April progress, May goals

I know that April isn’t over yet, and there’s a possibility that I will lose a little more weight before Wednesday, but I figured this was as good a time as any for a recap of what’s happened this month in the weight loss department. It was actually a pretty busy month, after almost two months of complete inactivity. Where to begin? 

This month, I saw a gain and a loss, primarily due to the fact that I completely lost sight of my goals after going to London in February. Yep, I lost two months of progress after that trip, and hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I make such a trip, as soon as I get back home, I need to pick up where I left off and move on toward my goals. Anyway, I posted a gain of nearly three pounds at the first of the month (and it was higher than that at one point, but I think it was mostly water weight), but as of today, I’m down a net of 2.1 pounds. That means that I’ve lost a total of 21 pounds since I first started trying to lose weight. 

I also joined the gym and have been going to work out at least four days a week. On the days I’m not working out, I’m trying to make sure I move a fair bit by cleaning house, walking around the farmer’s market or the mall, or otherwise keeping my butt off the furniture. My work outs are really starting to take form, with a warm up of 20 minutes or so of cardio followed by either an upper or lower body work out. I alternate between the two, working each muscle set to fatigue. In the month of April, I lost 2.4 inches from my neck, waist, hips and bust. That makes me even happier than the weight loss, to be honest, because that means the results will start to be noticeable soon. Personally, I don’t see much of a difference in the way I look so far, and I’m looking forward to a time when I can see the difference. 

This month, I also joined a weight loss program at work, which provides a scale, a pedometer and one on one coaching. I’m really hoping it will keep me accountable to someone other than myself, and thus, keep me on track. In addition, I signed up for the Million Step Challenge at work – one million steps by the end of the year. So far, for this month, I have more than 130,000 steps, so I’m on track there as well. 

So, where does all of that leave me for May? 

  1. Lose at least five pounds in May. This one will be tricky because we have Memorial Day coming up and I totally love BBQ. That said, it’s just one day, so I need to be vigilant the rest of the month. 
  2. I’d like to see another 2 inches gone in May. I’m really sort of hoping for more, because I didn’t join the gym until the middle of April, and I’m hoping that consistent working out will give me the push I need here. 
  3. Track all of my food. This was also an April goal and while I didn’t do a great job at the first, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things and I’m weighing and measuring everything now. 
  4. Continue my push toward more whole foods and fewer convenience foods in my pantry. For us, the new normal is going to be “convenience foods” that we ourselves make. This weekend I’ve made homemade black bean soup that we’re canning. We’ve made our own tomato sauce and strawberry jam. This is going to become the way we eat all the time, because frankly, I think a big part of our problem is that we all eat too many processed foods. We’ll still buy some things – I’m not really interested in making my own cheese, though Chris mentioned he might try it – but canned foods are about to be history for us. 

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with my April progress. It could have been better, if I’d jumped back on the bandwagon sooner. And now I have an even bigger goal to watch – my daughter is getting married in November 2014, and I really want to be at my goal weight well before that time. 


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.

Eat more to lose more?

The fitness board I hang around on has this group of people who follow the “eat more to lose more” theory. I know it sounds a bit backwards from what we’ve always been taught, but I have to admit that I adhere to this theory myself, mostly because I find it to be completely true for me. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my adult years, and I’ve found what works best for me is to exercise regularly, eat well most days, and drink water. I think the drinking water thing is helpful because my sodium intake tends to be fairly high, and it’s something I’m working on. If I don’t exercise, I tend to stay at a stable weight, or gain weight, even if I seem to be getting the food part right. But what surprised me most in all my years of yo-yo dieting is this – if I eat too few calories, I may at first lose weight, but then the weight loss stalls and sometimes even goes the other way. If I eat more than the “standard” calorie intake of a dieting female – which is around 1200-1300 calories – I lose weight.

Now before you go getting all excited and stock up on chips & cookies, let me explain how this works for me. The first thing to note is that on a really good day, I will eat between 1800-2000 calories and most of those calories will be decent choices. A typical food list on a day like this would be an English muffin with three slices of bacon and a small serving of hash brown potatoes for breakfast, a sandwich wrap with low sodium ham, a salad, and a yogurt for lunch, and fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo and a sprinkle of cheese for dinner. I then fill in between breakfast and lunch with a handful of almonds, and between lunch and dinner with a banana and perhaps a light string cheese stick, and for dessert, I might have a Weight Watchers fudge ice cream bar (one of my “guilty pleasures”). And I exercise – for example, walking up nearly 30 flights of stairs. The food logs in just over 2000 calories, but all that stair walking burned nearly 400 calories, and I’m in a deficit for the day.

