losing weight

I won! I won! I won!

Remember the weight loss contest Chad proposed a month or so ago? Two hundred fifty dollars to whomever could reach his/her target weight by last Sunday? Chad needed to lose nine pounds to reach 150, and I needed to lose six pounds to get back to my end-of-college weight, 120 pounds. Chad had a handicap to make things fair, because men lose weight more easily than women. Men generally carry more body weight, which burns more calories. When Chad and I both run for an hour, he is burning one-third more calories than I am. That said, he doubled his handicap by starting to watch his weight several weeks before the contest began – but anyway, it was his proposal and I accepted.

So last Sunday I stepped on the scale before the run to see if there was any chance of winning. I was pretty sure that it was a lost cause. Especially since Chad had already let on that if he won he was planning on sharing the prize money anyway (!!) Once I learned that half the money was already mine, I had become pretty slack about staying within my 20 weight watcher’s points a day. Well, I mean I would eat a “zero” point soup all day (gazpacho), so that I could eat a bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce later (1/2 cup ice cream = 7 points).

It was no surprise then, when I weighed in at 123.6 pounds. But Chad insisted that the real weigh-in would be after the run.

We ran. We spent most of the run discussing what we were going to do if neither of us reached our goal weight, which was the likely outcome. It was decided to continue the contest another month.

We got home.

I weighed in at 120.o on the nose. That is freaky, no? One little trip to the bathroom and an hour run reduces my weight by 3.6 pounds? Anyhoo, that was the first time since last summer that I have been at 120. Chad almost made his goal weight but not quite. Poor husband, he was pretty crushed over the whole affair.

Now to decide what to do with the money. (Can you hear me rubbing my hands together?) I could be a good girl and use it to count for the $80 I spent on clothes last week at Loehmann’s, and the rest to sign up for a 10-week yoga class.

Or I could pretend like I had already budgeted that $80 of clothes, and spend it all at The Container Store (never been there, but I think I’m going to love it.)

Or I could buy a nice floor lamp for the living room.

Or two round-trip tickets to San Francisco.

or surfing lessons.

more knives?


Chad has declared a two hundred fifty dollar weight loss contest for the month of August. He proposed that the money should come out of the wedding gift money (lots!) and I suggested that the money should be used towards the house. This might mean a new (used) computer desk for Chad or a full set of knives for me.

We both agreed that if we tied that we would split the money – or agree upon how it is spent. This outcome is the most likely because Chad fairly proposed that the contest be proportional – that is, we win according to what percentage of our weight loss goal we have reached. Chad’s goal is to lose nine more pounds, while I only intend to lose six. If we both meet our goals – then we both win.

So far, so good. We are both on track. He has lost three pounds and I have lost two pounds in our first week. We are running five times a week (and learning our new ‘hood): 45 minutes 3x, and 1 hour twice.

The only tricky part is that the competitive spirit compels Chad to taunt me occasionally; apparently he likes to win.

What would I do with that extra two fifty?

1. clothes? (Normally I’m motivated, but without a job – all I really need are hang-out clothes at the moment)

2. Shesiedo cosmetics? (Maybe. But  I’m only low on sunscreen – and I like to buy a bunch at a time, so I can get their freebie promotional.)

3. Full-spectrum lamp?

4. Get my Jane Gyer print framed?

5. Put it aside for another ticket to Bangkok?

This  is one of the pics we took by the edge of the woods and creek I loved as  a seven-year old.  I’m posting it and not another, because you can’t tell here that I’ve already gained back half the weight I worked so hard to lose last year.

I’ve heard that something like 95% percent of people who lose weight, regain it within two years.

I am quickly becoming  a statistic. darn it.

Chad’s parents are convinced that Chad and I are getting sick more frequently this winter because we lost too much weight at once. Chad’s lost about thirty pounds and I lost about fifteen pounds over a period of three months last summer and fall. It’s true that we’ve both been sick quite a bit this season (but hasn’t everybody?) so I’ll share an article that Chad’s mom passed on to us from Runners’ World (October 2006), called “The Best Grocery List of All Time” It’s about nutrition for runners.

The article points out that most shoppers toss the same 10-15 items in their cart every single week. I know it’s true for my household and probably true for most folks. (Come to think of it, I once made an old roommate laugh hard by spontaneously generating her entire grocery list just by what I saw replenished in fridge and cupboard every week.) Then the article lists fifteen foods that should be in the runner’s shopping cart, and includes their rationale and recipes. Here’s the list:

1. Almonds

2. Eggs

3. Sweet Potatoes

4. Whole-grain Cereal with Protein

5. Oranges

6. Canned Black Beans

7. Mixed Salad Greens

8. Whole-grain Pasta

9. Chicken (“Runners need about 50 to 75 percent more protein than nonrunners to promote recovery after workouts.”)

10. Frozen Mixed Berries

11. Dark Chocolate (!!!)

12. Salmon

13. Whole-grain Bread

14. Low-Fat Yogurt

15. Frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables

Once the weight is off, the next hard part is keeping it off. Chad and I are still feeling good about our weight but both of us are gradually putting it back on. See, the downside of doing a renegade weight watcher’s is that we don’t have all the pieces of the program (the upside being that it is FREE).

