I’m a slacker.

I can’t believe I went the entire month of March without a single blog entry. Ugh. March was just not a good month. I lost my beautiful Baby about three weeks ago to oral cancer. It’s a horrible, empty feeling losing a pet you’ve had for the majority of your life. I miss him terribly but I’m thankful that he lived a long, healthy life and passed peacefully and is no longer suffering.

babyboo

 

My birthday was Thursday, and as a birthday gift to myself, I got a tattoo of Baby’s paw print. (And lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “Swim” by Jack’s Mannequin in Andrew McMahon’s handwriting.) I’m so in love with both of them.

photo

 

I’ll admit that I have fallen off the bandwagon slightly. I’m now working 30 miles away instead of 5 miles down the road, so I’m losing roughly 80-90 minutes of my day. I haven’t been keeping up with my calorie counting and my workouts have not been as long, intense or frequent as they used to be. I broke my 4-month-long exercise streak last week because I was just not feeling it. At this point, my motivation is minimal. However, the gym I wanted to join is now running a special for the month of April, so I think I’m going to bite the bullet and join. I’m almost done reading The New Rules of Lifting for Women so I’d love to start the program ASAP. I just need the equipment, so I’m hoping that my motivation will come back once I join Health Links and have some kind of workout plan.

I’m also hoping I can keep up with entries a little better from now on!

Advertisements

New before & after photo added

I’m working hard to improve my figure and reduce my body fat percentage. I can no longer measure my progress using the scale (which is fine by me). Reducing body fat and gaining muscle only means weight gain because muscle is more dense than fat. (Muscle does not weigh more than fat. One pound is one pound. Muscle does not take up as much room as fat. Two people may be the same weight, but the person with 15% body fat will look leaner, fitter and smaller than a person with 25% body fat.) I do have a lot to learn about this process. But I know it’s long and difficult, especially for women. So even though the number on the scale will go up, my body fat percentage will slowly, but surely, decrease. Taking new photos and putting together an updated side-by-side comparison helps keep me motivated, so I thought I’d add it to my before & after photos!

A Few Things to Know About Strength Training

This is sort of in response to pins on Pinterest, claims I hear in Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs (don’t get me wrong, I love her workouts, but the things she says are not always true) and exercise moves featured in Cosmo and other magazines.

YOU CANNOT SPOT REDUCE FAT.
There are no specific exercises to target areas of fat.

Crunches WILL NOT reduce your belly fat.

Bridges, lunges and squats WILL NOT melt the fat off your butt and thighs.

Tricep exercises WILL NOT reduce your arm flab.

You get the picture. There’s a quote I like: get fit in the gym, lose weight in the kitchen.

l_73c9dae0-7d8b-11e1-bbcc-af20ecb00004

Once again, weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% fitness. A calorie deficit with a HEALTHY diet and cardio with regular strength training WILL reduce OVERALL body fat. Your body decides where the fat comes off. (Damn you, genetics.) You may do a ton of crunches and planks and have a strong core, but if you still have a flabby belly, you won’t see the muscles.

So does that mean you should skip the strength training? Of course not! By building muscle, you’ll burn more calories overall, even at rest. According to this article from SparkPeople, “It takes more energy (calories) for your body to use and maintain muscle cells than it does fat cells. So by simply lifting weights to add more muscle mass, you’re boosting your metabolism and turning your body into a more efficient calorie-burning machine.” For best results, lift heavy with fewer reps. (And no, ladies, you will not bulk up.) Lifting heavy weights with fewer repetitions will build muscle, which gives you that lean, defined and fit physique (once your overall body fat continues to reduce).

Continue doing your cardio,  but if you’ve been putting off the strength training, what are you waiting for? There are a ton of workout generators out there to help you get started. Don’t be intimidated! Just don’t overdo it, and give your muscles at least 48 hours until your next strength training session to recover. (When you’re starting a new routine or increase your intensity of your workout, you might feel sore the day after your strength training session, which is normal. This is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, which is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. This will happen less often overtime. Just because you’re not sore the next day doesn’t mean you haven’t had a good workout. Still give your muscles plenty of time to recover!)

