Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Numbers Don't Lie But They Don't Tell the Whole Story

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As of this morning, I have lost a total of 12lbs. Yay! But I know it's coming in a few days, I can feel it...the bane of every woman's dieting: that time of the month. One of the reasons that I started charting my daily weight was because I knew I would need encouragement when that time of the month arrived. Intellectually, I know that the weight I gain is water weight and that it will go away in a few days. However, on an emotional level, I all but plunge into a tailspin of despair when I see the increase on the scale.

The day I started my weight loss program, I decided that I would weigh myself each morning and chart the results on my Google calendar. If you click on the picture, you can see the results in black and white, or blue and white, but you get the idea. And yes, that's my real weight. The numbers with an asterisk indicate that it's that time of the month. Is counting calories and charting my daily weight worth all of the effort? The short answer is yes.

I swore I would never do Weight Watchers again. Why? Nothing pissed me off more than to attend the weekly meeting during that time of the month, pay my fee, step on the scale and see that I had gained a pound or two, and then feebly try to explain to the Weight Watchers coach while sounding like a guilty person trying to convince others of her innocence. This time, I decided that everything I knew about weight loss, I already learned in kindergarten. (Okay, not really.) I needed to count calories, cut calories, and exercise. And, more importantly, this time, I needed to realize that changing my attitude toward food had to be the main goal, not merely losing weight. Maybe some people learn all of this at Weight Watchers - kudos to you if you are - but I didn't.

I use this calorie calculator to help me determine the daily calories I need for weight loss and then zig zag those calories. I use a couple of calorie counters here and here to determine the calories in foods that don't come in packaging. Finally, I use a recipe calculator to determine calories for some of my favorite recipes. Don't get me wrong, counting calories is cumbersome, however, it gives me an enormous sense of control over what I can eat. I ate a cupcake this afternoon, and yes, I wrote it down in my daily calorie log. When I did Weight Watchers, I always felt guilty for something, whether it was that time of the month or the occasional splurge.

I am encouraged by the progress that I've made, but as the title suggests, the numbers don't tell the whole story. The numbers don't tell of the changes that I've made in my eating habits or the 3 miles of daily walking that I do four times per week. Also, the numbers don't tell of the daily devotionals that I read for encouragement and perseverance. They don't tell the whole story, but they are an indication that I have made some changes in my life. What a difference a dozen makes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Next Best Thing...Sort Of

I like to eat out. I like to go to a real restaurant - as opposed to a pizza or burger joint - preferably without the kids, and order a real meal cooked by someone else. However, I have two problems that impede my ability to eat out: 1) lack of funds, and 2) limited calories.

The lack of cash flow is a problem, but fortunately, I'm good at squeezing the most out of our budget. Unfortunately, that still doesn't translate into enough $$$ to go to a real restaurant. The Costco food court has gotten a lot of our business. Being on a weight loss program is also an issue. Fortunately, many restaurants post their menus online and list the calories of each dish. Unfortunately, many of these dishes are the same as or exceed my daily caloric intake. What to do, what to do.

While it may not be sheer genius or ├╝ber frugal, the solution we've come up with works for us and we don't feel completely deprived. We figured that if we wanted to eat something besides burgers and hot dogs then we could always buy prepared food. For example, last week, hubs and I were totally jonesin' for sushi. A real sushi restaurant was out of the question as it would run us $40 easy. So, we went to Costco (yeah, I know) and got a prepared sushi tray for $12.99. It wasn't restaurant quality, but the California rolls were pretty good and it was better than the "kid-friendly" food we normally get. We brought it home for lunch (he has Wednesdays and Thursdays off) and had a quiet, relaxing sushi lunch at home. I think this week would be a perfect time to head on over to Whole Foods to check out their prepared food offerings.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Most of All

So, I've lost 9.5lbs so far. Yay! I'm celebrating and pondering at the same time. Over the last month I've come to realize that what I want most of all, even more than losing weight, is to break my love/hate relationship with food. Addiction, obsession, whatever you want to call it, food has always been on my mind, whether it's thinking about what I'm going to eat next or thinking how much I don't want to eat because I don't want to gain weight. Whether I realized it or not, food has controlled me as evidenced by the fact that I engaged in mindless eating by turning to food to relieve my anxiety or stress.