So, I ambushed a weight watcher’s expert today at work and asked about the maintenance plan. Remember how if you weigh up to 150 pounds you can eat 20 points a day and lose 2-3 pounds a week? (Over 150 pounds and you can eat 24 points per week.) Well, once you reach your goal weight, this is the maintenance plan:

Once you reach your goal weight, you add one point to your daily points each week until your weight stabilizes. So, I eat 21 points a day for a week – assess – then eat 22 points a day for a week – and so on; my weight watcher’s friend thinks that 24 points maintains a stable weight for her.

So freaking logical – why didn’t I think of it myself? I know why; it’s because I wanted to believe that eating 30 points a day would be maintenance for me…well, with a half hour of running I guess that makes 27 points, which is not far from 30 points. I guess.

Only two more hours to go in order to make today’s thesis quota. Help me!
1/2 cup (1/4 of a pint container) Ben and Jerry’s Pistacio Pistacio = 7 points

Fine, fine, fine, I’ll get back to the summary of how I lost 13 pounds, which I promised several days ago (or yesterday).  Thirteen pounds brings me to 120 pounds, which actually was my original goal weight, but … but now I think I’ll go for a couple more and see what happens. I finally get that whole anorexic control thing. Now that I have experienced weight loss, I can see that weight really is something that each of us can have total and complete control over. It also makes me appreciate how difficult it is to eat and exercise consciously – losing weight is hard, because it means REAL CHANGE in what you do every day (since what you do normally keeps you at the weight you are).

To begin with, I just started watching and recording what I was eating. For two weeks I recorded everything I ate and calculated the number of points (weight watcher’s) I was eating every day. You can either spend time with a friend who has done weight watcher’s and borrow her books and slide rule calculator OR work out your own point calculator on an excel spread sheet, using the formula (in a previous post). This process of observing and watching your usual eating habits is also recommended in a book I enjoyed, Frenchwomen Don’t Get Fat. I knew I was aiming for 20 points a day and that I was normally eating about 35 points a day.

Then when I rolled up my sleeves to get started, I started with another Frenchwomen Don’t get Fat suggestion, that is, I spent a weekend eating only zero-point soup. (I’ve posted three different recipes.) That jumpstarted my weight loss and helped me to tune into that dieting feeling. See, normally I don’t allow myself to feel hungry, so even getting remotely peckish makes me nervous. During the whole first month of dieting, I kept lots of zero-point soup around in the house (I was even enjoying it cold – straight out of the fridge) and lots of carrots and steamed green beans, so that I could snack whenever I wanted. I think this was important as a transition, because most of my other food was still pretty high in points (relatively high in calories and fat), so I could eat only small portions.

The “dieting feeling” is hardest in the beginning, because your body is burning up its own fat and detoxing. That means bad breath and maybe stinkier armpits and sweat. I was taking at least two showers a day during that time (plus the desert is hot…)  Fortunately, your body will get acclimated and the bad breath goes away. There is also a certain hollow feeling, similar to fasting, but less intense. It is also similar to that clean feeling you get after exercising, when you are more aware of your body.

In any case, I really stuck to eating 20 points a day, and added 3 points for every 1/2 hour of vigorous exercise (jogging). Slowly, I began to figure out lower point meals and to eat smaller portions. At first I measured out servings according to the labels and 1/2 cup of anything looked pitifully small. Later, I noticed that I was able to appreciate much smaller quantities of food and feel satisfied. I think that my stomach shrank quite a bit in the last few months. Another good tip from Frenchwomen Don’t… (I hadn’t realized so many of my ideas came from that book…) was to “splurge” only on treats that ranked a 10. Instead of eating Hershey’s chocolates, I bought expensive dark chocolate from the health food store and ate one chunk for dessert. I avoided cheap cake and soda in the staff room and I waited for homemade cheese cake later that week. I was also encouraged to exercise more when I knew there was going to be an “eating event” coming up. By the same token 1/2 hour of running was equal to a very small portion of ice cream – so I savored every last taste (I could only run so much).

I noticed that as I started to regularly eat lower point foods – that I was frequently left with points with the evening! For instance, I now eat 1/4 cup plain oatmeal every morning for breakfast for 2 points. Scottish or Irish-style seem more substantial to me. Then I eat one apple (1 point) or one low-fat yogurt (2 points) for a mid-morning snack. Lunch is usually a turkey sandwich or tuna, with no cheese, low mayo or only mustard, on sprouted whole-grain bread (Food for Life bread is so high in fiber that one slice is only one point). That meant that I could have a pretty normal dinner: palm-sized protein (4-6 points), one cup of white or brown rice (4 points) and half a plate of steamed veggies with points left-over for a bite of chocolate or a fruit popsicle (one point).

Importantly, I always ate up all my points – and my 35 flex points per week too. If I felt like I were depriving myself too much, I would never be able to keep this up. And while I don’t think I was losing the 2-3 pounds a week that weight watcher’s system boasts, I could see slow but steady weight loss and still feel like I was eating enough food to be satisfied. I only weighed myself every two to three weeks on my chiropractor’s scale, so I wasn’t freaking out about the daily (and monthly) ups and downs. Also, people began noticing my weight loss immediately, and their compliments encouraged me a lot.

Now I feel younger and more fit! It’s like I have wriggled out of a thick padding I have been wearing for the last fifteen years. I feel like the me I remember myself to be. It really feels great – and thirteen pounds is really not so much. Pretty interesting to see how different I feel at 120 pounds.

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