Anatomy of a Diet Part 1 - The Skeleton

The following is a first in a series of posts where I outline my diet.  In six months, I have lost 40 pounds.  I have gone down 4 pant sizes.  My body feels better and my blood pressure is the best it has been in years.


People always wonder what it takes for someone to quit doing something and get motivated to actually do something about it.  My epiphany came in September 2010.  After months of waking up every morning to an overwhelming throbbing feeling in my entire body, I knew it was time.  It was time to quit eating like shit and lose weight.  Did I know that was what was causing my overall funky feeling?  No, not officially, but I knew - deep down - that is what it was.

The week following my epiphany: I went grocery shopping, I downloaded a weight tracking app on my phone, I let all my online family and friends know of my intentions, so I would have online support and also be held accountable in some way.  If this helps anyone else in motivating them to do something about the thing they need to change then I have done my job. 

I really don't have a name for my diet. It isn't Weight Watchers or Atkins or anything like that. I have grabbed common sense methods from here and there and tailored it to work for me. I am working on putting all of my tips and tricks into a nice little word document.  Again, this is how I LOST WEIGHT.  I am NOT  licensed nutritionist or guarantee your weight loss.  Always consult your doctor and discuss with him/her your dietary guidelines as well as the exercise regimen you should undergo depending on your health.


  • A pedometer.  You don’t need a fancy one. 

  • A piece of paper and pen hanging up beside the scale.  You need to write down your weight on that paper every day.  I weigh myself every morning as soon as I use the bathroom and before I eat breakfast.

  • A tape measure for you measurements (optional I have only started doing this myself).

  • A journal or log, but if you have access to a computer or (even better) a phone that allows "apps".  You will need to monitor your daily caloric intake of everything you eat.  It's tedious at first, but the apps and computer websites are easier in that they have total calories of every food and all you have to do is type in the meal and it will automatically calculate your calories.  You will have to first set up a profile and your weight goal and it will tell you how many calories MAX you should intake every day to lose the weight you want in the amount of time you want to lose it. (For example, I am 5'5" and wanted to lose at least 20-30 lbs in three to four months.  That meant that to do this I could only intake 1255 calories a day to lose the weight.  If I exercised more I could have more calories.  The app or website can also keep track of the calories you burn.)  Two websites that are great are Livestrong and SparkPeople.  I use Livestrong.

  • A bottle of multi-vitamins.  (I also take a Vitamin D supplement but that is me and totally optional).  Always check with your doctor when you start taking any type of vitamins as well as altering your diet and exercise level.

  • A support system. Update people on how you are doing (so they can support you and congratulate you when you lose and you also will feel more motivated to keep it up).  Update a facebook status of your weight loss or better yet join an online community for dieters (Livestrong and Spark People have that).

Find a support system, YO!!


BUY A PEDOMETER and wear it at all times except bedtime.  Try to walk 10,000 steps a day, but don't worry if you don't get to it.  Do as much as you can (I have only gotten to 7,000 steps myself).

Park further away in the parking lots (but be safe and watch your surroundings).

If you have a Wii Fit take advantage of it.  Set your goals and weight and try to weigh in every morning before you have breakfast.  Try to do one yoga, one strength and one aerobic exercise a day if possible (I don't always do this).  Wii Fit Boxing is extremely great at burning calories but you have to do some exercises before that one is "unlocked".

Stretch before any exercise!

Don't go crazy with a lot of exercise at first.  Get your body used to the food and calorie part.  Eventually, after you start losing the weight, you will have more energy and motivation to introduce more exercises into your life - especially when you meet "Plateau Petey".  He is there to remind you that you shouldn't lose weight too fast and you shouldn't become complacent with your activity level.  He's there to remind you add more exercise!

Keep in mind that if you do start to add more strength training into your exercise routine you will start to add more muscle.  This will affect your weight number because muscle weighs more than fat.  Adjust your thinking and take that into consideration when you do your morning weigh in. 

Create a playlist of songs to listen to when you work out.  Whatever kind of music that makes you want to get up and move and keep moving!  My favorite exercise song:


  • VERY IMPORTANT.  Snack, snack, snack throughout the day.  That will build up your metabolism.  Snack on healthy items (nuts, veggies, fruit etc).

  • Drink water as much as you can, and definitely with every meal.  Keep a bottle with you at all times.

  • Try not to go 2 hrs without snacking on something.  Your total "snacking" calories should equal to the same amount of calories you intake for a mealtime (breakfast, lunch, dinner) - 300 or so cals.

  • Try not to eat anything after 8pm.

