My Weight Loss Journey
A lot of folks have asked how I lost the weight I have – it’s 123-125 pounds, by the way (depending on the day!) – since about May 2017. What I did was pretty no-brainer: Put fewer calories in my mouth than I burned each day.
Can someone tell me why such a freakin’ easy thing to type is just SO. DARNED. HARD. TO. DO?!?
I’ve pretty much struggled with my weight for most of my life – at least the parts I can remember. High School. College. My whole time in the military – where that was a “BIG DEAL”. A seriously big deal.
I dreaded going to the doctor cuz…they feel an unreasonable need to put every patient on the scale. EVERY time – not matter why you go there.
“Hi – I’m here because my elbow hurts”.
“So good to see you – hop right up on the scale”.
“So – came in to see if I should take a vitamin for old people or…”
“We’ll be happy to see you – hop right up on the scale”.
It’s a bit of an obsession for them.
I dreaded cameras. 10 pounds? Well…maybe. Or maybe I have TWENTY cameras aimed at me. Ever notice how few pictures you’d see of me on the blog? Yep. That’s why. It put the awful truth smack in my face and all my chins. So…I avoided it.
Yes – being fat was definitely a thing for me. And a cause of much stress and worry. And embarrassment. NOTE: If you struggle with YOUR weight, please know I’m not judging in any way, shape or form. You should NOT be embarrassed. That was just a ME thing, okay?? For me – it seemed like it should be easy to lose (like flying or card making or riding my horses) – so I judged MYSELF.
But – it was, apparently, never enough of a thing for me to do something serious and permanent about it. I’d always go on a diet “one day”. Start exercising “one of these days”. It’s HARD to exercise when you’re fat.
Even when my Mom lost all her weight – not enough.
So…what was the tipping point?
Well – in the spring of last year – 2017 – I had a physical. The full monty (literally) with the scale and the blood-work.
Before the labs came back, my mom asked me – as we were talking about health and such – if I knew what my A1C number was. I had to confess I didn’t and she suggested I should find out cuz I didn’t want to get into the realm of diabetes.
About a week later – the labs returned and I went back to the doc for the follow-up.
She never said a word about it – but…at the top of the lab results sheet it said: “Pre-diabetic”.
I pretty much don’t want to be diabetic, y’all. Really. Seriously.
Which meant it was time to do something about it, right?
About the same time, I was getting really really close to having gathered up the points I needed to earn the Alaskan cruise. I knew I was going to hit it – and that I’d be on a cruise this summer.
And I wanted to look good on the cruise.
Or…at least thin! 😉
So. That was it. I decided to get on the stick and do something!
Now – here’s where I stick in the caveat/legal-ese. I am NOT a doctor. Nor am I a nutritionist. So – what worked for me may not work for you. May not even be healthy for you. And I’m not telling you this is what you should do. Check with your doctor. I am not him/her! Questions??
I considered Weight Watchers (decided not to pay to be told what I already suspected – and…I like to do my weigh-ins under the cover of darkness, not in front of anyone!).
I thought about Nutrisystem or some other special purchase food program – but…no. Money again. And also – how would I learn how to eat “regular” food if I’m eating packaged meals the whole time? Would I have to eat that stuff forever to keep it off? That didn’t seem right for me, either.
My mom lost her weight by going regularly to a nutritionist and keeping a daily food log/journal.
So…I figured I’d try the same idea.
Without the nutritionist part.
And I wasn’t excited about writing everything down in a little book. So being at least quasi-technically savvy – I did what all smart phone owners do. I headed for the Apple App Store. My search resulted in several hits – but the one that I thought looked the best (and was free) is one called Lose It.
This is a digital food log. I gave it my current weight and stats like age and height and it told me my target weight. Which turned out to be pretty close to what the doc wanted me to weigh. Then it asked me when I wanted to get to that weight. I used the cruise as my goal date and backed that up a month – just in case I was less successful than I hoped.
The resulting daily calorie allotment appeared – and a place to log my food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This app is great – it’s got a ginormous data base and that makes it pretty easy to enter what you eat.
And there’s the rub. I entered everything I ate. EVERYTHING. I got brutally honest with myself. No sneaking – no “that doesn’t count cuz I ate it standing up at the counter”. If I stuck it in my mouth – I logged it. And I quickly started making decisions based on how many calories I had left for the day. Which is another cool feature of the app – it logs the food – and does a running tally. Then it also provides a “how many have you got left” number.
So. Easy, right?
Well – it actually wasn’t awful.
Not great – but not awful.
I bought a digital scale to begin weighing myself. I used the weight on my “old” scale as a starting point (it was pretty close to what the doctor’s office weight had been). Then, I began my bi-weekly weigh in about a month after I started. I was scared to do it quicker than that – what if I’d gained? Hadn’t lost a thing after being good for a week? Two weeks?
