Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fitness, Food and Weight Loss

My reason for posting this today is to (hopefully) motivate and inspire, just as I have been motivated and inspired by the real-life success stories of others. Losing weight, for me, has always been hard work and until my adult years, I didn't know how to do it right. In high school I tried metabolism boosting drops in drinks and other such 'quick-weight-loss' schemes which did not work; I was actually my heaviest in high school. Once I got married and started having children, I learned a lot more about fitness and health and I made some lifestyle changes concerning food and exercise which made a huge difference. Now, that being said, I have been wanting to lose 10 or so pounds for quite a few months now; birthing five kids and getting older does take a toll on your body :). The problem is I wasn't changing anything, and if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting. I already ate healthy and exercised so I figured there really wasn't anything else to do. Then, a couple of months ago, my kids(they range in age from 2-9) started asking if I was pregnant because my tummy had gotten softer and stuck out a little more. That was the last straw. I started to observe my life and eating habits while listening to advice from personal trainers on blogs and interviews etc. and I realized that I was eating too much and too often even though those food choices were mostly healthy, whole foods.  I heard a personal trainer say that we should be eating 4 small meals a day: Breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. I realized that not only did I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with two snacks in between but I also took bites of food off my kids plates if they didn't finish(don't want anything to go to waste, right? Not a good idea if you're wanting to stay trim), many times I'd have a little after dinner snack or treat (air popped popcorn or Aussie licorice are favorites), and I would many times enjoy second helpings at dinner, maybe not a full second helping but that didn't matter because I was eating more calories than my body was able to burn at one time and over the day. It's all the little things in life that add up and really matter, and make you what you are, and it's the same with food. The little bites here and there add up and so, over several months, I had gained about 7 lbs. I know that may not sound like a ton, but when you're already a few pounds more than your ideal and then you gain a few more and you're not changing anything then you begin to worry that you'll continue to gain over months and years to come.

After calorie counting and weight training for 2 months

just before I started counting calories and doing more weight training

Another 'before' picture

Here was my exercise and eating routine a couple of months ago: 5-6 days a week do some sort of aerobic exercise for 30 minutes to an hour each day, eat mostly whole foods and since I'm eating clean, just eat whenever I want and however much I want. Most of the exercise videos I do at home have a personal trainer that's leading the program and part way through they almost always mention food. Here's a quote from Jillian Michaels, a trainer from the Biggest Loser:
"Weight loss tip - So many people come up to me and tell me they can’t lose weight and yet, I haven’t ever met a person I can’t take weight off. You're not counting calories. Forget all the fad diets for a moment and just focus on the basics. Weight loss will always require burning more calories than you take in. Calories in versus calories out."

In other words, your body will only burn a certain amount of calories in a day (numbers based on height/age/gender) and if you eat more than that you will gain weight. And if you eat less than that, you will lose weight.

I also remember Jillian Michaels saying in a video that building muscle, exercising, weight lifting etc. is great and important but if you want to see that muscle you're building, you need to cut down on calories and watch what you eat. Otherwise, you'll get a strong stomach by exercising the core(or wherever, usually all over because you can't really target one specific area and only lose there), but you won't be able to see the effects of it, they'll be hidden under the soft stuff if you don't combine exercise and weight lifting with calorie reduction and eating mostly good foods.

At this same decision-making/food and exercise-changing time, I read a blog about a girl who, over time, got into good shape by doing lots of weights and interval training combined with a little aerobic, while counting calories using an app called myfitnesspal.  Well, there it was again. Calorie counting. Something I had never done before and an idea I kind of almost scoffed at prior to this time. I used to think, "counting calories sounds like so much work; I don't need to do that to stay in shape." Well, that week I made some changes and counting calories was one of them. I started doing more weights, more pushups, more interval training; Scott has been a big help with this. We are exercising together, though he's trying to gain a few muscle pounds so we're hoping to tip the scale opposite ways :). I downloaded the myfitnesspal app at that time, entered in my weight, height, age and gender with the amount of weight I wanted to lose (10 lbs) and then began tracking calories. This, I believe, was what really tipped the scale because it made me aware of all my little snacks, all the little bites off my kids plate here and there. It made me realize that I was eating more than my body needed. I didn't need to snack throughout the day and my portions could and should be smaller, especially at dinner.

