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Banishing Shame


It's funny how the mind works.  My mind, anyway.  When I was very overwieght I was completely in denial and couldn't even apply the word "fat" to myself.  It felt like a massive personal failing.  I refused to honestly look in the mirror, hated seeing pictures of myself, constantly was in denial, and in the meantime ate whatever I wanted, and way too much of it, and barely exercised, all on the promise that I would eat less later, exercise more later, whatever.

I refused to see what I really was doing to myself because I felt helpless to change it, and at the same time I also beat myself up over the fact that I couldn't change it.   That tells me that somewhere deep down I knew I could change, but was using the excuse of not being able to, to salve my own feelings.  Hence the crippling shame, the denial.

So I started losing weight.  I started eating better, learned what portions actually looked like, got used to eating them, and learned about actual exercise.

A strange thing happened along the way.

My shame started to disappear!  I started being able to talk freely about my weight, where I started, where I was, where I was going.  I was fine with talking about body fat percentages, and sharing what it had been like to be medically obese, and how much better it was now.  When I started I said I had 95 pounds to lose - because I knew that if I was more than 100 pounds overweight I was morbidly obese.  Guess what campers?  I had 105 pounds to lose to get to the top EDGE of normal.  I was morbidly obese.  I was That Girl that I didn't want to be.  

The dirty little secret was, I had put myself in a seperate category from people who carried more than 100 pounds extra weight.  Somewhere deep down I was judging them, thinking I was better than them.  Only, what I didn't want to face was, there was no "me" and "them," there was only "us."  

The difference for me now is that there's less judgement, and there's a future.  I know for a FACT I can get to my goal.  I have already dropped 97 pounds.  I'm starting to lose again, too.  But, with all the things I've learned and all the work that I've gone through, I might expect that this is when I'd become judgemental.

Nope.  I have nothing but empathy for a person who is still carrying a lot of weight.  I know how hard it is to get through daily life.  Also, how hard it is to even see that you can improve your own situation. But it CAN be done.  I'm telling that to myself as well as anyone else reading this who needs to hear it. 

I don't judge myself for my own weight anymore.  I don't wrap my self worth up in how I look - I did that, even though I didn't want to admit it. I know for a fact what caused my high weight, I know what it takes to get rid of it, it's simple physics and inborn survival instinct coupled with a lack of coping mechanisms.  Now, I know that if I want a big meal and feel full, I can have a massive salad with low calorie toppings. I know that if I want something sweet I can have that too.  It's just a matter of paying attention to what I'm doing instead of just pretending to.

It's funny though - I would have thought that I'd go from being less judgemental and more accepting of everyone in the early days when I was heavy!  Nope.  It's the opposite.  The shame has gone away and I think that is helping me stay on track and not overeat uncontrollably. 

If I could give one tip to anyone who is trying to banish shame, it's this:  get curious about the process.  Learn about it.  Find out more about how your body works, the process of fat storage, what various nutrients do, and more.  The more curious you are, the more interesting it becomes and also the more you realize you are not alone.  The subject of study becomes a problem to be figured out and solved, like a mystery, and the emotional loading goes away.

So to everyone on the journey I just want to say - you can do this, you've got this.  You can have the healthy life you deserve.

Start of a new month - below 150

I have been considering whether or not to make some kind of challenge for myself and I think I'm not going to this time.  I want to lose a couple pounds during the month if possible, but that didn't work out so well during August - I started the month strong, gained some weight, lost it again, and ended at about the same point.  I think my muscle mass may have gone up slightly though so I'm not complaining.  (As we know, that adds kind of slowly especially for fine boned females so I doubt I gained even half a pound of muscle.)

I'm feeling the urge to nibble a little more strongly than usual, and I know I get very food focused in fall and winter.  Old survival mechanisms and whatnot.  To combat that I've gotten an assortment of sugar free hard candy, and am going to break open my stash of apple and spice themed teas.  There is one caramel apple tea by Celestial Seasonings that I am especially fond of.  I think I might get some fresh pumpkin spice and start adding that to things as well.  Spices are good for brain health!

Regarding hard candy, in a way I am finding it a good training tool.  I have been an absolute candy addict my entire life.  I just never had a sense of limit on it.  My teeth are horrible from all the sugar being held close to them for so many years.  So why buy this now?  Well, in fall I think of Halloween, and I always loved the varied kind of candy I could have then.  So this is a less harmful way of indulging that craving so I don't break and go into a binge cycle.  This lifestyle has to be sustainable, and I've been hearing a lot lately about different ways to indulge cravings in a way that is not harmful and brings satisfaction rather than further problems.

I chose hard candy becaue it takes longer to eat.  I chose sugar free hard candy because it doesn't cause blood sugar spikes in me. It also doesn't feed the bacteria in my gut that crave sugar, so it's less likely to start new cravings.  I notice that although it's really good, after a while it starts tasting bad so it's naturally self limiting.  I kind of like that about it.  I can have something that's satisfying, but stop at five or six pieces, reather than eating a pound of it.  

I'm not worried about artificial sweeteners either, I figure that avoiding obesity is probably reducing my health risks more than any small increase caused by an artificial sweetener.  I tend to like stevia, maltitol and xylitol by preference but if I get a bit of aspartame now and again I'm not too worried by it.  I also don't find that I am made less sensitive to sugar by using them, in fact fruit tastes better than ever.  Before it was tasty, now it's like ambrosia.

