I’m losing weight. Yes, on purpose. I’ve done it before quite successfully, in 2005. My sister’s wedding was coming up and I, as the single older sister, was determined not to be a fat bridesmaid. I didn’t want wedding guests to look at me and think they knew precisely why I was still single and pity me. And they probably would not have ever thought that, but that wasn’t really relevant. It would be in my head that that was what they could be thinking about me as they moved through the receiving line. Such a shame. She’ll never find a husband.
Now’s not the time for moralistic lectures about how overweight women get married all the time. You couldn’t have told me that when I was panicking about being my sister’s bridesmaid in 2005. So I joined Weight Watchers Online, walked on a treadmill in the apartment complex’s fitness center every day, and dropped 40 pounds. And I was a smokin’ hot bridesmaid.
After the wedding, I lost focus. I no longer had a goal. I slipped. Then I slipped further. And further and further until I’d put every last bit back on.
I’m pretty over it. I’ve made various attempts at losing weight again since 2005, but none have stuck.
There’s something different this time. I can’t put my finger on what’s changed, but something has, and I’ve now lost 8 lbs in the last two weeks. I expect that to slow down to about 2 lbs. per week, which is a healthy rate of weight loss. If American has learned nothing else from The Biggest Loser, it’s that you always get big numbers in Week 1, and that’s been my personal experience as well. Here’s how I’m doing it:
Diet and Exercise
There are no magic bullets, kids. However, I have a few rules that work for me. Your mileage may vary, but I stand by them.
- The word “diet” is banished. That word carries with it a connotation of suffering and hunger, and I’m definitely not hungry or suffering. I’m counting my calories with MyFitnessPal, but it’s a sort of game.
- If there’s no dessert, then the deal is off. I mean that. I have a mean sweet tooth, and I’d be stupid not to work with that. Cutting out desserts means that eventually I’m going to have a meltdown and go on an epic chocolate binge. On the other hand, if make a treat part of my daily plan, no one gets shot.
- I track my weight daily. Most weight loss advice out there says NOT to do this, but it keeps me excited about the whole project. It’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning and provides me with near instant feedback on how I did the day before. If the number goes up then I’m extra fired up to stay on plan that day. If it goes down (and it usually does), then I’m kicking off my day in a pretty awesome mood, which is a good way to approach the world in general. If I don’t weigh in daily, I get complacent.
- I plan for snacks. I am constantly grazing, so, just like desserts, cutting them from the plan would be the quickest way to my doom. So I plan small, low calorie meals, then fill out the rest of my calories with snacks I can eat whenever throughout the day. The bottom line is that if you’re accustomed to desserts and snacks, DO NOT just cut them out. Embrace it and make it part of the plan. Do not ever compromise on this point.
- Stay away from processed foods whenever possible. In general, foods that advertise “low fat” or “sugar free” are loaded with preservatives, and there’s nothing so nasty as making a meal out of chemicals. Blecch. I’ll cheat on this one a bit for desserts and sodas (a vice I’m unwilling to part with just yet), but for meals and other snacks I vastly prefer whole natural ingredients. Right now I’m cooking a lot with Splenda, but only to use up an old box I already have. Once it’s empty, I’m switching to stevia.
- Portion out leftovers before storing. That recipe serves 6? Dish the pan out into one bowl and five storage containers. Stick two in the fridge, three in the freezer. Now you know precisely how many calories are in your leftovers. On that note…
- Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones are an abomination unworthy of my tastebuds. If you followed #6, then you’ve got frozen dinners you can take to work that have a hell of a lot less sodium and preservatives in them than a nasty-ass Lean Cuisine. If I feel this way about Lean Cuisines and Smart Ones, then you can probably guess what I think of NutriSystem. Eat your own food. It’s so much tastier and healthier.
