Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wisdom from Dr. Oz

Dr. Oz makes me want to jump up and down in agreement or scream in frustration. His goals are high. He suggests people eat nothing with more that 5 ingredients. I have to say I agree in practice, but that's hard! I guess that's easier than Michael Pollan who wants people to stay out of grocery stores altogether. These people have very high expectations!

Normally I ignore New Year's resolutions articles, but I think the man had some good points.  Full article here in the NYTimes. I hear his point about the breathing, but I still don't like yoga. But he gave the most compelling reason yet for doing it.


I just finished watching Julie & Julia and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. Everyone said the movie was plotless but well-acted and kind of boring. For some reason I found it utterly compelling. I don't think it was plotless, but rather just a true story. How could that live up to Hollywood expectations of plot? But it is of course two real-life fairy tales. Each woman did something remarkable and unique, and ended up famous. Of course one person way more famous than the other.

Maybe I was just warm and happy in my basement at 5 am knowing that it was so icy that we'd all be home today and I could happily watch a movie, neither rushed nor exhausted and all alone - at least for most of it. Natasha came down to snuggle with me at the end.  Maybe I was just happy to watch a movie period. Our Netflix queue is mainly Buffy the Vampire Slayer disks (those of you who read the book will get the irony there). Or maybe the particular fantasy of a food/cooking blogger with a dead-end government temp job becoming an author and then selling the movie rights to a group of people involving Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Nora Ephron and Amy Adams just hits a little too close to home to ignore. Either way, from the opening scenes of the Eiffel Tower I was smitten.

It's rather delightful watching the parallel stories unfold, knowing the happy ending, enjoying the sweet husbands. And I'm generally an ultra-critical, anti-sap kind of movie-goer. I hated Titanic with a passion. My favorite movie is still Sophie's Choice. I do agree the ending was kind of poorly done...and Julia Child's accomplishments were far more revolutionary than is let on.  Nora Ephron just assumes everyone knows what they are and that the very accomplishment of her getting her book published stands on its own for all that is to come. I would argue she is showing her age and that many young people raised on the Food Network have no idea about Julia Child's full impact.

But that criticism aside, Julie, Julia and I had a lovely morning curled up together in my basement. Next up, on demand re-reruns of The Biggest Loser. I decided to work-out for 30 min while watching. Seemed like a good choice.

After eschewing the very concept of the show for years, and for the entire time I was losing, I have finally come around to see some of its finer points. I still loathe it for the original reasons I found it un-watchable: the tortuous workouts and endless crying seem designed to exploit the contestants (who are  oh so willing to be exploited) and the silliness of the "game" aspect undermines the importance of the very real and serious topic morbid obesity in this country. I know I'm a kill-joy. Plus the people are kind of gross all naked with their bellies hanging out. Sorry - not a very politically correct thing to say.

Lately, after purchasing a few Biggest Loser workout DVDs and liking them I began to pay attention to the pervasiveness of both the Biggest Loser brand and the Jillian Michaels brand (Bob isn't quite as aggressively out there). Marketing-wise, they seem to dominate the weight-loss space, more than Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Canyon Ranch, Atkins, South Beach etc. Such a funny concept, as TBL didn't start out as a weight loss plan, with monthly subscription costs, but rather as a tv show. But now, due to aggressive marketing, licensing and merchandising, it's hard to escape that hokey logo and Jillian's admonishing scowl. They have an online club, a resort, music cds, workout dvds, books, cooking equipment, exercise equipment, etc.  So here is what I'm learning....
  1. First and foremost, what I didn't get when i just watched snippets of people looking like they were about to die is that the main focus is on building self-esteem through having the contestants complete extraordinary physical challenges. While I just saw this as exploitative, the "I felt like I was going to die" aspect is vital for these people, who REALLY need their self-worth brought up a few notches. For me I was able to get to an "I can do this" place in my head by reading some books and cooking a lot. But these people have serious issues and need major intervention. I mean, I always got the irony before of the title, but now I see, these people really did think of themselves as losers in the beginning.
  2. The leaders view changing these peoples' lives as an emergency, like the contestants are on the verge of having a heart attack, which I'm sure many of them are. It's not a long-term, gradual type of affair, but rather an extreme boot-camp. I originally found this unpalatable, but I see where they're coming from. Time is a-wasting and these people are in serious trouble. To the one-third of Americans who are obese this point seems to be well-taken...hence the popularity of the show and it's brands.
  3. Their program is very exercise-focused, rather than food focused. I know it's both, but they push the exercise as the primary component. I'm beginning to see why. I think some of it is physiological - building muscle speeds up the metabolism as opposed to just burning calories while it's being done. But Bob and Jillian are dealing with morbidly obese people. People who weight over 300 lbs generally have an emotional reason why they're eating and it seems to revolve around low-self esteem at some level. They all seem to have some breakthrough somewhere during the series where they come to realize they do have self-worth and are worthy of living a healthy lifestyle. So by pushing them to their absolute physical limits Bob and Jillian are building their self-confidence as much as their pecs. Probably more. 
  4. According to the doctor, who by the way is the same doctor Jackie uses in her fitness camp, TBL group claims to be the first fitness establishment (fat farm) to push obese people to undergo professional athlete-style workouts from the get go. I don't know the validity of this. Certainly they're the first people to do a reality show about it.
  5. From what I've gathered, the diet is very high veggie, many low-fat proteins, few carbs and fewer fats. I don't know how this is sustainable. I see how it results in very fast weight-loss, but I wonder what their long-term food plan is. I couldn't have lost the weight without eating lots of egg whites, chicken breast and non-fat yogurt, but I also ate a fair amount of whole wheat breads and fats as well. I certainly upped the fats after I reached my goal weight but I haven't read where they allow for this (mostly in the form of nuts and some cheese). This being said, I was not obese-far from it. My BMI was 28, with obese starting at 40. According to the show's doctor - people who were once obese have to be even more strict than those who were merely overweight, and for example, need to exercise 60-90 min/day, 5-6 days/week to keep the weight off. I would like to know why this is true.
  6. I also read that the program caused a lot of people to end up in the hospital and is way over the top/dangerous. I'm sure this is true and I still find that aspect of the show rather repugnant. I can't seem to find the original article....obviously people who are obese and willing to walk around in bathing suits on tv have issues with fame and will go to any lengths. 
This morning I watched a special that reviewed the whole show. What was telling is that every person who lost and kept off the weight seemed to have a career change and become a trainer of some sort, either full-time or as a way to help their communities. These people each lost over 100 lbs and are now really fantastic athletes. A couple of them even did full-fledged triathalons (2.5 mi swim, 112 mi bike ride, 26.2 mi run).  This is amazing.

Anyway it was a morning of watching people find a new lease on life, and success through passion. Kind of a fun way to spend an icy morning.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Early to bed

I suppose this should go in the "what I did right" post from last week. One big problem that I know many people have is late night eating. I go to bed really early and that helps enormously. It causes other problems, such as not having time to do things and not spending time with my husband, but I get so tired and grumpy in the evenings that sometimes it's better for everyone if I'm asleep. It seems to me we are born with a certain proclivity for being a morning person or a night owl and there is little that can be done to change that.

