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June 2016

I left 3 pounds in California

San clemente
We just got back from 16 (!) days in Southern California, and the first thing I did this morning (after waking up way too late) was step on the scale.

I was down nearly 3 pounds from before we left.

Enjoy those extra 3 pounds, California, because they felt more like a ton off my backside, and my psyche.

Before we left I was feeling really discouraged about my weight-loss progress. It was basically going nowhere and I honestly didn't know what to do. Flying to California, I fired up the Kindle and finally finished reading the book Always Hungry, one of those books I really don't want to read because it's going to tell me I need to eat fewer carbs (remember, I am a petulant food baby). 

But I decided I was not going to be a petulant food baby anymore so I finished reading the book and was relieved that the book doesn't completely cut out carbs. The first couple weeks your macros are 25 percent carbs, 25 percent protein and 50 percent fat -- yes, half your diet is fat.

Lemme tell ya, getting to 50 percent fat is fun.

The hotel breakfast bar was a starchy carb nirvana, so I stuck with scrambled eggs and bacon with fruit until I couldn't take it any longer. Then we headed to a grocery store where I bought some whole-milk plain Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries, along with a bag of ground flax/chia. I made a "parfait" of sorts and had that for about half the breakfasts. Lunches and dinners were either some sort of big salad with lots of protein and healthy fat, or a protein main course with vegetables and a little starch. I made sure the meals were substantial enough so that I didn't need an afternoon snack and I stuck to water, unsweetened iced tea and coffee.

Don't get me wrong -- it wasn't all grilled chicken and plain yogurt. While we were there I enjoyed, among the goodies:

  • Lettuce wrapped cheeseburgerA chocolate-covered frozen banana
  • An In-N-Out burger and fries (lettuce wrapped the burger)
  • A glass of wine
  • A fancy mint-cucumber cocktail
  • A strawberry lemonade Arnold Palmer made with real lemonade, not that diet stuff
  • Tacos
  • Strawberry-lemonade cheesecake pie
  • A big ol' bowl of ramen (very trendy over there)

True food kale saladBut that wasn't every day. I really and truly enjoy eating healthy food, so I tried my darndest to find the healthiest things on the menu -- one of which was this fantastic kale salad at True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica. I am so psyched that one is coming to Sunrise next year.

(Here's the recipe for the salad, without the chicken.)

I didn't feel restricted or like I was "on a diet" at all. The food was great, we did a lot of walking and I came back 3 pounds lighter and stronger in my resolve to finish the job.

I know I'm focusing on weight loss and food, but that's not what I focused on while we were there. I just wanted you to know that you can enjoy yourself while on vacation and even indulge now and then without dreading the scale once you get home.



A funny thing happened on the way to the bariatric surgery forum

So y'know that post I wrote Monday where I had an epiphany in the dressing room at Avenue? The one where I went home and made some phone calls? I called my insurance provider about bariatric surgery coverage.

While looking up specific numbers, the customer service rep mentioned that our coverage includes a weight-loss coaching program, which is free. 

But that's not what I was calling for. 

I got the insurance information and then called the bariatric surgery department of Cleveland Clinic Florida. I found out that the hospital has informational sessions every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 8 a.m. I was so there.

Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. I headed into the conference room with about 10 other people. I don't know what I was expecting to see, but most of the people there were women about my age and about my size -- not at all the 400-pounders I expected.

Here's where it got interesting. A few minutes into the session, the insurance authorization specialist had us look over the requirements for our individual insurance plans. As I looked over who qualifies and what you have to do to qualify, it hit me:

By the time I got done with the tests and the medically supervised diet, I'd be well under the minimum BMI to qualify. 

For the most part, you need a BMI of 40 or above, or 35 with two "co-morbidities," ie: diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, etc. Thankfully, I don't have any of those and I wasn't about to get one just to qualify. I also wasn't willing to not lose weight or even gain weight to stay qualified.

I started scribbling down the things that bariatric surgery patients would have to do to be successful:

  • 8 glasses of water
  • Exercise 6 days a week
  • 80 to 100g of protein a day
  • Good multivitamins
  • Adequate sleep
  • Behavior modification

"OK, I'd have to do these things anyway. Why not do them without the surgery?" I thought.

I was interested in finding out more about ghrelin. It's the "hungry" hormone, and in some people -- yours truly included -- it can go haywire, leaving you hungry all the time. In sleeve gastrectomy, the part of the stomach that produces ghrelin is removed. So I asked if there was anything else that could affect ghrelin production. The dietitian, who I worked with before in the Non-Surgical Weight Loss Program at Cleveland Clinic, said that a meal containing lots of protein and fiber helps quiet the ghrelin monster (my word) by hanging around your stomach longer than other foods. As long as your stretch receptors are activated, you're more likely to be satiated.

Driving home, I felt a renewed dedication to do the right things, especially the behavior modification. So I called back the insurance company and signed up for the weight-loss coaching. 

Fit happens
This was my day: journaling and blowing my nose.

