Tuesday, March 23, 2010

andrea's 12 (or more) step program: what worked for me

**I posted this on my weight-loss blog, Mission: Possible, but I also wanted to post it here since I don't know how many of my regular readers check both blogs and I thought it was important enough information to share here too!**

For a long time now, I have been getting emails (or even people just coming right up to me personally) asking me how I have lost the amount of weight that I have lost. So I decided what better place than my weight loss blog to answer all of those questions -- and more!

Let me start off this post by saying that I am by no means a health & fitness expert. The things I am going to write about are strictly what worked for me to get where I am today. These tips and suggestions are not from a doctor, they are from plain ol' stay-at-home-mom, Me! Talk to a health professional if you are unsure of how to proceed.

Okay -- so are you ready? Ready to hear the earth-shattering advice I am about to pass down to you? Here it is:

Eat less. Exercise more!

Simple as that. Thanks for reading!

Ha ha...okay okay, I've got a lot more to share than just that. But really, those are the 2 basics. It's a pretty simple formula -- but that's not to say that it's an easy thing to accomplish. So here are some of the things that I would encourage/suggest/recommend. Again, this might not all work for you -- and in fact, you may down-right disagree with some of the things I am about to tell you. But it is my true account of my weight-loss journey up to this point.

Find out your BMI (either here or here if you're looking for some sites). I encourage you to do this so that you know what your healthy weight range is for your height. But don't take it too seriously, because we are all different. But it's a good idea to have a general idea of what is considered healthy for you, since that is the ultimate goal -- not to be skinny, but to be healthy.

Tell somebody what you weigh. I find it's not actually enough to just update on a blog how much weight you have lost (or gained) from week to week. There's something about actually confessing to somebody the genuine number that appears on your scale when you step on it. I also find it's more exciting then when you break through a new barrier. Instead of having to simply say, "I'm in a new middle digit" you can specifically say, "I am out of the 160's!!"

Take your measurements. The scale is not the only measure of your success. In fact, measurements are a more accurate representation of your reaching your goals. Afterall, wouldn't you rather see the inches melt away than the pounds? Nobody can see what the scale's numbers show, but they will be able to see the difference when you are strutting around in single digit pants sizes instead of being on the verge of wearing plus sizes. Don't re-measure yourself every week or anything though -- well, you can if you want I suppose, but it might be disheartening. Rather give it a month in between and then check on your progress. You can measure wherever you want, but I do my biceps, thighs, waist and chest.

Take before pictures. I wish I had done specific before pictures -- in fitted work-out shorts and a sports bra. It would give a much more accurate portrayal of your progress in that kind of attire. As it is, I do have a good full-length shot of me at my cousin's wedding when I was at my all-time heaviest so it does a good enough job, but I still wish I had the official before pictures, from multiple angles. These before pictures are wonderful encouragement to look at when you're feeling like not much is happening. Believe it or not, even at 55 pounds lighter there are still days when I look in the mirror and think I can't see much difference. But then I pull out my before (and after) pictures and there's no denying the fact that those 55 pounds make a huge difference.

Break your ultimate goal down into mini-goals. If I would've put my 70 pound goal up on the countdown ticker on the sidebar of this blog, it would've seemed WAY too overwhelming. It's almost cause to give up before you even get started. I broke my goals into 10 pound increments. That way I still had to work hard to get there, but at the same time, it was very do-able and I was able to have lots of celebrations along the way. Now my ultimate goal is only 15 pounds away instead of 70!! If you have less to lose -- therefore making it harder to shed pounds -- make your goals even smaller, 5 pounds or even less if you want.

Document your progress. You don't have to have a blog -- either public or private -- but I encourage you to keep track of your weight on a week-to-week basis. I do find, though, that having people to be accountable to helps. I don't want to have to report a gain week after week on my blog, so it helps motivate me to have something positive to report. If you're just keeping track in a notebook that only you see...well, it could be harder to give yourself that push. So if you feel the urge, start up a blog and see what happens. Or if you're just not comfortable with that, find a few friends you can have weekly emails with to keep accountable to. Bottom line: don't try to do this alone.

Celebrate each goal that you accomplish. It doesn't have to be anything major -- but draw attention to the fact that you reached a goal and are working on the next one. Either post it on your Facebook status, treat yourself to a new top, or allow yourself the luxury of a night out.

