Friday, July 31, 2009

Losing weight isn't about willpower

I used to think losing weight was all about willpower. I figured if I had enough willpower, I would be able to stick to a diet, resist fattening foods and eventually slim down.

But time and again I didn't have the willpower, and I did eat the foods I wasn't supposed to. It didn't matter what diet I was on, if it was just one of my own creations or something I was following out of a book.

It was pretty demoralizing. I would make a new starts at losing weight with a strict resolutions of no 'cheating'. Then when I would break my diet and splurge on foods that were off-limits I would feel guilty and a complete failure. I would mentally beat myself up about my pathetic lack of self-control. That sort of thinking doesn't exactly empower one's self esteem! I would end up in thinking place of: I am fat (therefore ugly) and useless.

All I can say is, thank goodness I didn't give up. Because eventually I found this way of losing weight (and actually maintaining!) where willpower just didn't come into it. It was only recently that it dawned on me of why this is.

Previous to this way of eating, it was quite common for me to really crave something sweet after lunch and dinner - chocolate, cookies, and cake were top of the list (potato chips weren't too far behind!)

The nutrition programme set out for me is one that feeds my body - it gives my body the fuel and nutrients it requires to function properly. In really basic terms: I eat the right food at the right time. Because my body is always fueled-up, I don't get cravings. When it is getting close to a meal or snack time, I am looking forward to my healthy food. And after I've had a meal, I feel satisfied and full. I don't feel like having anything sweet or munching on anything else. I can keep chocolate and cookies in the house and I don't feel like eating them - in fact, I don't even think about them.

I always thought that trying to eat this healthy all of the time would make me really want to eat treat foods. I thought I would feel so deprived that I would never last a week eating this way let alone 5 years! I can see the irony now that eating healthy actually makes me want to eat healthy! Losing weight is not about willpower at all - it is about fueling the body with the right food at the right time.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sickness + no exercise = no free meal

This past week my son and I were struck down by the nasty Rotavirus. While my son copped the worst of it with vomiting and diarrhea, I only spent a day in bed achy muscles, zero appetite and no energy. Unfortunately with viruses, they take their toll on the body and it does require recovery time.

That means I haven't exercised in about a week. I am not worried about that, I prefer to rest and recover properly than leaping back into exercise too soon and weakening my system.

However, it is this very situation that caused me to gain weight over the past 8 months. I would get a flu or cold, stop exercising BUT keep eating my free meal (actually I was enjoying free weekends back then). As my nutritionist says, 'you have to earn your free meals' ... and that is done through exercising.

So, no free meals for me until I start exercising again. This is very motivating! I am feeling better already! Truly. It is actually quite easy to lie in bed in the morning and think, 'hmmm, I should really give this thing one more day of rest to really get it out of my system.'

I was recently given some lovely organic lemons, this brought on a hankering for my favourite lemon slice recipe. I think tomorrow will be a great day to start walking again especially if I want to be eating that lemon slice this weekend!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The scale does my head in

I don't get on a scale at home. We do own a scale, but it is presently gathering dust behind our bathroom sink.

Getting on a scale completely does my head in. I get that 'ugh' feeling before I step on it ... what is that number going to be? Then I do step on it, and if it isn't the number I am expecting, it completely throws me off.

If the number is too high - above the weight I should be - then I go into semi-panic mode. Whhhhhy have I gained weight? And then I think back to every morsel I have put in my mouth, every lick of exercise I've managed since the last time on the scale, and still I struggle with why that number has increased. Then because there has been an increase, no matter how slight, I have to start working on a plan to get that number back down.

On the other hand, if the number is lower than I was expecting. Well, it is celebration time! I am looooosing weight! Therefore I can eat MORE. I can have treats. In fact, I shall go have a cookie right now because I am obviously just skinny by nature.

See what I mean? The scale does my head in - I have crazed thoughts.

So, the only time I get on a scale is when I visit my nutritionist for a check-in. There is still some trepidation when I go to stand on it, but I know I'm in good hands and she can deal with whatever number pops up. Sometimes the number on the scale is more than my previous visit, but amazingly I have lost some fat. That always gets me. Usually it means my lean body mass is up a bit or I am retaining fluid. I am grateful I have her to explain this to me. If I was at home, it would be tail-spin city - and for no reason!

