Weight Loss Strategies & Thoughts

sparkling water bottle for weight loss success stories blog post lemonI have been on a bit of a weight loss journey for the last few months and I finally have had enough success to blog about it.

After I tried a round of IVF in February (it failed) I found that I had gained another 5 lbs on top of the 20 or so pounds I had gained from the time I got married in July 2009.

The IVF hormones and drugs seemed to make me puff up around the middle and I am sure that there was some stress eating along the way also.

I had been battling my lifestyle, stress and eating behavior for years thinking that just changing one thing, or giving up one key item would be the turning point to weight loss success. Boy was I wrong. People who say that are lying.

I had been pretty successful at losing weight when I needed to earlier in life. Once in high school (90’s) while very active in sports and discovering lean cuisine and diet coke and another time in my 20s while dancing up to 7 days a week (2000’s).

Now in 2012 with a sedentary desk job that demanded hours of excel analysis and implementation and a husband/home/cats/yard to take care of I had given up all of my personal interests and hobbies. Yep, every single one of them. I had no way to exercise and no time.

I finally have had some weight loss success because of several factors coming together to change a lot of things in my life. Like hundreds of things. Lifestyle change isn’t really the right word for it, it is more like millions of really small decisions adding up every day. I don’t actually feel like my lifestyle is any different. I am not sure how much of your lifestyle is really about food anyway.

Some of these changes were:

1. I was diagnosed with ADHD, documented by years of childhood report cards with attention issues. Medication helps me concentrate and stick to things until I get them finished, and keeping the long term goal in mind has always been a problem for me with weight loss. Some people may cry foul because many ADHD meds do lessen appetite, but I counter that with the fact that my stomach still growls if I am hungry while taking it. I just eat a more normal amount and I don’t use food as a stress reliever as much since I’m less frazzled in the first place.

2. I mostly gave up cooking, and certainly the idea that I had to provide my husband with a fancy full course dinner several times a week. (I never cooked before we were married) This led to less groceries being bought, less exotic ingredients in the house, less opportunity to snack. Less choice in the matter of snacking. And fewer trips to the store, which are tempting within themselves. I also canceled all those email recipe newsletters, unsubscribed to the food blogs and droped the idea that desert was needed at all. It actually gives me more time to do other things if I don’t have to always be meal planning, cooking, cleaning and prepping. I have a few staple things I still make, (roast chicken, onion/green pepper/mushroom omelette with egg beaters, quinoa veg salad, organic cornbread) but overall the cooking is much less frequent.

3. I reduced portion size by half. It is important and needed its own mention separate from the previous item on the list. Small plates help but someone isn’t going to lose weight on that method alone as certain statistical studies and books suggest. Basically I have the slowest metabolism in the world so my body can make a tiny bit of food last forever. It may have been an evolutionary bonus but now its a huge negative. I probably live on 1000 calories a day because I don’t exercise. There has also been research lately that states that people who have been overweight have cells that have a history of expecting overeating and slow processing. My take on that is I will always have to eat less than my contemporaries because of my history and extra slow metabolism.

4. I don’t eat breakfast. All you breakfast eaters that hate my method can shove it. I know that my eating snowballs during the day. I start out with lots of motivation/focus and as I get more tired/frustrated/stressed I eat more. My resolve weakens. I also have a kind of weird rebound effect to eating where I get hungry again within 2 hours especially if it is sweet stuff. So why sabotage myself by eating first thing in the morning if I’m not hungry? My metabolism isn’t going to get jump started by eating but my stomach cravings will. Sometimes I wonder if this suggestion is deliberate sabotage by the skinny people of the world that seem to talk about food constantly and eat nothing. Here is an article stating that you never start burning fat reserves unless you fast for 12 hours.  

5. I don’t drink soda – I drink organic coffee with organic creamer in the morning (I guess instead of breakfast) and sparkling water the rest of the day. I’m not a big alcohol drinker so cutting that out is pretty much status quo for me. ( a 1/2 beer is enough to make me sleepy) I don’t think soda is inherently evil but I do think I can’t afford its calories and my teeth don’t need the sugar/nutrasweet. (just like most parents thought back in the 70’s when I was a kid). I don’t drink diet soda because my body was past the point of being tricked by sweet tasting stuff that has no actual nutritional value in it and my body was pissed. About an hour after drinking diet soda I get incredibly hungry and inhale just about any food around me because my stomach hurts so much. Sparkling water seems soda-ish enough with the carbonation, but not sweet or with any calories. (avoid the flavored waters with nutrasweet or splenda) Other people make their own infused waters with cucumber, mint or orange/lemon/lime. That is cool too but I’m not going to cut up produce and do dishes at work, so my sparkling mountain bottle just sits on my desk.