All that said, since my calorie needs continue to be kind of low considering I'm only carrying around 150 pounds, I really do need to watch my portions and keep weighing everything to avoid having too much.  I also plan to step up my strength training on days with higher intake, so I can put those extra calories to good use.  I try for high protein, moderate carb, and low fat.  Not NO fat, by the way, just low fat - I know I need some, and I also get a certain amount of healthy fats a few times a week.  Things like ahi, avocado, nuts, things like that.  Fats are important for maintaining good hormone balence and vitamin absorption after all.

Having done a deep dive into the lore of strength training, I've learned that "bulking" isn't really needed at all, that the most of surplus anyone might need to build muscle is 50 calories or so, provided they have some body fat.  I have plenty of body fat so *sigh* don't have any excuse to eat a bunch of extra calories because of weight training.  Even so, it's a good way to work out when the weather gets bad and the days get short and gloomy.

As much as I'd hoped to be lighter by now, I'm happy to be waking up below 150!  This floppy belly will go away... someday.  I never dreamed that I'd be in this range.  Not really.  At the start of this journey I figured I would have fallen back into my old habits by now.

Stay strong everyone!

Up but not Down about it

I haven't been blogging much lately so I figured it was about time.  Part of this is because of work, we're understaffed so I have less time and energy to do extra things.  Part of it is also due to some fatigue I have from the dieting process.

Put simply, I realize that I'm kind of tired of dieting!  I have made a lot of lifestyle changes and intend to keep them, but there is a certain amount of extra effort a person needs to expend in order to do the right things, maintain self care, exercise regularly, etc.  Those things give me energy and help me feel better but when work obligations begin piling up beyond a certain time it's harder to fit them in.

Luckily I had a small mini-vacation recently, four days where I didn't do any work.  I even slacked off on my increasingly overgrown landscaping at home.  It was much needed.  I gained a couple of pounds.  Part of that is water retention etc, but part is definitely fat, because I found it.  I wasn't eating a bunch of "vacation foods" or overindulging all that much, in fact I was not all that far above maintenance.  

So, that's a good thing to learn.  As is common, my body puts on weight really easily after having been in a deficit.  It makes sense when you think about it - naturally the body wants to store energy in times of plenty so it can have something to use during famine.

I need to adapt my strategy some too in order to continue losing weight.  In the 150ish pound range I simply don't use as much energy when I exercise.  Sure I can go faster, but I'm still not carrying as much weight or expending as much effort.  I may need to get a better mini pedaler at some point so that I can increase the resistence on it more effectively.  Also I probably need to refocus more on what I'm eating as well as how much.  I already try for higher protein and higher fiber, but I'm sure there are other tweaks I can make.

I'm continuing with my strength training, and swimming when I can, but I think my biggest barrier is simple boredom.  I don't like doing the same thing over and over.  I never have.  So maybe it's time to get some waterproof earbuds and some new albums?  Or find ways to challenge myself?  

One thing I will try to do, however, is keep my eye on the prize.  Sure, I want to be 130 pounds.  Sure, I want to lose this obnoxious floppy belly.  But I'm working on this while in the 150-155 pound range, and I still have more energy than I ever thought possible, my blood pressure is amazing, and I don't have to deal with all manner of blood sugar issues anymore.  Lower numbers are great but I'm already living the dream.

The main thing right now is to resist the urge to go into maintenance.  I think I'll continue actively trying to lose till October, then go into maintenance through the holiday season - that is, still aiming for a small deficit most of the time, but leaving a bit more room for those comforting autumn and winter foods.  If I do that I'll try to increase my strength training a little more.  Since my spouse has actually lost some weight, yay! I don't want to cause her to get off track either.

Onward and downward!  I may be still trying to climb the upper reaches of Genkijima but at least I'm on the island.

Gaining Weight

So as anyone knows who's been reading my blog, I'm working on strength while I still have the time in my day to focus on it.  I have noticed a few pounds of weight gain, enough so I'm around 151-ish instead of 148-149.  I think my body fat is reducing a little.  I'm seeing a lot more definition in arms, legs, shoulders, back.
 
But I know I haven't gained a ton of muscle. 

While I know that muscle is denser than fat and therefore you can have a smaller size with a heavier weight, I don't think that's a very large part of what's happening.  My measurements are changing much right now either.  I think the weight change is mostly muscle holding on to water as it repairs itself, some digestive mass due to all the extra fiber I'm consuming, maybe a bit of bloating, and that's about it.  It's not likely much extra fat because I haven't been in a caloric surprlus even though I've come close a couple days.  If I have been in a caloric surplus, it's just been a couple hundred calories worth, and since it takes about 3500 calories to make a pound of fat, I'm really not worried.

I wrote recently about the fact that  I am only about ten pounds of body fat away from maintenance.  If I can manage to lose that without losing much muscle, I'll be at the top edge of goal - a "healthy" body weight and a decent body fat percentage.

I've been learning from quite a few body builders and powerbuilders especially the natural variety, as it's always illuminating to study the thoughts of the people who specialize in whatever the goal is.  They are good at losing weight and gaining muscle.