While I am fairly level-headed with most aspects of maintaining my weight, I think the scale is just too ingrained as the enemy. I try to keep as far away from the things as possible. I don't actually take a lot of notice of what my weight might be at any one time. I go by how my clothes are fitting. My jeans are a great indicator! As soon as they start feeling a bit tight or that fat roll above my waist band starts hanging over a bit too much, I know I need to change a few things with my eating and exercise.

So, while the scale is a handy instrument at the nutritionist's, I prefer not to be a slave to one at home, and this works pretty well for me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"I want to eat whatever I want and still be skinny"

"I want to eat whatever I want and still be skinny." I remember saying that. I was convinced it was possible. I see skinny people eating ice cream, chips, french fries, chocolate, meat pies, doughnuts, hamburgers all the time! Surely it is just mind over matter?? Like, if I think I am skinny then I will be skinny.

Well, it has taken me about 20 years to work out that I am just not naturally skinny. My metabolism isn't geared that way. If I don't want to carry an extra 20+ pounds around, then I have to eat a certain way. I have been through much pain to find this out: countless diets, rigorous exercise regimes and many pairs of jeans - fat, then skinny, fat, then skinny.

It wasn't until I started on this nutrition programme that I really realised what it takes to keep my body at this weight. It was like a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious). I have to eat this way every day - day in day out - to stay this weight. I am NOT like other skinny people who can just chow down on a hamburger and french fries whenever I want. I can't just grab a chocolate bar and a soda for lunch. I can't eat pizza for dinner three nights a week. I can't even have fatty salad dressing or butter with my vegetables at dinner. I just can't do that and maintain this weight.

It sounds like a foodie's worst nightmare - a lifetime of diet food. But, thank goodness, there is a beacon of light to this food programme: My Free Meal! I can eat all of the above-mentioned foods ... I just have to be a bit patient and have my free meal at the right time. It is not difficult. It just requires some discipline. I would say just about everyone is capable of it because we all practice discipline in different areas of our lives such as setting the alarm clock and getting out of bed to go to work, loading the dishwasher after dinner, or mowing the lawn on the weekend. All that stuff takes discipline. Unless you are one of the few people who loooove doing dishes, you kinda have to make yourself do those things.

Well, that's how I feel about my food programme. I have to make myself to do it. Which means, eat clean all week - Monday through Friday. Certainly I am not starving! Far from it. I eat healthy, tasty, wholesome foods all week. Then on Saturday evening I can eat whatever I want. Yep, I can finally say those words and have them be true for me! I can eat whatever I want and still be skinny.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recipe: sweet and sour fish

This is a delicious, low/no-fat, low-carb way to enjoy fish!

Sweet & Sour Fish (serves 2)

300g white flesh fish
1/4c flour
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of one lemon
1/4 c warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 plates full of your favourite steamed vegies in bite-size pieces

Cut fish into large bite-size pieces, check for bones. Coat fish in flour. In a small bowl mix all other ingredients (except vegies), making sure the sugar dissolves. Heat large fry pan on medium, dry-fry fish pieces until they are almost cooked through. Pour sauce mixture over fish and remove from heat. Let stand only 15-20 seconds, serve immediately by spooning over plates of steamed vegetables. Note: the sauce mixture ingredients can be adjusted to suit your tastes.

Unexpected benefits of exercise

I'm not really a huge fan of exercising. I'd much rather sit in my comfy recliner, drink tea and read a book than exercise. But I do enjoy walking. And if the sea water in Auckland was as warm as in Hawaii, I'd probably enjoy swimming too.

But this winter I discovered some additional benefits to exercising (besides just keeping the metabolism up and running):

1. I stay warmer. Earlier this winter I really felt the cold and often had cold hands and feet. Now that I am exercising regularly 4-5 days each week, I don't seem to get cold.

2. I fall asleep easier. I think this is due not only to the physical exercise but also because I am getting up an hour earlier than I was previously. So, when I finally hit the sack at 10 or 10:3opm I fall asleep pretty fast. Prior to this, I was really struggling with falling asleep. Probably 3-4 nights a week I'd lay in bed for 2 hours before finally nodding off.

These additional benefits give me the extra motivation I need to get out of my warm, cosy bed when it is still dark outside and get out into the chilly weather for my walk.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

5 months' triathlon training & not an ounce lost!

