my weight loss tips roundup

tips

I don’t profess to know everything there is to know about weight loss, and I especially don’t pretend to follow all the tips that I do know (if I did I’d be much skinnier than I am now), however, I have had some success in the weight loss department in the past.

As the new year approaches many of us (including myself) are thinking about trying to eat healthier, detox from the holidays, and/or lose weight.  Since one of the most popular search terms that brings people to my blog is “South Beach Diet”, I figure there are many people out there with questions.  So I thought I’d round up all my posts about dieting, healthy eating, etc. into one place.

Start by reading about my weight loss journey: the background, the diet, the exercise, the results, the maintenance, the struggles, and the future.

If you’re interested in going with South Beach or some other similar low-carb plan, you might want to check out my posts about my South Beach phase 1 meal plans and following South Beach while eating out.  You should also look at my recipes – they aren’t all South Beach friendly, but many of them are (and I’ve included a note at the end of the South Beach friendly recipes that tells you which phase they would go with).

If you travel a lot make sure to read my tips on how to eat healthy while travelling and how to exercise while travelling.

Some other helpful posts for your journey toward healthy eating include tips for prepping your food in advancemaking sure you know how to find the best weight for your body, and the heart rate monitor that I use and love.

South Beach has been my diet lifestyle of choice for the past 7 or 8 years, but this year Michael and I took it a step further and decided to move away from highly processed food.  We did what we called a real food challenge, where we ate only local, organic, non-processed food for 100 days.  After we completed the challenge, we decided to maintain that way of eating with exceptions for special occasions.  You can read about our journey with that here: the challenge details, week 1, week 2, week 3, the results after one month, tips on eating real food while travelling, the busy girl’s guide to eating a real food diet, and the results after 100 days.

Like I said, I don’t know everything and I don’t follow these diets strictly, but I have had success with South Beach and eating real food in the past and it helps me to have all the resources in one post so I can reference them when I’m trying to get back on the wagon (aka right now).  I hope this helps you, too!

know your numbers (and do your research!) {Works for Me Wednesday}

It is all too easy to get hung up on the number on the scale.  Trust me, I know.  I’ve been bouncing around the same number for the past 15 days even though I’m eating right and exercising.  And that’s frustrating.  But it’s not all about the number on the scale.

I hadn’t even really thought to talk about this until I had an interesting experience at the gym yesterday (more about that in a sec) that made me feel the need to share.  I don’t claim to be a doctor or have it all right, but I try to make sure my information is accurate.

So, some other numbers to know:

1. Your body mass index (BMI).  You can calculate it using this formula: (weight in pounds/height in inches squared ) x 703 (which I made my students do mwah ha ha…come on, it was math class!) or you can easily calculate it yourself here.  This is not the most accurate tool in the world because the only thing the formula takes into account are your height and weight – so a very active, health conscious 150 pound person will have the same BMI as someone that’s 150 pounds but doesn’t work out and eats junk (assuming they are the same height), however one is probably a lot healthier than the other.  However, it’s still gives a fairly good idea of where you fall – before I started getting serious about my health I fell into the obese category, soon after I started following the South Beach diet and exercising my BMI feel into the “normal weight” category, just recently I’ve gained a few (that I’m trying super hard to lose!) so right now I’m in the overweight category.

2. Your waist circumference.  A high waist circumference indicates too much abdominal fat and puts you at a risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and and high cholesterol.  For men, a high waist circumference is anything larger than 40 inches and for women it’s larger than 35 inches (information found here).  Use a flexible tape measure (I got mine from the sewing section at Walmart) to measure with.  The exact method/place of how/where to measure is something I haven’t quite figured out…do you measure at the smallest part?  The largest part?  I’m not sure. This source says to start at the top of the hipbone and bring it all around level with your navel.  This video says not to worry about where your hipbones are and to measure where your belly button is.  The top of my hipbones are level with my belly button so I think either method would work for me but that may not be the case for everyone.  Any health/fitness experts able to enlighten us?

3. Your body fat percentage.  To find this number you may have to visit a doctor or a gym, although there are also bathroom scales that measure body fat % (I’d be interested to know how accurate those are – I’ve been using the same cheapo scale that I bought the very first week I started South Beach years ago and it still works great, seems to be accurate as the numbers match when I weigh at the doctor – but someday I might like to have a fancier scale that measures body fat % too).  Anyway, I think body fat percentage is a much more accurate assessment of your health/fitness than the scale or even BMI.

