Thursday, December 27, 2012

Moving through Life

I read an article by Denise Austin the other day called Keep Moving.  It is a great article and I would highly recommend it. Actually, I have written about the issue the article addresses before, but I think that she describes what I have tried to convey perfectly. She advises her readers to "Try to think of exercise as movement rather than a strict regimen."  She is exactly right. Just move, that alone will make an enormous difference in your life. 

Before my husband and I decided to lose weight and ultimately changed our lifestyle dramatically, I would have balked at the idea of "changing my lifestyle." I quite liked my sedentary ways. Loved to go out to eat, go to the movies, go to the theatre, cuddle on the couch and watch TV with my husband all night. I really liked my lifestyle, and the thought of giving it up was just depressing to me. I was having fun. I was quite content with everything but my weight. That said, I was wrong. I love my new, more active lifestyle and it has the side effect of making me feel better - physically and emotionally - my mood is better, just generally speaking. I am not a mental health expert, but I really do believe that living a more healthy lifestyle is good for your mental health as well as your physical well-being.


When my husband and I started this diet and exercise thing, we had to make an effort to get out and exercise, we had to build it into our day and consciously make sure that we were moving. Now, it's almost second nature, the things we love to do require us to move. It's the difference between observing life and living it. Before, we would watch T.V. and movies and go to the theatre and sit through life and let other people entertain us. It was and still is, on occasion, enjoyable. Now, we do it on occasion, not every day - we wouldn't want to. It is far more enjoyable to live actively, and experience things, which requires movement - than to watch other people doing them. It is far more fun to be a participant in life than an observer. This is what moving does. So, it is not a regimen for me or for my husband, it is a part of our lifestyle, it is fun - it's how we experience life now. I wouldn't trade it or go back for anything. 

Anyone can do this. Try new activities, you will find something you like. Then keep adding to it...and, as the article says, Keep moving. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Balancing the Checkbook

I always get carried away over the Holidays. I have a huge extended family including lots of wonderful, adorable nieces and nephews, so Christmas gift buying and travel can be expensive.  Every year, I have to make a budget and stick with it over the Holidays or I will be paying for it until July.

The same concept holds with how I eat. I have to budget, just like with my finances. And just like with my bank account, if I overdo it, the repercussions will last for quite a while. Budgeting my diet is something that I do all the time.

I have written before about how I track everything that I eat, and I am careful to track EVERYTHING and to be honest about it. Before I started this habit (and even as I attempted to get the hang of it), it seemed like a huge monotonous pain in the behind.  Now that I am in the habit, I cannot imagine being successful without doing it. Put into perspective, it makes sense, I would not think of going out and spending money without tracking how much I was spending. I need to balance my checkbook. If I don't track how much money is going into my bank account and how much is coming out, I will most certainly be in for a very unpleasant surprise (very likely when I 'm at the front of a line at a busy store with my luck). My bank account always empties much faster than I would prefer.  I learned at a very young age that I absolutely cannot track these things in my head because I tend think wishfully about how much money is actually in my bank account. Small, forgettable purchases add up, and pretty soon I'd be running on empty without realizing it.  Thus, attempting to successfully do my finances without writing everything down would be ludicrous and it would end badly. Obviously. So, why would I treat budgeting my diet any differently? It's just as simple (and, at times, as frustrating) as budgeting my money. It has to be done, even when it isn't pretty and even when it isn't fun. If I do not track what I eat, small, forgettable snacks can add up without my realizing it and lead to unpleasant surprises on the scale or when I try to button my pants.

Each day, I wake up with a specific, set number of calories "in the bank," I generally know what I am going to eat, and how many calories I am going to "spend" on my regular meals and snacks throughout the day. These are the bills I have to pay to be healthy. I have to spend calories on fruit and veggies and on protein and carbs in the appropriate proportions.  I can start my calorie budget, just like I do on a regular basis with my paycheck when I calculate my bills, with the calories I know that I need to "spend" on meals and snacks. Then I have an idea where I stand. I'm usually "overdrawn" by a few calories - generally this is not a huge deal. My calorie budget is under what I need to maintain because I'm still trying to lose a little weight, so a couple hundred calories once in a while isn't the end of the world.  That said, I try to exercise every day.  My calorie budget usually looks fine once I put the calories I plan to "earn" through my daily planned exercise into my calculation.  I usually have a few calories to spare after all of this. This way I know how calories I have left over to "spend" throughout the day on, for example, one of the cookies at the office or a piece of cake for desert. When it comes to these extras and treats, I will only eat what I love. If I am going to treat myself and "spend" the calories, it better be beyond good. No more fast food, no more mediocre deserts or ordinary candies. If I am going to spend calories, it needs to be extraordinary... I need to love it or I'll leave it.

Calorie budgeting also works if I am going to have a huge Holiday meal or if I know that I am going out to a restaurant. I just go with lower calorie meals and make sure that my snacks are lower calorie fruit and veggies on the day I'm going to the restaurant, or the week before I know I'm going to have a high calorie day or two due to the holidays or another event. I'll also make sure that I get a couple of heavy exercise days in to bank calories around these days.  This is the same kind of thing I do with my finances before the Holidays or before I go on vacation, I save and plan for the financing.

"Balancing the checkbook" with my diet took some getting used to, but it has worked well for me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Rain on My Parade

First, let me say that swing dancing class with my hubby last night was AWESOME. I had a great time with my husband and my sister and brother-in-law. Even if you think you are the most uncoordinated person in the world (well, the second-most-uncoordinated person in the world, I am the most uncoordinated, believe me) - Anyway, even if you think you are uncoordinated and have no rhythm, this is a ton of fun and it is a huge stress reliever. Loved it. Highly recommend it. It is a fun, fantastic way to get exercise.

Today, though, I'm a bit stressed because of the rain. Well, the rain, my cozy bed, and the Holidays. This unfortunate confluence of timing, weather, and exhaustion led me to sleep way too long this morning and miss my "only opportunity" to work out today. It is raining, hard, today and I got to bed late last night, so I did not go to the gym to do my cycling class, and I did not drag my behind out of bed on time to do a DVD / Tae Boe work-out this morning either. The pouring rain coupled with the fact that I am organizing a Holiday party tonight means no lunch walk. I am attending said Holiday festivities tonight, and will likely not get home until after 9pm. WHEN do I get some exercise? I'm a little stressed.

All that said, I have come up with a plan that I think will work. My plan is to do dance practice with my husband after we get home tonight. We can practice the swing dancing moves we learned last night for about 1/2 an hour. It's not going to be a huge exercise day, but at least it is something.

This brings me to an issue I think many people run into, is a tiny bit of exercise even worth it? Yes. Yes it is. Many people feel like there is not enough time in the day to exercise. I think this is because often, exercise is viewed as an activity that must be done to the point where one is a breathless, sweaty mess before it will be effective.  I have a different opinion here. A couple 15 minute walks every day, for example, will certainly not lead to sudden and dramatic weight loss but the benefits certainly make it worthwhile, even if it's not the vigorous workout many people envision when they think about exercise. For me, a short walk in the middle of the day will clear my head, help me to feel more alert and awake, and lift my mood. The same is true for half an hour of dance practice with my husband - it will help to relieve stress at the end of the day, I will sleep better, and hey- I burned a couple of calories. So there is always time in the day to get exercise, just move a little more, even if it is only taking one extra lap up and down the three flights of steps at work or taking a 15 minute walk.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Activities that won't add calories

Happy Holidays!

The Holidays are always challenging diet-wise. In addition to staying vigilant so that stray chocolates and other goodies don't fly unexpectedly into your mouth, there is the whole exercise thing. It's cold outside (well, chilly in San Diego anyway), and who wants to drag themselves out of their warm house to exercise? Seriously. Ba-humbug! To help with that, here are a couple of fun ideas about how to get exercise or physical activity in over the Holidays:
  1. Go for a walk to see the Christmas lights in your neighborhood or in others around your area. Here is a listing of San Diego's Christmas light displays (warning, if one address is listed, that means it's just one house - nice to drive by, but not really a walk) Walking through these will take a matter of minutes to an hour or so depending upon the display you go see. One word of caution, some home owners have a generous spread of goodies out to go along with their beautiful lights, just ignore the goodies, enjoy the lights and have a nice walk. If you must have hot cocoa to go along with your walk, Swiss miss makes a good diet version that is only 25 calories.
  2. Learn to dance! My husband and I have been learning ballroom dancing, and this Holiday season we are putting it to use as we are going to a couple of dinner / dance Christmas parties. It is great fun and it is great exercise. And it is a fun excuse to buy cute new clothes for your smaller self :-)
    Wednesday, we are starting to learn Swing, and I am looking forward to it!
    Here is where we Ballroom Dance. And here is where we are going to learn Swing
Try these, and enjoy the Holidays! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Something New

So I have resolved to try a spinning / cycling class tomorrow morning. There is one at the gym that is a 10 minute drive from my house from 6:30-7:25am. I think I can make it. I need a Tuesday / Thursday morning activity. I do water aerobics on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - and it is a habit that is well-established after a year. I really like it, it wakes me up and it gives me energy for the day. Plus, I love the water, I love swimming-type activities. And an added bonus is that it is first thing in the morning, so if my day goes sideways and I miss my afternoon workout, I've already done something or, if I have a busy day as is the case tomorrow, I have my exercise done and out of the way first thing in the morning, no worrying about how I'm possibly going to squeeze it in.