Back in 2004 I had an epiphany ... I would do triathlons and those 20 pounds of fat would just fall off of me. My proof and shining example of this realistic thought was a woman I met through my business referral group. Her name was also Lisa ... she was super-fit and had a gorgeous, lean body. Her secret, I knew, was that she trained hard and competed in triathlons.

So, with this goal set, off I went. I trained by myself for a couple months, but I didn't really know what I was doing and didn't seem to make any progress (or lose any weight, ha!) So I paid Lisa's partner, Roger, who trained reasonably normal people to compete in ironmans, to coach me.

I started my training regime set out by Roger in July 2004. He had me exercising every day of the week. I swam and ran Mondays and Wednesdays, biked on Tuesdays and Sundays and swam and biked on Fridays. Thursdays were not a day off ... I tramped for four hours with my club on those days.

I worked hard with my training. I think I did my first event - a sprint triathlon after 3 months of training. This was 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run. It was tough for me although the swimming was a breeze (my strong point), biking and running not so great.

Anyway, while I had accomplished much with my training in terms of fitness and actually competing in my first event ... I had not lost a single ounce. I was working my butt off but my butt was still all there!

By November, when my friend told me about her nutritionist, I was desperate and totally motivated to have her help.

The reason I wasn't losing any weight, she told me, even though I was training so hard was because I was not eating enough food or the right kinds of foods to feed my body. It had gone into 'emergency mode' with all that exercise and was hanging on to every bit of fat for its dear life.

When I followed Ginny's programme, the weight fell off effortlessly. Now I know that simply walking several times a week is enough to keep my metabolism working - no need for that hard slog! I don't miss it a bit!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recipe: minced beef & vegies with sweet Thai chili

One of my favourite EASY dinners: Minced beef and vegies with sweet Thai chili sauce:

150g lean minced beef per person
1 onion, chopped
2 handfuls per person of your favourite vegies (chopped)
sweet Thai chili sauce
soy or tamari sauce
fish sauce (optional)

Chop vegies into bite-sized pieces. Some of my favourites to use in this recipe are carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and beans. Place a large frying pan on medium heat and add minced beef and chopped onion. Brown the mince. When mince is nearly cooked through, pour the soy or tamari sauce over the top (about 1 tablespoon per person) and a tablespoon of fish sauce then drizzle the sweet Thai chili (to taste, I use quite a lot) over the top and mix through. Turn down the heat to low and let the mince simmer in the sauce for about 10 minutes until the meat gets a nice, sticky, carmelised appearance. At the same time, place the vegies in a steamer and cook so that they are finished when the beef is carmelised.

Place about 2 cups of steamed vegies per person in large bowls then ladle the beef and sauce mixture over the top.

My favourite slow-release carbs

Through much trial and error, I have come to realise that slow-release carbohydrates are fantastic things!! When I have slow-release carbs at breakfast and lunch, I stay 'fuller' or more satiated for much, much longer than if I cheat and have foods with a quicker sugar release (such as wholemeal bread). Eating slow-release carbs at breakfast and lunch not only keeps me feeling 'full' between these early meals, but right to the end of the day. I don't get that feeling of being super hungry at dinner time or feeling like I need to snack after dinner. I just feel, well, totally satisfied.

My favourite slow-release carb at breakfast is rolled oats. Specifically: Harraways Organic rolled oats. Yum! I like to take my 1/2 cup of oats and pour boiling water over them. I let them sit for 2-3 minutes until they've soaked up the water, then I mix in about 200ml of low-fat yogurt and slice a banana on top. Delicious! And so satisfying. I don't get hungry again for 3 hours.

My favourite slow-release carbs at lunch are: kumara (or sweet potato) or brown rice. An oven-baked kumara is just beautiful - it is super sweet and almost creamy. It is a wonderful way to eat kumara. However, I am usually not organised enough to bake kumara as it takes about an hour ... and it's not very eco-thoughtful to turn the oven on just for a couple of kumaras! I usually pop a few in the oven when I'm cooking a roast. So, the quicker way I deal to kumara is cube them - skin and all - and steam them. They are quite tasty this way - hot or cold.

I've found the best way to cook brown rice is on the stovetop. I have tried the microwave and no matter how I adjust the cooking time and water quantity, my rice always turns out hard and dry. Cooking rice on the stovetop is no-fail for me. One cup of rice, two cups of cold water, lid on top, bring to a boil, reduce to low and hey presto - I've got soft, fluffy rice in about 30 minutes.

