A Weight Loss Maintenance Guide for Women

It’s been four months since I hit my goal weight. The scariest part for those of us that have accomplished this feat is to stick to the program of healthy living and manage against a body that would like nothing more than to go back to business as usual. In reality, its not the body, its us. We want those cookies at the office gathering. We want the extra slice of flatbread pizza when out with friends. We have days when staying on the couch watching yoga seems much more inspiring that actually doing yoga.

On the other hand, the fear can lead you to some pretty crazy things. For example, I hit 110.5 a couple weeks ago when my period was kicking in. Normally, this bloating would drop right off when things finally got flowing. Instead, Those 2 pounds lingered a couple days freaking me out. I was convinced it was poor eating and a little lightening of the intensity when running. My response was to get back on the program, cut back my calories and step up the speed on the treadmill. A week later, I get on the scale this morning and I’m at 106.8. Oops! Shaved off a little more than I should have.

It makes me take stock of my approach and if how I’m looking at things is right. What can I do that keeps me where I should be while  not getting so neurotic and get unhealthy habits?

  1. Keep body image in check. While at 110, which is my benchmark not to cross, I still look good in my skinny jeans and leggings. I don’t need to wear a tunic to cover my butt while in them. I don’t feel like my clothes are tight, even work clothes that have no lycra in the fabric. The only thing I notice is that the little crinkly skin above my belly button from three kids and loss of the 60 pound fat baby isn’t there, but is when I’m 108. I still have the image I was seeking when I started this journey.
  2. Think in terms of cycles. I weigh in daily when not traveling. It’s my analyst self that is great for my job and carried over into my chubby girl journey with a vengeance. But I love it because I have a place to review, cheer or correct. Looking at my weight over four months I can clearly see when I am coming into my period and when it leave me. I also see my ovulation days. I fluctuate about 3 pounds from 107 to 110. The past month of a little slowness to release the extra pounds was probably nothing and I could have just given it another day or two. If it stayed for a week or two, that should have been my wake up call.
  3. Check my zones. My runs keep me in my aerobic zone (75% – 85% intensity). They are a bit more intense in that zone if I run outside because of hills and more resistance from the ground. But, my treadmill with some speed and incline adjustments is doing me fine. When I popped up the speed this week, I was much more in the anaerobic zone which gets me nothing and actually added more aches and was less fun as I had to psych myself for 30 minutes. It made me dread the run. I’m going back to my good aerobic zone where I enjoy running and don’t have to pop ibuprofen.
  4. Balance macros and micros. I started treating calories equally over the past month and saw a trend of more fat, sugar, and carbs from bread and pasta. While my calorie intake was still well within the range of where maintenance mode should be, the quality of the food was degrading. This is what was probably causing my bloating. Shifting back to a flexitarian (mostly vegetarian) diet was the smart thing to do, I just shouldn’t have cut back my calories by 300 per day.
  5. Focus on me. Tom, my awesome husband, took his cue from me this spring and picked up on healthy living habits too. He went from 175 to 155 and got into the best shape he’s been in since running track in high school. He leveled out at 160. So proud of him! He let it go during Christmas and gained 7 pounds, above his 165 ceiling. At the same time I was holding onto my 2 pounds he was getting back on the program. It made it easy for me to think I was in a bad place too, kicking off my freak out. Moving forward, I can’t let his, or any other person, set my happy place. Its all about knowing what my happy place is and sticking to it.
  6. Find your motivators. I look internally at who I want to be, toward guru advice to find ways to stay on track and yes, I have the shallow motivators of comparison to women my age, 10 years younger and 20 years younger. In maintenance mode, it’s no longer about goals but about loving who you are. I want to be healthy, experience things, and be interesting. I want to be challenged to get better running times and a stronger body. When two thirds of the country is overweight and obese, there is the shallow pride of being trim and fit at 48 and everyone seeing that. I know, horrible, but all women compare themselves to others I am just admitting it.
  7. Find your groupies. Let’s face it, women need their networks. One of the greatest things since losing the weight and getting fit is the ability to talk to others that share the same passion for the activities I’ve taken up. Runners are all too happy to discuss races, training, injuries and playlists. Hikers share stories on the trails, hidden treasures on the trail, and where they want to go next. Paddlers are more rare around me, but kayakers and canoers are in the mix to share great river, lake and ocean spots. Participating in sports, even if individual sports, has been a great way to break the ice with people I meet and reinforce my chubbygirl (skinnygirl) journey.




