Category Archives: Exercise

Everything is Awesome

My son used to have a very negative attitude when he approached any new situation. He would assume that it would be awful, and as a result, most of the time it was. I told him every time that his attitude is what made the difference. If he assumed things would be awful, they probably would be. However, if he went into something new thinking that it would be awesome (or at least sort of fun), then it was more likely to turn out that way. Turns out repetition–or at least growing up a bit–works, as he now can approach things with a more positive attitude, and more often enjoys each new experience.

In the past, if I thought about losing weight, I would think about everything I would have to live without. I’d never get sweets again, never have donuts, or fried food. I’d have to give up ice cream, and pasta. I’d have to get up early and go to the gym, and get all sweaty and disgusting.

However, none of that is true (well, I do get kind of sweaty and disgusting at the gym, I guess). I can have sweets, and if I wanted to I could eat donuts and fried food. I had ice cream (with homemade apple crisp) on Saturday night to celebrate my husband’s birthday. My vegetarian lasagna is in our regular rotation for Meatless Monday. The secret is making sure that if I am going to eat something beyond what I know is really healthy for me (fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, plant-based carbs), then it has to be awesome. I don’t have sweets every day, I save it as a special treat and only eat dessert if it is awesome, like an amazing chocolate dessert at a fancy restaurant. We don’t go out to eat all the time anymore, we save it up and go out for an awesome meal every couple weeks or so.

Here’s the thing–by getting to the point where sugar and processed carbs are an occasional thing for me, my taste buds and digestive systems have changed. I no longer want that donut (too sweet) or the fried foods (I know I would suffer later). It is easier to eat healthy because that is the food that tastes best and makes me feel awesome every day.

That’s not to say that I no longer have a sweet tooth, because I do, it’s just not as sweet as it used to be. If I am tempted by something I know wouldn’t be healthy I first judge whether it is awesome. If not, for example if it is just a store bought cookie at a pot luck, instead of telling myself that I can’t have it, I remind myself that I only eat that stuff if it is awesome, and I can always get myself an awesome dessert the next time we eat out.

As far as exercise, instead of waking up thinking “I have to go to the gym today” I remind myself how awesome I feel all day if I get some movement in the morning. If I’m going for a walk, I download a podcast (This American Life and Serial are my current favorites) so I get to listen to a story while I walk. I don’t let myself listen to those podcasts anywhere else, so I look forward to my walk.

In order to maintain my weight loss, I need to continue with my healthier lifestyle every day for the rest of my life. By changing my attitude, that prospect no longer seems like a burden, most of the time it feels awesome.

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Maintaining…and Maybe Losing a Little

I haven’t blogged in awhile, because my kids started school and all those fun after school activities started as well. I also teach music as a volunteer at my kids’ school, so I started back up with that too. I think I’ve gotten into the groove of things now.

It is almost 3 months after I hit the 100 lb. loss milestone, and I’m mostly maintaining, although still losing a little bit very slowly. I still weigh myself every day, and my weight goes up and down a bit throughout each week, but there is a very slight downward trend over time. This is why I like having a digital scale; I use the Withings scale, which has an iPhone app with a graph that shows the moving average–or general trend–of my weight. Today I hit a new low weight, putting me only 1 pound from my original goal of 135 lbs. I don’t know whether I will actually stay that low though…sometimes these outlier lows and highs happen, not sure why. Still not really trying to get to the 135 lb. goal before my skin reduction surgery, though it would be fine if I end up there.

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My moving average from the last 6 months

At the weight I am today though, I am just inside the “healthy” range on the BMI scale. That happened for the first time 10 days ago (Sept. 6), but then my weight went back up by a pound or so and I was back at the very bottom of the “overweight” range. Just goes to show that the BMI thing should be taken as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. I am really healthy right now, a size 8 (and sometimes a 6 depending on the store), I look and feel strong, I am full of energy, and that is all before any of my skin reduction surgery.

As I had hoped towards the end of my weight loss, maintenance has merely been a matter of continuing on as I was doing throughout this whole journey. The only thing that has changed is I feel a bit more free to go out to dinner occasionally, and perhaps have a treat now and then. I still eat lots and lots of veggies and quite a lot of fruit, and watch my portions on everything else. I don’t feel at all deprived, I am eating delicious food. I honestly can’t imagine going back to eating all the junk I was putting into my body before. I still go to the gym almost every day for an hour, and I alternate between cardio (usually Zumba or Cardio Kickboxing) and strength training (usually BodyPump). On days I don’t have the time to get to the gym, I often do the 7-Minute Workout so I still benefit from the energy boost of a workout.