Kumara and rice go great with boiled or fried eggs, canned salmon, tuna, lamb ... just about any type of lean protein. Even cottage cheese and kumara go well together.

The tenets of my nutrition programme

Here are the basic tenets of my nutrition programme:

- Cut out the fat (that means eating lean meats, low/non fat salad dressings, no butter etc on toast, trim milk in tea/coffee)

- Eat every 3 to 3.5 hours (this keeps the metabolism burning energy rather than storing it)

- Eat balanced meals (that means carbs and protein together rather than any carbs on their own)

- No heavy carbs at the evening meal (such as rice, pasta, sweet potato, bread etc)

- Drink plenty of water ('peeing clear' is a good indication that you are drinking the right amount of water)

- Exercise regularly (for me, that means a brisk 40-minute walk 4-5 times per week)

The Free Meal/Day/Weekend

Mmmmmm, one of my favourite parts of this nutrition programme is the free meal. Thee Free Meal. It is the one meal (or day or weekend - if my metabolism is up to it!) when I can eat whatever I want. Yep, anything - ice cream, cake, potato chips, cookies, buttered toast, pikelets, hamburgers, french fries, gelato, chocolate, mince & cheese pies, garlic bread, cheese sauce ... I never have any trouble thinking of tasty treats each week.

And I can eat this food and *still* lose weight! When I first started on this programme it was actually kinda scary getting to eat my first free meal. Ginny had me on a clean programme (as in well-balanced, low fat, nutritionally healthy) for about the first three weeks. When she established that my metabolism was burning the fat as it should, she said I was now not only allowed to have a free meal, but I needed to have it. "It will keep the weight loss from plateauing," she told me.

I needed to eat this surge of calories so that my body, which was getting used to its usual daily quota of calories, would think "Whoa! What's happening?? I need to get busy and get burning all this extra energy!"

While I trusted Ginny completely, I was still a bit nervous about eating 'anything I wanted'. I mean, here I was *losing* weight easily eating healthy food, and now I had to eat the very foods that made me FAT for so many years. Well, it only took one free meal and my next check-in to prove I had nothing to worry about. Eating one free meal each week - and let me tell you, I did not hold back - the weight was falling off at 500g per week.

When I lost all the weight I needed to lose, I got to have 1 free day - I got to eat whatever I wanted all day long and eventually I was able to have entire free weekends.

What I love about having a free meal (or day or weekend) is that I never feel deprived. All week-long while I am eating a low-fat, well-balanced diet that keeps me satiated and feeling good, if I start hankering after chocolate or spot some delicious-looking cookies in the cafe window, I know it is only a short time before I can happily indulge in those treat foods. Nothing is off-limits.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Even after 5 years, I am no expert!

I thought after this many years, I'd figured out how to manage my weight. Well, for the most part I have, but the reality is that for the past 8 months I have *chosen* to ignore various aspects and continue to enjoy eating whatever I wanted all weekend-long. So, it was a little bit of a shock this week to be told by Ginny, my nutritionist, that I've gained 5kg of fat since November!

Just to re-cap: back in November I checked in with Ginny and all was pretty fantastic. I weighed in at 63kg which was down by 600g from the previous visit 4 months ago and actually slightly under-weight for me. That showed Ginny that I was continuing to lose weight with one free day per week. She told me I could eat more - now I could have a two free days per week. Woo Hoo!

So I did. BUT when I got sick with the flu numerous times and didn't exercise for weeks on end ... I kept right on free-mealin' through the weekends.

I also incorporated some new foods into my diet and didn't check their energy levels. Hey, those corn wafters are pretty thin, I should have 4 instead of just 2. And that's a 'mini' wholemeal pita bread, so I should be able to have the whole thing rather than just half. Do that for many months in a row and that extra energy has to go somewhere ... for me it went on my bust, waist, hips and thighs! Ha!

Ginny told me that it's a fine line with weight maintenance. I took that as: if you're not exercising you can't just keep eating the same way - you aren't burning off the extra energy and it will get stored as fat.

The good news is that I can take this weight off pretty easily. This week I weighed in at 67.1kg and the goal is to be losing about 600g per week for a total of 3.5kg and a new weight of 64kg. I feel good at 64kg.