Here’s why you need to do your research and why I mentioned my interesting experience at the gym.  Yesterday I showed up at the gym for my fitness class.  Our instructor told us that the gym was offering free health screenings (blood pressure, BMI, and body fat percentage).  I always have great BP and I can figure out my BMI on my own, but I was interested in my body fat percentage so I went to do that after my workout.  First thing I found out was that my reading was probably not going to be very accurate because I had just worked out (apparently that makes a difference) and that the measurement tool could measure 6% above or below my actual percentage, so a pretty large margin.  But I went ahead and did it anyway.  The little calculator thing said my % was 27.8%.  Again, that could be anywhere from 21.8% to 33.8% (or maybe even more/less since I had just worked out…who knows) because of the margin of error.  I asked the guy who did my reading what an ideal body fat percentage would be for someone my age and my height – he said less than 20%, ideally 15%.

That didn’t feel right to me, I couldn’t bring an exact number to mind but 15% seemed way lower than what I remembered from past information I had gotten.  When I got home I did a little searching and kept finding this chart and other charts that were similar:

[source]

There are some that are more specific based on age but I liked the simplistic information that this one presented.  Basically, average body fat percentage for a woman (women have more body fat then men) is 25-31%.  If my reading from yesterday was in fact correct, then I’m at an average percentage.  Someone who is fit should have a percentage of 21-24%.  However, the 15% body fat that the “trainer” told me was my ideal is at the very low end of the category of body fat that would be considered an athlete.  Like a hardcore athlete.  Now how realistic is that?  Fortunately I did my own bit of research and now plan to shoot for that 21-24% range but no way do I even want to try to get down to 15%!  There’s no telling how much exercise I would have to do and how much chocolate I would have to give up!

(side note: fitness/health people – if I’m totally off base here please let me know!  Am I correct in thinking that 15% body fat is a bit unrealistic and not quite necessary?)

Anyway, I say all that to say this:

1. Don’t put so much emphasis on the scale.  I woke up this morning and my rings were tight – that’s a sign I’m retaining water and the scale reflected that.  So I try to remind myself of that and not get all bent out of shape about it.  Remember that there are other indicators that you are healthy and/or improving your health so try not to let the number on the scale stress you out – it’s just a number (I’m totally preaching to myself here, too)

2. Do your homework!  Find knowledgable professionals to evaluate you and help determine what is a good weight/BMI/body fat percentage for you.  Don’t just assume that what the magazines or the random person at the gym tells you are what’s right for you.

Linking up to Works for Me Wednesday

2012 goals

I’m not really a big resolution maker but I do have two goals for 2012 – one spiritual and one physical.  Feel free to help keep me accountable…

My first goal is to read through the entire Bible.  I’ve done this in years past but it’s been awhile so I’m doing it again this year.  Michael and I are going to read together using this plan.  In the past I’ve always just gone straight through from Genesis to Revelation.  This plan has you read the New Testament first, then the Old Testament, which I think will be a nice change.

My second goal is to get my healthy lifestyle back, specifically to lose the 20-25 pounds I’ve gained since getting married.  (Read the posts about my weight loss story here)  I started back on South Beach Phase 1 today to kick-start myself (see my post about Phase 1 foods if you are thinking about doing SB).  I know what I need to do, I just have to put it into practice.  I’m hoping that six months from now I’ll be at a good, maintainable, happy weight for my body and from there I’ll be working on striking a balance between eating healthy with occasional treats.  On that note, don’t expect many posts with recipes for sweeties anytime soon – sorry!  But I will try to post lots of healthy recipes that I like.

So those are my two big goals for 2012.  I’m also working on a 2012 “bucket list” – basically just a list of random things that I want to do in 2012.  Some things include baking an apple pie from scratch (that will be later in the year…see goal #2), taking cake decorating classes, and creating a 72 hour emergency kit for our house as well as emergency kits for the cars.

Happy New Year!

my weight loss journey part 7 – the future

  1. read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.
  2. read my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet here.
  3. read my weight loss journey part 3 – the exercise here.
  4. read my weight loss journey part 4 – the results here.
  5. read my weight loss journey part 5 – the maintenance here.
  6. read my weight loss journey part 6 – the struggles here.

I hope that this mini-series has encouraged, uplifted, or inspired you in some way.  I know that just writing this down has really inspired me to get back to that girl I was in college.  If you already live an active, healthy lifestyle then at least you will know understand when I refer to weight loss or healthy living in my posts (it was such a huge life change that I sort of think of many things in my life as before the lifestyle change and after).

