If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know about some of my experiences with diets. I’ve tried a variety of them and over the years some of the principles have stuck. “Avoid sugar and refined flour” and “Try to get enough sleep” have been two that I’ve found to be the most important. Of course trying to get in exercise is also part of it.
Well last year (2011), I lost something like 10 lbs, but managed to put the weight back on by the spring. After I changed jobs, I decided to enjoy my time in Old Montreal and explore all the new places to eat. In March our office encouraged participation in the 5/30 challenge. The challenge was to eat 5 servings of fruit or vegetable per day along with 30 minutes of exercise. Since I usually prepared the school lunches for the kids with fruits and vegetables, I prepared some more to include with my lunch. Then I set out to go for 30 minute (or more) walks either in the morning, during lunch, or after work.
I also remembered that my friend tornwordo had posted about an iPhone app called Lose It! I had never been big on calorie counting because it was so difficult to keep looking up things and then keep track, usually writing it down in a notebook. But the app proved to be incredibly easy. Their database of foods is quite extensive and there are only a few times you need to get creative. Once you find the food, you add the quantity and it subtracts it from your daily allowance. The daily allowance is automatically calculated for you using your weight and the rate of weight loss (or gain) you’d like to achieve. It also gives you credit for exercise.
This app has really taught me a lot about food, exercise, and eating habits. I’ve found that I am usually satiated after consuming around 600 calories per meal. If my calorie intake stays around that level, I don’t have major hunger pangs and I’m less likely to binge. You also learn to budget how much you eat at different points in the day and you prepare for how much you plan to eat in the evening or as a snack. I have learned much about calories per quantity of different foods. For instance the following quantities equal about 100 calories: 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of oil (mayo), 2 tablespoons salad dressing, 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1 1/4 cup of blueberries, 1 banana, 2 cups of broccoli, 13 cups of salad (no dressing), 1 1/2 slices of bread, 7 oz of juice, 4 oz of wine, 1 1/2 oz of vodka, 8 oz of beer, 1 1/4 oz of beef, 3 oz smoked salmon, and 3 oz of chicken. You quickly see that you can eat tons of fruits and vegetables with few calories, while beef, wine, and all types of oil will hurt your calorie count pretty quickly. It gives a great sense of what to avoid and what to choose. Though unfortunately ordering a Caesar salad at a restaurant is usually swimming in dressing.
Regarding exercise, higher intensity activities like running burn more calories quicker, but it is interesting to see how much you walk in a day. I started using a pedometer and found that I usually walk about two miles just between commuting and normal walking around at work. It becomes quite a motivator to exercise if your reward is enough for a scotch and a piece of chocolate (assuming you’re staying under your calorie allowance).
Using this system and continuing the principles of the 5/30 challenge, I lost almost 25 lbs between March 1st and mid-July. But then I went on vacation and went off the diet. I binged and didn’t exercise as much as I had planned, so I ended up gaining back 8 lbs. My end goal is still to lose a total of 45 lbs and get down to 180 lbs for my 5′-10″ frame. I’d even go lighter, but we will see how I feel and how I look at 180 lbs. Originally the goal was to lose all 45 lbs by Christmas, but for now I’m working on losing 13 lbs by then to get to 195 lbs.
Along the way, I signed up for an obstacle course race (that I’ll talk more about at a later date) as a goal from my exercise training. While training for that, I worked on my upper body strength through chin-ups for climbing ropes and push-ups for crawling along the ground. Now that the race is over, I’ve decided that I would continue that and set the goal of being able to complete 10 chin-ups and 50 push-ups by Christmas. I’m up to 3 and 40 respectively. I should be able to complete the push-ups, but we’ll have to see about the chin-ups. The later will be easier if the pounds come off.