Saturday, January 29, 2011

Just one of those days...


*Takes a deep breath, counts to ten, then lets it out again*

Okay.  Now that I have that out of the way, maybe I can express myself a little more like a human being and a grown adult.  Then again, maybe not.  I started this blog to give myself an outlet to express ideas, encouragement, vent frustrations and rage, and really just give myself and others support.  I really needed that support yesterday, and it's carrying over into today.

I woke up yesterday and was super excited.  I'm not really sure why.  After an hour or so, I got up and went to the pantry to get my oatmeal and discovered that I was out.  For a moment I started to panic.  What was I going to do?  Then I realized I had cereal and milk.  Okay good deal.  Reaching for the cereal, my eyes landed on the package of Thomas's hearty muffins.  slowly, an idea formed and I got excited again.  I carried the pack into the kitchen and proceeded to make myself 2 scrambled egg beaters with chopped bell peppers and red onions.  After I divided them in two, I piled them onto each half of the opened muffin and covered each half with a slice of Kraft Free American Singles.  It turned out really really good.  Only as I was settling down to eat did I realize I should have toasted the muffin first.

Still, a pretty decent start to the day.  However, after that it was sort of all down hill.  I couldn't explain it, but I was just ... not really in the mood to do anything.  I had a list of things that needed to get done, and it really couldn't wait any longer, seeing as I'd already put it off as long as I possibly could.  I let that get me down.  Then as I was out and about, I realized that it had been several hours since my muffin and it was wearing off.  I had packed some snacks and food, as I was going to be away from home the rest of the day, but in the end I caved.  In waiting too long to eat, snacks that normally would have held me over for a few hours barely lasted one.  I tried to put off having my "dinner" because I didn't want to eat it too early, so I thought, "Hey, I'll just have the apple I brought."

No.  One bite told me that it was bad.  I tried to cut away the bruise but it went through the whole thing.  In the end I had to just throw it away.  So then I tried to make a mini bag of Smart Pop popcorn.  I pressed the popcorn button and walked away.  Barely three minutes later I was in the kitchen with the vent on holding the smoking bag under it.  It didn't get rid of the smell of burned popcorn; it just meant I didn't have smoke inside the kitchen.  When I finally took a look inside the bag, what remained was a mostly burned blob of black and white.  The popcorn had sort of fused together.

It wasn't exactly a big deal, but by now my stomach was protesting quite heavily and I needed to put something light but filling into it.  I had another bag and this time I put it in for a minute and a half and stood there watching.  Just under 2 minutes turned out to be the magic time for that microwave.  Unfortunately I was in a down mood, I was starving, and when a terrible-for-you sandwich was offered to me... I ate it.  It tasted great.  But it left me feeling greasy inside and out.  My stomach was no longer protesting, but it didn't feel satisfied as it has the last few weeks after the dinners I have been feeding myself.  I cheated and I knew it.

Weight Watchers tells us not to stress when we eat foods like this.  That's why they give you the Weekly PointsPlus Allowance, an additional 49 points to let you eat whatever you want.  They encourage you to use them so you don't feel deprived.  My issue is... I wouldn't have felt deprived if I hadn't eaten it.  I ate the sandwich out of desperation and gloominess.  Emotional eating.  In the end I felt gross.  There's no other way to describe it; I finished that sandwich and felt gross for having eaten it.

Later I was hungry again, and despite knowing I was out of points, I heated up what I'd taken for dinner, convincing myself that since I'd only used 1 of my 49 WPPA, I was okay.  Again, I'd watited so long to eat that while my food was cooking, I munched on two mini snickers bars.  And man were they good.  They did nothing to sate my hunger; all they did was take the edge off for the two minutes my food was cooking.  But man... They tasted like the best thing out there.  And I ate all my food.  When that was done... a couple hours later on my way home... I ate a snack because I wanted to taste it, not because I was hungry.  And finally about 3 hours before bed (it was an incredibly long, nearly 22 hour day for me) I had another snack.  This time, at least, it was because I was hungry as much as because I wanted to taste it.