- Find exercise that isn’t your personal version of hell. I love yoga when I can afford a class, but for me exercise usually involves walking. I’m lucky enough to live two blocks from Lake Michigan and I love walking along the seawall, or down to the beach to wade through the sand and water. On Tuesdays my exercise is walking 3/4 of a mile to hang out with a knitting group, then walking that same distance back home. Going to the grocery store? Grab some canvas shopping bags and walk. Shop small and make several trips per week to up the mileage and keep the load light. When I have access to a treadmill then I like to walk while watching TV. I’m working on getting one for my apartment in time for winter. A favorite treadmill walking game is to watch a baseball game and jog 1 minute every time my team scores a run. Sometimes I’ll just go walking with my camera. I’m currently trying to work my way through Couch to 5K, which is a bit of a struggle, but it gives me a goal and a schedule and I’m always pleasantly surprised when I step up to the next level and actually complete it. Speed and distance matter less than the duration.
- Expensive commercial weight loss plans are a waste of money. Systems like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig do work, but you can get the same tools and community support for free online and via smartphone apps. I use the following: MyFitnessPal, C25K Pro and Runtastic. Spend the money on better quality food.
- Give yourself a free day every week. You need break from counting calories. This isn’t a pass to go crazy, but allow yourself a glass of wine and a piece of pie without agonizing over the calories. For me this is Tuesdays, when my lunch is supplied by my company and thus is unpredictable. Tuesdays are also the meeting days for that knitting group I mentioned earlier, and they meet at a neat cafe with a bohemian vibe that serves fantastic lemonade slushes and pastries.
Here’s what my typical day looks like:
1 cup of cherries
1/2 cup of low fat cottage cheese
8 oz. orange juice
Exercise: I take the El to work, so I end up walking a half mile every morning as part of my commute.
Jimmy John’s Hunter’s Club Unwich (no mayo, no lettuce inside, add dijon, hot peppers and cucumbers)
Exercise: I’ve never measured it, but walking to Jimmy John’s probably adds another half mile. After work, the commute home adds yet another half mile of walking for a grand total of 1.5 miles, or roughly 25 minutes.
Edamame Rice Bowl
Exercise: Sat-Mon-Wed are my C25K days. On Tuesdays, walking to my knitting group adds 1.5 miles to my day. Other days, I’ll usually wander over to the lake and walk for somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes.
Starbucks Tall Skinny Mocha Coconut Frappuchino made with light mocha powder
Dr. Pepper Ten and/or Hawaiian Punch Singles-To-Go
1 cup fresh pineapple
2 medjool dates
Blue Bunny Sweet Freedom Raspberry Chocolate Pop
You can see that I’m not exactly starving, and the stuff I’m eating is all pretty awesome. I pretty much eat all day, and for the most part it’s not even “diet food”. I’ve always loved cottage cheese. The Hunter’s Club with dijon instead of mayo has been my favorite sandwich at Jimmy John’s since I was a grunge-era college kid, and I don’t miss the bread. Edamame rice bowls have been a favorite recipe in my house for several years, and small, simple adjustments like using 8 kalamata olives instead of 10 and reduced-fat feta instead of the regular full fat stuff take the calories down a bit without tasting like a sacrifice. I could write epic poetry about my love for mocha coconut frappuchinos so I was beyond ecstatic when I figured out Starbucks could make them skinny for just 110 calories. And when I want ice cream I stick to popsicles – it’s all too easy to zone out and OD on a pint of Ben & Jerry’s which has what, 3.5 servings per carton? But ice cream pops are portion control in a plastic wrapper and I’ll take all the help I can get.
Here’s the kicker: Other than paying for my groceries this is ALL 100% FREE. There’s no secret. It’s not a “1 weird old tip” scam. There’s no monthly fee other than groceries you would have bought anyway. I’ve lost 8 lbs in two weeks, I’m not starving myself, I like the stuff I’m eating, and it hasn’t cost me a dime. In fact, I’m doing exactly the same stuff I did in 2005 with Weight Watchers when I lost 40. Best. Diet. EVER.
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