Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reality Check

I was speaking to a friend the other day and he complimented me on my weight loss.   As long as I have known him, he has struggled tremendously with his weight.  He shared that he is still trying to lose 70 pounds, but has not yet experienced much success. 

I started giving him some tips on how I lost my weight and became consistent with my running.  I told him to snack on fruits and vegetables, and to increase his exercise to 4-5 times a week, with as much additional walking as possible.  Unfortunately, I could hear the frustration and self-defeat in his voice; after each suggestion, he just sighed and said it is too much. 

If you are experiencing the same overwhelming feelings as my friend, then this reality check is for you.  For about the first two weeks of “Running Without a Watch” it IS hard.  Really hard.  Changing the way you think and act is one of the hardest challenges to give yourself.  You need to reorganize your priorities and how you utilize your limited time.  Are you going to spend another 20 minutes on the computer, or are you going to prepare your food for the next day?  Are you going to sleep a little bit later, or are you going to make sure that you set aside time to exercise?    

This is just the beginning; there is no quick fix for permanent weight loss.  You can easily try one of the fad diets and lose 10-15 pounds quickly, but what have you really accomplished?  While you may experience some temporary gratification, you haven’t solved the underlying issues. Without healthy lifestyle changes, you know that sooner or later you will gain the weight right back.  It takes hard work and commitment to make lasting changes in life.  I truly believe that each of us has the ability to do it.  It may take longer than you hoped for, and you will probably experience some bumps and dips along the way, but trust me-- it is worth it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tick Tock

You know when you’re about to do something that you shouldn’t do, but you go ahead and do it anyway?  Well, after more than 90 days of running without a watch, I took a bite of the forbidden apple and peaked at the clock on my cell phone before I started my run.  You see, I wanted to know if my speed had increased over these past three months.  Before Running Without a Watch, my fastest time for the three mile run was 27 minutes.   As soon as I did it though, I knew it was a mistake; my curiosity had gotten the better of me. 

After seeing the time, my entire run changed for the worse.  I kept pushing myself to go faster, afraid to slow down.  I didn’t enjoy my run and I felt pressured until the end.  Even though I finished my run in 25 minutes, which is two minutes faster than before, I didn’t feel like celebrating.  Instead of relaxing during my run and reflecting on the day, I was totally obsessed with the ticking of the clock.

After a blunder, the best you can do is to learn from it and move on.  I have a renewed respect for the power of Running Without a Watch, and will keep my eyes focused on the beautiful scenery around me as I take flight for my next evening run. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Anything good in life, does not come easy

During some down time at work today, we were discussing weight loss and I happened to mention that I have lost over 18 pounds in a little over 90 days.  One of my coworkers, “Jenna” responded by saying “I hate you.”  Since we know each other well, I knew this was said in jest; she still thinks I have some kind of magic ability to lose weight.

I’ve told her many times that she has the power to lose weight too, even the 18-20 pounds that she desperately wants to shed.  But she must be willing to put the effort forth.  For instance, instead of sporadic high intensity workouts, she would achieve more success with less intensity, frequent exercise.  I run three to four miles about four to five times a week; consistency is the key.

Also, she needs to make better food choices.  The majority of my meals are home cooked, and attention is paid to portion size, especially when it comes to foods that I used to really overeat, like cereal and pasta.  I also keep fruits and vegetables readily available for snacking throughout the day.
Finally, in addition to the time set aside for running, I squeeze in as much walking as I can during the day.  I take walks during my lunch break, commute, and while spending time with my family.  It is an easy and quick way to burn off some extra calories, without taking a heavy toll on your body.

This may sound so simple, like I’ve got it all figured out.  But it took me many years of watching the scale rise and fall before I made these lifestyle changes.   It hasn’t been easy, but this journey which has taken hard work, introspection, and a strong support system, has been well worth the sweat and the tears.  With real effort, I believe that anything is possible. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Summing it up

I just learned an astonishing fact, which many of you many not yet know.  It’s common knowledge that in order to lose one pound, you need to burn 3500 more calories that you consume.  The same goes for gaining weight, meaning that if you consume 3500 more calories than you burn, you will gain one pound.  After doing the math, I realized that it only takes 100 extra calories per day to gain 10 pounds a year!!  Over the course of a few years, the average person could easily become 20 – 30 pounds overweight. 