At any rate on the rare occasion that I am up later than normal, such as last night, and end up being awake 5 or so hours after eating dinner of course I'm starving.

I wouldn't tell the whole world to follow my lead and go to bed early. But it would help to space out meals during the evening just as you do during the day so you don't go long stretches between meals. So if you do stay up really late as a habit, then plan an evening snack for a certain time for before you get out of control where-is-that goddam-ice-cream-scoop-hungry - something reasonable and high in protein such as yogurt or a hard boiled egg. You just need enough food to get you to finish your tasks and fall asleep, it doesn't need to be a whole meal - I would say something like 100-150 calories. And of course it helps to differentiate between stress eating and actual hunger.

For me planned meal and snack times combined with planned calorie amounts really helped me stay on track (eg breakfast, 8:30am, 6 points). I know it sounds really regimented but it eliminated the irritating guess-work and doubt and let me focus on picking the kinds of foods I wanted to eat instead. So instead of feeling regimented it felt kind of freeing. I was free from doubt-filled conversations in my head...I rarely had that "well if I eat this, will I be hungry later? Is this too big a lunch? Should I eat a snack now?" discussion in my head.  It was more, "Well for 2 more points (100 cals) I can have a slice of cheese or a banana or a piece of bread."  If I were a nighttime person, I would have added that evening snack in as one of my planned eating times and tried to structure night time eating as opposed to purely fighting it.

Despite the above post (which I wrote this morning) Today of course, I completely messed up - getting over hungry, not planning well and eating way too much pizza at lunch time. But now I can handle the over-run and control myself for the rest of the day. Partly because my stomach is so used to eating a certain amount of food that I'm still full hours later, and partly because I've been doing this a long time now so I can be slightly more flexible about what I eat when than I was during my 'losing' period. I'm more confident in my ability to sort it out by the end of the day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Better than before

Dec. 1998, Key West

I found these two pics recently taken when was at my thinnest and most in shape before now. I was 26 and rollerbladed a lot. My most recent diet had been the "love" diet. Fall in love and get too nervous and excited to eat. It works! But obviously not sustainable. My diet previous to that was the "gallstone disease" diet. Also not sustainable. Eventually I did recover and was able to eat more than a handful of food at a time.

Last February I scanned these so they could be my "inspiration" pictures with the idea being that I would never look like a model so me at my most in shape was the most realistic inspiration I could think of. I was going to take a pic in the same position, twisted like that, of my stomach in Jan as a before/after comparison for the refrigerator and blog, but chickened out at the thought of exposing rolls of stomach fat to all of cyber-space (or in reality, my audience of 5). Back then I agonized over whether or not I should post my actual weight. Now I'm posting mortifying before pictures willy-nilly to this blog and even Facebook. They're still embarrassing, but not nearly in the same way. I have accepted the idea that my body transformation is a good motivator for my friends colleagues and even mild acquaintances. For my close friends, it's personal, but for others it's not that way at all. I'm just one more 'before and after' reality show.

I did tell a story about the hat pic in February but at that time I was having trouble uploading photos-now it's there.

Anyhow it was nice to re-read it today. Now when I look at that picture I think I look soft and out of shape. Had I never heard of a bicep curl or triceps kick-backs???

BTW - I just threw those tan shorts out recently. I had kept them for years as something I aspired to one day wear again. I wore them constantly back then - they fit perfectly and were quite flattering. They had a low waist, which I need, and which was quite hard to find in 1998. Anyway, there was a time mid-diet where I tried them on and they fit and they were so horribly out of date and ridiculous-looking that I immediately put them into my huge 'donate' pile. Do not save old clothes!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

One of my favorite breakfasts

sorry pic is a bit blurry

Microwave a couple handfuls of frozen chopped spinach, served with fried egg + extra egg white on top and a home made pretzel bun. I like egg yolk to run into spinach as pictured above.  I also sprinkled a bit of parm cheese on the top as it tasted too low-fat. And I even added butter to the pretzel! But just a bit. I give this 5 points without the butter/cheese and 6-7 with, depending on generosity of fats. I used very little cheese. I am not a huge fan of cheese/egg combination. Strange lady I know. I do like cheese on bread, but this was hot out of the oven and screaming for a bit of melted butter. I made it from Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza crust dough. A great thing to have on hand for many reasons! If I were just eating something boring like an English muffin I would have probably put a slice of gouda or something instead of having such a big roll. Anyway, point is, I make these decisions in my head, trying to keep the meal to a certain number of points/calories and splurging on the good stuff. So in this instance, the hot roll was more enticing than cheese. But in other instances, like if there is soft brie available, I'd rather have that and have a smaller serving of bread or meat. So rather than being low-carb or low-fat I try and be high-craving and low-overall calorie. In maintenance it's not as big a deal, but when I was still losing, that's how I thought through things.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jenna and Indya

2006? and Dec. 2009

Click on image to see bigger.
For more of our little photo shoot, see here:
Thanks Dave for getting dragged out of bed to be our photographer!

Interesting to see how the camera angles affected things if you look at all the pics.

This is actually a really big deal to both of us, I think, although I am totally speaking for Indya here. We got together last January, and I think it was maybe a few days into me having started. We were both really overweight and demoralized and it was sad to be with one of my dearest friends with us both feeling that way. I think we were both in the mid 180s.

So we went our separate ways (we live 8 hrs apart) and Indya read my blog and heard about my progress. She started her own plan. At about May I had lost maybe 30 lbs and she had lost 10. Then she stagnated and I kept losing. She had picked off all the low-hanging fruit in terms of behavioral changes and that's as far as those changes got her. By July Indya agreed to do things differently.

After a few defeated-sounding emails she just decided to agree to count what she was eating and instill a few rules about sweets and portions. She was already exercising a lot, but added in more weight resistance. She's a fellow Jackie/Jillian follower like me now. But the biggest difference, I think from an outsider perspective,  was in tracking what she ate. She downloaded Livestrong to her iPhone and tracked every single thing she ate. This was a huge leap for her. Agreeing to track all food intake is an admission of failure of sorts for anyone. It means you cannot figure things out by intuition alone. It was a hard admission for me, as I documented here, but a completely essential and momentous one. In fact, if someone comes to me asking for help but refuses to track her eating I pretty much know she's not serious. I haven't been proven wrong yet.

So she started losing. Now she's down another 30 lbs. It wasn't as simple and easy as just tracking, and not eating sweets except on Saturday, but the details of her 'journey' for lack of a less dorky word, are for her to tell.

Last night we got together again at my house, almost exactly one year later. We are both 140 lbs. She looks fantastic!

Indya and I have had a very similar path in terms of tracking, reading a lot, exercising every day (I don't think she's missed a day since July), trying to eat whole foods, planning, taking Saturdays off. We differ a bit on the carb/fat intake but not wildly any more. At this point I eat more fat and she eats more carbs than say we each  did 5 months ago and we've come close to meeting in the middle. We both eat a lot of eggs and wilted greens.

