Thursday, September 26, 2013

Back on Track

A month has gone by - wow! It took some doing, but I am back to within 2 pounds of my pre-vacation weight. I am now happily back to my routine and it is paying off, albeit slowly. I actually went back to the dreaded shakes for a while (I'm still replacing one meal a day with them.). They really aren't so bad, but going back was still depressing. It was worth it though. While I really do not think that these shakes and meal replacements should become a regular part of a diet - using them on occasion (pre- and post- Holidays and vacations) I think is okay to help keep things under control. I will probably stay on once-a-day meal replacement (with two light meals and several light snacks - fruit and veggies - netting about 1200 calories a day) until after the Holidays, just to be sure I maintain through this bumpy time of the year.

Anyway, just a little update - Happily, I am on my way back down, and my clothes aren't fitting quite so snugly anymore - Yay!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vacation Lessons

I'm back, after an awesome vacation and some much-needed relaxation.  My husband and I spent the end of June and the better part of July in Europe. We hiked the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, 130 miles in 9 days. Awesome and breathtakingly beautiful. It was a wonderful experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys hiking - though the 11 day hike that we did was quite challenging (it is advertised as "11 days" but we didn't hike the first and last day). We also did some kayaking and a couple of wonderful day hikes in other parts of Ireland. Then, we spent four days in Paris over Bastille Day. This was quite a different experience, but still amazing and fun. We walked around the city and took in the sights, shopped and ate on the Champs-Élysées (I could even shop in the boutiques, the clothes fit!!! yay!...I bought a cute skirt and some pants...but I digress...). On Bastille Day (July 14), we watched the parade down the Champs-Élysées, spent the day walking around and enjoying the city and the festivities surrounding the celebration, then ate a picnic dinner on the Champs de Mars (In front of the Eiffel Tower) and closed the day watching an amazing 45-minute-long fireworks display - complete with laser light show and soundtrack. Awesome.

Then, we got back home after 130 miles of hiking, lots of walking, kayaking...and one month of no scale and no tracking my food = 15 pounds up!!! Yikes. I nearly fainted when I stepped on the scale the day I returned. My clothes were a bit tight, I noticed, and when I was shopping in Paris, I had to buy the equivalent of one size up from what I usually wear, but I wrote that off as European tailoring. Nope. I had gained quite a bit of weight. Proof positive that "you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise" is a myth at best.  That's not to say that exercise is not vital, but the eating right - I think that is about 75% of the battle. The weight gain probably had a lot to do with the bread and cheese and pastries in Paris, and the Pub Grub at the end of my time in Ireland. Note - next time schedule the intensive exercise portion at the END of the vacation. :-) All that said, I have absolutely no regrets.

I had promised myself and my husband that I was not going to obsess about my diet (again, when I say "diet" I mean what I put in my mouth every day, not a temporary fad or reduction in calories) when we were on vacation and, honestly, I was ready for the weight gain - just was not prepared for how MUCH weight I gained. Anyway, that was a month ago. I was back on my routine within two weeks - recording everything I eat, exercise daily (if nothing else, I make sure that I walk 1/2 an hour),  balancing my calories...and so on.  I lost six pounds almost immediately, I'm thinking that the day I returned, I must have been retaining a lot of water or something, because within like four days, I was down 6 pounds and feeling quite a bit less bloated. I have since lost another 3 pounds. I am still up 6 pounds from when I left for vacation, but I'm on my way back down - so, I'm okay with that. As long as this weight does not stick around, I'll be fine.

This whole weight loss and maintenance thing is a learning experience. I know that I am going to slip up once in a while, and gain weight. But now that I'm paying attention, I am starting to become very aware of what I need to do to be successful.

Vacation Lessons Learned:
(1) Enjoy vacation and do not obsess about my diet and my weight. This may be different for different people, but I am not going to ruin a vacation with ridiculous obsessing.