I finally decided to pull up my big girl panties and see what was going on.
And – I’d lost 2 or 3 pounds!! I was amazed.
The app lets you enter your weight – which I did. And then I did that every two weeks. I picked Sunday morning – and always weighed myself at the same time – in the same clothes (I picked nekkid, since that was an outfit I could remember! 😉 ).
Once I started to see the weight come off – it got easier to stick to what I was doing. As I logged lower and lower weights, the Lose It App decremented the number of calories per day I could have and still keep losing (that HAS to happen or…you don’t lose. The less you weigh, the fewer calories it takes to sustain…so…got to eat fewer).
And a year-and-change later – here we are.
That’s it. The secret? Put fewer calories in than you burn. Done.
For the first 85 pounds or so, I didn’t “exercise”. Oh – I took care of the horses and played with Finn (but not excessively and not for “exercise”). I tried to park a little farther out at the grocery store – take the stairs as it got easier – those kinds of things. But no “exercise”.
As I started to get lighter – and feel better – I added walking to the agenda. I purchased an iWatch (a FitBit would do the same) and became competitive with it – I wanted those rings closed every day! It tracks your movement (translated as calories burned), exercise (based on a number of things like heart rate, etc) – and amount of standing I do. I even bought a portable stand-up desk thingy so that I could stand up to work at my computer. Wanting those rings to close each day helped to motivate me to move more. “Type A much, Mare??”
Also – as I lost weight – things started to get a little (a lot!) saggy in places that I wasn’t loving. So I figured maybe moving would help.
I dug out my old Suzanne Sommers Thigh Master from the closet – and started using it when I sat in my recliner. For legs AND for my arms. No – don’t laugh – it actually does work. I didn’t count reps – I’d just sit there and squeeze it with my legs or arms while I watched tv. Unless the cat was in my lap and then I had to stop so I wouldn’t disturb his nap.
Priorities, people, it’s all about priorities! 😉
Do I want that Biscotti in the morning (170 calories) with my coffee or do I want to eat something more filling later?
Do I need chips/taco shells with the mexican dinner? Or…could I have a little more meat which will fill me up better and for longer?
Do I want a bag of M&Ms – or is buying that pair of jeans two sizes smaller a good enough trade?
Making “right” choices got easier and easier. And, the more I tracked myself and learned that “I can do this” – I realized that, if I decided to buy the new jeans AND eat the bag of M&M’s, I had the “tools in my kit bag” to get back on track the next day! 🙂
As I started to get thinner – I had to buy new clothes. It was a powerful motivator, not gonna lie. I’m now in a size 12. Which may seem big to many of you reading this – but…it’s a good size for me. I am happy at the weight I’m at right now. Any less – and I think maybe I wouldn’t be so pleased with the reflection in the mirror.
I LIKE going to buy clothes! Heck – I’ve even bought leggings. To do laundry in, sure – but…I didn’t turn to stone when I looked at myself in the mirror. And, with the right shirt – I’ve even worn them down to get breakfast or dinner in the lobby. Where people SEE me!
I do not cringe when I see a picture of myself. I actually kind of like it – it’s smack in my face what I’ve managed to do! And I’m pretty proud of that.
EVERYTHING is easier now – standing, walking, taking the stairs. Here at the hotel I’m on the third floor. I take the stairs pretty much every single time – even carrying my computer bag. It adds to my calorie burn each day. Yesterday morning, I even jogged on the treadmill. I can’t even tell you what a feat that is for me. I haven’t comfortably run or jogged since before I broke my leg the first time back in 2004.
And it makes me feel a tad smug! 🙂
I’m actually looking FORWARD to going to the doctor for this year’s physical. I want to see “good” numbers on the labs. And my nemesis (the scale) can just pound sand!
I LIKE being thin. Can’t help it. For me – it’s just better than the alternative. And I hope to heaven that helps me keep doing what I need to do to stay here.
So. That’s the Why and the How. What follows is a list of random tips.
- Highly recommend that you get Lose It – or an equivalent. If you don’t have a Smart Phone – do it online (that picture up above is a handy link for you!). If none of that appeals – pull out a notebook and a calorie counter and get to logging. Lose It was a key factor in my weight loss and it will remain on my phone as long as I do – it’s now letting me log to maintain my weight. If a weigh-in shows a slight gain (ala after the cruise!) – then I log that and it bounces my daily calories down to get back to my goal. So my plan is to keep logging. It makes me much more mindful of what (and how much!) I am eating! Do I get hett if I go over for a day? Nope. But I don’t let myself do that EVERY day. And tracking it helps me to…well…keep track!