I went to bed feeling satisfied by the snack and ignoring the elephant that my sandwich had become.  The real question is was it that bad for me?  Only the scale on Monday will tell for sure, but the bottom line is this:  I'm only human.  I want this to work and I'm going to do everything I possibly can to get this weight off.  Sometimes, I'm going to make the choice to eat something I know isn't the best choice I can make.  The hardest--and best--thing I can do is simply enjoy what I'm eating, get as much pleasure from it as possible, and then MOVE ON as though it were fine.

I can't let one bad choice (be it one food item or one entire day) ruin my entire diet.  I feel it happening again today and I'm fighting the choice not to run down to the vending machines in the break room.  There's a stash of healthy, yummy snacks here and I'm making the choice to stick to them.  When all is said and done, I'm not letting this mood, the fight I had with one of my best friends (which is a large contributor to my desire for Rocky Road or Marzipan Chocolate Hazelnut ice cream right now) or anything else derail me.  Small as it is, I have made progress, and I will continue to do it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Skinny on No Calorie Sweeteners

My last post turned out to be much longer than I anticipated so rather than do a giant post, I did a long one and now a short one.  This one is on the topic of Low and No Calorie Sweeteners.  I highly welcome and encourage feedback.  If you have personal experience with one of the products discussed, by all means please add your knowledge and advice to the comments section!  We're here to help each other succeed, after all, and the better armed and informed we are, the greater we will succeed!

Now on to No Calorie Sweeteners...

Why did this all come about?  Because I LOVE coffee.  Adore.  Can't live without it.  But sugar is expensive (PointsPlus and calories/carbs) in the quantities I use when I drink my coffee.  I hate Splenda because it has a weird aftertaste.  Turns out that weird aftertaste is caused by the fact that to make it a no calorie sweetener made from real sugar, they chlorinate the sugar.  I don't know about you, but the smell of bleach hurts my nose, and I detest the taste of pool water.  Why would I want to add it to my food?

Nutra Sweet's aftertaste is just as bad, and it's totally synthetic.  As is Equal.  I'm not entirely into natural and organic, but in this case... I went there.  There are a lot of new products on the market, and it can be confusing.  I stood in the aisle at the grocery store for about 15 minutes trying to decide.  Sun Crystals, Truvia, Pure Via, Stevia, Blue Agave Nectar.  Which one?!  How do you pick?  Well... You can be like me and pick at random, or you can get a little more information and go based on recommendations.

So here's the low down on each one, with as much information as I have.  Some of the information is on the companies themselves.  As I've said, I'm not necessarily 100% green or organic, but many people who choose to use these products do so because of their company practices as much as anything else.  If that's not information you're interested in, just skip ahead to the next product!  I will, at some point, try them all, and in addition to choosing one to stick with, I will post my findings/decisions in future posts.

Sun Crystals
.  It's a natural product LOW in calories (5 per serving) made from the sweetest parts of the Stevia plant.  It has a texture and consistency closer to sugar (15 calories per teaspoon, which adds up when you're talking 2Tbsp per cup of cofee) because it's a mixture of pure cane sugar and Stevia.  What does it taste like?  No clue.  The company is a member of 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of their sales to environmental causes.

Pure Via.  It's made, like most of the natural, no calorie sweeteners on the market, from Reb A, the sweetest part of the Stevia plant.  This one wasn't the one I chose, so I can't comment on the taste.  This company claims to be "almost as green as [their] leaves."  Their packaging is 100% recycled cardboard, with 35% of that cardboard coming from stuff the rest of us put in our recycling bins.  They also use inks made from naturally renewable sources like soy and and other vegetable oils, making them that much easier to be recycled and turned into other products.

Stevia.  It's a plant found in South America where it's been used for years, decades, centuries, let's face it... forever... as a sweetener.  It's also been very popular in Asia for several decades, and makes up a large percentage of their sugar substitute market.  Some of the extracts have a tendency to be a little bitter in large quantities, hence why other products arose on the market claiming to be made from the sweetest parts of the Stevia leaf (again, Reb A).  This is a little misleading, though, because it's not so much a part of the plant as it is one of the 300 types of Stevia plant.  Still, I can't help feeling like it was one of the best kept secrets for so long!