So, I started this weight loss journey with a disciplined approach: I would consume 1000 calories per day and walk for 40 minutes per day, 4 times per week. I had a plan, I followed the plan, and three weeks into the plan, I realized it was all wrong. Why? Because it's the same plan I've followed before...and failed. Been there, done that as they say.

What brought about this revelation? If I said that God whispered in my ear, people might look at me funny, but I believe it's the truth. That gentle voice said, "What are you going to do when you reach a plateau? How many calories can you cut? How much more exercise can you do?" D'oh! I hate it when I'm wrong and I have to change my plan, but I realized that in order to make peace with food, I needed to rethink my attitude towards it. I am my own worst enemy; food is not the enemy. That's the key that I was missing. Although eating should be a pleasant experience, the primary role of food is to be fuel for our bodies not comfort for our bodies. If I'm still hungry after eating a meal, then something is seriously wrong.

Armed with this new insight, I decided to experiment with my daily caloric intake. I now eat between 1300 and 1600 calories per day and surprise surprise, I'm not hungry and I'm still losing weight. I feel content. I've also been reading about zig zagging - the process of adjusting your calories so that you're not eating the same amount each day. Presumably, this keeps your body guessing and your metabolism going, and it helps you to avoid those plateaus. That was my problem when I stuck to a rigid 1000 calories per day. We'll see if this works. If you are a believer, I'm going to ask that you pray for me. Pray that my primary desire remains changing my relationship with food. Thanks, and God bless.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BFD - January '11

It's the first BFD of the year and I thought I'd start off with something sweet and scrumptious...it's all downhill after this. :-) We're starting off the new year with

Stuffed chocolate croissants (aka "french toast croissants")
Apple-cinnamon breakfast risotto

I thought about doing stuffed french toast, but then I found the recipe for chocolate stuffed croissants. The croissants were a little spendy, but I was able to buy them at Costco for $5.99 for 12. That's not too bad. I used a mixture of semi-sweet chocolate chips and vanilla chips. Topped off with powdered sugar, these french toast croissants were yummy. They didn't have that eggy taste that french toast can have sometimes. My only complaint about this recipe is that I had alot of batter remaining. I followed the recipe and made 12 croissants, but I easily had enough batter leftover for 6 more. So, either I didn't soak the croissants enough in the batter or the recipe amounts were overgenerous. Since I like the way the croissants turned out, I think that the next time I make this I will cut the batter portion of the recipe in half. Aside from that, no complaints. This was almost like having dessert.

I make regular risotto both as a side dish and a main meal, so when I came across this recipe for Apple-Cinnamon Breakfast Risotto, I knew right away that I wanted to try it. Best of all, it's made in the crock-pot, so I didn't have to stir it for half an hour! Let me take a minute to make a plug for a crock-pot cookbook that I got for Christmas: The Crock-pot Recipe Collection. I search the internet for recipes but sometimes I get overwhelmed. I like having at my fingertips a collection of crock-pot recipes that has full color photos for about 95% of the recipes.

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OK, enough about that; on to the breakfast risotto. I used regular apple juice instead of the recommended unfiltered apple juice and light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar. I was not disappointed. Holy cow, this was delicious! If you're tired of your morning oatmeal, use this as a replacement. Rather than writing out the recipe, I took a picture of it. Just click on it to enlarge it. The recipe says to cook on High for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Maybe with unfiltered apple juice, I don't know, but I had to cook this for 3 hours. After 2 1/2 hours, I added an additional 1/2 cup of warm apple juice. I splurged and bought some dried cranberries and sliced almonds to top off my risotto. If you can buy these in bulk then you can purchase only what you need and it won't be that expensive. The recipe says that it makes 6 servings and I would go along with that if it's going to be your main meal. But, if you're serving this as a side dish, or as part of a larger breakfast (or dinner), then I would say it makes 8 maybe 10 servings. If you prep everything the night before and can manage to haul your backside out of bed at 3:00am to put all the ingredients in the crock-pot, then you will be rewarded with warm, apple-cinnamon yumminess for breakfast. If you can't get out of bed that early, then enjoy it for dinner.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Lost a Bag of Potatoes

I've lost 5.5lbs so far. Woo hoo! To be honest, part of me wants to jump up and down and celebrate because I do feel lighter and my clothes fit a little bit better. Another part of me wants to temper that celebration with a reminder: I still have a ways to go. I'm going to celebrate the small victory and here's why.