Don't write off an entire day just because it started off poorly. This was always one of my mistakes in all previous attempts at losing weight. If I was having a bad day and by lunchtime I had eaten more than what I should've eaten in an entire day, my typical response was "Ah, who cares. I screwed up today anyway -- I might as well just keep going and start fresh tomorrow." WRONG ANSWER!! Make every decision count. So you made a mistake and had a burger, fries and a supersize Coke for lunch. Don't let that give you the excuse to also have a greasy supper and chips and chocolate before bed. Acknowledge to yourself that you made an unwise choice and then move on. In the right direction. Use the way you likely feel about said choice (i.e. guilt, disappointment, etc) to fuel yourself into making better choices the rest of the day.

Give into cravings...to a certain extent. This is a tricky one, because if not used properly, this piece of advice can get you into a lot of trouble! I'm not saying that anytime you crave something unhealthy that you should just give in and consume it. But there is some merit to the idea that real and genuine cravings need some attention. For example, if I absolutely and positively am craving sour cream & onion chips and a Pepsi -- and by that I mean that it's all I can think about -- then the smart thing is to allow myself a small portion of the object of my desire. In other words, a handful (or two) of the chips and half of a can of Pepsi. Enough to satisfy that wild craving that is making me crazy. The alternative? In my experience, the alternative is to raid the fridge or pantry looking for something -- anything -- to have in its place. It may start out as a healthy choice like a handful of grapes. But soon I will realize that no, the grapes didn't do the trick. So I move on to something else -- perhaps a handful of crackers. No...not quite good enough. And so I continue to move on to other foods in the hopes that something will satisfy my chip & pepsi craving, only to realize half an hour later that I consumed WAY more calories than I would've if I allowed myself a small taste and I am still left with that feeling of craving.

Don't snack in the evenings -- for the most part! It has become a very rare thing for me to eat anything after the supper hour. The exception? If I am legitimately hungry before going to bed. I will not let myself go to sleep with a growling stomach. It's okay if I feel like I *could* eat something before going to bed. But if I am actually growling with hunger, why torture myself? I will go into the pantry and take out 3-4 crackers. Just enough to take the edge off. The key is to take out the few crackers, then close up the box and put it back into the pantry and WALK AWAY. No repeat visits. It's easiest if this is done directly before going to bed to eliminate those repeat visits. If I take a few crackers and then proceed to watch TV for a bit longer or check email or make Joelle's lunch for the next day...it is more than easy to head back to the pantry and take another helping -- or two! However, if I take those few crackers and eat them on my way up to my bedroom, I will immediately brush my teeth and head into bed, thus eliminate the desire to go all the way back down to the kitchen for a few more crackers, only to have to brush my teeth yet again.

Don't skip breakfast. For the longest time, other than the one day a week where I was at work (and weekends), I would not eat breakfast. Afterall, it was just more calories going in my body that I didn't really need, right? I would rather save my calories for lunch and supper. Well, that isn't really a wise decision. As I'm sure most of you know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I'm still working on this one, as I don't have the greatest breakfast every morning. But I do eat something -- a piece of toast with cheese whiz every morning -- not only to give me the energy to start my day, but it also gets my metabolism boosted right off the bat.

Limit afternoon snacking. Now, I know that a lot of people say that eating more often throughout the day rather than just 3 solid meals is a healthier way to go. But like I said -- I am simply telling you what worked for me. I typically eat breakfast, lunch and supper and not a whole lot in between. I say 'not a whole lot' because it's not set in stone. If I truly am hungry mid-morning, I will have a 100 calorie granola bar. And if I know I can't possibly make it to suppertime, I will indulge in a few crackers, a small handful of chocolate chips, or a helping of multi-grain chips & salsa. The point is not to starve yourself, it's about everything in moderation.

Dinner is dinner. I've been asked before if I make something different for my family than I do for me. I know people who do this and it works for them -- so that's great! But not me. I eat what my family eats, just with controlled portions.

Don't eat until you are full. I have to say, in the past 9 months, there have really been very few times where I have felt genuinely full. I will eat a decent portion of a meal (probably more on the small side) and in normal circumstances not have second helpings. Now, if I actually still feel hungry after my first portion -- because perhaps I took too small of a first helping -- it's not like I don't allow myself to eat more. If I just strictly left it at a one-helping scenario, I could be opening myself up to a lot of trouble come 8 o'clock when I feel ravenous, as if I skipped supper altogether. But when you feel you have gotten to a point where you are content -- without being hungry and without being full -- just stop eating. I'm sure most of us don't have to stock-pile; we are all pretty confident that we will have the means to get our next meal. So why over-eat? Usually after we over-eat, we end up feeling so uncomfortable and gross anyway, that it takes away from the deliciousness of the meal we were consuming. However, if we stop before we are full, we will walk away from the meal with only pleasant thoughts of what we just ate. Besides, you know what they say: It takes up to 15 minutes for your body to realize that it's full. So even if you don't necessarily feel full by the time you stop eating, give it 10-15 minutes and you may be more content than you realized!

