The Most Important Aspect of Weight Loss

What is the most important aspect of weight loss? Is it diet? Nutrient Balance? Exercise? Calories in/calories out? Keto? Intermittent Fasting?

Not quite.

Today I want to talk a little about the mental and emotional work that is needed to lose weight, gain health, and keep it off. It’s a subject that I don’t think is covered well enough in many books and resources – people focus more on the details of macros, calorie counting, exercise programs, etc. Without handling the mental aspect, all success will be short lived.

So, here is what I have found so far in my journey from 245+ to 150 pounds.

Never Give Up

I think the most important thing I had to do in my journey was to give up on the idea of giving up. Quitting stopped being an option. Part of that was a decision that I made, but what kept that decision from being forgotten was MFP, because every morning I will log in and read all the updates, and I don’t want to let everyone down. I also had to realize that I am doing this for myself, and nothing, not depression, not scheduling, not stress, not boredom, would make me quit.

Forgive Yourself

I have had to learn to forgive myself too. If I have a day where I go over, or if I don’t exercise as much as I planned to, I say to myself “I will do better, I won’t repeat that two days in a row.” Then I try and take a little time to notice how my body feels when I get off track. Whether if it’s a heavy feeling of having too much in my stomach, a lack of evergy, or a feeling of stiffness from not exercising enough, I notice that feeling and I let it show me why I keep my good habits. In the past I used to say “well, I messed up this day, so I might as well enjoy myself and come back to it later” then later never came.

Be Positive

Another thing that has helped a lot is thinking in terms of challenges to overcome and solutions to be found, rather than obstacles. Once I did really weal on a healthy journey, lost thirty pounds or so, but it was all derailed when I had a broken tooth and could no longer eat the healthy things that had gotten me there. At that time it was insurmountable, partly because other stress in my life was also high, and I just quit. These days if that happened again I’d break out the protein shakes and make a bunch of green soup, sugar free protein pudding, and other things . If my stress levels are really high I have an assortment of herbal teas that are very soothing. I also can feel how exercise helps me relax so I will usually get some minimum amount even if I don’t get in a huge workout.

Connect with how your body feels

Being in touch with my body has helped. Really feeling if I am actually hungry or just “have a case of the nibbles,” for example. Feeling if my body is asking for exercise. This isn’t so hard to do, it just takes a decision to notice more. Perfection isn’t immediate, you have to work at it, but the awareness will come. Another example of this is when I am stressed and inclined to nibble, and I realize that what I really need is a hug, or some kitty cuddle time, or a nap. Food becomes the cure-all, that proverbial hammer that makes every problem look like a nail, but we all have so many more tools than just that one.

How much is enough?

I learned portion control, too, and this is a tremendous tool. It was hard to give up the idea that I could have as much food as I wanted. Having grown up in deep poverty, that was a way I had of making myself feel safe because food equaled safety and comfort. So why shoouldn’t I have a whole bag of chips? I could afford it now. Yet, that wasn’t doing me any favors, it was still too much. My own solution for this is to buy smaller amounts of really high quality food, portion it out ahead of time, and take my time to enjoy it.

“This is the good stuff,” I tell my brain, “I don’t need a lot of it because it’s high quality nutrition and it tastes great.”

And it works.

Celebrate!

I learned to celebrate small victories, not using food but just noticing them and thinking ‘Hey! That’s great!” Going over onto the NSV thread has been a great way to do that, it makes me happy every time I have something to report. Celebrating other people’s small victories in the same way has been great too, it makes me realize that I’m not alone in the journey and it makes me feel good to support other people. So many times we feel like we were the only one to be this fat, or the only one to have this problem, and seeing that we aren’t alone helps us stay motivated and keep going because we see other poeple having success.

Gain Inspiration from Success

Speaking of success, the forums on My Fitness Pal have been a fantastic place for inspiration. I love reading about people’s success stories, and their in-process wins. I can see that there are folks with the same challenges as me, or worse ones in some cases, and they are winning too. I know that I don’t have any excuses, that this thing is possible, not the insurmountable task that I once thought it was. My success or my failure comes down to my choice so why would I choose to fail?

