Category Archives: Weight Loss

Start where you are.

I read so many blogs by folks who have just started to lose weight. Pinterest tells them to go spend $200 on food for three days, because if you don’t eat everything organic, you’ll fall over and die immediately. Health websites tell them not to bother with under an hour of fasted cardio. Other sites tell them that no one can lose weight, ever – in the long run, it always comes back. Some running sites will recommend a $400 GPS watch, new shoes, compression socks, a special water bottle, lululemon running outfits, and all the latest flavors of Gu or Shot Blocks or Clif gel or whatever the latest sugar-in-a-pouch concoction might be.

So these folks, with all the best intentions, blog their way through weeks (or, in some cases, years) of a “weight loss” journey. And, in many cases, they end up losing only a negligible amount of weight.

What’s the problem here?

Some would say that the answer is that most people can lose only a little bit of weight before their bodies rebel. I don’t really agree.

And on the one hand, I am loathe to leave unsupportive comments, because many of these people are engaging in new eating and exercise habits that will lead to health benefits regardless of weight.

But on the other hand, when I read another post from a random blogger (I’m being a little unclear for a reason – I don’t want to single anyone out) about how she can’t get under, say, 230, even though it’s all she wants … I wonder a little bit.

It seems that so many people focus on all the internet fads and end up not getting the results they want.

So here is my recommendation for people who are just beginning to lose weight or just beginning maintenance:

Start where you are.

You don’t need to go out and buy a bag of chia seeds.

You don’t need to go get the latest fashion in running crops.

You don’t need to go get that $60 sports bra that a blogger has.

Start where you are.

If that means cutting out soda and walking up the block to the gas station for exercise – that’s great.

If that means choosing a baked potato with salsa at a fast-food place instead of Value Meal #85, that’s great.

If that means using several packets of Crystal Light because you can’t stand water but you know that 25 diet cokes a day is bad for you, well, thank goodness Crystal Light is cheap at Costco.

Start where you are.

You don’t need the compression socks, the foam roller, the Garmin, or the latest Brooks shoes.

You don’t need to do Couch to 5k to start running. (It was certainly far too difficult for me when I started losing weight. Just add whatever intervals you can. If that’s five seconds at a time – start there.The best thing I ever did to start losing weight was to get off the couch and walk a block to the gas station for a candy bar. This is not a joke. Just getting out of the house and getting into a daily walking habit was how it all began.)

You don’t need to cut down your calories to 1,200 a day. (In fact, that’s probably not a great idea anyway, but that’s a topic for another post.) There’s a strong argument, I believe, for just starting by tracking your food without trying to make any dietary changes in order to get a sense of what your intake looks like.

Start where you are. and keep. going.

It pays off.

I promise.

***This is not to say that these habits will make people skinny. At the end of the day, they won’t. But what they will do — is get you off to a start and get you to cultivate good habits intentionally. Making many small changes now will make it a heck of a lot easier in the future to make big changes.

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Filed under Weight Loss, weight maintenance

Weight Loss & PCOS

I get asked frequently about my weight loss tips for women struggling with PCOS. I have a particularly nasty case of it. After being diagnosed 8 years ago, I immediately started putting on weight. It was really unpleasant. I craved carbs 24/7 and indulged that craving pretty much every day. Breakfast would be something like two bagels with fat-free cream cheese. I’d eat a Subway sandwich, Chipotle, or 2 hot dogs for lunch. An afternoon snack would often be something like 1/2 a pound of chocolate covered peanuts. Dinner would be two lean cuisines (ha!) followed by half a bottle of wine and extra dessert.

One would have thought that I was allergic to vegetables or anything that didn’t come from a box.

I’ve written this before, but — before I lost the weight, I had a rash on my neck and underarms from insulin resistance/pre-diabetes. My neck looked dirty all the time from skin discoloration.

A digression: I will never forget getting ready to go to a wedding 5 weeks after my son was born. I was 240 pounds and my stomach was still soft and large from pregnancy. I had bought a cotton dress from Target to wear, but even that wasn’t enough to hold back the sweat in the 90 degree heat.

