One of the most important things I have learned on my weight loss journey is that resources are key to your success. When I say resources, I mean things like a supportive community, reliable sources of information and the right tools for you. Most people turn to the Internet, but the internet is a double edged sword. While it can inform, it can also inundate. Getting washed away by too much information is nearly as bad as having none at all.
When I realized I was actually losing weight and the changes I was making were actually becoming permanent, I went to the Internet to look for a diet that would work long term and be doable. I also went back to the My Fitness Pal website, but this time, I began to use it! This is when it started to dawn on me that not only is it easier to do this with friends, it’s practically impossible to do it without friends. When they say things “it takes a village,” it’s the truth, not a cliché. Doing the hard stuff is a whole lot easier when you know there are others doing it too! It also puts difficult situations in perspective when you come home hurting or are feeling like you blew it and look online and see other people are having the same hard time: it’s not just you and no, you didn’t blow it—this is a normal situation and you can make progress! You are just like everyone else going through this process and it’s not impossible!
I’ve made a list here of resources that I use pretty much all the time. They work for me and if they don’t feel comfortable for you, don’t worry- it’s just a matter of finding something that does work for you! Hopefully, if these don’t, there’s a resource or a link that can help you find it!
The Paleo Lifestyle
This is more a way of life than an actual resource (obviously!) but I’m listing it because some people don’t know what it’s about, even though they may have heard about it in passing. Paleo is simply put a whole foods diet. People call it “the caveman diet” because one of the basic premises is “no foods our ancestors didn’t eat,” but really it comes down to eating as few processed foods as possible. I stay away from most grains/ grain products because they tend to be highly processed, ie wheat gets turned into flour and turned into pasta or bread. Some people argue about dairy products not being “Paleo,” but really what I do is eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, and most of my diet is vegetables, proteins, some fruit and a little dairy in the form of cream in my coffee and the occasional cheese or yogurt (I’m a little lactose intolerant). I actually eat more vegetables than meat. Most people think that the “caveman diet” is nothing but meat and it’s not- in fact, it’s mostly vegetables (I like broccoli and other cruciferous veggies with the occasional sweet potato thrown in!) I think even you don’t want to “Paleo,” there is a benefit to limiting processed foods and refined carbohydrates.
My Fitness Pal (MFP)
This website and app is such an incredible source of support for me. It lets you track your food, calories, nutrition, water intake and exercise. You enter everything you eat and drink and the app/ website calculates the calories. It’s got a huge database and if your food isn’t there (rarely happens!), you can add it in. It’s the same with exercise. There are also forums available if you have questions, if you want to discuss or learn about a particular topic. This is one place you can go to get information on some other resources & support. It also lets you make friends. It’s a lot like a fitness-oriented Facebook. You get to see your friends’ posts and they see yours. You can also message them in the app. As I said, it’s an incredible source of support and information for me; I see that so many of them are dealing with the same issues I’m dealing with (I’m not a freak of nature! Yay!) and I can get some advice or at the very least, some perspective on what I’m going through.
Primal Potential & Elizabeth Benton
She is probably the second most important resource I have. Incidentally, I got her name from one of my MFP friends. Elizabeth has been through the same process I’m going through myself. She has PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) which makes it hard to lose weight and has been overweight all her life. After reaching nearly 350 lbs, and a lifetime of failed attempts, she learned to make sustainable long term changes, lost the weight and started Primal Potential to help others get healthier. She has a lot of free information on her website, such as 100 healthy fat loss friendly meal ideas, free supportive wallpapers for your phone and a podcast available on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. She has other free information available in her free weekly newsletter and is very accessible by email and Facebook. She has programs that you can purchase and she is hosting a women’s transformational weekend coming this November in Nashville (I think tickets are still available at her site). She is very straightforward and honest about weight loss. She does group coaching called Fast Track and the fall/winter fast track waiting list should be opening up sometime this fall. She uploads new podcasts every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and all of the episodes are downloadable on Primal Potential.