Healthy Snack Ideas

Most days I have a mid-morning snack, afternoon snack and something after dinner. I (try to, at least) stay away from things like crackers and pretzels because once I start, I can’t stop. Even if I get one serving on a plate, put the box away and sit at the table, I go back for more. I’m addicted. I like to have mini-meals that fill me up so that I’m not tempted to graze until the next meal. Other times, it’s just raw fruits or vegetables, which is a great option. Fruits and vegetables with a high water content have been shown to curb hunger, which means you’re likely to eat less during your mealtimes. Despite what you may have been told, drinking water does not have the same effect of satiety that eating high water content freggies does. Lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, celery, cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower are some examples of vegetables with a high water content. Some fruits with a high-water content are strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, apples and grapefruit. So basically, snack on fruits and veggies!

When I want my mini-meals, I have to be careful. A mini-meal can turn into a big meal if you don’t pay attention to your portion sizes. Just like any other meal, I try to have a fruit or veggie and combine healthy fats, protein and carbs. Some good snack options that won’t leave you hungry an hour later:

Banana or apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Plain greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit and 1/2 ounce nuts
Veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus
Cottage cheese prepared in a number of ways – with fruit, vegetables, all sorts of things
Veggie egg white omelet
Grilled cheese sandwich (I always make mine with no butter and part-skim mozzarella)

Happy snacking!

Weight Loss Myths & Truths

Myth #1: I can lose weight as long as I’m exercising.

Think about it. Which one is harder to do – eating 300 calories or burning 300 calories through exercise? Weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% fitness. You could spend hours in the gym working your butt off but ruin all of your efforts if you aren’t mindful of what you’re eating. You simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Myth #2: Weight loss supplements are an effective way to lose weight.

I laugh every time Sensa commercials come on TV. Sprinkling some mysterious substance on your burger and french fries will not do anything to help you lose weight. These products are not regulated by the FDA, which means the companies that distribute these supplements don’t have to tell you what is in their product, they are able to make false claims about their product and the product could potentially be dangerous to take. These companies are only looking to take advantage of people who are desperate to lose weight. The one thing these supplements do is drain your wallet, so use the money you would be spending on supplements and buy a gym membership or fresh, whole foods.

Myth #3: The more I cut calories, the more weight I’ll lose.

Weight loss happens when you create a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. Creating a deficit that is too large can do more harm than good and can sabotage your effort to lose weight. Habitually under-eating and/or over-exercising can cause your metabolism to slow down and can increase your risk for an array of health issues ranging from eating disorders to heart complications. It may seem counterproductive, but the more you exercise, the more you need to eat.

Myth #4: Women should lift light weights at high repetitions to avoid bulking up.

Many women seem to think that lifting heavy weights will cause them to “bulk up” and look like scary body builders. However, women don’t have enough testosterone to get them to a bulky state. Women SHOULD lift heavier weights because it has a number of benefits. Research shows it can help burn fat and calories, even after you finish your strength training session; it will make you look leaner (not bulky!), it will help fight osteoporosis, and it can help prevent injury Lifting light weights, I’m talking light enough to easily do 20+ repetitions with little to no muscle fatigue, won’t do much to build strength. When you’re not building strength, you’re not going to get that lean physique. A lot of people don’t know how heavy they should be lifting. As a general rule of thumb, your muscles should literally feel exhausted after completing your last repetition. This should be the last repetition you can complete with good form. For heavy lifting, it should be between 6 and 10 reps. Anything below 6 reps, you might want to try lifting a little lighter. Anything higher than 10, time to increase your intensity.

Myth #5: I will always be hungry when I’m dieting.