Be Patient

With success comes patience. We return to persistence as the key to success. There will be plateaus, there will be ups and downs. Sticking with it, and tweaking things a bit when results aren’t being found is essential. It took a long time for this weight to get on to our bodies, it’ll take a while for the weight to come off. Quick fixes aren’t permanent. Sometimes we even need to take little breaks to renew our focus. If we learn to be kind to ourselves, to forgive our own failings, then temporary setbacks won’t halt our progress.

How does this all work?

Now the question comes to HOW to do all this? The answers are going to be different for everyone. Part of it comes with time and thought. Brainstorm with yourself. A lot of these realizations came for me when I was writing about my journey but not everyone will have the same exerience. Maybe ideas will come during a drive, or a long walk. Maybe after reading a book. Just beginning to ask yourself these questions will help you think of your own answers. “What are some of my victories during this journey?” “How can I inspire myself to continue after I’ve had the worst day ever?” “What is my most compelling reason for weight loss?” Etc.

The Number One Tip

If I could tell everyone one thing to do, to help them be successful I would leave them with this. “SEEK THE MIDDLE PATH.” Avoid extremist thinking – the idea that if something isn’t an absolute success it’s the worst failure ever. This is still a challenge for me. I still tend towared being a bit polarized but I’m working on it and every time I do it helps me in all aspects of life.

I hope this was useful and helpful to someone. If there is a particular topic anyone would like me to explore further, I’ll be happy to do that. In future I might start thinking about specific examples of different challenges I had and ways I overcame them, because honestly, if there’s a diet mistake to make, I’ve probably made it!

Genkijima Update – One Year Later

So you know how some bloggers get all excited about a new weight loss strategy and then a while later you stop hearing about it?

Yeah, I’ve seen that.

I’ve DONE that.

Many times, actually.

NOT TODAY!

This map now has stars all the way up to the house. I’ve lost 86 pounds so far. I have roughly 20-30 to go. I’ve gone from a 50 BMI down to a 29. I want to get to 25 or maybe a little lower. I have so much more energy and can do so many things I couldn’t before and my blood pressure has gone from borderline high, to the low end of the scale. My heart age has gone from 50 to my true age if not lower.

I feel good every day. Even though I’m not to goal yet, I’m still so much better of than I was. A year ago, I was not doing so well. 254 pounds is way too heavy for a fine boned female who’s only 5’3″. I’m not even talking aesthetics or any kind of self worth issue, I’m just talking health. I could feel the strain in my body. My heart would pound with even minor exertion. I was easily overheated. I had to rest constantly when doing active things.

The only reason why I haven’t failed at more diets up until this point is because I haven’t tried more diets. I’ve been really, really bad about losing weight. Everything from excuse making to lack of motivation to deluding myself about how bad the problem really was – I’ve done all that. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been heavy ever since I was a kid. Plus I’m female and have thyroid issues and PCOS and a sedentary job and I’m over 40 – all reasons why I should have a really hard time losing weight.

Okay, so this is where I sell you some magic powder or supplement or weight loss program…

…only I won’t.

But I will tell you how I did it!

Here are the things that have helped me the most.

Learn what portions should be. I used measuring cups and a cheap scale to train myself what I should actually be eating because my concept of what a portion should be was way, WAY off.

Time to adapt. Eventually, the body gets used to smaller quantities and different foods. With consistent effort, eventually these healthy foods begin to be DELICIOUS and you start craving veggies more than junk food.

There is no such thing as magic. That is, no magic pills, no magic supplements, no magic shakes or diets or programs. Weight loss takes work and time and consistency but it’s very doable. The thing is, once I accepted that there was no magic pill/quick fix, it became easier to settle down and do the work.

