Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Workout Wednesday: "It Works for Me!"

So often when we decide to start losing weight/getting in shape, we start the hunt for the latest and greatest "thing" that will help us do it.  We google diets that have worked for other people. We buy book after book after book. We figure that if it worked for that friend/that celebrity/that coworker...then of course it is going to work for us too.

And, of course, we are disappointed when it doesn't.

Now that I am so close to my goal weight, I have a lot of people wanting to know how I did it in the hope that maybe I latched onto some magical secret that might help them too.   The reality is that what I did may not work for anyone else.  But it is what worked for me.  And it certainly wasn't magic.  All it took was discovering the secrets that released me from how I had been thinking in the past.   It also meant I had to be open to doing what it took once I knew what would work for me.  Much of weight loss is simple math and can be figured out on a basic phrase: Eat less. Move more.  For me - I had years of faulty programming to debug (pardon the tech terms - 'tis the world I live in)

First, I needed a mantra.  
I didn't even realize I needed it, but once I stubled on it - it made all the difference to cleaning up my programming.   For me, it ended up being the title of a book: Secrets of a Former Fat Girl.   I had gotten a bookstore Gift Card for Christmas and I decided to spend it in support of my new years resolution.  2010 was going to be the year I lost weight.  On Boxing Day, I headed into the diet book section and this one almost leapt into my hand (surprising, too, since it has a great deal of pink on it).   I liked the idea of being a "Former Fat Girl".  Even now - 50lbs later, I find I get through the harder times or the times when I need to reset and get back on track...I have found what works for me.

Next - I needed a workout I could be consistent with.

I have a nice little home gym and over the last 10 years, I've used it in bursts and stops (The stops have usually been longer than the bursts).   If I was going to reach my goal of being a "Former Fat Girl", I was going to need a physical activity that I could do consistently and I had to enjoy it enough to stick to it.   We had a stationary bike and the workout room has a TV and DVD player so my thinking eventually led me to this decision: I would buy an entire TV series on DVD to watch while I biked.  The unbreakable deal I made with myself, though, was that I wasn't allowed to watch it UNLESS I was riding that bike!  Making that deal unbreakable is what eventually got me exercising consistently.  AND ENJOYING IT!   Each episode of Felicity (the series I started with) was 45 minutes long...and I wanted to watch an episode every day once I got into the storyline again.  

Eventually, of course, I stumbled into a love of running...but my TV and Biking thing holds strong.  I still really enjoy it.  Most importantly, it has made me want to exercise consistently for over a year and half!   No more bursts and stops - I have found what works for me. 

(a side note - if I had to rely on running alone for weight loss - I'd never lose a pound.   Most of my loss has come from eating less and biking. Most of my runs just aren't long enough to burn much fat.)

Then, there was the diet thing.
I needed to eat less. And drink less. And snack less. I had spent all of the days since the birth of my twins eating so much and forgiving myself by saying "My body needs it so I can feed my babies!".  Even as the scale crept up and my pant size along with it - I was still telling myself this.  When I stepped on the scale and saw that number that started with a two - enough was enough.  I needed a diet and it wasn't going to be a diet I could find in any book.  Well - except one.  A food journal.   I bought myself a shiny new food journal the same day I bought that Former Fat Girl book.  My decision was that I was going to give myself a calorie allowance and try to roughly stick to it.   As long as i was breatsfeeding, I needed to still eat more than a normal dieter...but nowhere what I had been snarfing in a day.  I decided that 2000 calories a day seemed generous enough for what my daughters would need but low enough that I should see results.  And I certainly started to see those results quickly.  between Jan 1 and Feb 15 - I lost 15lbs.  By the time the start of April hit, I was down 20!.  All of it was due to my concentrating on just staying "around" 2000 calories a day.  I wrote everything down and when I was around 2000 calories - I stopped.  Every day. 

It was around this time that I had to rethink that calorie allowance.  My losses had slowed considerably when my milk dried up.   My body just wasn't using the calories to make milk anymore...and without that need - I certainly didn't need the calories.  I dropped my allowance down to around 1500 a day.   Sure, my stomach snarled at me for a few days, but eventually it got used to it and the pounds started to melt away again.   By the end of April, I was down 30lbs!   After that, I was training for my first half and the losses slowed dramatically.  It took me until October to lose another 10.   Frustrating. 

