Reaching A Healthy Weight

There I was, big pile of Cheetos on a paper towel and my second beer on a coaster, sitting in my favorite chair watching TV. My husband looked over at me, his glass of citrus water sitting next to him–no snacks–and said, “Way to be supportive!”

He was right. I wasn’t being supportive and I DID need to lose weight. It was the fall of 2013.

Tom’s journey was mandated by looming health issues. He was more than 50 pounds overweight and considered obese by medical standards. He has a history of diabetes in his family and had been recently diagnosed as prediabetic. This meant that, if he did nothing, he would soon develop Type 2 diabetes and have to go on medications, possibly for the rest of his life. OR he could lose 50 pounds.

After blood work and a talk with his general practitioner, he was referred to a cardiologist (who confirmed my husband had a strong, healthy heart and agreed that Tom should lose 50 pounds to get his life back on track). I’ll never forget the cardiologist telling us, “Do 30 minutes of cardio 4 times a week. After that, you can do weight training or whatever else you have the energy for.”

The next step was an initial meeting with a dietician. She discussed the doctor’s findings with Tom and they worked up a plan for him to start the weight loss process. She recommended a free calorie tracking app (available for iPhone and Android) called Lose It! There is also a Premium version. I’ve found that the free version is sufficient for my needs and Tom eventually upgraded to the Premium version.

With the Lose It! app, you enter your current information and determine how many pounds per week you want to lose. Tom started with 1 pound a week. That is a reasonable weight loss goal. (<rant>Remember, the point of losing weight is to keep it off. Doing some lame fad diet to lose “10 pounds in a week” just puts you on a roller coaster of failure, which only benefits the multimillion dollar diet products industry.</rant>)

The beauty of the Lose It! app is that you learn very quickly how much your food choices cost you in terms of calories. You learn to make better food and beverage choices. An entire “individual” restaurant pizza, 1100 calories (or more). A 1/4 pizza made at home using a prepared crust with homemade sauce, veggies, and a controlled quantity of cheese, 245 calories. Hell no, you shouldn’t have to give up pizza! Do you really want that sugary soda? It’ll cost you 140 calories or more. How about tea with honey? That’s much better at 45 calories. Coffee with cream can be 150 calories. Black coffee with sugar, 30 to 40 calories. Water with a bit of citrus in it is FREE. No calories. Zip. Nada. None. Yay! It’s also your best friend while you are losing weight. Once you’ve achieved your goal, you will be able to moderately consume whatever you really desire.

But food is not the whole story with weight loss. It’s half. The other half is exercise. Pure and simple. And it really is simple, I promise. Make exercise a habit that becomes a reward for you. Remember how you used to reward yourself with a giant chocolate slice (half a cake at a restaurant) for accomplishing something? Turn your workouts into the reward instead. I just signed a new client! Gym time. I know it sounds ridiculous now. But I discovered that, once I made regularly scheduled gym time a habit, it became a reward of “Me Time” three days a week. No, this did not happen overnight.

Several years back, Tom and I started going to the gym together, 3 days a week. We motivated each other to go. Later on, when schedules changed and we could no longer go at the same time, the habit was already fixed and we kept up with it. I’ve always loved reading and with my discovery of audiobooks, I know that I get to listen to a book while I do my workout. This adds to the reward of my gym time. I rarely have reading time otherwise. Your thing may be music or podcasts. Whatever it is, find the thing and let it help encourage you to get to the gym.

Don’t discount asking for help or support. Do you have friends who run? Ask them how to get started. Maybe you’ll even get a running buddy out of it. Speaking of help and support, that brings us back to the beginning and me. With the Cheetos and beer. Remember? Yeah. Well, back then, I was over 130 pounds at 5’4″ and the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. I was buying bigger and bigger clothes routinely. Sound familiar? I understand. And before you poo-poo what I weighed as being insignificant (and how dare I claim that I was fat), it was fat for me. I felt lousy. I ate too much, drank too much, and didn’t do enough cardio, although I did have the gym habit already. Hey, that was one thing going for me!