It's so funny to stand next to her in the mirror. We are the same exact height but have very different frames. Her shoulders are a full 2 inches above mine. I have a long neck. I'm much bigger framed with wider shoulders and hips and even wrists. (I have the frame of someone who is 5'9" and if my back weren't curved in a big 'S' I'd probably be that tall.) So physically we are different.

I gave her a bunch of clothes to try on for our much anticipated 'photoshoot'. It felt like college. We went over our remaining flab and our newly pronounced facial lines (negative consequence of losing weight when older) in our 'dressing room' (formerly known as Alex's room but he had fallen asleep with Dave in our bed while Indya and I were gabbing). Dave called us 'girls'. It was getting late and our photographer wanted to go to sleep but otherwise I could have done a lot more of the outfit-making. Anyway, outfits chosen, we dragged Dave out of bed and forced him to take our picture.

Neither of us had make-up or brushed hair, and indoor shots bore me to tears, but it felt so good to finally take that after picture of us together. The original one had haunted me for years. It was one of those photos that really made me see how bad I looked, even when I thought I had camouflaged every thing under baggy clothes. I always blamed unflattering photos on the angle. But now I realize that I don't look fat from any angle - no matter how candid the photo is. Old maybe, but not fat.

I think we both wanted that 2006 image banished as a bad old memory. So now it is. And good riddance!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tower of temptation

Why is this at the front of my office???

I think what is so hard about the holidays is that the temptations just keep coming and coming. One after the other - if you stave off the chocolate covered cherries then there is that crazy popcorn moose munch to torture you. Day after day after interminable snow day.

I had developed a mindset where I really consciously thought about every thing in my mouth - is this really good? Am I just eating it because it's sweet? Do I even like things so sweet? And now I'm slipping. I am taking little tastes of the cookies Natasha's friend brought her, the whipped cream that went on the Snow Day Sundae (and Monday) dessert I let them have, the hazelnut/chocolate truffle whatever sample at Trader Joe's. I used to bypass all of it, and easily. But not recently. Oh well - at least we're all in the same boat.

I'm trying to be more conscious, not let my guard down, be more discriminating. This is where the limited social life comes in handy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mindless snacking

By far my worst pre-weight loss eating habit was mindless snacking. I think I may have eaten half my calories that way. It's so easy to do and so hard to break for the very reason that it's mindless. Meaning, it's hard to stop doing something you don't even realize you're doing.

I worked very hard at breaking this habit, but STILL, I find that when I'm not paying attention I walk through the kitchen grabbing handfuls of Mighty Bites or picking at the kids leftover apple slices, or grabbing a handful of peanuts. It's a constant battle with me. Going on day 3 of a debilitating snowstorm, I'm realizing just how much harder it is when at home all day. I have my computer near the kitchen and this makes it much worse.

I'm also exercising more, both inside and out, mainly to avoid cleaning/shoveling, but the long days are hard. I would think that almost 1 year into this I would have totally broken the habit, but instead my mindless snacking ebbs and flows. I certainly don't do it with high-cal foods like dried fruits and nuts without noticing. If I take a handful or dried cherries or peanuts I'm cognizant of it and it's usually because I'm really hungry and want to stave that off with something satisfying. But the lower-cal items like cereal and left-over kid items I eat without thinking sometimes.

I think part of the problem is that while at first I tried to cut the habit cold-turkey, eventually especially when hungry and cooking dinner I would allow myself to munch on carrots and sugar-snap peas or tomatoes, maybe even with a little hummus if I was really hungry. So "NO SNACKING" is not a hard and fast rule. I just don't think I could ever get there and I'm not sure I'd want to. There is really nothing wrong with eating carrots...except that it triggers my TMJ and a horrible headache. So I'm left with a slippery slope rule instead, which is the worst kind.

Soon we're going outside to shovel our street and try and slide our cars down the hill. That should keep my fingers out of the cereal box!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thai chili

This is what happens to non-recipe-using, non-shopping-list-using cooks...bad planning but a good result.

I had bought 2 packages of chicken thighs, planning on making the white chili for my mom. She loved it at my house and I thought I'd give it to her to take home for after her heart surgery.  I got home and realized that I had no white beans, dried or canned, and couldn't make the chili. As it turns out chili for mom was a bad idea in the first place as she had a horrible stomach virus two days before and then obviously had surgery so she was eating things like toast and jam not beans and peppers.

A couple days later I figured I should deal with the chicken. So I put one batch in the freezer and browned the other batch, with some salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, based on cinnamon being a superfood...(I eat all those foods regularly by the way except sardines and maybe turmeric)

Anyway, I was going to freeze the chicken cooked but I decided to simmer the chicken in coconut milk for a while just because. Then I decided to throw some other things in the pot. I had some leftover roasted squash, which my Filipino nanny had once told me to simmer in coconut milk so that went in. I had just sauteed peppers and onions to have on hand during the week so those went in..then I decided I would call it Thai chili and threw in a can of black beans. I tasted it. It needed something bright, in went a half a can of tomato paste. Still not bright enough...I remembered my tube of minced ginger from the fridge, and a squeeze went in. At this point how could I not add Thai chili paste? A bit of that went in as well-perhaps a bit too much actually.

OK - enough ingredients. A bit more simmering and we were done. Very good! I would have preferred a better chicken/squash/bean ratio (I prefer a 1-1-1 for meat/bean/veggie ratio in chili), but I only had one can of black beans and about 1.5 cups squash. If I make this again I'll actually plan and make sure to have the right ingredients on-hand.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm not crazy...or maybe I am???

No sooner had I written a post about how I'm not crazy.... than the following two things happened....

1. I hit "publish" on the "not crazy" blog post and then immediately checked my email. I had an email from Dave with no subject line. Inside it said, "I'd like to try the last one on the page." Below was a link....

Was it a new restaurant? A vacation spot? Something

I clicked and I was immediately bombarded with this image of this horrifying man!!! He scares me!

If you scroll down far enough some more normal-looking people appear, doing plank rows, which both Jackie and Jillian do...but still!!!
Now for the record, I never go to any exercise sites or look up special push-ups etc. I just sit passively in front of my DVDs and do what they say. Dave researches different moves and then types up his routine on a spreadsheet and executes his plan, counting reps, planning combinations of body parts to work-out...pushing himself without Jillian chastising him. He will always be way more hard core than me. I don't want to do research and I don't want to go to any web site where that man resides!! The way I see it Jillian and Jackie have been practicing this stuff for 30+ years between them. That's enough knowledge for me.

OK - score 1 for me in the "not crazy" category. Not so sure about my husband though....

and then - completely unrelated to the above occurrence...

2. I read a fun article by David Pogue (I love him) about little fitness gizmos, which included the following quote:
And that business about manually entering everything you eat and drink is well-meaning, but come on — how many non-obsessive compulsives are really going to make that effort day in, day out, for months?
Ha ha ha! Score 1 for me in the "crazy" category.

For the record I never really did that - I just used the apps to determine point values for individual foods and then tallied up a daily total in my head and typed it into the blog in the evening - arguably a hair less tedious and OCD than scrolling through menus finding exact food items - but perhaps not. Sometimes I entered a few foods into Livestrong, but not every single food.