Before I close out I want to discuss what the future (hopefully) holds for me.  For one, now that I’ve told you that I’m going to get back on track I have to keep my word and do that.  I’m now accountable to you and so my goal is to back to my “happy weight” (that’s how I’m going to refer to that range where I know my body is comfortable and I could live forever like that) within the next few months.  That’s an immediate future goal, but recently I’ve also been thinking about longer-term goals.

We’ve discussed before (many times) my love of Pinterest.  Lots of the posts there are centered around fitness, exercise, diet, and healthy living.  Two images that I’ve seen several times and that have really made me think are these:


Both of these pictures have started me thinking about the example I’m going to be for my daughters (not being sexist, girls just seem to struggle more than boys).  Yes, that is a long way off but it’s something I need to figure out now.  I don’t want my daughters to see me going through cycles of dieting, falling off the wagon, gaining weight, being disgusted with how I look/feel, dieting again, etc.  I don’t her/them to learn negative body image or self talk from me.  I want all my children to grow up learning a healthy lifestyle where we make healthy choices but don’t put all our focus on weight.

So that’s my long term goal.  To get my mindset and habits in a place where I am living a healthy life, not obsessed with how I look or hating myself for having a piece of cake.  Not letting the number on the scale rule me.  Having BALANCE.  I hope you will set that goal for yourself, too.  Let’s teach our daughters, nieces, friends, students, coworkers, observers, everyone that it’s good to strive to be healthy, but that we are so much more than a body type or a number.

my weight loss journey part 6 – the struggles

  1. read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.
  2. read my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet here.
  3. read my weight loss journey part 3 – the exercise here.
  4. read my weight loss journey part 4 – the results here.
  5. read my weight loss journey part 5 – the maintenance here.

Let’s be clear: this weight loss journey hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.  I’ve mentioned in past posts about injuries and gaining back some weight in the past few years.  So in the interest of full disclosure I want to share some of the struggles that can happen.

  • It is completely true what they say that losing the weight is the easy part, keeping the weight off (maintenance) is the hard part.  Please don’t think that once you hit that goal weight you can go right back to eating the way you had been.  You can have more treats, but you can’t do that every day or all the weight will come right back.  That is why it is so important to make this a lifestyle change and not just a diet
  • I will probably always struggle with my weight.  If I want to stay like I was in those years after my initial weight loss then I’m going to have to work for it.  I will never be able to eat what I want and look great.  I’m always going to have to watch what I eat, limit the treats, and exercise.  That’s just the way  it has to be.  However, I try to look at that positively and think that if I could eat anything I wanted without gaining weight I probably would and would probably be much more unhealthy.  Have to eat this way to control how I look on the outside is also benefiting me on the inside (remember my cholesterol stats?) so in actuality it is a blessing.
  • Exercising alone does not work for me as far as losing weight goes.  I can exercise until my legs fall off, be in great shape, able to run long distances or spin for a long time and still not lose any weight.  I may tone up some but I won’t lose overall poundage.  I have to also watch my food carefully in addition to exercising in order to see results.  I wish I could lose weight simply by exercising more and eat what I want, but alas it is not to be.  But like I said, that’s probably for the best because it forces me to be healthy.
  • Balance.  I’ve been doing this for 5 years now and I have yet to find a balance with having treats.  I want to be able to live my healthy lifestyle 90 or 95% of the time with a few unhealthy choices now and then, but that is hard for me.  I’m kind of a 100% “on” or 100% “off” kind of girl.  And that brings me to my next point…
  • Self control.  This is a huge struggle for me.  In an ideal, balanced (see above) world, I would be able to make a batch of cookies, eat one or two, and then be done.  Unfortunately, I’m more likely to make a batch of cookies and eat half of them.  I have very little self control when it comes to sweets.  Even though I want to be able to just eat a few bites and be done, I usually either have to completely say “no” or else I will eat way way way too much.  That’s where I struggle with self control big time.  But I keep working on it and maybe someday…
  • Obsession.  I’ve talked about this a little in earlier posts as well.  It is so easy to become obsessed with diet and exercise that you develop an eating disorder or place it in a position of importance above other things that should take priority.  I believe that we should make ourselves a priority and take care of our bodies, but the world doesn’t end if we eat one extra dessert or skip one workout class.  I have to remind myself of that frequently, and remind myself that the number on the scale does not define me.
  • I was so blessed to have a wonderful support system around me during my initial weight loss (well, actually, my whole life but right now I’m focusing on this period in my life).  Michael, my family, my friends, my doctor, people at the gym – they were all so encouraging and loving.  I never felt like they tried to tempt me with food or resented me.  That’s not the case with everyone.  I know that many people don’t have that support system and even have people who will try to sabotage them.  I hope this isn’t the case but I wanted to put it out there so you know.  There were a few times when people would make some snarky comments or comments veiled as a compliment that were actually an insult.  But that’s life and you move on.  Like I said, overall I was incredibly amazed by the support.

