Friday, December 26, 2014

Weigh-In: How to Define Weight Loss

Happy Holidays to everyone! Or you’re like me and thrilled that it’s almost over.

This week’s weigh-in:

Lbs. Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.166.968.469.5
Lbs. Muscle 67.366.865.267.36563.36467.368

A little up, but mostly the same. Not what I was expecting, since I had a good week and was expecting to have lost a pound.

Zooming out over the last few months, overall I’ve been frustrated. Things don’t seem to be adding up (or rather, down) and I feel like I’ve been around the same 3-5 pounds for months now.

The upside is that I’ve been tracking my food intake consistently since maybe last February, so I have a lot of information to work with and I don’t just have to sit around and stew in my injustice. This is one of the things that I’m really proud of - I try to track as honestly as possible, even when the last thing I want to do is admit that I ate 500 calories worth of bread at dinner.

The last time I felt this way, that the scale wasn’t reflecting my efforts, was in June when I was 192 pounds.  However, when I added up the numbers, I quickly realized that I had been having way more “maintenance” days than I realized, and in fact my lack of weight loss was perfectly in line with what I was eating.

So before I got too mad at the scale this time around, I knew I need to do some more number crunching to see if I’m actually weighing more than I “should” or it’s all in my head again.

I made one large chart with all measurements from June through the end of last week - net calories and calorie deficit based on an 1800 calorie maintenance level for each day; then I cross-referenced it with weight measurements. So I can figure out what the calories say I should weigh at a certain time, and what the scale actually said.

So here are the results, in sum: Since June, I have eaten about 60,000 fewer calories than I need. Score! Of those 60,000, about 13,000 are from the last ten weeks. That means I theoretically should have lost 17 pounds total by now, and a little under four in the last ten weeks (yeah, October was not a great month).

In reality it’s more like twelve pounds lost overall and two pounds of that in the last ten weeks. Not adding up, so perhaps my frustration is legitimate. But what has changed is the fat - today I have a little over fourteen fewer pounds on my body, and exactly the same muscle mass. In the last ten weeks, I’ve lost about 2-3 pounds of fat. My conclusion is that the fat mass measurements are much more accurate overall than the weight ones. Thus, perhaps I should focus on the fat numbers and have the overall weight be secondary, instead of the other way around? Revolutionary!

I try to keep in mind is that my body is not magic and can’t defy the laws of physics and gravity. If I keep eating at a deficit, I will lose weight and it will all add up. It seems it will be frustratingly, agonizingly slow, but what other choice do I have?

The other thing to remember is that even the best estimate, hell, even the nutrition facts on a label are probably going to be off by a bit. With that, the gap between what I do weigh and what I think I should weigh shrinks. Or maybe my body only burns 1750 calories each day, though I’ve been counting it as 1800. I think 17 pounds should be gone, in reality it’s 14 pounds. That’s maybe not so much, in the end.

I still want to get into the 160s by my 26 birthday, which gives me another 7-8 weeks to lose ten pounds. That may not be likely at this point, but I’m going to try to get as close as possible.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Weigh-In: Special Events Have Diminishing Returns

This week’s weigh-in:

Lbs. Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.171.466.968.4
Lbs. Muscle 67.366.865.267.36563.368.76467.3

So we’re at basically the same as last week, which is what I was expected. This week was hard; there was the happy hour, a potluck, another party, and I had trouble staying on track. I tried, but it’s sad how quickly you (or rather, I), can eat several hundred calories worth of fries. The upside is that I tracked everything, and had some good days and great choices that balanced out the bad.

Yesterday, they had a staff appreciation events, which simply equal two giant cakes. And I kept my no office food rule and didn’t have any! I didn’t even care that I didn’t have any → even bigger victory.

This week there are more challenges: it’s a Chanukah party on Saturday night, two meals with friends before that, and probably a lot of food at the office. Awesome events with awesome people, but definitely challenging food-wise. Especially Chanukah - one of the main traditions for this holiday is to fry food and eat it.

