I originally posted these tips in my blog on May 29, 2010. As we start the new year I thought it might be useful to share again for our new members as well as those re-committing themselves to a healthier lifestyle.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I started at 170 pounds on March 26, 2008 and lost 25 pounds by July 12, 2008. I have maintained this loss plus 5 more pounds lost as of August 11, 2011. For anyone who may be interested, here are my tips and/or vital information I have learned from other members that may help you reach your goal:
1) Do what works for you. I have received some great information and tips from many people, websites, etc. But, what works for someone else may not work for me. Try different things until you find something that YOU will stick with. The best tips in the world will only work when you can stick with it in the long run.
2) Calories in/Calories out. You have got to be as accurate as possible tracking what you eat and what you burn. If you continually underestimate calories consumed (or fail to log your cheats!) and overestimate your calories burned (get a heart rate monitor!) then you will continually be frustrated. These inconsistencies can quickly add up to 300 or 500 calories per day and that can mean a full pound over a week's time.
3) Portion Distortion - If you are overweight, I can almost guarantee that you suffer from "portion distortion". What most of us think of as a single portion is often one or two times more than an actual serving. Restaurants are the WORST when it comes to over portioning so start now to make a habit of taking half of your order home. It is very important as you begin this journey that you measure and weigh everything to make sure that your calorie count is accurate. Also, you may think a packaged product is one serving but it may actual be 2 or more. Example: Pop Tarts have 2 in each wrapper but an actual serving is only 1.
3.5) Speaking of weighing everything, get a food scale and weigh your food in GRAMS instead of cups & ounces. Weighing in grams is far more accurate than measuring cups. Liquids are easy enough to measure in ounces but because food volume in cups can vary significantly you may end up over or under estimating your calorie count. I keep one at home in my kitchen and one at the office. They are not that expensive and, trust me, it is WELL worth the investment!
4) Take it slow. It didn't take a month to gain all this weight and you sure won't lose it in a month. The rule of thumb is to aim for no more than 1% of your body weight per week. When I started I weighed 170, so I rounded down and set my weekly goal to lose 1.5 pounds. I reached my original goal of 150 (20 pounds) in 12 weeks.
5) Net Calories - This was a hard concept at first but I quickly learned that on the days I was more active I needed to replace the calories burned to refuel my body. As long as I kept my NET calories within my daily goal, I continued to make progress.
Example: My calorie range is 1200-1500. I have eaten 1400 today but burned 600 at the gym. My net calories are now 800 and that is way too low! So, I need to eat at least 400 more calories so that my net calories today will be within my 1200-1500 calorie goal.
Eating too little can derail your weight loss almost as much as eating too much.
EDIT 08/06/11 - I just read this quote in a Spark nutrition article about the concept of burning more calories than you consume. I think it helps explain this "net calorie" concept further: "You have to eat fewer calories than you use up but not fewer than your body needs to function at its best."
6) Heart Rate Monitor - Get one! Mine is programmed specifically for me (age, height, weight) so I found this to be the most accurate way to calculate my calories burned.
7) Strength Training - I had been lifting weights for the last three years getting no results. Why? Because I was lifting the same weight over and over. I thought I had reached the maximum I could possibly lift and just kept doing the same thing. I decided to start challenging myself and I began to increase the weight on every exercise every 7-10 days. You'll never believe it but I actually got stronger! I also found that as my muscles got stronger my metabolism sped up and I was burning MORE calories MORE efficiently.
8) What is the hardest part of a workout? Starting it! I can't tell you how many days I've skipped the gym because "I don't feel like it", "the traffic is too bad to get to the gym", "I had a bad day at work" (insert your own excuse here). But, let me tell you something. There have been just as many days that I had all my excuses lined up but KNEW I really needed to go workout. On those days I would tell myself, "OK, I'll just do 10 minutes on the elliptical instead of 30 and just one set of weights instead of 3". And, you know what? On just about every one of those days, once I started I completed my FULL workout. The hardest part was just convincing myself to get to the gym. Once I got there and got started, it was just as easy to do the complete workout. So, on those days when you know you need to workout but just don"t feel like it, do whatever it takes to do at LEAST 10 minutes. Some days you will only do 10 minutes but at least it"s SOMETHING! Other days, it will be just the jumpstart you need to finish your complete workout.
REMEMBER THIS: "You can make excuses or you can make progress, but you can't do both!" - Tom Venuto
9) Keep healthy snacks on hand and eat them throughout the day. It is vitally important to your metabolism that you eat every few hours. If you are hungry, EAT, but make sure that it's something healthy. That's why I find it helpful to plan ahead and measure out portions on the weekends into snack size baggies. That way, they're easy to grab in the morning on the way out the door. I do this with carrots, sugar snap peas, cantaloupe, fresh pineapple, red grapes, almonds and dry roasted edamame. The small snack size baggies are GREAT for portion control! Also, if you work in an office with a microwave the Birdseye Steamfresh single servings make a great healthy snack.
10) Eat "clean" at least 80% of the time by eliminating processed foods. This means eating whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts). An easy way to remember if a food is clean is: "If man made it, don't eat it". Stay away from foods that contain refined sugar, hydrogenated & trans fats, preservatives and any ingredients on the label you can't pronounce. Eliminate or significantly reduce alcohol. (OK - I'm still working on this last one!)
11) "Thin people don't clean their plate" - I don't remember where I first saw or heard this but I thought that it really makes sense. I was raised in the era of "starving children". I was told to clean my plate because there were starving children on the other side of world. I was always trying to please everyone so I made sure to clean my plate. As I got older and piled on more food I would force myself to eat it all rather than wasting it. It took me years but I was finally dropped my membership to The Clean Plate Club by learning proper portion sizes. But, I started by leaving at least one bite on my plate every time I would eat. I learned to recognize when I started to feel full and then would STOP eating. It takes your brain much longer than your stomach to realize that you're full.
12) Never forget that just about everybody has bad days. If you slip up at one meal or even for a whole day, keep in mind that one day is not going to make you gain 10 pounds. It's when you have a string of 5 (or 30!) days that it will start to catch up with you.
13) Allow yourself treats but keep it within your daily calorie goal. I am a chocoholic and I have a little chocolate almost every day. The big difference now is that I've learned to have it in moderation instead eating the full one pound bag of peanut M&M's in one sitting!
14) When you're in maintenance it's easy to get lazy with tracking calories and to slack off going to the gym/exercising. Don't wait until you've gained back 10 or 15 pounds - nip it in the bud! As soon as you see the scale start creeping up, nip it in the bud! Get focused again on those good habits (staying within your calorie goal and exercising) that got you to your goal in the first place. I know there are many who say "throw out the scale" but I do use it every day because I find it to be one of many useful tools. I understand there can be large and small fluctuations daily so I aim to keep within a 5 pound range. If I'm at the top end or above my high range for more than a week it's usually because I've been eating poorly and/or not exercising enough so I know I need to re-focus my efforts.