Monday, April 15, 2013

How to Simply Lose Weight

Well, I have officially lost 13 pounds. I started my diet on February 2 and this is the longest amount of time I have ever stayed on a diet in my life. This is really my  un-diet. I am not dieting, I am hopefully forever changing the way I eat. 

I began at 173 pounds. For most of my adult life, I have consistently weighed between 160-165 but lately the scale had started inching upwards. I felt depressed and self-conscious.   

The most I have ever weighed in my life was 180.  I weighed 180 for exactly one day about 10 years ago. I stepped on the scale, looked down and almost fainted. 180 was only 20 pounds from 200! I immediately started eating less and dropped a little weight. My husband refers to these as my middle-age Goth years because I always dressed head-to-toe in black. When I look back at pictures, it always looks like I am on my way to a funeral or a Johnny Cash Fan Club meeting.

Of course, these were pictures I couldn't avoid being in. The fattest people will always jostle for a position in the back or grab a small child to hide behind. Once I was at a work function where a group picture was to be taken. Many of the attendees were overweight. It was very hard for the photographer as the individuals were constantly milling about trying to get a prime position on the back row. It was like the equivalent of photo musical chairs...only no chairs, no music. Just random shuffling about until the picture was taken. Personally, I was rather roughly manhandled and shoved in the front by an overweight middle manager.

So, why do I have no problem telling you my weight?  Number one, it is doubtful you are looking at my 160 pound body and thinking I am 125. Most people tend to look at others and mentally add about 20 pounds. By telling you I weigh 160, I am really just correcting you from thinking I weigh 180. 

For example, I ran into an acquaintance recently who commented on my weight loss. She then confidently mentioned to another friend that it looked like I had lost about 30 pounds. I had at that point lost 10 pounds. I was not flattered by her comment. 

"She was just saying you look good," my husband stated. "No, she was verifying she thought I used to weigh 200 pounds," I said wryly. So why do women always comment on each others weight? 

"I don't care if a woman is wearing a T-shirt with a giant arrow pointing down and  the printed message "Baby on Board". I'm not assuming she's pregnant," my husband swears. "For all I know she had that kid six months ago and just hasn't lost the baby weight. I accidentally swagger onto enough verbal mine fields without deliberately throwing myself into harm's way. It's always better to let the woman bring it up and then act extremely surprised." 

My husband is pretty smart. 

A slightly overweight friend told me a story about a man who asked her when her baby was due. "I didn't know whether to cry because he had just blatantly pointed out I needed to lose weight or to be extremely flattered he thought I was young enough to have a baby!" 

We've probably all been there. If you put on a little weight on in the mid-section, some (at best) clueless or (at worst) catty individual who feels the need to bring it to your attention so you can cry yourself to the sleep that night. How often do paunchy men have to endure this indignity?

I have often asked myself why women are mean to each other? Why are we always constantly comparing ourselves to each other and finding fault? Instead of saying, "Have you lost weight? (a negative comment), why don't we just say "Wow, you look great! (a positive comment)? Are we really all just that insecure? 

A woman once asked me what size I wore.

"Twelve," I responded. I weighed about 158 at the time. 

"I'd sure like to know what store you shop at," she replied cattily, implying I was lying about my dress size. 

Here's the thing. I own a cat. I don't need another one. A tongue can be as sharp as claws and just as hurtful. I am constantly working at controlling my own.

One way I have simplified my life is by limiting my exposure to negative people. Those people who make snide comments that leave you wondering, "What did she mean by that?" Life is full of enough stress. Find friends who love and support you. 

Here are a couple of ways I am simply losing weight. As stated, I track calories and try to stay in the 1300-1400 net calorie range each day. To do this, I use an app called "my fitness pal". It makes it extremely easy to track calories and exercise. This app has two features I especially enjoy.

One, it has the ability to scan the bar codes on food items and then automatically add them to your daily calories. Two, it has a recipe builder feature. You input all the items in a recipe (especially easy if they are scannable) and the number of servings, the app then calculates the calories and other nutritional information per serving.

You can also "friend" others for support and encouragement. 

Another website I am really loving is  This website has many lower calorie recipes. I really liked the "Cajun Chicken Pasta on the Lighter Side" and many others. Best of all, it's free which really appeals to my frugal side.

What are your weight loss secrets and stories? Please share. Remember, we are all in this for the long haul.  We are tortoises, not-flash-in-the-pan-fad-diet hares. 

Oh, and by the way, I bought some size 12 shorts this week and I shop at Goodwill. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Still Seeking Simple in the Suburbs

I started this blog about a year ago when I quit my job as a way to document ways to simplify my life and save money. I've learned some surprising things. 

First, I save more money when I use less coupons. Interesting. 

I still use coupons but only when they are for something I was planning on purchasing anyway. Most coupons are for processed foods and as part of simplifying, I am trying to avoid all processed foods. So, each week I scour the ads for sales, plan menus around the sale items and stock up on especially good deals. 