(2) That said, balance - again - is the key.  I can still eat healthy even when I allow myself to splurge and eat higher calorie food now and again. I caught myself  eating a LOT of sweets and breads and eating when I really was not hungry on a couple of occasions. I don't need to do those things to enjoy my vacation. Plus, when I stuff myself or eat unhealthy food for days on end, I don't enjoy myself as much because I don't have as much energy. So, mitigating the junk food - without obsessing about it - actually would add to the enjoyment of the vacation. I just over-did it this time. Next time, I'll be a little more careful.

(3) Schedule a lot of physical activity into the vacation. It's fun. Walking tours and hiking and kayaking - we saw SO much more than we used to when we took bus tours and boat tours... When we were hiking in Ireland, we could stand up on the top of a mountain (well, an Irish mountain anyway) and watch the tour buses go by below us. Let me tell you - our view was SO much better! And kayaking on the lakes was amazing. It was peaceful and gorgeous, we kayaked out to an island with a castle - it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves (we did, it was just us and our guide, and some red deer :-) ) And the same was true when we were hiking - we were in the middle of this gorgeous landscape. Just us. No hordes of other tourists.  So, we were getting this great exercise and getting way more out of our vacation time as well. I will say that it was also a LOT more relaxing. The food tasted better and we slept really well after a 10-hour day of hiking in the hills, forests and around the coast of Ireland.

I am having a great summer! I hope you are as well.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Just a couple of hiking photos from today's hiking trip. Fun!!

One benefit of my weight loss journey (and that of my husband) is that we have found so many things we love to do. Hiking is one of those things. This is great exercise - we were out for over 5 hours today - but we weren't doing it for the exercise, we were doing it purely for enjoyment.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nip It In the Bud

I'm still plugging along. I am still about 25 pounds away from my goal, I'm not losing very fast at this point, but I'm not gaining any weight either. In fact, I am losing clothing sizes. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I fit into a size 6 about a month ago. Now, I am very comfortably in the size 6.  I am staying stubbornly just above 160. I'm at 161 and the scale absolutely refuses to budge below 160. Gah! But that is actually okay. My focus at this point is to continue with the good habits that I have formed and to avoid slipping into the old, unhealthy, bad habits that resulted in my weight gain to begin with.  I'll lose weight. It'll just be slow. Fine with me. But those bad habits can creep up very innocently and unnoticed.

Here is an example of a fail that I caught and to which my husband and I created a solution: We have been hiking after work quite a bit as of late because we are preparing for our epic 130-mile hike around the Ring of Kerry in Ireland in late June. We generally put on our heavy hiking boots and do a lot of climbing hills and walking in the sand* to add to the level of difficulty.  We generally hike for about two to three hours after work (on the weekends, its more like 5-7 hours). There have been several occasions where, upon finishing the hike on the drive home, we are both famished and neither of us feels like waiting to cook a good, healthy, low-calorie dinner. So, we have stopped at the Mexican food place down the street from our house. Yum. "We'll just stop this time, never again" is always the mantra. Yeah, we've done this enough times that I would call it a habit now. We don't do it every time, but we did it twice in one week a couple of weeks ago, and that is way too much. After devouring our hideously caloric and fattening (albeit delicious) burritos, we had to step back and take a look at the situation. Not only are those things high calorie and fattening, they are greasy and choc-full of really unhealthy stuff...and my cholesterol is beautiful at the moment. I do not want to mess with that success. So, here is the strategy we have devised and it seems to be working:

  1. We always have healthy, low-calorie food on hand for our lunches. We decided to simply have a bit more of that on hand for days when we are famished from hiking and need a quick meal. And we can always steam up some veggies fairly quickly. The quick food that has worked best for us is Thai chicken lettuce wraps. I make the filling and the sauce ahead of time, and we keep some of that on hand. It isn't the lowest-calorie food you could eat b/c it has quite a bit of peanuts / peanut butter in it (homemade peanut butter), but it also does not take a lot to fill us up - because of the peanuts and protein - and they hit the spot after an after-work hike. We can eat them cold, they are delicious, and they are very satisfying. Much more than any burritos we could eat.
  2. We always have a lot of fruit on hand. Now, we make sure that we have a piece of fruit before our hike (bananas seem to work best) and, of course, we drink lots of water.
We do these two things and (a) we are not quite so famished when we are done with our hike and (b)we don't over-eat or eat highly caloric / fattening / salty fast food. Nipped that bad habit in the bud. 