So anyway, here are my thoughts regarding muscle gains.  Despite what so many people think, all my hard work over the past couple months has likely only grown maybe a half pound of muscle or so.  That's a wild guess but I'd hesitate to put my gains at even one pound.  That's NORMAL.  I am going to have "newbie gains" of strength and size as my brain and muscles learn how to work together, and my muscles are going to swell a little as they are used and start repairing themselves after weight sessions.  But I'm not going to put on even two pounds of muscle in this short a time.

A very impressive female body builder gained ten pounds of muscle in a year.  She might or might not have had performance enhancing drugs and she has incredible genetics.  She also worked her buns off.  I am simply not going to gain muscle that fast, especially when working out at home, and constantly being interrupted by work and cats and whatnot, so I'm not going to go by the old "Muscle is denser than fat" dodge.  Sure, it is, but you just don't gain muscle that fast.

Just like a pound of fat loss every week is actually quite fast, even a quarter pound of muscle gain a month would be really respectable gains for me.  

Not to say I'm unhappy though.  My legs look better, my arms look better, heck, even my back looks better.  I am stronger than I was two months ago.  I just know that it's mostly my brain and body working better together, plus a little fat loss, plus maybe a tiny bit of muscle gain.  

Having realistic expectations will help me stay in for the long haul, rather than becoming frustrated and quitting like I have so many times before!  Realistic expectations train patience and inspire hope! 

So whatever your goal is, you can do it - just give it enough time and enough work and understand what your body is actually likely to do.  And for pity's sake don't believe the YouTube ads.

Wacky Ads

I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately, and in some cases I have to watch them on a computer that doesn't have an ad blocker.  It's been so long since I've seen ads of any kind, whether TV commercials or static ads on a webpage, that I actually find them interesting!  Also rather concerning.

Looking at some of these ads, I can see clearly that lot of old diet myths are still being perpetuated.  I see the same old bunkum about how people can have up to 20 extra pounds of feces inside them, myths about leaky gut, funky advice about diet, and snake oil sales galore.  A huge variety of lies and half truths desigened to either convince us that we're sicker than we really are, to sell more products.

More than that, I see more subtle messages.  Even with the somewhat benevolent (not to mention entertaining) ads for workout plans and programs, there is the basic message that you can't become fit on your own, that you MUST have help to succeed.  Sure, help is great, and some diet or exercise programs can be really useful, but you do NOT have to have help.  

I can clearly see where I got some of my funky ideas about weight loss and fitness.  Even when I didn't get those messages directly from commercials, I got them from people I respected, who themselves believed some of those myths and half truths.


That said, here's an antidote to those nutty commercials!

In most cases you don't need a "cleanse," your liver usually does a good job of "detoxifying" your body with the help of proper hydration and good food.

You also probably don't have 20 extra pounds of feces, or nasty parasites, in your body.  If you did you'd likely have quite a bit of abdominal pain or other obvious issues.  I'd hope you'd be seeing a doctor.  This is a really old scare tactic.

Though diet programs are great, you can do as well on your own with a little learning, and you can probably do a better job eating a balanced diet.  Entirely cutting out major food groups or subsisting on liquids is usually a recipe for failure.

Exercise programs are fun and can be motivating but there are a ton of free workouts in books or on YouTube, you don't have to pay someone ten dollars a month to exercise unless you find that motivating.

The places that tell you what supplements to take will NOT have the best prices, even if you want to take those supplements, there will be cheaper ways to find them.

There's a subtle effect too - so many ads promise fast results that it's really easy to think that if you don't see results that quickly, you're a failure and need their program.  Not so.  Slower losses are more sustainable you're less likely to regain that weight.  Think 1% of your total body weight or less, usually much less.   Most fast results in the beginning of a program are related to water weight and don't continue.

BEWARE of BUZZWORDS.  Common ones:  "Detoxify," "Cleanse," "Natural," "Fast Results," "Fat burner," "Leaky Gut," etc.  They can often be included to make something seem better than it is.  You can usually tell a buzzword with a little thought. 

I really could go on forever!  I remember when I had unrealistic expectations of how much weight I could lose, and thought the only way I could lose weight was to cut out major portions of my diet.  I remember when I thought I had to kill myself doing cardio to lose anything and give up tasty food forever.  I remember when I thought weight loss was incredibly difficult and only the most iron willed people to do it, either that or I had to have a medical team to give me permission to succeed with the help of major interventions.

I'm so glad I was wrong about all of those things.  The reality is a lot better!  You CAN do it, with or without help.  You don't have to give up all tasty food.  You can enjoy your exercise.  Weight loss requires committment but it doesn't have to be drudgery.  Isn't it great?

Currently 150 due to water weight, so still up slightly from my lowest weight of 148.6.  I expect that every time I'm recovering from weight lifting.  I try to train each body part at least two times a week and yesterday was Leg and Lower Back.  I'm almost ready to add some weight to my deadlift!  I did 130 in 3 sets of 6 reps each and the main limiting factor was the skin on my hands.  I finally broke down and bought some lifting gloves so that should help.  Yay!

Thinking about Struggles

It's July! A whole new month!

I think I did okay for June.  I didn't lose as much as I wanted to but that's going to happen when increasing focus on strength training.  I've been starting to have a few more food cravings lately and feeling a bit of fatigue from eating at a deficit for so long - in a way that seems to get worse when I've just had a bit of a break. like I did for my birthday.  So I figured today I'd talk about some of the challenges I've faced in my healthy journey and ways I'm trying to overcome them.