Anyway - funny timing. I guess I'm even.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Before and after

I think no words are necessary. 
How did I allow myself to look like that??
I tried to combine like poses.

Alex was not quite 3, CA, 2007 and Dec 2009.

Same CA trip on first one, Sept. 2009 in TX

Oct. 2007, July 2009

OK - a little not fair - I had a 6 month old (Feb 2003), and June 2009

Puerto Rico, March 2006 and Cape, July 2009

Cape, July 2005? Dec 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Super-fast high-protein red pepper fritatta

I can't seem to turn the image. It's turned the right way on my hard drive but not when uploaded...hmmm....

Anyway, 6 eggs, 1/2 cup egg whites, 1/3 cup purchased red pepper spread, 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt, all mixed together and then cooked on stove top on low heat and flipped once - I'm a good flipper. When done I sprinkled Parmesan cheese, freshly ground black pepper and drizzled a little olive oil over the top. Obviously it would be better broiled at the end instead of flipped but I was rushing to work. Also - sometimes I have little bowls of sautéed onions and peppers, chopped up small, ready to put in eggs or on pasta - ready to go in fridge. I was wishing I had some the day I made this - 5 min before leaving for work. Since browning onions is kind of messy and smelly they're great to do in a big batch, just with olive oil, salt, pepper, and throw into dishes during the week, even at breakfast!

Very good but goes down fast! I ate some for breakfast and the rest for lunch - with some bread. Good room temp too.

What I did wrong

Now for the post you've all been waiting for....what I did wrong...luckily the answer is: not so much. I was very successful and I'm keeping it off...but of course I made some mistakes, and still do.

First for the obvious mistakes...

I was too strict.
I really was too strict. I never, probably even to this day, went over my weekly allowance of floater points. I should have used more floater points. I shouldn't have let myself be so hungry. I lost about 6 lbs a month, and while that was a reasonable clip, I could have eaten a bit more and lost a bit more slowly. Although, of course now, I am glad to be done. I also have one particular incident that stands out in my head as absurd. I was attending a 3 day conference and by the end of the third day I had avoided most of the ubiquitous cookie trays, but had certainly eaten more and exercised less overall. There was a banquet dinner and I forced myself to leave about 1/3 of the salmon and half of the rice. They were both really good, shocking, I know as it was a hotel banquet, and eating them would have made no difference in the grand scheme of my life. That was ridiculously strict and I still regret being that rigid. Usually though, I have to say, I did try and enjoy myself at events. Like I have said before, I didn't go to many of them and I saved my floater points for them.

I was too hungry. I didn't recognize pms early enough.
I put these together because usually I wasn't hungry, but sometimes I would be starving for a whole week straight. Then I would get depressed and frustrated. Perhaps that was the PMS too.  The extreme hunger seemed to always be PMS, although it's hard to really say. During these "hungry weeks" I seemed (seem) to need twice my normal food intake which I didn't eat. I ate about 100-200 calories extra which was just not enough. I'm still not entirely sure how to handle this. I do eat more, but not twice as much and I'm still hungry.

I should have curtailed conversations in front of my daughter.
When Natasha was younger we had to work really hard on getting her to recognize that you never talk about how someone looks - not their skin color, their hair, their clothes, their size. This was after the inevitable "are you having a baby?" question was uttered in the wrong circumstance. So she really didn't get why everyone was talking about how I looked all the time. At first she would brag to people about how skinny her mommy is, but then she got sick of all the attention I was getting (jealous?). I think she's too young to worry about poor body image, and she's a trim little thing, but I should have stopped the conversation, both between me and Dave and when others come up to me. The regret I have is that she sees me as vain and inappropriate (although she could never articulate it that clearly), as I seem to be breaking the rule I spent two years teaching her. She also just plain doesn't like it when the conversation is so clearly not about her!

She's starting to get it now though. She has gone through a HUGE maturity leap in the past few weeks and is so much more able to comprehend complex emotional issues. She's also fighting with me less, and generally more loving towards me but that's another blog....

I have started talking to them about reasonable portions and the importance of eating a variety of healthy foods. I always emphasize that I was not trying to get skinny, or thinner than everyone else (she makes a lot of comparisons) but that I was trying to get healthy. It's a pretty complex issue for a 7 yr old - even for a 17 yr old. Alex seems wholly unaffected.

Natasha and me on a journey together - like all mothers and daughters. 
In reality we were going in circles right in front of the sand, but that's ok - still a good metaphor - perhaps even better! 

Now for the stickier items...

Am I too obsessive about food and exercise?
I suppose that depends on the definition of 'obsessive'. My 'lifestyle' does not interfere with my social life (pathetic as it may be), the things I enjoy, occupy all my thoughts, drive me away from the people I love, etc. I do still count points more than I'd like to - proper food intake is still not totally intuitive yet, although MUCH better. Why not just follow hunger cues and hope for the best? I've come too far to slowly creep back up in weight, just because I wasn't paying attention. In reality, I thought I looked pretty good when I was about 5-8 pounds heavier. If my weight had settled there I would have been perfectly content. But now I am where I am and I still count because I worry that if I slip up my clothes will be too tight and there is no way I'm buying more.

The bottom line is that I'm still quite aware of what I'm eating. I don't totally trust my hunger cues as they fluctuate so badly week to week, which is endlessly frustrating to me.  I would like to eat a proper amount with the ease and panache of a French woman accessorizing with a scarf. But I'm not there yet.

Also I do get a little wiggy when I don't exercise by 9am, which is a bit of a problem, but usually I just fit it in - and I know a lot of people in the same boat. I mean in the grand scheme of things there are worse things to be a little obsessive about. And I don't exercise more than 40 min/day. Additionally, sometimes when I'm in an airport or CVS I will peruse an aisle of magazines and flip through Shape or some other fitness magazine. I really have no interest in reading them. They seem to be aimed at people far more interested in talking about glute workouts and low-fat mayo than I am. I just like to do my known-to-be-effective exercise and be done. Or maybe I just like being on the other side of the advisor/advisee relationship!

Am I too vain?
The old me would have found the new me quite vain. I don't really have an answer to that. I used to feel that anyone who spent a fair amount of time making thinness and fitness a priority was inherently vain. I suppose that's true, but I guess I just don't see that as the biggest sin in the world. I also feel extremely strong, healthy, motivated....the looking good was an unexpected bonus that I didn't anticipate at all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This one even shocks me

I am so narrow in this one it even shocks me.

The woman in pink on the left also lost a ton of weight. She has an identical twin sister 35 lbs heavier than her who also works in our building so it's a pretty alarming live before and after comparison. The woman on the far right is my Nigerian stairs partner/fist cheerleader.

I will do a better job of some before and after comparisons - getting pics of the same angle next to each other - after I finish with my holiday cards! For the longest time I didn't want to post many photos as I thought it was kind of vain, but two friends told me not to take it so personally. Everyone loves before and after photos be it of a bathroom renovation, a new haircut, weight loss, a new front walk...I have to admit they're right about that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I did right: emotionally

The above photo is on Cape Cod during a summer I can't even identify, not the winter weekend I described below. But it conveys my mood well enough. Yuck! And I thought my shirt was flattering. 