Like I said, I haven't gained any weight, but I would have if I'd kept this behavior up. Once a week had already become twice. Twice a week would have become three times, and then four and then other restaurants, and on and on... 

I have to say that this is probably the most difficult part of weight loss and maintenance. I am NOT on a diet. There is nothing temporary about what I am doing. I have to live the rest of my life in a healthy way. No going back to old, bad habits because that would result in my gaining back the weight I worked so hard to lose. But I like it. I am so much more active, I have so much more fun, I feel like I'm really getting the most out of my life. That said, life will throw curve balls, and there are days when it is really difficult to do what I know I need to do to stay healthy. There are days I don't. I'm not perfect. This happens. I just brush myself off, figure out how to deal with it, and keep going. No need to excoriate myself, everyone who has ever done this has these days. The trick is not to let it derail you. Keep going. And if you see yourself slipping into a bad habit, old or new, nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. 

*We hike at Torrey Pines State Park, I would highly recommend it for anyone in San Diego - you can make the hikes as long or short as you like and vary the difficulty depending upon the trail. And it is absolutely beautiful, particularly at this time of year when all the wildflowers are blooming and at sunset, which is generally when we are there - Just Gorgeous. Added bonus.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I Heart Water Aerobics!

I noticed something this morning that one would think I would have noticed sooner, but have not. And I am thrilled about it...hence post number two in as many days. The under arm sag that I so despised as I was losing weight is nearly gone!! I nearly did a cheer right there in the locker room when I came to the realization that it was going away.

I read a blog a while ago, when I was still bummed out about my sagging under-arms and all the "loose skin" under my arms. I had resigned myself to living with it because I did not want to get surgery to get the "excess skin" removed and I had heard that loose skin is one of those things that happens with weight loss and there is really not much you can do. The author of the blog that I  read wrote that loose skin is often not "loose skin" but it is fat that has not gone away - she also argued for weight training or toning to address loose skin issues - so that your skin has something to which it can cling. She was exactly right (she usually is, Erika rocks, I love her blog and if you aren't subscribed to it, you should - it is here.)

Anyway, let me get to the point - water aerobics. I am taking a water aerobics class that includes a lot of toning, I have been doing it for over a year. I don't do much else to tone my arms, just this class - 3 mornings a week. It is a fairly easy class, wakes me up in the morning, burns a few calories, and I love the water, so there is that. I knew it was toning a bit - but WOW - this morning I realized just how much good this awesome, fairly easy, enjoyable class is doing. wow. I'm thrilled. Unbelievable. I wanted to go hug the instructor, but that just would have been weird.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


It's been over a month since my last post. oops. I have been crazy busy at work, planning my summer vacation (yay!) and "training" for it (read, playing).

My husband and I just bought hiking boots for our vacation in June - July and we have been breaking them in. Let me tell you, finding hiking boots that fit properly is quite an undertaking - particularly when you have giant feet. I wear a women's size 12 in running shoes and, apparently, it is rare to find adequately enormous hiking boots in women's size 12, at least at REI. Thus, I landed in a Men's 11 1/2.  Everything on my body has gotten smaller with weight loss....EXCEPT my feet. I look like a hobbit. Oh, well. I'll take it.

The other recent purchase I have made is a book called "Afoot and Afield in San Diego." Awesome. Book. It details hundreds of hikes from all over San Diego County, and for all different skill levels. If you live in San Diego and are looking for some gorgeous hikes, I would highly recommend it. I love living in San Diego, it is a beautiful area of the country, and I am really looking forward to using this hiking book to make the most of living here.