I want to share my struggles here because it's so easy to think that other people don't have trouble achieving their goals.  I don't know about you but I have a tendency to think "I'm the only one with this problem, or I'm the only one with a problme quite like this, or this bad.  Of course that person is doing well, they don't have to face the same things I do."  The reality is, we all have trouble, we all struggle, sometimes in really serious ways, and we all have a tendency to gloss over that or not show it.  It's like a bird or a cat, they won't show they are sick until they are really, REALLY sick, out of self preservation.  Humans often do the same thing.  So, here we go!

EXCUSES

I have been a champion excuse maker.  Sill am.  "I don't feel like it right now."  "I'm too stressed."  "I'm too busy."  "I'm too tired."  "It's too cold."  "It's too hot."  "I don't have time."  "X just happened/is happening/will happen so I'll do it tomorrow."  This goes for exercise, it goes for meal prep, it goes for delaying that snack I really want till the time I'm supposed to have it.  So many of the tips I have shared have been excuse busters becasue I have so very many excuses at the ready.

I still make them, sometimes I don't work as hard as I should or skip things I know I should do.  Building better habits have helped me a lot, picking healthier foods that I really like and portioning them out, finding no sugar substutites, and reminding myself of how good i feel when I do the right things.  I have to forcibly put my mind into a solution seeking mindset sometimes, rather than a negative mindset.  I struggle with this every day.  But I'm doing better than I used to, with the various tips I've shared in all the  other entries!  Not every bit of advice works for every situation and that's why I think of things in so many ways.  Usually though, if you need to do something but there's a reason you can't, there's some other way to do something similar and get at least some benefit from it.


DEPRESSION

I deal with depression off and on.  I probably should be under medical care for it but that's really never been an option.  Sometimes it's worse, sometimes it's better, and sometimes it kicks my butt so hard that I become hostile because of it.  At times I have to deal with feelings of worthlessness so bad that I don't see the point in living and wonder why I'm even here.  Sometimes I feel like I have to compensate the world for the fact of my existence and be as helpful as possible to everyone.  That has its positive side because I really do like helping people, but it can also become self destructive.  It's also murder on a diet if that day I decide there's no point in following it.  Apathy has helped me gain a lot of weight in the past.  These days I am learning to treat depression like the weather, and distract myself till it changes.  Luckily with increased health that is more possible.  But when I was really heavy, depression was much harder to shake, my brain chemsitry was affected by my limitations, lifestyle, and poor nutrition.  I doubt it'll ever entirely go away, but depression isn't as bad as it used to be.


ANXIETY

I deal with anxiety quite a bit.  I frequently second guess myself, worry about things, and avoid doing things that I find scary.  This is something that has been true ever since I was little and I'm not seeing it go away any time soon.  I don't really have workable solutions that I'm actually using, except to push through it in areas where I can, and practice my deep breathing and self calming techniques.  Just know that if you have to deal with anxiety too, you're definitely not alone.

LAZINESS

Most living beings have an instinct to conserve energy.  That's definitely true.  When I'm at rest, I'm inclined to stay at rest.  Even though it's much easier to get up and move around, I still have times when I know I need to do something but just don't want to move.  Just getting started, though, usually helps break that inertia and gets me moving.  I can't tell you how many times I've promised myself 15 minutes on the mini-pedaler and not wanted to do it.  So I say "okay, just one 5 minute video."  I'll go on YouTube, find something interesting, then find something else, and by the time I'm done I'll have pedaled 25 minutes and be kind of upset I have to stop.  Overcoming laziness is as much about the mind as it is anything else.  On the other hand, sometimes we just need to rest- so that's important to recognize too.

MINDLESS NIBBLING

There are times when I get what I call "a case of the nibbles."  Less than real hunger, not so much a serious craving, but hard to ignore.  Finding a bunch of low cal snack options has helped with that, so has tea, but so has simple recognition of what is going on.  I still deal with this sometimes, particularly at certain parts of the day.  When I gave in to the temptation I had it a lot worse than I do now, so it's definitely possible to improve.

I do this more when I'm stressed.  It's a self comfort mechanism.  I try, not always successfully, to do other things like have a soothing cup of tea, or a hug, or a cuddle with a kitty.  I do deep breaths and look up at the sky.  I exercise.  that helps out a lot with stress.  It's not always helpful but a great thing to do.  Finally, if I know I still want to nibble a lot, I grab something that takes a while to eat, like bell pepper strips or fruit or fat free popcorn or chocolate broken up into small pieces.  I portion it before I eat it, and I never eat from the container.

BREAKING PROMISES TO MYSELF and CHEATING

I've done this a lot.  A LOT.  I'd promise myself one thing and then do another when I wanted to do something in the moment.  Like saying to myself "I'm trying to save money so I won't go buy snacks at the dollar store on the way home from work."  Then doing it anyway.  Or saying "I will work some extra overtime this weekend."  Then cutting out after the two hour minimum.  The list really goes on and on.  Or, when I feel bad about not doing something the way I planned, pretending otherwise.  Like not logging my food as accurately as I should.  Or not weighing things accurately.  For the most part I've gone back and fixed issues like that in my diary, but sometimes it's a struggle and it's really not cheating anyone else, only myself.  The more I face reality, and stick to what I said I'd do, the better results I get.