Truvia.  This is the sweetener I went with.  Let me tell you... I love it!  It's sweeter than sugar, and there's no aftertaste like with Splenda, Nutra Sweet, or Equal.  It's already low calorie, but I use less of it as well.  Like Pure Via, it's made from Reb A.  It's also safe for use with people who are diabetic and is certified Kosher.  The company that produces Truvia has quite a bit to say on their website about corporate responsibility.  I won't try to paraphrase it here.

Blue Agave Nectar.  It's closer in texture to honey because it is, in fact, honey.  It comes from the Blue Agave plant.  yes the very same one used to make Tequila.  Don't let that throw you off, though.  It doesn't taste at all like tequila.  In fact, it has a very light, faintly sweet taste.  It's very clean, and has been used as a natural sweetener for diabetics for years.  It works great for baking!  I've personally tested this theory and had great success and much acclaim.

I definitely recommend you try and use what works best for you.  If you don't mind the tastes of Splenda, Nutra Sweet, or Equal, by all means use them!!  This is what works best for YOU!  I'm simply providing alternatives because I needed them and wished I'd had access to a post like this!  :)

Checking In

Hey folks!  It's almost one month since I last posted.  I meant to post sooner, but things got away with me, as they have a tendency to do from time to time.  So let's take a look back at where I stand and what the last month has brought me.  I said I'd post my numbers.  After all, how do we measure progress if we don't first measure the starting point?  Here they are:

Weight:  212.4
Hips:  46in
Waist:  36in

Where am I now, 3 1/2 weeks later?

Weight:  207.2
Hips: 45.5in
Waist:  36in

Overall that's not bad.  In nearly four weeks, I've lost 5.2 pounds.  A healthy weight loss is an average of 1-2 pounds per week, so I'm right on target as far as that goes.  How have I done it?  Well if you remember, I intended to start out with three plans:  Special K Challenge, the Discovery National Health Challenge, and Weight Watchers.  Let's do a quick postmortem on each.

Special K Challenge:  In theory, it's a good idea.  In practicality... too few calories per day to really be healthy or satisfying.  Again, the plan was simple.  You replace two meals a day with Special K meal replacement bars, protein drinks, or bowls of cereal.  You have two Special K snacks (bars, protein snacks, crackers, chips, whatever as long as it's Special K).  One sensible, nutritious meal.  Throughout the rest of the day, whenever you get hungry, you have as much fruit or vegetables as you need to feel satisfied.  Here's why I gave up on it after 4 days.

First, each bar is about 90-120 Calories.  Each bowl of cereal the same.  No matter how much fruit I ate, I couldn't get satisfied, let alone full.  There's a reason this Challenge is only 2 weeks long.  However, if you're looking for a way to jump start your weight loss, I say go with Slim Fast.  Their plan is similar, but their meal bars and shakes have 180-220 calories per.  This may seem like a lot, but even when you're trying to slim down, you need at least 1200 calories per day.  More if you're active.  Otherwise, your body thinks it's starving, and after a few days it starts to hold onto your fat.  You metabolism slows way day, and when that happens, it's harder to jump start it again.  If you are active, once you burn through the calories your taking in, your body will start to burn not only fat but muscle tissue as well, which has the complications of clogging your kidneys and liver.  You run the risk of going into liver failure, among many other nasty things.

Bottom line:  The products are great, and I highly recommend incorporating them into your diet, but leave the challenge unanswered.

Discovery National Health Challenge:  As I said last time, this is more about tracking:  activity, food, loss and gain.  For people not used to tracking, this is a great tool.  The challenge itself is easy to use and it's a fantastic idea.  It's also a great length.  Just 8 weeks, which is a goo length to get you past the hump of "not seeing results" the first few weeks will bring, and giving you the ability to look back after tracking, eating healthier, and being more active have all become second nature.

What are the down points to it?  Well for starters, their food databases are sorely lacking.  I had to add Skim Milk to my Custom Foods database.  It doesn't contain ANY prepackaged items, so most of my diet had to be added to the database before I could use the tracker.  That much work makes it an undesirable tool.  It creates food and workout plans, which are fantastic for people who don't know what they want to do for exercise.  But when you have to go through every day and remove all your food and your work out to add in what you really did, it feels cumbersome and unfriendly.  Not tracking your exercise isn't as bad as not tracking your food, however both are important.