I had my first session with the woman, a former Weight Watchers leader, yesterday, and I think it'll be a good complement to the Weight Watchers online program I'm doing. I'll check in with her every week and go over the short-term and long-term goals that we've set.

One of those goals is cutting out after-dinner eating and I kicked it off spectacularly last night -- mostly because I came down with a rotten head cold and all I wanted to do was lie in bed with a ton of tissues and watch baseball. 

This morning I got on the scale and -- poof! -- I dropped a pound and a half. I credit the extra sleep, cough drops and Sudafed.

I also bought myself a "Fit Happens" journal at Target. It's by Fitlosophy, the maker of my favorite Fitbook, but this one is a little less food-y and a lot more journal-y, something I need right now. 

So there ya have it. Too small for surgery. Now to work on getting that Nobel Prize for eradicating ghrelin.




Choose your Points well, Grasshopper

Summer of success 2016_edited-1Totally muffed the first week back on Weight Watchers. I gained a pound and was hungry all the time.

For those unfamiliar with the new SmartPoints program, the key determinants to how many Points a food has are calories, saturated fat, sugar and protein. Carbs don't figure and neither does fiber or total fat. 

And I am apparently making the wrong food choices. A Chobani Flip is a frequent afternoon or evening snack, and those little suckers are racking up at least 8 Points. I just had an ounce of cashews after the gym and was dismayed to see that the tiny handful was 5 Points.

Man, I need to rethink my snacks because they're eating up all my Points. That's why I was hungry all week. I blew through those 42 bonus Points before the week was up. 

If you'd like to read about someone who is just killing it on the new Weight Watchers plan, check out my pal Monica, who explains how she lost 25 pounds in 100 days.

Exercise-wise, I ditched the DVDs and went back to the gym this morning and did 20 minutes on the arc trainer and some upper-body machines. Now my upper back is reminding me that we haven't done that in awhile, have we? 

In other news ...

I had an epiphany in the dressing room of Avenue today while trying on shorts. I'd call it a hissy fit but really it was more of an "angels singing" kinda thing as I tried to yank the shorts over my saddlebags. A smile spread over my face as I tossed the too-small shorts on the bench.

"Yep, that's it. Buy a bigger size and go home and make a phone call."

And that I did.

Who did I call ... ?


Time to stop being a petulant food baby

Goldfish bag

See that up there? That was scarfed down last week while catching up on the DVR backlog at about, oh, 1 in the morning.

At least it was a 1-ounce single-serve bag.

I sat there with the crumpled bag in my hand and said to myself. "OK, show's over, petulant food baby. Goldfish eaten at 1 a.m. are not conducive to weight loss."

 (Me, late at night, with crunchy carbs.)

Why do I call myself a petulant food baby? Because I get all petulant when I realize that things like Goldfish crackers and Chocolate Cheerios have to GO FAR AWAY for me to succeed.


So I woke up the next morning and made a logo.

Summer of success 2016_edited-1

My sister and I did a "Summer Spectacular" a few years ago and it was less than spectacular. But we're older now, and perhaps wiser. My sister has been having some success by cutting down on carbs and loading up on lean protein and vegetables. I have been doing nothing specific, cherry picking the best tips from some of my favorite dietitians and docs (Dawn Jackson Blatner, Robert Ferguson, Dr. Ian K. Smith, among others) and keeping things balanced and non-crazymaking. 

I also took the bait and signed up for another 3-month hitch on Weight Watchers because I am determined to master its SmartPoints plan. I was also inspired by my friend Monica, who signed up just as I had quit the last time, and now she is down an impressive 25 pounds. (I'm totally picking your brain, girl!)

I kicked off the month of June by taking a free Orangetheory class. I've been wanting to try Orangetheory for ages. The workout was started at a local Pilates studio where I was briefly a member (Pilates and I don't mesh). 


First-ever @otheoryfitness class done! #orangetheoryfitness

A photo posted by Gail Gedan Spencer (@ggspencer) on

I loved the class -- and was able to keep up! The cool thing is everyone goes at their own pace, so if you're not a runner you power walk on the treadmill. They also have those cool rowers with the water in them (super smooth) and TRX for the strength training part (my triceps were so fried that they kept me awake all night). 

But as we all know, when losing weight it's mostly about the food, so no more "otter snacking" at night. I'm also studying the WW list of low Point foods so I'll be leaning on my carton of egg whites. I'm also not going to worry about fruit, which is to say I'm not going to plow through a Publix bowl of watermelon in one sitting, but if I have a few pieces of fruit a day IT'S OK.

Carol (my sister -- Shrinking Sisters, remember?) has been cooking her way through the Chicken Playbook and made this one a couple nights ago:

 I'm not putting any pressure on myself to lose weight by a certain date. My goal is to first shave off this 10 pounds that crept back on over the last year and go from there. 

Now that my eyes are good, I'm planning on dragging out a needlepoint kit and keeping it near the TV. Otters can't snack if they're making art!