  • Have a non-fruit dessert; like a miniature dark chocolate or cookie or fig newton after dinner, but before 8pm.  Leaving that luxury until the end of the day will give you something to look forward to and stay with healthy eating.

  • Chew slowly and savor the things you love to eat.  Eating slowly helps your digestion and makes you feel fuller faster.

  • Try to drink a cup of hot green tea every evening (it's okay to have that after 8pm).  The antioxidants are wonderful for your body.

  • A tip to avoid eating is to brush your teeth in the evening.

  • If you still feel like you are hungry but don't want to consume any more calories at that time, chew a piece of sugar free gum.  Your mind and body think you are eating.

  • Meals, such as wraps and sandwiches and stir fry's / and fajita's, are great one dish meals and filling.  I eat salads but I have found they don't really fill me up and I end up feeling a little hungry afterwards.

  • GET THROUGH THE FIRST TWO WEEKS.   It will feel like detox and withdrawal.  Don't give up!  If you get through the first two weeks, you will be good to go.  You don't crave as much anymore, your stomach shrinks and you feel fuller faster and sweets are almost too sweet now.  After the first couple weeks, your tummy will also have adjusted to your high fiber diet better.  The first couple weeks you may be a little gassier and your stomach will growl in your intestines because it is getting used to the fiber change.  Fiber is good!  Buy some beano if it is an issue.

  • There are good carbs and bad carbs. Carbs are not bad - same goes for fat.  There are good fats and bad fats; study up on all this and know about this stuff.  Realize that your body needs a balanced diet.  You can have bread and potatoes, but they do produce sugar after you digest it.  Just realize your body does need sugar just not a lot and in a healthy way.  Refined sugars and white flour is not good; whole wheat and high fiber carbs are good.  Learn about saturated fat vs. non saturated fats and what they mean for your health.  We need fat in our diet - good oil/fats are things like olive oil.  Bad fats come in the form of butter and margarine. 

  • You can do all you can do, but if you don't pay attention to your salt intake and you already have high blood pressure, that is not good.  Learn about sodium intake and mg's and how to read food labels.  Your body should only have so many mg of sodium a day for optimal health.  Keep that in mind if you have heart issues and high blood pressure.  Salt is hidden in almost everything, especially foods you eat on the outside.  Keep in mind if you eat healthy and fresh foods like fruits and veggies and lean meats and eat those things the most, you are helping your body.  Packaged foods are where you run into sodium problems.  

  • When you feel stressed and want to reach for food to compensate, try to do something else instead that totally relaxes you.  Like a bubble bath or meditate or listen to music - or even go take a nap if you are able; but not too long or your body will be out of whack and it will mess up your snacking schedule.

  • If you eat too many calories over your limit then to combat that do some exercises that burn those calories up so you are at or below your daily limit.

  • If you feel like rewarding yourself and splurging on something that isn't necessarily good for you try not to do it often (only once a week, give yourself something to look forward to) and also watch your portions.  Remember that if you don't leave half and only eat half you are halving your calories and saving food for later!  For example, if you are at a restaurant and get a steak, mashed potatoes only eat half of each and doggie bag the rest.  

  • Take pictures of yourself (day one and, after that, every week).  Create a photo album of your progress.  Seeing your weight loss for yourself without the mirror but on film, helps to keep your motivated because you can actually see your hard work paying off.

  • Find a pair of pants that are always really tight on you and check once a week to see if they feel any looser - that also helps with motivation.

  • You will hit plateaus where you don't lose weight every day even though you are doing everything you are supposed to be doing.  Don't be discouraged; that happens to everyone.  It is temporary and doesn't happen all the time throughout your diet.  Remember "Plateau Petey".  Again as I said before:  "He is there to remind you that you shouldn't lose weight too fast and you shouldn't become complacent with your activity level".  He's there to remind you to add more exercise!

  • The first three weeks of your diet you will notice you are losing pounds quickly.  That is normal and very motivating for you, even if you are going through the first two weeks withdrawal and detoxifying hell.  Don't get used to it.  Your body is only adjusting; you will be losing some water weight and that is what you are seeing falling off quickly.  Eventually you will not be losing four or more pounds a week but only two or so.  Don't let that first weight loss boom get your hopes up and let the plateau that follows discourage you!

  • I have found (for me) that my weight loss (the shedding of the fat) occurs when I'm asleep.  I don't know why and it might not be the same for everyone.  That is another reason I weigh in during the mornings.  I also do it because I have an empty stomach and usually your weight fluctuates as the day progresses.

  • Another thing I have noticed (for me) is that I notice I lose more weight on weekends.  I'm not sure why that is either and also might not be the same for everyone.