I got out of the shower that afternoon and saw that my neck still looked like it wasn’t clean. I stood in front of the mirror, scrubbing away with a washcloth and soap… it wasn’t dirt. It was the byproduct of high insulin levels…. terrifying.

Losing weight with PCOS is often a little more complicated. I’ve read so many blogs by women whose doctors told them it was “basically impossible.” How I wish medical professionals wouldn’t say that – it’s not true! Yes, you have somewhat different concerns, but it’s completely possible.

After I lost weight… my cycles are still messed up, but the physical pain and discomforts are GONE.

I don’t have the terrible abdominal bloating anymore.

I no longer have the incredible pelvic pain that kept me from wearing pants.

I don’t have terrible cramping in my upper abdomen at the end of the day.

My blood sugars have normalized, although I still get low blood sugar from time to time.

It is pretty awesome.

So that said, here’s my advice…

1. The most difficult time for me was the first two weeks. IT WILL SUCK. There is no getting around it. It feels like a detox. Your carb cravings will be insane. Don’t give in. After the first two or three weeks, it will start to feel much easier.

2. Simple carbs are evil. Sugar isn’t great for anyone, but if you have PCOS, it will mess you the heck up. Eating sugar feeds the carb cravings that can get so bad. If you’re looking for recipes, avoid those that focus on chemical, sugar-packed substitutes for real foods. I have found that “low fat” products are usually fine, and non-fat plain Greek yogurt is great. But the “fat free” stuff is usually packed with sugar. Don’t go for the non-fat stuff because it has fewer calories.

If you do go for simple carbs, try to avoid having them at breakfast. That’s when your blood sugar will take the biggest hit.

3. Exercise is so important. Do what you can. If this is walking outside on flat ground for five or ten minutes after a meal, that’s awesome. Slow walking after meals is probably the best thing you can do to help your pancreas process sugar. I noticed a huge drop in my blood sugar numbers when I started walking after dinner.

4. If you need medication support, by all means, take advantage of it. I used Metformin to help with my blood sugar levels until I was about 155 pounds. If the Metformin upsets your stomach, see if you can take 1/2 your dose (or the entire dose) right before bed with a snack.

5. Recognize that the scale might fluctuate a bit as you get started. It can be really discouraging when you start working out and eating well and the scale goes UP. Everyone will tell you it’s because your gaining muscle. This isn’t quite true – what’s probably happening is that your muscles are gaining glycogen storage. Every time I take a break from exercising, I drop 2 pounds overnight from loss of glycogen. And then when I start back up, I gain the weight right back. If you go up more than a few pounds, re-examine your calories. But don’t worry about weight gain at the start – it’s likely temporary.

6. TRACK AND MEASURE. This is critical for most folks when they start a “diet” or “healthy lifestyle” or whatever you want to call it. For PCOS women, it’s even more important. Portion control is probably my #1 challenge, still, now that I’m maintaining. You can get a cheap set of measuring cups and a little digital food scale at Target for under $15 total.

 

Do you have PCOS? What advice would you give to PCOS ladies on how to manage the condition?

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Filed under Uncategorized, Weight Loss

Why I Turn Down Chocolate Cake

Part of my maintenance routine has been to turn down “treats” and “cheat meals.”

It’s true. If I’m out at a birthday party, I won’t eat the cake. No need for explanations… I just say I’m full.

But why not?! Don’t we all need “balance” in our lives? Isn’t part of “healthiness” indulging from time to time?

Well, maybe that’s true for some people ….. But as for me, I “balanced” my way up to 250+ pounds.

Here’s the thing — I already know how the cake tastes. I’ve had countless pieces of cake over my lifetime. I know exactly how buttercream icing tastes. I know exactly how the cheap sugar cookies from the supermarket taste. I can tell you exactly how it feels to burn the roof of your mouth on Domino’s carry-out pizza. Eating the chocolate cake isn’t going to DO anything for me, make me feel any better, or give me any culinary inspiration.

What I’m still learning is how it feels to be healthy.

I’ve found that, if I have a “cheat day,” that often spirals into a “cheat week.” I’m not a doctor, but it feels like indulging in cake or cookies gets my body off track. The sugar hit makes me crave simple carbs, and before I know it, the day is totally shot.