Accept compliments graciously. I admit, this is something that I am still working on myself. Sometimes it's so easy to just focus on the negative and forget about all the good that you have already done. People might tell me how fabulous I look, and I have to catch myself from replying with something like, "Thanks -- but you don't know how well I'm covering things up with what I'm wearing" or "Sheesh, I look nothing like the way I want to look like" or "Yeah...but I'm still way in the 'overweight' category according to my BMI"...and I could go on. I believe whole-heartedly that we need to accept each compliment the way it was intended -- with appreciation and gratitude. Our responses should be nothing other than a sincere "Thank-you." Take the compliments -- you deserve them!

Nothing is off-limits. Denying your body the foods it will naturally crave isn't really the way to go. Again, this is just in my experience. Everything in moderation has been my mantra and it has worked. Well -- there is one thing that I do not allow myself to buy under any circumstances...and it is Nutella. One jar of that gets consumed solely by yours truly within a matter of 1-2 days. I just grab a spoon, hide behind the kitchen counter and go to it. It's gone before anybody else in the house even knew it was there. So know your weakness, I suppose. But other than that, I really do eat anything and everything -- pizza, carrot cake, chips, pepsi -- it's all for me to enjoy as long as I'm enjoying it responsibly. If you deprive yourself of something completely, it will only make you crave it even more and you will end up on a binge-fest. It's just not worth it.

Exercise. This is a given. You can not lose adequate amounts of weight simply by watching what you eat. On the flip-side, you also can't lose adequate amounts of weight simply by exercising. The two go hand-in-hand. So find something that you enjoy doing -- swimming, walking, jogging, going to the gym, doing at-home TV work-outs -- and commit to doing it several times a week.

Find a time that works best for you to exercise. In a perfect world, I would get up at 6:30am and get in my work-out and shower before the kids wake up. I know someone who does that and I would love to be like her. But it's not a perfect world and I just know that for me it's not feasible. It took me awhile to figure it out, but early afternoon is the best time for me to work out. Maybe for you it's mid-morning or early evening. Or maybe you can be one of the ones who can drag themselves out of bed early in the morning -- kudos to you if that's the case! Just find a time that best suits you and get to it! First though, you need to acknowledge that you will have to sacrifice something in order to fit it in...whether it's sleep, or part of your afternoon quiet time while the kids are napping, or some of your relaxing-in-front-of-the-TV in the evening time.

Start slow. If you have never really regular exercised, don't expect to dive right in with hour long work-outs 5 days a week. You will burn out and say "I can't do this!" and then you'll quit. And we don't want that! Start off 2-3 days a week with short 20 minute work-outs. As you build up your strength and endurance, gradually increase the number and length of your work-outs.

Don't give up! If you start a genuine attempt to lose weight and get discouraged after the first week or two -- just keep trucking! Sometimes our bodies take awhile to catch up to what we are doing. And this goes both ways...if you have a slacker week and you end up losing weight, don't think you can get away with that for the long haul. It will catch up to you, and likely sooner rather than later. And if you are busting your butt and not getting the results you think you deserve -- relax. It'll come. There are lots of things that come into play that can alter your weight, a few of them being the time of the month for us ladies, and of course stress. Goodness knows there's enough of that in all of our lives!

Make sure you are eating enough. In all of the moderation in eating, the flip-side is to make sure that you eat enough. Our bodies were not designed to be starved -- and they have a certain self-preservation technique that they will use if necessary. So don't eat so little that your body will have to fight against your weight-loss attempts. The way it does this is by clinging on to every last morsel of fat that it can since it doesn't know when it will get fed next. And that is not very conducive to weight loss. It can be tricky to figure out just how much is enough without it being too much. I wish there was a simple formula for this, but everybody is different and you will need to try and figure it out on your own.

Change things up! If you are noticing a plateau on the scale and things aren't moving the way you think they should be based on your good daily choices -- change things up! Sometimes our bodies get bored with the same ol' routine day in and day out. They need to be kept on their toes -- it's called muscle confusion. Keep your body guessing from one week to the next. You can change things up a few different ways...either by mixing up your work-outs or by changing up the time of day you are working out. Or both. So if you are always going out jogging at 7:00 every evening, you might want to try an early morning run here and there instead. Of if you are always doing the same cardio work-out video in your living room, try doing a weight-training video or an ab routine on alternate days.

