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!

Pinterest Success in 2012

I have been seeing bloggers refer to “pinning” images on Pinterest for a year or more and just recently I finally got an account started. Pinterest required linking to my FB profile which was a dealbreaker, but I deleted the app and unlinked it afterwards. I was curious as to why Pinterest was different than other mood board sites (polyvore) I had seen that didn’t really impress me. At the same time I have been reading more about how Pinterest drives more traffic to retailer sites than Google Images, how women are the primary audience and why Pinterest traffic has taken off like a space rocket.

My take on the site as a web analyst, a woman and a user of the site may be different than the media’s perceptions. I concentrate on the behaviors and uses of the site and have listed my opinons on their growth/success here:

Some reasons I think Pinterest has been a growing site:

1. Images do say more than a 1000 words – They can make you feel hopeful, creative, inspired and motivated. Great images move people. That is why good photography is both art and marketing at the same time. (think Flickr/Instagram) What happens when you want to see that powerful/inspiring image again? Do you bookmark it? With your other 1,000 bookmarks? Blogging it has been better, but not everyone wants to blog and some people frown on hotlinking in your posts although that is what Pinterest uses. Flickr has been great with it’s searchable favorites image list, but not everyone likes Flickr like I do. Some people just want to link other people’s photos and not upload their own. Facebook is ok if you want to blast your friends with all the images you save/share about your home remodel project and make everything archived by the borg, but I really think image saving/sharing is out of context on your personal branding page. Capturing and sharing this image information has had a tricky history and Pinterest solved a problem we didn’t know we had.

2. People are busy and ideas are fleeting – Maybe this is the ADHD generation? I am a GenXer. I have way too much to do, a reasonable income and a very short attention span. I have a hard time keeping track of things that aren’t completely essential and ideas are on that list. In a personal example: With my process of moving around a lot in the last few years, my confidence in the house decorating department was a bit threatened from being a bit out of practice. I have made up for it with a huge file of images saved on my computer from design blogs. It was an old school solution to needing a place to look for ideas from images I already filtered and liked. Did it create solutions for my house? Yep, several rooms in the new house have been redone based on color pallettes from those photos. But in a day I may only see 1-3 photos I like from 50+ interior design blogs. In a year that is a lot to comb through and it isn’t share-able offline nor is it accessible from anywhere. So, Pinterest has recently proved more accessible and more shareable for keeping these images. Plus it is free for now. I could see them evolving into suggesting ad based photos by retailers based on your tags/likes/pins in the future.

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3. Trends/Decisions are easier to analyze when you have all the information from multiple sources in one place. I find it difficult to make buying decisions in this day and age because in most every category there are too many brands, products, colors, choices, prices and options to keep straight. (information overload) Making a pinning board for new shoes you are considering buying takes a lot less time than going to the 5 stores in your area and trying to decide that way or ordering online from Zappos and having to return them all. Plus you can save that pic of that shoe you love but don’t need right now for later. Side by side lists and comparisons make shopping a little easier, but in most cases these wishlists really work on selling to you and others. Someone recommends something, you loooove it, click-click-bought. That isn’t really a bad consumer strategy. I have found that if I ever pass on an item and want to look it up to buy later, it is impossible/gone  with how short the merch time is in stores (online and off) and how styles change so vastly that it may never be seen again. (yet the things you’re never very thrilled with seem to pop up again and again in many different stores). Items/Pictures that are popular on Pinterest may have more staying/selling power due to the large audience or they may be more trendy when people move on to the next micro trend. I am not sure yet because there is a lot of churn in products these days, some people consuming constantly, others stopping completely.

4. Like TED some ideas are worth sharing. I enjoy seeing what my friends have discovered and pinned. It tells me what they are into, what is new, what really good ideas/recipes they want to share and hopefully some of those ideas are good for me too. I have found some interesting clever solutions for household annoyances this way. True, this may just mirror the offline world where women would share tips on household stuff while chatting in the yard, but it makes sense for other subject matter/industries too as long as there aren’t proprietary info in the photos and there is a collective community sharing information. This could be a marketing strategy if you have real solutions your product offers and the story can be told in an image that looks real.