Metabolic Radio/ Taylor Empey & Shane Pace
This is another podcast and website that I heard of through MFP. Shane Pace, who is one of the hosts, is actually an MFP friend of mine. He is a massage therapist and life-long lifter (weights). Taylor is a fitness trainer and is in the process of becoming a registered dietician. (They are both in Utah and I’m not sure what the certifications are there since I’m in California. Their bios are available on the website.) Metabolic Radio is less centered on fat loss or weight loss like Primal Potential and is more focused on fitness and nutrition. They have a private forum on Facebook that you can join once you send a request and you can ask them questions there or submit them to the podcast, where they do a weekly Q&A as well as episodes covering what’s trending in the fitness world and cover topics related to fitness, strength training and nutrition, such as supplements, how to choose a trainer, and probiotics, for example. You can also sign up their free weekly newsletter or submit questions on the website. They are relatively new to the podcast world but are growing fast. They are so dedicated to giving you the best advice and if they don’t know the answer to your question, they will either find it or point you in the right direction. They are much more oriented to fitness and training than Primal Potential and I think these two podcasts complement each other well.
Paleo Solution & Robb Wolf
You cannot have heard about Paleo without hearing about The Paleo Solution written by Robb Wolf. This was one of the breakthrough books on Paleo (I blush to admit that I have not read it! Gasp!) I do however listen to his podcast. One of the great things about his podcast is that he focuses on guests who cover different topics in the Paleo, health and nutrition world. While Primal Potential and Metabolic Radio focus more on informational topics and questions from listeners, Robb’s guests cover various topics and tend to be experts in their fields, such as Dr. Mark Hyman, Katy Bowman and Dr. Jason Fung (to name a few!) It’s a great way to keep up with the current trends in nutrition, Paleo, fitness and also get more background in the areas in which I am not well versed.
Paleo Magazine, Paleo Magazine Radio and Tony Federico
I was so excited to find there is an entire magazine dedicated to the Paleo lifestyle! This is a huge resource for me because it covers what’s new, what’s getting updated and it’s full of advertisements for Paleo friendly products! One of the problems with eating Paleo is that it’s hard to find products that aren’t highly processed or that come from non-GMO sources or aren’t full of things I don’t like eating. (I don’t like eating crop oils, and most things have soybean / canola or corn oil in them.) So this magazine gives me all the latest information in my little nutritional niche, besides having a podcast (hosted by Tony) with guests who are at the forefront of new ideas and approaches in living healthy. He recently attended the Ancestral Health Symposium and gave a great talk on the history of sedentarism (sitting) and how it’s not really healthy for you, and he also had several interviews with some of the big names in the AH and Functional Medicine arenas, not to mention a rousing discussion on the great Pokemon Go opportunities at the Symposium itself. Seriously! (I don’t play but it sounded like a lot of fun, and if you can’t have fun being fit, what’s the point?) Even if you’re not eating Paleo, it has some great info on healthy living in general. I think it’s worth a look and I got my first copy at Barnes & Noble. They also offer a digital version via a smartphone app!
The Paleo Women, Noelle Tarr and Stefani Ruper
This is a podcast I recently started listening to, so I’m still learning a lot about the hosts. I do want to note that shortly after I started listening, I realized they had placed #2 in the “Best New Podcast” category in Paleo Magazine. Number 1 (Nom Nom Paleo) is also an excellent podcast but they do not seem to be producing new episodes. The Paleo Women seems to be geared mainly for younger women (I am 50) but I still think they have a lot of great ideas for healthy nutrition (they had a long discussion on apples! Lol) and just general fitness. They are also a lot of fun to listen to. It’s a lot like having coffee with a couple of friends and chatting about fitness, health and nutrition.
Some Helpful Tools
Everything is easier to do when you have the right tools and why make things harder on yourself? Getting fit and/ or losing weight is hard enough! The list that I have here is by no means comprehensive and they are definitely not specific for Paleo, but I’ve found they are enormously helpful for me, especially when I was starting out.
I know a lot of people don’t like keeping a food journal. They think it’s a hassle or it’s a little embarrassing. It’s not about tracking calories, although you can; it’s about finding out what foods work better for you. Elizabeth Benton (see above) recommends tracking what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat it and how it makes you feel (ie, low energy, really hungry, sugar spike, etc). She has some great templates on her website if you want to check those out. MFP (also above) is essentially a calorie & food tracking app. You enter in what you ate and how much and it automatically tracks your calories and your macros for you. There is also a place where you can add food notes, like “ravenously hungry after breakfast” or “really worn out after workout,” etc. The drawback is that it’s a little tough to page back to look at the trends. I like a paper book journal. The one I use is DietMinder from Memory Minder and they are available on their website or at Amazon. I got my first one from Barnes & Noble. It’s made mostly for tracking things like calories, macros and fiber, water, exercise, but it’s got some open spaces where I take notes and add in what I’m currently tracking. The point of the journal is if you aren’t going in the direction you want, you can look at what you’re doing to make changes. I was eating very low carb at one point and I was getting very tired so when I looked at my journal, I saw that the tiredness started when my carbs dropped 100 grams or lower. I find now that when I keep my carbs around 135, I have energy and I still lose weight.
