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June 30th - Lost 6lb's this fortnight...what's my "secret?"

Sunday, June 30, 2013

So it turns out the 'secret' of weight loss is that there isn't actually a secret.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was going to make a choice to get up earlier so I could A) organize my day better and B) do a workout every morning. This is how my days have gone this last week;

6:30 - Get up (note that my household doesn't wake up until about 8:00) and immediately do my wii fit body test. Then, sit down with a liter of water and pre-workout snack.
7:00 - Do some housework, jogging on the spot and/or stretches to warm up, then do Zumba 2 on the wii. I will do at least a short (20 minute) workout every morning, or a longer (45 minute) workout. I love doing the longer workouts in the morning, but decided a few days ago that I was going to play through them all in order, so I'm still doing the short ones. After this, I'll cool down, wash and get dressed, then chill with breakfast.
8:00 - Get Jr up, fed and ready for school, then send him off.
9:15 - I'm generally back from the school run by now, and the day is mine. My day when Jr is at school is mostly made up of housework, writing, job hunting and errands, but I've found ways to get the heart going; for instance, when I need to take something upstairs/downstairs I'll go up, then down, then up again rather than just going up. When I'm washing dishes, I dance. When I need to run errands, I do it at a brisk walk pace rather than taking the bus (and constantly try and beat my best time).
3:15 - Jr and me are home. I fix him (and myself) snacks and then he goes out to play while I do a quick pick up. Then, I'll do another workout. Usually it's not Zumba though; with him running around something at a lower pace that will be more forgiving of breaks (such as an hour long bellydance routine) is preferable. Note that this is my ambition; I don't always do it, and it's often more for yoga and pilates for flexibility and muscle tone, or bellydance for technique; there's no real fat burning going on here.
4:30 - Start dinner.
5:30 - Dinner's done, and we spend a couple of hours playing as a family, watching movies, or doing his homework.
7:30 - Wind down for bed; book, hot chocolate (the organic sugar-and-caffeine free kind) and sleep.
8:00 - With him settled, I can either chill, watch TV, write or do more chores. Sometimes I'll do another workout now depending on how I feel, but when I do it's usually just a little 20 minute Zumba or I might put on a movie, find the "drinking game" for it and then substitute drinks for workouts, i.e. 10 jumping jacks every time the Force is used or 8 lunges each leg every time a car gets destroyed in an action movie.
10:00 - I start my wind-down for bed. I tend to listen to my body on when I need to sleep; sometimes I go to bed at 10:00, sometimes at 00:30 - I've never been one for 8 hours a night and genuinely seem to run better on less. However, if I WAS aiming for 8 hours a night, I've already done my days workouts and then some before Jr's even gone to bed; I could have settled down at 8:00 with him if I'd wanted to.

Now, I know, I'm unemployed and don't have a job to work around like most people do. And I know, what works for me wouldn't work for everyone; not everyone has a child at the age to go out and play, some have demanding partners, plenty don't have or want a wii, etc. But there are some things you can do that I have found useful.

1 - Go to bed and get up earlier, and use this time to work out. 90% of the population seem to stay up late to finish up stuff they wouldn't be behind on if they'd done it earlier, and because their brains are already shutting down from the days toil they're not actually getting things done and go to bed late which leads to them being tired in the morning and getting behind again. Break the cycle; go to bed an hour early for the next three nights. Don't set your alarm, and let yourself wake up naturally. You'll almost certainly notice you're naturally waking up much earlier, and feeling much more refreshed, by the end of it. I made the commitment to get up earlier fully prepared to do the whole "set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier every few days" thing until I hit my goal of 6:30. The fact was, once I had decided I wanted to get up earlier and went to bed earlier, I didn't have to; my alarm was set for 7:45, but I woke up at 6:30 on the dot completely by myself.