Work holiday party last week.

I was ready.
I know I've said before that I think dieting is 80% mental and 20% cooking and planning logistics/understanding nutrition but I may not have gone into detail about why I was in such a ready place - aside from my kids being older and less needy.

I made an album of before pictures....not in date order but you get the point. Please do me a favor and look at a summer 2009 album when you're done. For after pictures see the Cape, Carmel or Texas albums. Or above.

I had really started thinking about long-term health in about 2007. My father developed an ocular melanoma at 38 and I was getting close to that age. Despite a complex medical history involving many other cancers, it was a metastasis to the liver of the ocular melanoma, decades later that caused his death. I decided to undergo a few cancer screenings and have my varicose veins examined. My veins were absolutely horrific aesthetically and my mom kept telling me they were a health threat as well. I had always had some but my pregnancy with Alex really made them over the top. So my plan of attack was, get eye screening, get veins removed, get colonoscopy, exercise more, visit dentist more. Weight loss was kind of on the agenda but not as a top priority. I did make an effort to cook more "whole foody" with lots of new grains, beans and even mixing tofu into the rotation.

While I was formulating this plan I found out about 2 people I knew in their 30s who developed serious cancers. Ultimately one died and the other was "cured". Of course all cancer patients have web sites so I was reading their heart-breaking updates daily. All this together left me feeling quite vulnerable and mortal.

So two springs ago I did the following...I got my teeth cleaned and any cavities filled. I got my eye screening - (no tumors!), I consulted with a vascular surgeon, with the plan being to get the colonoscopy once the varicose veins were healed. I was saving the best for last (ha!). I started exercising regularly. My vascular surgeries were far more involved than I realized. I needed 7 procedures, and the surgeon very cleverly did them in order of ascending pain. After each one I couldn't exercise for a few days. But I plodded along, getting back into the swing of things as soon as I could. The process took months, as it was summer and we were both busy. The last one was something like Sept. 1. It was by far the most painful and I had trouble exercising for well over a month. By the time I could exercise again in was towards the end of daylight savings time - a constant downfall of mine for decades. As fall slid into winter I put on probably 10-12 lbs: my usual winter weight gain plus some extra. This takes us to Dec/Jan. Time for the colonoscopy. It was the initial visit with the GI doctor where I was weighed at 183 lbs. An emotional event detailed here.

Decision day - January 7, 2009

My fat clothes are tight. I'm not buying new ones. My husband is polite but I know he's disappointed in me - he's as in shape as he's ever been. My friends tell me, "Yeah it's time to do something." not "You look great!" I'm doing something. I remember the one time in my life I was thin for a long time. I ate less. Pure and simple. Thin people don't eat big portions. It's not that complicated. I can't think of a thin person I know who eats a lot. Well maybe a couple. I was weighed at the doctor's office today and the nurse politely kept the lever at 183 for such a brief moment I couldn't even discern if it was 183 or 184. I was wearing my Uggs and jeans so I'm going with 183.

Here is the whole post.

My year of attempts to make health a higher priority resulted in a precipitous weight gain! I had no more excuses. I felt horrible. I was scared that cancer was just around the corner. I know a healthy BMI cannot forestall all cancers if one is genetically pre-disposed, but statistically, it helps. We do the research here at my place of employment so it's drilled into my head a lot.

So I was VERY ready. The actual straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back moment was when a friend of mine made an innocent off-hand comment. I complained that my clothes were too tight and I didn't want to buy bigger ones and she said, "Yeah, when that happens you have to diet your way out of it." It wasn't an insult, or personal or anything, just an irrefutable statement of fact. In that instant, I thought about the several women I know who have lost dozens of pounds on Weight Watchers and had the following self-loathing conversation in my head,
"Why can't I be one of those people? Elissa and Erin and Jennifer all did it at some point. They lost 30 lbs each at least. If they can do it I can do it too. I have to or my husband will really be furious - I'm fat and unattractive and my fatness is costing us money!"
I walked up the hill furious, sad and resolved. Way more resolved than I realized at the time. I don't know why I suddenly had the self-confidence to do something that I never thought I was capable of previously, but I'm beginning to think it was fear - I was afraid if I didn't do it some seriously bad things could happen. Those things still might happen. But I've tamed as many risk factors as I can.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What I did right: exercise

Same disclaimer: The list of things I did right aren't necessarily things I advocate. They are things that worked well for my particular personality and lifestyle - so they were right for me. 

I eased into it and didn't feel like torture myself ala "Biggest Loser" contestants.
I think that thinking you need to be near death and wanting to collapse on a treadmill with Jillian Michaels barking at you is the most demotivating idea going. In fact those scenes make the show totally unwatchable for me. I started slowly and ramped up as I got into better shape. That being said a person does need to push herself to be working at a pretty high intensity, and that I did regularly.

I chose non-logistically or financially challenging exercise
This is totally key. I'm a huge proponent of this tenet. I spent perhaps a total of $50 on various exercise DVDs in 1 year (could have spent even less), and bought 2 pairs of sneakers for another $100 total. And I didn't even buy the sneakers until 8 months into things. I had a couple pairs of light dumb bells already and bought one 8 lb set for $15. I won't get into how much I spent on cute exercise clothes....

But there is NO REASON that money should play a part in being able to exercise. Gym memberships and personal trainers are completely unnecessary and in my opinion a waste. I mean if you enjoy a trainer to get you motivated and you have the time and money for long sessions at the gym then go for it, but it's no excuse if you don't have that money or time. The most expensive, sought after trainers in the country make great DVDs that will get you guaranteed results.

Beyond my new-found love for DVDs I also did a good job of finding exercise that I can do quickly and with few barriers to entry. Climbing the stairs in my office took 22 minutes for 770 steps. Jogging 2.5 miles on the trail by my house takes 29 including a 1 min walk to and from the trail. My DVDs take 20-40 depending on how long a program I pick and I can do them without child care. My kids are even old enough that I could run the hill in front of my house with them home alone - I only go 3 houses away and run home up the hill, 10 times, checking on them periodically.

I exercised every day, and kept increasing exercise intensity as it got easier
But the main point is that I changed my attitude. I like the tooth-brushing comparison. I exercise every day - unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances. I used to be much pickier about how I wanted to exercise - worried about what I liked and didn't like. I realized that I needed to find something easy to do (logistically, not intensity-wise) and, to coin a phrase, Just Do It.

The other thing I did was to increase the intensity of the exercise as I noticed it getting easier. This meant adding heavier weights, going up the steps faster, switching from power-walking to jogging/walking intervals and then jogging longer without walking. Interestingly, I noticed as I got to the 150 lb mark that I could really ramp up the exercise. This is also a big marker for WW. At that weight, it is much harder to earn exercise points at low or moderate intensity. I made the change first, and then went back to read the materials out of curiosity that same week and realized that 150 seems to be some sort of magic number.