When I first started losing weight, I remember reading this study about maintaining weight loss that made me very depressed. Basically, it said that when an obese person loses weight, their metabolism slows down because the body wants to return to the weight it had grown accustomed to. The study also said that the hormones that regulate appetite change so that a person who has lost a lot of weight is hungrier. So maintaining a weight loss was very difficult, if not impossible for the people in this study.

However, if you read the study further, the people in this study were put on a highly restricted diet, and lost the weight very quickly. As far as I can tell, they never learned to eat healthier, or to live in a healthier, maintainable manner. This is why I continue to tell my friends (and anyone else who actually reads my blog), PLEASE DON”T GO ON A DIET! I feel like you are just setting yourself up for failure if you do. Just try to gradually make healthy changes in your lifestyle until you are living in a way you can maintain, that will also help you achieve your goals.

I Can’t Actually Zumba My Butt Off

I was listening to Science Friday on NPR a few weeks back, and the guest was the author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, Robert Lustig. Fascinating interview, and I’m right now reading the book. I’m going to have a lot to say about it, it has really made me think a lot about nutrition, but I want to finish the book before going into all of that.

During the interview, the author stated that exercise does not cause weight loss. He went on to say that you burn more calories watching TV and sleeping than you do by exercising. At first I was like, what the hell is he talking about? Here I am, exercising my butt off and losing weight! But as I thought about it, I realized what he meant. If you exercise and you don’t also change your eating lifestyle, you are not going to lose weight. The amount of calories you burn through exercise will not make up for a crappy diet.

The author went on to say that exercise is incredibly important for your health. He talked about the science behind how building muscle will help control your insulin, which will keep you from gaining weight. His book goes into all this in a lot more detail. It has been my approach from the beginning that I am not exercising to lose weight. I have changed the way I eat so I can lose weight. I am exercising to improve my health, and I have seen so many rewards from exercising. In the measurable areas, my resting heart rate is in the 50s, which is in the zone for athletes, my blood pressure which was always in the prehypertension range is now well in the normal range. I have a ton more energy. Exercising in the morning keeps me in a good mood for most of the day. I can play sports with my kids, for as long as they want to play. I have to work hard to get out of breath, while before all it took was walking up the stairs. My body feels strong, the only aches and pains I feel are sore muscles from strength training, which is usually a good kind of pain.

My point here is that if you start an exercise routine thinking that you will lose weight, and you don’t also change your diet, you may get frustrated very quickly. I say, no matter what, start that exercise routine (remember to make it something you enjoy!) and stick with it. If you don’t feel like changing your diet, you may not lose any weight. You will still be a much healthier person.

Do What Is Sustainable For You

There is always a lot of discussion online and IRL about how many calories are the right amount to eat per day, how much exercise, should I cut this or that out of my diet. My advice is to only do what you can sustain for the long term. Depending on how much weight you have to lose, you could be at it for a long time. Even when you are down to your goal weight, things shouldn’t change that dramatically in order to maintain your new weight. If you go back to all your old habits, you will gain all of the weight back.

If you love pasta, don’t cut out all pasta. Just reduce how much pasta you eat, make sure to keep an eye on portion sizes. If you hate jogging, don’t jog. Find other exercises you enjoy. If you crave sweets, have a small treat each night, or every few nights, like a piece of dark chocolate. Find ways to make your favorite foods healthier, for instance finding light versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to go out to dinner, do it…just do it infrequently (think of all the money you’ll save!) and try to make good choices.

Reduce the number of calories you eat per day down to something you can sustain, and never under 1200 calories per day. I am 5’2″, and I exercise pretty regularly. When I first started, I was eating between 1400-1600 calories per day, and now I am between 1300-1500 calories per day. I eat more on days I’m hungry, and less if I’m not as hungry. I am working hard on listening to my body and giving it what it needs.

I started out small with exercise, only doing Zumba on the Xbox 3 days a week for about 30 minutes, on an easy setting. I have added a lot more exercise because I enjoy it.

When people approach me about my weight loss, they always mention how much hard work it must take. It absolutely does take hard work. However, I feel like all of my hard work has already been done, months ago. The hard work was changing my habits, eating less, exercising more, slowly changing my life to this healthier way of living. That’s done now, and this is just my life. Yes, I’m hoping after I get to my goal I won’t have to log all my food anymore, but maybe I will. As with all the other changes I have made, it is something I can sustain.