I’m sure there are more struggles but those are some of the big ones that I wanted to share with you.  It’s not always going to be easy, but I can guarantee that you will not regret switching to a healthier lifestyle.

(keep reading: part 7)

my weight loss journey part 5 – the maintinence

  1. read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.
  2. read my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet here.
  3. read my weight loss journey part 3 – the exercise here.
  4. read my weight loss journey part 4 – the results here.

So like I said yesterday, after 5 months (September 2006 – January 2007) of faithfully doing the South Beach Diet and exercising, I had lost between 35 – 40 pounds.  I stayed at that weight for about 10 months and maintained it easily with Phase 2/3 eating and 30ish minutes of exercise per day.  Until I got out my food journals, I thought this was the weight I stayed at until we got married.  However, around December 2007 I started losing again (I didn’t really remember this, but I guess I just started being more mindful of what I was eating) and I lost 5-10 more pounds.  I kept that off for about 5 months but then it kind of went back up to my original weight loss range.  I held pretty steady at that weight for another year.

Easter 2007

Summer 2007

Halloween 2007

A good comparison: Halloween 2006 (left) and Halloween 2007 (right)

Christmas 2007

March 2008

April 2008

April 2009

At the time, I still thought I should lose more.  Don’t get me wrong, I felt very healthy and happy but even after all that weight loss I still wasn’t ready to rock a bikini or anything.  However, looking back it is obvious that the weight I reached after my original big weight loss is one that my body is comfortable at and is pretty easy for me to maintain.  I think that in order to reach that elusive goal weight and have that awesome body I would have to be so strict with my diet and exercise.  And guess what?  I don’t want to!  I love food too much and I don’t want to obsess over every little thing.  So as long as I’m healthy, I think I’m going to accept that weight for what it is – I’m not super thin but it’s obvious that’s a good weight for me.

Things got harder after we got married.  For one, we lived in an apartment complex with a little tiny gym so we didn’t want to purchase a gym membership, but it didn’t have much stuff and there were definitely no classes for me to go to.  Another thing was that I started my first year of teaching.  If I wasn’t working late hours at school I was bring stuff home to work on.  It was brutal, one of the hardest things I’ve done, and as a result I stopped working out almost altogether and we definitely let the healthy eating slide.  That first year I gained back 15-20 pounds.  That following summer (2010) we decided to join a gym which really helped and I made a promise to myself that I was going to workout during the school year.  I wasn’t going to let work dictate me and I was going to make time for myself.  I did great with that and worked out consistently all school year last year, even after starting grad school during the spring semester.  I just made sure to make time for it.  However, I still wasn’t careful enough with my food so I toned back up since I had started working out again but I didn’t lose much weight.

Summer 2010

This is a little off topic, but I don’t really know where to put it so I’m just sticking it in here.  All during my weight loss I had never counted calories.  That wasn’t something I wanted to get obsessed with, and I was getting results without doing so.  However, after we got our iPhones last summer I got an app, called Lose It, where you can enter your food and it tracks your calories eaten and burned.  You can also enter your weight loss and it makes a nice pretty graph (very exciting to this math teacher).  I was already writing all my food down so I just started doing so electronically using this app.  It was nice because is stored previous meals so I didn’t have to re-write stuff every day.  I don’t advocate counting calories exclusively, because eating 300 calories of junk food is definitely does not do the same thing to your body as eating 300 calories of lean meat and veggies.  But it is a good way to keep an eye on how much you are eating.  I’ll use it for a while to check myself and make sure I’m on track, then I’ll quit for a while just to take a break.

