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April 2013

Clear eyes, full heart, can lose

Hulk smash plateau
How many times have I taken a breath and said “OK, let’s get back on track”? Lemme list the blog categories I created on this blog over the years:

I’m really good at writing headlines, and labeling things and making logos – far easier than losing the weight.

I journeyed back to find any reference to how much I weighed back in 2010 and it’s exactly where I am now, but my muscle percentage has gone from around 32 percent to 37 percent, so some of the fluff has been displaced by muscle, and I am a size smaller.

Here is the issue I need to change:

  • Eating random crap late at night

That’s it. One issue keeping the scale flat-lining, save for a jump up or down a few pounds.

That’s called maintenance, which is great if you’re done losing weight, but I’m not.

I’m working out 5 to 6 days a week, so it’s not lack of exercise, but as we all know, you can’t outrun your fork (or a handful of almonds, or a few spoons of ice cream, or a butterknife full of dark chocolate peanut butter).

I’m supposed to be recording everything that goes in my mouth after 9 p.m. and bringing that list to The Weight Shrink, but I’m not doing it. Those post 9 p.m. visits to the kitchen usually go like this:

  1. Apple, handful of almonds (OK, great, stop there, you’re golden).
  2. 3 ounces of turkey breast dipped in mustard.
  3. Bowl of salad (Great, now shut it down).
  4. Hummus and celery (or fingers)
  5. Big swig of kefir
  6. Cheese stick

So in one night, I can consume nearly a week’s worth of nighttime snacks.

No bueno.

And am I really, truly hungry? I sometimes think so, but really? No.

During the day, my meals are pretty much perfect – smoothie, protein bar and fruit, big salad with protein and a serving of healthy fats, lean proteins with green veggies and a single serving of starches.

But after dinner is when it all comes undone.

(Are you as tired of reading this as I am writing this?)

So, since I didn’t bother resolving anything on January 1, I’ll do it now (I was going to say “try it now” but like Yoda says:

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” (Funny thing is, I haven’t seen one Star Wars movie. Really.)

I resolve this day, Monday, April 29, 2013, that my will to succeed is far greater than my desire for a handful of pistachios, or a big glob of peanut butter, or a cheesestick, or leftover chicken, or whatever strikes my peckish fancy.


Lessons learned, slate wiped clean. Hulk-smashing this plateau. (I actually broke the plateau a couple weeks ago to finally "win" a DietBet but it jumped back up a couple pounds about 5 minutes after I got off the scale.)

This time I mean it. And yes, I’ve written that before. How do I know this time?

Just a feeling – a strong, in-control, clear-eyed feeling that’s not wrapped up in frustration or futility.

Next week I will let you know the weight change from today, whatever the outcome.

I feel good about this. It can be done.


A must-read on weight-loss momentum

Appetite for health logoJust read an article on the Appetite for Health website and giant lightbulbs crackled and exploded over my head.

No, I don't have a problem with my home's electrical wiring (except in my kitchen where I can't run the microwave and the toaster oven without popping a circuit, but that's another story) -- those were the "A-HA!" lightbulbs going off when I read the article "Don't Let Weight Loss Derail Your Diet."

Let that headline sink in -- does it sound funny to you? Then you may have never experienced the phenomenon of taking your eyes off the prize. I do it all the damn time. Lose 3 pounds one week, get all jazzed, forget to write some stuff down, blow off a workout and -- BOOM! -- that 3 pounds comes roaring back.

This particular passage in the guest post, written by Mark Izhak, RD, a registered dietitian and personal trainer in New York City, resonated with me:

After you lose 5 or 10 pounds, you can celebrate your success. But if you don’t immediately recommit to your ultimate goal (either keeping that weight off or losing more) your success is going to be short-lived.


