Resources that helped me lose weight

09/05/2012 at 1:44 pm | Posted in weight loss | 4 Comments
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We’ve arrived at the final post of my little weight-loss series. The one where I list every single resource that helped me. Not those I tried and ditched. The ones that really (really) helped.

Here we go!

MyFitnessPal.com >> I can’t say enough good stuff about MyFitness Pal. When I joined, it asked me how much I wanted to lose and how quickly. Then it set me up with a daily calorie goal. And boom. I logged my meals every single day from December to June, when I finally broke up with MFP after hitting my goal and wanting to venture out into the calorie-counting world on my own.

Little did I know I’d lose 10 more pounds. And it’s because of the mindset that resulted from using MFP every single day for seven straight months: consume fewer calories than you burn. Simple math, right?

Now I generally know the calorie range for every meal I eat, and I keep track without even really knowing I’m doing it. Yes, there were frustrating days when I just didn’t feel like deconstructing a turkey sandwich or a massive salad. But once you do it one time, it saves your entry for future reference. One word of warning: many of the meals in MFP are posted by fellow users, so the calorie counts can range pretty drastically. So I’d usually just try to log an average, if all else failed.

I love you, MFP! Always will.

CalorieKing.com >> Another awesome app that really came in handy while eating out. You can look up pretty much any food brand, restaurant chain or type of food. CalorieKing and MyFitnessPal should date. They’re that good together.

BMI Calculator >> This really helped me understand a healthy weight range to aim for. There are a ton of calculators online. I just used this one because it always popped up first in a Google search.

The Mayo Clinic Diet >> My mom gave me this book at the beginning of my journey, and for that I will always be grateful. It was my bible. It starts with a realistic “get going” plan, and details everything from portion sizes to “good” fats. I actually read it cover to cover at night before bed (occasionally sniffing the pages because hello new textbook smell), then dog-eared the pages I’d need most. Highly, highly recommend.

Fix-It and Enjoy-It Healthy Cookbook >> So many good recipes! With calorie counts! Also? Spaghetti pie. Enough said.

Cooking Light magazine >> Easy, delicious recipes, gorgeous photos, and a realistic, healthy approach to some of my favorite “splurge” meals, like mac and cheese, hamburgers and pizza. I heart Cooking Light.

Allrecipes.com >> Huge recipe database with a “light” version of pretty much any dish you can dream up.

YOU GUYS >> I’m serious. I could not have done this without you. My cheerleaders, advice-givers, foodies, humorists. All-around kick-ass readers. Thank you. A million times over.

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How I burned off 40 pounds

09/04/2012 at 10:04 am | Posted in weight loss | 5 Comments
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{Squeezing Sophie after a workout. She doesn’t mind if mama stinks.}

Did you think I’d gone missing? Sorry about that. I lost my blogging mojo for a few days. And I also decided to interpret Labor Day weekend as “be lazy weekend.” I needed it. Hope you understand.

Sooooo … back to the weight loss series. Today’s topic? Exercise. Which used to be a four-letter word in my mind. But now I love it. Truly. If I’ve gone a few days without moving my body, I find myself itching to do something … walk, run, dance, anything.

I grew up playing team sports — swimming, basketball, water polo — and loved every minute of it. Those practices, matches and games hardly felt like exercise because they were so much fun. I formed lasting friendships, stayed in shape and got to travel. Most days, it didn’t feel like work. Except for those wind-sprint punishment basketball practices. Or swim-a-mile-before-water-polo-practice-even-begins. But even then, one of my teammates was sure to get us cracking up. Put a bunch of girls together and silliness just happens.

Once I graduated college and got out into the world, I lost the motivation to exercise. Jogging alone just wasn’t fun. Swimming laps was boring. And don’t even get me started on the gym. I am definitely not a gym rat.

So I gained weight and my body changed and then I had babies, and well, the rest is history.

It took a concerted effort for me to decide in the middle of this past winter to do something physical to get my body back. I started small. When Lily was in dance class on Saturday mornings, I’d bundle up and power-walk the hills around her studio. While the girls napped, I dusted off an old aerobic step and worked out in front of the TV. To mix it up, I would climb the stairs in our house while they slept. Up and down. Up and down. I know this sounds incredibly tedious, but as a mother, I’ve come to REALLY enjoy time alone. I don’t need the social motivation to exercise any more. Thirty minutes to myself, no matter what I’m doing, is divine.

So I walked. And then I signed up for the Cooper River Bridge Run. And that motivated me to try jogging. I ran until it hurt too much, then I walked some more. My favorite workout now is a walk/run. I pace myself with the songs on my iPhone. Walk two, run three. Or on other days, it can be walk four, run one.