In all fairness to my husband, when he made his comment, he simply verbalized what I had been thinking for almost two months. I wasn’t being supportive and I knew it. What was worse, I knew that wasn’t cool. So, I talked to him about it, downloaded the Lose It! app and got started. I nearly had a fit when I tried to lose a pound a week (the default, I recall, in the app, which put me at a little over 1000 calories a day, if memory serves). After just two days, I had to adjust down to a goal of 1/2 a pound a week. That was enough calories for me (around 1229 maybe) to be able to sustain the program.

I started slowly at the gym to increase the amount of cardio that I did. I went from 10 (slow, barely warm-up) minutes to 15 minutes and increased my speed on the elliptical. I stayed here for about a month to six weeks, until I felt comfortable increasing to 20 minutes. I’ve remained here since. After cardio (and believe me, if you aren’t sweating and winded after this, you’re doing it wrong), I lift weights–machines and free weights (your body will tell you when it’s time to increase the weight–start low and don’t injure yourself!). Then I do a little core work, balance, and stretching.

In the first couple of weeks tracking my weight, I lost a pound or pound and a half a week. Cool. Then I plateaued. That was when I discovered something that the app doesn’t tell you, but you need to understand if you are to be successful. When you are trying to lose weight, you must ignore the Net calories readout on the app. In other words, only look at the left side of the top bar–Budget (your allowable calorie intake for the day) and Food (how many calories you’ve put in your pie hole today). And don’t forget to exercise. Whether it’s a brisk walk every day, a full gym workout day, a bike ride on the weekend, pulling weeds, cleaning out your garage, walking the dog, whatever. Try to get in some kind of movement every day. And work to stay well below your calorie Budget. Those two are the keys to losing weight.

Once you’ve reached your weight goal and are in maintenance mode, THEN you can pay attention to the Net calories. Net calories is your equalizer. Don’t move at all one day? Net calories will equal Food calories. Have a big workout day plus you did a ton of walking throughout the day? Net calories will show you what you have left after subtracting the exercise points. This only works in weight maintenance mode because it shows the balance between calories in and calories out.

So, how’d we do? Well, Tom lost over 55 pounds and has kept it off for more than a year by continuing to track what he eats and how much he exercises. His blood work is now normal. He is no longer prediabetic. I’m so proud of him!

I lost 15 pounds in 4 months and 12 days, from October 18, 2013 to February 26, 2014. I have now kept the weight off for a year. I continue to track my food and I work out three days a week at the gym. I do a lot of walking throughout a typical day, but still have time (and calories) for some evening TV watching with whole-grain snacks and cocktails.

Achieving our goals was not easy for either of us, but it was completely doable. And once you understand how to make the right lifestyle changes, you can easily keep off what you’ve lost. That is the most important part of the weight loss journey.

Additional Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Overweight and Obesity

CDC Healthy Weight


The Pleasure of Grilled Veggies

One of my favorite foods is simple, grilled vegetables. Unfortunately, several years ago our outdoor grill died and we never got around to replacing in until last month.

And oh have we been having fun! In addition to all the meat and seafood flavors that a grill elevates spectacularly, there are the vegetables. Zucchini, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, and onions, have the most amazing flavors when grilled. A grill basket makes quick work of it and minimizes losing small pieces through the grill grates.

Vegetables are super easy to prepare with just a little salt, pepper, and a brushing of olive oil. The grill does the rest to caramelize the natural sugars in the veggies and pull out extraordinary flavor. But you can go all out in your preparation as well. Vegetables only take 15-30 minutes to marinate, so they are a great addition at the end of the grilling process. Most vegetables can be grilled up while your meat rests (10-12 minutes is all it takes).

One of my current favorite preparations is a mix of zucchini, summer squash, red peppers, and mushrooms marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and little dried herb, salt and pepper. Cut the vegetables into about 1-inch pieces. Leave small mushrooms whole or quarter larger ones. I like using cremini (aka baby portabello) mushrooms. Marinate everything together for at least 15 and up to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the veggies to a grill basket set on the grill. It takes about 12 minutes total, stirring halfway through the grilling time. Test a red pepper with a fork to make sure they’re ready, then enjoy!

So, what’s your favorite grilled vegetable preparation? I’d love to hear from you.