- Buy a food scale. Keep it out ALWAYS. I had an old Pampered Chef scale that I pulled out and it stays on my counter. No more guessing. “An ounce of cheese is the size of two dice”. Uhm…I must have big old fuzzy dice! Deck of cards for meat? Nope. Doesn’t work for me. I was dismayed to see what amount of all sorts of food is a “serving” – and how many calories that serving has. I even bought a new digital scale when I came out to CA. That’s it weighing my morning yoghurt (vanilla, doctored with freeze-dried coffee and unsweetened cocoa!).
- Pull out the measuring spoons and measuring cup. See #1 – it’s the same principal. You can’t know WHAT food to add to your log without knowing (FOR SURE) how MUCH of it you have. I even use a measuring spoon for my creamer in my morning coffee.
- Get familiar with cauliflower rice. It has become my secret weapon – along with Lean Cuisines Frozen Meals. The cauli rice doesn’t taste like rice – hello? It’s cauliflower! But – it ends up adding a similar texture to food as white rice. And the calorie difference is crazy. 1 cup of cauliflower rice is about 20 calories. Same cup of cooked white rice…206. You can do the math. So…a Lean Cuisine with roughly 300 calories – add 1 – 2 cups of cauliflower rice (almost every LC has more sauce than is really necessary!) – stir it up. You’ve got a filling meal – that takes a minute to eat (and chew!) – for around 340 calories. I buy the rice in the steamer packages in the frozen section – cook the whole bag in the microwave and refrigerate half for another meal.
- Steamed broccoli. Again – microwave steamer bags – I keep them in my freezer all the time. When I was/am hungry, I’d steam and eat the whole bag. Sprinkle some grilling spice or just salt and pepper on the broccoli. Maybe add a teaspoon of grated parmesan…again, it takes a minute to eat a ginormous plate of broccoli and it makes, and helps to keep, you full! Might take a Beano or two before eating it…just sayin’.
- Don’t try to weigh every day. At least – that didn’t work for me. Weight fluctuates up and down. If you have a down day and then weigh the next day and you’re up – then…probably just a normal fluctuation. But – that had a negative effect on me. So I did every two weeks – on the same day – at the same time – in the same clothes (or lack thereof!).
- I ate a lot (and still do!) of shredded iceberg lettuce. One 8 ounce bag is 35 calories – I buy the packages by the handful at the grocery. Add some thinly sliced turkey (I get the Oscar Meyer or Hillshire Farm kind – 50 cal for 2 ounces. Don’t forget to WEIGH the meat!!), a kosher dill pickle, maybe some pickled gardiniere and okra, and low/no calorie salad dressing. Cut it and mix it all up and it’s a pretty good salad. I’ll also use the salad as a base for a “taco salad” and mix one of the mexican (Fiesta Giller Chicken, Unwrapped Burrito Bowl, etc – from Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice) into it. When it’s all stirred up, I’ll add a little salsa – green or red – for some kick. No cheese – I didn’t need it and didn’t want to “spend” the calories! Yum!
- Fiber One Lemon Bars, Cinnamon Coffee Cake and Brownies are nice little 90 calorie treats. Do NOT be fooled – not each kind of Fiber One bar is only 90 calories. Some are 150. Watch out for “Health” food. It may have lots of wholesome goodness – but the calorie counts can be shockingly high. Like…granola. Yikes! Remember – I was doing straight up calories. And – that might not be for you. But…it worked for me! 🙂
- I like a bedtime snack. I know – not supposed to eat after 7. Or is it 5? I don’t know. What I DO know is that if I do NOT have my little bedtime snack, I wake up around 2 and I’m hungry. Too hungry to go back to sleep. So…I am more than tempted (I usually follow thru!) to go to the kitchen and get a snack. And it’s likely not all that well weighed/measured/thought out. So. I have 6 – 9 Reduced Fat Triscuit crackers (110-165 cal) and a slice of Sharp Cheese (90 cal). I actually put it in my Lose It in the morning so that I am planning ahead for those calories. The crunch and slight saltiness of the crackers makes me feel like I’m getting something and the protein in the cheese helps me not wake up hungry. Again – this is what worked for me!
So – I think that about gets it. I hope that this helps you some if you’re looking for help in this department. If you’re one of the lucky folks out there who never has to worry about their weight – my envy level is very high indeed! The idea of being able to eat whatever I want whenever I want it is….intoxicating.
But, I doubt that will ever be the case. I’ve seen the result of that sort of food plan for me – and it’s not okay. I will always and forever have to think about what I eat. But the things I’ve learned in the year+ that it took me to lose it will (I most fervently hope!!) help me to stay very close to my goal weight forever!
If this is your journey – I wish you luck and Happy Calorie Counting!