Four months have passed since my entry “Be Gone, Baby Weight!” I figure it’s time to give an update on my progress, although I really don’t want to. Preface: I have not reached my goal weight yet. I blame it all on timing.
Immediately after I posted “Be Gone, Baby Weight!” on November 13, 2012, I became motivated to work out more. Instead of sitting on the couch watching my kids, I started doing my exercise DVDs while the kids played (it took a few times before they realized “don’t bother Mommy during exercise”). I began to take more walks and ride bikes outside when the weather was nice, so that I was working out 4-5 times a week.
Well, guess what holiday comes shortly after and ruined all my weight-loss plans? The one where the typical American consumes 4,500 calories…just from dinner! So despite my good intentions, my efforts flopped. I weighed myself the first week of December and saw that I had not lost any weight. Okay, then what holiday comes after that? And it’s not just Christmas, but the entire holiday season that’s a nightmare for anyone wanting to lose weight. Between the decadent spreads and caloric cocktails at numerous holiday parties, Christmas cookies being baked and passed around, and our Mexican vacation with the all-you-can eat buffet three times a day, it was nearly impossible for me to resist the temptations surrounding me. Plus, with the hectic holiday schedule of decorating, shopping, wrapping, etc., I just could not find the time to exercise. So I put all my weight-loss plans by the wayside and figured it would be futile to start during the holidays. After all, what are New Year’s resolutions for?
In January, I decided to start fresh. I was committed this time to sticking to my goals. After all, there were no binge-worthy holidays coming up, and my 40th birthday was around the corner. I started to exercise again 5 times a week. I didn’t do much to moderate my diet but I figured since most of our dinners are vegan (husband is a recent convert), that would help. Soon enough, though, I realized that exercise alone isn’t going to cut it. My metabolism is not what it used to be and it’s just harder for me now to lose weight. In addition, the more information I read (from health/fitness magazines, weight-loss websites, etc.), the more I realized that moderate exercise does little to shed weight and that DIET counts for everything (recent studies have shown this to be true, sadly). I read somewhere that losing weight is 80% about nutrition, 10% exercise and 10% genetics.
So when I weighed myself at the end of January and saw that I still hadn’t lost any weight, I knew I had to do something about my eating habits. And that’s where my challenge lies, because I’m an EATER. I come from a family of eaters (except for my dad, who stops eating when he’s full even if there’s still food left on his plate. I’m not sure where he was growing up when the rest of us were part of the clean-plate club). People have even commented on how much I eat. I’ll never forget years ago during my graphic design course when my classmates and I went to McDonald’s for lunch. One guy watched me eat my Quarter Pounder with cheese combo meal and said to me, “I’ve never seen a girl chow as much as you.” Yep, his exact words.
Starting at the end of January (3 times a charm), I did two things to gain momentum on this weight-loss journey: 1) I signed up for a 5K with my friend (I never ran the 5K in December like I said I would in my last entry), and 2) I started to plan my meals. I’m not big on counting calories – I find it really tedious, but the point is to be conscious of what you’re eating. I have sample meal plans from a few sources* that include healthy breakfasts and lunches (low-calorie, high protein, high fiber) as well as snacks to have on hand, and that’s generally what I eat during the week. I’ve also been better about reading the nutrition labels of questionable (processed/convenience) foods. Like the other day I was going to make a package of frozen Korean noodles that I typically eat for lunch. 550 calories!!! And it’s not even a big portion (not for me, at least). Same goes for the tortilla chips that my husband likes to snack on during the weekends – 140 calories for just 10 chips! He can easily polish off half the bag in one sitting (okay, that’s me). And the M&Ms I give to my kids as reward for using the potty (and reward for me in dealing with it) – 210 calories for just ¼ cup! Once I became conscious of some of the foods in our house that were really calorie-dense, I avoided them (or just had 1 or 2 :) ), considering I’m aiming for 1,200 – 1,500 calories per day (not easy for me!).
So since training for the 5K and moderating my diet 6 weeks ago, I have lost 4 pounds. It’s no Biggest Loser (where contestants lose like 10 lbs. a week! Uh, how?!) but for me, slow and steady seems to do the trick, since these last few pounds are tough to budge. I can also feel that I’m getting stronger and leaner and my belly doesn’t stick out as much. Another thing is that I can actually get my skinny jeans on again (my main goal)!!! Just a few months ago, I couldn’t even get them over my thighs, but now I can put them on all the way and even button them! Granted they’re still way snug and give me an unattractive muffin top, but at least I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still have more than halfway to go toward my weight-loss goals, but just being able to put on my pre-pregnancy jeans again gives me added motivation.
I’ve also found that staying busy with other projects helps me stay on track. When I get bored (which inevitably happens as a stay-at-home mom), I raid the fridge. I used to eat because there was nothing else to do (or needed something else to do while I watched tv). If I focus too much on losing weight, then I start obsessing about food, and next thing you know I’m caving to my cravings, whether it’s for pizza, cheeseburgers, or ice cream. So rather than looking at my Bon Appetit magazines and watching the Food Network, I have recently taken up sewing. I also have this blog that I’m trying to keep up with (and not doing a very good job of it), as well as a stack of books to read. I allot 20 minutes to 1 hour of exercise a day, and with the rest of my day taking care of kids, grocery shopping, cooking, paying bills, etc., I find that I’m occupied enough to keep my mind off food and not eat strictly out of boredom.
Although I’m happy to be making progress in my weight-loss journey, I’ve also come to the sad realization that I have to watch what I eat for the rest of my life (did I mention I’m an eater?). I can’t just stop eating healthy and exercising when I reach my goal weight. I just don’t have the metabolism at 39 that I had when I was 20. I need to maintain this healthy diet and exercise otherwise the weight will inevitably creep back up. I’ve noticed that even two days of bad eating causes my weight to shoot right back up where it started and a big belly to go with it. That’s why studies show that 80% of people who lose weight gain it right back and why they always say “Diets don’t work.” So these light and healthy meals and increased activity for me are here to stay. Unless I get pregnant again. :)
*My meal plans come from several sources, but my favorites are Eating Well magazine, The Volumetrics Eating Plan by Barbara Rolls, and The Picture-Perfect Weight Loss by Dr. Shapiro. The last two focus on feeling full on fewer calories by incorporating more vegetables, beans, water (like for soups), etc. into your meals. After all, this mama eats like no bird!