This may sound like a lot of exercise, maybe it is and maybe it is unsustainable. I'm liking it now and it is working for me now. The thing is that I like to go to my evening work-outs, I'm at a point where I don't just do them because I need the exercise, I do them because I like them. I love Zumba, and I love to spend time working out at the gym with my hubby.

I have been looking for a Tues/Thursday morning activity for a while, and I can't seem to find anything that sticks. I have to like what I'm doing, or I will not get out of my comfy bed to go do it...once the routine is established, it gets easier, but I have to at least enjoy it at first. To be honest, spinning doesn't look like a great deal of fun, but it can't hurt to try. I've tried Nia, which got boring after a while, and the instructor was, frankly, kind of flaky in that she wouldn't show up to class or she'd be late all the time. Not okay. So, that isn't to discourage people from trying Nia, it is a perfectly lovely exercise and some may love it - it just wasn't for me. Then, I tried a beginner's Yoga class. I loved it. Unfortunately, I think I was one of only like 3 people who loved it because attendance dwindled and it was cancelled. Boo! So, now I'm going to try this cycling thing and see if it works. I'll try to have an update on the success and / or failure of this latest venture in a week or so.  Meanwhile, I need to find another Yoga class somewhere in my life because I quite liked it, and I think I need some relaxing / stretching in my life - all I really do is cardio. I think I need some variety.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Lessons

Keeping weight off is a learning process, there is a lot of trial and error involved. As I have mentioned before, my husband and I are doing this together, which I think makes it easier. We just got back from spending Thanksgiving with my family. Going to visit my family has been a challenge for us because I come from a family of fabulous cooks, and my parents used to run a bakery, so there is that.

I wrote a bit in my last post about our struggle to get enough exercise when we travel to visit my family. This time, we tried to solve that problem by bringing some exercise DVDs with us. We woke up early and did our exercise videos (this worked for us because my dad has a big house and we could do it without waking everyone up). I also had a "dance party" for my niece and nephews while my sisters cooked Thanksgiving dinner, which worked well for about 45 minutes, the kids had fun and expended some energy without running through the kitchen, I had fun, and it was a nice little workout for me before the big meal.  So that worked well.

Another issue we have is eating on the drive up. Eating and drinking caffeinated beverages helps to keep us awake during the long drive. Unfortunately, those calories add up. We actually figured this one out last time - we pack a lot of fruit, which is very refreshing and helps. We also pack caffeinated Crystal Lite (which, admittedly, I'm trying to avoid where possible because of the artificial sweeteners in Crystal Lite - but it works beautifully for the drive).  We still end up getting a coffee about half way through the drive sometimes, particularly if, as was the case this time, we are driving through the night.  Starbuck's coffee is incredibly high in calories.  I order a "skinny mocha" with no whip - still quite a few calories, but it helps. My husband orders a soy mocha with no whip (he is lactose intolerant). Finally, to prepare for what I knew would be a challenging few days, I did two heavy exercise days before we left - so, even though we had the Starbuck's, I did not go over my calorie budget for the day.

Now for the issues on which we still need to work: I went over my calorie budget pretty substantially, even given the exercise, on two of the four days we were at my family's. I found that I gave myself permission to eat and snack more when I exercised. I also found myself snacking, a lot and despite the abundance of food, I did not get a lot of fruits and veggies into my diet. I think I can solve both of these problems next time. I need to cut out the unhealthy snacks and replace them with fruit and veggies - they have fewer calories and they are healthier. My husband and I can easily stop at a fruit stand and pick up some snacks on our first day.

I think that all in all I would give myself a B- for the Holiday. I have room for improvement, but it was not a disaster.  In the end, I gained 2 pounds. This is better than the 5 pounds I gained the last time I went up to see my family, and they are easy enough to take back off -  so I will count that as a partial success - next time, my goal is to maintain.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hazah! Finally Broke Through

Finally, I have broken through the 167 barrier. I weigh myself every morning when I wake up - I have been stuck, stuck, STUCK fluctuating between 167 and 170 for weeks! Now, I've had a stressful few months, I have been travelling a lot and have had a family crisis over that period of time. So, to be clear, I'm proud of myself and I'm thankful that I maintained through it all. But, I am still trying to lose that last 25 pounds and it is frustratingly slow.  I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago where I talked about reviewing what I was doing and resetting - I did that and it is paying off.

Now, to survive Thanksgiving. I am still working on the best way to navigate visits with my family. They are fabulous cooks, and I like to enjoy the food. The first thing I need to do, and something I've mastered I think is to enjoy the food, but in moderation. Now, "moderation," it's true, is a pretty vague word that can be easily abused. So, to define "moderation" - one helping, no bread, lots of veggies. I am institute the "only eat what I love" rule, and I record EVERYTHING I eat. That all helps, but I still have some pretty high calorie days. The trick is to keep the calories at a point where a reasonable workout will help me net 1200-1650 calories. So, I can take in 2000 - 2300 calories. If I do a good hour of cardio, that will ensure that I hit my goal.

Getting exercise when I am visiting my family is tricky. I like to spend a lot of time with them when I'm there, so that takes away from exercise time. It'll be a bit cold for walking, biking, or other more "social" exercises, I don't want to go to the gym because it takes too big of a chunk out of the day. Thus, the gym is not convenient and I will end up not going, particularly b/c the day passes are kind of expensive and the gym equipment is not as up to date as I'm used to. Therefore, my husband and I have decided to take a couple of Exercise DVD's that we like along and do those first thing in the morning (and maybe once in the evening). We will see how that goes. The workouts are more intense than walking, and it is just an hour out of the day - so I'm encouraged. I need to protect my weight loss, I don't want to backslide right after I broke through my little barrier. :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

There is Always Something...

I caught myself this week making too many allowances to either skip part of my exercise routine or eat in an unhealthy way. Happily, I caught myself before I started to put on weight. This starts out innocently enough, I skipped a day of exercise because I wanted to watch the election results, and then we ate take out Mexican food while we were watching - one day won't make me gain back all my weight - one day is fine...but then I had a travel day - and did not get a lot of exercise, and then I went out to eat with friends, and then it was cold outside and I put off exercising until way too late in the day and almost missed it...There is always something, there is always some reason to make poor eating decisions or to skip exercise and it can spiral really quickly and really easily. It's okay to live life, and there will be days in which I do not eat and exercise like I probably should.  That said, it is important to be cognizant of these things and to avoid falling into the habit of allowing these days to happen way too often (which is a particularly dangerous potential pitfall over the Holidays). It is also important to plan for challenging days and around them as much as possible. This is why recording food and exercise is important - it makes it very easy to review what you are doing and catch yourself. Fortunately, I caught myself and I'm back on track now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review and Reset

It is really important for me to pay a lot of attention to my eating habits, I'm a bit obsessed with it. On a side note, this is one reason it really helps to have someone to support you in any weight loss / maintenance venture. My biggest support is my husband, I've written before about how we are doing this together.  If you have someone supporting you, they can call you on your re-emerging (or newly forming) bad habits. Some people get this support by joining a group and some get it more informally from the people in their lives, I have both - for the moment. I lost my initial weight with a medically supervised diet offered by my health care provider (called HMR), one thing the program wisely requires is weekly meetings for a year after the initial "diet". The meetings have been incredibly useful, and after I'm done with them, I still have the support of my husband - so I'm lucky.

Now, back to my eating habits, the easiest way to gain back weight is to reform bad habits or form new bad habits. So, every once in a while, I will take a look at what I'm doing. This usually happens when I step on the scale and have either gained weight or not lost any for a LONG time - like today. I have been stuck, stuck, stuck for over a month fluctuating up and down the same three pounds. I was right in the middle today. After I walked for 16 miles on Saturday and had a REALLY great weekend as far as my eating and calorie intake. What the heck? Okay, so I know these things take time, I know this too well, but, honestly, I'm frustrated. I'm in the home stretch here - I have 25 pounds to go - and they are STUBBORN!  Okay, so after the little temper tantrum, I did what I have to do and I looked at my eating habits (and talked this through with my husband too). I evaluated what I have and have not been doing and reassessed my habits. The trick is always to be honest with yourself...not always easy, but necessary to succeed.  Here are my conclusions: 

  1. This is going to sound ridiculous, but, I have a really bad cheerios habit (of all things, like I'm a three-year old with the cheerios). I munch on cheerios all the time. Now, it could be worse, there are worse things in the world than Cheerios, but they do add up. I haven't gained weight, but I'm not losing it either and I'm fairly certain that my little handfuls are adding up to a couple of hundred extra calories a day. I know the way to control this - I measure a cup of cheerios into a bag - that is 100 calories. That is all I can have. It works when I do it. I will stop at one bag. Something about the measured bag slows down my munching - it's a finite thing - I can't just keep grabbing handfuls and telling myself they are low calorie so I'm not adding many calories. Cheerios are fairly low calorie, that is true, but a lot of low calorie food still adds up to a lot of calories. Anyway, unfortunately, I get lazy and don't do measure my bags...I'll just have one handful, or two...- when I'm lazy, it is not long before my Cheerios consumption runs rampant. So, I either need to start doing my 100 calorie bags again, or I need to stop buying Cheerios. For now, I'm back to the bags, we'll see how that works.
  2. I don't drink enough water. Water aids with digestion and it helps me not to feel hungry. I simply need to drink more. Water consumption has been the most difficult habit for me to maintain with my healthier lifestyle and diet. I have never been a water drinker, and it doesn't seem to be so important, so I let is slide. I need to actively keep track of how much water I drink or I won't drink it. I need to force myself to drink enough. It's absurd how difficult this is for me. The exercise thing, I've got that down - no problem. The calorie counting thing, got that down pretty well too. But drink 64 oz of water a day - forget it. So, I'm back to tracking my water. There are really no tricks or cheats here-  I just need to drink more water. I used to substitute Crystal Lite, and admittedly, I still do to a degree, but aspartame is questionable at best and I really ingest way too much of it, so that needs to go - as does Diet soda for that matter. So - I'm going to need to pay more attention to my water intake and start tracking it the way I track everything else that I eat / drink.
  3. Finally, I struggle to eat enough fruits and veggies. I eat far more of these than I used to, but I need to work more of them into my diet. Filling up on Veggies in particular, but also fruit, helps me to control calories because I don't get hungry and snack on, say, cheerios, when I shouldn't be. Also, even though fruit tends to be higher in calories and sugar than veggies, it is far healthier and lower calorie than most anything else and if you need a sweet fix, it can work (not always, but sometimes it does the trick).  So, I've started taking an extra fruit or vegetable in my lunch - I usually get hungry around two in the afternoon, so now I have something to combat that - and possibly stop me from grabbing that first handful of Cheerios when I get home from work. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Succeeding by bits and pieces

A while ago, I posted about failing by bits and pieces. Happily, you can also succeed by bits and pieces.