Following Ginny's recommendations, this how I am going to do it:

- Exercise regularly - a 40 minute walk, four-five times per week
- Eat cleanly throughout the week
- Cut back my 'free weekends' to just one 'free meal' per week

That's it. And that's what I love about this way of managing my weight. It is so simple. But I am still learning, I am no expert. I am grateful to have Ginny to remind me of what I do know and to continue to teach me what I don't know.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keeping the fires stoked - eating every 3 hours

Before I started on this nutrition programme, I never really thought about how much time elapsed between meals or snacks. I would eat my breakfast, and when I got hungry again I would have my lunch. Seemed simple enough.

However, I learned one very important aspect of keeping your metabolism running well is to keep the fires stoked and eat every three to three-and-a-half hours. By feeding the body this often, it is happy letting go of excess fat. Skipping meals encourages the body to 'think', "Hmmm, we're not getting fed. Better hang on to some fat just in case."

When I first started my nutrition programme, I wasn't hungry every three hours. Even for someone like me who looooves to eat, it seemed liked a chore to eat that often and when I didn't even have an appetite! But I stuck to it and not only did the weight easily drop off, but my body got into the swing of things and within a few weeks I *was* getting hungry every three hours. Now eating this often is a habit - it's easy to do at home or even if I'm on the run, I always take my snacks with me.

Eating on programme - a typical day

I remember when I had first lost all the weight, friends and acquaintances wanted to know: what exactly do you eat??

Here's a typical day for me:

All Bran (or rolled oats)
unsweetened, low fat yogurt

Morning tea
cottage cheese & rice crackers

2 boiled eggs or canned salmon
brown rice or a medium-sized baked kumara
apple (or some other piece of fruit)

Afternoon tea
mozzarella cheese
wholemeal pita bread or corn wafers

meat and vegetables (no carbs)

Milo with trim milk
yogurt and berries (if I am feeling a bit hungry)

Low-carb dinner challenges

One of the keys for me to lose fat and keep it off is to eat only a small amount of carbohydrates at my evening meal and for dessert. My body isn't using them for energy at this time of day and those carb calories just get stored as fat. So, that means no carb-dense foods for dinner such as sweet potato, rice, pasta, bread, or potatoes.

Eliminating these types of carbs is actually quite easy ... we just have evening meals of protein and vegetables. It's great in summer - we have plenty of steaks and lamb chops on the barbecue with a salad on the side. Even in winter it is simple - a lamb roast with steamed vegies, fish and vegies and even crustless quiche and vegies!

The challenge with low-carb dinners is when I'm looking for some new inspiration ... I leaf through cookbooks and my favourite cooking magazine, Taste. There are actually very, very few recipes that do not have carbs included. So, I adapt recipes to become no/low-carb. Sometimes a recipe just serves as inspiration; my version turns out completely different, but we get to try some new flavours in our meals.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food on the run

I learned early on that to be successful on this food programme I needed to eat the right food at the right time - no matter where I was (or am as I still do this!).

So, if that means I am going to be out and about during the day, I take my food with me. Depending on the length of time I am going to be away from home that might mean I make my lunch and take it or just bring the right snacks.

I felt a bit silly the first few times I showed up at friends' houses with my chilly bin full of food, but you know what? Once I explained to them what I was doing they didn't care! And when it was time for me to eat, I'd just say, "Sorry, I have to eat my lunch now." And that was fine with them too.

Now it's a habit for me to take food with me just about every time I go out. I take notice of what time I had breakfast and figure out where I be in three hours when I need to eat again. Then I toss my snacks in my bag. It could be as simple as an apple and some almonds or it might mean I take a little container of cottage cheese and spoon and put it in a chilly pack. Because I do this all the time, I have my chilly packs ready to go.

If I have my food with me, I am guaranteed to stay on the programme.

Stevia - the natural sweetener

My favourite breakfast is natural, unflavoured yogurt with rolled oats and a banana. I pour boiling water over the oats so they get nice and soft and mix in my yogurt. Only problem is that I find the yogurt mouth-puckeringly sour!

During one of my check-ins with Ginny, she discovered I was using a teaspoon of sugar to sweeten my tart yogurt. A teaspoon of sugar is only 16 calories, she told me, but even that small amount of sugar is stopping the fat-burning process which is still carrying on from your night's sleep. (I just love it that I am burning fat while I am sleeping!) She said any kind of simple sugar will halt the morning's fat burning - honey, brown sugar, syrup etc.

