Friday, January 22, 2010

What Works for Me

By Beth Andrews

While I don’t consider myself any sort of expert, I have had quite a bit of experience with dieting, exercising and healthy living. I was overweight as a child, and it seems as if my whole life has revolved around food. In kindergarten I asked my teacher if she had skim milk because I was on a diet and didn’t want the 2% milk that came with snack time. In fourth grade, I joined a national weight loss program and lost 20 lbs. The program was one where no carbs were allowed so naturally, as soon as I was off the plan, all the weight, plus some extra, came right back on.

At thirteen, I decided to lose the weight for good. Unfortunately, to make that happen, I drastically cut calories. It worked, I lost 65 lbs. I managed to maintain a healthy weight throughout my teens through somewhat sensible eating and a moderate amount of exercise.

And then, I got pregnant. Honestly, you’d have thought someone had just given me the keys to the food kingdom! Telling myself I was eating for two, I ate. And ate. And ate! And gained a whopping 75 lbs. But this time when I lost it, I was older and wiser. Instead of cutting back on all food, I cut back on foods with high fat content and I exercised daily. It took over a year, but the weight came off. More importantly, I’d learned my lesson and was able to keep my weight at a healthy level through my other two pregnancies.

As a matter of fact, my weight stayed the same for years. So you can imagine my surprise when I gained weight again. Telling myself a few pounds weren’t bad, I ignored it, and avoided getting on the scale. It wasn’t until my nice stretchy jeans became tight that I forced myself back onto the scale. Only to discover I’d somehow put on 15 lbs.

Here we go again. Now, to tell you the truth, at that point in my life, I’d had enough of watching what I ate and worrying over single calorie, but I knew that even losing 10 lbs would make me healthier so I made a few adjustments. I’m down those 10 lbs, and I know I’ll lose another 5 if I just keep working at it.

I thought I’d share some of the things that DID and DID NOT work for me:

What DID work:

Amping up my workouts. While I was doing okay with my workouts, to really help my heart health and drop those extra pounds, I need to push myself. Instead of 30 minutes of moderately paced walking, I now alternate a few minutes of jogging with a few minutes of walking and I’m working on increasing my time until I’m jogging for a full 3 miles.

Lifting weights. I love resistance training, but it’s so easy to tell yourself you don’t have time, that cardio workouts are more important (at least, that’s what I used to tell myself). But I see the biggest difference in my body when I do both cardio and resistance training.

My workouts, my way. I live in Northwestern Pennsylvania which means that for at least half the year, the weather outside is frightful. And while some people don’t let a little thing like snow or below freezing temps keep them from their daily walk or run outside, I’m not one of them *g*. I stay inside and walk/run on my treadmill while watching DVDs. And while I love weight training videos, I get bored easily so I’ve started listening to my iPod while following the routines.

What DIDN’T work:

Deprivation. I’m a big believer in “Everything in moderation”. I’m not sure if it’s because of my history with dieting or what, but I refuse to give up the foods I love. I love to cook so I always make a big dinner on Sunday nights, complete with dessert. And I allow myself to enjoy that dinner and a little bit of dessert as long as I: a.) don’t go overboard (no seconds, no large helpings) and b.) don’t eat that dessert any other day during the week. That means if there’s leftover chocolate cake on Monday, it’s off limits to me. I think it works because I know that in one short week, I’ll be having another (small) amount of dessert again *g*

Diet foods. Because I already eat a low-fat diet, I knew there was something else keeping me from losing weight. Sugar. When I decided to cut back on my sugar intake, I knew I’d have to alter how much Pop (soda pop *g*) I drank. I’d rather drink regular pop than diet so at first, I cut back the amount I was having daily (and yes, I drank pop daily) then I cut it back even more, then I completely cut it out a few times a week. I’m now at the point where I have No Sugar days twice a week—that means for those two days I eat only foods with no added sugar. I’m looking to add a third No Sugar day to my week soon. I’ve also discovered added sugars in some of the foods I’d considered ‘healthy’ before such as certain whole grain crackers. I believe watching for added sugars and amping up my cardio workouts are the two biggest reasons I was able to drop those 10 lbs.

Hating my body. I used to worry so much about what I looked like, I totally ignored every other reason to eat right and exercise…such as being healthy. Now that I’m (like I said earlier *g*) older and wiser, I realize just how wonderful my body is! I love working out because it makes me feel strong and energized, and I truly do love most foods that are good for me such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It’s much easier to make healthy choices because I want to live a long, happy and healthy life and as this is the only body I’ll get, I want to take the best care of it.