The trick to not being hungry throughout the day is to choose nutrient dense foods at your mealtimes – vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins – that won’t leave you hungry half an hour later. Fast food, refined sugar, white flour, chips, cake, cookies, crackers, etc. won’t do much to fill you up as they’re merely empty calories, and you’re likely to be hungry again very shortly. You can easily overeat on empty calories, but try to overeat on fruits and vegetables. It’s almost impossible!

Myth #6: Since 1 pound is equal to 3,500 calories, I need to burn 3,500 calories through exercise each week to lose 1 pound.

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. You do this by reducing the amount of calories you eat and through physical exercise, everyday activities (cleaning, washing dishes, grocery shopping, etc.) and your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR, which is the amount your body burns at rest. My BMR is about 1,310. This is the amount of calories my body burns AT REST. Using the Harris Benedict Equation, I can multiply my BMR by 1.375 because of my activity level (“lightly active,” although I think I’m moderately active), which brings my daily calorie needs to 1,801. (http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/) Basically, I have to eat around 1,800 calories to maintain my weight. Realistic, healthy weight loss is about one pound per week. (Remember that creating a calorie deficit too large can sabotage your weight loss efforts.) One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, which means you need to create a weekly calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. 3,500 calories divided by 7 days a week is a 500 calorie deficit per day. With my physical activity level already accounted for, I would have to eat around 1,300 calories to lose one pound of fat each week. Keep in mind that this math may seem simple enough, and you could do ALL of the right things and still not lose weight. Our bodies can be really stubborn. Pain in the butt? I think so. But the good news is that you don’t have to burn 3,500 calories through exercise each week.

Myth #7: To reduce belly fat, I should do ab exercises, such as crunches.

You can’t spot reduce fat, especially with exercises that “target” those specific areas. Unfortunately, your body decides where the fat comes off. You can do all the crunches you want but they won’t do anything to help reduce your belly fat. If you continue to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet and within your calorie ranges, pretty soon the fat will come off. Maybe not as quickly or where you want it to come off, but it will happen.

Myth #8: Healthy food is too expensive.

“I can’t afford to eat healthy, so that’s why I still eat fast food.” WHAT? You, my friend, are kidding yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, and every time I get super irritated. Sure, if you buy out-of-season organic produce, it’s going to be expensive! You have to be smart about it. Buy what is in season and/or what’s on sale. And don’t always settle for grocery store produce! I’m lucky to be surrounded by tons of farms who were selling huge butternut squash for $1 each this past fall. At the grocery store, they were $1 per POUND. Support your local farmers by going to farmer’s markets and buying seasonal produce there. When you’re at the grocery store, use coupons when you can for products you buy. Oatmeal (the big containers of old-fashioned oats, not instant), dry black beans and rice can go a long way and can be prepared in a number of different ways. I’m going to elaborate on this at a later date and breakdown how much each food is costing me per serving, which I hope will convince all of the non-believers out there that eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive.

Myth #9: Detoxes and cleanses can help jump start my weight loss.

There is no medical evidence that suggests detoxes or cleanses removes toxins from the body. Our bodies naturally remove any toxins. The best “detox” you can do for your body is to just stop eating the junk food! There is no reason to do a cleanse or detox. Just start eating whole, clean foods, exercise and drink water. Simple as that!

Where Do I Start? Part 2: Exercise

Since exercise is only 20% of weight loss, you could technically lose weight without doing any exercise. I firmly believe that anyone who can exercise should do so. Besides helping with weight loss, it has a number of other health and psychological benefits. It reduces stress and anxiety and improves your mood, it gives you more energy, it reduces blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, prevents diabetes, strength training helps build stronger bones, AND, you can get away with eating more while still losing weight if you’re torching calories. So, with that said, where should you start?

Just like with your eating habits, start small with exercise, especially if you’ve never been physically active. Don’t jump into a program like Insanity or P90x – you have a greater risk of injuring yourself and overtraining if you’ve never been physically active. Take it easy at first, go for a walk or something low impact. As for strength training, I’m all for heavy weights, but light weights are better for beginners to at least get the form down. Once you understand proper form, then move on to heavy weights. When a workout becomes too easy, it’s time to increase the intensity!