This got me to thinking about different foods that could easily contribute to this scenario.  For instance, at home we have Snyder’s hard pretzels.  One pretzel is 100 calories.  Now if you can limit yourself to just one, then I applaud you.  However, for most of us, (myself included) I could easily eat four or five at one time.  Another product that comes to mind is the craze of “100 calorie snack packs” which took off about five years ago.  Now again, if you limit yourself to just one bag, then you will fair pretty well.  But for the average person, I think that it is all too easy to lose sight of how quickly the calories add up by the end of the day.

Being an average person myself, I do not want to get sucker punched by these extra calories at the end of the year.  So I came up with a way to keep a handle on these calories, but without the nuisance of actually counting them.  When it comes to snack time, (which for me is a couple of times a day) I enjoy an unlimited supply of all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  I have found that raw fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, carrots, red peppers, and bananas are very filling, satisfy my need to crunch, and are easy to prepare the night before. 

So the next time you are headed down the snack aisle, swing over to the fresh produce aisle instead and load up on colorful and tasty treats…you won’t even have to check the label! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Importance of "Me" Time

I haven’t been able to run at all this past week.  First, my legs were feeling achy, and then I came down with a sore throat.  I guess I could have gone running, because the rest of me felt great.  But then I remembered that when I run in the cold weather, my throat gets extremely dry and hurts for about an hour afterwards.  I decided to take care of myself, and not aggravate an already burning throat. 

Throughout the entire week, I maintained a healthy, balanced diet, and never felt any urges to overeat or overindulge, as has happened in the past.  I also continued to enjoy my walks to and from the bus stop, as well during my lunch break.  Like running, walking during the day always gives me a boost of energy and helps me to maintain a relaxed state of mind.  All in all, my weight stayed the same at 155.5 pounds, and I felt that taking the time off from running was the right choice. 

Now that I am fully recovered, I can’t wait to get back out there and RUN!!  During this past week, I realized that the aspect of running I missed the most was not having that time at the end of the day set aside for me only.  Once work is over and the kids are in bed, there is nothing better than feeling the fresh air on my face and the vibration of the ground below me, while I organize my thoughts and reflect on the day. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quenching your thirst

Like many people, I really enjoy the bubbly, syrupy taste of a cold soda.  In fact, I used to drink a lot of soda, mainly diet coke.   I preferred diet coke because regular coke was just too sweet.  At the time, I never gave much thought to the ridiculous amount of chemicals and additives I consumed with each can.  I also didn’t pay much attention to the amount of calories in orange juice, another favorite beverage of mine.  

However, a few years ago, when I realized that I really needed to lose weight, AGAIN, I began the process of examining exactly what I ate and drank.  I looked for little things that could produce big changes, quick ways to improve my overall health and cut out unnecessary calories.  Since I had already switched to black coffee (following the plan discussed in this post), I bid farewell to all other beverages except for water.  

Now I know that this may sound a bit drastic, but I am telling you, that it really worked.  Not only is it healthier and cheaper, but it really helped to reduce the calories I consumed each day.  By eliminating the can of soda, I also cut down on the foods that I usually bought to go with it.  Now, I carry a one liter sized, washable, refillable water bottle with me wherever I go, and I always have what I need to quench my thirst.  And in case you are wondering what I do if I ever crave orange juice…well, I eat an orange of course! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Biggest Loser Isn't Much of a Winner

It’s that time of year again, and no I don’t mean holiday time.  It is the time for the company sponsored “Biggest Loser” contest, which loosely mimics the reality television show of the same name, but without all of the guidance, support, and amazing exercise equipment.  Basically, each person that signs up for this contest competes to see who can lose the most percentage of weight in a three month time period, based on weekly weigh ins.  I guess my company believes that we will be more motivated to lose weight if we are competing for a cash reward. 