5. The biggest reason? Discovery is a process that a lot of us get a big burst of happy from. It doesn’t matter if it is online discovering photos, reading a magzine, watching a TV show, taking a vacation or creating something like artwork or crafts. Many of us have jobs that are pretty specialized and we do a short list of things for the company and don’t have a lot of variety or creativity in our daily lives. I have found that I need some form of creativity (writing, photography, art, dance, design) in order to be happy and I have a feeling that this may be the case for others too. Even the simulation of creativity by discovering and learning from photos of how to keep wrapping paper on the roll with a sliced toilet paper core haves us that Aha moment and makes us feel happier, smarter & more connected. All this in an easy to use format and without requiring much reading for the ADHD generations.

6. Another reason it may be growing is that Pinterest is very accessible on iPads which can go anywhere in the home when you have time to look at it. (the app is just fair, I prefer the full site in the browser on an iPad) It is a guilty pleasure just like celeb blogs on some level. I think mobile/tablet use is making the site more addictive although probably not the main reason for it’s success. Now that retailers (Etsy) has added pin it button to their listings pages I hope more retailers do this to help promote their products. One thing is clear though, it will take 500+ views and likes before you find someone ready to buy, and you will probably have to have some familiarity/trust built with them first. Most people do a lot of window shopping/dreaming on the site, a lot more than buying. But that is part of marketing, getting the word out in the first place, or as some say, creating the need. A large enough audience may just be able to significantly impact sales too.

7. The more I think about it there are more reasons that this site works well and attracts people so quickly. An element of new sites that often works well is keeping the interface simple and the navigation self explanitory. (especially with people who don’t have a lot of time or patience) In this case the content/images take center stage and the navigation/functionality is uber simple and almost in the background. If/when they would like to expand on it they can build more complexity over time and teach the audience along the path to more features just as/or before they get bored with the current ones. Facebook has done this pretty well and has been able to innovate its way ahead of many other sites.

Any other reasons you think Pinterest is growing so quickly?

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!

How do you lower your cholesterol? With what foods?

I heard from my doctor on Monday that I have high cholesterol, it is 243 at the moment. The good cholesterol is at 71 and the bad is 146. Yikes! I am only 33 so this is a bit surprising. We really took the test on a whim, not expecting it to be that bad yet. Yes I have a family history of heart problems (my maternal grandmother died at 50 with a heart attack and my paternal grandmother died at 55 from a stroke) but I never knew it started this early.

I do feel like I have time to work on this, at my current age I can make changes now and hopefully reverse some of the issues. There are some suprises though that lead me to believe my genetics aren’t that great. Not only am I a lot younger than most people with this cholesterol score, I also don’t eat the things they say are causing it. I am not someone who eats red meat every night, cheese, whole milk, butter or eggs. I think there are some sneaky causes to high cholesterol though that may not be as straightforward as the advice they have given me.

The causes I think are:

1. I am completely sedentary. I get less than 1K steps a day because of my job and where I live. This isn’t really changeable which sucks.

2. I eat out a lot, because we work a lot and I am a pretty bad cook. I really don’t know how to make anything besides grilling it, boiling it or the nuke it in the microwave method. I also grossed myself out on healthy choice and lean cuisine frozen meals in the 1990s so I can’t really eat them anymore. So I need another option besides skim milk and fat free cereal for dinner.

3. Healthy food is expensive! And Complicated! Yuck, or it’s raw which isn’t that great. I really can’t afford salmon or a fancy salad every night. I have to look into some low fat/cholesterol options.

4. Carbs may play a role in this. Both because many carb-licious items have butter/iol/fat in them and because carbs get eventually turned into and stored as fat. I am a carb addict. I would much rather come home and eat a pile of pancakes or muffins than meat any day. But then again I’m polish and we do carbs like nobody else. (and I like the serotonin from them too)

5. I have to get reading labels again. Both with packaged groceries and in restaurants. Hmmm an iPhone would help with looking up nutritionals at restaurants. I really have been lax in looking into that and keeping track of what the heck I put in my mouth.

6. I am consistently surprised that I gain so much weight from just a few calories extra and how little I work off. I think part of the equation is also loosing weight, but I’m not morbidly obese either. I am bout 20 lbs heavier than I should be, which definitely needs to go since its a cholesterol making machine, but it’s not like I have done anything drastically bad yet and I’m already in trouble.

