Friday, August 26, 2011

21 Days Later: My Weight Loss Journey

It takes the human mind and body 21 days to develop a new habit.  Below is a list of what helped make it through the first 21 days of my weight loss journey:

Day 1: Choose to make a commitment.  My family doctor put me on blood pressure medicine earlier this year.  It’s a little pill with two combined medications: lisinopril and hydrochlorothiazide.  The latter is a diuretic, a water pill.  After taking one pill in the morning, and I’m in the loo every hour until lunch.  I really want off this medication.  I also want to feel comfortable in my clothes again and not have co-workers come up to me saying “Oh how sweet – you’re having a baby…”  None of these will happen unless I drop my weight. 

After my doctor visit, I tried to lose weight on my own.  I went back to baked and broiled meats and we switched to skim milk in the household.  I managed to shave off a few pounds and then the weight stagnated.  My workplace offered a deal on Weight Watchers memberships.  So, I joined and made a conscious choice to follow the plan day by day.

Day 2: Are you really hungry?  If I had an Indian name like Dances with Wolves, my name would be either Eats While Cooking or Eats When Bored.  Before grabbing that snack, ask yourself “Am I really hungry?”. 

Keep in mind that the human body may show symptoms of hunger when it’s really just dehydrated.  If I feel hungry, I’ll drink some water first.  If I’m still hungry, I’ll eat.

Day 3:  Your Water Bottle is Your Lifesaver.  Take one with you wherever you go: shopping, road trips, kids’ sports events, etc. 

Day 4: COOK!  When you cook, you have complete control over what goes into your food.  I know the points values of everything I cook, so there are no mistakes or surprises.

Day 5: DO NOT eat lunch at your desk!  This is a big NO-NO.  Once upon a time, people were courteous enough to not interrupt another person’s meal.  These manners do not exist in the working world today.  What has become of us?  LEAVE.  Go to a place where you can eat and enjoy your food.

Day 6: Remind yourself to eat.  We all do it.  We get so wrapped up in the day’s events that we skip over lunch.  You had breakfast at 6 AM and now it’s 2 PM and you’re starving.  This was one of many of my bad habits.  By the time I sat down to eat, I’d wolf down a 12 inch sub, chips and drink and could easily eat more. 

Space your meals snacks apart so that you are getting something in your system every few hours.  Going too long in between meals puts your body in fat-storing starvation mode.

Day 7: Exercise, at least a little.  I have 3 kids, a full time job, and I take online classes.  No, I don’t have time to friggin’ exercise.  I get what I can when I can.  I park in the far corner at work so the walk is longer.  I swim my ass off when we go to the lake.  I take the stairs over a ramp or elevator when I can.  Anything is better than nothing.

Day 8: Plan your meals daily.  This requires some work, but it is so worthwhile in the end.  I outline all of my meals at the beginning of the day, so I know exactly how I will spend my points.  My treats are planned using the extra weekly points.

Day 9: Beware of diet saboteurs!  You know who I’m talking about:  the person who brings the cake in to work and insists that everyone has a piece.  Stick to your plan!  If the temptation is too great, cut the piece in half and give the other half away.

Day 10: Be flexible.  You’re feeling great and you’re proud of following your meal plan.  If you are doing all the cooking, your family may not be as thrilled about your new-found love for broiled tilapia and sautéed zucchini.  If the kids and the husband really just want corn dogs that night, fix the corn dogs and swap your points around.

Day 11:  Yes, you can have dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.  Eating tilapia and green beans for breakfast may feel odd at first.  But if you suspect that getting in a low point / high protein meal will be harder later in the day, there is no concrete law that says you cannot eat meat and vegetables at breakfast time.  This method allowed me to eat the corn dogs later in the day.

Day 12:  Know the Points Values of take-out foods.  I invested in the Weight Watchers Deluxe beginner kit which includes a dining out guide.  It has been very helpful to me because – hey - who does not eat take out?  My personal low point favorites are:  Wendy’s Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwhich (9 points), Chick-Fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Salad (4 points by itself, 2 points for sesame seeds, and 4 points for ½ pack of Ranch Dressing), and the 6-inch Subway Club (8 points by itself, 1 point for provolone cheese, and 1 point for oil and vinegar).  Applebee’s also has several Weight Watchers endorsed menu items. 

Yes, you can eat out and still lose weight.  Know the point values for the foods.

Day 13: Experiment with new foods.  I had swai for the first time in my life and it’s a very tasty fish.  Sautéed zucchini is delicious.  Since I need more than just a teaspoon of mayo on my sandwich, I’ve developed a taste for olive oil and red wine vinegar on my sandwiches. 

Day 14: Fruit can be your best friend.  What makes apples, bananas, grapes, and pears so wonderful is that they are free foods and portable.  Keep a stash at your desk and take some with you for the road. 

Day 15: Weight loss is relative.  I was so proud when I hit the 5 lb. mark.  My daughter (a natural born wise ass) said: “Huh, well, you don’t look no different.”  If you’re weight loss is slow-going try this the next time you are at the grocery store:  pick up a 5 lb. bag of apples or potatoes and carry it around with you.  That bag will get very heavy very quickly.  Yeah, you lost THAT.  What you are feeling is a burden your body no longer has to carry around.

Day 16: Use the extra points.  Yes, you will still use weight if you use the extra points.  Remember, this is a lifestyle, not a temporary “diet”.  The extra points allow for treats and goodies in moderation. Yes, you can have some chips – just not the whole damn bag.  Eating the whole bag of chips or cookies, or the big pan of muffins – that is how we got here in the first place.  Our bodies will learn moderation by learning to enjoy treats without gorging.

Day 17:  Know your free foods!  Free foods help me get through the day. A whole host of fruits and vegetables are considered “free” by Weight Watchers.  Eat what you want without worrying about points.

Day 18:  Measure your foods.  I don’t measure everything.  But I do measure things like popcorn.  Why?  3 cups of lite popcorn is 3 points.  That is about 1/3 of a big bag of microwave popcorn.  If you don’t separate 3 cups from the bag, that bag will turn into a bottomless pit.  You will be eating down to the last kernel before you know it. 

Day 19:  After sticking with your plan for a couple of weeks, just try to eat one of your old comfort meals.  Chances are, you will fill up halfway through the meal.  One day, I used my extra points on a house burger with fries at a local restaurant.  I couldn’t finish the burger and I couldn’t even touch the fries.  As you continue on your plan, your body adjusts to take just what it needs.  The “I’m full” signals become more pronounced.

Day 20:  Fill up before social events.  Have some cheese and fruit before the team’s hot dog dinner.  Eat an apple before going out to that fancy restaurant.  Drink some water before hitting that pizza.

Day 21:  Focus on eating what you like.  I don’t like cooked broccoli, cooked spinach, baked chicken, and a lot of other “healthy” foods.  I know what I do like that is healthy and I concentrate on filling my meal plans with those foods. 

I also pick and choose the “goodies” that I want and plan my points for those items.  Let’s take ranch dressing.  Fat free ranch dressing is just plain nasty.  Ranch dressing is my favorite salad dressing and yes, I WILL spend 4 points so I can have what I like on my salad.   I like my coffee, too and yes I WILL spend 2 points so I can have my coffee with cream and sugar.

So, there you have it.  My first 21 days. 

Jeanine Vidal

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