  • I also notice my weight loss is on a one day time delay.  For example, I do well with my calorie intake and exercise one day and the next day I haven't lost anything.  That same day I don't do as well with my daily caloric intake and do no exercises.  Then the next day I weigh myself and I have lost weight.  At first this really perplexed me but I finally realized that is just how my body handled weight loss.  So, when I do really well and the next day I don't see weight loss, I don't get discouraged because the next day I will probably see it.

  • As long as you are not eating over your calorie limit and are getting up and moving and keeping sugar at a minimum you will lose weight!

Listen to your body and find out how it is handling your diet and act accordingly.


The hardest times of a diet are the following:

The first two weeks - 
You think your body is trying to punish you for the change, but it is purifying and detoxifying and preparing you for the healthy living.

The first couple days leading into (PMS) and during your monthly cycle (for women).
Don't get discouraged during this time.  You will have water weight gain and might even gain weight.  Don't stress (stress makes you gain weight, especially around your middle).  Once you are over your cycle the craving and the weight gain will go away, you will be back on track.

Holidays and Parties - 
Prepare for these; think ahead of what might be there that you can eat.  Don't let people pressure you to eat just this once if you don't want to!  

Stress – 
Don’t underestimate the power of stress and the affect it has on your health and well being.  Our bodies (especially nowadays) deal with so many difficulties as well as how busy we make ourselves.  It is no wonder we have so much stress and our bodies have learned to ignore the signs of high stress.  Learn your body again - listen to it.  Know when you are getting stressed and find a way to counter it; this is probably the most important part of healthy living.  High stress leads many people into overeating and eating stuff that is unhealthy to give us a feeling of happiness.  In actuality, all you are doing is making yourself unhappy and more stressed in the long run.  High sugar foods aren’t any more delicious than healthy foods; you only think they are because they have components in them that affect your current mood controlled by your brain.

Also keep in mind this; I have heard that people have a hard time losing belly fat even when they are losing weight everywhere else.  They say belly fat is caused by stress.  If you find yourself struggling with getting rid of belly fat when you diet and exercise take a look at your stress level and fix it.  What makes you feel less stress that is also healthy?  Do it AND do it often!

After you reach your goal and you are in the "maintenance phase" - 
This is probably the most difficult time of a diet.  This has to be your lifestyle now and you can't get into the attitude, “well I've reached my goal weight; Hallelujah, I'm done and can start eating like crap again!”  You will gain all your weight back and probably more if you do this.  Continue to eat and exercise as you have been but you are now allowed more calories than before.  This will help you plateau and not lose any more weight.  You will still count your calories so you don't go over the new plateau calorie limit or else you will start to gain again.  

If you gain all that weight back you emotionally, as well as physically, will feel worse about yourself and feel like a failure.  Don't let that happen!  Keep all the diet tips with you and adjust accordingly, but DO NOT STOP.  

The following is the type of food I have in my home when I am dieting.  I am showing this to you as an example.  You don't have to run out and get everything I have listed below and nothing else you enjoy that is good for you.  

Whole Wheat Bread
Whole Wheat Pita Pockets
Whole Wheat Tortillas
A bunch of those packages of Uncle Ben's 90 second microwaveable rices (whole wheat one especially)
Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Whole Wheat Crackers (I like Meijer Brand Organic Snack crackers)

Reduced Fat Provolone
Babybel Low Fat cheese (comes in little circles and in a mesh bag)
Laughing Cow Cheese (one triangle is a great snack when paired with crackers and fruits/veggies)
Low Fat Milk or Soy Milk
Greek Yogurt (They come in flavors or plain.  Try the plain first but if it is too sour you can put granola in it and some fruit like blueberries)
Low Fat Cottage Cheese
(use butter and margarine VERY minimally if at all.  I have found that most items I eat that need butter I can use olive oil instead.  If you need butter try to find a low fat option).
Low Fat Ranch Dip (if you have a hard time eating plain carrots and celery or broccoli plain and raw as snacks)
I haven't been eating any eggs while on my diet but if you really want some go ahead but don't eat more than one (if a whole egg with white and yellow) or go ahead and use egg whites without the yolk).
Fat Free frozen yogurt (it's a great substitute for ice cream)

Frozen Grilled Chicken Strips (you can get a huge bag for the freezer at GFS foods by Pet Smart in Clarksville.
Lean Turkey Slices
Lean Frozen Salmon Filets Wild not Farm Raised (also large bag at GFS)
Ground Turkey (if you like it, I personally can't stand it so I don't buy it).
Chicken Breasts

You can still have the following but only eat 3 ozs about the size of a deck of cards.
Pork Chops

