Wednesday, January 26, 2011

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.

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