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's...you 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 another....by the time I was done, I had eaten the equivalent of about 2 and a half bars...at 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. :-)