I got the following question the other day (OK, like a week ago, but I haven’t had the time to devote to the kind of response this question deserves): “First I want to say I’m so proud of your weight loss. I loved your post about trying to shop for you shrinking body. Anyway, I would love to know how you’ve done it. How often/intense do you exercise; do you count calories/fat or focus on wholesome food, etc.; and (if you don’t mind) what is your age? I feel like this whole process has become very difficult for me at 30, but maybe I’m just not putting forth enough effort.”
Warning: Long post to follow. Sorry.
First of all, thank you so much for A. asking me a question (I love it!) and B. the compliments. This journey takes dedication and effort — it is all about commitment, not quick fixes or temporary changes. It can certainly feel (at times) like it’s too much work — like it would be easier to just stop where I am. But then I really think about it and focus on my goals and envision where I want to be and realize that I will not be happy if I stop where I am. I will only be happy when I get to my healthy weight — the healthy way. This journey, this body, this person is totally worth every sweaty second at the gym and every second helping passed up.
To answer your easiest question first: I am 29 years old, getting closer to 30 by the second. And, for information’s sake, I’m 5’7” (though people swear I’m taller now that I’ve lost weight — I say it’s an optical illusion).
I joined Weight Watchers on July 27, 2009. This was the best decision I ever made. A lot of people have a lot of opinions about Weight Watchers. But, when done correctly, it’s a great way to keep track of what you’re putting in your mouth. They show you how to incorporate healthful foods into your diet and how to get your butt moving to burn calories. There will always be those who I call the Oreo & Dorito Weight Watchers. These are the people who realize that they can lose weight on Weight Watchers even when they eat the not-so-good-for-you stuff. It’s possible. As long as you stay within you allotted points (a combination of calories, fat and fiber), you can eat what you want. But to get the true benefit of the program, you have to use it as a way to adjust your lifestyle and learn portion control, proper nutrition and balance.
Points don’t take into account a lot of things such as sugars or vitamins or sodium. But they do help you learn to look at labels and portion out what you’re eating. Even though it’s not part of the Weight Watchers program, I do look at things like the sugar content and sodium. I read ingredients lists and try to stay away from things I can’t pronounce or don’t know what they are. But that’s not to say I don’t eat those things sometimes, too. By following the Weight Watchers program and combining it with things I read or learn from other sources and people — and the basic things I know about nutrition — I’ve been able to lose weight, which is great. But even more than that, I’ve lowered my cholesterol and improved my overall health. I sleep better. I have more energy. I am happier.
The real trick to what has made this diet change work for me is that I’ve really made it fit my lifestyle — and adjusted my lifestyle as needed. I allow myself treats. I enjoy ice cream, so I eat it. I enjoy chocolate, so I eat it. I enjoy full-fat, scrumptious cheeses, so I eat them. But it’s all within reason. And I plan for it. And I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. I try to eat foods that I know I’m really going to enjoy and that will fill me up.
Oh, and I drink a lot of water.
I have become one of those people who loves to exercise. I love the way it makes me feel. Really, I have come to enjoy and appreciate most types of physical activity — indoors and outdoors. My typical week includes three days of strength training, one 45-minute session with my trainer and five to six days of really good cardio (running outside or on the treadmill, spin class, stair climber or the elliptical) in my target heart-rate zone.
One of the first things I bought when I decided I really needed to do this and take it seriously (besides a good pair of running shoes) was a heart-rate monitor. I use the Polar F6. It has helped me immensely. It tells me at what intensity I’m working out and how many calories I’ve burned (plus other things). You’d be surprised how wrong those calorie counters on the gym equipment can be. One treadmill told me I had burned 500 calories during a workout, but my heart-rate monitor said I burned only 300. Imagine how off some of my calorie counts and numbers would be over time if each workout was over-estimated by 200 calories!
So far I’ve lost around 87 pounds — an average of about 2 pounds a week. But I’m now seeing that slow down and fluctuate from week to week. I’m getting to the point where I have to really work out hard and eat super well to see small changes on the scale. This past week I even gained 1.6 pounds. But I’m not devastated about it, as I would have been once. I know I’m making positive changes, and my quality of life is significantly better than it was nine months ago. Plus, I’m seeing so many other changes. Size 8/10, anyone?! I can run faster and farther than I’ve ever been able to in my life. I can lift weights. I don’t feel like I stand out like a sore thumb at the gym. And I’m even starting to see some definition in my arms. And a measly 1.6 pounds isn’t going to change that — especially since I know exactly what I need to do to get rid of it.
In case you’re not bored yet with my story, here are some of the posts I’ve made that might help you get some insight into my journey as well:
Thanks, again, for your question and comments. And thanks for reading my story — it makes it far less embarrassing to put all of this information out there if I think it helps even one person.