Goal! I made it! It is worth it!

If you noticed, my count down timer is done! Amazing that it’s been a year. Amazing that I have held back that weight for three months now. Amazing that I don’t feel like this is the end but just another leg in the journey.

All the new year resolution articles and blogs on weight loss are pummeling my inbox, websites, and MFP app. It reminds me how inspired I was by those and read them exhaustively looking for the wisdom to get me on and keep my journey for a life of healthy living. I learned a lot. I’ve changed a lot.

So, it is making me crazy that this year I’m noticing another type of article popping up. The one that talks about the downside of weight loss. Business Insider released a video on the dark side of losing weight. Another article talked about how weight is genetic. Both seem to be saying that overweight and obesity are something you are just going to have to live with. This is just bull$h!t.

You can lose weight and do it without feeling completely deprived, hangry all the time, and without losing will power. It’s called addressing the life change not the weight change.

Genetics might predispose you to a certain metabolism, but if you don’t exercise and eat poorly, you get fat and your body reduces your metabolism. Regardless of genetics, you can reverse that and get yourself back to your genetic norm.

Depression can creep in if you aren’t eating a healthy balanced diet. Off set that with avoidance of diet fads and even super food fads. Just eat right and balanced. Don’t deny yourself; keep perspective on portions and macro balance. If you are worried, see your doctor and get tested for deficiencies. Also, get rewarded as you see your blood pressure and cholesterol levels improve after all that healthy eating.

The commentary out there that allows people to accept obesity and overweight bodies is just wrong and dangerous. The health risks are clear. Eating a diet of highly processed and prepared foods is demonstrating drastic changes to our immunological systems. Increased girth and increased visceral fat contributes to heart disease, cancer, depression and dementia.

Being overweight and obese is not okay. It is hard to shed the pounds and change habits. But don’t let these articles give you an excuse that being fat is in anyway permanent and destined. Every pound you lose puts you at less risk. Every pound you lose lets you do more of the things you want to do. Every pound you lose is a win for life.

Am I through with my chubby girl journey? Absolutely not. Will I gain weight back? I really really really am trying to not to let that happen. I don’t even let myself go over 110, even thought I was originally allowing a 5 pound insurance policy. I have a healthy paranoia today that I’ve never had before as at 48 it would only be much MUCH tougher to do this again. The decision to be healthy has to be your obsession to get you through to goal and keep your goal.

A little secret, I’ve been doing this journey slowly.  If I miss a day of exercise, I yearn for doing it. If I eat poorly one day, it makes me feel physically sick. A healthy body cues you to keep up healthy living.

It is worth it. Ask anyone that’s done it and is keeping it off. It is worth it.

I’ll Start Tomorrow is the Kiss of Death for Health

What statement is the kiss of death for healthy living? “I’ll start tomorrow.” As soon as it crosses your mind you are doomed. You’ve just started with procrastination. You’ve made up your mind that getting healthy or dieting is hard. You’ve already determined that this isn’t really something you want to do.

So, don’t start tomorrow. Just start. Start living.

Coming up on one year of my chubby girl journey (2 days to go!), I learned that the single biggest challenge is not the food, not the exercise, it’s the mindset. You don’t all of a sudden wake up and go from a healthy weight and lifestyle to a chubby girl couch potato. You trained yourself to be like this.

I’ve been taking a look at how I’ve changed my life outside of the obvious healthy living changes to understand what it took to reprogram me for life long health. What I realized is that it all came down to a decision to experience life. Here is what I did that was less about food and exercise and more about enjoying life as a healthy person:

  • Turn off food shows: I learned to cook by watching Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Charlie Trotter, and all the other PBS chefs. Saturday’s were my time to watch, compile my grocery list and try to recreate the dishes or use the techniques I just learned. Fast forward to cable TV and food became an obsession with competitions and diner food porn.  And so, my waistline went up. This year, I paired back to PBS Create to get back to the education of food using tips from the chefs that showed how to make recipes heathy, vegetarian/vegan options, and learn to enjoy clean eating.
  • Take in the sights: Traveling for work is grueling and rarely fun. I lived in airports, taxis, conference room and hotel rooms. The best times were when I could get out to eat where I could watch a hockey game or decompress with a colleague. Bar food, rich foods, beer, wine and desserts were constantly flowing. This year I made a choice to get out and about in the cities I traveled to. I squeeze in a museum or a last minute ticket to a game. Or, with little time, my running shoes took me on a tour of the city. I make sure I collect experiences in my travels.
  • Cut the cord: This was the hard one and something I had to work up to.  Cable food and home shows were first to go. Then it was my NHL network. The last was the cable news. It took a year to pair back and then finally be free. I haven’t had cable news in a month which was the hardest as I, like most, was glued to the reality TV of politics. But, I’ll be honest, going 100% to a news feed on my iPad and the occasional evening or weekend news show on local TV does wonders for my sanity. It has done wonders for my mental state to use cord cutting as a way to detox from toxic and minute to minute depression news.
  • Embrace rather than escape: My mindset over the past decade was how to escape the pressures of life. Anxiety was a constant in work and at home. Food was one way I escaped. But living in front of a TV, sleeping in and taking long naps on the weekends, and overall creating a cocoon for myself at home was the way I coped. This year I looked for ways to come out of the blanket of anxiety, depression and retreat. Even if that meant putting on a bikini while 150 pounds and laying out at a Florida resort, that seemingly small decision was symbolic of joining life rather than hiding from it.

3 Tips For Healthy Living – Getting Off the Fence

While in San Francisco last week I ran into a number of colleagues that hadn’t seen me in quite some time. So the fact that I lost almost 60 pounds was quite a shock. But, I also ran into a colleague that had started out on the healthy journey the same way I did, attending several weight watcher’s classes at the office. So, when he saw me, he asked, “How did you do it?”

There was something odd about the question because we both started from the same place, live the same hectic work life balance, and are food addicts. I made progress and he was still a work in progress (please don’t interpret that as mean spirited, more introspective). In many ways, as we talked, it boiled down to the fact that I had moved ahead and he was still on the fence.

To be honest, his question is what I keep asking myself even as I’ve read my own blogs and analyzed my tracking of food and exercise. I think that if I can come up with the secret sauce of why I was able to lose the weight and get healthy and others aren’t, I can keep on going. But, there really is no secret sauce. There are tricks and advice to be sure, but the answer I’ve come to is pretty simple and boils down to three things:

Choice is a Commitment

I’d been down this path before and the results were temporary or limited. The difference today was I knew I was at the age where I had to make a real choice – chubby and limited in life, or healthy and enjoying life. It really was that black and white. You can start a diet. You can take a walk. But, you need to choose to be healthy. Choice is a commitment, not an activity. When you decide to do something you need to back it up.

Know Why You Chose

A smaller pant size, getting into a bikini, and parading in a wedding pageantry is a vanity result. For me, and for others that have made a choice and committed to healthy living have a deeper drive. Some want to live and losing weight and getting fit improves their heart, cholesterol and diabetes. Some want to be active and involved with their kids and the weight is getting in the way of that. I wanted to enjoy all my outdoor loves and reconnect with my husband by doing things together as we are close to entering our empty nest stage. Yes, I love my skinny jeans, bikinis and athletic body. But it is the bigger reason for a healthy life that got me through the first phase of getting healthy and losing weight and is keeping me focused on holding back the weight and staying on point.

Just Live It

Part of commitment is that you commit. Sounds recursive, I know. But, that is the point. There is no wishy-washiness. There is no bargaining. There are no excuses. There is no gaming the system. If you are doing these things you will fail. It is that simple.  You don’t think about picking up your kids from daycare, you just do it. You don’t think about if you need to go to work. You just do it. It is the same with this. Sometimes you just need to not think about things. You just need to live it. Learn how to live healthy and then just do it. No gimmicks to this – its a lifestyle.

10 Tips to Stay On Track With Diet While Traveling

Work and travel get in the way. But, I’m sitting at the bar in the Chicago United Club and its the perfect time while in a travel mindset for an update.

Can you lose weight as a road warrior?

Verdict: Yes!