Nutrition for Dummies
This is important no matter what diet or lifestyle you try out! As I’ve mentioned before, I like the Dummies books because they assume you know nothing and are laid out in a pretty straightforward manner and are easy to navigate. This book covers the basics in nutrition and lets you know what you need to eat to stay healthy as a human being, and if you are going vegetarian or vegan, where some pitfalls might be hiding. A lot of times, I’d see patients on My 600 lb Life who are eating badly and think they are doing great but they are actually malnourished, or eating high carbohydrates. This book explains what all those macros are in detail and why we need to get certain vitamins and minerals. If you haven’t looked at nutrition since high school biology and you’re starting a new eating plan, you might want to give it a look. It’ll explain to you why something like the pasta lover’s diet might not be your best option!
Scales (Yes! The infernal Contraptions!)
I’ll be honest: I hated scales! Food scales, me scales, any kind! I really didn’t want to get one to weigh me, but I figured I couldn’t track my progress without one, since I only got weighed at the doctor’s office. I finally broke down and ordered one off Amazon (the ubiquitous supplier of everything in my life!). I got an EatSmart brand scale that has an extra wide platform and will weigh up to 500lbs. It’s digital and it’s got an auto-shut off and calibration. I like it (as much as I can like a scale!) and it’s been pretty reliable. The best thing is that I can check my weight at home.
The other scale I finally bought is an Ozeri digital food scale (again from Amazon). I’d actually had this one for over a year before it got reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen and it was their best buy! (Whoo hoo- I did good!) This scale is flat so it’ll fit in a drawer, has clear tare and unit buttons (so you can switch between grams & ounces & milliliters) and an easy readout. It’ll weigh up to 11 lbs and also has an auto- shut off. The reason I bought the scale wasn’t so much obsessing about accuracy of how much I ate, but to help me determine portion size. When you go to a restaurant, the amount of food they give you is not a portion for one meal; it’s usually for several meals, but if that’s what you’re used to seeing, you have no idea (I didn’t anyway!) of what one serving of meat/ veggies/ pasta looks like. I got it so I could get an idea of what a serving of nuts looks like (0.25 cup) or what 4 oz. of meat looks like. Now I have a pretty good idea, but I still use it almost every day, mainly out of habit, but it helps me stay on target with portion sizes!
I also bought a cheap whiteboard for my fridge to help with the food scale. I discovered shortly after I got the Ozeri that I was having to write down the amounts on scraps of paper and then having to gather up the scraps when I wrote the numbers in my journal, or I was bringing my journal into the kitchen ( and getting it full of gunk!), so when school was starting up, I got one of the $5 whiteboards (made for student lockers) with the magnetic pen with the eraser tip. It hangs easily on my fridge right next to the scale; I write stuff down, and it makes this a lot easier. Since I’m posting this in September, there should be a lot of these whiteboards available out there right now!
Living Paleo for Dummies
Again with the Dummies! I got this because I was interested in this lifestyle and it definitely answered my questions! It also has sections on movement and work outs (with pictures!) and a recipes section! There are a lot of Paleo books out there but this one doesn’t espouse one particular field or author. If you are interested in Paleo, I think a lot of my other resources can help you find your way, especially Paleo Magazine and the Paleo Solution and Robb Wolf.
I’m also going to give a plug for cookbooks. I don’t particularly like cookbooks because I’m not that kind of cook. If it needs a recipe, it’s too complicated for me, but I know lots of people use them! One I did buy is Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong. They are definitely not chefs and so their style of cooking is pretty simple and easy and their food is great! (They also have an app and a blog!) Elizabeth Benton also has 100 Fat Loss Friendly Recipes on her website for free and she also did a podcast on fat loss friendly meals under $1.99 a serving (mostly available from Trader Joe’s but I’ve got one, so yay!) The point I’m trying to make is that if you are starting something new or something very different from how you have been cooking/ eating, you want to have some kind of framework (which is what these tools & resources are supposed to be!) They’re kind of like training wheels until you can get your balance! You don’t have to use them, but if they help, why not give them a look? I’m not associated with any of the above except as an average consumer. I’ve tried these products and I like them. You might not, but hopefully you can find something similar that will be helpful to you! As always, if you have any questions, you can leave a comment here and I will get back to you! Thanks!