Yesterday was an example for me. I had a busy day and knew I would have absolutely no time at all for a nice workout after work...then I slept in because it was way too cold in the house to get out of bed. (terrible excuse, I know). So when I finally got up, I didn't have a lot of time. But I did the jump rope program on my Kinect for 15 minutes which was a good, albeit short, actual jump rope would probably do the trick too, and they are probably far less expensive than a Kinect, plus you won't have the stupid computer lady pointing it out every time you miss a beat....but I digress...

I went to work and made sure I got my 1/2 hour lunch walk with stairs in. Then, I went with my husband to his appointment, which happened to be right by the beach, so we did a short 1/2 hour walk after his appointment. Finally, an hour or so after we ate, I "jumped rope" again for another 15 minutes.

At the end of the day, the bits and pieces of exercise I had squeezed in throughout the day really added up nicely. And I felt much better than I would have had I not enjoyed the beautiful weather and moved a bit throughout the course of the day. I added up my exercise calories at the end of the day and burned only slightly fewer than I do with an hour of Zumba.

There it is, success by bits and pieces. :-)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Candy Hiccups

I had a bit of a fail yesterday. I've been having a few fails as of late. But it happens. I have been pretty successful at this weight loss / healthy living thing. That said, it is not always all sunshine, roses and rainbows, it is challenging. It is a daily process and some days are a lot more challenging than others.  The important thing is to learn from the fails, however big or small they may be, and not to allow them to derail goals and well-established good habits. They are just bumps, learn from them, weather them, and keep going...

Yesterday, I totally failed with the Halloween candy. Well, I won't say it was a complete fail, I'll call it a hiccup, because I didn't completely drop the ball by any stretch of the imagination. We purchased the Halloween candy about a week ago - um, mistake number one. However, we did NOT open the big bag of candy - we stored it in our freezer and kept our hands off. Crisis averted...until we opened the bag yesterday. For one thing, there was no reason to buy a huge bag of candy because we go to the gym from 6:00 - 8:00pm, which is the prime trick or treating time. Anyway, be that as it may, I decided to have one snack sized candy bar. These little two bite things are like 80 - 90 calories EACH - at best. And, they are not at all satisfying. I ate one and felt like I could eat another. I stopped myself at 4 and put the calories into my app. Ouch! 

Okay, so this was not a complete fail because (1) I stopped myself before it got ridiculous - I could have eaten that stuff all night. (2) I learned a couple of lessons about how to deal with Halloween candy for the future. And (3) all in all, I netted just over 1500 calories for the day, not devastatingly bad, but I'm still trying to lose weight, so not great. 

Lessons learned: (1) There is no need for a huge giant bag of Halloween Candy (2) Make plans to be out of the house over the heavy trick or treating hours (preferably, be at the gym) and (3) Do not even open the first candy bar. Once the first one goes in your mouth, it's hard to stop...much easier to simply not eat the first one. 

Another minor fail on which I need to work - I took all the left over candy into work (I work at on a university campus) and I left it in the front of the office, well out of my sight and reach. That is good for me, but it is not nice to everyone else who might be trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I need to start considering that before I dump sweet, fattening, unhealthy goodies on everyone else just because I can't eat them. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dining Out, and Enjoying the Experience

I love to eat. I love to eat good food....and I love to eat out. These things to not fit easily into a weight loss and weight maintenance plan. But this is me, this is how I became overweight, and if I feel like I am depriving myself, I will fail and fail in extraordinary fashion sooner or later. So, there you are. What to do about this conundrum is a question with which I have been dealing since I began my weight loss. I have found that there are several habits and experiences I have had to modify in order to keep my healthy lifestyle, keep losing weight / maintain my weight loss while continuing to enjoy my life.

I still love to eat and I still love to eat good food, and good food is not always healthy food. That said, my pallet has changed considerably. For example, I never, ever, used to eat vegetables that were not smothered in some incredibly creamy, cheesy, buttery sauce, coated with salad dressing, slathered with butter, or candied in some way. Now, I love my veggies, steamed with a little low sodium soy sauce (which, admittedly is still pretty high in sodium), or some Sriracha sauce. Yum! I started this diet with shakes and hideous-tasting entrees for 12 weeks (sorry, just my opinion, HATED the diet food), and after 12 weeks of this "food," vegetables were an absolutely glorious addition to my diet. Now, I eat at least four servings of veggies a day and I probably have 3 or four servings of fruit a day.  

The title of this post is Dining Out, and Enjoying the Experience, and I have yet to mention dining out, don't worry, I'm getting there. When I started my weight loss, my goals going in were not only to lose weight, but to learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I did not simply want to lose weight for the sake of losing weight and looking good, though that is, admittedly, a great benefit. I wanted to lose weight and learn how to eat and live in a way that will help keep my cholesterol in check, my blood pressure at a healthy level, and will help prevent diseases like cancer, diabetes, and the myriad of other diseases that are linked to being overweight and unhealthy lifestyle. I also wanted to maintain the weight loss because I heard far too many stories about gaining all the weight back after the diet. So, this brings me back to my love of food and my love of eating out - I had to learn how to approach these things in a healthy way, and honestly, I'm still learning.

I used to eat out nearly every day, and often for two meals a day. I look at that now and cringe. I still love to dine out, but I have learned a few tricks to help me maintain my weight and health. 
  1. The "Only Eat What I Love" rule: When dining out, I only eat what I love. There is no reason to waste my calories on terrible or mediocre or even good food. It's got to be GREAT food...I have to love it. Now, when I say only eat what you love, I love Fettuccine Alfredo, this does not mean that I am going to eat it when I dine out - I also love grilled salmon, so I will always opt for the healthier, lower calorie food that I love....
  2. I apply the "Only Eat What I Love" rule to restaurants as well as food. If the restaurant food is just okay, I'm not eating there. No need to waste one of my now limited dining out experiences on a restaurant that I don't love. No more fast food - Sorry McDonald's, Taco Bell, Carl' are not up to par (not to mention not at all healthy, not even the "health" menu, really).
  3. ...which brings me to rule #3: Where ever possible, preview the menu. You can almost always find the menu for the restaurant you are going to visit online. Browse it before you go and come up with a few options for what to order. If you cannot peruse the menu, at least know what kind of restaurant it is, and what kind of food they serve so that you can do a little research before hand and know that, for example, Indian food is generally pretty low-calorie, but samosas are a bit higher in calories and Punjabi cooking is also a bit higher in calories...or that, if you are going for Greek food, Spanokapita is higher in calories and you should always get the dressing on the side...Livestrong is a great website for this kind of research.  If you know what you are getting into, you can plan ahead a bit and know what you will avoid, and what you would prefer. (if you love samosas and you simply must have a Samosa appetizer - like me :-) -  maybe follow it with a really low-cal main dish, for example)
  4. If there are two or more items on the menu that you "love" - pick the one that has fewer calories and / or is the healthier option. (if this is a mutually exclusive proposition, that is probably a good thing, so use your best judgment)
  5. As always, apply the common sense "dieting" tips - Salad dressing on the side, no mayo, avoid cream sauces and limit or avoid any breads, if you must have butter, go light on the butter.  Had I read this 15 months ago, I would have rolled my eyes and wondered what on earth that left for me to eat. Surprisingly, a lot. And you should really enjoy dining out, it shouldn't be a stressful undertaking. You just have to experiment and find healthy, low fat stuff you like (and, of course you can have a tortilla or a dinner roll or a piece of pie if you want - just make sure the entire meal isn't a huge feast of greasy, sugary stuff).
  6. I always plan my exercise around dining out, so that I can balance my calories. If I know I am going to be dining out on Friday, and I won't have a lot of time to exercise on Friday, I make sure that I (a) fit in exercise where I can on Friday - like early before I go to work and I make sure to get in my lunch walk at work - then I will do a little extra on Thursday and on Saturday (this isn't that difficult - just an extra short walk on Thursday, or an extra 1/2 hour of Zumba on the Kinect and a bit extra walking on Saturday)...I talk a lot about balance - and that is all this really is, balancing your intake (calories) with your output (exercise).
  7. I try to limit my dining out to once or twice a week.
  8. As always, I track everything I eat and calories, and I'm honest about it. If I go WAY over, then I know. 
I know this sounds like a lot to consider just for ONE meal. But really, it all takes only a few minutes, and you get used to it. Like I said, just experiment with flavors, you will be surprised at what you find that you love. And if you go over a few calories, don't beat yourself up and eat an entire cheesecake because you "already ruined your diet for the day." Just enjoy your breakfast, lunch or dinner out, learn from the experience, make adjustments next time, and move on. No reason to add stress to what should be a lovely meal. 