I’m down almost 35 pounds with another 20 to go (Starting weight 168. Current weight 134). I’ve gone from a size 12 pant and XL/L shirt to almost a size 4 pant and small shirt. I can wear a bikini this summer. I can also run again! I can also see myself back on the slopes hitting the moguls like before rather than shimmying down the green trails.

There are good weeks and bad weeks. It’s about taking one day at a time. The real test is your mindset. You really need to want to lose weight and transition to a life long healthy lifestyle. It’s not anything you haven’t heard before, the question is really, will you take it to heart and commit to change?

There are no cheat days. There are no days off. There are no days where you can give permission to poor eating and inactivity. This is your new religion. I firmly believe that taking off the weight and keeping it off is not a temporary mindset. Commitment is real – this is a marriage to a new you.

I speak from experience, both from being in shape and out of shape as well as tackling this later in life when hormones and a lower metabolism is my everyday enemy.

Being a road warrior  has taught me to be both realistic in how I scrounge for meals that fit healthy eating and living by the feedback on my wrist that says I am as active as I should be.

  1. Just move: I look for ways to get in movement anyway I can. It can seem crazy and extreme at times. I get in a workout at odd hours. I tour airport concourses. I skip the cabs or car rental if I can walk to where I need to be.
  2. Be Sally: When Harry Met Sally, everything is on the side. It is definitely awkward the first time, but you are the customer and can have your food any way you like it. Let the kitchen know not to coat your salmon in oil. Put calorie rich sauces on the side. Substitute the fries, rice, and mashed potatoes for another helping of steamed veggies. When you can’t get it right, get the grilled chicken sandwich, pull off the top bun, and eat your sandwich with a fork and knife.  You saved 120 – 140 calories and a bad dose of simple carbs.
  3. Portions: Get familiar with your portion sizes by measuring stuff at home. This way, those large plates can be put in their box. You know a healthy portion of steak, chicken, even salmon (it has more fat than you think, even if it is good fat, too much of a good thing isn’t good anymore).
  4. Get a Map: Are you getting your walking or running game going? If you don’t have an app, ask the hotel for safe routes and bike trails. Not every place is ideal, but just like knowing the great places to have dinner, your hotel knows the best places to get outside. If you have the time, go ahead and get in that cab/Uber/rental car to tour a city on foot or by run. You get a city tour you might not have had the chance otherwise to do.
  5. Love the bands: If you are heavier at the beginning or just have a lot more to lose, sometimes being self conscious will keep you from the hotel gym. For less than 20 dollars, a set of resistance bands lets you build muscle in your hotel room until you are ready to show off the toned bulges that start to appear after several weeks.
  6. Exercise apps: I can’t say I used them a ton because I am a cardio freak on and off equipment. But, my yoga apps and HIIT apps get me 20 – 30 minutes in my hotel room when I need to squeeze in a workout.
  7. Indulge pragmatically: This is where portion control is key. United in Chicago added a scrumptious chicken alfredo. It’s deadly, I know. But, when you’ve been stuffing your face with veggies all day, you have some extra calories. I don’t condone going over your intake goal. But, with a little planning, some small indulgences help you not feel deprived at the same time you don’t sabotage your work.
  8. Pack Snacks: At the beginning when I wasn’t so sure, I kept snacks and mini meals on me. As I’ve progressed and gotten confident and educated, I don’t do this anymore. When I started it gave me more control. I still keep a piece of fruit or low calorie bar in my purse just in case. But, I don’t dip in anymore as I’ve gotten in a routine.  So it worked to help me in the beginning, but it gives me a safety net when all other food options fail.
  9. Track it: Honesty comes from transparency. I was a tracking freak across 3 apps (Weight Watchers, LostIt, MyFitnessPal). I’ve narrowed it to one (myfitnesspal.com) because it does a good enough job and I share my diary with my husband and oldest son. This keeps me both honest, I get kudos on my progress. It also helps me see progress and let’s me adjust as needed if there are weeks where the scale doesn’t move or goes in the opposite direction, or in some cases when the weight loss is too fast (yes, you need to watch for this too).
  10. At home: With all the good intentions on the road, when I get home it is detox. Even though I’m pretty healthy on the road, when I am home, I go vegetarian or pescatarian. This is when I do have more control and I take advantage of it by enjoying my creative cooking passion and coming up with new healthy dishes and testing them on my family (husband is in, kids I think are hoping I just keep it to myself.) I also make sure that I get in 2 days of intense workouts. Hike a mountain, get in a run, go for a ultra long power walk, or on yucky days, pack in my machine and weight time.