On Saturday, we went to watch our nieces dance in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. This posed a bit of a problem because we usually start our days early when we are hiking, so as to avoid the heat and the crowds. Happily, the weather on Saturday was absolutely gorgeous. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but by late morning / early afternoon, it had warmed just enough so that it was perfect hiking weather. We were at Balboa Park anyway, so we decided to take the opportunity to explore the trails. And Wow! We could have spent 3 days hiking, there are so many. We had a great time, did a moderately difficult hike, and started to break in our hiking boots in the process. What a wonderful day!

On Sunday, we did our 17-mile "train walk" and we added a little 4 mile hike along the way. We did part of a hike we found in our new book. It was really beautiful because it went right along the beach. Another great day. I did learn that I need to have a more substantial breakfast when I do these long hikes or walks. I need to have some protein in the morning if I am going to embark upon these adventures. I slept in a bit on Sunday morning, and only had time for a bag of Cheerios prior to beginning the hike. This was a terrible idea. We ate our little picnic lunch at the half way point like we always do, but it was not enough. By the time I arrived at home, I was absolutely famished and exhausted. I felt like I could not get enough to eat. I stayed within my calorie budget and all that good stuff, but my body was telling me something that I cannot ignore. Currently, my self-diagnosis is that I didn't eat enough. I have done that walk a million times, sans the hiking boots and the beach leg of the walk, and I have never felt so exhausted at the end of it. Not even the first time I tried it. So, next time I shall make sure that I have enough to eat and drink when I embark upon one of my adventures.

Oh, and lastly - in other news, I fit into a SIZE 6 last weekend. I now own 2 pair of size 6 shorts and a pair of size 6 "shants" (convertible pants for hiking). I have not been losing weight as fast as I was, but I'm still "shrinking."  This is a particularly exciting milestone for me, because I began this journey at Size 26. So, 20 sizes (well, actually 10...but technically 20, right?). I am totally excited about this development as I was prepared to spend my life as a size 8, I was perfectly happy there. This is just a happy surprise.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Weekend and Planning for the Week

This past weekend, my husband and I went dancing, did some cooking, and continued to "train" for our upcoming vacation. Friday, we went to our ballroom dancing class, we are learning the Tango, and I think we finally have it down to the point where we can "graduate" to the next level next time around - Yay us!! We have found that dance is really difficult for the first month or so, but once it starts to click, it is awesome fun! 

Saturday, we went on our "train walk,"our 17 mile walk down the coast from Oceanside to Solana Beach. It was a gorgeous day, shorts weather, and we had a beautiful, relaxing walk (and burned a good amount of calories in the process). We stopped at the half way point and had a yummy picnic lunch of oranges, apples, and dry cheerios (I know, dry cheerios probably do not sound great, but they did the trick - usually, we take blueberry yogurt muffins, but we just didn't have the time to bake them the night before). After our walk, we went out to lunch, we had Mexican food. Lots of calories. We still do go out to eat now and then, we're just careful about it. Even though our dinner was heavy and calorie-laden, the exercise we did throughout the rest of the day kept us within our calorie budget. So, we certainly wouldn't do this every day, but it's fine for a treat once in a while. And we treated ourselves on Saturday. 

Sunday, we woke up early and went for a beautiful hike at Torrey Pines in La Jolla. Gorgeous. We arrived early enough to beat the crowds and hiked around for 3 1/2 hours. It was beautiful, it was fun, and it put me in a really great mood for the remainder of the day. What a fantastic way to start the day! Sunday afternoon, we prepared for the week by cooking an enormous pot of minestrone soup (I say "we," really, it was my husband).  We ate pretty light all day on Sunday and I ended up netting just over 700 calories for the day, and I wasn't hungry once. Fruit and veggies, baby! 

