Sunday, 27 May 2012

Something to Get By On

While the road to weight loss is full of pitfalls, there are a few things I keep in my tool kit that have helped me on this journey. I thought that it might be helpful to some of you, who might be looking for some helpful hints. The most helpful tool of all, of course, is good, common sense. If you're not hungry, don't eat. If you're in serious pain, stop moving that part of your body. If it's light-colored spandex, don't EVEN think about it.

Moving on...

Foods That Let You Eat Healthy Without Making You Feel Like You Want to Kill Yourself:

1) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. Overcome any cocoa crazy moment with what better than the real deal? I'm a big advocate of this stuff, especially the Trader Joe's kind. You can dump a spoonful in just about anything: smoothies, mushed banana, oatmeal, yogurt. You can even make a chocolate mousse-type dessert by slowly stirring in a little almond milk (add Splenda or Stevia to taste). If you're feeling especially daring, grab half of an avocado and blend it with a little sweetener and a spoonful or two of this stuff to make a superfood pudding!

2) Fage Total 0% Greek Yogurt. Whoah. Even if you don't like yogurt, grab this stuff. It's not quite as sour as most plain yogurt, and it's extremely rich and creamy. Try it in your fave recipes! It fills the role of so many creamy ingredients: sour cream, mayo, heavy cream, etc. I even eat this stuff plain with berries and it's really not disgusting.

3) Trader Joe's Roasted Seaweed Snacks. Most people love these or hate these. I admit that I'm more partial to the Wasabi flavored ones than the plain ones. I like to dip them in hummus or salsa in place of pita or tortilla chips, or just grab them for an afternoon snack. A whole package of these is only 60 calories, so you can chomp away guilt-free while catching up on your fave show on Hulu.

4) PB2 by Bell Plantation. O.M.G. So, powdered peanut butter sounds a little gross, but, believe me, it is a lifesaver if you're PB obsessed like me. First of all, we all know that two tablespoons of good ol' PB packs nearly 200 calories. That's a good chunk (even if you're a creamy lover like me) of your daily intake. So, some genius decided to dehydrate it and magically suck out all of that fat, which weighs down those normal TBs with unnecessary calories. PB2 has ONLY (wait for it) 45 calories per two tablespoon serving. You can put the powdery stuff in smoothies, baking recipes, and even reconstitute it with a little bit of water to make it spreadable. It's like a dream come true. Now I can have my chocolate and PB too--and I can die happy (after the races this year, of course).

5) Menage a Trois(red variety). Okay, so wine isn't really a "diet" food, but I feel like a glass a night is really beneficial. Not only is wine a great anti-oxidant, but one glass after work can really help as a stress reliever, especially if you make it kind of a nighttime ritual. Don't go over one glass (and I'm not talking a HUGE wine chalace--go for a small one). More than one glass can add more calories and cause a person to lose control after that (alcohol tends to make you hungrier in the first place). If you're a stress eater, a glass of wine and, like, five strawberries can be just as satisfying after a long day as a chocolate cake binge.

Additional L.A. mentions: I can hardly believe it, but Native Foods' vegan cupcakes are only 150 calories and head-poppingly delicious. So, yeah, get some!

Honorable "Unmentionables"("Diet" Foods I'd Skip):

Lean Cuisine and other microwave-ready meals. Dude, anything you microwave in plastic is not going to be good for you. Also, these things are loaded with sodium. There are so many other items out there that take as much time to prepare as these and are WAY more satisfying.

Most "Light" yogurts. These are usually watery and unsatisfying, IMHO. Yeah, they come in crazy, cool artificial flavors, but I prefer the real stuff that I can flavor myself so that I know what's going into it.

Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. The fat in nuts is probably the one thing that's good for you. Also, these PBs just use fillers to cut the fat. It doesn't even cut calories that much (maybe 10-20 per serving, which you could burn off walking around the grocery store). Honestly, most peanut butter out there is not good for you and filled with sugar and weird oils. If you are going to go with real PB, read labels. There shouldn't be anything but peanuts (and MAYBE salt) in that jar.