You DO have to time to exercise. If you’re pressed for time, divide your workout into 10-15 minute segments throughout the day. You’ll still get the same benefits if your heart rate is up for at least 10 minutes. Aim for 3-4 cardio sessions and full-body strength training sessions. Be sure to give your body enough time to recover after each session.

Find forms of exercise that you enjoy that you can stick with. If you don’t like it, you won’t stick with it. This takes some trial and error. If you have a gym membership, most gyms include classes for free. Try something new, like Zumba, Yoga, Pilates; who knows, you might find something you never thought you’d enjoy. If you don’t have a gym membership, there are tons of free workouts on YouTube (I’m currently doing Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown on YouTube). SparkPeople also has great beginners workouts – everything from basic stretching routines to kickboxing.

If you’re interested in running, try a program like Couch-to-5k. Make sure to invest in a good pair of running shoes! Find a specialty running store for a proper shoe fitting.

Here are some useful links for free workout videos:

Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5nyrD4eM64

BeFit YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BeFit?feature=fvstc

SparkPeople YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/sparkpeople

Where do I start? Part 1: Nutrition

Losing weight is incredibly frustrating. It sounds easy – eat less, move more. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There is simply too much (and often contradicting) information out there. In this entry, I want to give you some tips on getting started with the nutrition side of weight loss.

Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% fitness. Many people believe that they can simply exercise and lose weight. But think about it, which one is easier? Eating 300 calories or burning 300 calories through exercise? Eating, of course! Nutrition is, in my opinion, the hardest part of losing weight.

The first step to losing weight is setting a realistic goal. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your goal. Don’t try to lose 20 pounds in one month because it’s pretty far from realistic, and unless you have a lot of weight to lose, it may not even happen. Aim to lose no more than 2 pounds per week. Some weeks you may lose a few pounds, some weeks you’ll lose nothing. Once you have your goal and a date you want to reach your goal, find an online nutrition tracker (I use SparkPeople.com, and I love it. MyFitnessPal.com and LiveStrong.com are also good ones. And they’re all free.) that will give you an accurate amount of calories you need to consume to reach your goal. (Your level of physical activity is also factored into that equation. If you exercise a lot, you will probably need to eat more. If you’re a SparkPeople member, you can manually enter the amount of calories you burn each week, which will automatically fix your nutrition tracker to reflect your level of physical activity. I’m sure you can do the same with MFP and LS.)

Eating a balanced diet is important. Your body needs carbs, fats and proteins. 45-65% of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 20-35% should come from fat and 10-35% should come from protein. If you use an online calorie counter, your nutrition tracker will (at least it should) give you a range of how many grams of each macronutrient (carb, fat, protein) you should aim for.

Okay, so now what? Here comes the fun part: counting calories and weighing and measuring your food (NOT eyeballing). Yes, it’s tedious, it can be REALLY annoying, but it’s a highly effective way of losing weight. Online calorie counters have made it pretty painless most of the time. You also have to make an effort to read nutrition labels. The most importance pieces of information on a nutrition label are the serving size and the amount of servings in each package. When you read the label for Poptarts, they don’t seem THAT bad in terms of nutrition. But did you know that there are two servings in a package of Poptarts? Who leaves the second Poptart in the package all by its lonesome? I never did. One 20 ounce bottle of soda is 2.5 servings. But again, how many people stop at one serving?