So here I stand (sit, actually, while writing this) about 15 pounds above that weight where I know my body is happy and that can be maintained.  However, writing this has really inspired me and reminded me that I did it before and I can do it again.  We have joined a gym here in Bowling Green and I’m enjoying it so far; I just need to be a little more careful with my eating and I know the weight will come back off.

both pictures from last week

(keep reading: part 6 and part 7)

my weight loss journey part 4 – the results

  1. read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.
  2. read my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet here.
  3. read my weight loss journey part 3 – the exercise here.

You’ve so patiently read through what I did, how, and why, but I know that what you really want to hear are the facts, the stats, the results, find out “did it work?”.  Short answer: yes.  Long answer: keep reading.

I got my South Beach book during the summer before my sophomore year of college.  I decided to wait until after the first week of school to start because the first week of school there were tons of free meals provided for us by our church and I didn’t know if I would be able to resist temptation.  On Saturday after that first week of school I bought tons of healthy groceries, pre-made lots of South Beach approved food, and of course had my “last meal” and treated myself to my favorite Mexican restaurant and a huge frappuccino from Starbucks.  Sunday morning I hit the ground running and never looked back.

Mind you, that first semester that I was doing South Beach I was living in a dorm room and had a small meal plan (I later moved off campus).  I usually ate breakfast in my room, lunch in the cafeteria on campus, and supper at Michael’s apartment.  For breakfast I just pre-made stuff at Michael’s that could be warmed up in my microwave.  For lunch I just learned to make healthy choices in the all-you-can-eat lunchroom.  I made sure to have lots of healthy snacks on hand, and then I cooked a health dinner at Michael’s.  Oh and I might also mention that I hardly knew how to cook and had only made a few meals in my life, I just taught myself as I went.  Make no mistake, this was not super easy.  It took extra planning and effort to have healthy food on hand and to cook every night, plus if Michael hadn’t had an apartment and I hadn’t had such easy access to a stove it would have been much harder.  But it can be done.  And it was so worth it.  And this first semester, while living in a dorm room with only a small fridge and microwave and while still having to eat in the cafeteria, I saw my biggest weight loss.  It CAN be done.

Don’t forget I also started exercising at our gym – mostly walking, stationary bike, elliptical, jogging, and power yoga – yoga was the only fitness class I took that whole first semester, the rest was just on my own.

Side note: I’ve pulled out my old food journals from when I first started and it has been really fun to go back and look at what I ate and what I did.  By the way, time and time again I’ve heard that writing down what you eat every day really helps you stay on track.  I did that faithfully for the first few years although I don’t do it as constantly as I should.

On with the weight loss results:

By the end of Phase 1 (the first two week) I had lost 10 pounds.  Just looking back at my records I can see that during that time I still ate out once and went to eat at a friends house while still sticking to my diet.  In about a month I was down 15 pounds.  In two months I had lost 20 pounds.  I started my diet at the very beginning of September.  By Christmas (so over the course of one semester of college) I had lost 30 pounds.  I never really crunched the numbers before, but after that initial big weight loss during Phase 1 I lost about 5 pounds per month.  Not exactly Biggest Loser results, but still effective.  Looking back at my journal I see that I ate Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  I ate Reeses sometimes.  I had cookies sometimes.  I just didn’t have them every day and I got right back on track the next day.

Now some medical results:

  • The first time I went to see my doctor (August 8, 2006 when he told me to start my diet) my total cholesterol was 201 (high), my bad cholesterol was 141 (high) and my good cholesterol was 40 (low).
  • When I went back January 1, 2007 (30 pounds lost), my total cholesterol was 181, my bad cholesterol was 128, and my good cholesterol had gone up to 43.
  • When I went back a third time June 11, 2007, my total cholesterol was 188, my bad cholesterol was 123, and my good cholesterol was 55.

So with diet and exercise alone (along with a few supplements) I got all my cholesterol numbers within the desired range in just a few months.  No meds for me.  (I do still take the supplements – fish oil and niacin to help with the good cholesterol).

By mid-January I had lost about 5 more pounds and I basically leveled off there.  Overall I had a total weight loss of between 35-40 pounds.  My weight fluctuates a ton – it can change as much as 3 pounds overnight.  Because of that, I don’t try to worry about staying at one particular number because I would make myself crazy, instead I have a range of about 5 pounds where I want my weight to stay.  So basically in 5 months I reached a weight where I was healthy and my body was comfortable.  It wasn’t my “goal weight” but it was pretty obvious that my body was content right there.

Halloween 2006 – 2 months after starting South Beach

February 2007 at 35-40 pound weight loss

February 2007 again

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the maintenance – from January 2007 to now.

