If I had a dollar for each time I started my weight loss journey (before and after photos at the end), I’d have enough money to pay for a year of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and the South Beach Diet combined. Why did it take so many attempts and then why did it finally stick? In the past, I began each attempt with gusto. I cleared the pantry of all sweets, jacked up my exercise routine and drank copious amounts of water. That all sounds good, right? All would be well until I stepped on the scale and saw that I lost several pounds. And that’s where everything went wrong.
Right after losing those first few pounds and patting myself on the back, I dropped right back into old habits. I don’t know why. Some warped, psychological kind of mind game that I played with myself, I suppose.
I wish I could tell you why this time was different, but I can’t quite pinpoint it. Did I finally decide that I deserve to feel good all the time? Did my heart break a little more every time I avoided having pictures taken with my children? Was I more determined than ever to enjoy a long and healthy life with my husband? Something shifted, and I am grateful for that.
Last September, my good friend and running partner told me about an app on her phone that she started using. I went straight home and downloaded MyFitnessPal. It was exactly what I needed to get on track. I started to keep track of everything I put in my mouth and every calorie that I burned during exercise. As much as we all want a magic pill, the formula is anything but magic. Calories in, calories out.
There were times that I indulged in a sugary treat or a hunk of Brie. I considered not entering the little indulgence into my phone, but then decided I wasn’t going to lie to myself. I recorded the calories and then adjusted my meals and snacks for the rest of the day. A few more veggies, an apple instead of cheese and crackers, one less helping of pasta…you get the picture. Five months later, I feel great, better than I have in years.
I am beyond lucky for the love and support given to me by my family. My parents sent me encouraging emails; my kids cheered me on; and my dear husband encouraged my running, made bowls of quinoa and healthy wraps for our lunches, celebrated every success along the way, and told me he loved me no matter what. I love all of you!
For those of you who are starting on a similar journey, I am cheering you on. The first few weeks are not a walk in the park, but I promise you that it will get easier. Do it for your health, do it for your energy levels. Do it for yourself.
So far, I have shed 25 pounds, and lost 5 1/2 inches off my waist and 3 inches from my hips. I’m planning on losing a few more to get into my comfort zone, but I am feeling fantastic. My energy is boundless, I am in control of my eating, I am stronger than I have ever been and I am looking forward to kicking some butt in a half-marathon in April.
So, how did I get there? Here’s the skinny, so to speak.
For more tips on healthy eating, see my post on Portion Control for Weight Loss & Healthy Living.
Breakfast: Weekday mornings typically kick off with a workout of some sort. Since these workouts happen pretty early, I can’t drag myself from bed early enough to fit in a full breakfast. So, I usually eat half a banana and half a low fat granola bar, and drink a glass of water. Post-workout, I rotate between two breakfasts. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.
The first option is a yogurt parfait with blueberries and granola, and lately I’ve been replacing the frozen blueberries with frozen marionberries. So good! On the other mornings, I make one egg white plus one full egg, sunnyside up (just a little cooking spray in the pan) on a half piece of whole wheat toast, accompanied by a half grapefruit or clementine orange.
After my long run on the weekend, I go for something a little more substantial to replace those calories I burned. Whole Wheat Waffles, frittatas, or eggs benedict (calorie-laden Hollandaise sauce replaced with a zippy black bean spread) are some of the regulars.
For more healthy breakfast ideas, head to this post.
I used to eat enormous sandwiches, packed with all sorts of meat, cheese and veggies, and slathered with mayo. Now I do this in a modified version. Typically I use Wasa whole grain crackers as a base, spread on some hummus, mustard or a little mayo, and top them with turkey, salmon or tuna, and plenty of veggies. Maybe a little cheese too, but far less than I used to use. I still get the taste, but without the extra calories and fat.
The key for me is to include plenty of lean protein, such as fish, chicken or pork tenderloin and pair it with a large portion of veggies (salad, steamed veggies or stir-fried veggies with little or no oil) and a small amount of a whole grain side (brown rice, quinoa or whole wheat pasta). The protein fills me up and keeps me full, which is key in dodging those nighttime snacking urges.