She knows I don't like fake foods including artificial sweeteners, so she recommended Stevia, the natural sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. It has 300 times the sweetness of sugar, no calories and negligible effect on blood glucose - it does not stop the night's fat burning process.

I buy the liquid form. It only takes about 5 drops on my yogurt to transform it from tart to pleasantly palatable.

Keeping a food diary

When I first started the programme my nutritionist set out for me, she asked me to keep a food diary. I had to write down exactly what I ate for each meal and snack. This was a useful tool for her to compare what I was eating to the weight-loss results I was experiencing (or in some weeks, not experiencing!), and how I was feeling in terms of hunger. She was then able to tweak my programme so that I was eating to my body's requirements and continuing to lose weight.

I thought keeping a food diary would just be a temporary task ... once I'd lost the weight, I wouldn't bother writing everything down since she wouldn't be looking at it any more.

However, she told me something that really struck a chord: the most successful weight-loss maintainers are people who keep food diaries.

The reasons for this are:

1. Physical: if you write down everything you eat every day, and if the scale starts showing the pounds going up or if the jeans start to become a bit tight ... you can take a look back through the diary and find out where you're going wrong. I was on a great losing streak when I first started my food programme; I was consistently losing about 1 pound each week. However, when I next checked in I had not lost any weight after a 3 week period. Ginny was able to look back through my food diary and see that I had introduced a new salad dressing at lunch-time, and unbeknownst to be it was loaded with fat! This small addition was enough to stall my progress.

2. Psychological: it makes you accountable for everything you put in your mouth. It's so easy (for me!) to think, you know I'll just have that cookie and it won't matter. But it kills me if I have to write down that cookie on my food diary! Why? Because that cookie is not part of my food programme for the day, and it's like a black mark for the week.

I have my food diary set up in an excel template as a grid with the days of the week across the top and all meals and snacks down the left hand side. I also have a space to note exercise for each day. I print out one page for each week, and I keep my diary in a handy place where I can write down what I eat after I've had a meal. If I wait until the end of the day, I forget to do it. And then it is really hard for me to remember if I'm trying to write it down the next day.

Personally, I find it really satisfying to get to Friday and see what 'clean' eating I've done all week ... then I can thoroughly enjoy my 'free' eating on the weekend.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Before & After photos

Before - 160 +lbs, After - 140lbs

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Diets Don't Work and neither did the rest of them

Diets Don't Work ... this was the name of one of the 'diets' I followed and gee, it didn't work for me! LOL! But the saying is true. Diets do not work, I have tried enough of them to know!

I think it was around the age or seven or eight that I had started packing on the pounds. I have recently looked back at family photos and yep, I was chubby! I don't really know why I got fat, my mom says I liked to eat and not move which is still very true today. Ha! It was not pleasant being the 'fat kid' in class, I got called all sorts of names from the uninventive 'fatso' to the more creative 'Yank Tank' when our family lived in Australia. I also remember thinking, well, I can't go on a diet because my mom makes all the food! I thought, when I grow up, I will go on a diet.

So I did! In my teens my weight was up and down. Early teens I was overweight probably by 15-20 pounds but I didn't do anything to try and change this. In my later teens I was able to trim down by doing regular excercise in a good physical education programme at high school that featured aerobics and weight training. Being a typical teenage girl, however, I thought I still needed to lose 10 pounds so I tried my first diet recommended to me by a girl I worked with. "You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want as long as you are hungry," she told me as she helped herself to a candy bar from the shelves. It sounded great to me. So I bought the book, Diets Don't Work. The whole premise of this book was based on how thin people eat - they only eat when they are hungry. So, the author explains, if you eat like a thin person, you will be thin! I am sure there must of been more to that book but really, that was the only point I got. And it was very easy to convince myself that I was hungry and needed a candy bar, ice cream, chips, cake, nachos ... I ended up eating complete garbage food when I was actually hungry and missing out on the good, wholesome stuff I should have been having at mealtimes. My mother was not impressed, and when I started to put on weight I decided to give it up.

My weight was up and down a bit over the next five years, but I was eating healthily living at home and making sure I exercised regularly with either aerobics or jogging. In 1990, the year before I moved to New Zealand, I got on a real 'health kick' and ate a very low fat diet and jogged every morning (even in the snow!). I was down to 135 pounds when I moved to NZ in 1991.

