It’s been 12 weeks since my blog rant about quitting Weight Watchers, where I announced the start of my do-it-yourself weight loss program. So far, I’ve lost 11.5 pounds. (UPDATE: AS OF JUNE 5, I HAVE LOST !5 POUNDS.)
I don’t know if “lost” should be the right term, because “losing” something implies that you want to find it again. I don’t! Maybe “released” 11 pounds is more appropriate. Regardless of the terminology, it’s gone! It’s daunting to realize that I have 30-40 more pounds to go, but every journey begins with the first step, as they say.
Although the weight has come off more slowly than I expected, a body composition analysis showed that I lost over 10 pounds of fat, and less than 1 pound of muscle.
Although I wish there was some other trick to it, for me key was that same-old motto of diet and exercise. True to my goals, I spent 60-120 minutes per day, six days a week, exercising. And I kept track of everything I ate through a free online program called MyFitnessPal.
Some of the things that kept me going:
- Accountability. This is a valuable part of Weight Watchers and other programs that have a weekly weigh-in or some other type of measurement of progress. Since I quit Weight Watchers, I missed that accountability. But the gym where I’m a member, Skills Fitness in Bountiful, began a Mission FitPossible contest in January (perfect timing for me!) Most of the time with weight loss contests, you get people who can drop 10 pounds in a week, so you realize up front there’s no way you can win the big prize. But I also realized that the mandatory weigh-in every two weeks would help motivate me. Instead of worrying about how much others were losing, I would simply compete against my past numbers on the scale. Also, their scale weigh-in included an InBody scan, which measures your body’s composition of fat, muscle and water.
- Simplified food tracking. Again, Weight Watchers and other diet programs will almost always include tracking your food intake, whether by calories or points or macro-nutrients, etc. But if it’s complicated and time-consuming, I slack off and finally stop doing it altogether. In the past I’ve used a free online program called Sparkpeople.com, and it was pretty good. This time I decided to switch it up and use MyFItnessPal, which was also pretty simple. It also keeps track of my exercise and macro-nutrients for the day. You find out pretty quickly that you can eat a whole lot more grilled chicken and grapefruit than avocados or potato chips! I’m sure there are a lot of other apps and online programs, or you can even jot down your meals with in a notebook, if you prefer, but it’s not that easy to look up all the nutrients and calories.
- Focus. For many years of my life, I juggled a job, rearing children, spouse, housework, church, family obligations, etc. Now I’m at a point in my life where I decided to put my own health first, if only for a few months. Getting in 1 to 2 hours of exercise every day and eating healthy meals every day has become a priority.
- Vary workouts. After 61 years, this body has seen a lot of wear and tear. Torn knee ligaments (ACL & MCL) from skiing, bone spurs in my heels from teaching tap dance, tennis elbow, torn bicep from weight training, plantar fascitis from jogging and aerobics, to name a few aches and pains. For me, too much of any one activity can lead to injury. And many injuries take a long time to recover, wasting your valuable workout time. So I try to get in 1 to 2 hours of exercise 6 days a week, but I mix it up — cycling on a recumbent bike (with a tractor-style seat so my butt doesn’t hurt) for at least half hour on most days, strength training (weight machines at the gym) two or three days a week, play tennis once or twice a week, BodyJam (a fantastically fun aerobic dance class) two to three times a week and walking 2-3 miles 4-5 times a week. And, I do a yoga class once a week too, and the stretching feels so great I consider it my “dessert” exercise. It would have been impossible to spend this kind of time during the days when I was working full-time and raising four kids. I am so grateful that I have the time to enjoy working out — and yes, I really DO enjoy it.
- I’ve read how high intensity interval training is more effective in burning fat and calories, where you alternate bursts of high-intensity activity with lower and slower exercise. Because I have a lot of weight riding on my feet (with their pesky bone spurs), I’m not going to try sprinting or jumping. I alternate my intensity by raising the treadmill incline and the bike tension. I may be wrong, but I think that tennis offers varied intensity, because you have to quickly scramble to get to a ball, and then you get a few seconds to catch your breath as you wait for a return. (Whether it qualifies as “HIIT” or not, I’m still going to keep playing tennis because I love it! And I love the fun people on my league!)
- Switch up the shoes. I used to wear the same pair of New Balance cross-trainers for everything — walking, aerobics, tennis, housework, etc. Now I realize how good my feet feel when they change into a different shoe after aerobics class is over. One pair of walking shoes is wider, offering a reprieve when my toes feel cramped. And I have a pair of jogging shoes that feel good for housework. I have orthotic inserts in all of them, as I want to avoid getting plantar fascitis again.
- Sleep. Again, I spent a lot of my younger years getting maybe 3-4 hours of sleep each night, with babies, work, etc. taking precedence. I’m finally at a point where I can sleep in some mornings. And it feels great! I’ve noticed that when I’m tired, my willpower falls apart more easily. I’m more inclined to snack.
- Rewards. I’m not talking about food treats, but a little pick-me up for sticking to goals, such as sitting a few minutes in the gym’s whirlpool after a hard workout, or an hour of reading a new novel. (I like to listen to books on CD while I do housework, as I feel that I’m pampering myself while also accomplishing something.) Or treat yourself to a good-for-you food, such as a cup of fresh blueberries.
- Clothes shop for motivation. I thought 11 pounds was a great milestone, but in the Macy’s dressing room, it didn’t seem to make a huge difference in dress size or waistline. Some people may find that discouraging, but it helped me realize that I couldn’t give up!
So, I hope to keep my fitness train going! If you have comments about your own weight loss experiences, and advice on what’s worked for you, please post a comment. Every idea can help someone else.