Then, after I ran that first half...I gave myself a bit too much freedom during recovery.  Ignoring what my TNT coach had said about how a runner can gain a lot of weight in their abdomen if they aren't careful after an endurance event - I was soon up 10lbs and it was all in my stomach!   Ugh!

Enter 2011.  I had 28lbs to go.   It was gonna come off this year, come hell or high water!  

I bought a new journal and started to write everything down..but it was dragging me down.  My written journal had served me well in the early days, but it now felt like math and I'm more of a calculator girl.  One of the bloggers I had just started to follow had a post about how he used the iPhone app "Lose It" with great success. (They also have a free tracker online for all users). The way he talked about it made it seem so easy!  I checked to see if it worked on the iPod Touch and within minutes, I was up and running with this free app!   I started to see results within days - the weight started to come off again, as long as I stuck to what it told me I had as a calorie allowance.  Same concept as my written journal - but this gave me the ability to see how my workouts affected what I could eat each day.   As I started logging my new lower weights, the app could adjust my calorie allowance so I could still see progress.   It also gave a date to look at so I could see how if I kept losing at the same rate - I could be at my goal by a certain date!  It was so cool!

By the start of April this year, I was down to only needing to lose the last 10lbs!  And then I went to Mexico.  All inclusive buffets.  Desserts tempting me at every turn.  A bag of guacamole the size of my head from Walmart!  I'm amazed that in 2 weeks I only gained 3 lbs!  Guess that's where being vegetarian helped - it's hard to overeat (much) when there is hardly any food you CAN eat!  I tried to keep tracking while I was away, but found that the absense of preparing my own food meant I couldn't really identify how much of anything I was snarfing.  So I only loosely tracked.  Unfortunately - it made it harder for me to get back to regularly tracking when we got home again.

I stayed loose at the tracking for the next month or so.   Not enough to derail me - I always had my eye on the prize, but I was seriously plateaued!   If I didn't do something - and soon - I was going to start gaining again.   Once I had my new Blackberry, Lose It was no longer a mobile option.  So - I checked out My Fitness Pal (which DOES have a BB app - and an online tracker, as well) and found it was really similar, though has far more pre-entered foods (and many Canadian-specific restaurant foods).  So - now I have reset myself again and am using this app now.   Last week was the first week and I am already down 1.5lbs!   For now, I have found what works for me!

Do you see the theme throughout my LONG tale?  I was always on the hunt for what worked for me.   I may have read and researched what worked for others, but I had to always be honest with myself and adapt each thing to fit who I was.   It was this little adjustment that made my weight loss uniquely my own.  No one was telling me what to eat and when.  How hard I needed to work out or how often.  I was always in control and my tracking made it so I could always clearly see when I was slacking off in any department.

In the end - long term success will only come from doing what works for you.   It may take a while to get honest with yourself and hunt down what it is, but when you do the successes will follow!  Don't forget to celebrate them in a way that works for you too!

Have you found what works for you, yet?  Share it in the comments!  I'd love to hear about it!


  1. What a great idea to watch a TV show on DVD while riding your bike! I "get" that! So much so, the wheels are turning in my head right now!

    This is a great post, and actually the first one I've read by you (found you on the Circle of Moms list!). I love that you just kept finding what worked, rather than saying..."this doesn't work anymore, so I'm done!"

    Right now, I'm in a transition of finding what works now that one of my kids is outgrowing my double jogger. Or rather, I no longer get a kick out of pushing 100lbs of stroller and kid!

  2. OK, so I feel weird, like maybe I"m stalking you. But it's possible you changed my life. I read your post yesterday morning. I found an exercise bike - in great shape, but not all that i want - for $15 on Craigslist. Today, I worked out watching the first episode of Lost on Netflix. I think I am in love! Thank You!

  3. :D I'm so glad that something I wrote helped you. Lemme tellya - it is definitely amongst my favourite workouts! I have cycled through 4 seasons of Felicity, 4 seasons of Sliders and I am now on season 2 of Gossip Girl! For an added boost - after each season - I would bump up the intensity settings on the bike :)


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