(Sorry, it's a long one. Grab a healthy snack and settle in.)
I've had more than a few people ask me what I did to lose twelve pounds in 6 weeks.* I'd like to say it was as "simple" as working out and eating right, but anyone who has ever buckled down and changed their lifestyle dramatically knows it's anything but simple.
Y'all, those six weeks were wicked hard, but it wasn't impossible. Big distinction there. The key to my weight loss came down to the one/two punch of diet and exercise, and by "diet" I mean watching what I ate, not some crazy I'm-only-eating-kiwi-and-I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter-for-six-weeks diet.
Let's start at the beginning:
I really like to eat; I love a well prepared, multiple course meal with a glass of wine (or three) and maybe some warm bread with good olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt... and oh my gawd, my tummy. It is rumbling. But I particularly like to snack. I love chocolate, and Nutella, and salty chips, and Nutella, and cookies... Made with chocolate and Nutella maybe with a side of salty chips and is anyone else hungry right now? Giving up the snack foods was more than I could bear so I compromised - I ate smaller, more frequent meals that were heavier on the protein and fiber and lighter on the carbs so I could have a few pieces of chocolate at the end of the day when I needed it most.
The important part to all of this was that I counted calories obsessively. I kept a food diary and wrote down the approximate calories for each meal and tallied them as the day went on. If I wanted 120 calories worth of chocolate**, for instance, I needed to eat 120 calories less a day than I normally would. Or I would work out harder. More on that later. As the weeks went on I became really good at guessing how many calories were in a particular meal.
For six weeks I kept my calories between 1000 - 1400. If I exercised I could consume closer to 1400 and still lose weight, if I didn't I was stuck to around 1000. Believe me, I exercised.
Okay, a typical day's menu:
Small bowl of Kefir with homemade granola (that way, I knew exactly what went into it. Mine always had almonds in it. Mmm, protein.) and either berries or a few pieces of sliced banana, a cup of coffee with skin milk and a touch of sugar, followed by the first glass of water of the day.
Alternate: Piece of whole grain toast with tiny smear of peanut butter, fruit, coffee, water.
Super busy morning breakfast: Egg and cheese breakfast wrap from Dunkin' Donuts and a small iced coffee with skim milk, no sugar.
Not allowed: Lattes. *sigh*
100 calorie pack of almonds (I almonds on me at all times. They really help with the crashes.), or carrots or celery or fruit. I never want to see a carrot or a piece of celery for as long as I live, or until I need to put some in my Chicky's lunch box.
Usually a spinach salad of some sort. I found lots of ways to eat salad - with fruit or berries, nuts, seeds or a few pieces of chicken breast, touch of vinegar and oil. Done.
Alternate: A turkey burger (no bun) from Trader Joe's, topped with two tablespoons of jarred bruschetta, also from Trader Joe's, or
A portion of a chicken breast with the same bruschetta (I heart Trader Joe's bruschetta and no, they didn't pay me to say that. But if they ever want to send me a lifetime supply of the stuff... Hey Trader Joe's - Call me.) and a side of steamed vegetables.
Very similar to lunch. I was eating a lot of simple foods and since my kids are suspicious of anything that they can't recognize, making dinner was pretty easy. I also made more vegetarian meals and cut out red meat almost entirely. One of my favorite vegetarian meals was this one. So. FREAKING. Good. And no butter or oil needed. Healthy, FTW!
If I was time crunched and needed something substantial to last me a good amount of time - say if I missed lunch and it was 2pm and if I didn't eat something good I'd eat all my kids' snacks, my kids, and then I'd eat dinner - I'd fry one egg in Pam, top it with a half a slice of cheese (or if I wanted to be wild and crazy, a full slice. Somebody stop me!) and put it on a plain whole wheat english muffin (no butter! NO. BUTTER. Can you imagine?). That was roughly around 225 calories and kept me very sated for a long period.