Snacks: This is where I used to get into big trouble. When you leave the block of cheese and bag of crackers out on the counter, it’s pretty tempting to have “just a few more”. By the time I knew it, I’d eaten a full meal’s worth of calories…and more! Now I try to be a lot more aware about my snacks, preparing small snacks and actually being aware of eating them, rather than absent-mindedly stuffing them into my mouth while doing ten other tasks.
Some of my favorites are cheese and whole grain crackers (just a lot less), yogurt, raw almonds, celery with hummus, a piece of fruit, low fat granola bar and cottage cheese.
There are times when I find myself feeling hungry but usually this happens shortly after eating a meal or snack. Am I really hungry? I think I’m bored or simply trying to avoid some task I don’t want to do. Instead of eating, I try to distract myself with another activity (away from the fridge!) or curb the craving by drinking a glass of water or cup of herbal tea.
Dessert: This is where the moderation part comes in. Was it realistic for me to completely cut out dessert? Heck no! If I don’t let myself eat any sweets, I just want them more. Human nature, right? However, I did cut back on the amount of dessert I eat and, when I do eat it, I try to do so at the end of the day. By that time, I’ve either lost the craving or I only want a little bit. The less sugar I eat, the less I crave it. Something else also happens. Whenever I do eat sugar, I become tired. As in “I must go to bed right this instant” kind of tired.
Some of my favorite herbal teas have enough sweetness to fend off the sugar cravings. Celestial Seasoning’s Bengal Spice is my all-time favorite. I often end the day with a cup of this tea. In the afternoon, green teas usually fit the bill. My new favorite is Lipton Red Goji & Raspberry Green Tea.
Cardio: Running has been my exercise of choice for several years and I even have several half-marathons under my belt. However, I always did things halfway – running just enough long runs before the half-marathon to prepare myself adequately. My weekly runs were at the bare minimum mileage and I never pushed my speed. Things have changed. Believe me, I am not a fast runner. But I am faster than I used to be and I am stronger than ever. My weekly mileage ranges from 26 to 30 miles. And damn, does it feel good!
Most of my running miles are clocked with my very good friend and running partner. Knowing that she is waiting for me outside at 5:45am, when I just want to stay in bed, helps me to stumble out of my bedroom and pull on my running shoes. Our runs are a time when we get to catch up and keep each other motivated. We are very compatible in running style and personality, and know how to push each other.
Strength Training: I’ve always enjoyed lifting light weights, but never did it consistently, nor did I push myself. Things changed as soon as I found “Power Pump” at our local community center. The instructor keeps things fresh (I swear she stays up at night, dreaming up new ways to “torture” us), keeps us motivated and kicks our butt every single time. I am stronger than I have ever been. My boys are even impressed by my bicep muscles now!
My weekly workout routine: This is a typical week’s schedule for me.
Monday: Run 5 miles
Tuesday: Strength training class, then 2.5 miles (faster speed) on the treadmill
Wednesday: Run 5 miles
Thursday: Strength training class, then 2.5 miles (working in sprints) on the treadmill
Friday: Run 5 miles
Saturday: Run 7 to 11 miles
Sunday: Day off
Do you need to exercise this amount to lose weight? Nope. Do you need to run to get stronger? Of course not. But you do need to move your body. Preferably at least 5 times per week. Walk, ride, run, kick some karate bootie, do yoga. Choose what’s right for you. Choose something you enjoy and makes you feel good. Choose something you think you can stick with or switch it up regularly. It may take some trial and error before you find what’s right. Don’t give up…the feeling of moving your body and getting stronger is like no other.
Now it’s time for the good, the bad and the ugly, also known as the before and after photos. Going through the “before” photos was a painful process, though it did make me grateful for where I am now. As for the “after” photos, I extend a huge thank you to my dear friend, Heidi Larsen, of Foodiecrush Magazine. She’s absolutely brilliant and makes me look good!
The Before Photos:
With my talented friend, Marla Meridith of Family Fresh Cooking
Left to right: Sweet & talented Amanda of I Am Baker, Marla & me
The After Photos:
All photos by Heidi Larsen of Foodiecrush
Thanks to all of you for your support. If any of you are going through your own journey, I would love to hear about it!