THE REAL SKINNY Cover ArtBy the way, the Appetite for Health founders -- registered dietitians Julie Upton and Katherine Brooking -- have a new book that came out a couple weeks ago called "The Real Skinny: Appetite for Health's 101 Fat Habits & Slim Solutions" (Tarcher/Penguin, $14.95). The book has loads of tips on grocery shopping, dining out, home enviroments, meal planning, working out, and a bunch of recipes that they've curated for dishes like Baja-Style Fish Tacos, Muffin-Tin Turkey Meatloafs, Shrimp Feta and Couscous, and Strawberry Cheesecake Bites.

I love lemons


I love lucy lemon factory
Once I came up with that headline, I had to make this illustration, right?

A couple weeks ago, I had the weirdest dream and I had to tell it to the Weight Shrink:


"I had a dream that I was eating lemons -- just that, lemons, and nothing else. As I ate them, I thought to myself: 'It's not bad -- I could get used to this.' 

"Oh my gosh, how pathetic is that?" I asked her. "Do I think that all I can subsist on is lemons? What kind of a sad diet dream is that?"

But she told me to reframe that dream a different way. What if I saw that dream as getting used to changes that would benefit me in the long term?

"In your dream, you were enjoying those lemons, right?" she asked. In fact, I was. 

I had recently bought a bag of organic lemons from the farmers' market and they were really wonderful. So maybe the dream stemmed from that.

Or maybe I was deficient in vitamin C? I tend to gravitate toward apples, bananas and berries as fruit goes. Citrus gets short shrift (and yeah, I do live in Florida, go figure).

Turns out, people who have sufficient amounts of vitamin C burn 30 percent more fat during moderate exercise than those who don't. And too little vitamin C has been shown to correlate with higher body fat and waist circumference. (Check here for the medical mumbo-jumbo.)

I had run out of my beloved True Lime packets but I had lemons in a bowl on the kitchen table, so I started throwing a wedge -- skin and all -- into my Green Monster Smoothie. You need to have a really powerful blender to make it worth your while and incorporate the entire thing, luckily, I have a Ninja, which is a beast.

I also have been making my own salsa because regular jarred stuff is full of salt. In the single-serve Ninja container, I throw in a couple of Campari tomatoes or a handful of grape tomatoes, a few sprigs of cilantro, a few slices of pickled jalapeno (a little heat and a touch of sodium), a quarter of a lemon, skin and all, and a big glug of white vinegar. Then I blast it in the Ninja and voila! The vinegar makes up for the lack of salt and it's really fresh and delicious. That salsa and a couple of extra-thin corn tortillas makes a great 2 Point snack at night.

I also like to put super-thin slices of lemon on chicken breasts before baking it. The lemons soften and caramelize while the chicken cooks.  

And since today is Earth Day, I'll mention that using the entire lemon doesn't produce any food waste!

I'm chalking this up to a happy coincidence, but since I've been dumping whole lemon chunks in just about everything, I lost 3 pounds of fat last week. That's important to note, because losing muscle isn't something I'm willing to do just for a good outcome on the scale.

Disclosure: Weight Watchers is providing me three months' online membership, but really, I've been an online member for the past few months, so bonus! People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

I yam what I yam: An ode to my 'muskles'

Gail muskles
Yes, it has come to this.

Past couple of weeks, the scale hasn't moved so I decided to stay on the scale a little longer and see what was up.

Holy muskles, Popeye!

Last time I checked, my muscle percentage was around 33 percent. This morning it was right around 37 percent. 

So I decided to check my waist circumference and darned if it wasn't down 2 inches from January. 

Yet still ...

I want to see that main number go down on the scale. I have to; I weigh too much. 

And I'm perfectly happy setting my goal weight at 199.9 pounds. While that may sound like a lot, I've been that weight before and that's a size 12 to 14 for me. I'm a large-framed, huge-footed Eastern European chick who can put on some serious muscle. 

Waif is not in my vocabulary. Or my genetics.

I need to set a hotter fire in my metabolism. Most of the time I walk around with freezing feet. My body temperature is actually lower than 98.6.

So I'm reading a book I got a couple years ago on the "metabolic effect." (It's called "The New ME Diet.") It focuses on fat loss while preserving muscle, and that is exactly what I need. I haven't read too much of the book yet so I can't really speak to what the the eating plan involves, but it mentions protein and fiber frequently. 