Exercising in L.A. (Ways To Get Max Results For Little Time WITHOUT a gym membership):

1) Pilates Platinum. Everyone I've met who has tried PP has said the same thing, "I tried that. It kicked my butt!" Yep, that's right. This class is challenging. When I was heavier, it was even harder, and I felt SO incredibly out of place as the only fat person huffing and puffing in a perfectly synchronized group of slender, strong chicks and dudes. However, if you stick with it, it's worth it. I had to quit for a while because of finances, but, now I'm back and find myself getting worlds stronger with just one class a week (the company recommends 3x weekly for maximum results, but I don't have that kind of cash or time at the moment). It's a total body workout: you get balance and core workouts side-by-side with leg and arm strengthening moves. Your whole body works in sync with this class, which, after my recent hip strain issue, I discovered is actually pretty much how your body should be working all of the time.

2) 1,2,3, Hike! There are several short, yet very effective hikes in Los Angeles. Find one near you! For the West Side, I recommend the Baldwin Hills scenic overlook, with its famous killer stairs, Charmlee State Park (3 miles with little elevation, but very scenic), Temescal Canyon State Park, which is 2+ miles straight up to the top. If you have time for a longer one, definitely, without a doubt, get to the Mishe Mokwa Trail near Ventura (it's gorgeous AND they allow doggies--Sheila loved it). Also, the Malibu Creek State Park hike is a lot of fun, where M.A.S.H. (the TV show) was filmed. A lot of people like to mountain bike there as well, but it gets pretty rocky and twisted in parts. I'd be scared to bike it.

3) There are TONS of groups that meet up for all kinds of activities all over Los Angeles. You can find run groups that meet in the evenings in your area, or on weekends. Some may have a yearly participation fee, which is usually nominal, but many of them are free. Check out the Nike runs. They have a mid-week run in Santa Monica and then a Sunday run every week, and they are totally free.

4) Get A Bike. Yes, it's expensive, yes it's annoying to find a place for in your home, but it also gives you SO much freedom. Once I stop wussing out about L.A. traffic, I plan to ride to work at least 2x a week, but you can ride so many places: grab a few things from the store, explore your neighborhood, visit a friend--all the while getting in some valuable cross training (especially if you're a runner like me).

5) Get A Dog. Okay, so this one's not for everyone obviously if you have allergies, a small budget, mega time constraints or you're out of town most of the time, a dog isn't the right choice. However, if you can fit a dog into your life, there are so many that need homes right now, and, guess what, the relationship is mutually beneficial. Dog gets love and food from you, you get lower stress and anxiety, less depression and more exercise! Even my little beag needs a good 45 minutes of walking a day, and so, no matter what, rain or shine, I have to get my butt out the door. A dog is like you're own personal motivational tool. "Get up and get out there or I'll pee on the carpet," is a better motivational phrase than I've heard from any of my previous personal trainers. Har har.

Honorable "Unmentionables" (things I'd pass up):

Joining an ultra-expensive gym unless you have a program in hand or a personal trainer, and it's on the way home or to work. People might be surprised that I say this. There are a thousand excuses we could give ourselves not to work out. So many people join a gym, get going for a few weeks or months, and then lose motivation. That gym membership tag hangs unused on the keychain for many months. Why? Working out at the gym is not fun, and when you have no direction, you quickly run out of ideas or stop challenging yourself. Instead, it's often better to find practical ways to fit fitness into your life and then join classes to push yourself to the next level.

Clothes Places That Are Awesome:

1) Target. Believe it or not, Target has some pretty decent workout wear for not a lot of money. I purchased 4 moisture-wicking shirts for $4 each recently! I found some really great loose-fitting yet supportive sports bra/yoga tops there that I wear all of the time for cycling or Pilates. If you make your way to the sporting goods aisles, there are also some less expensive DVDs and other gear. Not everything is amazing, but the workout wear is pretty good quality, just sayin. If you need something, check here first.

2)REI. Not only is REI staff knowledgable, but they also have some really high quality gear. I recommend the one in Manhattan Beach over the one in Santa Monica, actually, because I feel like they don't get as busy and are more attentive to customer needs. REI also often holds free classes for members in the store, so it's worth taking a look at what's up next.