Bottom line:  It's a great resource to help people develop better habits, and if you don't have access to any other tools or databases.  I recommend finding better access or you'll find yourself not tracking your food at all.

Weight Watchers:  The plan has changed!  For those of you who remember the Momentum/Winning Points plan, that's out the window.  It focused on Fat and Calories alone, and while it worked, there were times that it felt restrictive and unlivable.  Even with your 33 extra weekly points, it felt like you were depriving yourself.  The new plan, PointsPlus, takes into account not Calories in a food, but the components of a Calorie and how our bodies interact with/react to them.  Fat, Carbs, Protein and Fiber are the four things tracked.  As such, the points values are higher for most foods.  But guess what?  You get more points per day!  On top of that, you get 49 Weekly PointsPlus Allowance.  49!  Trust me when I say you won't use them all without consciously setting your mind to it.

The plan now is much MUCH more livable.  I greatly enjoy it, and I have never gone to bed feeling hungry or deprived.  It's given me new motivation to start cooking my own meals again, but Weight Watchers has a large array of products for people who don't want to cook for themselves.  They make instant oatmeal for breakfast that I just adore.  They have snack bars that make me forget I'm not eating candy.  Mini Mint Cookie Crisp bars are richer and more satisfying than Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies!!  I've had pizza--both delivery and homemade--on this plan.

The meetings are great!  It's nice to hear other people struggling with the same things that you'll find yourself struggling with at some point.  You know that you have people there who have been or are where you are.  They come with built in knowledge and advice on what works and what doesn't.  And then there's the staff!  Each leader is someone who met their goal weight on the program and has kept it off.  They're honest with you about their struggles and they celebrate even the smallest triumphs.  What I find most rewarding is knowing that I can go into this room full of strangers and hear them ask questions I myself am thinking.  They'll support me even if I didn't lose weight that week.  Non-scale victories are counted and held just as important.  Let's face it... this is hard, and we need as much to celebrate as we can.  It's incredibly rewarding to hear other people congratulate you because you didn't eat the chocolate donuts that one of your coworkers "thoughtfully" brought in to share.

My first two weeks, I tracked really well and I lost 2.2 pounds each week.  The last week I didn't track at all and I only lost .8 pounds.  So... I've started tracking again, religiously.  I haven't added in exercise yet, but I'm going to here soon.  Like tonight or tomorrow morning.  I have a stair stepper at home and plan to do that for about 20-30 minutes a day.  I also intend to add in planks and sit ups for ab work, push ups and something else triceps specific for upper body.

Bottom line:  The plan is a good one.  it teaches you the basics of not only losing weight but leading a healthier life in general.  It makes the transition into a healthier lifestyle easier by allowing you the opportunities to still indulge in your favorite foods that aren't necessarily scale friendly.  There's a built in support structure, even if you have friends to go with you.  This is about you and your success, and that room full of people helps you feel like no matter how small the victory, you just climbed a mountain and have every right and reason to celebrate.  Let's face it:  You Do.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here I Am

The holidays are a great time of year.  You're surrounded by friends, family, loved ones, and even a few Grinches.  I try not to let the latter bother me, though, because there's so much about the holiday season that is worth enjoying and celebrating.  The decorations, the movies, the parties... THE FOOD.  Yep, I'm admitting it.  The food is most definitely worth celebrating.  And yet, when the holidays are done, there's this sense of guilt for all the self indulgence.  Weight loss commercials and products get deals, discounts, and top billing in all our marketing areas.

Many people choose this time to get serious about getting the weight off.  I know I've tried time and again, usually discouraged by the end of January that I've given up so much for so little gain... er, loss.  Here's the thing:  It's slow going.  At first.  It requires hard work, diligence, patience, and more than anything else, a serious commitment.  The right motivation can make all the difference.