It was a huge adjustment moving to New Zealand. I came here to be with my pen-pal, Steve. While we had a wonderful time, I think there was a lot of underlying stress of missing my family, adjusting to a new country, making new friends and not keeping up with my healthy eating and exercise programme.

Over the next 10 years I slowly put on weight. I started suffering from 'hayfever'. My nose would run constantly, and I'd have sneezing fits throughout the day. I went to a naturopath for a different problem and mentioned the 'hayfever'. She showed me a book: the Eat Right 4 Your Type Diet. It was all about eating foods suited to your blood type. One of the benefits of this was possible weight loss. I was intrigued, got my blood typed and started cutting out the 'avoid' foods and eating only the 'neutral' or 'highly beneficial' foods. One of the foods I cut out was wheat. Within a few weeks my 'hayfever' disappeared. Gone. Completely. No more sneezing or runny nose. This was fantastic! I was a convert and still eat to my blood type today. However, I didn't lose any weight.

Weight Watchers came along next in the form of a free points booklet loaned to me by my weight-loss buddy, Carol. Now, this is a system I could follow, I thought! Each food has a number of points allocated to it - the healthier the food, the lower the points. I think I was allowed 22 points per day. But somehow I still managed to eat a lot of garbage. Let's see, an ice cream sundae is only 10 points (I can't remember exactly the number) so that means I can survive on 12 points for the rest of the day. I think because I didn't sign up for the full programme to know how best to use the points system or to be accountable with a weekly weigh-in, this programme wasn't sustainable for me, and I had given it up within just a few weeks. No weight loss either. Surprise.

While in the book store one day, I read the description of a 'carbohydrate addict' on the back cover of the The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet book, it was very similar to their website's The Carbohydrate Addict's Quick Quiz which includes questions such as: After a full breakfast, do you get hungry before it's time for lunch? Do you have a difficult time stopping, once you start to eat starches, snack foods, junk food, or sweets? Do you get unexplainably tired and/or hungry in the afternoon? Have you at times continued eating even though you felt uncomfortably full?

Yes! My answer to all of those questions. I was a Carbohydrate Addict! I bought the book and followed the programme to the letter. That was about 10 years ago, so I am a little hazy on the details. But I just remember eating an extremely low/no-carb diet and having to eat a meal within one hour to keep insulin levels stable. I think I lost about five pounds within the first month or so. I perservered with the diet for almost a year. I had stopped losing weight but was still a good ten pounds overweight. And then I just couldn't do 'no carbs' any more, it wasn't sustainable for me. So I stopped.

I found a new book: The Schwarzbein Principle. It was not low carb. It was not counting points. Step One from their website outlines healthy nutrition:

Never skip a meal again
Eat real, unprocessed foods
Eat balanced meals
Choose a protein as the main nutrient in your meal
Add some healthy fats
Add real carbohydrates
Add nonstarchy vegetables
Eat snacks
Eat solid food
Drink enough water

This to me is a completely sensible and natural way to eat and it works well for many, many people. I changed my eating to follow the points above ... while at the same time, I started doing Body For Life - the exercise programme only.

I carried on meshing these two programmes together for 6 months. I did not lose a pound. I finally gave up on both.

It wasn't until I had my first consult with my nutritionist that I found out WHY these diets weren't working for me. Following The Schwarzbein Principle, I was eating too much fat. Albeit, healthy natural fats but far too much to stimulate weight loss. And no amount of exercise on the Body For Life programme was going to burn it all!

From all the published testimonials, I appreciate that there are plenty of people who have had wonderful success with some of the diets/programmes I've tried. While they weren't successful for me, trying them has been part of the journey, and I have learned a lot from the experiences. Looking back on them now is a reminder of what *really* does work for *me*.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Red meat in the minor

I am definitely a believer that improving health and lifestyle is a gradual process. Sure, some things you just got to go cold turkey with such as eating cake every day (for me, anyway!!).

So, over the years I have gradually changed our household's food. For example, we eat a lot of organics - fruit, vegies, grains, and milk. We also have changed from white rice to brown and I just can't bring myself to buy products that have numbers listed as ingredients.