Learn what works for you. Everybody has something that works for them. For me, it was learning what foods made me hungrier than they should, and avoiding those. I personally used a high protein, moderate carb, relatively low fat plan and tried to avoid refined sugar and carbs as much as practical. I ate a lot of lean chicken and veggies and cooked a lot from scratch. I still have a sweet tooth so Stevia was my best friend.

Research and learn. I did a lot of studying, partly because I needed the information and partly because I was curious. I have read about various issues of diet, exercise, muscle building and fat loss from a number of perspectives. Doing that helps because you will learn more about the nuts and bolts about why things work.

Eat less, move more, and track what you do. This is critical for me. I have to know what I’m putting in my body and how much movement I’m getting so I don’t underestimate my intake, and overestimate what I’m burning off. Keeping up with this means I will know for a fact that I’m still doing what it takes to lose weight.

DON’T GIVE UP. If your efforts aren’t succeeding, change something. Maybe Keto isn’t for you. Maybe you’d do better on Paleo. Or maybe you would do better on a balanced diet with portion control. Maybe Intermittent Fasting works well for you. We all need different things. If a diet is too hard, maybe something needs to change so it can be adhered to more easily.

MOVE! Exercise doesn’t have to be a laugh a minute but it shouldn’t be torture. There are so many ways to move your body. It’s important for building muscle, general health, and maintaining balance and flexibility that the weight loss benefits are almost a bonus.

Remember that you DESERVE to be healthy.

I know I’ve barely scratched the surface here – there is so much more to this topic, but these are the main principles that have kept me going, more than a year after my last New Year Resolution.

Here are the three most useful sites – they all have a ton of information and tools for you and all are free.

NerdFitness – a great site for nerds who want to be healthy. Awesome articles and programs about all aspects of fitness and weight loss, including a community and a cool RPG like goal system.

MyFitnessPal – a calorie tracker (with an app if you want one), community and forum with lots of good health related information. It’s basically fitness social media with a distinct lack of drama. I use it to track my calories, nutrition and exercise, and the community keeps me accountable.

Art of Manliness – a great archive of articles and podcasts with all kinds of interesting information, quite a bit of it fitness elated. Well worth a read by people of any gender, it is a treasure trove of old fashioned skills as well.

By looking at my map you can see that the house is well into the Island of Genkijima, the land of vigorous good health. That was by design. When making the map, I realized that losing weight would help me to feel better, long before I even got near my goal weight. It’s turned out to be true. I noticed some pretty big difference after the first 20 pounds or so.

I still get excited whenever I get to put a new sticker up!

(Side note about the header image: It’s a screenshot of one of the ranches I’ve built in Horse Isle 3, a giant multiplayer open world game. )

Journey to Genkijima

This is going to be a personal post but I hope it still benefits those reading it.

I’ve been overweight since I was roughly ten years old.  It started getting out of control in college when I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted.  However, I was getting exercise through Kendo and lots of walking, so it didn’t get too bad.

When I eventually got my first car, a few years later, the weight really started to pile on.  Add to that a couple of incredibly stressful jobs that involved lots of sitting and being yelled at over the phone and it got even worse.  Now, I’ve always had the most atrocious sweet tooth you could imagine and also a really good nose for bargains, so that combination didn’t help at all.

I tried, various times, to lose weight.  Once I tried Atkins and lost ten pounds rather quickly – but that was an expensive diet and so it didn’t last long.  Plus the fruit cravings were terrible.  I swear I could smell a mango from the produce section as soon as I entered the grocery store.  Another time I did Paleo and that worked great but was too expensive, and also I broke a tooth so all those veggies were out for a while.  I’ve tried shakes, tried fasting (a little bit) tried just restricting my calories without logging.  For a while I lived in Nevada in a tent and ate lots of beans and rice and very little else, and lost a bunch of weight.  I managed to keep it off for a while too but then money issues continued and more stressful work and I gained it again.

My biggest issues were the fact that exercise is super, SUPER boring, which I have little tolerance for, walking is rough during hot Arizona summers, and my life was seemingly consumed by stress and long commutes.

