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updated: 6/20/2012 7:52 AM

Lean and lovin' it: 5 lessons learned on 150-pound weight loss journey

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If you could see me now, you'd see me movin' and groovin' doing my Dance of Joy. Sure, it's not pretty, but I'm bustin' a move to mark my five-year anniversary of losing 150 pounds.

Today, I weigh 168 pounds -- a whopping 159 pounds less than when I stepped on the scale in October 2005.

Losing weight was the easier part; keeping it off has been far more difficult than I expected. At one point during those five years, my weight slowly inched up from 177 to a v-e-r-y scary 189. At that point, I reigned in all sorts of little things, each of which hadn't seemed to make much difference, but together made my weight creep up.

During these last five years, I've been as low as 161, twice, which for a while felt great; I hadn't weighed that since I was 13 years old. However, the second time, loose clothing and the honest words of close friends telling me that I was looking too thin (words that had never described me before!) made me realize it would be healthier to add a few pounds back.

There's something significant about 168; my BMI (body mass index) number of 24.8 puts me in the normal range, not the overweight range. And, I have a 32-inch waist. Two more good reasons for dancing my tiny hiney off here. Know where I can find a confetti canon?

Here are five things that help me keep the weight off and they can help you too.

Regular reality checks: Step on a reality machine (aka scale) regularly. I do it once a month. My reality machine tells me, digitally, exactly how much I weigh every time I step on it. Up or down a little doesn't concern me; up 2 or 3 pounds and I start seriously considering every food headed for my mouth.

Find your point of satisfaction: Know what it means to be satisfied, not full, during a meal or snack. I've been a compulsive overeater most of my life. Full to me was what everyone else felt like after Thanksgiving dinner.

For me, finding that point was almost magical. After I lost my first 75 pounds, I stopped tracking calories because I had learned for the first time in my life when I was satisfied and I'd stop eating. I lost the last 75 pounds without ever counting a calorie.

Understand what calorie density is. All candy is calorie-dense and it doesn't live in my house. Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are low in calories for their size and play a major role at mealtimes. It's virtually impossible to overeat broccoli or apples.

Banish artificial sweeteners. At one time I was convinced that a no-calorie, artificial sweetener was a major tool in my weight maintenance toolbox. The more I learned about those sweeteners, the farther from them I distanced myself.

Today I consume zero artificial sweeteners and instead use organic stevia to sweeten my morning protein shake and iced tea.

Give sweet soft drinks the boot, too. It doesn't matter how they're sweetened; whether sugar, high fructose corn syrup or aspartame (NutraSweet); there isn't one good thing about soft drinks. I switched to unsweetened, naturally flavored sparkling water that rehydrates and refreshes me and doesn't negatively impact my weight or my health.

Go lean -- with meats, that is. I buy as much grass-fed meat as I can afford and head for the leaner cuts. I get muscle-building protein and keep my calories within reasonable boundaries, since fat delivers more than twice as many calories as protein.

Finally, I want to thank you for your support during my weight loss and weight maintenance journey. Truly, it made a huge difference having you on Team Don. Thank you.

Try this recipe: Now is the perfect time for this salad. The ingredients can be sourced locally; it's low in calories, tastes great and you can go back for seconds with little guilt. Over the years, it's filled me up, not out.


• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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