However, I have my own thoughts regarding these kinds of contests.  Instead of promoting healthy habits or providing education materials and guest speakers to improve the overall health and wellness of the employees, the only focus of the contest is weight loss, regardless of how you do it.  For instance, last year’s winner went on a liquid detox diet for the remaining three weeks of the competition, just to win the money.  I have noticed that in most of these cases, fol, the winners gain back their weight plus some.

My experience with this contest has always been negative, because the pressure was just too much for me to handle.  Even if I had been managing my weight nicely before the contest began, once it started, I found myself getting too caught up in the numbers on the scale.  Inevitably, a few weeks into the competition I would gain a couple pounds and become so frustrated and disappointed with myself that I ended up in line at the bakery (thinking it would make me feel better for the moment) or dropping out of the contest altogether. 

Besides the pressure I placed on myself, there was pressure from coworkers.  I remember once buying some cookies from the vending machine, and someone said “is that going to help you in the biggest loser contest?”  What I needed was some solid support, not a criticism that left me feeling demoralized.

So, instead of biting off more than you can chew, slow down and make a real weight loss plan for yourself.  Remember to surround yourself with a support system who will cheer you on through the ups and the downs, and set realistic and achievable weight loss goals that are specific to your needs; don’t worry what everyone else is doing. 

Most importantly, the next time your company offers the “Biggest Loser” contest, just say no thanks.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Calling the Kettle Black

During my journey toward successful weight loss, one of the most dramatic changes that I made in my diet was switching to black coffee.  This was no easy feat, as I was an avid coffee drinker and set in my ways.  I used to drink four to five cups of coffee per day, each cup loaded with two packs of sugar and milk.  If you dare to examine the caloric value of all this added sugar, you will see that each pack of sugar contains 25 calories, which equals 50 calories per cup of coffee.  That makes an astounding total of 200 – 250 calories EACH DAY from sugar alone, and this only accounts for the coffee I made myself. 

I also regularly enjoyed a delicious medium coffee with cream and sugar from Dunkin Donuts.  According to their website, the small coffee with cream and sugar has 120 calories, so we know that the medium sized coffee has even more.  I was also a frequent supporter of the Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino, which totals 400 calories!  With coffee shops tempting me at every corner, I was faced with a serious challenge.   

I tried to quit cold turkey, but that didn’t work out so well for me.  So I decided to try a more gradual approach, making one modification per week.  Also, I made Saturday my “change day” so that by the time the work week started again on Monday, I was already a few days into my new routine.    

Here is a suggested four week plan, based on my personal experience and ultimate success.  (If you already only drink coffee that you brew or make yourself at home or at work, skip to week 2.)

Week 1 – Only drink coffee that you brew yourself at work or at home.  Continue to add your usual amounts of milk/cream and sugar/sugar substitute.

Week 2- Halve the amount of sugar that you usually put into each cup.  For example, if you use two packets of sugar/sugar substitute, reduce to one packet.  Repeat this step (as needed) on a weekly basis until you have reduced to one packet or spoonful of sugar/sugar substitute per cup of coffee.

Week 3 – Eliminate all sugar/sugar substitute from your coffee.  Add only milk or cream.

Week 4 – Eliminate all milk and cream.  

Now you are ready to enjoy the rich taste of your black coffee, and you are well on your way to achieving your health and weight loss goals!!  Congratulations!!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Looking back on November

As I continue to maintain this healthy lifestyle, the scope of success broadens, and I can look back on the achievements of an entire month.  Last month, on November 1st, I weighed 160.0 pounds, and today I weigh 158.0 pounds.  Although I lost two more pounds, totaling 14 pounds, more importantly, my weight stayed constant.   I went running 18 out of 30 days last month, including the six days that I didn’t run because of knee pain.  I ran mostly three miles at a time, with a few six mile runs mixed in.  In addition to running, I continue to take advantage of the nice weather and take walks during my lunch break to stretch my legs and clear my head. 

A coworker (who lives in my neighborhood and often sees me running) joked that every time she turns around I seem to be working out.  I told her that I feel better when I am active and outside in the fresh air.  As she glanced outside, she smiled with a hopeful look in her eye.  I smiled back, said goodbye, and with an extra pep in my step, I headed back to my seat to finish out the day’s work.