Honestly, losing weight has been a great thing for finding new and wonderful experiences, I've talked a lot about this with exercise, but it holds true with food too. I have found quite a few healthy foods that I now prefer to my Fettuccine Alfredo, my horizons have been broadened - the world of food is now bigger, not smaller. I have more, not fewer foods from which to chose. It really is quite extraordinary. Hey, if this is going to be a lifestyle, which it needs to be - might as well make the very best of it. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Holiday Danger: The Bits and Pieces Fail

I went WAY over my calorie budget yesterday because I fell into one of the traps that gets me quite often, and is way more common over the Holidays. My husband made these delicious bars for an event we were hosting last night and I got home early from work. Instead of just leaving the stupid things in the fridge, I took the pan out to let them "thaw" a bit so that they would be easier to cut when the time came.  Now, I knew that I would have one of these things, they fit into the "eat what you love" rule, AND they fit nicely into my calorie budget for the day. I made sure to wake up early and get enough exercise and ate nice and light for the entire day (note that I did NOT starve myself, I ate, I just made sure that my meals were nice and very low cal)  So by three in the afternoon, I had carefully freed up the calories so that I could enjoy, within reason,  a bar and the meal last night (we ordered out - Mexican food).

Back to the thawing pan of yummy bars. I knew that I would eat a bar after dinner, so I was looking forward to that, but I noticed that my husband had cut a small piece out right after he baked them to make sure that they had set up correctly. Well, they were lopsided, so I shaved off just a bit to even it out and popped it in to my mouth. Mmmmm...delicious. And I shaved off another very small piece. Not many calories there, no problem. And I shaved off another small piece. And the time I was done, I had eaten the equivalent of about 2 and a half nearly 250 calories a piece. So much for all of my efforts during the rest of the day - my day was SHOT. I didn't give up, you should never give up, even when your day is shot. You can always mitigate the damage.  I watched myself for the rest of the evening. I did eat dinner, but I was careful not to overdo anything else. I still went WAY over for the day.  Epic Fail.

This has happened to me before - it was happening with Cheerios of all things. I like to walk into the kitchen and grab a handful of these. I love Cheerios, and they are a nice low calorie snack for when I get the munchies - nice in moderation, that is. I was eating WAY too many. I wasn't gaining weight, but I wasn't losing it like I wanted to either, and couldn't figure out why - until I stepped back and looked at what I was eating and honestly re-evaluated all of my habits. Those Cheerios were creeping in. I fixed this by measuring out a cup into a ziplock bag. If I want to munch on them - that is my limit - and no more. It worked.  I'm taking a different approach with the bars. We are going to another event today. The bars will come with us to the event, I'm certain they will be gone by the end. If they are not, I'm sure there will be someone who would love to take them home.  And then no more taking them out of the fridge early. I'm fine with them in the house - they just need to stay in the fridge - out of sight and out of mind.

So, the silver lining lesson here is to avoid the bits and pieces pitfall, especially over the holidays when there are lots of bits and pieces around. If you must munch and /or have the irresistible urge to snack, find something acceptable: fruit, veggies, or another healthy snack. Allow yourself to have a specified amount and measure that out - so that if you have to snack you have something (and it should be something you love) to snack on - but you'll know when you've had enough - when to stop.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

About the Blog Name Change

I have changed my blog title and address to better reflect the subject matter. When I started this blog, I was still losing weight. I now feel great, I like how I look, I have an incredible amount of energy, I'm more confident, my migraines are gone, as are my aches and pains, I just feel better  - both physically and emotionally. Weight loss is not a cure all, but it really helps in nearly every area where health is concerned. Now, though I still have about 25 pounds to lose, I am more focused on gradual weight loss and maintenance.  As I've said before, I'm not really dieting, I'm working on living a healthy lifestyle which not only helps me to protect the weight I've lost, but also helps me to protect the beautiful "numbers" that are a result of the weight loss (my cholesterol, blood pressure, etc...) and helps me to continue look and feel great. It takes a lot of work and it is inconvenient at times - but the pay off is more than worth it.

I am now down nearly 125 pounds (I'm officially down 122 - I've lost 42% of my body weight since I started). This is only the beginning though, weight loss was, apparently, the easy part. I hear too many horror stories about how difficult it is to keep the weight off once it is lost, so I am going to write about how I maintain and protect my weight loss and about obstacles I encounter. Hopefully, this will help people who are struggling with their weight. If nothing else it is a good way for me to hold myself accountable. So, enjoy.

Cold Weather Clothes and a Cold Weather Plan for the Winter: Part II

My last blog entry was getting pretty long, so I split it in half. The final two cold weather winter issues are here:

4) Lazy Days and Hibernation  This is kind of the same problem as waking up in the morning. When it is   dreary out and the house is warm and my husband is cooking some wonderful smelling food in the kitchen, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a hot cocoa and a blanket and read...all day. aaaahhhh.....
    • My Cold Weather Plan: I can curl up on the couch with a book, but I need to make sure that I get my exercise in first. To accomplish this, I have been waking up every morning to do some exercise (at least 1/2 an hour) over the past week. Some Examples: Weather permitting, my husband and I will go for a walk, if the weather does not cooperate, we will do an exercise video first thing in the morning or go to the gym. I still work out after work as well, but on the weekends, getting my workout done first thing in the morning frees up the rest of the day to curl up on the couch with a book if I want or go to whichever Holiday festivities we have planned. During the week, working out in the morning ensures that I have done something - even if the dreary weather and / or my holiday plans make exercise after work difficult.
    • Also, that delicious-smelling food my husband is cooking is generally nice, low-calorie Minestrone soup or turkey chili - great food for the cooler weather.
5)  Holiday Travel: It is always a struggle to eat a healthy, low-calorie diet and exercise when I travel, particularly to fun family events. I am lucky to belong to a wonderful YMCA in San Diego that has the latest equipment, keeps it maintained well, and offers a number of varied fitness classes all throughout the day. When I travel on the Holidays, the first challenge I face is finding the time to exercise. I don't want to miss anything, and I have a lot of family and friends to see. Secondly, it is difficult to find a gym with which I'm comfortable or find a walk / hike that is close and quick. Third, the food. My family can cook! My in-laws make tamales...YUM! And my parents used to run a bakery, need I say more? So, I like to treat myself a bit - within reason, I still watch the calories. However, that means I need to get more activity in to balance my indulgences. And we are back to the time issue.
    • My Cold Weather Plan: My husband and I are still working on how to fit in exercise when we travel to see my family. What we are going to try this time is to take along some exercise DVDs  - we have Tae Boe, Zumba, and Dance. We are going to take those along and do an hour workout first thing in the morning, every morning. Happily, my Dad has a huge house and wakes up very early, so we won't be bothering anyone with all of our music and jumping around. :-) I will have to update the blog to report how this particular plan works. I have high hopes, so we will see.
    • As far as the food is concerned, I will refer back to yesterday's post about Holiday food (#3)
So there you have my Cold Weather Plan to protect my weight loss over the Holidays.
Important Note: This is what works for me, it may not be the best advice for everyone. Find what works for you  and know that the Holidays are tricky - it may take some experimenting - but find what works and go with it. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cold Weather Clothes and a Cold Weather Plan for the Winter: Part I

It seems like the weather has gone from warm summer to cold fall in a matter of days. And, while I am quite enjoying the cooler weather, it poses a threat to the little routine I've established. There are several reasons for this, and several issue with which I need to deal. So, just like swapping out my summer clothes for my winter clothes, I need to swap out summer good eating, exercise and healthy living routines for my fall / winter ones.

Thankfully, I live in San Diego, so the changes I have to make are not as stark as those for someone in, say, Minnesota. That said, following is a list of the new issues the colder weather presents:
  1. Waking up in the morning to exercise: One thing I love to do in the cold weather is to snuggle under my nice warm blankets in my nice soft, warm bed. Waking up in the morning and getting out of the wonderful warmth of my bed is nearly impossible.
    • My Cold Weather Plan:
      (a) For me, turning the heat up actually HELPS me to get out of bed because I don't have to leave the comfort of my nice warm snuggly blankets, the house is a reasonable temperature. I know that for some, this has the opposite effect, so just do what works for you - but turning the heat up, just a bit, so that it is comfortable to get out of bed works for me.

      (b) Set the coffee pot to brew 15 minutes before I need to get out of bed. I will smell the coffee and want some. I understand this is a sign of my horrendous and unhealthy caffeine addiction, but it gets me out of bed, then I limit myself to one cup or less and only in the morning, and very little, if any, cream.