Well.  I got a better job, and more money started coming in, but I still gained because all the cool, nice people I work with LOVE to cook and they just LOVE potlucks, and of course the candy bowl, and it’s still kind of hard to walk while at work.  I had little motivation.

At the beginning of this year a “Biggest Loser” competition came around, with a $400 prize, and that was enough to make me really, really want to win.  I figured a three month period of aggressive weight loss would be enough to get some good habits started.  In December I’d finally gotten a weight set and started seriously trying to become stronger, because I wanted to be more self sufficient, and let’s be honest, also wanted some moderately buff arms.  I began to see results.

On January 6 I started logging my calories with a goal of 12-1500 calories a day.  Just existing in a sedentary state I burn 2200 calories so this could give me a solid two pound loss every week, and I intended to maximize this with what muscle gain I could manage and with plenty of movement.  However, I didn’t want to blog about it on here till I was well begun on my journey.  Because I really, REALLY hate to be a stereotype.

As of this writing I’ve been on plan with no lapses for 26 days.  I’ve lost about 13 pounds.  I feel more energetic, I fit better behind the wheel of my car, my waistbands are looser, my watch slides around more, and I’m stronger.  I’ve recently started making my cardio days my lower calorie (12-1300 calories) and making sure that I get at least 100 grams of protein per day.  No food groups are forbidden though I minimize processed starch or sugar.  I weight train three times a week with stretching and bodyweight stuff like squats on my rest days, and I walk 4-6 days a week, trying for about a mile.  Mostly it’s laps inside my  building where there’s air conditioning.  I love weight training, it makes me feel really good and I don’t have to do it for hours.

Here’s the really interesting thing.  One of the hardest things about pretty much every diet I’ve ever tried has been the cravings.  But I just realized today that I have actually had very nearly NO cravings or excessive hunger even though I’ve probably cut my daily calorie intake in half (at least.)   And I have cravings all the time when I eat what I want, when I want!  I haven’t even looked longingly at the candy bowl.  I’ve had chocolate twice (2 squares of ultra dark) and sugarless gum maybe three times, oh and I think three cough drops.  In 26 days.

I don’t want to go back.  I feel so good.  I snack all the time, but maintain portion control and always keep it healthy, and I know for a FACT that over the long term I’ll hit my numbers as long as I stay on plan.  I don’t deprive myself.  Since my weakness is freshly baked bread, when I bake some I’ll have ONE slice of it, log it, and leave it alone for the rest of the week.  If I want rice I’ll have a cup of it or less.  Knowing that nothing is totally forbidden has kept me from wanting most of it.

I’ve gained some muscle, and lost fat at the same time, because I keep my protein high and lift heavy.  No puny five pound weights for me.  At the moment I’m doing sixty pound weighted squats, twenty five pound kettlebell swings, and thirty pound dumbbell rows, plus a bunch of other stuff including exercise bands.  Plus lots of countertop pushups, because I’m still too heavy to do proper pushups.

I have a goal of converting 95 pounds of fat into carbon dioxide and water, and I’m thirteen pounds along.  Now we get to Genkijima.  That will bring me down to about 150 pounds, when I should be 130 ideally, but that extra 20 pounds of weight will hopefully be mostly muscle.

Since I haven’t been slim in so long, I have been doing a lot of thinking about all the things I’ll be able to do when I don’t have a small person’s worth of weight draped over my frame.  I started calling it the Land of Slim, but realized that was a pretty lame name.  So I picked “Genkijima.”  “Genki” is a japanese word roughly translated to mean “energetic health.”  A person who is “Genki” isn’t just healthy, but they are cheerful and have an upbeat outlook on life.  “Jima” means “Island.”  Tomorrow I’m going to buy a big piece of posterboard and draw a map of the land between where I started and this mystical island. with little spots I can color in for every pound lost.

Genkijima may be a place I’ve never visited in adult life, but I know the way.

jumping off the head
What it kinda feels like to begin this journey….