I also focus on strength-training a couple of days a week, in the form of sit-ups, push-ups and some work with weights (to get rid of that under-arm waddle). I read somewhere that building your core is really what sustains your metabolism. Plus, I’ve also noticed that my back stopped hurting and I generally feel stronger. Perhaps I should add lifting a 25-pound baby to the list of core exercises? Hmmm.

The bottom line is I don’t set hard rules for myself. I make goals, but mostly, I just follow my body’s lead.

And it works.

I try to exercise three days a week, but lately with the heat of summer and lack of routine, I’m lucky to squeeze in two workouts. I can feel it, though. I need to get moving again. My body craves it.

I’m hoping to take better advantage of my lunch hour when the weather cools off. I work on a beautiful university campus with lots of great paths just begging to be walked. And once the DVR fills back up with fall shows, I’ll be better about naptime stepping (sans hot pink leotard and 80s aerobic video hair).

What are your favorite workouts? Have you tried any of those new-fangled workout DVDs (that frighten me)? Any tips on indoor naptime workouts?

It's not you. It's me.

06/28/2012 at 1:30 pm | Posted in me, weight loss | 13 Comments
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Dear MyFitnessPal,

I think it’s time we take a break. We’ve been hot and heavy for SEVEN STRAIGHT MONTHS, but I just can’t take any more logging. Deconstructing of meals. Trying to figure out fractions, ounces, grams.

It’s not you. It’s me.

I’ve lost more than 30 pounds. I’m healthy, happy and accustomed to a new lifestyle. I couldn’t have done it without you, of course. You kept me on my toes. Challenged me to log every single piece of food I’ve put in my mouth since December. Taught me everything I know about calories — how many I can eat without gaining weight, how many actually are in that restaurant salad I used to think was so healthy.

You encouraged me. Announced my victories. Made me so much more aware.

Like a little personal dietician tucked in my back pocket.

But it’s time for me to try this on my own.

I know I can do it. I went on vacation without you last week and managed to splurge without suffering for it. I ate fried shrimp, homemade pimento cheese and ice cream (not in one sitting!), but I knew to take it easy on other meals. And I exercised. It felt amazing to step on the scale a week later and discover that I hadn’t gained an ounce.

I’m ready to try this on my own.

But I know you’ll be there. Ready to welcome me back with open arms if I slip up. I might especially need you to be my date to the State Fair this fall. And I might booty call you as the holidays approach, because it’s difficult for me to avoid these or these.

Stay strong, MyFitnessPal. You won’t miss me for long. Millions of others are counting on you.

xoxo,
Suzanne

Happiness is: fitting into my clothes

03/25/2012 at 9:54 pm | Posted in Happiness is | 12 Comments
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I climbed up into the attic with a pit in my stomach and found the big blue bin. The one with my warm-weather clothes. Most of which haven’t fit in a couple of years.

Of course the last time it was warm, I had just given birth to a baby and had no intention of wearing anything but my stretchy pants all summer. But then I started back to work in August and nothing fit. Nothing. I shopped for a few end-of-season sale pieces at Old Navy and wore them on repeat.

So today when I reached for a short-sleeved top that practically cut off my circulation the last time I pulled it over my head, I held my breath and slipped it on. IT FIT. With a little bit of room to spare. Same goes for the shorts that wouldn’t button. The slacks that I couldn’t sit down in. If I could turn a cartwheel without injuring myself, I totally would have done it.

Elated is putting it lightly.

I’ve lost 22 pounds since Christmas, and I’m going for broke. My new target weight is a number that I haven’t seen on the scale since I can’t remember when.

Nine pounds to go!

Eating healthy: super-light veggie wrap

03/13/2012 at 10:32 am | Posted in mangia!, weight loss | 5 Comments
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healthy lunch

This lunch is one of my favorites — ridiculously low in calories, super yum and easy to eat at my desk.

It’s also pretty messy, so next time I’ll use whole wheat pita bread. A pocket will definitely hold all those veggies better than a tortilla shell. I stuffed it with lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers and a tablespoon of light honey dijon dressing.

I usually eat fruit at lunch rather than pickles, but I was seriously craving salt that day. And those little dills only have five calories each. Still should have brought an orange or an apple to satisfy the inevitable sweet craving.

And I used to hate baked chips. But after not eating them for years, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much the taste has improved. And there are so many more choices now.

But, baked cheetos? I’m not so sure about messing with perfection.

(My Fitness Pal says this meal has about 300 calories.)

17 pounds

02/23/2012 at 4:51 pm | Posted in weight loss | 24 Comments
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I haven’t been writing about something very big in my life. I’m afraid of jinxing myself.

But today is the day! Because I’m excited and it’s high time I share this with you guys.

I’ve lost 17 POUNDS since Christmas.

That’s almost a whole Sophie!