      (c) My husband gets up early, I have him turn on the light in the bedroom when he gets out of the shower - which is about 15 minutes before I need to get out of bed. It helps me wake up.
  2. Staying motivated and finding fun things to do for exercise when it is cold and / or rainy outside: I love to walk, hike, and bike. I love the outdoors. Happily, I can enjoy the outdoors and those activities even in the winter in San Diego. However, some days it is just too cold or rainy to be outside and it's also dark longer, the days are shorter.
    • My cold weather plan: I already participate in quite a few exercise classes that I absolutely LOVE during the week. I think I mentioned this in an earlier post, but these are classes I attend because I really enjoy them...not just for exercise. So, I'm pretty okay for the week days - it's the weekend where the problems may arise. Here is what my husband and I do: When we can go for a long walk or a nice long hike, we will. When we cannot, we have a few options:

      (a) We can go to the gym and do a nice workout there, takes about an hour out of our day and burns quite a few calories (500-700)

      (b) We have several Kinect and Wii Fit games that require us to move - we can play those for an hour or two - they don't burn as many calories, but they will do in a pinch - not something on which I would rely on a daily basis, but in a situation where I need to get some extra exercise in, they work nicely.

      (c) we have invested in several exercise DVD's (which I will discuss later) and these will do in a pinch as well.

      (d) Now that we know how to dance (we have been taking ballroom dancing lessons on Friday and Sunday evenings) we may start to explore places where we can go dance for a while on the weekend. There, four options for cold weather, indoor activities that my husband and I can use to replace our weekend outdoor activities when the weather is not cooperating.
  3. Yummy Holiday food. 'nuf said.
    • My Cold Weather Plan:
      (a) I plan to enjoy the food. I did last Christmas, and I will this Christmas. However, I will enjoy the food in moderation (one tamale instead of three) and

      (b) I will institute the "only eat what I love" rule. If I do not absolutely love something, I will not eat it - you'd be surprised how many Holiday treats you throw in your mouth just because they are sitting around. Now, there are lots of foods that I love, and that means that I will very likely be over on my calories on a few days over the Holiday season.

      (c) For some people, this may sound irresponsible and for some it may not work - but I'm not going to worry about going over a little on my calorie budget over the Holidays. I will, however, keep copious track of my calories and everything I eat, as I always do. I find that when I write down/enter into my iPhone app everything I eat; I will not eat as much because the prospect of ingesting so many calories will freak me out.

      (d) Honestly, I know that I will gain 3-5 pounds over the Holidays, I did last year.  I will eat a very light, healthy diet and add a bit more exercise into my routine where I can in the weeks before the Holidays and between events to mitigate the damage. Then I will work very hard after the Holidays to get back on track. (I did this last year and lost what I gained over the Holidays within 3 weeks)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Now What?

I still have some weight to lose, but I'm to a point where I'm happy with how I look and feel and any additional weight I can lose is just an added bonus. I've still go my goal, but I've decided to be patient. It's still coming off, albeit slowly. Importantly though, I'm settling into a healthy lifestyle while I'm still losing weight. I'm still practicing my healthy habits, and they are becoming a lot easier as I go.

That said, I cannot completely relax and slip back into old habits, so I need to be careful. For example, I went out to eat way too many times last week. I had to travel one day, so there was that - and I was careful not to overdo it. Then, there was a day when I went out to eat with a co-worker - again, I was careful, loaded up on veggies and had the fish - and I went out to eat with my husband, twice.  Even when I'm careful, the fact of the matter is that I get more salt when I eat at restaurants and, frankly, I eat more calories than I would were I eating a meal I made myself or pre-planned. In the end, I did not gain any weight to speak of (maybe a few ounces, and those do add up), but I didn't lose any either - and I worked my butt off last week. I should have lost weight. So, my take-away from last week is this: I need to watch the dining out. If I know that I am going to have lunch with a co-worker or that I am going to travel at some point during the week - then I need not only to watch what I'm eating when I dine out, but I also need to watch myself for the rest of the week and make sure I'm not dining out too much. Even when it is inconvenient.  Lesson learned....and just on time for the Holidays.

Another thing I am starting to do is to set goals for myself that will help me to continue maintain / lose weight without necessarily having weight loss / maintenance as the main thrust of the goal. For example: my husband and I have decided that we want to go on a hiking vacation in Ireland next year. In addition to the fiscal discipline it will require for us to save the money to do that, we will need to get in shape as some days on this trip will require us to hike for 20 miles / day.  We will probably go on this vacation sometime between June and August next year, so we have started training for it already. We are up to 12 miles walking on the weekend and tomorrow (this Saturday), we plan to go on a 16 mile walk. We are going to keep finding new and longer, more challenging walks and hikes so that we can prepare for our goal and have the endurance it will require to fully enjoy the gorgeous hike we are planning for this summer.

Have a great weekend, get out and enjoy the beautiful fall!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Navigating the Bumps in the Road

I've found that it is important to be flexible and be able to navigate the bumps in the road, small or large. This morning, I encountered a bump in the road. It's small in the greater scheme of things, but could be significant if I let it throw me off track. Sometimes this weight loss / healthier lifestyle is going to be a bit inconvenient, but I need to roll with it because the payoff is so worthwhile.

That said, today I found out that the locker rooms at my gym will be closed for refurbishment for the next 3 months. This presents a bit of an obstacle and is an inconvenience because before work I am at the gym at least 3 mornings a week at my water aerobics class, which is a part of the routine I've built and that I plan to continue.

Skipping my water aerobics class for 3 months is not an option. Therefore, I need to find a way to attend my class and then make it to work on time in the morning. My class ends at 7:20am and I like to be at my office before 8am. So, there are two options: First, I can find a shower / locker room on campus (I work at a University) that is open on time so that I can just come to campus and shower here and then walk to my office. I think there are 3 places on campus with showers, and the best one, if the showers are open at 7:30am, is across campus from my office. This way I would get the added bonus of a walk. I think I will try this first. My second, less desirable, option is to drive back home, shower and change and then go to work. I would absolutely not arrive at work before 8am, which would mean that parking would be an issue - particularly if I have meetings off campus throughout the day and I doubt that I would get to work on time. This is not such a huge deal because my job is pretty flexible, but I really like to get in a bit early so that I can leave a bit early.

I will have to try a couple of different things and see what works. In any event, the water aerobics class will continue to be a part of my routine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Back and Bouncing

Finally, I am back at this blog. As I have done approximately 45 times before, I will say that I'm going to make an effort to be more consistent. We'll see how it goes. That said, my weight loss has been progressing, albeit very S-L-O-W-L-Y.

I have written before about how I will lose a bunch of weight in a matter of days and then bounce up a few pounds, maintain for a couple of weeks and then lose a bunch of weight again (for example, I'll  lose like 5 pounds over a couple of days, gain 3 and maintain at that weight for a couple of weeks) - and the cycle repeats.  That bouncing cycle is getting frustrating because I'm losing less and less as I get closer and closer to my goal weight and so it is taking forever. I guess this is to be expected, but wow is it frustrating! I have about 25 pounds to go, and I think it will take me 10 years to get there. Gah! But there is, as always, a silver lining here - I am not gaining weight. Yes, I bounce up a few pounds after a big loss, but that is part of a cycle and is to be expected. I always lose the "bounce weight" and some within a week or two. So, at the very least, I am maintaining. And that is good news. So for now, I'll just keep plugging along...bouncing toward my goal. :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When Being Stuck in a Rut is a Good thing

I stepped on the scale this morning and was happy to see that I am back to the weight I was before all my travelling and craziness this summer. Whew! I attribute this success mostly to the fact that I am back to my routine...I'm back in my rut.  I love travelling, I plan for travelling, and I think I have it down and I do okay when I travel, but it does throw a wrench into my weight loss routine. Before I was successful at weight loss, I tried and tried and tried to lose weight, and I failed and failed and failed. One of the biggest obstacles to my weight loss in the past was that I would start a diet and / or exercise routine and then I would have to go out of town for work, or I would go on vacation, and inevitably my routine would suffer and I would fall out of any good habits I had started to form. So, getting back to my routine, back in my rut, after I travel is very important to my continued success.

Therefore, even though I really did not feel like it, I dragged my behind out of bed way earlier than anyone should be awake, before the sun was even thinking about showing itself (5am) and went to my water aerobics class. I do this every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I'm back to Zumba class at 6:30 on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, and this Friday, my wonderful husband and I are back to ballroom dancing - Fun! (For those of you in San Diego, this is great exercise and great fun - and really inexpensive at Balboa Park - check it out). We are also back to our active weekends, though I will say that the more weight we lose, the more we have to do to be "active" and really burn a lot of calories. We still find fun stuff to do, even though it is HOT. We just do it very early in the morning - long walks, bike rides, kayaking... I'm also back into my food routine. Sunday morning, my husband and I go to the fruit stand and stock up on lots of fresh produce, I pack my lunch every day and I pack a lot of fruits and veggies on which I can snack if I get hungry. My routine has worked beautifully for a year now, and if something happens and I have to change my routine, I'll figure out how to do that because the results are so worth it. But for now, I'm happily stuck in my rut again.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Surviving Chicago

I love pizza. I especially love deep dish pizza. And Chicago deep dish pizza...forget it, no amount of willpower or planning can keep me away...and I just might eat it until I explode. So, you can imagine how nervous I was about my 3-day trip to Chicago for a work conference last week.

Instead of avoiding the beautiful Gino's and Giordano's and their decadent deep dish (or stuffed) pizza like the plague, I decided to let myself indulge, within reason. By that I mean, no eating pizza until I feel like I'm going to explode. I had 4 pieces of deep dish pizza in 3 days (at 800 calories a slice, according to!!!).