Every week, I try to have at least some idea of how I'm going to eat right and exercise enough to make my daily and weekly goals. So the plan for the week, Monday (today) is a low exercise day, so I need to keep my calories low. I try never to go an entire day without doing any exercise, this is not too difficult except when I travel. I always try at least to go for a walk at lunch, and that is the plan for today, to go for a good lunch walk and then to go for a nice walk with my husband when I get home. This is not Zumba or an intense work-out, but it will do along with a bit of a stricter diet. Tuesday, I have a lunch meeting for a board on which I serve. I will check out the menu and order responsibly, but it will likely still exceed the calories I generally alot for lunch, so that means breakfast and dinner need to be light and I need to watch my snacking really closely. Breakfast will probably be the same as usual and dinner will be white fish and veggies. Snacks on Tuesday will be fruit and veggies and I will be avoiding bread products and salty foods (restaurant food is always more salty than homemade, in my experience, even when the restaurant food doesn't taste particularly salty). Wednesday through Friday will be my typical Wednesday through Friday - no eating out or anything like that around which I need to plan, and I'm not travelling or anything, so my exercise routine shouldn't be disrupted. 

Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Okay, here is my little rant for the day
Feeling a little lethargic in the morning? Hey, instead of getting more sleep or exercising a bit, Mountain Dew has your answer - they are introducing a new breakfast drink. WTF?  Well, apparently, this is quite the healthful concoction because it has 5% juice and vitamin B and C.  AND it has only like a third the caffeine when compared with a 16-oz cup of Starbuck's coffee. Yeah, that's where we want to set the bar. sigh. Is it any wonder that diabetes is a rising problem in this country? Who drinks this stuff for breakfast? (says the person who used to drink a 16-oz peppermint white chocolate mocha EVERY morning) ....oh...currently dismounting my high horse...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Relaxing Weekends

It used to be, before this whole weight loss / lifestyle-change undertaking, that I would look forward to my relaxing weekends. At that time, when I thought about relaxing, I thought about very sedentary activities. To me, relaxing was going to a movie or two, going to the theater  going out to dinner, snuggling on the couch with my hubby watching T.V. and the like. At the end of the weekend, after all of my "relaxing," I was not really relaxed. I would often feel tired and lethargic, I would not sleep well, I would toss and turn and wake up several times during the night, and there were many days when I would barely be able to stay awake or focus. I still like to snuggle on the couch with my husband and go to movies and the theater occasionally, but these activities no longer occupy the majority of my weekend time.

This weekend, I relaxed. My husband and I went dancing on Friday night, we are learning the Tango this month. On Saturday, we went for a nice long walk. We have season passes to Disneyland and we have a "circuit" that we walk around the park and the surrounding hotels. We will walk around the parks and do our "circuit" for about 5 or 6 hours. We pack a lunch of fruit, lots of water, and a couple of blueberry-yogurt muffins (or some other low-calorie snacks) and we avoid the food in the park (except the fruit, we will eat that in a pinch).  It is always a fun, active, and relaxing day. Sunday, we went for a beautiful 3 hour hike at Torrey Pines State Park. It is about a ten to fifteen minute drive from our house, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Finally, Sunday evening, we went dancing again - more Tango lessons. After our dance class on Sunday night, I was blissfully exhausted. Tired, but a different kind of tired - not lethargic. Even though I was exhausted, I felt relaxed and de-stressed. And I slept beautifully last night. I find myself refreshed and ready for the week this morning. It may seem counter-intuitive, but our "active weekends" are far, far more relaxing and enjoyable than our sedentary "relaxing" weekends used to be.  If someone would have told me that two years ago, I would never have believed it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Training for Vacation

Whoever thought I would need to train for my vacation?? But I am. My husband and I have booked a hike in Ireland for June (yay!!!). The hike is about 140 miles, we booked an 11 day hike with one extra day to rest on day 6, so we will be hiking it in 9 days because the first and last days of the hike are just checking in and checking out. We will be hiking 15 - 20 miles a day, so for the past several weeks, we have started going for very long hikes and / or walks every weekend day to prepare. As soon as the days start to get longer, we will start to do long walks after work. I have no doubt that we can do this, I just want to have the stamina to enjoy the hike and then to enjoy the little pubs and towns at the end of the day - to get the most out of the experience. So, we are training for our vacation, and I have never looked forward to a vacation so much in my life!