And much to my surprise, it’s been relatively simple. No crash diets. No cutting of my beloved carbs. Although I haven’t had a biscuit or a piece of fried chicken in two months. Even I can’t believe that little fact.

I really have my husband to thank. He met with a nutritionist right before the holiday, and ever since then, he’s a motivated man. Don’t even get me started on how much weight he’s lost. Probably more than 25 pounds by now. His pants are falling off him.

The neat thing about what we’re doing is that it’s going to stick. We’ve changed our lifestyle — some big adjustments, some small — with the plan that this is how things are going to be from now on. We’re eating out less, we’re more aware of calories, we’re buying mostly whole foods, we’re baking fish and chicken instead of frying them, and we only indulge in “real” sweets on occasion (the rest of the time, it’s fruit, frozen yogurt, low-cal cookies, trail mix).

It was difficult to get used to at first because I LOVE to eat in restaurants, I live on sweets, and baked meats with steamed veggies for dinner sounded so boring to me. But as the weeks pass, I realize my tastes are changing. Vegetables actually taste good (epiphany)! Moderating cheese and bread and sweets isn’t that hard. We’re not depriving ourselves, so I think that makes a big difference.

In fact, our little family goes out for pizza every Friday night. But we load up on salad (even Lily!) and eat only a couple of slices.

salad

This was my lunch the other day. No "diet" food in sight!

I’ve also stopped eating until I’m uncomfortably full. That never felt good anyway. And portion control has been really eye-opening. Until now I never knew a portion of meat was the size of a deck of cards. And a cheese portion is only a one-inch cube. Shoot, I used to eat a dozen cubes (with crackers) in a sitting.

I do miss cookies, though. And sweet tea. And cupcakes.

So I treat myself every now and then. And when I know I’m going to indulge a little, I just exercise that day or keep the rest of that day’s calories in check.

I walk a few times a week, and I have a little strength-training routine that I do while I watch TV. Before we began all this, I thought it would be impossible to squeeze exercise into my schedule. But it’s not. I use my lunch hours and the girls’ nap times. I do sit-ups before bed at night. I walk to the grocery store, often pushing one of the girls in the stroller.

My Fitness Pal is a wonderful app that’s helped me keep track of how many calories I’m consuming and burning. I also love Calorie King, especially when I’m trying to make healthy choices at restaurants. And I read The Mayo Clinic Diet cover to cover. It’s been a huge help.

My favorite foods right now are: Morningstar Farms spicy black bean patties (on whole wheat tortilla with salsa, lettuce, reduced-fat cheese and a bit of low-cal sour cream), Skinny Cow dreamy clusters and ice cream sandwiches (these little suckers are soooo good!), grilled fish, and eggs (I usually scramble one whole egg with one egg white). And my favorite breakfast is a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter and sliced banana. Protein really helps me stay full longer (which I thought was hooey until now.)

My goal weight is about 10 pounds away, and to stay motivated I picture myself fitting into shorts and a new swimsuit this summer. Once I hit the mark, I’ll still use these tools to maintain my weight. It’s so easy, especially with these apps, so I figure why not?

Above all, though, it’s so nice to feel good. Like, really good.

I don’t get winded after climbing a flight of stairs. I sleep better at night. I don’t cringe when I look in the mirror. And I hope I’m passing on to my girls the foundation for a healthy lifestyle and self-confidence.

I want them to love themselves much sooner than it’s taken me to do it.

Hiatus

12/02/2011 at 8:52 am | Posted in weight loss | 21 Comments
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The scale has become my worst enemy.

It confuses me, angers me, and mostly just makes me want to hurl it out a window.

I actually lost weight over Thanksgiving. Four pounds down by Sunday. And then, after a week of careful eating, moderate activity and generally healthy habits, those four pounds came right back. How? Why?

This might sound like a cop-out, but I’ve been reading a lot online about the effect of my PPD anti-depressant on weight gain. Turns out that many, many people experience significant weight gain on this particular medication, and some studies have shown that it slows metabolism and increases appetite. Great.

So, my dilemma: skinny and anxious or fat and happy?

I thought that cutting my dose in half would make a difference. I’ve been meaning to taper back down, now that I’m six months postpartum and feeling so good. It’s too soon to tell if this will change anything (in my mental health or otherwise).

And of course, I need to exercise. There is no excuse.

Oh, but there are excuses.

I just can’t justify getting up any earlier in the morning. Sophie is still waking every night, and the sleep deprivation is crushing. And in the evenings, there is no break in the pick-up-make-dinner-baths-books-bed routine. So that leaves my lunch hours. My precious lunch hours. The only time of the week that is exclusively for me. I don’t have to be a mommy or a wife or an employee. I get to call the shots. My favorite thing to do is sit with my book over a salad that I didn’t prepare.

