Losing weight SOUNDS so simple

And sometimes, it is. Seriously, the formula for weight loss isn’t all that earth shattering: Eat fewer calories than your body uses, and you will lose weight. It really is that simple. Except, of course, when it isn’t.

In the middle of December, I had lost a total of 15 pounds, and I was pretty happy about that. I was also pretty happy that I managed to maintain that weight throughout the holiday season, with the except of two pounds that would occasionally show up when I stepped on the scale. But it wasn’t a solid gain, as one day it would be there and the next day it would be gone. However, I never showed a loss of more than 15 pounds throughout the last two weeks of December. I didn’t sweat it, because I figured the weight would once again start to come off when I went back to my “normal” eating habits. Only, it didn’t.

I began to think that maybe I was doing something wrong. I went back through my food diary (I use the free and fabulous myfitnesspal.com to track everything from calories eaten to exercise), looking for the culprit. It didn’t take me long to find it – my sodium was through the roof, right in to the stratosphere. A typical “daily allowance” of sodium is about 2500 mg, but my food log showed that many days I ate double, and sometimes nearly triple, that amount. I was appalled, because about the only food I add salt to at the table is potatoes, and I don’t even track that, so I wasn’t sure where the sodium was coming from. Once again, my food log was helpful in identifying that most of the sodium was coming from packaged foods – everything from lunch meats (well, that’s no surprise really, is it?) to canned tomato sauce (what the heck?!). I decided it was time to take control of the sodium.

If you’ve ever tried to track your sodium, you will know just how difficult it is to cut back on it, particularly if you use any packaged foods. But over the course of the last three days I’ve started paying much more attention to the amount of sodium I’m consuming, and it’s paying off. Over two days, the scale went down by two pounds, but more importantly, my chronic headache is gone, which means that what I thought was hormones was more likely high blood pressure. That is really scary – I didn’t even recognize the headache as a potential warning sign that something serious is wrong. I will be getting that checked out, but now that I’m regulating the amount of sodium I’m eating, it may be that my blood pressure will level off.

Outside of the obvious health implications, my point is this – if you think you’re doing everything right to lose weight, but it’s not paying out for you, and barring any other medical problems, be sure you track your sodium levels for a while. If  you’d asked me a month ago if my sodium intake was too high, I would have said you were crazy, but honestly, I never took into account the sodium that’s used in so many prepared foods. Never would I have guessed that one cup of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce would have more than 400 mg of sodium lurking. Add some canned beans for chili, and you’re easily looking at over 800 mg of sodium for a couple of cups.

I have thought that people who refuse to buy anything that’s considered convenience foods are making life more difficult than it strictly needs to be, but they may be on to something here. I am on the verge, seriously, of starting to eat mostly fresh foods, because frankly, I’m becoming more and more convinced that convenience foods are playing a rather large role in the deterioration of our health. I doubt I’ll ever become really obsessive about it, but I am seriously considering not replacing much of the canned foods in our pantry as they are consumed. I am leaning more and more toward canning my own tomato sauces, and other vegetables, and freezing fresh foods, and cutting out things like prepared lunch meats and most canned goods. Is it extreme? Maybe. But it can’t be any more extreme than eating a half cup of corn that packs only 80 calories, but 240 mg of sodium, instead of the corn from a large fresh cob, with only 22 mg of sodium.

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