It's also nice to have a goal that, while it will help my husband and I stay fit and maintain our weight, the main thrust of the goal is not necessarily weight loss, but to be in shape to make the most of our summer vacation. We are going to take these new, fit bodies out for a spin!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Return of the Monster Migraine

I am allergic to Vegas. Seriously. I am allergic to alcohol, I break out in hideous hives every time I drink anything containing alcohol and, apparently, I cannot abide prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, dry weather, and salty food without ending up with a hideous migraine. So, this weekend's trip to Vegas was quite a learning experience.

I have mentioned before that, prior to my weight loss, I got regular, severe migraines. Since I have lost weight those have all but completely disappeared. I will start to get one every once in a while, but they are much easier to stop in their tracks than they used to be. So on Saturday night, when I woke up with the worst migraine I've had since I lost weight, I panicked. I thought I had solved the problem. I hadn't prepared for this vacation like I used to, by packing all manner of migraine medication, because I have not needed it in over a year. Thus, at 1 am, I got online and started to look at natural remedies for migraines. In doing this research, I found a lot of information about migraine prevention. It turns out that quite a bit of what I did to lose weight falls within the scope of "natural migraine prevention strategies."  I had heard most of these suggestions before and I was aware that some of the lifestyle changes I made to lose weight may have played a part in my migraine relief, but a couple of the articles I read put into stark relief just how much these lifestyle changes paralleled the changes I needed to make to help reduce and relieve my migraines.

One suggestion was to increase intake of Riboflavin, which is found in found in milk, meat and green vegetables. One major diet change I made to lose weight was to greatly increase my intake of vegetables and two of my favorite vegetables, that I eat all the time - probably 5 or more times a week - are broccoli and spinach. Apparently, these are great sources of riboflavin. Another suggestion is to increase intake of Omega 3. Part of my dietary change was to increase the amount of fish I eat and decrease the amount of red meat I eat. The fist to which I will default is salmon, I eat it at least once or twice a week. Salmon, it turns out, is a great source of Omega 3.  Drinking more water is one way to help to prevent and relieve migraines. As part of my weight loss dietary changes, I had to start drinking more water. I still do not drink enough, to be honest, but I drink a lot more than I used to. In fact, one of the first things that I did on Saturday night / Sunday morning to get rid of the monster migraine was to drink a LOT of water. Increasing exercise is a migraine prevention strategy and another lifestyle change that I made to lose weight and one that I will continue. Finally, there were several prevention strategies related to reducing stress and relaxation. I have found that several of the activities I do to get my exercise are also incredibly relaxing: walking, hiking, and swimming, for example, are all quite relaxing for me. I always feel refreshed and de-stressed after I am done with a good walk or a nice swim.

So what brought on this monster migraine despite all of my great lifestyle changes, after over a year? I'm not a doctor and only time will tell - but my best guess is that I walked around the strip all day on Saturday, hung out in smoke-filled casinos, and - though I was pretty proud of how I balanced my calorie intake / output for the day - the calories I ate were not exactly healthy. I ate a lot of bread, and a lot of salt, and I didn't drink nearly enough water in Las Vegas' dry climate. I think that all worked together to result in a hideous migraine. Happily, after I drank a huge quantity of water (like 5 glasses), took two Advil, and got some sleep, my migraine was completely gone by 8am Sunday morning. A year and a half ago, that may not have been the case. On Sunday, I avoided the smoke-filled casinos, drank more water, spent some time at the end of the day in the spa, and ate a bit more reasonably (still not great, but went out and bought some fruit to eat) - and Sunday ended much better than Saturday did. No migraine. whew! Hopefully this was a one-time thing, and I have learned how to have a great time in Vegas without the resulting migraine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


This may very well be the first of a series of these WTF  posts...because just when I think I have everything figured out, my body decides to do something unexpected. So, this blog post will not really provide any brilliant insights, this one is just more of a vent.