Like I said before, a balanced diet is important. The best way to achieve a balanced diet is make each MEAL balanced. Each meal should have a combination of lean protein, healthy fats and carbs (whole wheat is better than white). Sometimes this can be hard, but if you divide your ranges by the number of times you eat per day, you’ll have a range for each macronutrient and number of calories you should aim for each meal. We’ll use my ranges as an example. My calorie range is 1,540 to 1,890. If I eat 5 times a day, I should aim for 308-378 calories each meal. My range for carbs is 173-307 grams. Divide that by 5, my range for each meal is 35-61 grams. My range for fats is 35-75. Divided by 5, my range for each meal is 7-15 grams. My range for protein is 60-165. Divided by 5, my range is 12-33 grams. Like I said, this could be difficult to get each macronutrient in this range for every meal, and it can require a lot of planning on your part.  Do your best to eat a balanced diet. You’ll get the hang of it if you continue improving your diet overtime, which leads me to my next point.

Do not try to overhaul your diet in one day. It is recommended to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. If you’re not a big fan of fruits and vegetables, don’t force yourself to eat anything you don’t want to eat. That said, try new foods and/or prep them in a way that you can enjoy them. The other day, I tried kale for the first time in the form of kale chips. I never thought I would enjoy kale. Make small changes in your diet continuously a few times each week. If you have a big, fat bagel slathered in butter and cream cheese for breakfast (mmm), swap that out for 100% whole wheat bread (read ingredients. If the first ingredient is not 100% whole wheat flour, then it’s not 100% whole wheat bread.), 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a banana. (Look at that! A balanced meal!) If you eat a lot of red meat, swap that out for chicken, fish or even meatless meals with legumes. If you enjoy Alfredo sauce on your pasta (who doesn’t love a creamy Alfredo sauce?), opt for marinara sauce instead. You can still enjoy all of your favorite foods, but do so in moderation. Finding healthy alternatives is a great way to enjoy something that is similar to your favorite indulgences. I’ll elaborate at a later date on some of my favorite healthy alternatives.

Drinking plenty of water is important, not only for weight loss, but for a number of bodily functions as well. The more hydrated you are, the faster your metabolism works. It is recommended to drink 8 8-ounce glasses of water each day. I drink from four 16 ounce bottles of water everyday, and I give myself 3 hours to drink each bottle. I start drinking water at 10am and I finish my last bottle by 10pm.

This is all incredibly overwhelming if you’re just starting out. I’m overwhelmed just typing all of this up. I hope some of  you have found this helpful. Tomorrow I will post Part 2: Fitness! I hope that won’t be as overwhelming.

Quick tips

I have a few drafts going that are taking longer than usual to write (damn you, procrastination) but I’d like to post at least something. Last semester, my cousin and I did a presentation for our health class about weight loss. We compiled a list of quick tips that I hope some of you will find helpful. I will hopefully elaborate on some of them at a later date. I also posted these as a blog on SparkPeople back in May, so if some of y’all are visiting from SparkPeople, you may have already seen these. Anyway:

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS:
– Weight loss = calories out > calories in. Simple, right?
– WRONG. Weight loss is NOT easy.
– You will not see immediate results
– It takes hard work, dedication, and trial and error to find out what works best for you
– Don’t be fooled by certain weight loss products (diet pills, weight loss supplements, other products that basically tell you you can lose weight with little to no effort). If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

HEALTHY WEIGHT LOSS:
– Not a “diet,” which implies a temporary fix
– It’s a permanent lifestyle change
– Weight loss is 80% nutrition and 20% fitness. You can’t out-exercise an unhealthy diet.

NUTRITION TIPS
1. Identify how many calories your body needs to lose weight (SparkPeople.com, MyFitnessPal.com and LiveStrong.com are free and can recommend how many calories you should consume, as well as how many grams of carbs, fats and proteins you should consume). It’s important to realize that the more you exercise, the more calories your body needs.

2. Eat a balanced diet. Stay within your ranges for carbs, fats and proteins

3. You DON’T have to be hungry all the time. Choose nutrient-dense foods (like fruits and veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, etc.) that won’t leave you hungry 30 minutes later.

4. Read nutrition labels and learn how to interpret the information. The most important pieces of information on a nutrition label are the serving size and the amount of servings in the package.