I’m trying to remind myself that when you have four special events in one week, they’re not special anymore and I should start treating them like regular days. This is especially true for annual non-personal events like New Year’s Eve or Halloween.

And even some are really special, like a wedding, that still shouldn’t give me a reason to overeat. This is maybe an area in which I should be selfish - I’ll only indulge with food if the event is special to me personally. It’s an easy way to be discriminatory. My birthday, my wedding day, that’s about it. Not my husband’s birthday or a friend’s wedding. Not that I can’t enjoy some fancy food at a wedding. It’s more about an attitude of, “This is not that day.” Hell, maybe it will help me focus more on the happiness of the event than what I should have for dessert.

We’re going to a friend’s wedding next Sunday, and there is sure to be a ton of food. But as thrilled as I am for the bride and groom, it’s not my wedding, right? So I will enjoy some food, but (try to) focus on the dancing and fun and romance of the evening, and not on how many cookies I can fit onto a tiny dessert plate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In - Drunk Scale

Here are the latest numbers, straight from my unforgiving and possibly drunk bathroom scale:

Lbs. Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.868.171.466.9
Lbs. Muscle 67.366.865.267.36567.763.368.764

The scale has been fluctuating wildly last few weeks, but at least I'm back on the right track. Plus, the fat pounds are the lowest I've had - a good sign. One of my short-term goals, besides getting into the 160s by 2/16, is to have more muscle than fat. I'm getting close, and I think it will cause a little mental shift to have a more proper ratio.

There are too many events happening this week - our company's holiday party tonight, potluck meals with friends, our department potluck on Monday, and another little work party on Tuesday. Of course it's nice to be celebrating, but it's a lot of food-events for one week.

I'm going to try to do my best tonight, but not beat myself up if I don't do well. I went to the gym, had a hearty but lighter lunch, and will be having a "mini" dinner before head out there, so I don't have the mentality of "this is my dinner" when looking at the delicious but likely deep-fried food at the bar, because that often leads to overeating.

For the work potluck I'm going to make a vegetable based dish so there's something healthier I can focus on, and probably fudge because fudge is awesome. Yesterday I slipped on my "no food at work" rule and had a chocolate-covered Oreo that someone got as a holiday gift from a vendor. How is something so simple, so delicious?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Weigh-In and Rom-Com Style Pep Talks

Wednesday’s weigh-in:

Pounds Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.868.171.4
Pounds Muscle 67.366.865.267.36567.763.368.7

Well. That fucking sucks, to put it mildly. But I said I'd share all the good and the bad, so there it is. 

It’s definitely not where I thought I should be, based on calorie counts. However, based on the fact that I definitely did not lose and then gain four pounds of muscle in just a few weeks, I’m going to take this with an asterisk. Unfortunately, I’m probably up. Maybe a pound, probably not four. All I can do is double down my efforts this week. And yes, I do take the good weigh-ins without any asterisks.

So far this week has continued to be pretty good. I’m still in an odd “I want to eat everything” mood but this time I’m actually controlling it and still tracking everything. Acknowledging and validating my own feelings goes a long way towards not giving in to random food cravings.

Yesterday I was vaguely thinking about how much I wanted to get one of the amazing chocolate chip cookies from the bakery next to my office, and ended up giving myself a rom-com worthy mental pep talk. I didn’t really want a cookie, I was mostly tired and a bit stressed and a cookie would be relaxing and make me forget that for a minute. It was okay and normal to feel like I wanted the cookie, but I focused on the degree to which it wasn’t worth it - those 350 calories could make the difference between keeping within my weekly flexible calories or going above them - and the fact that I would still be tired and stressed after I ate it.

I did have too much bread on Friday and as of now, Saturday night, I’ve used up the 2,000 “flexible” calories that, with a thousand-calorie daily allotment, produce a 1300-day average. If I stay on target for the next few days until the weekly calories reset on Wednesday, I can count on a pound loss for the week. That’s totally doable, especially if I go to the gym.