Everyone I know who has chosen to lose weight and was able to make it work has been able to point to one moment where it all changed.  One moment in which everything was different and they had everything they needed to finally stick to it.  For me, it was this holiday season that it happened.  I was bending over to get something and I split my jeans right down the back.  Granted these jeans were a few years old, made of thin material as it was, and had several holes in them.  But that doesn't matter.  I knew I'd gained weight.  All of my other clothes were tighter than they had been, and some just weren't fitting at all anymore.  I was growing more and more self conscious about my appearance, and then this happened.

I decided then and there that this new year would be a new me.  Starting January first, I'm going to lose weight.  I'm going to make sure that I never again split the seam in my pants.  I'm going to take my destiny into my own hands and make a change for the best.

Now, how to go about this?  There are a lot of commercials that promise jump starts and results.  It's so hard to wade through all of these offers, deals and promises.  Where does a girl start?  A few places.

The first one is the Special K challenge.  They promise it's easy to use.  This isn't the first year that I've seen it, so I'm going to give it a shot.  The results don't seem to be a lot off puffery.  They only promise that you can lose UP TO 6 pounds in 2 weeks.  That's an average of 3 pounds per week if you lose the maximum.  They don't promise exactly 6 pounds.  They don't promise drastic change.  In all honesty, what they're promising is the start to better habits, and enough results to keep you going.  So what's the challenge?

2 Special K meals: Cereal, Protein Shakes or Meal Bars
2 Special K Snacks: Any of the Special K Snack line
1 Sensible Meal of your choice (and they offer recipe suggestions!
As many servings of fruit and veggies as you want throughout the day

Knowing that I have that last options helps a great deal.  It means that they offer me a way to literally eat all day, which the lack of is a hard thing for me on a diet.  If you're like me and you want to give this a shot, see the link section to the side to get started yourself.

Next, the National Health Challenge put on by the Discovery Channel.  I did this 4 years ago, and it was a really great thing.  I just started it late in the game and didn't get as much out of it as I wanted.  This time, that won't be the case.  What is it?  Well, to quote from the website,

"Discovery Health's National Body Challenge is a FREE, comprehensive fitness and weight-loss challenge that provides the tools and inspiration - online, on television and beyond - to get in shape, shed pounds and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Go online to register and receive FREE:

  • Customized meal plans with over 1,000 kitchen-tested, nutritionist-approved recipes
  • Progressive fitness plans, tailored for you by experts
  • Diverse community of support to help you achieve your personal lifestyle goals
  • Individualized weight and fitness trackers
  • Video and interactive tools from fitness and weight loss professionals
  • and much more!
Parental consent required for anyone under the age of 18. Certain terms and conditions apply. See FAQ for more details."

The registration process is simple and easy.  The set up too.  It asks you to input information about yourself and set goals for the 8 weeks period.  Then it asks your preferences and gives you a tailored meal plan and exercise plan based on the information you gave it.  It has options for diabetic and vegetarian meal plans, as well as basic or intermediate work out plans.

I'll share my numbers in my kick off post, and I encourage anyone out there who chooses to join me on this journey to do the same.  Knowing that you have to share this information with someone else tends to keep me honest.  I have no way of checking up on you, and you're under no obligation to do this, or to be honest about your numbers.  But if you're not honest, who are you cheating?  No one but yourself.

Lastly, I'll also be doing Weight Watchers again.  The thing about Weight Watchers is that this:  you're not on a diet.  Weight Watchers helps you evaluate what you're doing when you eat.  Why are you eating that much?  Why are you eating when you eat?  Is it because you're bored?  Is it because you're celebrating?  Hungry?  Sad?  Depressed?  It teaches you how to substitute food with non-food ways of celebrating or commiserating.  It teaches you portion control, and how to recognize when you're full.  I learned that it's OKAY to leave food behind on your plate if you really are full.  This is so hard to admit because we're taught as children to clean our plates or we don't get to leave the table.  They have a lot of tools available to you, both in person at the meetings, as well as online at their website.  Check them out!

I'm excited about this prospect.  I'm worried that I'm going to fail, naturally, but I'm trying to take things one day at a time and NOT panic.  I can only do what I've set out to do, and sometimes there will be days that I won't meet my goals.  There will be days that I cheat and eat something that I shouldn't eat.  There will be days that I make up an excuse not to work out.  It happens, and I can't let that derail me.  I'm in this for me, and I will lose myself!