(keep reading: part 5, part 6, and part 7)

my weight loss journey part 3 – the exercise

  1. read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.
  2. read my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet here.

In addition to starting South Beach, I also started exercising – something I had hardly ever done before.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, I just went to the gym on campus and started trying stuff.

At first, I would jog for 10 minutes, get on the bike for 10 minutes, and use the elliptical for 10 minutes.  I had to alternate because I couldn’t do any of those things for longer than 10 minutes.  Eventually, though, I worked my way up to 15 minutes, 20, 25, 30 minutes.  Pretty much all I did at first was cardio, although I also started going to the fitness classes that were offered at our gym (some cardio, some strength).  Remember that I was starting my sophomore year in college when I started this journey, so I was fortunate to have the on campus gym to attend.  I tried just about every fitness class I could take; some I liked and others I didn’t.  During my three years at Tech I did power yoga, Pilates, kickboxing, hip hop, ballet, step, and weights classes.  I even took a weight lifting class in the spring after I started exercising as an elective but it was a joke because you were just supposed to work out on your own – they didn’t really teach you proper form.

During that first year and a half I mostly just ran and ran and ran and ran.  I got to where I could run 30 – 45 minutes straight.  However, some combination of increasing my distance and speed too quickly along with doing squats improperly (like I said – my weightlifting class didn’t teach proper form), I injured my knee.  And I just kept running on it all summer and all fall until it got to where I could hardly go up or down stairs.  I went to a physical trainer who diagnosed me with patella tendonitis and told me I needed to stop running, at least for a while.

my first 5-K, May 2007 (a word of advice: don’t eat bacon, eggs, and oatmeal right before running in a race – you’ll be visiting it again at the end…not that I would have experienced that or anything…)

State Farm 4 mile run, November 2008

So then I discovered the pool.  At first it was comical.  Being a runner I thought the pool would be easy, but I didn’t know how to properly swim, all I could do was doggy paddle.  The first day I was exhausted from trying to keep my head out of the water.  But I got some goggles, and with practice I was soon swimming for 30 or more minutes at a time.  Swimming became my go-to exercise, along with other group fitness classes that weren’t hard on my knee, for the next year or so.

Over Christmas break and during the summer I was able to use the YMCA in Springfield.  They had some sort of deal for college students to pay just for those few months.  That way I was able to keep up my exercise without paying a year-round gym membership fee.

Right after I graduated, I got married.  We lived in an apartment complex with a little gym.  I really didn’t work out much that first year since it was also my first year of teaching and I was exhausted and spending all my time on school work.  But when I did work out, I just used the elliptical at the gym, went for walks or bike rides around our neighborhood, or did Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.

my first bike – right after we got married (Michael taught me how to ride a bike the previous summer then we bought a bike after I moved to Lexington)

After we moved into our house I knew I needed to get back to exercising and that we needed to find a gym.  We started going to Healthworx (I talked about that here) and I started running again.  I did a variety of classes, most combined both cardio and strength training.  On the days I didn’t do one of those classes, I ran.  And again, like before, a few months in I pushed too hard too fast and my knee starting hurting.  I knew I needed another option, but Healtworx didn’t have a pool.  The only other thing I could think of that would be good cardio without being weight bearing was spinning.  So in January of this year I tentatively took my first spinning class – it was insanely hard, I thought I was going to die, and I was hooked.  So until we moved, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I was at the gym at 5:15 to get to my spin class.  (By the way, spinning is group cycling class that uses special stationary bikes, not spinning as in yarn like one of my students thought – hilarious!)  I also tried some other classes like Zumba and Legion Fitness (like P90X or Insanity – super hard).

my spin bike

We’ve joined a gym since moving to Bowling Green and I’m still trying to find my groove.  They have a pool and spin classes; I’ve already taken advantage of both, plus lots of other group fitness classes that I’ve been trying out.  I’m really liking the Zumba classes at my new gym so that may be my newest fitness crush.

As you can see, I’ve tried tons of things.  I’ll give just about anything at least one chance.  If I try it and don’t like it then I find something else.  My best advice when it comes to exercising is to find what you enjoy.  There is no need to be miserable trying to be a runner if you really hate running – just do something else!  If you like to dance, dance.  If you like to swim, swim.  Do what you love.  If you do something you hate you will resent it and want to quit.  I’ve found that for myself I really need to take group fitness classes, especially for my weight training, because I need the guidance and the accountability.