Weight training boosts metabolism! I know a lot of people are leery about gaining muscle -- you know, since they say muscle weighs more than fat and all of that. But muscle is also your friend as it really does boost your metabolism. And what better way to lose weight than to have a higher metabolic rate? I know I add a good body sculpting work-out to my regimen at least once a week.

Every little thing counts. I know I have heard it said that you need to get your heart-rate up for a minimum of 30 minutes (or something like that) in order for it to really have any effect on your body. To that I say "Pffft!" Every minute of burning calories is beneficial to you. Sure, perhaps not to the same degree as a solid half-hour. But it all adds up. See how many small ways you can up your calorie burn throughout your day -- I bet you'd be surprised. While you're stirring something on the stove, march in place with those knees lifted high. While you're going up and down the stairs -- run up them 2 at a time. Put some music on and spend 5 minutes dancing with one of your kiddos. Decide to do push-ups, sit-ups, squats or jogging on the spot during every commercial break of your favorite TV show. Or even just standing instead of sitting all the time. For example, if you're folding a load of laundry, you will burn more calories doing it standing up than if you are sitting on the couch. True story.

Try on smaller-sized clothes sooner than you think you might actually fit into them. It's sort of the same thing as when you have a baby -- you think there's no possible way your 6 month old could be wearing clothes in the 9-12 months category. So you wait until your baby is officially in that age category only to find out that it's all too small! Same sort of thing here...don't assume that you can't fit into those size 10's until you actually try them on and see for yourself. So try on your smaller sizes from time to time (either old clothes you've held on to that you used to fit in, or hand-me-down's that have been generously passed down to you). You may not quite be able to wear them by the time you try them on for the first time -- but you can use them to track your progress. Perhaps the first time you can't even get them over your thighs. Then a couple of weeks later you can get them on but can't button them up. Next time the button closes but they're still too tight around the butt. And then next time -- boom! A perfect fit! It's exciting to physically watch that progress. I know I had a specific pair of 'goal pants' that I've been holding on to for the past 8 years. I fit into them when I was first married, but it wasn't long after that where they were too small on me. So I would try them on every once in awhile -- even long before I figured they'd actually fit me decently -- and it was really interesting to watch the actual progress. And now, believe it or not, they are baggy on me!!

Slow & Steady wins the race! Don't aim to be like the contestants on The Biggest Loser where some of them lose 100 pounds in 7 weeks. You don't have 5-6 hours to work-out every day, nor do you have personal trainers there to coach you every step of the way. Besides, the faster it comes off, the harder it is to keep it off. There's absolutely nothing wrong with only losing 1 pound every week -- or even every 2 weeks. There is no 'right' amount of weight to lose per week. But if you want an easier time keeping it off once you have finally reached your goal weight, s-l-o-w-l-y is the way to do it.

Remember that everybody is different and will lose weight at different rates and in different ways. Typically those who are heavier will lose weight quicker -- and in larger amounts. But it doesn't always work that way. We all have different metabolisms, different outside factors in our lives and completely different bodies.

Make decisions you can continue for life. Hence the term 'Lifestyle Change.' That's why I love the way I chose to get healthy and lose weight. For me, a program like Weight Watchers wouldn't be beneficial in the long run. Sure, I may have been able to use it to lose the weight in the first place. But to then continue counting points for the rest of my life in order to keep the weight off? Not my idea of something I can commit to that long-term. So instead, I chose the "Eat less. Exercise more!" strategy, and I fully trust that I will be able to keep up these habits long-term and keep losing weight till I reach my goal and then continue to keep it off.

Well, there you have it. The detailed way that I lost just shy of 55 pounds in the past 9 months. I hope that answers all of your questions, but if I missed anything feel free to ask me and I'll answer as best as I can. Happy Losing, everybody!!


andrea said...

very impressive! those are great tips! all of them make so much sense but I never would have thought of!
Crazy, when those goal pants are too baggy! super proud of you!

Kathy and Carl said...

This is a great post. Thanks for sharing it. I especially like the beginning (tee hee!) but also about measuring your size, not being consumed with pounds, slow and steady and graciously accepting compliments. You are amazing and an inspiration!

TammyIsBlessed said...

Love it that the goal pants are baggy - that must be an amazing feeling of accomplishment!!