The upcoming weeks will be tougher, with a couple of holiday parties that will be very food-centric. I still have no idea how I should approach these events. Overall I know the most important thing when getting off track is to immediately get back on track the next meal - as in, not to write off the day if I eat too big a lunch and inhale a pizza for dinner.

Also, two random things: 
  • I want to actually post my weigh-ins on the day that I weigh in, which is Wednesday. So from now on I'll do that, even if it's just a quick check in. Consistency is good.
  • I've joined a challenge to try and exercise 20 times during December. So far I'm at three, and will go to my Zumba class in the morning. T

  • I can still make it to my goal of getting into the 160’s by my birthday (right around Valentine’s Day, so I’ll just use that as the date). I can. I can. I can.

    Monday, December 1, 2014

    Thanksgiving is Just One Day

    So remember last week when I said I refused to gain weight? I even put it in bold font, so obviously it was very serious. However, I may have put on a pound or so over the last week. We’ll see on Wednesday, the official weigh-in day, as bloat and whatever else settles in, but I might be up. It’s not much, it’s not going to hold me back from making my February goal of breaking the 30 pound loss mark, but it’s a frustrating detour I didn’t want to take.

    I think I let the anticipation of a food-related challenge get to me. I knew Thanksgiving would be hard, and that we'd be away for the weekend, probably with a lot of delicious and unhealthy food. So it's like I gave up before I started: On Wednesday I broke my “no office food” rule for the first time, eating a cupcake that a coworker brought in. On Thursday, Thanksgiving, I didn’t track anything. Or the next day. It was the first time in a long time that I skipped recording my food. 

    It was my anticipation of the potential to overeat and the challenges ahead - “Oh my god, there’s going to be SO MUCH food everywhere, all weekend, and there’ll be no gym and it will be ten degrees." How pointless, right? I made some good choices, sticking to the white meat at dinner, and realizing that I didn’t need seconds of stuffing and gravy, and had only one of the three desserts offered. Then I made several bad choices, like eating some leftover cake later that night.

    By Saturday night I was in this weird in-between mode of eating a totally reasonable and healthy lunch and then pouring myself a glass of apple cider. It was not fun - my feelings and brain wanted to eat well, but my actions were not reflecting that.

    Yesterday I realized how ridiculous I was being, recorded what I could remember, and packed a gym bag for this morning. Today I went to the gym, tracked my food, and netted 1200 calories. Oddly enough, it was as simple as that.

    On Saturday I felt in the throes of a teen angsty-level of self-pity, this close to writing a free-verse poem about how trying to lose weight is like a baby whale who's lost its mama, with a classy metaphor involving Jennifer Lawrence and cheese fries, and a twist ending where everyone dies. 

    Now, I feel pretty good and like my difficult weekend was not the beginning of a pattern but rather just that - a difficult weekend.

    So now, I feel pretty good. But this whole thing just double-triple reinforces that I still get overwhelmed by holidays, parties, and other non-routine stuff. I end up overthinking it, or revert back to that sneaky ten-year-old, or break my biggest weight-loss tip, and get mad at myself for slipping. This is still something I need to work on. The other option is to allow myself to indulge, within reason, during these times, and accept that there might be an extra pound or two. I think that can actually work if I immediately get back to healthy habits.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    (Late) Weekly Weigh-In and Measurements

    Late weight update, apologies. Now to abate your vague curiosity regarding my weight loss rate. (First and last time I ever do that, promise.) 

    Wednesday’s weigh-in:

    Pounds Fat82.772.570.370.870.368.868.1
    Pounds Muscle 67.366.865.267.36567.763.3

    This made me really happy. Two pounds in two weeks is right where my calories “said” I should be, and always like when the numbers match up like that. Muscle count, based on how much it fluctuated, is likely a fluke.

    However, this week has been hard. After a great weigh-in on Wednesday, which had me excited to be solidly in the 170s, I went to a work event for a departing colleague. My original plan was somewhat drastic: to not eat anything. I’d have a substantial snack beforehand and just stick to diet soda at the party.

