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, workout....an 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.