I thought I would write a bit about my recent weight loss because people are noticing it and peppering me with questions about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.
I’m all about lazy, so the next time someone asks me, I can just send them the link to this post.
So, what’s been going on? Well, I was fat and now I’m not so fat anymore. I’m down 32lbs (14.5kg/2.3 stone) since getting my crap together and taking weight management seriously. I have been at it for 15 weeks. I’m halfway to my goal.
I thought I’d approach this post as an FAQ, since I get asked the same kinds of questions repeatedly. So here we go.
How are you doing this?
I am mainly counting calories, using a product called My Fitness Pal. They have a website, as well as an app. For my age, height and starting weight, MFP determined that to lose 2lb/week I should limit my calories to 1,200 per day.
My Fitness Pal boasts the world’s largest food database. I simply enter the things I eat and it does all the calculations for calories and nutrients. I also enter exercise type/minutes there. When I’m finished entering my daily foods, I submit my entry and that’s that. No more eating.
The program works for me because it holds me accountable to everything that I shove down my gullet. It also makes me hyper-aware of how many calories are in everything. That’s the key takeaway: Awareness of calories encourages you to budget carefully and make better food decisions.
Are you also exercising?
Yes. I do 60-90 minutes of something every day of the week. Typically a combination of 30 min. cardio (using hand weights) coupled with about an hour of walking. I have two walking buddies – my sister Ann and my friend Leslie. We walk 2-4 miles, every day.
I also have a virtual buddy in my hair stylist. We have a pact where we message each other right after we’ve exercised to keep each other committed. Having a support system like this is extremely helpful.
Are you cutting out certain things like carbs or sugar?
Yes and no. I don’t believe in diets that have a name, like the South Beach Diet, which limits carbs. For me, that’s simply not sustainable. I want to eat in a well-rounded way and I want to eat normal foods, just a lot less of it.
I have a decent amount of carbs per day, but my added sugar intake is almost nil. I’m getting sugars only from fruit and whatever is in things like cereal or vegetables.
I was a committed sugar junkie for years. That is, until I discovered during Week 5 of this process that suddenly I didn’t crave it anymore. This surprised me because I wasn’t even trying to cut sugar.
But when you eat cleaner and better, the cravings subside. At the start, I used to peruse the bakery aisle, pick things up, put things down. Later, I’d glance at the bakery, asking myself if I could get away with it. Now, I don’t even look at the bakery. No desire.
I do have an occasional sweet, like French macarons. But only once a month and it’s enough.
Don’t you just lose your mind sometimes and want to eat a half gallon of ice cream because you’ve had a crappy day? I mean, come on!
Nope. What I’m discovering as a former stress eater is this – I will have stress every day of my life and eating ice cream does nothing to make the stress go away. If anything, eating it creates more stress because it makes me fatter. Vicious cycle, right?
And I’m working on such a relatively low calorie count, that I’ve become an expert at making the calories I have count. You don’t want to blow a whole day’s worth on ice cream because it won’t fill you enough and that sugar spike isn’t good either.
Are you worried about regain?
No, but it’s scary to think about the statistics on long-term weight loss. It’s estimated that nearly 80% of the people who lose a lot of weight gain it all back (and sometimes more) within two years.
What’s different about my effort is that I’m treating weight management like a disease, as my mother had to do with her Type 1 diabetes. My mother had to micromanage every single thing she ate. She had to test her blood glucose multiple times per day and take insulin shots.
When I think of how hard her life was having this burden, I think of how easy calorie counting is by comparison. I’m reminded of Mom’s struggle as I do this and it makes me stronger, more mindful and more dedicated.
I often read that people who reach their goal weight stop counting calories because they got too confident and then the weight crept back on.
The people who keep the weight off most successfully are the ones who keep tabs on their weight. They weigh themselves daily and react quickly at the sign of even a small gain. I plan to calorie count the rest of my life. I don’t consider it an imposition or burden.
Aren’t there days when you lose your willpower?
No. I like to put it this way. Most people think you have to maintain willpower to make weight loss work. But willpower is a fair weather friend and there’s only a finite amount of it before you cave.
What I’m doing is using discipline to manage my calories and exercise. Discipline and willpower are two different things. Discipline kicks in when willpower lets you down.
Don’t feel like working out today? Tough. Come on discipline, help me out here.
Want that 800 calorie take-out meal? Not happening. Discipline comes to the rescue.
Someone offers you treats and says “Come on, you deserve it!” Nope. Discipline keeps me focused and on track. I don’t need the extra food. I do need that extra exercise. Discipline gets me there. Willpower can suck it.
What would you tell someone who wants to lose weight?
Calorie count! Know the numbers. It’s said that weight loss starts in the kitchen, fitness begins in the gym. About 80% of weight loss comes from reducing calories, only 20% comes from exercise. So even if someone can’t exercise, their chances of losing are as good as they are for someone doing both diet and exercise.
I exercise because it feels great, reduces stress, builds muscle and offers a host of other benefits I want. But if I was injured or couldn’t exercise for some reason, I can still lose due to the reduction in calories (only a little slower).
So that’s my story. If you have questions, ask away!
p.s. I want to give a special shoutout to all those who’ve managed their weight wisely or who have maintained after weight loss. You have my admiration and respect. Give yourselves a high five!