NOT FACING REALITY

This is a big one.  When I was really heavy I deluded myself a lot about how it wasn't that bad, I could lose weight any time, I could start tomorrow.  I ignored the fact that my resting heart rate was high, that I'd be out of breath walking across a big parking lot, or almost pass out carrying groceries inside on a hot summer day.  I ignored the pools of sweat that would drip down my legs after driving.  I told myself it was fine that my belly was touching the steering wheel.  I was completely deluded and not ready for change.  

Self delusion is a tricky thing because all the while I said to myself that I was being totally rational and facing reality.  I really thought I was.  It wasn't till after I started feeling better that I saw how detached from the real world I'd been.  I'm really glad that weight loss helps you feel better almost immediately because I've been enjoying coming into myself, becoming healthier and healthier, throughout this whole journey.  You don't have to get all the way to the end to start enjoying results and I'm so glad this is also part of reality.

Strength Training Update

As anyone who has read older entries of this blog knows, I want to be at a healthy weight but I also want to be strong.  I keep going back and forth with my strategy, as things don't work or I get tired of the process or whatever.  I admit, I'm bored easily.  Sometimes I crave routine and sometimes it drives me crazy!  So I figured I'd talk a bit about my current goals and why they've changed somewhat.

In the past I've talked a lot about weight training as something I was interested in, and I've done it off and on.  The main thing that kept me from doing it was being too busy at work or being bored by the effort that it truly takes to be successful.  I have done a lot of bike pedaling and other forms of cardio in an effort to burn more calories and drop some fat.  I won't be giving that up but I realized something.  

The thing I realized is, I only have till the middle of September, maybe the middle of October, before I will have to go back to the office.  Right now I have most of my free weights and all my exercise bands in my home office so I can exercise at odd moments during my work day.  Sometimes I'm able to get a whole hour of weight training done!  I won't be able to do that when I'm in the office.  Most of the exercise I fit in will be walking or some variation thereof.  I intend to continue weight training but it's going to be harder to get those longer sessions in.  I won't be able to swim either because it'll be cold.

I still want to get to my goal weight, but with those things in mind I realized that I should focus more on strength now, while I can.  It might even help redistribute some weight and get rid of some fat while I'm at it.  Though it's a little scary, I'm adding a few more calories to my daily amount because if I try to lose at 1 pound a day, MFP gives me a total that's way below my base metabolic rate and that isn't a very good idea, long term.  So I'm increasing things to around 1400 a day, maybe sometimes a little more.  I'm going to try not to worry so much about carbs, but keep my goal of 1 gram protein per pound of lean body weight in mind.  For me that's about 120 grams.  I want to build some muscle while still losing fat.  Finally, I'm continuing my Time Restricted Eating because I've found that does help me drop body fat while preserving muscle.  I generally use an eating window of about 11AM to 7PM.  That works pretty well in general.

Now on to one final item in my arsenal - experimenting with supplements.  I'm using a pre-workout formula that includes caffeine, creatine, L-arginine, no sugar, and some vitamins.  I have started adding L-carnitine to that as well as a little Himalayan sea salt and some potassium.  The idea being, if I have supplements that help drive water into my muscles, as well as improving fat use, it will likely help me during my fasted workouts.  I have started using BCAAs after my workout instead of a protein drink.  My logic there is this: most people say that BCAAs don't help anyone who is already eating protein.  However since they have low calories and a negligible effect on blood sugar, I am thinking they might help with rebuilding muscle after a fasted workout.  Then I have a protein heavy first meal starting at 11.  So far so good, it keeps my hunger under control pretty well and I haven't had any odd problems with my blood sugar.  I think my muscles feel more prominant and my strength has been good.

In case anyone is wondering what I do for a routine, I use free weights basically until my muscles are tired, along with exercise bands for those trouble spots that are tough to reach, and body weight exercises such as pushups, basic Pilates moves, bridges, squats, modified squats, etc.  When I get bored I change up the movement but I try to keep moving.  For cardio it's pedaling at low weight on my mini pedaler, sometimes some stair climbing on my mini stepper, and I try to get at least 15-20 minutes of swimming on all days the pool has been functional.  Sometimes I'll run in place and things like that too.  I also  have a 25 pound kettlebell that i'll use for goblet squats and kettlebell swings.  Now that I have my weight bench dug out, I'll do some hamstring curls and deadlifts on Leg Day.  I don't have a squat rack or any powered exercise machines so a lot of what I do is somewhat improvised, like I'll do counter pushups or squats while waiting for the microwave.   I'll also squeeze my big Pilates ball between my knees to target my thigh muscles.  I would like to walk more but that isn't really an option.  I'll do stretches and such when I remember to.

I alternate my strength training days, breaking it down into lower body and upper body.  For example, Monday was Upper Body Day.  Yesterday was Leg Day.  Today, my triceps are still sore from Monday, so I worked more biceps and back, and went lighter with my strength work.  The soreness tells me the muscles are still rebuilding and I don't want to endanger that.  But I still did SOMETHING.