I can actually see the goal in sight, but in reality, I hit my goal. Yes, I’m within a couple points of a healthy BMI. Yes, my RHR is at the athletic level. Yes, I can do things I dreaded doing or couldn’t before. Yes, I actually found a way to like veggies and salad. Yes, I feel I can do this for the rest of my life. My top ten helped me get there.

Living with a food addiction

I’ve lived healthy, and I’ve lived in indulgence. When traveling it is easy to indulge with the plethora of top notch restaurants and chefs we learn about in travel magazines, on foodie channels, and the internet. I have to wonder how it is that you can get through travel without manifesting a food addiction.

This chubby girl is taking hard looks at herself on this journey.  I have to be introspective and honest about when I eat, why I make my choices, and overall, what triggers bargaining.

Here is what I found…

Eating as I do is an addiction pure and simple. When I was younger and more active, I burned enough calories that it didn’t necessarily get me in trouble.  When work and life took over, my butt was in a chair more often than my feet were moving and the pounds come on easily. In my late forties and now hormones are finishing the job for me. I can take this as some life changes, but it doesn’t address my food choices. I can’t, nor should I, sit down with a freshly made box of Kraft Mac-n-cheese. Eating a single serve Uno pizza, even a Spinocolli, is another bad choice. Treating myself on work-from-home days to my local Chinese buffett trying to hide my unhealthy eating by loading up on veggie dishes and no rice or noodles doesn’t hide the fact that I still have filled half my container with dumplings, chicken fingers, and crab rangoons. Hungry coming home, no problem, McDonalds has a drive through and I can scarf down a BigMac with fries and tell myself I saved on calories and sugar by getting a bottle water to wash it down instead of a soda.

That is the bad eating, but then I go to great restaurant, especially on the road and absolutely have to indulge in the signature dish, a steak, kitchen made pasta, or the artisan breads with olive oil dipping sauce poured over grated parmesan. I make meals for the family and I’m thinking more about how delectable it can be and fancy myself as an iron chef by throwing huge chunks of butter in the pan to brown my meats.

I am addicted to food. I don’t have control. And, food is going to kill me. What addiction could be worse than one that is tied to being able to live.  I quit smoking when I was 23 (I was a social smoker), but smoking isn’t something that if you stop you would die from. Food is a necessity. I suspect that for many people with weight issues, food is an addiction for them too.

Addictions aren’t just habits. They are hardwired behaviors. Yet, diet programs (and I hear this in my WW meetings and community) talk a lot about breaking bad habits. If this is just about breaking bad habits, why is it that only about 5% of people that lose weight keep it off? Yes, there are aspects about metabolism and physiological memory. But, no commercial weight loss and exercise program out there is talking about how to overcome the brain’s wiring for food addiction and living with that.

I can’t bargain my way out of this.  I can’t use cheat points. I can’t have cheat days. I can’t think about what I will do when I hit my goal and can incorporate back in what I deprived myself of. And, this finally dawned on me when two things happened this week.

  1. A hockey mom friend asked if I ever wanted a burger. Didn’t I ever eat pizza? My WW meeting leader showed concern that I might never indulge and was that sustainable? I thought a lot about this and realized that, for me, this is the first time that I am looking at the fact that I may never eat another Five Guy’s burger if it is a trigger to my addiction. I may never have another bagel with cream cheese and lox for the same reason. Certain foods are for me what cigarettes, alcohol or drugs are for others with addictions. Abstinence is the only way to survive.
  2. My diet is verging on vegetarian. The times I do have meat, chicken or seafood it is in small amounts and very lean. There might be 2 ounces at most. My husband calls this the Asian diet. My stomach calls my new recipe concoctions heaven! So much so that the day this week when I had two little smokie links my stomach revolted with discomfort. The piece of pizza I had last week almost made me throw up I was so nauseous. The fat and grease is just too much. My digestion has changed. I am living in detox.

Sorry for the lengthy point. But, when I finally had this realization about myself it all started to fall into place and I could begin to accept the real issue I have with food and healthy living. I can approach this is a more effective way and get me to sustain healthy living.