It is my opinion that you need to do both cardio and weight training.  I do cardio almost every day but I also try to get at least two strength workouts in per week.  For one, strength training helps you build muscle which in turn helps you burn more fat.  Also, weight bearing exercise helps strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis.  My goal is at least 30 minutes of exercise, 6 days a week.  Sunday is my off day.  Many days I do more than 30 minutes, especially when I take classes since they are at least 45 minutes, but I always aim for at least 30 minutes.

So find what works for you and get moving!

(keep reading: part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7)

my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet

read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.

The diet that my doctor recommended was the South Beach Diet.  He said that South Beach (SB for short) closely mimicked the way someone who was diabetic should eat.  I bought the book (apparently I still wasn’t sold on the idea because I bought the book at a used book shop – not even willing to pay full price!) and started learning about SB.  I urge you to check it out if you are interested in losing weight or just trying to eat healthier; obviously you would need to read the book in order to get all the small details but I’ll give you an overview here.  Grab a cup of coffee and settle in because this is going to be long.

SB consists of three phases.  During Phase 1 you cut out all sources of sugar, including carbs and fruit.  This seems extreme, and it is, but Phase 1 only lasts two weeks.  The main goal of Phase 1 is to retrain your body to not crave sweets.  So on Phase 1 you can have meat, cheese, beans,nuts, eggs, and veggies but no bread, potatoes, fruit, or sweets (please know this is not an exhaustive list).  Many people call Phase 1 a low-carb diet but it really isn’t as you’ll see in Phase 2.

After the two weeks of Phase 1 the cravings should be gone; I know in my case they were.  The first few days were hard but it didn’t take long for my body not to be dependent on sugar anymore.  The book claims you will lose 8 – 13 pounds during Phase 1; I lost 10.  People who have less weight to lose upfront will not lose this much; this is mostly water weight that you have built up and you haven’t really started the major weight loss.

one of my early dinners: chicken, black beans, broccoli, grapes (would be a Phase 1 meal without grapes, Phase 2 with them)

After the first two weeks You then enter into Phase 2.  Many people (I was one) are reluctant to start adding carbs back into their diet because they are afraid they won’t continue to lose.  However, Phase 1 was only to help rid your body of cravings.  It is too restrictive to maintain for the long term and it isn’t a well-balanced way to eat.  In Phase 2 you slowly begin adding in good carbs.  This is another key to SB – the carbs that you do eat are good carbs, meaning that they have a low glycemic index (your body has to work harder to break them down – I’ll talk about that more in a minute).  I think the book recommends that you start with one item the first week, then add something in the next week, continuing slowly to see how your body reacts.  I believe apples were the first thing I added back in.  In Phase 2 you can have fruit, bread, pasta, etc. just in smaller quantities than you might have originally and making better choices.  Phase 2 is the weight loss phase and that is what you will follow until you have reached your desired weight.

a good SB dessert – strawberries dipped in a little dark chocolate

Phase 3 is the maintenance phase.  This is basically how you will eat for the rest of your life to maintain your weight and your health.  I think Phase 3 is basically the same thing as Phase 2, except you can be a little more lenient on treats.  I never consciously said “I’m moving on to Phase 3 now” but I suppose that is where I am now.

Like I said before, SB teaches you to eat foods that have a low glycemic index.  The book goes in to this in great detail but basically you want to eat foods that make your body work, that release sugar gradually into your body rather than all at once.  For example, eating an orange is much better than drinking orange juice – with the orange your body has to break down the white stuff and the pulp while the orange juice is already totally processed for you and is basically just a sugar dump (why do you think that orange juice is commonly given to diabetics when their sugar drops too low?).  Another example is oatmeal.  The instant oats have had all the good fibrous material stripped from them so your body doesn’t have to work hard to digest them.  If you eat old fashioned (rolled) oats or steel cut oats they keep you fuller longer and don’t turn to sugar as quickly.

Some of the changes I made were switching from white bread to wheat, eating sweet potatoes rather than white, brown rice over white, and whole fruit rather than juice.

whole wheat, homemade pizza (see dough recipe here)

SB is not a low fat diet, either.  They do recommend eating/drinking low fat cheese, sour cream, and milk, but most items they encourage you to eat the full fat version.  The reasoning is that good fats help keep you fuller longer so you eat less.  Also, many low fat or fat free products have more sugar that has been added to make up for the lack of taste from the reduction in fat.  So I eat nuts, peanut butter, full fat dressing, and I cook with olive oil or canola oil.