I know this sounds like a lot of stuff - each one thing doesn't take very long and I don't do every kind of thing every day.  This is just the range of things that I like to do, and honestly I usually do what I feel like.  Lately I've been exercising somewhere between a half hour and an hour and a half every day and want to keep that up till I go back to work.  Then I'll have to get really creative!  Anyway, for those who are curious, this is what I'm doing.  If it stops working I'll change it around.  Maybe it'll give someone some ideas!

Despite my fears about adding calories, I know I'm still in a deficit every day.  Though I haven't logged it in MFP right now I'm about 152 in weight when I had gotten down to 148.6.  I know most of that is due to more water in my muscles, and inflammation due to muscles rebuilding.  So I'm not really counting it as a "gain."

I also know that muscle is denser than fat, but since it actually takes quite a while to build muscle, I don't think that has much effect.  It takes a lot more than a couple weeks of weight training for a female to gain even one pound of muscle.  I've probably gained a few ounces of muscle at most.  That's okay, this is a lifelong process.  I want to be strong and lean in the long term, this isn't a quick fix.

Anyway, I hope this helps someone, or at least satisfies curiosity - the Healthy Journey is a process that can be adjusted as needs change.  If anyone is interested I can talk about the kind of foods that I keep coming back to, to meet my nutritional needs.

Portions

Portions?  Doesn't that mean I'll only get to eat 3 chips at a time and never feel full, ever again?
 
The very idea of portion control scared me off from losing weight for a long time.  I had myself convinced that it was really hard, nobody could live off such small amounts of food, and that I would never be satisfied.  Not only that but I had to learn what it really meant. in the first place.

When I was around five years old till around eight years old, I lived without refrigeration.  So if we wanted ice cream, we had to eat it before it melted - that was a half gallon shared between my parents an me.  We didn't do that very often and we did a ton of walking, so the calories weren't too big of an issue but it got me used to BIG ice cream portions.  My folks tried to set some limits on things like candy and chips, but many times that backfired because when I got older I'd find ways to get as much as I wanted.  A portion became whatever I could afford at the time, or whatever I could eat without getting sick.  I avoided anyone correcting me, by not letting anyone know what I was doing.  I still have issues with this, to this day.

I had a grandmother who used candy as packing material when she sent me stuff and offered it to me all the time when I went to visit.  Funny, she hadn't allowed candy in the house when her kids were young!  My folks weren't happy about that and I thought they were big squares at the time, though now I totally understand why they were upset and agree with them.  

I suppose if we'd been rich enough for good health care as a kid, and if I'd actually been honest with anyone about my habits, I would have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.  I still have some disordered thinking around eating and only in about the last year or so have been at all comfortable talking about it.  In order for me to begin to heal about this issue, ittook a healthy journey and a truly functional approach to thinking about food.  Lately some of my favorite YouTubers have really helped me think about this in better ways, namely Nicole Collet.  I appreciate her honesty about her eating disorder, I see myself relected in her in a lot of ways.  A fellow MFPer turned me on to her videos and I'm so grateful!

So, once I actually admitted I needed to learn portion control, I started making progress.  I started thinking about the problem and coming up with ways to relearn what a reasonable portion should be.  For me, thinking of the calories in everything helped a lot, as well as thinking about my nutritional needs.

I want to note something.  I still have the urge to eat way more than I need at times.  Of course, this usually happens when something tastes really good.  I remind myself that whatever portion is all I get, and I try to slow down and really enjoy it.  That helps a lot.  So do the typical tips of portioning out snacks ahead of time and not eating from the container.  If I know I am going to mindlessly nibble, I make sure it's something healthy like red bell pepper chunks or low cal popcorn.

On those rare occasions when I'm going to have too much food (like thanksgiving) I enjoy myself but also try to pay attention to how stuffed I feel afterwards, and how good it feels to be light and energetic again when I get back on plan.  That helps a lot.

I have kind of a shortcut for getting used to portion control - it works for me, but might not work for everybody.  I started out my healthy journey with a couple weeks of very small, low volume portions with protein shakes and such.  That let my stomach shrink a bit and get used to small portions fairly quickly.  It was kind of tough but pretty soon larger portions were a little uncomfortable and it was easier to be satisfied with less.  When I want to freak people out I call that my "DIY bariatric surgery."

Along with my trusty food scale and measuring cups, I also use significantly smaller bowls than I used to.  My favorite bowls hold maybe a cup and a half comfortably.  I only use larger bowls for things with lots of broth, or for my beloved big, colorful salads.  I also made sure and got really pretty bowls that I would feel good using.  I also eat with chopsticks - out of preference, though I here it's a good way of slowing down when eating. 

I also got a bunch of those little glass 1-cup food storage containers, they are great for saving one portion of food in, and fantastic for meal prep.  They also work well in lunch bags.  Little snack sized bags (yes, they really are snack size, LOL) are also handy to have around for portioning out big bags of snacks.

I wanted to cover this topic to let people know they aren't alone.  It's totally possible to grow up with really messed up habits and still overcome them.  Sometimes it's a bigger struggle than others but that's normal too and it doesn't mean failure.  Learning portion control is a process and it takes a lot of practice, sometimes it needs to be done in baby steps but forward progress is the most important thing.

These are things I've had to learn and still have to remind myself all the time!