I decided to make sure I got some cardio to help to at least mitigate the damage. This proved to be more difficult than usual. I usually go and check out a hotel's workout facilities upon arrival at the hotel, last week was no exception. I made sure I knew where the workout room(s) were and what hours they were open. I woke up the first morning I was there at 5:30am (3:30am my time!), dragged my carcass out of bed, and went to use the workout room, only to find out that this hotel, unlike many others at which I have stayed, CHARGED for use of its facilities - $10 / day. Sigh. Fine, charged it to my room and proceeded to go to the workout area to discover that there was quite a line to use the cardio equipment. I did not have a lot of time to stand in line and wait because I had already slept as long as possible (my conference registration and meetings started fairly early). So, after waiting for several minutes, I left and walked back to my room. Ultimately, I walked every day I was there for about 45 minutes. No, walking is not the intense cardio exercise that going hard for 45 minutes on the elliptical provides, but it is something...which is better than nothing. It is always good to move, even if it is not going to be "enough," every little bit helps. Chicago is a beautiful city with a lot of character, so it was enjoyable, and my walks allowed me to move a bit and get at least SOME exercise, given my schedule and the unavailability of workout equipment during the hours I had set aside to work out.

In addition to ensuring that I got my daily exercise, I employed a couple of other strategies that I generally use when I travel. I brought some low-calorie blueberry-yogurt muffins with me to eat for breakfast in the morning. I had a muffin and then I went down to my meetings and went straight to the fruit tray for snacks between meetings. I was careful about what I ordered for lunch when I had lunch with colleagues and I was careful with the lunch that was served at the conference. I didn't eat the bread, avoided the sweets, and was very sparing with the salad dressing. In the end, I did go over my calorie budget every day. This was no surprise, given the pizza I ate and the fact that I did not get enough exercise every day. That said, I didn't do bad. I was down 3 pounds when I left for the conference and up 2.5 when I returned. I am reasonably certain that some of that is water weight from all the salty food. In any event, I'm not going to freak out. I know exactly what to do, I'm back onto my routine, which I've modified a bit. I'm having a shake for dinner every day and I'm on mostly fruits and veggies (save for my breakfast cheerios) - kind of a modified "healthy solutions" plan. I've done it before and it works for me. It'll probably take me a week to take off the weight I just put on. So, I basically set my weight loss back a week.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Little Freaked Out...

For the first time since I have started this weight loss, I have gained a bit of weight (4 pounds over the last week!) and I have no idea why. Here are my current theories, but none of them seems to work:

  1. I'm thinking it may be that I am really close to my time of the month, but I usually don't gain this much and it's usually not before.
  2. I reassessed what I've been eating, and, since I returned from visiting my family about a week ago, I've been doing quite well. I had a few terrible (excessive calories) days when I was visiting my family - but that has happened before, and I'm usually fine - generally, I will be back to my "starting weight" within a few days of returning, and I was losing weight at the beginning of the week. Then this sudden huge gain. Hmm... No idea, and it is freaking me out quite a bit.
  3. The only thing that I have been doing differently is that I have been ingesting more caffeine, I drink 1/2 a cup of coffee in the morning with a tablespoon of cream (35 calories) - but (a) I account for that in my calories and (b) it shouldn't account for four pounds in two days.
  4. I went out to lunch with my husband on Tuesday and had a burrito, which is definitely not low-calorie, but I adjusted my food / exercise, so that my net was only around 1700 for the day (I usually try to keep it around 1200 calories), and I am always very generous with my calorie estimations when I eat out (I will overestimate if there is any question) I've done this several times before and never had an issue. Gah! No idea.
  5. I haven't walked steps for a few days because my knee has been bugging me (need to get that checked, it's been a week) - and I've missed my lunch walk on 2 days because I was busy running around taking care of all the tasks I had to address after my purse was stolen on Monday. But I don't think that skipping my walk for 2 days would account for this (and - with the exception of my day eating out with my husband - I continue to net 1200 calories or less)
  6. I've been incredibly stressed lately. Maybe that has something to do with it. I am having a stressful, busy time at work, my purse was stolen, and both of our cars are giving us trouble - and that has really caused quite a bit of stress over the past month or so. Maybe that has something to do with it, I've heard that stress can help lead to weight gain...??
Maybe it is some combination of these factors. I will keep an eye on my weight over the next couple of weeks, control the things that I can (cut out the caffeine, make sure I get my walk, get my knee checked before it is something serious, try to relax about the purse issue...) and see what happens. I am travelling next week (part of my stress is that my corporate card, all of my identification, my Ipad and my Iphone were stolen with my purse, and I have to board a plane on Monday for a conference, and pay for meals, hotel, etc... with my own diminished funds unless my corporate card gets here on time - it is expensive to replace this stuff and my car is constantly in the shop).  So there it is. I'll try to blog over the next couple of weeks about what I am doing and how it is going. But I am seriously freaked out at this point (more stress, that's helpful).

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Obsession with Planning

I have had a crazy busy summer. I have been travelling a LOT, and with travel, particularly travel to see family and friends, comes a minefield of issues that can throw weight loss / maintenance into a tailspin and good habits off track.  So here, again, is another blog entry about the importance of planning.

One problem I have when I travel is what to do about exercise. When I have multi-day business trips, it's fairly easy, I find the gym and the pool at the hotel at which I am staying and I swim and /or work out on the elliptical or on the treadmill for an hour. It's just a matter of motivating myself to get down to the exercise facilities, which, once I started to make this a part of my business travel routine, has become pretty easy.

There are two instances in which exercise while travelling has become challenging, and planning helps me to make sure I do at least a small amount of exercise and keep my weight on track. The first instance is when I travel for business and rather than a multiple day trip, the trip is a really long day trip. I have one of those coming up on Monday, I have to catch a train at 6am and I won't be back to town until after 8pm. (Four hour train ride each way). I know myself well enough to know that I will NOT want to exercise when I get home.  The meeting is at a college campus, so I have decided to do a walk (this is my standard "what do do when there is nothing else" answer to exercise). There should be a 45 minute to hour long break for lunch, so I can get at least 1/2 an hour then. There also be a couple of short breaks between sessions throughout the day, so I can get short 10 minute walks in during those breaks. I'll make sure not to wear heals or uncomfortable shoes for this particular event, I'll dress in layers so that I can be comfortable in a ridiculously cold room (as tends to happen at these things) without having to worry about being sweaty and smelly after a short walk, and I'll keep my eyes open for stairs that I can climb to get the most out of my short time. There, planned. Now, for the food issue.

When I'm not going to be getting a lot of exercise, I need to make sure I balance my calories. I try to net around 1200 a day, which is not a lot at all and adds up fast, particularly when I don't get a lot of exercise. I am certain that lunch at my Monday meeting will contain a sandwich of some kind, which is fine. A lot of people will avoid breads altogether, which is not a bad idea, given that breads are generally laden with calories. I don't completely avoid bread, though I'm very careful about how much and what types I eat. If there is a whole grain option, for example, I will usually take that. Generally, this particular gathering offers boxed lunches with sandwiches that have do-it-yourself condiments. The mayonnaise will not be making an appearance on my sandwich. Instead, because I do not like my sandwich to be dry, I'll use a bit of the mustard. I will have some cheese on my sandwich, but only one slice (there are generally two or three on these sandwiches). I will avoid the cookies and chips and opt for the small piece of fruit that is usually included. I will pack a small lunch bag with snacks and dinner. I'll probably take some fruit - maybe an apple, some strawberries, baby carrots, a low-fat blueberry yogurt muffin or two, and a 100 calorie (one cup) bag of cheerios  (yes, I'm five and I snack on cheerios). That should get me by, but I will pack a couple of  HMR bars on which I can snack, just in case I get hungry despite my nutritious snacks.

Okay, Monday is planned.

The other instance in which I find it difficult to fit in my exercise is when I travel for leisure, particularly when I am staying with family or friends. It is really difficult to schedule exercise into these trips because I do not want to take time away from visiting with family and friends, but I do need to take some time out to do something. I have yet to master this one. I have started to wake up early in the morning and go to the local gym (generally around $10 for a day pass, which can get expensive, but thus far, I've managed to negotiate with them to secure a bit of a better deal). When I cannot go to the gym, I try to make sure I go for a walk. I will walk with family or friends, if they would like, otherwise, I just grab my husband and we go for at least an hour. It's something. It's also more difficult to plan when you are visiting friends / relatives. I'm still working on this one, but I'm getting there - and I'm sure I'll write all about it when I master it. :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Back from Vacation

I have been totally neglecting this blog lately, but I'm back now and resolved to update more often. I just got back from a 3 week vacation - most of which was a "staycation" - but, I live in San Diego, so that wasn't so bad. This whole lifestyle change thing that was necessary to lose weight isn't so bad. In fact, I love it. My husband and I keep kicking ourselves for not getting out sooner. We live in a beautiful city and a beautiful area.

We got a LOT of exercise on our vacation - not just exercise for the sake of exercise - but a lot of the activities we discovered when we were trying to spice up our physical activity ("PA," otherwise known as exercise) - we found that we really enjoyed. And we are still exploring, which is fun. We went paddleboarding off the coast of Santa Barbara, hiking in the hills surrounding Santa Barbara (Montecito), we went on a beautiful, long (for us) bike ride along Silver Strand Beach in Coranado, a long walk from Mission Bay to Mission Beach to Ocean Beach to Pacific Beach and around the bay. We went Kayaking several times out into Mission Bay in San Diego, including once out to see the fireworks on the fourth of July.  We had a so much fun exploring our beautiful city - I really wish we had done it before.