Maybe I Don’t Completely Hate Jogging

Twice a week, I volunteer as a music teacher at my children’s school. I often have some time between classes, so in order to get in some exercise in those days, I’ve been taking a walk. There’s a great hill near the school, with an elevation rise of 600 ft. in about 1.4 miles. Definitely gets my heart working hard. The problem is that on the way back down, another 1.4 miles, I can’t get my heart rate up by just walking. So, I’ve started jogging back down most of the hill.

On Christmas day, the gym was closed but I still wanted to get some exercise in to make up for the excess to come. We have the Christmas tree in the middle of the living room, so Zumba on the Xbox is not an option at the moment. So, I decided to try out jogging again. Turns out, I don’t hate it. I think what I really hated was when I was doing the Couch to 5K program, I felt like I had to jog the entire 5K without stopping. Then when I finished the program, I still felt like I had to jog the whole time without stopping. When I went out for my Christmas jog, I let myself switch to a brisk walk when I felt like it. I enjoyed it so much more! I went for another jog/walk today, about 4.5 miles, and enjoyed it again. My husband points out that I never like “have to’s”, and jogging had become a “have to”. Now that it is a “want to” I kind of like it. Don’t know what that says about my personality, but there it is.

I Love to Exercise! (How Crazy is That?)

Seriously, I used to listen to these people who claimed that they liked to exercise and thought they were nuts. Who would want to huff and puff, and yuk! all that sweat! How could anyone think that was a good time?

Now I have become one of those crazy people. It all started with Zumba. That was my gateway exercise. I still love Zumba, I take a class anywhere from 2 to 3 times per week, and would go more often if I could find classes that fit my schedule. Definitely still my favorite. I also take a couple of dance aerobic classes, which are more choreographed and have a bigger learning curve–and not as much hip shaking. Also fun, but not as fun as Zumba. I now also love BodyPump, a crazy body sculpting class where you work out with a barbell, doing about 800 repetitions in a 60 minute class. By the end, my whole body feels like jello, but I am so proud and feel so accomplished every time. If I can ever get it to fit my schedule, I also want to try the cardio kickboxing class. That one sounds like it could be fun.

There is still some exercise I dislike. I don’t think I will ever enjoy jogging. I really don’t like any of the machines at the gym, not the cardio ones, and not the weight ones either. For the most part, I don’t do the things I don’t enjoy. There are plenty of things I do enjoy doing–the group classes and hiking with friends–so why do the things I don’t think are fun? One of my friends wants me to try a group cycling class with her, but that one doesn’t sound much fun to me either.

We just went on a quick vacation, and I did use the elliptical machine in the hotel each morning. Mostly that was because I now just feel better if I have gotten some exercise, so it was worth 30 boring minutes on the machine to feel better the rest of the day.

Somebody asked me how I was feeling after losing so much weight. I said that of course I feel wonderful. How could you exercise every day and not feel great? I really think that is true. The amount of energy and just general sense of well being I have gained through regular exercise is simply amazing.

So, if you are one of the people (as I used to be) who thinks I am crazy, maybe just start with some small exercise that you think is really fun, like a dance class, taking a walk with friends, or kickboxing at the gym. Maybe it could be your gateway exercise to becoming crazy like me.

60 Pounds!

I am now down 60 pounds from when I started, 45 more pounds to go. 45 sounds infinitely better than 105! It actually doesn’t sound hard at all, although I still fear the dreaded plateau as my goal gets closer. I’m not sure if a plateau is an inevitable thing, or if I can avoid it if I keep going the way I have been. Guess I’ll find out.

I’ve got my exercise schedule pretty well set now. I find myself going to the Y many days a week, and I’m really enjoying the group exercise classes. I never thought that was something I’d enjoy, but Zumba is so much fun with a group, and I enjoy how the body sculpting classes really push me to my limits. I don’t enjoy the weight machines as much, but I’m only doing those once per week.

When I started this journey, I was only occasionally tracking my food intake. I quickly found that it worked much better if I consistently tracked my food nearly every day–only giving myself the occasional meal off from tracking (like when I went to this fabulous British Tea last week). I introduced a friend of mine to MyFitnessPal, and he is amazed at how easy it is to lose weight once you are tracking what you are eating. I totally agree. It is only a matter of realizing how many calories are in the things you are eating, and what the proper portions are, and then the weight comes off easily. You don’t have to exercise as much as I am, I have just found myself enjoying the exercise, and how it makes me feel. You don’t have to lose weight as fast as I have been, losing any weight can help your health. I encourage anyone who is on the fence about getting healthier to just start tracking what you are eating. You might find some simple changes can make a huge difference.