Simplicity in the Chaos of Weight Loss

It seems to me that a lot of folks are scared off from success in weight loss because it seems like so much to learn and so much to do.  A person could easily get lost in the details, and it could seem like healthy living is a ton of bookkeeping and work.  It doesn't have to be.  I personally love the details, I enjoy analyzing things, but you don't have to in order to be healthy.

I think an important thing to remember is, many of the details people get lost in are really refinements.  All the supplements, vitamin totals, macros, tweaks to exercise routines, etc, are really advanced level things that ultimately don't make very big differeneces.  For most people, especially those starting out, just getting some form of exercise you enjoy, plus eating food that truly nourishes you, in proper portions, is enough.

By the way, a great resource is Nerd Fitness.  It has a ton of good articles that are entertaining to read (especially if you are a nerd like me) and they break things down pretty well.  I use it all the time.

Anyway, for a person who is just starting out, a healthy journey can seem really daunting, with the end really far away.  Here are some basic principles that have supported me in my weight loss journey, which is 97 pounds and counting.  I started out as someone who was 245 pounds at 5' 3" and very sedentary.  At this point I'm 148 pounds and moderately active.  I don't kill myself at the gym and I haven't cut out any food groups entirely.  I have treats every day.  I have had long plateaus and periods of less activity, but I've kept going and now I'm about 8 pounds from my initial goal.  At the beginning I really didn't expect to be able to do this at all.  I'd tried losing weight so many times and failed, or gained it back.  I don't have all the answers but if I can help someone I'll count it as a win!

There is no single way to success.

Quite a few people (usually who are selling something) will say "this is the best way to lose weight, do anything else and you are wasting your time."  Or someone will lose a ton of weight and say "yeah, I did (x) and lost a ton of weight, you should do it too."  MAYBE.  Maybe not.  Everyone has different needs.  Ultimately it boils down to needing to burn more energy than you take in, on a consistent basis, but there are as many ways to get there, as there are people.  So take everything with a grain of salt.

Eat less, Move More.

Most of the time weight loss just boils down to that.  Of course, it's good to eat healthy, nutrient dense foods, and it's good to move in ways that make you stronger and fitter.  If you eat nothing but 1500 calories of Twinkies every day you'll lose weight but you'll be starving.  Still, managing your portions in some way (calories, macros, smaller bowls and plates, whatever) and moving more in whatever way works for you, will get you in the right direction.  One thing I would say is, the more accurate you can be about what you are eating every day, the better.  It will help you see whare you can improve and where you are already doing well.

Measure in different ways.  

Some people swear by the scale.  My own favorite method is a scale that measures body fat and muscle mass.  But others like to measure using a tape, others like how their clothes fit, others look at themselves in photographs, and still others pay attention to how they feel and how much they can do.  It's good to track your progress because it's fun to see where you started and where you are now.  Also, making smaller goals along the way helps it feel less daunting.

Make it easy on yourself and practice self compassion

If you have a bad day, acknowledge it but get back on the proverbial horse.  Also, FORGIVE yourself.  I know this first hand. Beating yourself up about making a mistake can feel like you are making sure it won't happen again, but really it is cementing the bad behavior and making it more likely it'll happen again.  Learning from the mistake, forgiving yourself, and correcting the behavior as soon as you can is the best path forward.  

Similarly, knowing what your weaknesses are and planning around them helps.  For example, laying out your workout clothes ahead of time plus some pre portioned snacks for after the workout can not only make things easier, it can also help you remember to do the activity.  Telling the grandkids that they need to keep their treats at home can help you avoid other people derailing you before you are ready.  That's the basic idea but this is one of those topics where I could go into endless detail.

Know your "why" and how you got here

Having some idea of why you need to lose weight is good because it helps you avoid old mistakes.  Having a strong idea of why you want to lose weight helps keep you motivated.  I like having a big list of reasons becasue different reasons are relevant at different times.  A little thought about your own challenges can help you overcome them.  I talk about this a lot in my other blog entries, because I do this a lot, and it helps.

Take it one step at a time

You don't have to do everything at once.  I didn't, and neither did any of the people that I look up to as mentors or inspirations.  Everybody did it a bit at a time, learning as they needed to, making mistakes along the way and correcting them.  Nobody's perfect, we all had challenges, moments of backsliding.  We all had to keep going when we were tempted to quit.  So remember that you aren't alone, not even once, and you have a whole group of people pulling for you even if you haven't met them.

I hope this has been helpful, breaking down the basic ideas.  Weight loss can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but if it's getting so detailed that it's impeding your progress, then dump the detail.  Some people get muddled keeping track of macros for example.  If that's you, don't worry about it - try something else like measuring cups and portion control.  Or if you want to get stronger but don't want to constantly count reps, don't!  Just try to work harder every time and go by how your body feels.  However you need to walk your path, your journey is yours and yours alone.

On Spouses and Loved Ones

Today I'm going to write about a subject that can be touchy - it's gonna be a long one.  Spouses or living partners.  They are a huge factor in your weight loss journey.  They can undermine and sabotage, both unknowingly and completely on purpose, and they can also be incredible supporters and the key to your success.  

In times past, the opinion of my partner has totally derailed my progress.  Or more accurately, my percieved (and probably completely wrong) perception of their opinion has been an excuse I've used to derail my own progress.  Once I gave up weight training because I didn't like the advice my partner was giving me.  That was stubborn and honestly pretty foolish of me.  Their advice wasn't bad, but I wasn't prepared to listen.

