spinach, banana peppers, avocado and red wine vinegar. Absolutely no mayonnaise! I can't stand mayo so that's just a personal preference but it's also terrible for you. I go to Chick-fil-a a lot too because it's nearby and I usually get the 8 piece nugget and a side salad with the berry balsamic or honey sesame (higher in cals but delish).
At night I am pretty boring lately hah. On Sundays I make a giant batch of lentils with turkey sausage (I actually posted the recipe on the blog so you can use it to make your own!). Then I eat 1 cup for dinner on most weeknights. I know 1 cup doesn't sound like a lot but it's actually incredibly filling. Lentils are fantastic because they are filling for how much you eat, low in calories but super high in protein and fiber (major important stuff!). I sprinkle some red pepper flakes on it and sometimes have saltines with it (5 saltines = 70 calories). If I'm really hungry I'll eat an extra half-cup. I sometimes have a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
All of your starches should be wheat, within reason. Cut out white potatoes except occasionally (sweet potatoes are much better for you). Always substitute whole wheat pasta for regular pasta (I actually think it tastes better than white, because it actually has flavor) and brown rice for white rice. I read in Bob Harper's book "The Skinny Rules" that the pasta should just be a base for whatever veggies and lean meats you are putting on it, not the main focus. This kind of stuck with me because I used to think of pasta as what I was eating, now it's more of a base or side.
I always give myself one cheat meal per week where I eat whatever the heck I want (but honestly, that usually means our favorite restaurant where I get filet kabobs, rice, onions and pita...it's a Lebanese place) so still no fast food (although I DID eat Arby's the other day...and it made me feel gross because I just don't eat stuff like that anymore). That's mostly what I eat... I've been fairly boring recently but it has really helped my lifestyle. I also use Pinterest a lot to pin healthy recipes and try them out as often as possible. Head on over to my Healthy Bites board to see what I'm pinning in the realm of healthy eats!
Okay sorry I know that was a TON of information so I will stop there lol... but if you have any questions about anything I said or want clarification feel free to email me! Again, I am not an expert, I can only speak to my experiences but I'm always happy to help in any way I can!