2 - Monitor your body every single day. I know most people do not advocate weighing yourself daily and I understand why; you can get obsessive about it. However, monitoring your food, energy levels, workouts, how your digestive system feels (i.e. are you bloated, constipated, crampy, etc.) and perhaps, yes, your weight daily will help you keep in tune with your body. I monitor how well I sleep, what time I wake up and in what state (and if I have a bad night I try and identify the trigger the previous day), what my morning snack, workout and breakfast is, and how much of my to-do list I get done (plus whether I feel particularly lethargic or energized). I also track bouncy happy days and sad days, but not normal days. And yes, I track my weight daily; always as soon as I get up, always without anything to eat or drink, and always completely naked. I understand that your body weight fluctuates frequently purely because of your bodily functions and such, but I have found it really helps me. I've also found several instances where I've stepped on the board thinking "I had a big, creamy coffee yesterday" or "I had a chicken burger yesterday; I'll be heavier because I'm still processing all that junk" (not 'OMG I've gained weight' because I know it's pretty much impossible to eat 3,500 calories in one sitting, but if you're living on a diet of mainly fruit, veg, beans and the odd bit of bread and then suddenly pig out on a starchy overdose, you expect to be a big heavier the next day you know?) just to step on the scales and find that actually, I'm loosing weight constantly. Every day for the last week or so, I've "lost a little" or "lost 1lb" every time I step on the scales.

3 - Keep an eye on what you eat, but don't be obsessive. In the last week I've had coffees (including one yesterday that was basically a coffee flavoured ice cream smoothie with whipped cream and syrup), a chicken kebab and a chicken burger as well as several small sweets; when you're working out daily, staying active (and thus keeping your metabolism up) and eating healthy most of the time, you're allowed to have unhealthy food and drink every so often. However, be aware that it's not just about the calories or the fat; these dietary choices will effect your mood, your skin, your teeth, bones, energy levels, etc. Not just your weight.

4 - If you want to pig out, do it in the morning. A lot of people (yes, even dieters who should really know better by now) will go light on the breakfast and pig out in the evening. I've even had one of the SP nutritionists tell me in a forum post that as long as you're not exceeding your daily calories, it doesn't matter when you eat. Well, I hate to disagree with the professionals, but in my opinion that's flat out bull. I get up, eat a snack (generally 100 - 200 calories), work out (generally a 250 - 350 calorie burn) then eat a big breakfast of buttered wholemeal toasts, scrambled eggs with natural low fat yogurt and veggies, a glass of fruit juice and a goldfish bowl of coffee (which is what, 400+ calories?). I snack throughout the morning (probably another 200 - 300 calories) on fruit, veg, seeds and nuts or I'll make a smoothie (and I mean a BIG smoothie) to drink while I run errands and do housework. Lunch is often a salad (veggies, homemade salad dressing [with REGULAR olive oil NOT low fat - it's nowhere near as good for you), couscous, rice or quinoa and beans or chicken (beans are cheaper). I often make myself a serving so big, I struggle to mix it in my huge mixing bowl (if you want more, just add more veggies; control your portions of carbs, dressing and protein, then add to the veg). The afternoon usually has a starchy snack around about 4, then a dinner of light or no carbs, protein and lots of fruit/veggies/sometimes cheese. If I want to do a workout, I'll have another snack (often home made chicken liver pate on a small piece of toast) when I put Jr to bed. And guess what? Since I started front-loading my day like that, I've had more energy, I've gotten more out of my workouts, and I've been losing weight EVERY SINGLE DAY. It WORKS.

5 - Hydrate. I cannot stress this enough. I can go the whole day with nothing but a few litres of water to drink; if you make sure you always have some on hand it will stop you feeling "I'm thirsty; I'll go and get a soda/put the kettle one." You should be drinking tea/coffee/soft drinks because you want them, not because you're thirsty. If you're thirsty, drink water. Also, about your 8 glasses a day; don't count water you drink whilst working out, and add another cup for every cup of tea, coffee, soft drink or alcohol you drink as these dehydrate you.

6 - Eat more fruit and veggies. We're supposed to get 5+ portions of veg daily, and 2 - 4 portions of fruit. If you think about it long and hard and track your diet, you'll probably find you're not actually getting that much. I changed my mindset to "I'm hungry, I'll have some veg." If I was about to do a workout or needed energy, or if I felt really "hungry" not just kinda peckish, I would have protein. If I wanted something sweet, I'd have fruit. But veggies became my default food. Best. Decision. EVER.

