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Weight Loss

Making Some Changes

I had to adjust to a new reality recently. In fact, I’m still going through it.

Losing over 40 pounds has not been without its side-effects. You never hear about the drawbacks of weight loss, only the benefits. Well–not to discourage anyone who is trying to lose weight–my particular drawback has been a new sensitivity in my hips and tailbone.

Do I want to gain the weight back? Absolutely not. So far, the benefits still outweigh the costs. I am now down to half a blood pressure pill a day, and the Florida heat hardly bothers me at all anymore. I fit into the world better, making it more comfortable. But I realized that I needed to do something about this chronic pain if I want to get back to my old writing schedule. And I started in the past few weeks.

The first change is I moved my recliner into a different room, and moved an old reclining couch back in our family room. The reclining couch does not recline back as far as my old rocking recliner, so all my weight does not end up concentrated in one place at the base of my spine. I also realized that some strategic positioning of cushions has been making the problem worse, not better.

The second change is to move my writing area back to an actual desk, instead of any recliner. So I bought a nice office chair and started working at an old writing desk I had. However, my laptop is too large to fit into the area designed for the smaller laptops of yesteryear (ok, so the desk isn’t that old), and the drawer prevents me from pulling my new office chair all the way up. I looked around for a nice corner desk, but they were all too elaborate and expensive, and looked too difficult to move. (I know because I’ve had such desks in the past.) I will be visiting a used office furnishing store this week to see if I can find an old Steelcase corner unit, but in the meantime, I have pushed two 4-foot tables into an L shape. It is comfortable enough that I have been able to work here off-and-on for most of the day. My next book finally feels like it is taking shape.

The last change I am making is exercises to pump up my — er — derriere. There’s no fat at the base of my butt anymore (although there’s still plenty higher up), but I know there’s muscle back there, so if I can bulk it up a bit, maybe it won’t hurt to sit anymore. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past ten years, is to not let your muscles atrophy. It actually causes pain. My shoulders usually don’t bother me anymore, and if they do, a nice round of the same exercises that my therapist taught me is as good as a pain pill. The same kind of thinking keeps my feet from hurting. An old friend who was born with no kneecaps told me that if she had not kept exercising over the years, she’d be in a wheelchair by now. So where there’s pain, I tend to add exercise. I’ll report later if it helps–I just started yesterday.

I guess these are good problems to have, rather than the problems my obesity were causing and threatening to cause to my health. Still, a problem is a problem, and it’s encouraging to take some steps to solve it. The last step I intend to take is to mention the issue at my annual physical, which I need to schedule. Hopefully the doctor will be able to recommend some things I haven’t thought of.

How I Lost Twenty Pounds

A few weeks ago, I hit the twenty-pound mark in my weight-loss efforts. I had been trying to lose weight for a number of years, but I have only been successful in the last six months. The weight-loss method I am using is traditional calorie counting.

Here’s what I did that was different.

1. Enlist a partner. My husband had some bad news from his doctor, and we knew it was time for him to lose weight. I have been on high blood pressure medicine for about five years, so we decided to do this together. It has been SO much easier–especially since we are both committed. I was unable to stick to a plan until my husband and I started this together.

2. Find a calorie counting app with reminders. I’ve had MyFitnessPal on my iPhone for a couple of years now. I selected it because it was the only one that enabled me to set food tracking reminders throughout the day. This is important when you are establishing the food-tracking habit, because it really does take 21 days to establish a habit. Now, we both use it.

3. Find a daily goal I could stick with for month after month. This is important. You need to be able to cut enough calories to lose weight, but you don’t want it to be so difficult that it is discouraging. It took me six months to lose twenty pounds. I’m good with that. It took years for me to pack on this weight, after all. If I lose a total of forty pounds after one year, I will be totally thrilled.

MyFitnessPal suggests a goal for you based on your activity level. Because I know I have a somewhat active metabolism–I can’t blame my weight on my glands–I chose Lightly Active as my activity level. This is even though I am probably not that active. Because I chose Lightly Active, I don’t carry around my iPhone with me so it can track steps. I only let it track steps when I have my purse with me. If I happen to be more active than usual, it will count those steps. If not, the few steps I take won’t have much of an impact. My husband chose Sedentary even though he probably is Lightly Active. But he carries around his cell-phone, and it records every step he takes.

Important take-away here–I have managed to lose 20 pounds even though I have not stepped up my activity level.

4. I Track every day–even when I go over my calorie goal. Face it–you will go over your calorie count from time to time. I find that I need to eat more when I have a bad headache, or when I have lost more than 1 pound in a week. But the important thing is to track the calories anyway. If you stop, it will just make it harder to start up again. So I don’t care about blowing it on the days that I go over–I just make sure I track everything.

MyFitnessPal has this wonderful Complete Entry feature, which tells me what I will weigh in five weeks if I eat that many calories every day. It is motivating both ways–when I go over, I see that I will gain if I keep eating that much, and it puts me back on-track. When I am under or on-target, I see how much more I will lose, and I am motivated.

BTW, the predictions have been fairly accurate. It now predicts that I can lose 4 pounds in a month, which is pretty much the rate at which I have been losing, excepting for a plateau or two.

5. Weigh-in over a three-day period, and record the lowest weight. I started weighing myself on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I record the lowest weight. Why? Because your weight fluctuates so much over the course of a few days. This way, you don’t have to record a discouraging gain on a day when you may be constipated or retaining water. This goes with number 6 …

6. Only record losses. This will probably fly in the face of most advice. I found that when I plateau or have a slight gain, if I record it, it is demotivating. Sometimes, I now reason, it takes me two weeks to lose a pound, instead of just one. So if after a week of faithful calorie counting, if I am at the same weight or slightly over, I wait another week and try again. This gives me another week to lose that pound, and keeps me motivated.

Now if you go two or three weeks without losing any weight at all, or if you gain, you may have to re-evaluate your daily calorie goal, or perhaps stop indulging in so many over-limit days. However–important point, here–this has not happened to me yet. The most I have ever had to go without recording a loss is 2 weeks.

And so, that is what has worked for me.

As ever, if you have health issues, please discuss any potential diet with your doctor before starting. As for me, my doctor told me to lose 20 pounds when he first put me on these blood pressure meds. So I am just about 5 years late in following his advice.

Better late than never?