I mixed up exercise to not get bored
I did stairs during the week and power walks on weekends for the first 30 lbs and then switched to jogging and DVDs for the final 15. I also bought several DVDs and pick out more routines on demand. I am getting bored of exercising in my basement due to a spate of bad weekend weather but today managed to get outside even though it was freezing. But recognizing boredom and switching things up did help me stay motivated to exercise.

What I did right: food/eating

Same disclaimer: The list of things I did right aren't necessarily things I advocate. They are things that worked well for my particular personality and lifestyle - so they were right for me.

Spent a lot of money on food, despite financial hardship
I spent a lot of money and contributed to a lot of global warming buy buying a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. I also bought prepared foods where they helped - "just salmon" and "just chicken" from Trader Joe's for salads and healthy sandwiches and some pre-cut things like mango spears, and cut, peeled but raw butternut squash. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, TJs isn't that expensive when compared to Whole Paycheck, so looked at that way it's not bad, but in tems of some of the eat local, save money goals I just felt that I would work on those goals after reaching my goal weight - which I kind of have done but not to any extensive result - mainly because the two goals of eating local and saving money are pretty much in opposition to each other. I did spend an awful lot of money at farmers' markets, but the produce was worth it. Also when you think about the costs of being unhealthy, developing diabetes, missing work, etc. the extra money on food isn't that much.

I didn't eat out much.
I saved a ton of money by not eating out much. This helped compensate for the money spent above. It is almost impossible to eat out and eat low points - especially because I was eating 5 pt dinners for a long time. Restaurants use so much butter, olive oil, salt, sugar...even a few bites can kill your day. Not to mention the traumas of a hot bread basket taunting you while you're starving and waiting for your entree. This topic has been written about a lot as well, by me and countless others but it seems to always bear repeating that not eating out more than once a week is a major benefit when dieting.

Let cravings determine what I ate
I think I've written about this before, but basically I took the attitude that if I'm not eating much, it damn well better taste good and be what I want. I really became quite narcissistic about my wants and desires. Since I do the cooking and shopping and Dave is flexible it didn't really impact anyone else. When necessary I made the kids separate meals. For me this tactic worked really well. Other people find the plethora of open-ended choices too overwhelming and would rather work off of a pre-determined menu. Purely a personality type kind of thing. I wouldn't advocate one way or the other but I would say you should think about what will work best for you and choose a mechanism. Does it make you feel better to know that Wednesday is fish taco night or do you enjoy peering into the fridge and deciding at 5 what kind of night it is?

Didn't eat too much of any one food - kept taste buds invigorated
This one I detailed here....but basic idea is after a while you are bored with what you're eating if the portion is large. This is true for high and low-calorie foods. I took this idea from the book, "French Women Don't Get Fat."

I massively reduced my sugar intake.
I have gone on about this before but let's just say sugar begets sugar. The more sugar you eat the more you crave. Additionally, it is metabolized super-quickly and leaves you hungry. There is much written about this by people far more educated than me (see David Kessler, M.D.) so I won't go into much detail except to relate my own experience - and that of my friends. I had tried periods in the past of cutting out desserts and it always resulted in a 3-4 lb drop.

This new effort resulted in a much more precipitous drop in sugar intake. After realizing how hungry I felt after wasting calories on sugar I reduced my intake until I ate almost none - for several weeks. It wasn't so much a conscious decision to eliminate sugar but more a series of small daily food choices made to stave off hunger...I realized that sugary foods, even prunes, used up all my points, leaving me hungry so I just kept avoiding them. For a while I couldn't even stand the sweetness of an apple or a prune or God forbid a cookie. They tasted so lip-puckeringly sweet that it made me cringe. Now I eat some sugar, and I find I'm really addicted to those sweet habits. Very pavlovian. Sometimes I feel I should break those habits just for the sake of it. The sugar I eat now is sweetened Kashi cereal in the morning or after dinner, just a big with unsweetened shredded mini wheats, soy chocolate milk in my coffee, a couple tiny cookies after dinner, the natural sugars in fruit or milk and a couple bites of dessert at parties, if they are really good.

Cut out all bad habits for 2 weeks-especially mindless snacking.
As previously mentioned I cut out all bad habits completely at the start of this, probably for 2 weeks or so. Breaking bad habits for me was essential. I was doing many of them without thinking...especially the mindless snacking when in the kitchen, around the kids' leftovers, cooking, etc. I was eating an enormous amount of points that way without realizing it. I tried hard to stop this altogether, although I still cook by tasting so this is tricky, and I am sometimes starving when I'm making dinner. I try to eat carrots with a bit of hummus to tide me over to actual dinner time. This is a habit that easily creeps back in if I'm not really conscientious about it. I have pre-set snack times and amounts, which helps a lot, but on hungry days, I may add a few handfuls of cereal or a few nuts and then it can be easy just to slide back into mindless snacking. I still have to watch myself here.

Cooked a lot-experimented with vegetables, beans a lot
This has been the subject of multiple previous postings. I always enjoyed cooking except in the period where I was seriously toddler-challenged or pregnant and smell-sensitive/exhausted. But I newly embraced more weekly planning, more vegetarian cooking, more using beans. I was also working on the goal of getting my kids to eat more vegetables so I did a lot of experimenting with cooking vegetables in various ways. I think I may have mentioned that I began working more, as the kids were in camp/school more so the meal planning was necessary not just for the dieting but also because I had less time at home.

I took Saturdays off!
This really could go in the general post but a) I already published it and b) I didn't take a break from exercise - just eating and more imoprtantly counting. If I had a week-night event I wouldn't take Saturday off, or I would just be a little more lenient, but usually social events are on Saturdays anyway. Taking Saturdays off took some work to get right. I would look forward to it way too much and then it wouldn't live up to my expectations. What could possibly be that good? Or I would overdo it and feel sick (only a couple times). Or I would blow it on bad food. It does require a bit of thought to make sure Saturday indulgences are worth it and it also is necessary to make sure not to be so strict during the week that I felt super-deprived by Saturday. But I've been in the groove on this one for a while now. Partly I'm not as strict anymore, partly I'm not as driven by food anymore, and partly I have my things that I love that I regularly turn to. I've also gotten pretty good at not counting but kind of sort of a little bit in the back of my head making sure I don't go overboard. At this point, I can't eat a huge gluttonous meal - it makes me nauseated. So generally now I am less strict on Saturday and Sunday but neither day involves a huge ice cream sundae.

What I did right: overall

I have almost reached the 1 year mark from the start date of my diet. I do feel like I've climbed a mountain (pictured above is a rock, but it's the best photo I could find for the analogy). I've been in maintenance mode for about 6 months, although for the first 3 months of that I was still losing as I had upped my exercise so much. Now I'm ready for a little reflection. The list of things I did right aren't necessarily things I advocate. They are things that worked well for my particular personality and lifestyle - so they were right for me. This will be in several parts with what I did wrong coming last.

List is not in order of importance.