I am lucky because my spouse is very supportive, and doesn't act jealous of my success.  I'm really grateful for that.  Even if she did, at this point, I think I would probably continue my journey - because I'm ultimately doing this for myself and no one else.  By the way, that particular decision was pretty hard-won as well.  Previously, I didn't really think I was deserving of doing anything like that for myself, while I was also acting completely selfishly in other ways.  Yep, I have some serious warts there.

I hear quite a bit about people who have spouses who bring in unhealthy food or snacks that they then have trouble resisting.  I understand the desire to not disrupt another person's life in the quest for health.  I've been terrified of becoming THAT health nut, the one who made life miserable for other people around them.  

Compromises are totally possible though.  They usually start with some kind of an honest conversation about needs.  Most spouses and partners are actually pretty happy to help if you can come up with a clear way to do so.  For example "could you please keep your snacks in the cupboard so they are out of my sidht and I'm less tempted by them?  I don't want you to have to do without something you enjoy but I'm trying to avoid that stuff right now."

A hard truth is that sometimes we use our partners, spouses, family as excuses so we can get out of something we don't really want to do.  I've done this.  I've used someone else's eating habits as a reason to eat more, have things that aren't good for me, or keep treats around that I find hard to resist.  It's because I wasn't truly motivated to change, and I was often afraid to advocate for myself.  Afraid of what?  Nothing direct, but I grew up with an issue around asking for things.  I'm still working on that.

What I did in my case was use a weight loss contest as a bribe!  I said to my spouse, "look, this is a really good prize, and I think I can win.  If you help me out, and support me with what I need to do, I'll split it with you."  Later when the contest was canceled (I really was winning, but Covid) I continued my healthy habits and she didn't mind because she saw what kind of a difference it was making for me.  A year and a half later and I'm 97 pounds down, which is about three times what I've ever managed to lose before.

There's one other problem that comes up.  In my case my dear spouse would love to lose weight, and is having some success, but isn't doing all the things required to lose weight.  I'm not very comfortable counseling her about this kind of thing, so I will drop bits of information here and there and try really hard to avoid lecturing.  So when she consumes extra calories in the form of sugars and carby snacks, and continues to use a lot of oil to fry with, I bite my tongue - but continue to suggest healthy meal ideas.  Yesterday we had good talk about her needs, which are very different than mine, and I was actually able to advocate for my needs too.  Sometimes that's all that is needed, is a good conversation.  

Another thing I have to remind myself constantly is that her journey is not mine, and vice versa.  I can enjoy being active and eating lots of low sugar foods, and lots of vegetables, because I am a lot lighter than my spouse, who has many health problems that I don't have.  She deals with arthritis, neurological challenges, social anxiety, issues with digestion that are exacerbated by too much fiber, and has a really bad reaction to most protein powders and non sugar sweeteners.  She doesn't need me bugging her about things she can't control, instead we need to focus on other things.  I also try very hard to manage my fitness-nut zeal,  and channel it into things like blogging to help others.  I find that helps.

So if you have a spouse or partner who really needs a health makeover, I think gentle, non confrontational conversations are best - depending on the person of course.  Succeeding will prove to them that what you are doing is right, and you can also extend the hand of help.  But above all, for whatever reason, don't give up a healthy journey because of anyone else.  This is YOUR life and your health, after all!

I need to add something here, though.  What about a person you care about who really needs to lose weight, but refuses?

A person WILL NOT lose weight or gain health untill they see, deep down, what's in it for them, choose to do it, and think it's possible.  I can say this from both sides of things.  If any of those three things are missing it won't work.  If a person wants to get healthy but doesn't think they can, they won't!  Or they'll try and give up easily.  

So, in those cases where someone wants to get healthy but isn't doing anything about it, it can be useful to figure out where their barriers are.  For example, do they think weight loss means you have to sweat all day and kill yourself doing cardio?  It doesn't.  Maybe they think you have to eat like a rabbit and give up all flavor?  It doesn't.  Maybe they think keto, or Paleo, or going vegan, or doing juice cleanses, is the only way?  Well they aren't!  Or maybe they have a messed up idea of what weight loss means and think if they don't lose five pounds a week, every week, they are a failure?  Well it's not!  Very successful peolple lose a pound a week, or half a pound a week, and do just fine!

So, screwed up ideas of weight loss and what it means can be a serious detriment, especially since quite a few beginning dieters haven't done the massive research on the subject that some of us have, and may believe the ads and magazines giving bad advice out there.

Still, just as you didn't lose weight until you decided to, they won't either untill they believe they can, and want to do it.  Gentle, non pressuring persuasion is probably the best way to go.  Cooking healthy, flavorful meals for them when you are together, inviting them on walks, suggesting healthy activities to do together, being a good role model - without lecturing - usually works best.  Let them see the joy that you take in life.  Invite them along for the journey but don't overwhelm them with detail at first.  Baby steps.  

For me I think about how I would have reacted to myself if I came along to the me of two or three years ago - I wouldn't have trusted me at all!  I wouldn't have believed what I can do!  I would have said "you're nuts, now let me get back to my snacks!"

All the best to everyone in their healthy journeys.

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