We also went out to eat a lot - not as much as we would have a year or so ago, but we did go out more than usual, it was our anniversary and we were visiting friends and family. Two things helped us to maintain our weight: (1) we were careful to order low calorie items from the menu and avoid bread, chips, etc. and (2) we were very active over most of our vacation. Both my husband and I maintained our weight loss. I didn't lose any more, but given that we were on vacation, I'm proud of myself for maintaining.

Now back to reality, less eating out, and back to my usual eating and exercise routine.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Good start, Disney

I just wanted to take a moment to recognize the responsible corporate decision that the Walt Disney Company made to stop airing ads for junk food aimed at kids during kid-focused programming. This will potentially lose Disney revenue, so good for them for opting to do it anyway. Of course, I'm curious to see what their definition of "junk food" is - and what nutritional standards they are applying - and I'm not saying that this is the solution to all of our problems around childhood nutrition - but it is certainly a start.

"By 2015, all food and beverage products that are advertised, promoted or sponsored on the Disney ChannelDisney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney, and Saturday morning programming for kids on ABC-owned stations (Disney owns ABC) will have to meet the company's nutrition criteria for limiting calories and reducing saturated fat, sodium and sugar."
Here is a link to the story.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Unpleasant reminder

As a rule, I do not step on the scale during my time of the month. It's just a horrible idea. Women can tend to gain a lot of weight during this particular time frame. I have read other blogs that have said the same thing, they are all quite correct and I know better.

That said, I was feeling pretty cocky and confident this morning because I kicked ass this weekend. I kept my calories under control, succeeded in my goal of adding more fruits and lots of veggies back into my daily eating and I got a ton of exercise. Friday, I did water aerobics for an hour, then I made sure to get my lunch walk in - a good 30 minutes of brisk walking, then I went dancing for about an hour and a half with my husband Friday night. Saturday, I walked for about 13 miles around Mission Bay. Sunday, I had a good 45 minute workout on the elliptical and then I went dancing again for about an hour and a half on Sunday night (fun and great exercise). So, I rocked. Like I said, I was feeling pretty confident and cocky this morning - I was sure, despite the fact of the time of the month, that I would step on the scale and be down. I stepped on and waited for the beautiful numbers. Up 3 pounds. Argh! Okay, lesson learned and confirmed. Do not step on the scale - no matter what - during that time of the month! Terrible, discouraging thing to do!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Troubling Trend

I love to pontificate about everything that I am doing to lose weight - particularly when I am doing really well and have all kinds of brilliant tips and wisdom to share. When I slip, I don't feel nearly as brilliant and it's not quite as much fun to pontificate. That said, this is one of those posts where I'm going to share something about which I'm a bit worried.

I track everything I eat. It isn't very difficult now that I'm in the habit, and it really keeps me on track.  Because I track everything I eat on an app, I can go back and look at my net calories for the week over the past few weeks - I've noticed that this has been trending up. I'm still netting between 1200 and 1400 calories a day - but my overall calories consumed (not net calories)  for the week and my daily calories are trending up slightly from a few weeks ago and from a few weeks before that. Only slightly, but it makes me nervous.

The reason this makes me nervous is because I can see this trend continuing until I am eating way too many calories again. The gradual increase could very well sneak up on me and become a bad habit, and bad habits are incredibly difficult to break.

Therefore, I need to be more mindful and re-evaluate what I am eating. I see right away that I have been adding a lot of breads into my diet (I really like pita bread with my hummus, for example) - so I need to reduce the breads again and pick up more veggies with (or without) the hummus when I want a small snack. The other problem I can see is that I have been snacking more. It isn't out of control, but I need to watch it and limit when I snack and on what I am snacking. Like I said, I'm still keeping my net calories fairly low because I am pretty active, but I can see these creeping calorie increases causing a problem and becoming a hard to break habit.  I'm going to watch them and I'll start by reducing the breads and increasing the veggies.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Planning to Avoid Catastrophe

Okay, so maybe I'm being a little overly-hyperbolic calling getting a few too many calories in a day a catastrophe...but these things can add up.  Anyway, I had lunch with a colleague and a former colleague yesterday.  To prepare for this, I planned my entire day and entered it into MyFitnessPal.  I knew what I was going to eat for breakfast and for dinner and my morning snack, and I knew what exercise I was getting.  After I entered all my information, I could see that I had 900 calories left for lunch and other snacks.

Prior to going out to lunch, I looked at the menus for our first choice and second choice of restaurants (if one was too busy, we were going to go to the other one to avoid a long wait over our lunch hour). I chose what I would order in each restaurant, so that I had a plan no matter where we went. My lunch would end up totaling 600 - 800 calories. This was more than I usually have for lunch, but given how I structured my day knowing that I needed to make room for lunch, it worked nicely. Ultimately, lunch was 650 calories. Not bad. This left me an additional 250 with which to play for snacks - and 250 can go a long way with fruits and veggies.  I spaced out my snacks and my dinner for the remainder of the day and finished with about 100 calories left in my budget at the end of the day. (I ate about 1600 calories total and did 500 calories of exercise - so my net calories were 1100 / 1200 in my budget)

I have to say it again, planning is very important to weight loss and weight management. It allows me to have days where I go out to the restaurant with friends and colleagues without overdoing the calories and without going hungry for the rest of the day. It takes some practice to develop the habit - but in my opinion, it is just as important as diet and exercise.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Challenges of Travel

I just got back from a 2-day conference out of town. These trips are always challenging, and, to be honest, I allowed for a few more calories than I'm comfortable with this time.  That said, I'm happy overall with how I handled it - excess calories notwithstanding.

Here is what I did to keep it under control:
  1. Snacks: I packed some of my own snacks on which to munch should I get hungry between workshops. A couple pieces of portable fruit (apples and oranges), a couple of bars (HMR), and three low-calorie muffins that I made at home (blueberry yogurt).
  2. Breakfast: I packed my own breakfast. I packed the muffins for breakfast on day 2, because I'm always a sucker for the breakfast at these things. Usually, they offer bagels, cream cheese, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, sometimes waffles, pastries and fruit. Simply eating the fruit will not satisfy me, and I'll be snacking at the first break on whatever bread product they offer. So, I used to just eat what they put out - a bagel, maybe some eggs and a sausage with fruit. The food isn't great at these things (bagels are generally dry, eggs are pretty gross, particularly when they cool off, sausage is greasy...) so that is lots of calories for no good reason (lots of calories I don't love).  This time, I ate my muffin in the room (about 150 calories, and relatively filling) and then I filled my plate with fruit at the buffet table (another 120 - 150 calories). Not bad. I avoided the juices offered, but I did have coffee with a little cream (about a tablespoon of half and half - 20-30 calories).  This breakfast did the trick.
  3. Breaks: I avoided the snacks at break.  First, there were no fruit and veggies involved in these break snacks at all (not that I saw). Second, most of the snacks were bread / fat. They had fried hush puppies (or something similar and fried, I saw floating around on plates), warm pretzels with cheese, popcorn, cookies...and soda. I grabbed a water and made my way into the next room to chat with others. At one point, I went up to my room for a couple of minutes at the break (and ate some of my cheerios), just to avoid the snacks - which looked and smelled great.
  4. Lunch: The lunches at this particular function were buffet-style, which made it a lot easier for me. I loaded my plate up with a lot of salad, put a small amount (about 2-3 Tbsp) of balsamic vinaigrette dressing on my salad. I usually like dressing on the side, but that wasn't possible here. Then, I took a very small piece of roasted chicken (about 2 oz), a slice of roasted potato, and a cup of minestrone soup.  I avoided the gravy, the breads, the red meat, and the desserts. All in all, more calories than I would have liked, but not so bad, considering that I was at a conference.
  5. Exercise: I arrived a couple of hours before the conference began, so I made sure to look at the hotel information book in my room to find the fitness center. I then went down and found it prior to my first meeting. After all my meetings, I made sure to visit the fitness center for 30 minutes on the elliptical. It's less time than I usually exercise, but it's better than nothing. Then next morning, I made sure to wake up on time to put in another 30 minutes before breakfast because I knew that with travel and meetings, I wouldn't have any more time to exercise and I knew I would be so wiped out when I arrived at home that I wouldn't want to exercise.
  6. Travel snacks: I packed a couple of cups of cheerios, some extra muffins, and HMR bars to eat on the train on the way up and back. In business class, Amtrak offers muffins, apple juice, coffee and other snacks for your trip, none of which are really very diet friendly. Therefore, on the way up, I had two of my muffins and a coffee for breakfast, that worked really well. And on the way back, I had an HMR bar and a diet soda. This helped to satiate me and to avoid the snacks that Amtrak provides, which, again, aren't that great and just add a lot of unnecessary calories.
My slip up: I am certainly not perfect, and I did have 2 meatball sliders (those small hamburger-type appetizers) and one chicken slider at the reception on the first night. I was hungry and this was what the conference organizers offered up for dinner. I figured it was the sliders or room service, which really didn't offer any very low-calorie options. Still, I probably should have stopped at two and a salad from room service would have likely been a better choice.

So, all in all, I think the trip went pretty well - and there you have my travel tips :-) 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Recognizing the Value in Everyone

I think it is important to recognize the value in everyone. This may see a bit off-topic, or cheesy for a weight loss blog, but hear me out, it is very relevant to weight loss in particular.