What have you found works best for you to keep you on track? Any long-standing belief that others swear by that just doesn’t cut it for you?


Tawny on January 22, 2010 at 4:57 AM said...

Beth, you are so inspiring! I love your advice, especially the 'do's'

I'll admit, I'm quick to forget that weights are so vital to both weight-loss and health. I'm definitely going to add in a few weight sessions each week to the 25 crunches I'm trying to do each day!!

Michelle Butler on January 22, 2010 at 9:14 AM said...

Beth, this was so helpful! Thank you for sharing. I agree with your do's and don'ts as well - and it's a great reminder for me.

To get the benefits of exercise, I really need to amp up my cardio workouts too so I really raise my heartrate. While I enjoy walking, I don't consider it working out anymore. I need to do more.

I have a love/hate relationship with strength training. For years, it bored me out of my mind and always felt like a waste of time - or worse, something that would make me bigger/weigh more. I'm still not sure about the latter, but I started in mid-May or June going to a strength training class (body pump) regularly through mid-October. Nothing has done mroe to make me smaller. I lost more than 10 inches in that time period. I stopped going in mid-October when I was carless for a few weeks, and I've not gone back to that class since (many cardio ones though). I've been playing with the idea of going back, and I think you pushed me over the top.

Yesterday, there was a profile on Denise Austin in the Washington Post. One of the most interesting things she said was that strength training was the most important step you could take against the aging process - you can't "droop or sag when you're tight" from lifting weights. See:

There was also several other side articles such as her 30-minute workout, 12 ways to make water more interesting, etc.

Avoiding feelings of deprivation, eating real food as opposed to processed/diet food, and working on my body image are also things I really try to work on. Thanks again for such an inspiring post.

Sally Kilpatrick on January 22, 2010 at 9:17 AM said...

What a wonderful post! Like you, I've discovered that the best results come from a combination of cardio and weights. You did give me the idea of having that dessert once a week. My problem is that once I get started, I can't seem to stop. Maybe if I institute no sugar days, though it will help curb that wanton desire for all things sugar.

Great "food" for thought!

Beth on January 22, 2010 at 11:35 AM said...

Thanks, Tawny! I'm all about taking changes one day at a time. Yay for you on the 25 crunches a day! I need to go back to doing my The Firm dvds for weight training. They really work *g*

Beth on January 22, 2010 at 11:43 AM said...

Hi, Michelle! Before I started jogging, I used a heartrate monitor when I walked which made me really push myself. Have you ever worn one? I need to dig mine back out just to make sure I'm working hard enough *g*

I'm trying to kick up my weight training. My son has been doing the Power 90 DVDs and I plan on starting them next week. But like you, I get bored with it so I might have to scope out my local YMCA and see if there are any classes. Being with other people working out always motivates me.

Thank you so much for the link the article about Denise Austin! Now I really want to get 'firmed' up!!

Beth on January 22, 2010 at 11:45 AM said...

Thanks, Sally!

I have that problem with peanut M&Ms! I don't want to stop after a handful *g* If I'm feeling weak, I'll simply count out 8 - 10 then put the bag away.

And honestly, it's easier for me to get through my no sugar days and the other days when I don't allow myself sweets since I know I'll be eating dessert on Sunday :-)

Michelle Butler on January 22, 2010 at 12:45 PM said...

I got a heartrate monitor for Christmas from a friend of mine who runs regularly. I need to figure out how to use it.

Beth on January 22, 2010 at 2:34 PM said...

Michelle, mine wraps around my chest (under my bra) and sends the info to a watch-like device. I really like it but I always get out of the habit for some reason. Need to add that to my list of good habits this year :-)

Beth on January 22, 2010 at 6:46 PM said...

Thanks so much for having me at the Healthy Writer today! Hope you all have a fantastic weekend :-)

Michelle Butler on January 22, 2010 at 8:04 PM said...

Beth, you and I can both add the heartrate monitor to our good habits this year. One of the reasons I like gym classes so much is they always push me more than I push myself. Perhaps the heart rate monitor can help me push myself more.

Thank you so much for hanging out at Healthy Writer today! I really enjoyed it and hope you did too.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on January 22, 2010 at 11:11 PM said...

Beth, wonderful post. Sorry I'm so late in responding -- was either on the road or in meetings until nearly 10 p.m. Thanks for guesting with us and sharing your experiences.

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