3) Athleta. Yes, this company is owned by The Gap, but, in my book, it has two really positive "points": One, it has quality, functional gear, and, two, the company uses fit models in its catalogues, not twigs. I feel good about shopping at this place, but, like REI, it can get pricey, so like I said, for some stuff, check Target first.

4) Columbia. Columbia's gear has some awesome benefits, like amazing technologies in fabric that help to cool you, protect you from bugs and the sun, or heat you in the winter. Above any sporting gear company, they have far and away the best quality. I bought this amazing long-sleeve running shirt that cools to the touch when it gets sweaty. I've bought other shirts that claim to do this, but they don't. It's so amazing, I might just buy another one in another color, even if that other color is chartreuse :P

5) Besides being a generally awesome site on which to find discounted designer duds, you can also find discounted designer workout gear, which can be very easy on the wallet. My last pair of name brand running shoes from here cost me $35.99. I've seen shoes there for as low as $19.99. Enuff said. Just, sign up already.

Honorable "Unmentionables" (stuff I'd do without):

Thrift Stores. When it comes to sweat gear, you're probably not going to want to recycle someone else's stuff, no matter how cute it is. Like I said, check Target, but don't don someone else's stanky bacteria-infested clothing. Bleh.

Finally, I'll leave you with some overall self-improving tips:

1) You don't have to love your body. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. A lot of magazines and self help gurus give this trife blanket statement, "Love your body, no matter what size it is." This is total hippie bull puckey, and, practically impossible for most people living in today's Western society. There is no love for flab. Buuuuut--pause a minute--you need to learn to love the self, the self you are regardless of your body size. Get to know that person by challenging yourself in different ways. Write, talk, think about who you really are and what's going on inside. Listen to yourself. Forgive yourself. When all of that negative self talk comes in, learn to ignore it, just keep focusing on your goals and getting to know who you are. Beating yourself up is not going to help you get to your dream weight. I've tried it both ways, the self love thing works a lot better in the end.

2) Prepare for the long haul. Most people who embark on a weight loss goal lose weight rapidly in the beginning. The body starts responding to the diet and exercise changes by shedding pounds and the person feels motivated and ready to tackle the world. Of course, then, there's the inevitable point where the weight loss slows or even stalls and that's where most people get derailed. One thing I'll say that I've learned is that there is NO quickie diet that is going to sustain you, long term. The key is to make healthy eating a part of your natural lifestyle, and that takes time to adjust to. Also, life's not black or white. One day you might eat a big, fatty meal. Instead of bemoaning your loss of "control", take it in stride. One meal isn't going to pack on weight. In fact, your body probably isn't going to store all of those calories. A good rule of thumb is to eat within your daily caloric intake 80 percent of the time. A couple of "cheat" meals during the week (as long as you don't go crazy and eat a whole pizza), will still get you to your goals. It will take longer, but you'll be doing it in a sustainable, healthy way.

3) Think of non-food rewards. Buy a goal dress or pair of jeans, save up for a new gadget or workout item for when you hit milestones on the way to your final goal. I just got into a pair of jeans I bought last year that I could not even fit over my thighs then. Having measurable, visual accomplishments can be such a fantastic high along the way.

4) Compare yourself to others. Yes, another controversial thought. There are SO many people in the world and EVERYONE has struggles. There are so many people who are like you out there. Read success stories on the internet or in magazines. Use other people's stories to motivate you. Don't get bogged down in looking at what you don't have. Look at what you can achieve.

Honorable "Unmentionables" (thoughts I'd ditch):

Don't lose weight for anyone but yourself. Sure, having support and encouragement helps, but if you feel like it's someone else's dream, and not yours to see yourself thin, then that's not the right headspace you want to be in.

Don't use your fat as a scapegoat for everything. Even when I was at a thinner size, I used to think that, if a guy didn't like me, it was solely the fault of my fat. While that may have been true in some cases, there was no way that I could have known what the guy was thinking. I'd bog myself down with self loathing and spend a night bingeing, fulfilling the fat slob fantasy in my head. Take ownership and push past the whole "fat person" thing. Try new things, smile, get up in front of people. Don't shame yourself before anyone else can. Yeah, rejection and failure hurt, but not as much as it does in the end when you never try anything you're afraid of.

Now, go forth and conquer.

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