And I’m not convinced that “treating yourself” with things that are bad for your health is a good idea. In what other area of life is something that’s not beneficial to your body considered a good indulgence?

This isn’t to suggest that I don’t ever eat “treats.” I’ll gladly take up any offer to grab frozen yogurt, but I go for the no-sugar-added flavors, stick to a single 4-oz portion, and (if I want a topping) just add whipped cream. If I’m at an event where there’s a new dessert I’ve never tried, I’ll have one bite. (The first bite is always the best anyway!) But I won’t eat a sugar bomb of dessert just because it’s a “special occasion” (because when it is not a special occasion??) and I generally won’t eat huge restaurant portions at special events.

Plus – healthy food tastes GOOD. It took me a really long time to figure that out, probably because I went for the stupid 100-calorie snack packs over real food. I’d much rather make one-ingredient banana ice cream for dessert at home and top it with some frozen blueberries than dig into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

I see so much about working “real life” into healthy living. … But my “healthy living” habits ARE my real life.

I love my body; I want to feed it well.

So I turn down chocolate cake.

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Filed under Eating, Weight Loss

Track your food!

One of the best decisions I made while losing weight was to start tracking my food. Before I started tracking, I thought it would be a huge hassle to keep a food journal. It’s well known that keeping track of one’s food consumption can really help with weight loss, but I thought it would be too much trouble.

On a chilly morning in February 2012, though, my perception changed. I started adding up my calories just for fun.

I sat at my kitchen table staring at the piece of paper.

…… It was 11 AM and I’d eaten just under 900 calories.

Ho. Ly. Cow.

(And no, I hadn’t done any extreme physical activity that morning. I had woken up, eaten breakfast with my husband, nursed the baby, packed my husband off to work, and snacked … and snacked some more. And then went back for more snacks. See a pattern?)

I am the world’s worst mindless eater. I have eaten my way through countless bags of potato chips (with the accompanying bowls of dip, of course.) Putting it on paper made it real. All of a sudden, I had to face up to my late-night snacking.

I joined myfitnesspal when I was right around 200 pounds. It was a huge jump-start to my weight loss. I loved seeing the data on what I was eating. I began to notice patterns: if I ate Ritz crackers for breakfast, I’d be hungry an hour later. But if I ate three string cheeses (on super busy days) or an apple with peanut butter, I stayed satisfied for a long time. Having all the information in front of me not only encouraged me to make better decisions, but also helped me feel good about fun, off-plan treats. I felt much better about enjoying a few bites of cake if I knew I could work it into my calories for the day or week.

In the summer of 2011, I was stuck at about 152 pounds. I had been injured the previous month, so I couldn’t exercise all that much. I went out to Container Store one morning to buy some storage containers, and ended up putting a dinky little $20 food scale into my cart. Over the next few days, I weighed everything I ate. What an enlightening exercise *that* was! Despite losing 108 pounds at that point, I still had a very poor idea of what constituted a “serving” size. I’d been measuring one serving of goat cheese thinking it was an ounce, when it was really closer to three ounces. Once I readjusted my portions, I started losing weight again.

I tried not tracking for about a month. Of course, I picked the best time of year to do so – the holidays! While my weight stayed within the same 4-pound range, my food choices weren’t great at all and I felt a lot more run down.

Now, I track everything, every day. I spend maybe a grand total of five minutes entering things into myfitnesspal. If it goes in my mouth, I eat it – even if it’s just one french fry off my husband’s plate, a handful of almonds, or a bite of a banana. You can’t lie to the scale – why lie to a food journal?

Here’s a picture of a recent day. (It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s pretty typical for a busy weekday with a 6:30 AM wakeup & 10:00 PM bedtime.)

A random day from myfitnesspal.

A random day from myfitnesspal. See that 0.1 servings of a protein bar? That’s how I count a bite of one that I had while making a new batch. Also, no one will ever accuse me of disliking cheese.

 

If you decide to start tracking your food, I highly recommend myfitnesspal. I sync my account between the family iPad, my work computer, and my Android phone. The phone and iPad apps even have a barcode scanner, so you can scan in items as you cook. I’ve also read great things about tracking with SparkPeople and LoseIt! but have no personal experience with those programs.

Do you keep a food journal? If so, do you think it’s helped your weight loss/maintenance?

