Saturday, April 30, 2011

Calories Do Count

Having finished a six-week challenge with an online friend, I'm embarking on a 10-week personal challenge much like the one just finished.  I have proven I can be successful in adhering to a program over a shorter period of time, and now want to see if I can have the same discipline for an extended period.

A couple of items reinforced my approach this week.  I caught a bit of Oprah one day as she presented 50 or so women who had been on a trainer's program in which they did 300 minutes of exercise per week and limited calories to 1700 per day.  They also had a skin care routine and sleep advice in their simple program, much like my own except that my calorie intake has been even more limited than that.  Individuals lost between 6 and 27 pounds over a period of 60 days.  Much depended on their adherence to the program.

On the same day I saw a news item about a man (a college professor perhaps, I'm not positive) who wanted to prove that you could lose weight regardless of what you ate as long as you paid attention to the total calories consumed.  To prove his point he lost weight while eating Twinkies and other junk food.

Well yes, I completely agree a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and to lose weight you just need to burn more calories than you consume.  During my program I had at various times spaghetti and meatballs, mac n cheese, creme brulee.  But not every day.  And always compensated for with other calories during the day.  But I have found that I'm much better off to get my calories from foods that provide the most possible nutrition and also satisfy my hunger over longer periods of time.  For this reason I include breads and pastas in my daily calories and lots of veggies.  I've eliminated butter and nearly all added fats and have greatly reduced the sodium I consume simply because I eat so little pre-prepared food.  I do take a vitamin/mineral supplement too as I'm not confident I'm getting everything my body needs.  The bottom line is that I've found you can consume a pretty low number of calories and not feel hungry depending on what you choose to eat.

Yesterday at work a co-worker brought in a big plate of homemade cupcakes for our meeting.  I estimated in my head the calories and decided I could have a cupcake or lunch but not both.  I opted for lunch.

These are decisions I make every day.  I don't have chips, cookies, ice cream in the house unless grandchildren are coming.  If I want a sweet snack like chocolate, I buy a single portion, to allow no leftovers to tempt me later.

And I don't cheat.  If I cheat, the person I sabotage is myself.

I have such a sense of my life changing right now with so many transitions taking place, and I feel this is so right to get myself as physically healthy and fit as possible for last decades of my life.  That has been motivation enough to keep me on track and committed.

I appreciate the many words of encouragement from those who check in here from time to time.  If you are facing similar issues in your life, I urge you to try a simple program like this.  It is so rewarding when you see the results.  If you do, would you let me know?  I'd be very interested.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peeling off more layers

Today's celebration is for significant weight loss.  I've been on a very strict regimen and it's paying off.   Yes, I've lost weight, a good amount.  But I've also seen real progress in how my clothes fit.  I have two sizes of clothes in my closet and sadly I'm wearing the larger of the two.  But until I started this program, that size was becoming extremely tight and I was in danger of needing yet another size up. I couldn't let that happen.  But after just four weeks of effort, pants that used to pinch at the waist with serious muffin top now sit comfortably and loose at the waist, and thighs no longer look like sausages in them. I tried on the next size down and zipped it up, but still too snug--but we'll get there.  It's nice to see progress not only on the scales but how clothing fits and how I feel.  A big plus is having less pain walking up and down stairs.

The program I follow is self-prescribed and simple:
  • I walk 3+ miles per day, 5 days a week (about an hour).  
  • I limit calories to under 1500 (more like 1200, in fact)
  • I do something nice for myself every day (this is harder than you might think)
  • I log (yes or no) if I engage in any emotional eating

I log everything on a shared spreadsheet where my friend and I exchange comments and encouragement for each other.

Only a few times has the walking been difficult because of weather. But I walk on a flat area that has helped me to build up my stamina and improve my pace.  I use and GPS on my phone to track my walks and prompt me at each half mile I achieve.  Today I walked 4.4 miles.  When I walk in the morning, my energy is up and I can last longer.  At the end of this program I plan to start walking more on the hills, improving my pace, and varying my exercise with bike riding as weather permits.  Minimum an hour a day, whatever the activity.

Limiting calories would be hard except that I am very careful about what I choose to eat right now.  You can eat a lot of vegetables with a very low calorie count.  I add no butter and I limit even olive oil which has 120 calories per tablespoon.  No food is "illegal" but if I want to eat out, I compensate at other meals.  Usually I'll eat half and take the rest home for another meal.  At home sandwiches are one slice of bread instead of two.   I use light soy milk on dry cereal instead of regular milk.  Many dinners are nothing but veggies.  I bought a little notebook that is just for tracking food and calories--each day starts on a new page.  I've had only a couple of days where I exceeded my goal, only as a result of social eating.  But I have no guilt for that as I also need to be with friends and sometimes that involves food.  But one thing is for sure: if I'm going to consume more calories, they'd darn well better be extra delicious!  The key to success is planning ahead what I will eat and having low calorie snacks on hand for when I really feel the need.

I've wanted to track the emotional eating issue to see if my state of mind affects how I eat.  I think I've been so successful at keeping a positive viewpoint, that I have rarely had episodes I would call emotional eating.  And even then, I'll just have a fruit or graham cracker and stay within allowed calories.  But as they say, nothing succeeds like success.  The more I lose, the more motivated I am to stick with it.

Our challenge ends in two more weeks, but I am going to continue my program for longer and continue tracking.  Even though I've lost quite a bit, I still have a long ways to go to reach my ideal weight.  Incidentally, weight goals are not in my program.  I do weigh, but I don't have a target for each week.  I know if I follow the plan, the pounds will come off, and they do.

Continuing to emerge.