I used the Weight Watchers (WW) framework - without joining. 
I decided to use the WW framework based on the loose sense I had that everyone I know who has lost lots of weight has done it through WW. I couldn't see paying $40/month, and was slightly turned off by some of their food recommendations, but I think they are spot on in terms of how much food to eat per day, and despite the calculations I like the POINTS system. Basically it's easier to count smaller numbers (1 slice bread=2 pts vs. 90 calories). I borrowed some materials from a friend, which were really helpful in getting my mindset in order - drinking the Kool-Aid so to speak - I read and reread them weekly for the first few months. I also read a lot of WW articles online, and read through the many many WW forums that exist. I used an old fashioned paper slider points calculator for the first few months, in addition to my iPhone. Unhappily for WW, there are lots of free tools which use their algorithms. I wonder if I could have been so gung-ho if I didn't know I was using a tried and true methodology. I like to think I did this entirely on my own, but the truth is I followed the WW points system with the religious devotion of a Scientologist.

But I'm glad I didn't join. I'm not saying I advocate not joining - The meetings are super-helpful for some people and they, by all means should join. But it was not right for me. First of all, I was immediately turned off by the price tag. I found $40/month ridiculous. But beyond that, I like to research and compile ideas, not pick one. I didn't find WW to be focused enough on whole un-processed foods. I mean the scientific part of the organization is, but then the merchandising arm promotes 1-pt splenda artificial strawberry-flavored WW brand yogurt instead of plain Greek yogurt with real sliced strawberries on top. And I decided to use my blog community as a substitute for the community aspect of the meetings. It's more my style - all my musings all the time - I could stay in communication with my very dispersed set of close friends, and it's the Internet for God's sake!!! I miss the being intimately involved with the Internet now that I'm not in the industry.

I didn't discuss my diet with family much
This is a funny one. I really took this on as my own thing. My family barely knew I was doing it until I was much much thinner. I made sure I saved my points for our (extremely limited) social events so that I could attend without making people crazy. I did kind of encourage us to eat at home more but that wasn't a super noticeable difference in lifestyle, and at the time it was an important move financially as well. I didn't discuss it with the kids for a long time. I didn't cook differently - I just ate less and used slightly less oil/cheese. This was more due to the fact that I cooked healthy vegetable-rich meals before hand. I did add more beans and cabbage in! By not discussing this with my family the endeavor stayed entirely mine. It would have been harder for me to blame external circumstances for my lapses. As the weight came off I discussed it more with Dave and as I got really noticeably thinner my kids picked up on all the conversations between me and Dave and everyone else making comments to me. But in terms of the rough starting weeks I really kept it to myself when I was at home. It was also a stressful time. Dave knew he needed to get a new job and that stress hanging over his head was horrible. Rather than be frustrated by the tedium of point-counting, I found solace in spending so much mental energy on counting points. It distracted me from thinking about far more serious issues and of course it was something in my control. Luckily he got a new job.

I immersed myself in nutrition reading/research
This one is very me. When I get into something I like to do a lot of research on the topic. This proved quite helpful as there are SO MANY CONFLICTING ideas in this field. I'm an extremely non-ideological person. I don't trust any ideology whether it be political, religious, child-rearing, weight-loss. Most ideas need to be taken with a grain of salt. Some are pretty solid but there's always another study about to be published. Somehow the more I read the better I felt - when in reality the opposite could easily happen. In some ways, reading a lot about nutrition could make a person want to throw up her hands with confusion.
Eat lean protein!
Eat grass-fed protein, lean or fatty!
Don't eat carbs! Eat whole carbs!
Eat low-fat!
Eat Mediterranean!
Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day!
Don't snack!
Exercise is irrelevant!
Exercise at high-intensity!
Exercise at least one hour per day!
A lot of things I read, after cutting through all the ideology and blather came to the following conclusion:
Don't eat very many calories.
When you take that as the premier goal, and then add the secondary goal of trying not to be starving, and couple those goals with some basic notion that it is good to eat a wide variety of foods, you end up making very good food choices without trying too hard. It's kind of like an actor who does her research and learns her character's back story. You can feel better about your choices knowing the factors that led you to them.

I had a WW support person and exercise support person at start
For the first few months of this endeavor I had two very helpful people in my life at work. Eventually I had enough knowledge and discipline to not need them as much, but at the start they were extremely supportive. One was my exercise partner, and the other a WW lifetime member and coach of sorts. My exercise partner got me to exercise every day in the staircase pretty much no matter what. She is Nigerian and has a very no-nonsense approach to getting things done. She was also very complimentary about my progress. She helped me get out of the habit of skipping exercise when a nice sunny outside activity wasn't possible. Prior to last winter, I had never exercised nearly as regularly in the winter as in the warmer months. By doing it every day all winter exercise became something I had to do or else I felt gross. Kind of like brushing my teeth. Now of course I love exercising.

My WW coach was instrumental in helping me understand the WW principals, see my bad food choices (nuts, cheese, dried fruit, all great foods but must be eaten in extreme moderation when trying to lose). She helped me see the forest through the trees where WW is concerned. She told me the point calculating would start to come naturally, and get less oppressive. This is a major hurdle for many people. The amount of tracking WW asks for can easily put off a person before they even get started. She promised me it would work. This was my first experience using and trusting a corporate weight-loss methodology and accepting that was a big challenge for me.

I started just after holiday season
My timing was perfect, although mainly serendipitous, not planned. I started just after the orgy of temptation known as the holiday season, I didn't get sick all winter, while it may seem stressful that I started after learning of my husband's lay-off it actually made it easier to not go out - no one was in the mood to socialize and we didn't have money for restaurants. Usually my trip up in the winter is illness and lack of willingness to exercise indoors but I got lucky with the former and more realistic about the latter.

I used the "George Costanza" method of letting go of all pre-conceived ideas
I sort of blogged about this before, but not any time recently. Admitting that I couldn't do this through my own common sense was a major admission of failure for me and absolutely essential. Basically I took the attitude, expressed by George in a Seinfeld episode once that, "Every instinct I've ever had in my whole life had been wrong and I am going to do the opposite from now on." This is what allowed me to a) use a methodology like WW, b) count points, c) measure portions with a food scale and measuring cups (I don't need to do this anymore). But making those leaps was essential to me and something I had really always looked down upon. The only time I really lost weight before I did it entirely on my own. I ate smaller portions and exercised more. But I was pushed to make those changes by external forces. I had gall bladder disease and couldn't eat much - and had 3 surgical procedures Additionally I moved to a part of the city where public transport was inconvenient so I ended up walking everywhere. And I was only 25! In the back of my head I always thought that if I did it then I could do it again and I didn't need no stinkin' program! But this was not true and when I finally admitted that I started losing weight.

