By Susan Howard
Instead of my usual blog about health and fitness, I wanted to take this moment to honor one of my clients who in the past 6 months has melted away over 40 pounds. My clients are constantly inspiring me to do better and I thought it would be nice to highlight her journey. She is, I must let you know a busy mom of 2, a full time doctor, as well as a women that goes out on girls weekends and dinner dates with her husband. I’ve heard about these profound weight losses and have watched the shows where someone drops half their body weight, but I want to give the regular busy Joe or Jane an insight to how it’s really done. She asked to remain anonymous, but here it is in her words.
Me: “What is the most significant thing you’ve changed?”
Her: It is impossible to isolate one, single change. So, I will take a minute to ramble on about a few key differences in my attitude towards food and exercise, and in my daily habits.
1) I think I’ve had significant weight loss success because I made important changes to both my eating habits and exercise routine. I know people who go to the gym religiously, but do not change what or how much they are eating, and then act surprised when they don’t lose weight. Conversely, some people calorie restrict but remain completely sedentary, again without achieving significant results. I felt it was important for me to approach this as a complete lifestyle overhaul and to make healthy changes both in my eating AND exercise habits simultaneously.
2) I did not immediately over-restrict, but gradually decreased my food intake over time. I started out by cutting back to 1700 kcal/day, which is actually still quite a bit of food, and was able to loose a good deal of weight without feeling deprived or hungry. After a few months of eating 1700 calories and feeling quite satisfied with this regimen, I cut back to 1500 kcal/day by making just a few small changes (dropped 1 yogurt and 1 serving of almonds), easy. A few months later, I dropped down to 1200 kcal/day on most days, and 1500 kcal/day on days when I exercise, which is the routine that I maintain today. I like the variation and the idea of a little reward for exercising (a frozen yogurt and a serving of rosemary and sea salt marcona almonds.)
3) I found ways to keep eating my favorite foods, just in smaller portions. For instance, having a large latte with low fat milk (not skim!) is something that I enjoy immensely and look forward to each morning. I have easily incorporated it into my diet such that I have one every single day. Likewise, I have a 150 kcal dessert every day – Cadbury cream egg? Why not? Handful of goldfish (55 to be exact)? Of course! Small wedge of decadent cheese? Absolutely. I’ve come to a place in my thinking about food where I am satisfied having 1 cream egg, and no longer feel a compulsion to eat 5 or 6. I can have 3 bites of Trader Joe’s chocolate pudding and feel content. I never thought I would be the person who could stop eating after 1 or 2 bites, but that is exactly who I’ve become. I have complete control over my intake of food now. I’m not sure how I was able to make this profound attitude change it just came gradually over time with lots and lots of practice.
4) I threw out the “must do a solid 45 minutes of cardio” mentality, and replaced it with a love for and understanding of the importance of strength training. This is where you, Susan Howard, have been an invaluable and completely integral part of my weight loss journey. My body feels and looks different because for the first time in my life, I have lost weight by routinely engaging in light to moderate strength/resistance training in combination with moderate cardiovascular exercise. My husband has commented several times on how I seem more fit and look different/better than I have after previous weight losses. He maintains that my overall body composition is different/more toned/healthier looking than it has been in the past, even when I weighed less than I do now.
5) I gave up my gym membership! Susan told me, “The best gym is the one that you use.” Well, I wasn’t using mine at all, due to a serious time crunch with a full time job and 2 kids. So, for the first time in 25 years, I gave up my gym membership and started working out at home, this was the best fitness change I’ve ever made. I now know that I can achieve better results at home with a spin bike (for 10-30 minutes of cardio) plus a mat, a set of 5, 8, 10 and 12 pound weights, a 4 pound medicine ball and a resistance band than I ever achieved pounding away for 45 minutes on an elliptical machine at the gym. By working out at home I am able to take advantage of golden opportunities for exercise (do it while the baby is napping! Or while the kids are gardening with dad), prefect for a 30-60 minute home workout, but would not have allowed for a time-sucking trip to the gym. I also vary my workout every time I exercise, so as to avoid boredom and to be challenging different muscle groups. This is where having a regular meeting with Susan has been invaluable, because it allows me to constantly be adding new exercises and to be tweaking old ones as I grow stronger. My years of extreme gym boredom and monotony are forever gone!
Summary: Eat 1200-1500 kcal/day
Exercise 30-60 min, 3-4 times per week
20 min cardio + 30 min strength
Typical day’s food:
Morning: Large low fat latte
200 kcal breakfast muffin/bar
Lunch: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
1 string cheese
Afternoon snack: 110 kcal Fiber one bar + 1 fruit
Late afternoon snack: Carrots + Light Laughing Cow cheese (35 kcal)
Dinner: 250 kcal Lean Cuisine
Spinach/Arugula Salad with 1 Tbl Girard’s Light Champagne Dressing
Dessert: 100 kcal Trader Joe’s milk chocolate bar
Optional (if exercised): 130 kcal yogurt (frozen or regular) OR 1 oz goat cheese on salad and 10 almonds
That’s all folks, not too confusing. That was her trail and she travels on to this day. Right on!