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, skating...smile, 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 smell...like 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!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Little Inspiration

I'll be honest, I'm totally ripping off another blog posting this (keeping off 200 pounds) - but it is incredibly inspirational, so I had to share it as well:

Expanding My Horizons

I am really looking forward to this weekend. My husband and I are going to Disneyland tonight and tomorrow (lots of walking and we will bring our own food), then we are going for one of our beautiful long bike rides around Mission Bay on Sunday morning, and we are taking ballroom dancing lessons on Sunday night. Fun times!  We'll get a lot of exercise this weekend, but that's not why we planned these activities. We planned them because we quite enjoy them. Okay, so the dancing was all my idea, but I think my husband is actually kind of excited to try it (plus, I'm going to the Avengers with him on Saturday, so he owes me one).

Trying ballroom dancing, bellydancing, Zumba, kayaking, exploring different bike trails and hiking trails, and trying other new, active things has been one of the best side benefits of our little weight loss adventure. It has been a lot of fun to expand our horizons and we have found so many things that we love to do. When we started, we just made sure to schedule a lot of walking into our weekends. Now, we have more than enough fun activities to keep us busy and moving all weekend without even trying. Generally, I don't have to drag myself out on the weekend and force myself to do something active - we'll just pick something and go enjoy ourselves.

My little piece of weekend advice for anyone trying to lose weight, maintain weight, or live a more healthy lifestyle is to try something new and active. Find something you've always wanted to try, but never have - for whatever reason and do it. You may end up loving it and then you will have at least one active thing on your list of exercises that you love to do. Then, expand from there - if you hear about something that sounds like fun, try it. You may love it and have something else to add to the list - or you may be indifferent or even hate it... but it never hurts to try - then you know. Eventually, you will have a variety of exercises and activities to keep you moving. ...and, as a bonus, these things will help you lose weight /maintain your weight and live a healthy lifestyle.  So, have a wonderful weekend - and I am going to have an awesome time on Sunday learning how to do the waltz with my husband. :-)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I've been asked what finally motivated me to lose weight. For me, it was that I was sick of being achy and tired and I hated the feeling of being the fat person in the room. Maybe people weren't judging me by my size, but I certainly judged myself and I felt like others were too. And it's true that people do treat me differently now, but I don't know if it is because I am more confident or because I have lost weight or both. I was also very worried about my husband, who was really overweight as well, as I've mentioned before - we did this together.

But how to motivate someone ELSE to lose weight is a question I get asked quite a lot, and it is something I'm starting to notice in the literature I read about the obesity epidemic in this country (see, for example, this article). People want to know how to motivate their loved ones and some businesses want to know how to motivate employees and consumers as a cost saving measure. Obese employees, it turns out, are expensive. Some businesses, like the airline industry and transit industry (and, I have noticed lately, amusement parks) have to take expensive measures to accommodate the increasingly growing population of obese people that use their services. So how to motivate people to lose weight is a question on the minds of quite a few people.

The sad answer is that it is very difficult to motivate someone else to lose weight. Each person is different and thus will be motivated by different things. To lose weight and keep it off, the motivation needs to come from within. Now, it may be that the inconvenience of it all will be enough to trigger that internal motivation, but it has to be an internal decision. Every single fat person knows exactly how to lose weight, I did. That was not the problem. The problem was that I did not truly want to change my lifestyle in the drastic way I had to change it to lose weight. Honestly, it is a huge undertaking, it is not easy, and it takes way more than willpower to do it (willpower is a finite resource).  I needed to want to do it and to really commit to it. The motivation to start came from within. That first, big step was one I had to take myself, I had to decide to do what it took to be healthy for me. I will say that conversations with my husband about how we were too young to be so unhealthy and the scary implications of our weight problem were a big part of what motivated me to start. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone is different, it depends on the individual and what is important to that person. That said, once I made the decision, the support and encouragement from my husband, my family, my friends, and even my co-workers helped immensely to keep my motivation going. So, once someone in your life begins to lose weight, sincere, encouraging complements are a fantastic help. Let them know how good they look and how well they are doing. I know it helped me.

The motivation to keep it off is another matter. I have said it before and I will say it again here - I am terrified about putting the weight back on. My motivation has changed a bit as I have become more comfortable with the way that I look and as I get closer to my goal. I love how I feel. I continue to eat a healthy, low-calorie diet and exercise not only because I look better and I am continuing to lose weight, but because I feel so much better. I am more confident, I have way more energy, and I quite enjoy my new, more active lifestyle, love my new wardrobe, and I will often kick myself for not doing this sooner. I love that I can go kayaking, love my long walks with my husband, our bike rides, my Zumba class, swimming...I no longer do these things because I have to, to lose weight. I do these things because I love to do them - my motivation has changed, and I think that this will help me to continue to lose to my goal and maintain it when I reach it.