6. The only exercise I do occasionally get is yard work and walking. At first I had no stamina to do basic things like mow the lawn (it’s not self-propelled but still it isn’t like we live on a hill either). I did force myself to get through yard tasks whether I liked it or not because I am incredibly embarrassed if the yard looks bad. This is only really something I have time for on weekends so if I have a bonus of some time during the week I do walk around the subdivision. There is a 1 mile loop around it that takes about 45 minutes. I even go out after dark. No excuses. The dog walkers are still out there and the weather is nice in the evenings now that it is summer.

7. I don’t obsess over lunch. If I bring lunch it is a Tupperware of fruit (pineapple, grapes, oranges & apples) or something like broccoli salad. I have also learned that the potbelly chickpea salad is the healthiest thing within walking distance of the office. I also get chipotle burrito bowls from time to time but only eat half. And the rest is for dinner. I told you I could make a few calories go a long way.

8. I like organic products but I am wary of some since they seem to have more fat, sugar and calories than their non-organic counterparts. I think the organic decision is more about long term health and less processed food, fewer chemicals, fewer hormones and pesticides that you ingest to hopefully avoid cancer. This may be more meaningful for some than others depending on your genetics and other factors, but I just think its safer to minimize the risks a bit. Its impossible to go totally organic so I don’t try but when I find a good organic alternative I usually stick to it even if it is a bit more expensive. Just avoid the organic granola/energy bars. Some have as much fat as a big mac.

In summary it took a lot of changes and a lot of time but after 4 months I have lost 15 lbs (to fit into things I wore in 2009). My hope is to lose another 5 and I hope this blog post doesn’t jinx it!

Hidden fat & Cholesterol in Foods

I am still hot on this topic of finding hidden fat and cholesterol in my diet because I am still faced with how to get my Cholesterol down from 243 to under 200 in the next 6 months. I am not wild about the challenge but I don’t really have a choice either. Its my health right?

I have been to Jewel (our local grocery chain store, they’re pretty nice actually) and reading a lot of labels. I am finding a lot of fat in places I didn’t think I would. Here are some of the suprising foods I have decided to avoid to stay under 40 grams of fat per day.

Anything Organic.Organic food doesn’t have to be lowfat, so to make it taste better they leave the fat in despite all the health claims. Some of those organic granola energy bars had up to 12 grams of fat in them. A lot of it is from coconut and nuts in general. Yes, nuts make things taste better sometimes but you can’t have nuts in everything, despite it being good fat in them. Beyond about 6 almonds worth per day its still too much fat for the average person.

Any pre-made bakery, cookies or granola bars. Granola bars may have 8 grams of fat per bar and cookies can have 6-8 grams of fat per cookie. How many of us eat just one? Not likely. The only ones I found that were bearable was a low fat sunshine brand granola bar with 2 grams of fat and a honey graham cracker cookie and generic nilla wafers with 3 grams for a serving. I still like my sweet but I am not going anywhere near the enteman’s aisle or the key lime pie freezer.

Cereals. Yes, cereal. You don’t even get to enjoy the fat in cereals. Why is it there? I am not sure but some is from nuts other fat may come from the yummy clusters. I am not sure, but shredded wheat with frosting has 0 grams of fat and LIFE cereal has 1 gram, so those are the best of the bunch in my pantry and they’re plenty sweet.

Light Salad Dressing.Most of the big agrifoodmanufacturing companies have gone with a light is better than full fat strategy to sell more food because its tastier that way than at fat free. So finding fat free dressing is more of a challenge these days, yet the light dressing can have up to 6 grams of fat in one serving. How many of us only use one serving though? Back to fat free only for me, even though some of the fancy brands are a bit more expensive.

Pro-Biotics Again the health food claim but not low fat. A pro-biotic bar that was next to the Yogurt was 12 grams of fat. It was made of mostly nuts. Even the pro-biotic yogurt has 2 grams of fat in those tiny one ounce containers. Sneaky!

So generally I am looking for foods that have 1-3 grams of fat and anything 4+ gets tossed back on the shelf. One bright spot: The sunmaid english muffins with raisins (by the eggs in the fridge case, not the bread like you would think logically) only have 1 gram of fat. But no butter is allowed on them for me, I use jam instead.

The absolute worst food I found was a frozen Quiche about 4 inches across that had a whopping 26 grams of fat! Avoid quiche at all cost!