 

Finally time for a new start

It’s time for a new year and for a new start.  Though I haven’t been the biggest New Year Resolution type, some things have lined up in such a way that I might as well take advantage of all that New Year energy and ride it for a bit.  With much more functional teeth and a head cleared of decay, I’m actually feeling better.  I’ve learned a lot of tips about weight loss and health, so time to be better about taking my own advice.

So, since this blog is about helping others to live the best creative life they can, I’ll offer some of the ideas I intend to use in the New Year.  I’ll personally be doing most of these, however it’s certainly possible, and often better, to just pick one or two things to change, wait for it to become a habit and part of your new normal life, then pick one or two other things to change.

Ideas for a healthier life

A new haircut or trim – it helps you feel better and look better right away.

Stay Positive – it may not be easy to be positive all the time, but when you notice yourself straying, just refocus.  It does get easier, like with every habit.

Focus on Courtesy – this is a rude world, especially if you are living in the US and certain other countries.  I have a definite goal of being more polite to everyone.

Take vitamins – for anything you can’t get enough of through your diet.  In particular I need B vitamins and calcium.

Eat yogurt – and other probiotic foods like kefir, kombucha, or non pasteurized sauerkraut.  Or probiotic supplements.

More protein – whether plant based or animal based, protein helps with growth of lean muscle and keeps you full longer.

Nuts, seeds, berries – all are good for brain health, good nutrients in general, and make healthy snacks.

Upgrade snacktime – my local asian grocery has some great things to replace my sugary, fatty snacks with.  They have everything from seaweed crisps to kale chips to rice crackers.  Let’s not forget seasoned carrot slices, celery chunks, or cucumber rounds.

Make it easy for yourself – make snacks ahead, pack them so they are easy to grab and go.

Move when you can – take stairs, walk across parking lot, do a few wall pushups here and there, a few squats etc.  It all adds up.  I’ll be doing this more.

Apple cider vinegar – check out my article on the drink called Switchel.

Chocolate – I’m going to make eating a small amount of dark chocolate a priority.

Cut down on sugar – I really have a love affair with sugar but it has so many bad properties, so I’m going to refocus on limiting it.

Chew gum – if you have bad teeth like I do, kinds with xylitol and without aspartame are generally best.  It’s good to keep your mouth busy, keep your teeth clean, and burns a few calories.

Drink water – we’ve all heard it but I’ll keep on doing it.  I’m actually pretty good about drinking water, but I can always improve.

Listen to music – the right kind helps your attitude, keeps you on the bright side, and motivates you.  Personally, I love heavy metal because it’s often very motivating.

Every week at least, do something creative.  Depending on your interests, that may be anything from painting to writing in a journal to drawing to practicing music to coloring in a mandala.  If you keep up with the things that feed your mind and creativity, you will feed your happiness.  And you’ll have something to show for it.  Make sure it’s non electronic!

If you want even more hints and tips, check these out:

Recipe

Amazing, heart healthy, cold soak oatmeal

It’s astoundingly simple and yet very tasty.  Simply soak old fashioned rolled outs overnight in your choice of liquid.  You can use water, like I do, or fruit juice, milk, soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut water, really anything wet.  I’ve even done it with green tea.  However, it gets better than that.  Along with your oatmeal you can put other things – like walnut pieces, chia seeds, pepitas, cashews, dried fruit, spices, really anything you can think of that would go with oatmeal.

Once done, you can warm the oatmeal or eat it cold – the soaking keeps some of the oat texture without turning it into mush.  I eat mine without sweetener, you may want to try this too before adding something.  I’ve you’ve added dried fruit or a spice like cinnamon, you may not even want it.

 

Enjoy your New Year, and here’s to your health!

 

via Daily Prompt: Finally

Turmeric works for this world traveler!

I’m sure, if you have Facebook, you are subjected to all sorts of links that Facebook algorithms insert into your feed. I just whizz past all the wrinkle resolvers ( too late I think), most of the Foodie porn things ( I really can’t afford weight wise to drizzle chocolate, cheese and fat, I’m trying […]

via Is this root really working for me…Turmeric. — Travels in the Middle East and beyond