I have been sick for a few days. Not on death's doorstep sick, but generally miserable, missed-a-couple-of-days-at-work sick. I had a sore throat, ear ache, headache, fatigue, and felt crappy. So all I've been eating for three days is oranges, minestrone soup (with a little cheese on the soup - about 0.5 ounce of Parmesan), veggies, and Robitussin Oh, and I had a bit of stir fry yesterday with about 2 oz. of chicken, veggies and 1/2 a cup of brown rice. I didn't get my usual workout for three days - but I've been tracking my calories, and I've been well within 1200-1400 calories / day. I should not be gaining any weight. I generally know what to expect from the scale and today, I was expecting to maintain or be slightly down. But low and behold, I stepped on the scale this morning and was UP FIVE pounds from Monday. sigh. WTF?! I do not get it and I'm really frustrated at the moment. I'm at another one of my stupid plateaus, I've been back and forth within this five pound range for like a month and a half. Gah!

Okay, that said, I know how to do this and I am going to keep plugging along. This has happened before and it will probably happen again. Generally when I bounce like this, it is right before I lose another couple of pounds. My clothes are not tight, in fact, the skirt I just had altered 6 weeks ago is a bit loose, so that is a good sign. As long as I don't keep on gaining, I'll be fine....breathe.....okay. I feel much better, thanks to lots of rest, and I'm back to the gym and my routine tonight, and I have a really active weekend planned. So, I'll see where I am on Monday and go from there. This can be a frustrating process, but the rewards are worth it. I've been at this for a year and a half now, and I'm still learning.

1/18/2013 Update: I still have no idea why I was up so much yesterday morning, but I'm back down to within a pound of my low weight again today - whew!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Big BMI Freak Out

This month, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study done by Dr. Katherine Flegal. The study looked at data related to BMI and mortality.  The study looked at data from studies worldwide which examined the link between BMI and any cause of mortality. The Flegal study found that, while people who were considered to be "class 2" (BMI between 35 and 40) or "class 3" (BMI >40) levels of obesity did indeed have higher levels of mortality for any cause, those with a "normal" BMI (between 18.5 and 25) actually had a higher risk of dying (of any cause) than those in the overweight category (BMI between 25 and 30). And in fact, those who weighed in at a "class 1" level of obesity had no higher risk of dying than normal weight individuals.

Okay, I just spent all kinds of time and energy losing weight and now this #%^@$ study is telling me that I'm not increasing my chances of living longer. And this opinion piece in the New York Times seems to agree! Gah! I'm calling Pizza Hut right now!

I am kidding, of course. Actually, I found this article in Forbes that breaks it down nicely. I find that I really agree with the level-headed, analytic approach that the author takes to the Flegal study.

The problem with obsessing about BMI is that it is not the only indicator of health (note that the study looked at ANY CAUSE of death) Frankly, I hate the BMI. It has been the bane of my existence during this weight loss process because, even though I have lost over 125 pounds and even though I look great and I feel great, my numbers are spectacular (my cholesterol, my blood pressure, my triglycerides...), and I am healthier than I've been my entire adult life, the BMI still says that I am "overweight." Blah! And a big middle finger salute to the BMI.

Though the BMI is useful as one tool to determine a healthy weight, I don't think that one should obsess over it. As the author in the Forbes article points out, there are several other factors that are just as, if not more, important. Cardiovascular fitness, losing fat around the midsection, cholesterol, and blood pressure are all important. Being a non-smoker or quitting if you are a smoker is important. Exercising regularly is important. So, we should not ignore the BMI entirely, it is important as one measure of health.

The danger I can see with the Flagel article and in articles like the New York Times opinion piece is that people who really do need to lose weight will look at these things and decide that they are not really unhealthy enough to make the difficult changes they need to make. Why go through the hard work of changing your lifestyle if the payoff is not going to be a longer, healthier life?  That mindset is dangerous. One thing that I have learned on this journey is that weight loss is a complicated and, surprisingly, controversial issue. Oversimplifying data that shows a relationship between obesity and health risks to the point of overemphasizing the importance of BMI in one's health profile is dangerous. So is oversimplifying data showing that mortality risk is lower for people who are "overweight" according to the BMI.