Before: it does kinda look like a pregnant belly

After: no more pregnant belly!

Based on my personal information I entered into the app, I am allowed to eat 1430 calories in a day. If I stay in between 1400-1500 I think it's pretty good, though I really try to stay closer to 1430.  I knew if I wanted to be successful I really needed to count everything. Main dishes, desserts, snacks, sides, fruits, veggies, any bites off my kids plates, any free samples from Costco, everything. Those little things can be a pain to enter so I mostly just leave them alone now, you know like the samples and the bites off kids plates etc. Now my typical eating schedule goes something like this: breakfast, lunch, a snack and then dinner, just like the personal trainer recommended! My breakfast is mostly the same every day, and for lunch and snack I generally only have a few things that I rotate so that makes my life easier because the app saves all your recent foods and recipes you've entered, so basically, every day counting calories gets easier because you have more foods and recipes saved in your app. It also has a database that contains any recipes others have created from restaurants and from others using this app. Sometimes if I'm too lazy to put in all the caloric info for a recipe, I'll browse the database, find several of the same type of recipe and if the calories vary a lot from recipe to recipe, I use the one that looks like an average of them all, but for the most part, I scan barcodes and enter in new recipes so I know I'm keeping an accurate count.

I allow myself one cheat meal a week. Not a cheat day. A cheat meal, which I generally save for our weekly date nights since they very often involve food. Even then, I try to maintain some self control and if we go to a restaurant I won't eat lots of chips and salsa or breadsticks if they start you with that, but just a little, and I generally only get through half of my meal because they are so big. If we order dessert, we share it and sometimes we even have some left to bring home and share with the kids.

Almost six weeks have passed since I began and I've lost 10 lbs, and hit my target weight. In order to maintain, I am going to continue counting calories and mixing up weight lifting, interval training and cardio 5-6 days a week. 


Lani said...

I just started using the MFP app too. I've always had an exceptionally hard time losing weight while I'm still breastfeeding (we're 3 months in and I nursed the others for 9 to 12 months) and this last pregnancy (#5) was a doozy for me. I'm currently within 2-3 lbs of my max weight with #4! Only time will tell (I do add calories for nursing and set my goal to only 1 lb lost per week) but I'm hoping MFP and resistance training will help sooner than that! Thanks for sharing! It's always good to hear real life success stories from others in similar circumstances. :)

Elisa said...

Lani, nice! the app is sure handy! It's kinda like having your own personal trainer.

Evaly said...

Wow you look great! It's amazing what a difference 10 pounds makes.

Heidi Horne said...

Elisa you look great!!! So I have a question. Do you eat the 1400 calories no matter what you have burned working out? So lets say you burn 600 calories with a work out do you then basically look like you ate 800 calories? Does that make sense? Or do you add your work outs and eat the extra 600 calories to bring your total calories to 1400...hope that makes sense.
I too get annoyed entering things especally when you MAKE most everything your self its hard to guess how much it might be....
Packaged would make it easier, but isn't healthy. So how do you gage how many calories each meal has that you home make? Or do you pick something that's already on there and guess?

You ARE an inspiration. We are done after baby #3 more than likely. So I look forward to keeping up healthy habits after baby!

Elisa said...

Hey Heidi, no I do not factor in the calories that I burned during the work out, I just pretty much always try to stay between 1400 to 1500 & count that exercise as an added bonus which will help me lose weight faster :). And as for adding in my home made meals, because they are all homemade we tend to have 10 dinner meals that we do over and over again and so once those 10 have been entered they are saved so then it's really easy to just click it again and add it.