I treasure those breaks, and I’m not ready to give them up.

But, without a way to exercise while I’m home with the kids (until we purchase a double stroller), this is it. I need to get out and move my body at lunchtime.

My goal is to start walking. I work on a college campus, so there are lots of sidewalks and plenty of good hills. I figure I can pound out a briskĀ  half-hour, then eat lunch at my desk.

In the meantime, I’m going to give myself a break here on the blog. No more Friday Weigh-Ins until the new year. I hope by then to be able to report on weight loss, exercise and feeling good about myself.

Because I don’t. Especially after seeing photos of myself from last night’s Posy launch party.

But I just can’t handle the stress (that I created for myself, go figure) of weekly weigh-ins.

You’ll still be here in January to cheer me on, right?

Friday weigh-in: the week of the bug

11/18/2011 at 9:25 am | Posted in weight loss | 4 Comments
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My new favorite photo of Sophie and me. Just because.

I lost two pounds this week!

But it feels like this little victory shouldn’t count. Because I owe it to a nasty stomach bug.

I wish I could say I’d been out exercising every day and eating only good stuff, but the truth is, I just haven’t been eating much at all because I’ve been feeling like crap.

True to form, though, I choose to focus on the silver lining (two pounds gone!) and will try to keep the downward trend going. Without the help of a bug, I hope.

The scale says: -2
Fried chicken count: 0
Exercise: Does running to the toilet count?
Highs: DroppingĀ  two pounds; discovering WhoNu? cookies (thanks, Amy).
Lows: The awful, awful bug. Also: spotting a size-zero mom with a weeks-old baby.
Moral victory of the week: Choosing trail mix over doughnuts at a meeting.
Moment of weakness: Indulging in a few too many comfort carbs.
Progress toward goal: 2 pounds down, 18 to go

How was your week? Has the dreaded stomach bug ripped through your world? I hope not.

Friday weigh-in: hello lover

11/11/2011 at 8:34 pm | Posted in me | 5 Comments
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milkshake

Say hello to my best friend and my worst enemy: the Chick-Fil-A peppermint chocolate chip milkshake.

A harbinger of Christmas. And oh so delicious (I’m cuckoo for most anything peppermint).

But it was my ONLY treat this week. And I’m proud of that. I brought my lunch to work, skipped dessert, drank not a single glass of sweet tea and took one good power walk (working on the exercise part). I also started taking Omega-3’s in an attempt to recover some brain cells.

I feel pretty good. Although I wish the scale (and my favorite corduroy pants) would agree. The good news: I didn’t gain this week. But I also didn’t lose. And I scratched the surface on some lifestyle changes that I hope will stick.

That’s progress, right? I’ll take it.

The scale says: 0 (no loss, no gain)
Fried chicken count: 0 (HOORAY)
Exercise: one power walk with lots of hills
Highs: changing my diet and not missing the bad stuff too much
Lows: discovering that none of my fancy clothes fit, and I have a wedding party next weekend
Moral victory of the week: no sweet tea! no fried chicken!
Moment of weakness: see above (with whipped cream and a cherry)
Progress toward goal: .4 lbs down, 19.6 to go

How was your week? What are the holiday foods you just can’t resist?

Friday weigh-in: square one

11/04/2011 at 1:12 pm | Posted in me | 13 Comments
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Halloween candyUm, how do I begin?

Let’s get the facts up front: I’m only four-tenths of a pound under my start weight. So, I’ve officially gained back the few pounds that I’d managed to lose. The state fair started my downward spiral. Then there was stadium food, bar food and road-trip food. Not to mention Halloween. And the fact that I haven’t exercised at all.

My family has been sick, which translates into sleep deprivation, which translates into mindless eating. I’ve been secretly hoping that my stress (work deadlines, hectic home life) would melt a pound or two. Yeah. Not so much.

Oookay. Now that I’m done placing blame and rattling off my excuses, here is where I make some changes.

Starting next week, I’m going to bring my lunch to work every day. I’m also going to quit the sweet tea. Again. And I’m going to get serious about exercise, even if only to bring my sneakers to work for a quick walk or two.

Don’t lose faith! I’ve only just begun.

The scale says: + 1.2 lbs
Fried chicken count:
1 (Chick-Fil-A, my nemesis)
Exercise: none
Highs: still (although barely) fitting into my clothes (does that count?)
Lows: the numbers on the scale this morning
Moral victory of the week: choosing nonfat Greek yogurt over a bag of M&Ms
Moment of weakness: too many to count
Progress toward goal: .4 lbs down, 19.6 to go

How was your week? Tell me … how do you keep things in moderation this time of year? My will power gets weaker as the holidays approach …

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