7 - Remember how great it makes you feel when you have a good day; when you are energized and making good choices, when your body is pumped with energy and your sleep is beautifully's awesome. Go ahead and write it all down, and when you don't have the energy for a workout remind yourself that actually, 20 minutes of exercise will GIVE YOU ENERGY. Also, have reasons for your actions other than just weight loss; my primary goal is to be healthier, have more energy, and grow older with fewer health problems than my peers. Therefore, if I decide to have a can of diet coke, which I know will pump potentially harmful chemicals into my body, I'm thinking "I want it, but only in moderation, this will harm me" rather than "it's ok, it's got no calories in it so it's not bad for me." It's the same with energy bars and protein shakes; I'm not thinking "this is a fitness food, and good for me" I'm thinking "1tbsp of my chicken liver pate has as much protein in it, plus other good stuff, and none of the sugars/artificial sugars designed to get my sweet tooth going with cravings." Remember these goals when you're "feeling fat" or feeling like you'll never be as attractive as those beautiful people on the motivational posters; you may not ever be a size 4 gymnast with no cellulite, wobbly bits or stretch marks, but you can become just as healthy.

8 - Exercise every single day. This isn't about doing a workout at the gym or getting your 30 minutes 3-5 times a week; this is about doing a little bit of exercise daily and leading an active lifestyle. I get more out of 20 minutes of Zumba in the morning and a 20 minute walk twice daily (to the shops and back) than my partner does from 90 minutes of intense running and weight training 5 days a week at the gym. Just like food, little and often will optimize your body.

9 - Eat cleaner. Don't just buy the "diet" option, buy the "organic" option. Don't buy a pre-made salad and "lighter choices" dressing; google "healthy salad dressings" and make your own. A lot of people think it's all about the calories, but it really isn't. It's not even about the fat. I eat 2 eggs almost daily, I have butter on toast, I have liver pate (which, if you don't know, is also made with butter, plus a fair amount of salt and wine)'s not about eating "diet" foods it's about eating chemical free, unprocessed foods. I've basically started asking myself "has this food had anything done to it, beyond being harvested, packed and sent out?" If the answer is "yes" I'll think twice about eating it. And while we're on it, STOP EATING PRE MADE SANDWICHES. Seriously.

So there you go. My 9 rules/bits of advice. My "secret" to losing 2lb a week.
1 - Put a bit more thought into your sleep quality, get up earlier and workout.
2 - Check in with your body daily in a way that is useful to you.
3 - Make healthy food choices, but don't be obsessive.
4 - Have the biggest, best breakfast you can stomach. DO NOT start the day hungry.
5 - Hydrate. Just trust me.
6 - Make veggies your go-to food when you want something to eat.
7 - Set wholesome goals with inarguable reasons, not just "I want to be skinny/look hot."
8 - Stay active. Better to walk daily than work out 3 times a week.
9 - Eat your food the way nature intended.

I've been doing these things for the last couple of weeks. I haven't left the table hungry in that time. I haven't been pressured for time in that fortnight, either, nor have I felt bad about myself, gotten depressed, irritable or had a bad nights sleep. And I have lost weight. I've created a 200 - 500 calorie a day deficit and aim for 500 calories a day of workouts (which I rarely achieve) and I have lost 3lb's a week for the last 2 weeks. I know it's early days and I know I'm currently 200+lb's which makes it easy for me to burn weight off, etc. etc. But these 9 rules are things everyone can benefit from, I think. I spent months before hand making excuses; "it's diet" or "I'll do a bit workout at the weekend" or "it doesn't matter if I stay up late; I can lay in tomorrow." Truth is that living healthier is a 24/7 goal and it's not just about weight loss.

So, turns out the "secret" of weight loss, better sleep, higher energy levels and better moods is to stop eating junk, stop making excuses, and get on with your exercises. Who'd have thunk it?
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