Eating out was pretty much out of the question. If I didn't know exactly what went into it and couldn't count the calories, I didn't eat it. That meant I had to shop more (quick aside, why is eating healthy so damn expensive? WHY??) and cook more but overall I'd say the money we saved from not eating out more than outweighed the money we spent on more healthy groceries.
As for alcohol, that was off the menu too. Mr. C and I would split a bottle of wine a week and that was about it. I'm not going to lie, there were a few nights I cried. Instead, I drank water. Much water. So much that I had my own undertow.
The first three weeks were the hardest, after that it got a little easier every week until, toward the end, it got to the point where I simply could not finish a Dunkin' Donuts' egg and cheese breakfast wrap. My body had gotten used to eating small portions it refused to consume more. And because I eliminated the majority of processed foods from my diet, I felt better, my skin looked better, and I was happier. Refined white flour and food additives are the devil. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
The bad part of this challenge food-wise was the day, toward the end of week six, when I Googled "How many calories in grapes". I didn't eat the grapes because eating them would have pushed me over my limit for the day. That's just wrong, necessary to do anything I could within my power to win, but wrong. Now I eat smarter; I eat almost anything I want and almost always in moderation. Except for that jar of Nutella I consumed the day after the end of the challenge. And the week of Thanksgiving. And that chocolate orgy I had last night.
I'm back on the wagon now, okay? Moving along...
Speaking of The Devil,
I practically lived on this thing. Or maybe it just felt like that. I was on that elliptical trainer for 30 to 40 minutes pretty much every day. I started slow on the manual setting so I wouldn't hurt anything (I still ended up with sore knees during that first week but nothing three Advil couldn't handle) and gradually worked up to doing intervals on level 5. On my machine that means the lowest setting, when my body was "resting", was actually on level 7 and at the highest it was at level 11. It felt a lot like running on really soft sand. I can't even describe how much that sucked but toward the end I was practically running for 40 minutes while singing basterdized military cadence. Which pretty much came down to me humming "I want to be an airborne ranger" like John Bender in the Breakfast Club (WHY is this video not on the internet somewhere??) while shaking my fist a lot and shouting Hooah! I'm not proud of any of that but, damn, it felt good to go 3 miles without passing out.
The trick now is maintaining. I'm sad to say that after last week I am now up 2.5 pounds but I am committed to losing this weight to get back to my lowest and maybe even losing another 2 or 3 pounds. The weight doesn't matter to me, however, as much as toning does. I've never had muscular legs so I'd really like to lose more of the jiggle in my thighs, to say nothing of the junk in my trunk. I'd also like to firm my arms and shoulders and strengthen my core, back and shoulders. And cure cancer, pass the healthcare bill, save the world's starving kittens and help David Hasselhoff kick the booze. I think it can be done.
When I started this challenge I had a terrible pain in the left side of my abdominal muscles that started soon after I had CC and even went as far as having an ultrasound in that area to rule out any internal problems. After week 4, the pain almost entirely went away. Ditto most of my back problems. I have a history of severe back pain so this made me very happy. My physical therapist was right all along - strengthen the core and the pain goes away! I mean, wow, this is revolutionary. Everyone should know about this! I should write a book or something.
Before this, I also had a constant upset stomach unless I ate something. It was a lot like how a lot of women experience morning sickness - if I ate something the nausea would go away but if I didn't eat every two hours I'd get pretty sick, close to vomiting. (Sorry for the visual) I'm going to chalk that up to 18 combined months of severe hyperemesis followed by some pretty spectacularly bad eating habits. It's all but gone now. I've got it under control.
Weight loss and fitting into my skinny jeans was all a wonderful side effect of this challenge but the ultimate victory was getting myself on the road to health. Also a kick ass result? A couple of my girlfriends are competing in a weight loss challenge of their own. These two are too. I'm a mutha-effing role model! Hoo-ah!
*Reading that sentence after watching the Biggest Loser last night really makes me feel like a slacker. They lose 12 pounds in a week. A WEEK. I'm clearly not doing something right. Why are you still reading this?
**Individually wrapped chocolates. They's your friend.