Green Bell Pepper
Red Bell Pepper
Onion (one white and one red)
Frozen Stir Fry Veggies (carrots, broccoli, snap peas) you can get a frozen bag at GFS.
Fresh Spinach leaves (in produce section)
Romaine Lettuce
Red Potatoes
Any other healthy veggies (like cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash) you like but careful of too much because of spoilage.
One Lemon
One Lime
Any other fruit that you enjoy but don't get too much at once because of spoilage.
Frozen fruit medleys are good too if you make smoothies
Green Beans
Reduced Sodium Pinto and Black Beans
Amy's Reduced Sodium Chili
Olive Oil Mayonnaise
Large Bottle of extra virgin olive oil
A bottle of canola oil
(try not to use any vegetable oil or peanut oil if you can help it because they are not the "good" fats)
Stevia or Splenda sugar substitute.  Try to not use regular sugar anymore.
Sea Salt
Honey (preferably a local produced honey and not the honey in the plastic bear)
Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
Bottle of Stir Fry Sauce
Bottle of minced garlic
Can of Pam Olive Oil Cooking Spray
Envelope of Fajita Spice
Lite or Reduced Fat Salad Dressing for salads -  I've decided to forgo buying salad dressing like this because of the amount of sugars that is in them. I just watch how much I eat of regular salad dressing or use lemon juice instead.
Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
A low calorie jam
Box of low fat granola
A box of Fiber One bars
Any cereal that with not a lot of sugar or overloaded w/ calories (Kashi cereals are good)
Van's Whole Wheat Waffles

Package of whole wheat fig newtons (when you eat them for a snack only eat two to three)
Bag of dark chocolate individually wrapped miniature candies (I like both the Dove and Bliss.  The Dove Dark chocolate with almonds is really good).
Package of cocoa roast dark chocolate almonds by Emerald (try not to eat more than 1/4 cup at one sitting)
Any of the 100 calorie snacks (but watch the sodium!)
Murray Sugar Free Peanut Butter Cookies, Murray Sugar Free Chocolate chip cookies, Murray Sugar Free Fudge grahams (try not to eat more than 3 at one sitting)

Almonds (not salted)
Peanuts (not salted or low salt)

These are the ones I really like but you can get any of the low cal entrees (under 350 cals) but make sure the sodium is low
Kashi Sweet and Sour Chicken
Kashi Lemongrass Chicken
Healthy Choice Steamers Sesame Chicken
Amy's Cheese Enchilada (only eat one and save the other for later)
Ethnic Gourmet entrees (like Pad Thai)

Green Tea
Sugar Free Gum




Subway (get turkey or a lean meat, forgo the cheese and mayo, load up on veggies and get the 9 grain bread and you can get mustard, only get the 6 inch) I enjoy the Sweet Chicken Teriyaki as well.

Qdoba (Get a Ranchera Fajita naked bowl burrito, forgo the sour cream, cheese and queso. have them put dark lettuce in with chicken and rice and ranchera sauce)

Wendy's Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (half size)

I avoid Arby's because I haven't found anything there I can eat that is low cal and healthy.

Basically if you go out to some place like McDonald's go ahead and get something like a hamburger but get the small size and forgo the cheese and high cal sauces but leave the veggies.  For a side, try to get a fruit if available.  As always drink water with your meal and not soda (even diet).  You can also order a couple plain hamburgers and just don't eat the buns. I do that sometimes, very Atkins of me I know. :/


Look for items that are grilled or baked or broiled.  Anything fried you should try to avoid.  Dishes at restaurants are always huge so try not to eat more than half and doggie bag the rest to have for another meal later.  

Avoid overloading on bread appetizers like dinner rolls waiting for your meal.  If you do want one only eat one or half.

Always ask for salad dressings and sauces on the side if possible.

Avoid croutons for salads.


All of what I said above may seem "obsessive" to some people, but to me I'd rather be a little obsessed with losing weight than not keep track and not lose weight.  Just understand how much is too much and draw a line.  There's a line between monitoring your health thoroughly and overcompensating and using a diet as a control method to control yourself when other parts of your life seem out of control.  That can be dangerous and leads to eating disorders.  Just remember eating disorders aren't only just anorexia or bulimia - overeating is an eating disorder as well.  All are psychological in nature.



Lisa said...

Good job on this post! You have a lot of good tips. I am so proud of you. You look fantastic.

Lea said...

Great post! Lots of awesome and easy to follow tips. Thanks Tonya!

Tonya said...

Thank you, ladies!

Joan Young Spotswood said...

Obsessive? I prefer to think of it as being "focused". Anywho...Great job on the post and your weight loss! Wow! That's approximately 160 sticks of butter, 8 newborns or 10 Pomeranians!

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