While grocery shopping on Saturday evening, I got the idea to pick up a 5lb bag of potatoes. On the one hand, it wasn't very heavy. On the other hand I thought, "I wouldn't want to carry this around the grocery store." Yet that's exactly what I had been doing prior to losing 5lbs.

I'm a visual and a hands-on learner, so picking up a bag of potatoes helped me to understand just how much 5lbs is and what it feels like. Just for fun (I need a life), I went to the baking aisle and picked up a 5lb bag of flour. Yup, it still felt like 5lbs just not as lumpy. It's only 5lbs, but it's 5lbs that I'm no longer carrying around. It's a start.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Motivation and Accountability

"What is necessary is never unwise." Sarek to Spock, Star Trek 2009

In a recent holiday post, I mentioned in passing that I could stand to lose a few pounds. Since I never make New Year's resolutions, I decided that I would casually start my weight loss program on December 28th - the day before my birthday. Why wait for the new year to start the fun? In previous weight loss attempts, I have been successful; and by 'successful' I mean that I've lost the weight that I wanted to lose only to regain it again. Losing weight is the easy part. Keeping the weight off is the hard part. I needed a little encouragement and motivation and it came on New Year's Day in the form of this article on CNN Belief Blog.

After reading the article, I had to admit that a large part of my problem (no pun intended) is that I simply don't pay attention to what or how much I'm eating. Another part of my problem is that I eat on a schedule rather than wait for that rumbly in my tumbly. In times of stress I turn to food instead of God. Finally, I don't exercise enough. I decided that these things needed to change, so...

  1. I'm paying attention to what I eat by writing down what I eat and adding up the calories in a spreadsheet. Good old fashioned calorie counting.
  2. I'm waiting for my stomach to growl rather than feeding it to prevent the growl.
  3. I'm reading a daily devotional for dieters, as well as other inspirational reading at Proverbs 31 Ministries.
  4. I'm walking for at least 40 minutes a day with a pedometer.

Now, all of this is fine and good, but since it's so easy to lie to myself, I also decided that I needed some accountability. First, I've connected with friends who share my faith and have similar weight loss goals. Next, I weigh myself every morning and chart the results on my calendar. A little obsessive? Maybe, but I need to see the numbers in black and white. I bought an Omron pedometer that measures steps, moderate steps, calories burned, and distance walked. Having this pedometer has really been an eye-opener. You can see the results of this morning's walk in the pictures. Today I walked 2.51 miles, 5541 steps, 5439 moderate steps, and burned 289 calories in 44 minutes. I know, only 289 calories. Suddenly those extra cookies don't seem worth the effort of 44 minutes of moderate walking. On the bright side, I've lost 3lbs so far. The fun is just beginning.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Silence

Can you hear it? I know, me neither. The sweet sound of silence. Bliss. The kids went back to school today and for the first time in two weeks I can actually hear myself think. I'm drinking my coffee and writing out my to-do list without any interruptions. Joy! I love my kids, I really do, but two weeks of rainy winter vacation nearly sends me over the edge.

It's not as though they spend their vacation constantly fighting. Honestly, they don't interact very much. However, their constant presence in the house raises the energy level and the noise level. Also, when my youngest son is at home, it is next to impossible trying to accomplish household chores because he requires a level of assistance that my older son does not. So, each vacation day is a balancing act trying to fulfill his needs and doing my chores.

Believe it or not, summer vacation is not nearly as bad as winter vacation. During the summer there is a constant flow of activities to keep them occupied. The sunny summer weather means that my oldest will be outside playing with friends. Oh well, can't think of that now. I'll just finish my coffee and enjoy the first day of school in the new year. Happy New Year!

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