Second, you spend less when you eat less. A sad, hard truth. One of the biggest parts of simplifying my life has been getting my diet under control. I am proof a better diet leads to feeling better emotionally and physically.

Third, I have learned you cannot truly simplify your life until you learn self-control. When I am in control of my emotions, my eating and my spending, I feel good. When I act unrestrained, eat uncontrollably or spend irresponsibly, I feel guilty and depressed. It's just simpler to be in control. 

Dieting is difficult. It has taken me two months to lose 9.5 pounds. To succeed, you must take a long term approach to weight loss. I have stated before, when I began dieting, I calculated how many calories a day it took to maintain my present weight, then subtracted off 500 calories. I aim for 1300-1400 net calories a day. 

A friend approached me the other day, "You're losing weight!" she said with a tone approaching reproach. "How are you doing it? she asked, eyeing me suspiciously.

"I hate to tell you. I am eating less and moving more," I said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, that won't work!" she said with disgusting disappointment, ignoring my almost ten pound loss. 

I went on to explain my apparently radical 1300-1400 net calories a day method. 

"You can't just eat the same number of calories every day," she said. You have to vary it up and down to lose weight."

"I do," I responded. "Some days I eat 1300 calories and some days I eat 1400 calories." 

"Well, personally I am using human growth hormone," she said. 

Why are we willing to try anything to lose weight? I think it is because we feel desperate and unhappy and want immediate results. I speak from experience.

When I started dieting back on February 2, I went to Wal-Mart and bought some "Zendo Quality Herbal Dieters Tea". 

For some reason, I assumed it was super caffeinated and would speed up my metabolism. I have no idea why I thought this would be a good thing. I made my husband and myself a cup of tea and sat down in front of the TV to read the box. As I approach the bottom of the cup, I notice in large letters "NO CAFFEINE" stamped prominently on the box. 

"What?" I thought. "Then what's in it? Surely Wal-Mart would not sell an unsafe product. I'm sure it's been thoroughly tested in a large lab by highly educated people wearing white coats. If the rats didn't die from drinking the equivalent of 10,000 cups of dieters tea a day, I'm sure I won't." 

Then in small print I read: "This product contains SENNA Leaves. Do not use if you have or develop diarrhea, loose stools or abdominal pain because SENNA may worsen these conditions and be harmful to your health."

I immediately google "Senna" on my smartphone and read dire warning after even more dire warning.  Obviously, my phone is smarter than I am.

"SPIT. OUT. THE. TEA!!!" I scream at my husband, frantically waving my arms and jumping from my chair to grab his now empty cup. "Drinking this tea is going to be like preparing for a colonscopy only much, much worse," I predict.

"You're blocking the TV," he responds. 

The end result? None. No running to the bathroom, no weight loss, nothing. I just fell for the equivalent of a diet scam. The only good thing about the tea was that it made me jump up and wave my arms frantically. I felt like an idiot. 

I thought, "Why am I so desperate I am willing to risk my health?" From that point, I decided I would use no expensive supplements, medicines, fad diets, crazy fasts, cabbage soups or anything else to lose weight. I knew rationally there was no easy way to lose weight, no miracle cure. It took months to gain and it would take months to lose. I calculated it would take me 8 months to lose the amount of weight I wanted. Dieting is about endurance

I often reason with myself, "Eight months will pass regardless of what I eat. I can be thinner or stay fat. It's within my control." 

The first week was the hardest. After the first week, I started adjusting to eating less and feeling a little proud of myself.  One night when I was especially hungry, my husband made the point that hunger pangs aren't really pain, they are just an annoying sensation. And it's true, I have experienced real pain. Mild hunger doesn't come close. 

"Go make yourself a cup of hot tea," he said. I did and I forgot about my hunger pains. I notice I most often feel hunger pains when sitting. If I get up and do something, I forget about them.

The more I lose, the less willing I am to give in to temptation. When offered something tempting, I stop and think, "It took you all week to lose a pound, is one meal really worth sacrificing a week's hard work?"

I have almost entirely given up eating out. It is difficult to calculate how much you are eating and there is so much more pressure to eat. Restaurants are the equivalent of a dieting minefield. So, when I do eat out, I try to always look at the restaurant's website prior to going and choose a healthy option. I don't look at the menu once I get there or I might be tempted to change my mind. 

Honestly, it hasn't been bad at all. I have primarily given up bread, potatoes and sweets. When I crave a potato, I make this recipe. Spray a piece of aluminum foil with 0 calorie baking spray. Place half a chopped potato, broccoli, onion and carrots on top. Season to taste. I use a steak seasoning mix. Wrap and bake. It's not a baked potato with lots of butter and sour cream but it's a nice substitute.

Instead of butter, I have been using this 0 calorie Smart Balance Butter Substitute spray and 15 calorie Teriyaki sauce. I always like to hear other people's diet tips. Please share.