Another thing SB teaches is how to pair up carbohydrates, which will break down in your body quickly, with fat and protein, which don’t break down as quickly.  If I just eat fruit for breakfast I get hungry very quickly.  If I pair that fruit with fats and/or proteins I will stay full for longer (i.e. apple with peanut butter).  Because of that, I eat some form of eggs nearly every morning for breakfast along with whatever else I’m having so that I know I’ve gotten some protein.

What SB doesn’t do is count stuff.  No counting calories or points (although I have used that some – I’ll talk about that another day), just eating whole, healthy foods.  They do give you a sort of template of how many servings of protein, fat, dairy, vegetables, and carbs to have per day but I didn’t always follow that.

The book gives far more details.  There are lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid as well as recipes and meal ideas.

Also, if you’re serious about SB, check out www.southbeach-diet-plan.com – this is a discussion board where you can get support, recipes, and ideas.  I used this tons when I first started out.

Alright, well that’s the longest post I’ve ever written!  But I hope you know a little bit more about South Beach and will check it out if you are wanting to have a healthier lifestyle.  Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have.

(keep reading: part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7)

my weight loss journey part 1 – the background

I want to share with you my journey toward losing weight and being healthier.  A journey that started six years ago and that has changed my life.

Please don’t think I’m sharing this to say “look how great I am” because I’m definitely not.  And don’t think I’m trying to tell you that I have all the answers because I don’t.  I’m not sharing this to pat myself on the back in any way.  I don’t have it all figured out.  I’m not perfect.  I’m telling you my story for two reasons.  One, I often want to refer to things like “when I first started trying to eat healthy” or other things that allude to this journey but I realize many of you wouldn’t understand what I mean.  The second reason is that something I have learned along the way might help someone else who is striving for a healthier lifestyle and in the off chance that this touches someone, I want to share.

This will take several days as I plan to share why I started this journey, what diet I used, what exercise I did, my struggles, what I hope to do in the future, and anything else I think of in the next few days.

So now for the background.

All through high school I was overweight.  Not huge, but definitely overweight.  The funny thing is, it didn’t really bother me.  I was fortunate in that I didn’t feel bad about myself or hate my body.  I was a happy young girl.  While I do wish I had been a little more concerned about my health at that time, I am so profoundly grateful that I wasn’t so focused on my looks and worried about dieting.  I know that is something that many high school girls deal with and I am so glad that I wasn’t.  I’m sure that is crossed my mind a time or two that I wished I were skinnier, but I never dwelt on it or cared enough to do anything about it.

both pictures – high school (spring 2004) – none of us had digital cameras except Daddy so I only have a few from back then

Then I left for college.  I was away from home and able to eat whatever I wanted.  Poptarts and Dr. Pepper for breakfast? Sure!  Huge buffet for lunch?  Sign me up!  Ice cream every night? Absolutely!  And not surprisingly, I gained the freshman 15 or 20.  I don’t really know.  Up until this point I cannot ever in my life remember stepping on a scale and so I have no idea what I weighed before I left for college.  But I know I gained quite a bit just by the way my clothes fit.


November 2005 – halfway through my first semester of college

summer 2006 – right after my first year of college

I went home that summer and for some reason I did decide to step on the scale.  I was shocked by the number I saw.  Although I didn’t know what BMI (Body Mass Index) was at that time, I calculated it later (go here to calculate yours) and found that my BMI put me in the obese range.  Not a teensy bit overweight like I thought, but obese.  At that point, I knew that something wasn’t right but I still wasn’t super concerned.  What I did think was along the lines of “I don’t understand.  I don’t eat THAT badly and I don’t eat THAT much, so why am I still gaining weight?”.  You know the definition of insanity?  It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I guess I was insane because I wasn’t changing my eating habits but wondering why I wasn’t magically thin.

I decided to go to the doctor to find out what was “wrong” with me, since I just knew I had some sort of medical condition and they would just give me some magic pills that would make me all better and lose tons of weight.  Never did it cross my mind that diet and exercise were all I needed.

When I got to the doctor, he did indeed find out something was wrong – my bad cholesterol was too high and my good cholesterol was too low.  At the age of 19 I was about to be put on cholesterol medicine.  He recommended some vitamins and supplements to help with the cholesterol but he also told me I needed to go on a diet.

If you’re still reading, I’m impressed.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you what diet he suggested and how it works.

(keep reading: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7)