The man-foods we usually have at home that I am no longer allowed are:

1. Brats (duh, we’re mid-westerners and they are really cheap)

2. Pizza (again a cheap fast food with a huge amount of cheese and most of the time Steve also likes meat)

3. Bakery (sob!) I love any kind of baked goods and I just got a kitchen aid mix master for a wedding gift. Sigh… I have to do things like angel food cake (egg whites, no fat) and light bread and limit carbs generally.

4. Hamburgers (again cheap food that is freezer friendly and fast to make)

5. Ice Cream – I usually eat light ice cream and not all the time, but this is probably best left off limits.

6. Snacks – Granola bars are really formulated to taste like cookies and bakery these days, and they have the bad stuff to match. Candy of all kinds can’t be good either.

What did you spend your economic stimulus rebate check on?

I have not yet received my rebate check from the US government for economic stimulus purposes. I have read though that people are planning on saving it, paying down debts or using it for necessities like food and gas. All very good things. I think the people who will loose out will be the ones that think it is good for another fancy handbag or 100th pair of red shoes.  I think some Americans are coming to the conclusion that you are not what you own and that a simpler lifestyle has less financial risk in these uncertain times.

I have lived on both sides of the fence, a child of a uber-frugal dad and a spendy mom. I currently feel the urge to get a pair of dark jeans trouser pants even though I have plenty of pants. I feel the urge to pay extra principle on my mortgage every month even though I probably won’t be living there in 20 or 30 years. I feel the need to buy a car that gets 35 mpg or better AND has leather heated seats AND an automatic transmission AND costs less than $20K (used). Why do none exist? I guess I am a paradox that car makers don’t accommodate.

I am not suprised at the high cost of gasoline right now and fully expect it to get higher. (it’s not that they don’t want to increase oil production, it’s that they can’t because there isn’t more to be tapped) That said, it is scary that I spent $120.00 in May on Gas and I only drive on Weekends since I take the train and walk to work. If I was still driving every day to and from work that would be about double at $240.00. A full tank just cost me $65.oo and I have a 16 gallon tank.

What I didn’t see coming is the rising cost of food. Everything is not only going up in price at the grocery store, there is a difference in the regular prices of food depending on where you buy it in Chicagoland. I have started shopping at the super target in far west suburbia where Steve lives rather than pay about 10% more in Oak Park. And that doesn’t even include the difference in sales taxes by county.

I think people’s budgets will be pushed even further to the edge and breaking point in the rest of 2008 and that it will be a lean Christmas because the high cost of basic necessities will make it hard to afford non-necessity gifts. I would say that a good place for the rebate check would be an ING savings account and hopefully it will generate some interest before it becomes a Christmas gift fund.

Ecoli recall for Totino’s & Jeno’s frozen pizzas with pepperoni

Ecoli bacteria keep popping up in our processed foods and processed meat. Like in the latest ecoli recall for the Totino’s & Jeno’s frozen pizzas with pepperoni topping. It’s gross really. It’s just like in the movie Fast Food Nation. See it if you can. It’s sad and kind of gross at times but I would bet money that this is the same thing happening with these processed meat products. It’s not fertilizer this time is it?

We all eat a lot of processed foods now. The companies that manufacture them know we have a million things to do and are huge procrastinators and very lazy Americans. When is the last time you have seen someone make a pizza from scratch? like with flour and tomatoes? Or someone bake a pie from scratch, like with raw fruit? In the 1940’s everyone did that. It was the only option for getting something to eat. Super markets were filled with ingredients. Now they are filled with manufactured and processed foods that have already been cooked for us.

Sometimes we like technology and the progress it brings but we may have pushed too far because it is hurting people and their health now. Since women work outside the home in about 75% of households now no one really can afford to cook anything from scratch. We all watch cooking shows as food porn, not because anyone actually completes those recipes themselves.

It’s sad in a way. We don’t always know what we are getting ourselves into when we accept progress. Now we have to be more careful than ever.

Wired Science . Video: Cool Whip | PBS

Check this video about what is reall in Cool Whip. YIKES! I firmly believe that if we knew what was really in most processed foods we would not eat them. So much of it isn;t really made from food. It’s all chemicals and fake manufactured stuff. Its not digestable either and we have no idea what the long term affects are of these chemicals on our bodies. Hello cancer. Why is it so hard to find simple natural good food?

Vodpod videos no longer available.