I could eat 1200-1500 calories a day and lose weight, at least for a while. But the truth is, I will be miserable doing it. I’m going to feel like I’m being deprived of my favorite foods, and then it’s going to send me on a binge that will last for days, if not weeks. That’s just the way I’m built, and I know it. When you KNOW something doesn’t work for you, why continue to try? As we all know, the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different result. Simple common sense will tell you it’s just not possible.

But frankly, I still struggled with weight loss throughout my adult life, primarily because I never felt like I got enough to eat. You’d think that 2000 calories could satiate a girl, but apparently not. At least, not when 300 – 600 of those calories were going toward the consumption of Dr Pepper. Yep, I’ve been a Dr Pepper fiend for most of my adult life, and it ain’t pretty. In fact, I am fairly certain that my ever increasing Dr Pepper consumption was the driver for my weight gain over the last 15 years or so. I didn’t want to give it up, I wasn’t ready to give it up, and I couldn’t imagine going for the rest of my life without ever having a Dr Pepper again – in fact, I flat refused to consider it. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Back in 1999, I gave up sodas for over a year. I was doing really well, and felt pretty good about it, but I missed it. It was never far from my thoughts about how I would like to have just one more taste of a Coke or a Dr Pepper. I work in a highly stressful field and when things would get rough, I would crave soda. After more than a year soda free (and having survived the nightmare of a week-long withdrawal from caffeine), one day I cracked at work and popped open a Coke without even realizing what I was doing. And I drank it, and it was fabulous. I’d like to say that satisfied me and I didn’t drink another, but it would be 12 years before I would even consider setting aside sodas again.

In June 2012, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. It was pretty bad; he was in the hospital with blood sugar somewhere in the 500’s at the beginning, and we knew that a major contributing factor to his problem was regular sodas. Understand that he is a very large guy, and with good reason. But on that first day when he was admitted to the hospital with diabetes, he made immediate and permanent changes – the first being a switch to diet drinks from regular sodas. We’re both aware that sodas, even diet, are not really good for a person, but it was a first step. And even as he lay there in a hospital bed, so sick he could hardly sit up, I clung to my Dr Pepper. I just couldn’t give it up … could I?

In October, he persuaded me to give diet drinks a two week chance. I didn’t enjoy it … I wanted SO BADLY to drink a regular soda. They tasted bad, they were disgusting, and they gave me headaches (or so I thought). But at the end of two weeks, I had adjusted. I knew I had crossed the line when one day, I took a sip of a nice cold Diet Dr Pepper and thought, “Oh my gosh, that is sooooooo good!” And that is when something clicked for me. I didn’t try to “diet” or change my eating habits, but just the reduction of the calories from the regular sodas caused me to lose 15 pounds between the first of November and the end of December. I began to think that maybe I could lose weight, something that had seemed so impossible in the past.

Once the holidays were over, and January arrived, I made a commitment to be more proactive in my weight loss endeavors. But I was still only half-heartedly doing it. I think it was the sugar hang over from the holidays – I managed to mostly maintain my weight loss over the Christmas holidays (which for us, started on December 15th), although I fluctuated two pounds throughout (not so unusual though, right?). Now that the sugar is out of my system for the most part and my yogurt and fudge bar satisfy those cravings, I think I’m going to be ok. But last night, Chris and I started talking about taking a vacation in the fall. We haven’t made a final decision, but what struck me was this – if we do go on vacation, I don’t want to be tired when we’re checking out the local sites, and I don’t want my back to hurt the whole time either (chronic back pain has been my burden ever since I gained so much weight). Then I realized that I’m sick of the back pain, the shoulder pain, the aching knees, and all the other little aches and pains that I am fairly certain are exacerbated, if not caused by, the excess weight I’m carrying around. So I made a decision and set a goal.

I need to lose 105 pounds from where I am right now. There, I said it. I am more than 100 pounds overweight. I’m sure that people who see me know that I have a lot of weight to lose, so I’m not sure who I’ve thought I was fooling when I would say I have “some” weight to lose. That is seriously a 13 year old! But you know, I’ve already lost a toddler, so losing a teen shouldn’t be difficult, should it? 😉

So, my ultimate goal is to lose 105 more pounds – that will be 120 pounds total. I don’t have a specific time frame for this goal, but it would be nice if I could get it done by the end of 2014. That’s a bit more than a pound a week, and I think it’s doable. My interim goal is to lose 50 of those pounds by the end of October. I would be THRILLED if I could lose 10 of those by March 18, when I will likely have to do a week of travel for work, and that should also be doable.

The fact that I need to lose enough weight to make a whole other person sort of freaks me out, I won’t lie. But now I have all of the tools, all of the knowledge, and the drive to make it happen. And it all started just because I took one small step and gave up regular soda.