I counted points every day and thought of 22 as my permanent number
This could go in the "right" and "wrong" category. At about 168 or something I looked into the future and figured I'd probably get to 159 at least, and I'd knew in the summer I'd turn 38* - with each event earning (punishing) a point drop. Anticipating these point drops scared me and I couldn't stand having those point drops over my head. I could barely manage the 24 points I was eating at the time. So I decided to drop them at that time and if I ever got below 150 I wasn't dropping any more. And, I said to myself - this is what I'm eating from now on - wherever I stopped losing is where I'd stay and when I got to that weight I wasn't increasing points again. This way of thinking is very un-Weight Watchers. The system is designed to ease people into losing and then maintenance without traumatic changes. But I really don't like anticipating things, I was in the swing of things, and I just wanted to find my way and stay there. I really did need to think of it as a lifestyle not a diet - which is the WW tag line. This is one way I was able to lose so much. I didn't have a goal weight in mind, and I somehow didn't plateau, I just kept losing, probably because I increased my exercise a lot as time went on and added in weight-bearing exercises, thus building muscle. I also didn't eat many of my exercise points if I could help it and I didn't use all my floater points. I did actually drop a point and go down to 21 for a while, but by then I was so used to being strict at dinner that it was ok. I think now I eat about 23-26, which is actually kind of a big range. I really don't know how I did 21. I did figure out that I could eat a couple more points in maintenance, and I have a lot more muscle which makes me hungrier.
*You are supposed to drop a point for every 10 lbs you lose and you drop points as you age, but in 7 year increments - I was just 4 months away from one of those 7 year category switches (it's 38, not 40 where you drop a point).

Blog! And other internet/iPhone tools
This was fun and super-helpful. The iPhone tools are conveninent and kind of video-game like so they're fun. I have really taken to blogging, which in retrospect is obvious for someone as massively opinionated as me. I kind of wish I had started a blog on Sparkpeople or Livestrong or one of the other national dieting sites. I love my core group of readers but I wouldn't have minded some extra strangers reading as well - especially as I was so successful. I guess the idea of all those strangers reading what I write used to creep me out, but now I wouldn't mind. And as noted before, the blog was both my version of the weekly WW meetings (support) and my tracking system (accountability), which are two well-known essential factors in successful weight loss. I did a review of online tools in February, but they change all the time. My faves are, and a simple iPhone points calculator.

I didn't weigh myself very often and I didn't buy a scale.
I know this goes against all conventional weight loss wisdom, but this one really worked for me. I think it worked because I wasn't cheating and I knew it. The weekly weigh-ins are great for people who are not tracking as closely and need an honesty check as to how hard they are really trying. I kind of took the attitude that I was following all the rules, and so I wouldn't learn anything by weighing myself so often as the weekly number wasn't going to change my behavior. I was already eating a very small amount and exercising regularly, so what would I do differently? The other problems I have with the weigh-in are that people tend to try and game the system by not eating in the morning before the meeting, wearing light clothes, etc. I also think that weight takes about 3-4 days to really show up so I think weigh-ins don't measure the past 7 days but rather 10 to 3 days previous. Personally, my favorite accountability tool is a pair of form-fitting jeans. All that being said, I know most reputable programs advocate weekly weigh-ins so I'm ready to concede that for most people they are a worthwhile practice. I purposely didn't buy a scale as I knew that would lead to neurotic, constant checking. I did use the many scales at Bed Bath and Beyond every few weeks or so.

Next up - What I did right: eating/food

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fish tacos

For some reason I got a craving for fish tacos about a week ago and decided to make them. I bought the ingredients but always felt they would be too labor intensive on a week night so I didn't make them until today. Not at all! They're so easy and good - why have I never done this? Apologies for the bad photo.

First of all, I should note that these were not fresh off the taco truck in San Diego. I used frozen fish, and forgot to buy cilantro. I know, that sounds gross but trust me, since I'm not getting to San Diego any time soon, these were pretty good and took about 10 minutes to make.

I bought orange ruffy, frozen from Trader Joe's. No idea about the sustainability of it. It was 3 medium-sized fillets. I bought a bag of shredded green cabbage, fresh limes. I had real apple cider vinegar, Hellman's mayo and non-fat Greek yogurt in the house. I had bought limes for the chicken chili and had one leftover.

So here is what I did...of course measurements are estimates
-defrost fish (I used to have a strict ban on frozen fish. This variety is ok but I would obviously prefer fresh)
-put 1.5 tbs olive oil in a skillet
-cook fish, sprinkle salt, pepper
-while fish cooking make cole slaw
-mix 2.5 cups cabbage in big bowl with
-3 tbs apple cider vinegar
-2 tbs Hellman's mayo (full-fat, I hate low-fat)
-1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
-make sure fish is not burning, flip
-mix cole slaw some more
-put fish on plate,
-toast tortillas in hot pan (I used mini TJs low-carb whole wheat tortillas - they are the right size, 45 cal, and more importantly, I just don't like the taste/texture of corn tortillas)
-assemble and eat! I did about 1/3 fillet, 1/4 cup cole slaw in each and squeeze fresh lime juice on top.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Take my advice

First of all - where did Blogger put the spellchecker in the new editor???

In the past few weeks I've noticed a really peculiar phenomenon. People keep telling me they took my advice and it worked.  I usually don't even remember giving them advice in the first place. I think these food topics fly out of my mouth so often that I don't even hear myself. Or I think they're well known tips and don't really consider them advice- like substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream or steel-cut oats for sugary instant oatmeal or eating eggs or exercising most days a week or not eating dessert (mostly).

Every time I hear someone say, "I tried making the big batch of oatmeal like you suggested and reheating some each morning and it's really keeping me full," or "I'm adding in whole wheat toast to my lunch so I don't get too hungry in the evenings," or "You're right, I was addicted to sugar." I just get a warm feeling in my stomach. To think that anyone would listen to my ideas and then actually find them helpful is quite heartwarming to me - and the fact that it's about something as silly as oatmeal matters not! It is still fun.

Why are so many people taking my suggestions? Why would anyone listen to me? Maybe it's the "I'll have what she's having," phenomenon.

Despite my complete lack of formal training, I suppose the very fact that I took off 45 lbs basically on my own, and am keeping it off, makes people think my ideas have some validity. I guess I'm approachable, as I was never an overachiever, everything is perfect, straight-A kind of person. My flaws were always on my sleeve so to speak. I didn't discover anything new of course(eat less, exercise more).

I must also be exuding some kind of confidence with how I say things. Because I do feel like a bit of a know it all. I can tell in 30 seconds is someone is serious or not when they ask me for help.And I have taken the attitude that I will not push hard on them (they are usually friends, if I were doing this professionally with strangers I would push back more). In the back of my head I know that on some things it's my way or the highway. You have to exercise. You can't eat a lot of sugar or alcohol. You have to eat whole grains. You have to eat small portions. You have to track what you're eating. You need to eat a lot of protein. These are well-known truths that I did not discover. But to know something and to have lived it are two different things. Maybe we need two different verbs for 'to know' like the French.

I started this endeavor 49 weeks ago, so as I approach the 1-year mark I'm really thinking about how differently I feel and what a big change I made - let's call it my reflective period. Due to the combination of my one year anniversary of my start date and all the people asking me for advice recently I'm working on some longer posts about what worked and what didn't and I'm going to try and increase viewership. You know posting to Facebook more - maybe starting a Twitter feed-yuck. So feel free to forward the url to anyone you want!