Saturday, June 4, 2011

You can do it!

When I was still overweight, I used every excuse in the book.

It's my genes.
I can't help it.
I've tried, and nothing works.
My body's just meant to be fat.

It's all crap. I was failing because I wasn't doing the things I needed to do. I was dieting, but not holding myself accountable, so I still overate. I was exercising, but also not enough and without making significant changes to my diet. Despite wanting to lose weight, I wasn't serious enough to stay on top of it.

Don't get me wrong. I hated being fat. I hated seeing myself in photos. I hated trying on clothes. However, lifestyle changes are hard, and it's so easy to make up excuses that do you little good.

While I was in the middle of losing weight, I got into an argument without someone who claimed that it was nearly impossible for an overweight person to successfully lose weight and that I was an exception.

It's only improbable because it is difficult to make dramatic lifestyle changes. For me to do it required holding myself accountable for how much I ate, and making a point to get exercise most days of the week. I rarely allow myself excuses or allowances for breaking away from my healthy habits, and that is the key. Yes, I will have to do this for the rest of my life. Oh noes! If you do not take care of your body, your health will fail that much sooner. A healthy diet and active lifestyle is still important even if you're not trying to lose weight.

However, I take offense at being dismissed. I don't think I'm the exception, and I don't think anyone actually wants to feel helpless and trapped in a situation.

This person even argued that some people could eat 1200 calories a day and gain weight because their bodies are just too efficient at using energy. I responded by saying that sounds like the perfect triathlete to me. If you can make a calorie go further, there's no reason not to do endurance-based activities. I did not get a response to that argument.

Today, though, I think you can start to throw out the "I can't help it cause it's in my genes" argument.

Summary: researchers were study men with prostate cancer. The men, rather than go for conventional treatment, underwent some major lifestyle changes including filling theirs diets with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products; exercising 30 minutes a day; and spending an hour a day on stress management (meditation, etc.). They saw improvements in their health, but more importantly, the researchers saw changes in their genes (some genes became active and others became inactive).

I don't think genes alone make most people overweight, though, genes affect things like fat storage and possibly things related to how you build muscles and how well you absorb things from food. Genes and environment play the largest factors in obesity. Your genes you apparently can do a few things about. Your environment, you can do a lot about you. You have control over you. You control what you eat and how much. You can choose to be active or sedentary at any given moment. You are not helpless.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Low Fat? How About No.

When I look at food, I don't think about low fat or low carb. I think about calories and if this is something worth spending calories from my calorie budget on. Yup, I think of calories like a budget, because that's exactly how it behaves ... mostly. The nuances of some types of calories and the overall benefits of exercise are for different posts.

Low fat diets are garbage unless they are also low calorie.
I like fat. Fat is good. You need fat. Fat is also filling.
You don't need it to excess, but you don't need anything to excess.

Contrary to what is probably a common misconception, when you eat fat it is not auto-stored as is. Your body actually breaks it down and restores the excess energy just like it does with carbohydrates.

Fat is not why anyone is fat. Sugar is the real enemy there.
Anything advertising itself as "low-fat" often has sugar added to it in order to make it taste better.

A low fat diet often turns into a high sugar diet and a high sugar diet equals a high fat diet. If you understand nothing else about dieting, understand that.
Low Fat = High Sugar = High Fat.

I have found that usually there is some but not much caloric difference between a food and it's low-fat variant. It's something to be mindful of when shopping or deciding what to eat. More often than not I go with the regular version.

It's much more important to be mindful of portion size and caloric value vs. benefit than calorie sources such as fat or carbs. I don't pick on protein much because things that are high in protein tend to be good for you. But be weary of energy bars that advertise being high in protein. They are also high in sugar.

The only two things I will advise watching out for are sugar (which is bad for you in more ways than it's beneficial) and trans fats (which are nothing but bad for you). The latter, we've become much more conscious about reducing. Even in McDonald's, you will only find trans fat in limited quantities where you would expect to find it: in burgers and shakes.

Why I don't like sugar can be attributed to a lecture on youtube.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The "Vegetarian = Healthy" Misconception

When I was a kid, I use to read the Sunday comics. Amongst these comics was Cathy. Cathy is an overall unremarkable comic that plays on stereotypical "woman" issues. Cathy was obsessed with her weight, but never had much luck changing it - and her half-hearted attempts ended with chocolate. But I digress. I remember one comic strip in particular. Cathy talks about eating healthy and makes the following logic jump: vegetables are healthy -> potatoes are a vegetable -> french fries are made from potatoes -> french fries are healthy!