One of the more recent changes is cutting down on the number of times we eat red meat in a week. This is kind-of a big deal in our household because my husband is a red meat lover. Give that man a steak, make sure it is rare, and he is one happy guy. So, we would end up having red meat for dinner probably five times a week. I knew this was too much, but not ready to make any changes. Earlier this year, after reviewing my food diary, I was prompted by Ginny, my nutritionist, to consider having meat just three times a week. But Steve loves red meat, I told her. She reminded me about saturated fat and how meat can sit in the colon for some time before being 'expelled'. A diet high in red meat is linked to colon cancer. Ok, ok, I said.

There were a few grumbles when I served up our first meal of Mexican beans and rice ... like, "Hmmm, looks like it's vegetarian night." But we have made the changes.

Now on non-red-meat nights we'll have a crustless egg & vegie quiche, Mexican beans & rice, or fish. On the 4th night, I make sure it is on a 'free' weekend evening we have a treat such as pizza or fish and chips. Even though this was a big change for us, it has been very easy to cope with. And we enjoy our bits of barbecued steak even more now!

My Nutritionist, Ginny McArthur

I clearly remember the day my dear friend Carol phoned me up and exclaimed: "I have found GOLD!"
She was talking about a nutritionist she had started seeing ... and as a result of following her programme she was losing weight - easily.

Hmmm, was my response. I was sceptical. It sounded too easy but something in me got excited. I mean this was Carol, my weight-loss buddy. We had been comparing fat rolls, diets and exercise for the past few years. And if Carol said she'd found GOLD, well then, this nutritionist might just be the real thing.

A few days later I visited Carol and she showed me her food programme written out by nutritionist, Ginny. I skimmed it over, still a bit dubious. Ah, some salad with your lunch, "I bet you don't get to have salad dressing," I pointed out. "Yes, I do. Low fat." Hmmm. I looked further, all the food seemed so sensible. She even got to have dessert! Fruit and yogurt, but still, it was dessert!

I made my appointment with the Food Guru, Ginny McArthur, of Outlook For Life in Pukekohe, Auckland.

Weight maintenance really is *maintenance*!

Ah, my first post to this blog, and if I am to be truly honest and accountable I have to say that I am currently about 6-8 pounds over my ideal weight. It doesn't sound like much, and it's not *really* (I can still fit into my jeans! But why is that rather large roll of fat hanging over my waistband when I sit down??) However, it is the actions and lack of action that has caused my weight to slowly creep up over the past 5 months.

In January this year I checked in with my nutritionist and was actually down a few pounds since seeing her three months prior which at that time I was at my ideal maintaining weight. Now I was slowly losing even more weight by just eating as per the programme she put together for me.

"You know what that means," she said with a smile and then whispered, "you can eat a bit more!"

"Yipee!!" I said. Not that I had been missing out, but if it meant I could eat more, well that was right up my alley.

"Instead of having just one 'free' day on the weekend, you can have a 'free' weekend, " she told me. "And if you feel your clothes getting a bit tight, well then go back to just one 'free' day" ('Free' meaning eat & drink whatever and how-much-ever you want).

I liked the sound of that! So for the past five months, every weekend I ate whatever I wanted, no holding back. Mmmmm, good times. However, I now realise I got a bit sloppy with the rest of my programme ... I slacked off with my walking, I ditched my food diary and I even convinced myself that I could sneak in a few mid-week treats because, surely, with my zippy metabolism it wouldn't make a difference.

Alas, fat roll hanging over waistband does not lie. And I'm not being hard on myself, I just know if I keep doing what I am doing right now that in 6 more months I will have put on another 6-8 pounds. So, I take stock now and get back on track.

That means:

1. Start the walking again - now I get up at 7am each morning and go for a 40 minute walk before my 2.5 year old wakes up.
2. Keep the food diary - it makes me accountable for what I am actually eating (no more sneaky mid-week treats) which leads on to the next point:
3. Make an appointment with my nutritionist for a check up (that's going to be on July 14). She will review my diary and see what areas need tweaking (which probably means one 'free' day on the weekend, not two!)

I have learned a lot about weight loss, maintenance and nutrition in the last five years. Certainly one of the most important things I've learned is that weight maintenance is *maintenance* you actually have to do some stuff in a regular, habitual way to not only stay a particular weight but to keep healthy. I am grateful to my jeans and be reminded of this right now!