It also focuses on interval training, which increases the body's EPOC -- excess post-exercise oxygen consumption -- or the "afterburn."

And this all still fits in with me following Weight Watchers -- I absolutely have to journal my foods so meals don't get away from me. Something I've discovered since Weight Watchers changed from Points to PointsPlus is you get more bang for your buck from foods like lean proteins and produce (obviously -- fruits and non-starchy vegetables are 0 Points). Calories don't even fit into the equation for calculating Points -- it's protein, fiber, fat and carbs. 

It's kinda (OK, really) annoying feeling that you're at war with the scale but that's where my head is right now. But the muscle gain and waist shrinkage has tempered the annoyance somewhat.

Onward and downward. 

Disclosure: Weight Watchers is providing me three months' online membership, but really, I've been an online member for the past few months, so bonus!

This is more than just an ad for butter: A rant for the weekend

Watch this video and then we'll talk:

Lately, I've become dismayed at the lengths people will go to put together a "healthy" meal. They'll jump through a dozen hoops to approximate the taste and texture of bread, pasta, meat, ice cream, even a damn cup of coffee.

Kevlar is meant to be bulletproof -- coffee is not. I seriously doubt Fred Flintstone was downing a 300-calorie mug of oily coffee before heading over to the Slate Rock and Gravel Co.

If you want ice cream/a burger/spaghetti bolognese/coffee with something in it, then have it -- just don't have them all at once.

I don't have "diet butter spray" in the house. I have expensive, grass-fed, organic real butter than you can't spray (or even spread for that matter). Frankly, I think that makes it an even better diet food. What better deterrant to using butter than the 7-dollar-ice-cold butter missle defense system?

There's also no gross sugar-free yogurt in the house.

Wait, I take that back. I have a quart of it but it's called "plain" and it's awesome with a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon of chopped walnuts on it.

What that delightful little ad up there so beautifully illustrates is the magic of real food. The woman in the ad isn't busting open a box of Tuna Helper or reconstituting a package of Suddenly Salad (yes, it's a thing).

She's also not gnawing on the stick of butter like a Snickers bar.

No, she's practicing what I like to call extreme moderation. While preparing her real food for a real meal, she's having a little smidgen of butter on a piece of bread.

Call the gluten police!

(That's a whole other can o' worms that I won't get into but, yeah, Americans eat too much glutinous food in general and we should probably eat less bready stuff, but I'll give you my pizza when you pry it from my cold, dead, slightly greasy hands.)

If you have to put air quotes around your recipes, if dinner feels like a workaround, then are you really enjoying it? Food should be enjoyable, not a freakin' science experiment.

I'll end with Michael Pollan's reminder:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

(And maybe a little smidgen of butter.)

Rant over.


What I do that works

Last week when the scale took a nice jump downward, I decided to focus on all the strategies that came together to make that happen. This week I took my foot off the gas pedal and coasted so I returned to this list today and will make this week just as productive as the week before. 

Funny thing is, while the scale went up 2 pounds, the fat percentage stayed the same, so either I gained a bunch of muscle or have a bad case of "starch bloat," since this past weekend was full of restaurant meals and pizza delivery.

Thought this list might be useful to y'all, so here it is:

MuscleburnsfatWhat Works:

  • Loads more fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables for meals & snacks
  • Big, filling smoothies (check out my Green Monster)
  • A serving of healthy fats at every meal (avocado, nuts, seeds)
  • More water
  • More sleep
  • Less eating late at night
  • Smaller afternoon snack (around 100-125 calories instead of 150-200)
  • Working at night to distract me
  • Spending a little more time prepping meals
  • Journaling (for me it's Weight Watchers Online)
  • Weighing myself twice a week (any more is stressing)
  • Working out whether or not it’s “too late in the day” (too bad!)
  • More weight training (muscle burns fat!)
  • Less stressing about the “right” meal/food/combination

Disclosure: Weight Watchers is providing me three months' online membership, but really, I've been an online member for the past few months, so bonus! People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.