It's silly, right? But it's a common misconception that because something is vegetarian it is healthier. People do it all the time.

A good example: I'm trying to lose weight, so I'll have the salad.

Ever looked at the nutritional info for a salad at a restaurant? It ain't pretty.

In the case of french fries, the potato is a starch so it's calorie dense by itself. 1 medium baked potato is 137 calories. French fries are also deep fried in oil, which is liquid fat. Fat is 9 calories per gram. The potato absorbs the oil, so when you eat a fry, you're eating a starch soaked in fat.

A medium order of McDonald's french fries is 500 calories. For me, that's a meal's worth of calories for not a whole lot of benefit.

The same trick happens to a lot of vegetable and vegetarian dishes. I know that before I started focusing on it, I did the same thing: a sort of willing mental blindness to exactly how healthy a vegetarian dish was.

People will add oil, butter, cream, dressing, fat, cheese, etc. to vegetables to make them taste better. You can do that, but it adds calories and makes it a lot less healthy. They also tend to ignore the calorie density of a vegetable and automatically assume that's it's healthy. Potatoes, beans, etc. are much more calorie dense than cabbage or spinach.

To demonstrate my point....
Chili's Carribean Salad with Grilled Chicken = 610 calories
Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad = 1400 Calories
That's their lowest and highest calorie salads.
The Carribean salad's pretty reasonable, but the next highest one was the Chicken Caesar at 710 calories. You would be better off ordering anything off their Guiltless Grill menu, and it will usually be a reasonable portion of meat with steamed vegetables on the side.

Of course, if your experience at Chili's is like my last experience at Chili's, weight will not be your immediate concern. Toilet paper, on the other hand....

The advantage to vegetables is that they are loaded with nutrients and they are low calorie. You need vegetables. You're suppose to eat them. But added massive-quantities of high-fat ingredients is a bad idea. Eating vegetables steamed or maybe with a slight amount of fat (butter, dressing, oil, etc.) is the way to go.

If you're eating out and unsure of a dish, check the nutritional information for a place. Any franchise will have theirs either posted in the restaurant or online. Smaller restaurants will not, and you'll have to guesstimate.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This is my Story

Hello, I'm Jen Roper. I'm 30 years old, 5'4", and weigh 128 lbs. When I started this blog, I was still 5'4", 29 years old, and weighed 191 lbs.

No, I didn't mistype there.
Since May 25, 2010 when I started these lifestyle changes, I have dropped 63 lbs.

Now that I think of it, I'm not even sure if I could lift that.

No, I don't have a metabolic disease or cancer.
No, I don't have a tape worm. (gross!)
No, I didn't get gastric bypass.
No, I'm not on meth or heroin.
No, I didn't do Atkins or South Beach or Jenny Craig or anything
Yes, I eat. No, I don't throw it up or take laxatives (also gross).
No, I didn't take Alli or whatever magical weight loss product you might find at GNC.

I just budget my calorie intake, eat a variety of foods (including fruits and vegetables, they're important), and exercise diligently.

In my case, I actually walked it off. Seriously. I walk no less than 3 miles a day, 4-5 (usually 5) days a week. It takes me 45-50 minutes. I have a gym membership, and use a treadmill for the most part.

Some may look at that and say "Oh my god, I don't have time for that. That's insane." Not really. I get a solid workout without overdoing it - my heart rate is good and fast. When you start exercising, if you're doing cardio, then you're already committing 30 minutes to it. What's another 15? Not much, unless you're doing something intense like running. Walking's not too bad.

Beside, even though I spend 45 minutes a day on it, it's quite possibly the best 45 minutes I spend on myself. The benefits to regular exercise are innumerable: appetite reduction, stress relief, lower blood pressure, increased stamina, etc. Plus, it's really hard to lose weight by dieting alone. You can, but you're likely to feel miserable and give up. You're body is meant to and needs to move.

As to diet, I have found that you would be amazed at exactly how little food you need. When I started budgeting my meals, I started eating a lot less food, but I didn't feel hungry or deprived. By the same token, I didn't feel gut-bustingly full. Even with an additional 400-500 calories burned from exercise, I still felt fine. At first, my body resisted the change, but I held myself accountable and decided that even though I felt the urge to eat, I didn't really need to. After a while, the random urges to eat subsided, and I learned to only eat if I felt hungry.

That's how I did it. There's no magic. There's no wonder product.
Just some fairly basic lifestyle changes. It's the same advice you hear everywhere: eat less, exercise more. No one tells you how, though, and I can't really offer any specific things like how many calories someone needs a day. It depends on gender, age, weight, and body composition.
In my specific case, I think it's around 1875 a day, and I try to keep my meals around 500-600 calories each.

