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!

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New Ideas for 2012 and Beyond

Concepts and ideas I believe in that I think will become important in 2012 and beyond:  

1. Resale Stores selling Vintage stuff like New Merchandise – furniture, clothing, housewares. These things cost a lot to produce (time, money, materials, labor, shipping from China) and are being thrown out by the garbage load. Americans don’t value what they have and give a lot of things that are perfectly good to the trash. Things have changed somewhat with a lot of charity resale stores gaining popularity in the last 10 years and since the 2008 recession more mainstream stores have popped up. EBay & Etsy also foster this trend. I buy a lot of stuff through resale/etsy. But I have grown up within the vintage/antique culture and know what I like. I also pay attention to a lot of design blogs that continually reinvent old stuff to look new again and use things in new ways I never thought of. Bringing value to things that were otherwise not worth much. The resale business requires a good eye for possibility, sourcing, cleaning, warehousing, categorizing and marketing/sales.

2. Gold – Those cash for gold places have made many family heirlooms dissapear. Along with the clean out all your grandmother’s hoarded stuff trend, there is a lot of wealth being redistributed from the bottom to the top. People don’t know what stuff is worth, need cash, sell it for less than the real value and the few pieces of jewelry they had that would increase in value over time are gone in order to pay the rent. I think these cash for Gold places also foster thefts, but I don’t have a lot of data on that. These phenomenons are related to the standard of living in the United States in some decline while the rest of the world races to catch up. We may very well meet somewhere in the middle, accepting a life less than what we thought the American Dream provided.

Healthcare Ideas: (I’m not a Doc, and this is my opinion only as a patient/consumer)

1. Therapists/Counselors/Coaches for more than just prescribing drugs – depression is prevalent and is easy to hide. Drugs help some (or most?), but understanding how your mind works is really very valuable and only possible through therapy. Finding someone who does cognitive behavioral therapy that you work well with, and affording it is another story. I view this as more training/education than therapy for some people.

2. Gene studies, counselors and understanding your genetic health. 23andMe.com has made this cost effective for many more people, ($200/Yr)  but understanding and interpreting this data will be key to living longer. I tried this service a few months ago and find it fascinating although not very impactful with my health yet because I’m not sure what to do with it and my regular doctor isn’t really into genetic analysis. I found I am 87% genetically similar to my brother, I have none of the rare genetic diseases they test for, I am lactose intolerant (I suspected this anyway) and the top health risks that I face genetically in the long term (in comparison with average population risk for these diseases). I think there are far better services than 23andMe but they’re the entry level price company.

3. The yearly Physical Exam making a Comeback – I have read about this gaining momentum, I think this is relevant based on aging baby boomers increasing health needs and GenXers falling apart much earlier than their predecessors. We all had yearly physicals in order to play sports and enter school as kids, when we lost our pediatrician after college we had nowhere to go, no insurance to help pay for things (and no job either) so we stopped going. And jobs don’t require physicals like school did. I think GenXers (like myself) may be seeing how important that these are now that I am in my mid 30’s with so many health issues. The Obamacare law may make this accessible for everyone and impossible to get an appointment.

5. Digital Health Analytics – This is a big one that stretches from having your test results in a portal that contains your digital medical records and may allow you to send messages to your doc (MyChart) or as far as tracking all your health data over the long term and analyzing changes in test results and readings that may indicate an earlier detection of disease and aid MDs when they don’t have a lot of time with each patient anymore to do the analysis themselves. This works well with the people who do go for a yearly physical.

6. Radiation: Patients may start asking questions about the necessity of X-rays & CT Scans and instead ultrasound (harmless but not as clear) may be a preferred (lower risk) way to investigate some health issues with ambiguous and or minor symptoms. The Fukashima power plant meltdown has raised issues about what allowable levels of radiation we should have (milliseverts) as well as long term effects of radiation exposure, and nobody ever tells you how much radiation is being sent into your body by that machine taking pictures. Things like microwaves and granite counters may also go out of popularity because of the low level but accumulating radiation you are exposed to by being in the kitchen all the time. We live in the Midwest so Radon is also a silent killer more people are learning about, but like with any of these ideas this comes with a lot of skepticism.

Things that annoy me: (these came up today while reading, although they are not new)

1. Juicers and people who swear by this. Seriously? It is like a weird cult headed by Gwyneth Paltrow. Eat your veggies yes, juice them not necessary unless you really want a 15th appliance in your kitchen.

2. Paleo DietPeople in the paleolithic time lived so much longer than us…We should definitely do that. (Sarcasm) Avoiding processed foods, the raw diet philosophy all have some logic to them, but overall we have to moderate things.

3. Brita Type Filtering Water in Showers/Whole House – For most people this may not really make an impact, but if your water quality isn’t good, maybe it is worth it. Sounds expensive and just another thing to maintain in a house that keeps falling apart.

4. The Nothing Is Free Attitude – People get turned off by being nickeled and dimed whether it is their phone service or their doctor or their car. Companies should be willing to spend money up front proving that the process works or giving certain things away to build the relationship. Once broken not all relationships mend quickly. This idea also permeates a lot of  R&D, Business Development, Product Development and Venture Capital Investments. If we don’t do the research, testing and try things we won’t ever discover the next better innovation. With a life cycle of 3-5 years for some businesses it seems like the risk outweighs the reward and nobody is willing to move forward and the economy stalls further. Reinvention is key for most industries.