On June 22 of this year I was inspired by my son, Kyle's success in getting healthy, losing weight, getting in shape. And more than that, his sharing his process and progress in his blog. I was so inspired, I decided to make changes in my own life.
Kyle had done extensive research in weight loss and expressed very clearly how we lose weight by creating a calorie deficit, either from lowering calorie intake or through burning calories through activity. And he provided a link to determine what an individual's calorie budget should be, based on age, height, and activity level (Basal Metabolic Index-BMI). It is information I had read before, but somehow it made so much sense both intuitively and intellectually this time.
You see, my weight has fluctuated wildly over my 50 years. As a child I was fairly active so it was never a concern. As a teenager though, when I stopped swimming 2 hours a day, the weight began to creep on, especially around my hips and thighs. My junior year in high school, I gained about 25 pounds and started the weight gain/loss yo-yo.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I basically starved myself AND exercised to lose the extra weight. In fact, at 5'10" tall, I weighed about 112 lbs. by the end of that summer. This is not a healthy weight and I do not recommend the anorexia plan to anyone.
I want to speak to the people out there who can relate to this. The cause for my dieting that summer was a bet with a friend to see who could lose the weight quicker. The bet was started because our boyfriends thought we were too fat. Please don't get me wrong. I am not blaming the boyfriends. This is more a statement about how we process criticism of our body. And in my case, I processed the information mainly through my emotions, which then said "If you want to be loved, you must be thin, beautiful, ______ insert ideal here."
Emotions are powerful instigators. Fear can make us move, or stop, or panic. Love can blind us, or encourage us. Accepting our emotional responses and working with them may just be the key to finding balance and peace in our lives.
Despite the emotional reasons for eating or not exercising, the physiological answer to weight loss is still the same - create a calorie deficit through lowering calorie intake or through burning calories. It makes sense then to create a plan that is a) healthy (1-2 pounds per week is considered safe weight loss), b)is sustainable - not so strict that you will feel deprived (there are those pesky emotions), c)fits with your current lifestyle (if you work long hours, your plan needs to account for this), and d) changes as you do (as you build lean muscle, you will burn calories faster, but as you build cardiovascular health, it will take more intensity to raise your heart rate to burn fat.)
For me, the reason my previous attempts did not work, is that they were drastic and didn't teach me how to maintain my ideal weight once I achieved the weight loss. This is the key concept that Kyle's research provided for me. I needed a plan for a healthy and aware lifestyle, not a quick fix that would be undone as soon as I went back to my previous oblivious ways.
Much like the financial budget I monitor daily, I set up a calorie budget that includes the foods I already eat (some healthy, some not so much) and the activities I already do (yoga, sit ups, walking, cycling, and dancing). Each day I insert the calories for the foods I eat (calories in) and the activity I perform (burned calories). The daily budget (derived from the BMR calculation)allows me to choose the foods I eat, teaching me awareness of how much I am consuming and the activity I need to perform in order to maintain the average daily balance. The I-phone has a cool app "Lose it!" that will do this very thing for you. (If I can figure out how to link my spreadsheet, I will do so later.)
It has been 9 weeks since I started this plan and I have lost 20 pounds to date. This is an average of about 2.2 pounds per week. I am feeling better, fitting into a size smaller clothes, and gaining awareness of my food choices. The first few weeks were difficult because I felt hungry, especially at night. But I pushed through, knowing my stomach would shrink to adjust for the decreased food intake. I have upped my yoga to twice a day on average. I am walking on average twice per week. And we dance once per week currently. These were all changes I have been able to make while averaging 60 hours of work each week. I say that because one of my reasons for not exercising was the time factor.
I am motivated to continue this plan because it is working. The great thing about making healthy lifestyle changes is I don't waste time and energy on guilt or beating myself up. I am learning flexibility and the beauty of making adjustments as needed. Along with the calorie/exercise budget, I have recorded comments about foods that caused digestive problems, or emotional changes I notice, and especially changes in my body that are a direct result of the food or activity for that day. It may sound tedious to some, but for me it is enlightening. As in any plan, some days it flows and other days, well, it doesn't. On those days I have found it necessary to let go and remember tomorrow is a new day.