As of yesterday, I hit my goal weight* – I’ve lost a total of thirteen pounds since I was at my heaviest in June. This is slightly more than half of what I gained when I quit smoking. And while I’m the first to admit that not all of it was lost through my hard work (Shelly getting sick and whatever we caught in Mexico certainly played roles), I am really proud of myself for finally figuring out what was going to work for me and being able to stick to it. And that’s the key: finding what works for you. So how did I do it?
Part of the problem I was having was that dieting was way the hell to complicated. I tried low-cal, low-fat, and low-carb, but I was obviously doing something wrong (I still haven’t quite figured out what). I do know that my portion sizes were way the hell too large. Being aware of that didn’t help me cut them down any, though. Somewhere along the way my body’s ability to register satisfaction got knocked off-kilter. I blame quitting smoking for that, too. Especially after a long workout I’d be ravenous, eat way too much, and then feel like utter crap. I needed a way to retrain my body to eat smaller amounts and still be satisfied again.
I’ve never, ever been great at math so counting calories and carbs with no real guidance probably wasn’t a smart move. The first smart move I did make was downloading Lose It!. It’s a weight loss/fitness app for android and iPhone, and there’s a companion website as well. The system comes pre-programmed with stats for a lot of common foods – including brands and restaurants. It’s not perfect by any means. For example, not everyone has food scales, so sometimes serving sizes aren’t precise, or they don’t’ match up with what the program has; sometimes you’re not sure how to classify something; and in the case of small, family owned local restaurants (like the kind we tend to favor), calorie, carb, and fat information may not be available and it’s best-guess. How many calories you burn during exercise is best guess in some cases, too. I have no idea how fast I walk when we “walk the trail” near our house. And the “treadmill” option is probably way off for me, as I can’t run on the damned thing. Still, it does contain a lot of information and it does the math for you. Even if you don’t log every mouthful, it’s a great way to chart your weight so you see your progress. The paid version of the program is even neater, I understand.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
Even with help from Lose It!, I didn’t start making progress until I simplified things. And I mean really simplified things.
I remembered that I used to eat Slim Fast meal bars in college because they were yummy and easy to carry around. I didn’t have to heat them and I could fit one in my purse. I don’t remember actually losing weight then, but they were damned convenient.
Before anyone gets judgy – Slim Fast works for some people. I am one of them. Part of the reason is that it’s so easy to follow. It takes the stress out of eating. Bar for breakfast, bar for lunch – 200 calories each. If you want a snack, they make those too – 100 calories each, and you can have up to two per day if you even want them. Or you can sub two snacks of any other 100 calorie pack or 100 calories of nuts, fruit, or veggies if you’d rather. Sometimes I’d have a FiberOne bar or brownie. After the weather turned colder I started having a cup of Swiss Miss in the afternoons instead of a snack. And sometimes I’d not feel the need to snack at all.
The other part of it is that I wasn’t normally a huge eater before I stopped smoking. I had “a little something” for breakfast and for lunch, with dinner my main meal (we’ll discuss the fact that it was usually something horrible at a later time). Sometimes I would snack here and there, and it was usually dry cereal. At some point after I quit smoking that changed, and beyond losing weight I really needed to get my body back on track. Slim Fast went a long way toward helping me do that.
Changing What We Ate
Husband and I got in a bad habit of eating out and eating over processed crap while Chewie was sick. I admit – I love to eat out! But this was really out of character for Alex. He loves cooking as much as I hate it and he prefers whole, organic foods. Unfortunately, Chewie required a huge time commitment while he was sick. Alex needed quick meal options, and sometimes it was up to me to throw together something for us to eat. The drive back and forth to the vet was long, and many times it was just easier to stop somewhere on the way. There were a lot of evenings when we walked down the street for Chinese or ordered takeout pizza, too. We both knew that had to stop.
Last summer, Husband found a website called Live Better America. Specifically, he found their 30 Days Under 300 Calories plan. This was a thirty-day meal plan (with substitutions) of “healthified” recipes. Most were 300 calories per serving or less, and all had reduced fat and sodium. We decided to give it a go. We ate one of these recipes every night and skipped eating out. Boy am I glad we did! Between the Slim Fast and these delicious dinners, I started seeing results!
Near the end of the thirty days we started exploring the rest of the Live Better site looking for other recipes to try. My Pinterest is actually full of things we have tried or want to try. We’ve rarely been disappointed with the things we’ve chosen. We don’t always follow the recipes to the letter – I’ve mentioned that we both have things that we just don’t eat, so we make substitutions. Sometimes we just use the site for inspiration. We both agreed that if we start feeling icky, or if we think we’re getting “off track,” we’ll just do the 30 Day plan again.
Since I’ve been doing the Slim Fast/Live Better thing, I’ve slowly noticed some changes. I can’t eat fast food at all. I’d been mostly avoiding it anyway, but since this diet, it’s a complete no-go. The same is true for anything overly processed and most restaurant food. Which is good! That’s not to say I don’t have the occasional chocolate chip cookie or a piece of dark chocolate once in a while – I do! We still eat out, too, but not quite as often as we used to and we’re much choosier about where we eat.
I have been working out more or less regularly since before I stopped smoking. When I started dating my husband, I could barely get through twelve minutes on the stair-climb elliptical at his building’s gym. Now I can do forty five minutes of the total body workout program; I can do fifty minutes to an hour on the treadmill at various heights, with wrist weights (though that is walking at a brisk clip – my deformity prevents me from running on it). The difference between the Mexico trips – three years apart – amazes me. There was so much I couldn’t do the first time that I did without evening thinking about it on this last trip.
Of course, there have been times when I simply couldn’t get to the gym- like when I was really ill or if Alex needed my help with Chewie, or if I had to work really late. For a long time, I still tried to work out five or six days per week most weeks. If I missed a day, I really beat myself up over it. Then I realized I wasn’t helping myself by doing this. I switched to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Sunday schedule, and it works so much better. I actually feel less pressure and I know I have three dedicated days off. I allow myself to switch now and a again, too.
There are a lot of ways to exercise. Park farther away whenever you go somewhere. Dance. Swim. Do yoga or Pilates in front of the TV, or go jogging or biking with a friend. You don’t have to be stuck inside a gym on a treadmill to get a good workout. You don’t have to buy a bunch of bulky equipment or get an expensive membership, either. Hell, try a couple of things until you find what you like and are comfortable doing. The main thing is to get up and move. Any exercise is better than no exercise. I tell myself that now, instead of beating myself up.
So, this is what worked for me. You’ll notice it wasn’t one thing, it was a combination of them, that finally helped me to lose weight and start feeling better. Will the same thing work for you? Maybe. But maybe not. Everyone is different which is why there is no one perfect diet or fitness plan for everyone. Losing weight is hard even when it’s a relatively small amount.
I can’t recommend LiveBetterAmerica.com enough, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. There are a lot of healthy options there for everyone, no matter your needs. I also recommend that you find some sort of exercise program (or programs!) you enjoy doing and try to do it a couple of times a week.
*This morning, the scales had me up a pound. But I refuse to let that kill my buzz.