I lost 25 pounds this year, yay! It took me a while to figure out what worked for me. Here is the short version:
Slightly longer that would be: working out two to three times a week with the 30 Day Shred DVD and/or my Schwinn 430 elliptical machine while watching Gilmore Girls (or How I Met Your Mother) and eating carefully.
The Exercise Bits
I don’t want to be outdoors, running makes my knees hurt, it rains a lot here and it’s dark in the winter. I’m cranky and ugly when I break a sweat. I’m not motivated by competition or by being around people so a gym was not an option. I know I cannot be the only hermit who needs some exercise, so I’m writing about everything I’ve done in the hope that it will help somebody else. You can do it! Alone!
30 Day Shred was an easy choice, it’s 18 minutes of exercise with a bit of warm up and cool down. By the time I get to the point of either being exhausted or bored it’s over. It wasn’t easy, and I remember being able to do little more than standing and gasping for air during more than a few sessions, but once I got used to knowing it would be over sooner than later it made me work harder. It’s a good mix of strength and cardio and while I frequently swear at the television screen I still use it as my primary work out. I ignored the “30 days” in the title altogether and just did level one until I could get through it without stopping (which was a good long time). Then I’d do the next level and start all over again with the gasping. Levels two and three involve larger motions and are less repetitive, and to me feel like they go by faster. So if level one is making you nuts try level two.
I’ve written about this before so I’ll be brief, I love my elliptical machine. The big point for me about this particular one is this: After trying out a bunch of models I found that the Schwinn 430 (as well as the newer Schwinn 431) have foot pedals that are closer together and create a much more natural stance for me and my short legs. We’ve had ours for almost two years and we still both use it regularly.
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I worked out two to three times a week. I fully intended to work out five days a week but that never actually happened despite my best efforts. On most days I did 30 Day Shred and about twenty minutes on the elliptical machine (or, half an episode of Gilmore Girls). On days when I was particularly sore I would just use the elliptical machine, on days when I was pressed for time I would just do 30 Day Shred, and on days when I was feeling oddly energetic I would race a 22-minute episode of How I Met Your Mother to see if I could do 200 calories before the credits rolled. Note: the calorie counts on elliptical machines are notoriously high, in my case I started thinking of it as just another unit of measure. My machine will display various things and I find it less distracting when I’m not staring at a timer counting down.
I’ve also come to appreciate how helpful having the right stuff can be. Good shoes, I like New Balance, with these brilliant, heat moldable inserts from SOLE for my fussy feat and arch support needs helped a whole lot. I also use 2, 3 and 5 pound hand weights (using heavier ones when it gets too easy) and a yoga mat for push up and crunches. Most important, though, is a good sports bra. I personally require one that zips up the front because nothing will get me to put off working out more than the prospect of tweaked nipples while pulling on a bra without any closures. Yikes.
The Food Bits
The bits involving food slowly sorted out into simply eating in moderation. Previously I had tried low carb diets and counting calories or keeping track of what I’d eaten in a day. And you know what? All that being aware of food all day drove me crazy. The result was that I grew resentful and obsessive and felt hungry all the time. And then I would eat a whole bag of Doritos. So instead I decided to try to just not think about all that hard. I ate more carefully, more kale less Annie’s Mac and Cheese, and smaller meals with more snacks. I started eating breakfast, something I’m not inclined towards, to keep my metabolism going. Slowly I learned how long it takes for me to get rid of sugar cravings (two weeks), and that bagged baby carrots make me ill, and that I really like farro and kale, and that a little bit of olive oil used to cook a meal makes it far more satisfying than when using one of those olive oil mister things. I cut down on sugar and white flour and beer and eventually started avoiding those things knowing that they would only make me hungry later. Apples and almonds and light Baybell cheeses are surprisingly satisfying snacks, a mug of green tea in the afternoon helps a lot. I ate more carefully during the week and less on the weekends.
Somehow this all worked out into a happy balance, I’m not desperately tempted by a second cupcake because I’m not otherwise denying myself food. I tend to not overeat at one meal because I don’t have sugar highs and lows, or when I do have a low sugar moment I don’t run straight for the nearest Twinkie. It’s still not easy, mind you, and I don’t do this all the time. But, I know that I can eat carefully without hating it completely, which makes me feel much calmer.
Evening, post-dinner sugar cravings do get me, though. I found that a single Dove miniature ice cream treat, 60 calories (small but effective), and a big mug of tea will squash it sufficiently that I don’t go to bed dreaming about cheesecake. Fruit works too but, well, chocolate is good.
The Weight Loss Bits
It was hard to figure out that I don’t have to lose weight at a miraculous pace. Forgetting all about trend/miracle/cleanse/easy diets, I still somehow had it in my head that if I didn’t lose a pound a week I wasn’t doing enough. I did lose a pound a week for a while and it made me miserable, and circled back to thinking about food too much. At some point I stopped trying for it and eased up a bit and discovered that I could lose half a pound a week without wanting to smash expensive things or sabotage myself. I’m perfectly happy losing weight slowly, it’s the pace that works out for me, and once I ditched the one pound a week idea I found I was much happier all around.
I’m a girl so I know my weight fluctuates wildly based on things like the time of the month or if my hair looks good that day. So I weighed myself once a week, before breakfast. People, even with it being gradual the weight loss didn’t seem to correspond with anything at all. I have notes that read “WTF?” and point to a week where I knew I ate pizza every day but lost a pound and a half, right next to a week where I did everything just right and gained half a pound. So now I don’t pay too much attention. I still keep weekly track but only because it’s sort of thrilling to look back at my weight in January as proof.
It feels strange to talk about how thrilled I am with a comparatively slow pace of weight loss in our culture of searching for effortless and miraculous slimness, but I keep in mind that even at this rate I was able to lose weight far faster than it took me to put it on.
The Motivation Bits
I let upcoming events for which I wanted to look good motivate me, I’m not going to claim I’m not vain that way. This year I got married and had pictures taken and saw a lot of family, and went to conferences and saw a lot of friends and people I knew but hadn’t met in person and had more pictures taken. I set goals but I didn’t set them too high (as in: the conference is in two weeks and I can definitely lose ten pounds by then!).
I also used the old trick of only watching certain shows while on the elliptical machine. I feel twisted about this but it’s true: I started looking forward to working out because it’s when I got to watch Gilmore Girls. Whatever, it works for me.
Also motivating? Reading about Sundry Mourning losing weight, having a second child and losing all that weight and starting up Bodies In Motivation, all while finding I was still sitting on my couch eating corn chips. I follow a few exercise blogs but unlike those I have no desire to up my exercise routine and train for a race or, damn girl!, finish a triathalon. Nope, I’m happy spinning the hamster wheel on my elliptical. I’ve run out of Gilmore Girls so I think I’ll have to find something new. What do you suggest? I’m leaning towards racing against episodes of Secret Diary of A Call Girl.