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How I Lost 132 Pounds in 19 Months

The short answer is: many little changes added up to something huge, plus breastfeeding for about sixteen months.

I got from 260 pounds (on delivery day) to about 230 with making swaps in my diet. I made delicious salads at home instead of getting carryout from Chick-Fil-A or Papa John’s. I’d estimate that I went from 4,000+ calories per day to about 2,500. Since I was breastfeeding, I didn’t cut back too much on what I was eating. Plus, I was hungry all the time! I generally tried to avoid simple carbs and “empty” calories, and chose high-protein, nutrient-dense foods when they were available. So, instead of crackers or a doughnut, I’d pick a Chobani nonfat plain yogurt (20g protein, 100 calories).

I started walking in December 2011. At first, my “daily walk” would be ten minutes up the block to the neighborhood gas station for a Hershey’s bar. Although this wasn’t the best habit to develop, it got me out the door consistently every single day. Each day, I’d walk a little bit further. I went every day, rain or shine. Each afternoon, I’d pack my baby up in the stroller and push it along. And every single day, it got a little bit easier.

I started counting calories in February 2012, right about when I got to 200 pounds. I used myfitnesspal (www.myfitnesspal.com) and LOVED it! It was so easy to use. I loved that I could update it from my phone.

When I got to about 175 pounds, I wanted to start running, but had no idea where to start. I saw many recommendations for the Couch to 5K program, so I figured I’d give it a shot. HOLY HECK it was way too difficult for me. I know many people who LOVE it, so it’s definitely worth a try. But don’t feel bad if it’s too tough for you!

Because C25K was too hard for me, I started running the same way I started walking: a little bit at a time. Every day, I’d try to run from one stop sign to a telephone pole, or from the telephone pole to the end of the block. It was so hard, but I slowly cut down my mile pace from 20:00/mile to about 16:00/mile. (Hey, I never said I was fast!)

In June 2012, I fell while running & got injured. I restarted in August 2012. Over those two months, I had lost about 17 pounds, and even just that small amount of weight loss was huge in terms of getting my mile time down. I was training on a treadmill, so I set it to 5.0 miles per hour and stuck it out. Running helped me get under 140 pounds (a number I thought I’d never see) and I’m now happily maintaining in the high 120s.

So that’s my weight loss story. It’s not glamorous and it’s not terribly inspiring, but it’s my journey and it’s what worked for me. I think the key thing about weight loss is figuring out what works for YOU. Don’t do something just because it worked for your mom or best friend.

I’m looking forward to sharing recipes, running tips, and more about specifics in future posts! Thanks for reading!

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My Weight Loss Timeline

June 2008: 172 pounds

February 2010: 226 pounds

September 2010: 243 pounds

October 2010: Knocked up.

April 2011: 250 pounds.

July 2011: 260 pounds

October 2011: 232 pounds

December 2011: 219 pounds

January 1, 2012: 213 pounds

February 10, 2012: ONEderland!

February 15, 2012: 196

March 8, 2012: 190

April 11, 2012: 183 (No longer obese!!)

April 18, 2012: 178.3 (Goodbye, 180s!)

May 16, 2012: 169.8 (Goodbye, 170s!)

June 17, 2012: 159 (Goodbye, 160s!!)

July 16, 2012: 151.8 (NO LONGER OVERWEIGHT!! Normal BMI!)

July 24, 2012: 149.6 (Goodbye, 150s!!)

August 20, 2012: 143.6 (Stuck at this weight for a while…)

September 3, 2012: 139.6 (Goodbye, 140s!!)

September 10, 2012: 141 (Whoops…)

September 17, 2012: 137.8 (I suppose 141 was just a fluke.)

October 4, 2012: 134.6 (Under 135 – yay!)

October 30, 2012: 137.8 (Halloween candy – yikes!)

November 12, 2012: 132.4

December 20, 2012: 130.2 (Getting close…)

January 1, 2013: 135 (Christmas blonde brownies got the best of me…)

January 18, 2013: 131.1

January 26, 2013: 129.8 (HELLO, 120s!!!)

February 11, 2013: 125.8

*Insert femoral stress fracture…*

February 20, 2013: 127.6

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