In my experience, losing weight (and lowering my BMI) has improved my health in more ways than I can count. I used to get migraines, I don't anymore. I used to get winded WALKING up stairs or up hills, now I can run up several flights of stairs without getting winded and I can walk 15-20 miles in a day. I used to get tired quickly and had no energy to do anything by sit on the couch at night - now I am active and go out nearly every night. I'm happier. I have more energy. I look better. I'm more confident. I don't get heartburn anymore. My cholesterol (and my risk of heart attack and stroke) is WAY down. My blood pressure is fabulous. My blood glucose levels are normal (no more borderline diabetes)....and on and on..... So, in the end, regardless of what the BMI says, I'm way more healthy. And it was / is totally worth the effort. So, while the experts are arguing about the importance of the BMI, I'll be enjoying my time learning to swing dance with my husband, hiking (Iron Mountain this weekend!), swimming, and kayaking...all thanks to my weight loss and the health benefits that came with it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Post-Holiday Debriefing

Well, I have officially maintained through the Holidays. Huzzah!

I stepped on the scale this morning, and I am actually a couple of pounds down from just before Thanksgiving. Yay! Now, to be fair, there were ups and downs. I seemingly gained about 5 pounds over three days surrounding Christmas, but I'm thinking a lot of that was water weight, given all of the salty food I ingested (tasty, but salty), because it dropped right off after a couple of days back on my normal routine of diet and exercise.

I quite enjoyed the Holidays, and I can say honestly that I do not feel like I missed out on anything at all. I got a helping of all of my favorite foods, and I even had some sweets. I balanced the heavier eating with more physical activity (and I only ate "heavier" on a few of the days, most of the time, I stuck to my routine diet ) Instead of filling my time off with lazy days on the couch, I enjoyed San Diego with my husband. We went on several beautiful long walks and hikes along the coast and we went to Disneyland a couple of times. If you can avoid the junk food, Disneyland and the area surrounding it provides a nice place to walk around and get some exercise on a day off. It did rain quite a lot, and I went to the gym on those days and did Zumba or got a workout on the elliptical.

There were days when I went over my calories, but I didn't beat myself up. I think it is important to learn how to weather days when your diet and exercise routine doesn't go like you had planned without feeling horribly guilty. Hey, it happens. Learn from it and move on. My attitude is that tomorrow will be better. I have successfully gotten rid of all of the excess weight from 20+ years of terrible eating and exercise habits, one day is not going to kill me. That said, the second part is important too - learn from it.  I don't beat myself up, but I try to take note of what went wrong, so that I can avoid it happening again.

Example: I went on a really long walk (17 miles) on one of my days off. After the walk, I had some pizza, WAY too much pizza. It was delicious and I enjoyed it. Had I stopped at 1 or 2 pieces, it would have been perfect - but I could not get full, I was absolutely famished and I had 4 pieces (blushing) of pizza. ouch.  Okay, so crud...that was not the most healthy or productive thing I've ever done. I think my problem was that I did not have a proper lunch because I knew I was going to have pizza, so I didn't pack enough food for my little picnic lunch at the half-way point of my walk.  I just had fruit and a half a cup of cheerios. Um, yeah, not enough sustenance, I'm lucky I didn't hurt myself.   Next time (1) I will pack a proper healthy lunch, with appropriate nutrients (2) I will have a few veggies BEFORE consuming my pizza to help alleviate some of my hunger and to start to fill my stomach before I dive face-first into said pizza, and (3) I will drink a good amount of water with my pizza (or with the veggies before my pizza) to help me feel full faster. These things should help in the future, on the rare occasion that I decide to treat myself to hideous junk food after an intense, exhausting day of exercise. In the end, my calories were not so far over the goal I set, but calories are not the only thing on which to focus. I consumed WAY too much salt and the cheese and pepperoni are not great for my cholesterol. So, lesson learned. Am I going to deny myself pizza forever and ever - no. But, I'll be more reasonable next time I decide to treat myself. This weight loss thing is all a big learning process...and I'm still learning and adjusting.

Happy New Year!