It All Adds Up
Updated: May 2
I hit my half-way goal today of losing 30 pounds, (I’m at 31) so I thought I might share a little bit about the last 16 weeks. (Disclaimer: you are responsible for you and I am responsible for me. What I do and how I do it is for me only and anyone else should work with a doctor or specialist.)
The short of it is this: Math. I know. Math has been the bane of my existence ever since Mrs. Gray caught me cheating on a Math test in second grade. I didn’t want it to be about Math. I knew it was, but tried to avoid it, ignore it, get around it, pretend I knew better than it. But it is that simple: Eat less calories than you burn, it’s a math equation.
Of course, there are some important details mixed in there and I will talk about those, but the foundational reality is that to lose weight you must eat less than you burn (specifically, you must eat 750 calories less than you burn to loose 1.5 pounds a week). Doesn’t matter your age, doesn’t matter male or female, doesn’t matter where you live, doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do all day, you must eat less than you burn to lose weight. You’ve heard it before, you can’t exercise a bad diet away.
Like some of you, I’ve lost weight several times over the years; I’ve even lost this same 30 pounds plus some before. Countless times I’ve lost five to 10, which are more like false starts, really. I dreaded getting started again because I knew what it would take to lose and I was tired, discouraged… and just lazy, I didn’t want to go through it all yet again.
I decided to set a vague goal so that my success would be easier to flesh out and I wouldn’t get discourage so easily (a mind game). So, my only real goal was/is to establish healthier habits. That’s it. The peripheral benefit of which I hoped would be losing weight and getting off medicine, but I only put in front of me that I wanted to have healthier habits and just healthier lifestyle going into my Over 50 stage of life. I think habit is paramount as I grow older because older people move about their daily lives out of habit. Where they/we sit is a habit, what they/we watch on TV is a habit, who they/we talk to is a habit, what they/we eat is a habit. My habit to eat like a teenager and sit around, not the look I want going into Assisted Living. So, I started out, just changing one habit, then another, and slowly began to adopt a natural overturn in the make-up of things I already did. Not adding to my day, not taking from my day, just doing what I already do, but in a different way.
I have been teetering on the edge of some health issues (pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure) for a long time and my weight continued to creep up and was (still is) well established in the obesity range, so I went to the doctor to get a baseline in my bloodwork and started devising a plan for a lifestyle change.
I love data, even though I am not a math-person. I love measuring data, analyzing data, theorizing with data, putting it in lists, in circles, in boxes, etc. Years ago I had a fitness watch, but lost my device somehow through Eli’s journey, so I recently bought a fitbit watch (not fancy) to keep track of my calories, activity, and heart rate. I bought a good scale because I like to weigh multiple times in a week. I know, I don’t care what they say, because only losing 1.5 pounds in a week leaves little wiggle. I figured out the very least number of calories I burn in a day just sitting on my butt. You burn calories just being a live person, so my reasoning was that if I was lazy and did nothing how many calories could I eat and still loose weight (I burn about 1800-1900 calories doing nothing). So, with that information and plan for the last 16 weeks, the very minimum of what I’ve been doing is the following:
Eating about 750 calories less than I burn each day. Losing weight is about what goes in your mouth, period. In the beginning, if I couldn’t count it, I didn’t eat it. So, that meant that I ate a frozen meal some nights when I fixed something else for the rest of the family. But, to get started, I had to be strict about counting calories until I learned and until I took control of my habits and was more confident.
Making sure that those calories are a balance of 40% carb (no more than 150grams a day), 30% fat, 30% protein (not exact, but around that and I shoot for that) with as much raw veggies as I want (which admittedly is not much. No fruit for me b/c I don’t like fruit, but it is also sugar and affects my A1C which I’m trying to control) and some cooked veggies if I need to fill out my plate (example, Cracker Barrel carrots). Nutritional balance is key to losing weight safely and to keeping it off. This is something I missed in the past as I did the no-carb thing and dropped a ton, but it came back with a vengeance because no-carb was not something I could realistically maintain, and the no-carb made me irritable and moody because the brain needs carbs. You do have to be patient and know the stages of how weight drops (8 in the first week, and then be satisfied with a pound a week, but you will more likely keep it off losing it slow and maintaining a balance in your nutritional chemistries). Balance also helps me avoid malnutrition that can cause my hair to fall out and other problems. I also don’t deprive myself because if I do that then my brain starts to freak out and I might binge. So, if my sister sends over homemade tea cookies, I eat two of them. If the kids want to order pizza on Friday, I find that out earlier in the day so that I can watch what I eat the rest of the day then control my portion. I am just sure to log anything and balance it with what else I eat. But balancing and eating normal portions are habits that I shouldn’t have to think about and one day I hope that I won’t have to.
Drinking at least the recommended amount of water. I drink more than that because I like water, but I also drink a basic store-bought low-calorie protein drink to bump up my protein without adding fat or many calories. This helps me keep my percentages balanced and avoid malnutrition.
In the very least, walking for 30 minutes four days a week. I stress “in the very least”. I started out walking 20-30 minutes on the treadmill (I’m lucky to have a great treadmill, so I wasn’t embarrassed to be outside trying to exercise or at a gym. Plus, if it took a lot of effort, I just wasn’t going to do it, so the treadmill in the garage left me with no excuses). Now I try to exercise enough to burn about 2500-2800 calories total at least five days and keep the exercise within an hour. As the weight has been coming off and as I’ve been able to fit back into my sports bra, I’ve been able to do more within that hour, but still if I just feel lazy or if my time is really crunched, I will walk 30-45 minutes. (The point still being to burn more than I eat and to maintain some kind of activity daily. Some weekends that has come in the form of cleaning the house or whatever, my fitbit calculates that activity the same as exercise if my heart-rate is up.) My main issue with exercising is the time it takes (including driving to a gym or a trail, then getting cleaned up and ready for the day). I had to set a low goal of activity in a day so that I would not find an excuse to avoid it. It could not take away from things I needed/wanted to get done. And, whatever I’m doing, I cut it off at an hour (except the during the quarantine, we’ve gone on long walks etc.) so that exercise doesn’t rule my day and becomes a habit within my lifestyle not overtake it.
Watching “My 600-lb Life” for motivation and to satisfy my obsessive nature. I love to settle down at night watching TV. So, I filled that habit with 600. I originally started watching it so that it would gross me out (sorry, not meaning to be offensive, but it just is) and make me want to reverse my course, but I have learned so much about food addiction through this show (not necessarily always on the show, but it drove me to read more about it - that’s part of my compulsive nature). I heard my own excuses so many times from the participants, and how the doctor and therapists worked with them (not every season, early on, this season is trash). It was a mental eye-opener and has helped me view my “relationship with food” (as they say on the show) a little differently and try to recognize triggers and habit controllers.
So, that’s it. It’s not sexy, it’s not trendy, it’s not impressive, it’s not interesting, it’s not buying fancy product or equipment, but it’s been working for me so far. And, it’s not even fun, but I just want it to be neutral, just a normal day. I have been weening myself off the diabetes medicine for several weeks now, so it will be interesting to see if that changes anything, if my body starts to hoard insulin again and I gain.
Technically, even another 30 doesn’t get me out of the obesity range, I would still be 15 pounds away from breaking into the top end. It’s doubtful that I could get there because I weigh heavy, I am very dense. But, I won’t be so concerned with a number on the scale by then, more of a bloodwork watch to stay off medicine for anything as long as I can.
Happy Health! I will report again in 20-30 weeks…. but only if I’ve met my goal weigh