5. Track your calories and fitness minutes ACCURATELY. One reason why people struggle to lose weight is because they overestimate the time they exercised/calories burned, and underestimate their portions of food. As a result, they eat more than what their food tracker says, and didn’t burn as many calories. Solution? MEASURE AND WEIGH YOUR FOOD. Make sure the food entries in your nutrition tracker are the same as what they are on the food label. And don’t always believe the calories burned display on cardio machines, especially when they don’t ask for your weight prior to your workout. That number is hardly ever correct. INVEST IN A HEART RATE MONITOR! A good HRM will give you a better estimate of how many calories you burned.

6. Moderation & Portion Control: You don’t have to eliminate any “bad” foods if you’re able to control your portions. Pay attention to your portion sizes and keep in mind that when you eat at a restaurant, oftentimes you have 3-4 servings of food on your plate. Eat only half of your meal and bring it home with you.

7. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Eat breakfast as it kick starts your metabolism for the day. Eat balanced meals for best results (complex carbs, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits and veggies). But small, frequent meals is not a good idea for those who struggle with discipline, moderation and portion control as it can lead to overeating.

8. Eat a variety of food to ensure that you meet requirements for both macro- and micronutrients. For fruits and veggies, eat a variety of color.

9. Don’t drink your calories (soda, sweet teas, fancy Starbucks coffee drinks, etc). Limit alcoholic beverages. Eliminate diet soda – recent studies have shown that those who consume diet soda daily have a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

10. Drink at least 8 8oz. glasses of water DAILY. No matter what!

FITNESS TIPS
1. Aim for 60-minute cardio sessions most days of the week
2. Aim for at least 3 full-body strength training per week
3. Warm up before your workout with light cardio, cool down properly, and save your static stretching for after your workout.
4. Find workouts to enjoy so that you can stick with them
5. If you find that your workout is becoming too easy, then it’s time to increase the intensity or find something new
6. Figure out what motivates you to exercise
7. Make physical activity part of your daily routine. You DO have time for it. If necessary, break your workout up into 10-15 minute sessions throughout the day

STAYING MOTIVATED
1. Set realistic goals: set mini goals in 5-10 pound increments. Give yourself enough time to reach goals. Reward yourself, but not with food. Set other goals that are centered around nutrition, fitness and overall wellness. Take a before photo, and take a progress photos along the way. (Best feeling ever – comparing your before and after photos side by side.)

2. Don’t always trust the scale as it can be very misleading. Use a tape measure to do full body measurements every week or every other week. If possible, measure your body fat percentage.

3. Develop streaks and don’t break them (drinking your water for x amount of days, exercising 5 times a week for x amount of weeks, etc)

4. Never get discouraged! Everyone has a slip up, everyone makes mistakes along the way, but move past it. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t blame others. Come to terms with it and keep moving forward. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help.

Introduction: Fat to Fit

Hi, thanks for stopping by! Just a brief introduction: my name is Kristen. I’m a former fatty who lived off of big, fat bagels, boxes and bags of junk food and homemade macaroni and cheese. I was always overweight, and I steadily packed on the pounds my first couple semesters of college, enough to be considered obese. Three years ago, I had had enough of being the fat girl. Clueless as to where to start, I began making small changes in my diet (bye bye, bagels), got my butt off the couch and started to exercise a few days a week. With help from sparkpeople.com, I lost 50 pounds over the course of two and a half years. This was my first real attempt at losing weight, and I had succeeded. No crazy diet, no weight loss supplements, no quick fixes. Just hard work and dedication. It was a long, confusing and frustrating journey, but it was worth it. I have learned so much about what works and what doesn’t work for myself, I have fallen in love with running, learned to love cooking, tried new foods I never thought I would enjoy, and I now prefer shopping for fitness apparel more than anything. I never thought I would have this much success with weight loss, which is why I have started this blog: to inspire, motivate and help others achieve their goals.

before after new