It is still difficult for me to talk about how being overweight made me feel.  While watching the HBO documentary mini-series, I could relate with quite a few of the people who spoke. One of the individuals was a judge who talked about his feelings about being overweight and his inability to solve the problem. He said that he was successful and smart and could do anything else he put his mind to, but he could not solve his weight problem, no matter how hard he tried. I can totally relate to that sentiment. I felt exactly the same way. I'm fairly accomplished, and I have always been able to accomplish anything to which I put my mind, almost to a fault. My husband teases me about how I "stick onto things," my parents say that I was "strong-willed" as a child, and I've been told on more than one occasion how "hard-headed" or stubborn I am. It's true, once I decide to do something, I do it. Except to lose weight. I tried and tried and tried and failed and failed and failed. I knew what to do, I just could not motivate myself to do what I needed to do. I finally did it, but only after well over a decade of being obese. I finally figured it out and now I'm well on my way to my goal and I know I'll reach it. But, I didn't do it alone. It was not by sheer force of my own willpower or my strength of character or my intelligence that got me through. I did it, make no mistake, and I am incredibly proud of myself. However, I did have help and support and I cannot forget that. Everyone from my husband, my friends, my family, and my co-workers, to the teachers and participants in the exercise classes at the gym, the instructors at the weight loss clinic, and my doctors helped me. I have a couple of family members who should get prizes for how wonderfully inspiring and encouraging they are. And I am grateful to each one of these people for the part they played.

So, there are two lessons here:

  1.  As people, whether we are of a healthy weight, overweight, obese, healthy, unhealthy, exercise fanatics, or not - we need to appreciate the position of others. I would never wish the way that I felt, physically or -  probably more importantly - emotionally, on anyone else. It was awful. Believe me, overweight people know they are overweight. Generally, they do not like it. If one of them shows up in your exercise class, if you see someone running, biking, swimming,, welcome that person, know that they are likely outside of their comfort zone and they are making an effort. I was intimidated when I started this process. I was intimidated every time I tried something new. I still am, to a certain extent, though my confidence is much higher than it was and it is much easier than it was. Your encouragement will help, even if you don't say anything. Even if all you do is smile and be courteous. Recognize the value in the person, this could be someone you love who is trying to get healthy.  On the other hand, if you are overweight, don't assume that someone who is fit and healthy got that way purely through the blessings of genetics. It's true, that plays a role, but generally, there is a lot of hard work involved. So, there should be no judging on either "side."
  2. As someone who had a horrible weight problem and will have to work to manage my weight for the rest of my life, I have to appreciate those people who accepted me when I was overweight, did not judge me (or at least not in any obvious way) and encouraged and helped me when I was finally in a place to lose weight.  Some of these people may simply have been doing their jobs or behaving like family and friends are "supposed to" behave, but it made all the difference to me. I am a pretty strong person, and in the end, I did this for myself.  I would never have admitted it - but looking back - I needed the support and the encouragement. It was nice to hear it at work when people could see my progress. It was very encouraging to hear my husband to tell me how proud of me he was / is.  It was incredibly motivating to feel welcome and comfortable in exercise classes with a bunch of people who were in far better shape than I. So, thank you to those people - and I'll tell them in person wherever I can. I think it is important for people to understand their impact and the value of what they do in their work and in their lives. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Long Slog

I'm almost "there." In the larger scheme of things, I'm within about 30-40 pounds of my goal. I say 30-40 because I am 30 pounds away from being at a "normal" weight  (no longer overweight according to the BMI), but I'm 40 pounds away from where I want to be. I know that I will fluctuate, so I'm setting a 10 pound range in which I will allow myself to fluctuate - if I hit the top of the range, I know I need to step back and use my tools to get my weight back under control.  I'm not aiming for the mid- or low- normal range because, frankly, I couldn't maintain it. I need  a healthy weight that I can maintain so I'm shooting for just within the normal range for my height.

I've lost 75% of the weight I need to lose, you would think that the last 30-40 pounds would be cake (excuse the expression). I'm almost there! But it's not easier. It gets more difficult as I get closer to my goal. I have to work harder to take the weight off. In addition, I'm trying to normalize my diet. I don't mind having the frozen entrees for lunch at work, they are a great way to control my calories and they are very convenient, easy to pack, etc. That said, I do not want to have to eat them on the weekend or in the evenings. I want to eat healthy, whole foods without so many preservatives and without so much sodium. So my husband and I have been cooking for ourselves. To do that and continue to lose weight takes quite a bit of practice. So far, we've been successful, I'm still losing weight - and my husband is as well - but our weight loss has slowed considerably. I love how I look and feel now, but honestly, I'm getting impatient. I want to be "there," so that I can buy my new wardrobe and start figuring out the most important piece of this process - how to maintain.

All that said, I'm going to suck it up and continue the slow slog toward my goal. I know it will be worth it. I've said this so many times - but I'll say it again - I feel great, I look great, I no longer get migraines like I used to, I am far more comfortable, I can do more, my life is bigger, I have more energy and I have more stamina. This slow slog of  weight loss is totally worth it.

I've had several occasions where someone will ask me how I lost weight, I tell them diet and exercise - lifestyle change - and I can see the disappointment on their face. Everyone seems to want that quick fix, the diet that works overnight - or at least in a few weeks. No one wants to hear that they need to change their lifestyle, because it is hard work and it takes time. The problem with the quick fix is that once the "diet" is over the eating patterns and lifestyle that were the problem in the first place, return. The long slog is really worth it in the end.  I am plodding along, but I know that I have the tools I need to maintain this weight loss and avoid the old, bad habits that resulted in my being so overweight for so long.

HBO Series

FYI: HBO is airing a series called "The Weight of the Nation" about the obesity epidemic in the US.

The first two episodes aired last night and the second two will air tonight. HBO is making these episodes available for free online here.

 I have also posted them on the video page of this blog.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to Deal with Disneyland & Other Potential Disasters

My husband and I have season passes to Disneyland. We love it. We got them as a reward to ourselves when we lost our first 50 pounds. When we started going, we went with the intention of getting a lot of getting exercise - we will walk for at least 5 or 6 hours each time we go. The trick is NOT to counteract all of the benefit of all that walking with junk food calories. Junk food abounds at Disneyland, and you can smell the salty, greasy deliciousness all over the parks. (I could swear that they pump the aroma into the air). We went again last weekend and so I thought I would share how we deal with it. Here is what we do when we go to Disneyland, and I think these little tips and tricks will probably work for other theme parks and the like as well - some of these may work for you, some may not - just take what is useful :-)

  1. We have a good breakfast. We keep breakfast low-calorie, but it is a bit higher in calories than what we would have, say, during our regular work week. We make sure to have some protein with it because protein will help us to feel full longer. Generally a couple pieces of toast (whole wheat) with a Tablespoon of Peanut Butter, a banana and a water or a Crystal Lite or coffee...NOT Starbuck's.  This may sound like a small breakfast, but it will usually keep us feeling full for a while.
  2. We pack snacks / lunch for the park. We have a cooler that is a backpack, and it works perfectly for this. We usually cut up a couple of apples, pack a couple of pineapple spears (double bagged because they get sticky and can leak juice all over the bag and make a mess), take along some of our muffins - about 2 for each of us (see my recipes) and we will take a couple bags of Cheerios (measured out - 2 cups / bag). These snacks plus 4 bottles of water are more than enough to keep us going while we are in the park.  We generally put our backpack in a locker for the day, and can come back to it when we get hungry. However, if you are a person who impulse eats at these places, either take the cooler with you, or take a bag with at least one of the snacks along with you and refill as needed.
  3. If you find yourself hungry without a low-cal snack you brought with you, Disneyland (and I think some other theme parks may do this too) has fresh fruit around the park. Pineapple, apples, watermelon, bananas...find a snack stand that sells fruit and get some - it's pretty good!
  4. We have learned to enjoy the smell of the food as a part of the experience of being in the park. The food generally does not taste as good as it smells anyway, and I always feel lethargic after eating greasy salty food. But it does smell wonderful - and there is nothing wrong with enjoying that the scenery - it is a sensory experience to enjoy. However, there is no need to follow the experience of enjoying the aroma with eating the food you are smelling. I know, it sounds weird and counter-intuitive - but it works for me.
  5. We make sure to walk a lot. We make a point of doing a "lap" around each of the parks and then around Downtown Disney and the hotels. It's a lot of fun, and you discover "hidden" things in / around the parks that you didn't know were there.
  6. We generally go out to eat after we go to the park. So, we make sure we know what restaurants are in the area when we go out. At Disneyland, we know that there is a Cheesecake Factory a nice walk from the park (about a mile) - we walk to that restaurant and order from their "skinny-licious" menu. (note that if the restaurant is a chain, you can likely find their menu and calorie information online if you want to plan- and you should- but if you don't, chain restaurants will have the calorie information available for you and if it is not included on the menu, ask for it)  Now, the meal is NOT going to be low-calorie compared to what we normally eat for dinner - but it It ends up being about 600 - 800 calories. We don't eat the bread, and we order diet soda and / or water. This works out nicely, the food is good and we can enjoy it without worrying about totally going over our calorie budget. We have done it a few times, and we always end the day netting around 800-1000 calories. We eat more than usual, but the walking really does the trick - even just giving ourselves credit for burning 3 calories a minute - because of the slow pace and frequent stops - walking for 6 hours will burn over 1000 calories.  That said, theme park junk food will eat that 1000 calories up in a heartbeat so make sure to stay hydrated (and limit caffeine) and take low-cal snacks. And have fun 
So, those are my little theme part tips, enjoy!

We went to Disneyland again over the weekend, and I was down 2 pounds this morning... so this method works pretty well for me. And I am officially NOT obese (according to the BMI) anymore!!!! I never thought I would be so happy to be overweight!  38 pounds to go!!