Tools I used:
How Many Calories Do You Need:
From this you can figure out how many calories you need a day, how many you would need to reach a goal weight, and, with some division and allowance for a snack, how many calories should be in a meal.

Daily Burn - A calorie tracking site:
This site is free, but they sell pro upgrades that give more functionality. I use the free version. You can track how many calories you eat a day, and how many calories you burned from exercise. This site will also tell you how many pounds you will gain or lose a month - handy that. There are other calorie-tracking sites out there. This is just the one I used.

When I started holding myself accountable, I started learning a lot about what I was eating, and why I had weight trouble. When I started correcting my diet, the weight started falling.

Same blog, new topic

It's late. and I can't sleep.

I've been thinking about this blog for a while. I haven't updated it in nearly a year. This is because cooking really isn't my interest. Not that I don't like cooking mind you, but by the time I get home in the evening, it's pretty late and cooking isn't particularly appealing or practical compared to making a sandwich or heating up soup or something. I had hoped that by starting this blog, it would be a means of encouraging me to cook more, but that did not work. Sorry. :-(

However, I have made fantastic strides in another area: weight loss. This is something that I had started losing hope of ever being able to do. But I did it, and I did it pretty impressively.

Weight and the loss of excess weight is something that I've thought a lot about over the past year. I had to make a complete lifestyle overhaul to accomplish it. Everyday, I incorporate my weight loss strategy into my decisions. It's a little bit more second nature now, but I still think about it.

I feel that blagging to the Internets about this isn't the worst idea ever. There's a lot of good advice out there and a lot of BS to go with it. It took me gaining some perspective to understand the good advice from the BS. Rather than bombard Google Reader or other forums with comments and criticisms, I will just write here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Who Says Shrimpin' Ain't Easy. on a diet. I have to be. Work is making me. No, really.
Ok, well not directly, but I have to participate in this wellness program or pay $300 more a year on health insurance. I need to drop a pound or 50 anyway.

So, right now I'm doing the weight loss thing, which requires me to be on a diet plan. Yesterday's menu called for some seafood and veggies.

Why not? Seafood is delicious and good for you.

I don't follow the meal plan directly, but I try to keep to the spirit. So, last night I made shrimp kabobs instead of citrus glazed fish or a tuna fish pita.

I went to Farmer's Market, bought way too much shrimp, red and orange bell peppers, zucchini, and corn cobs. Then I trotted down to Kroger and scored some skewers, canned pineapple rings, and marinade - yeah I used premade marinade, but no one complained.

This was my first experience peeling and deveining shrimp. Deveining is a pain in the ass but not too bad. I don't think I did it perfectly, a lot of the veins wanted to snap as I was pulling them out, but I did my best. I cut a small incision into the top of the shrimp and carefully pulled the vein out. Once I got the shrimp done, I cut up the bell peppers, onions, and the pineapple rings into skewerable chunks. I put all that in the marinade and stuck it in the fridge.

I had my roommates fire up the grill.

I quartered the zucchini into pickle-like spears and my roommate topped them with garlic salt and ground pepper and grilled them. I dehusked the corn, cut them in half, and boiled them to make corn on the cob. I picked out good corn too, they were sweet and delicious.

While the zucchini was grilling, I took the kabob stuff out of the fridge and made 8 skewers, one of which was vegetarian because I ran out of shrimp.

The meal was fantastic and full of well-cooked, fresh, in-season vegetables.

I should make low country boil with the extra shrimp I bought. Or I could make a shrimp variant of the chicken taco recipe I like to make.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tequila Sunrise

Another easy mode yet gloriously tasty thing to do.

I'm growing fond of tequila. A lot of people I know have a distinct dislike for tequila. This is probably because their experiences with tequila, assuming they remember, involve something cheap and crappy - like Jose Cuervo. Fuck that. I like to use 1800 Silver. It's pretty smooth and mixes fantastically.

Right now I've noticed navel oranges are abound. Oranges must be in season or something. They're all over the farmer's market and produce section. So hey, instead of buying overpriced orange juice made from concentrate or something - go grab some fresh, cheap navel oranges and a $2 juicer.

Don't worry, oranges juice very easily unlike say limes.

Slice a couple of oranges in half
Juice those babies (you may need to clean pulp off the juicer)
Grab a glass
Add ice
Add 2 shots of tequila or whatever you want
Add the freshly squeezed, delicious orange juice.
Add some grenadine to taste

If you don't like tequila you can use rum or vodka or peach schnapps or whatever.
Fresh fruit + booze = WIN!