    The result: I didn’t actually have any alcohol, and didn’t eat anything for a good hour. Then I decided to try one of the steak-cut fries from amongst the crazy abundance of food my company ordered, and that led to ten more fries, and some warm pieces of pita. I ended up having about 900 calories in bar food - and that was with having no alcohol and even turning down a decent amount of food. It always surprises me, even though it shouldn’t any more, how many calories you can eat just by grazing for a few hours. My food intake didn’t even stand out; everyone was indulging.

    That night I got home frustrated that I had used up half my “flexible” calories and it was only the first day of the week. On Friday I made the mistake of baking cookies for a potluck meal with friends, and ate too many of them.

    The bottom line is that, good news, I’ve tracked everything, even the stuff I wish I didn’t have, and even with indulging, I was consciousness of staying within a maintenance level for the week. It’s weird, but I’m glad to have this mentality - I can write off this week, indulge, enjoy, go over my calories, but I refuse to gain weight. I might put weight loss on hold for a week, but I will not re-re-lose this weight. Not again. I went from 200 pounds to 180, to 155, back to 190, then down to 177 (now.) This is the last time I will lose these pounds, barring pregnancy or illness. You know that 96-year-old yoga instructor, who has been doing yoga for the last 60 years, and is more flexible than most 25-year-olds? I want to be like her.

    I think part of the reason it was hard was because I took my measurements again. I last did it back in March. And? They were exactly the same. Seriously, I'm not going to bother posting them because they were the same. I even did the measurements without knowing the previous numbers, to make sure I wasn't influenced by them, and they were the same. 

    Fifteen fewer pounds of fat, knowing without a doubt that my pants are looser - I have no idea why the numbers aren't agreeing. Maybe my measuring skills suck, who knows. Maybe it will take a little longer for it to show up on the measuring tape, even though it's shown up in my pants.

    I’m on track to have a calorie deficit for today, but for the most part this will be more of a maintenance week. And I’m okay with that.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Some of the Best Recipes from Around the Web

    I love to cook. Growing up, I learned how to bake at a young age and always volunteered to make dessert for holidays or any other events that called for them. But it was only in college that I actually learned how to cook.

    It wasn’t always good: the first time I made chicken breast, I cut it into chunks, put the pieces onto a sheet pan sprayed with Pam, and stuck it into the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. When I checked on it, I was genuinely surprised to see that the pink flesh had turned white. Not knowing how to tell if it was done, I left the chicken in the oven for another 15 minutes. The results? Dry, pale chunks of flavorless protein. I didn’t care; I thought it was magical. It had been raw, and I cooked it.

    Since then, I’ve come a long way. I’m still not an expert by any means, but I can follow a recipe and have a little intuition on flavors and improvising dishes. I’m always looking for new dishes, new ways to prepare staples like ground beef, chicken breast, or rice, and over this time I’ve built of a bit of a collection of truly great recipes from around the Internet. All are delicious, and most are quite easy and fairly healthy.

    Part of why I like calorie-counting is that no food is off limits. If I really want something, I can fit it into my plan. Even the flourless chocolate cake has a place.

    So here they are below, in some semblance of order. (I’m not affiliated with any of these website or their owners, I’ve just enjoyed their recipes.)


    • A little twist from blended soups - you blend half the beans with broth, and leave the other half unblended. It creates a nice texture.
    • Changes: Add more of the spices, to taste

    • This recipe makes a wonderfully comforting soup with a thick, mildly flavored broth. I altered it by using chicken breast and using some chicken broth, instead of the bone-in thighs the recipe calls for. I sauteed the carrots, onions, and celery in the oil, then added the broth and chicken breast, essentially poaching the breasts in the liquid.
    • The dumplings for this recipe are especially good - one-bowl and easy to prepare, they puff up nicely in the soup. I recommend making them small for maximum flavor


    Easy and Unbelievable No-Knead Bread
    • You know that perfect artisan-style bread - with the wonderfully browned, hard, crackly crust and the perfectly soft and fluffy inside? The kind that, when it comes to your table all steamy and warm, you can never resist? This recipe makes that bread. It’s about 7 hours from start to finish, but only requires about four minutes of actual hand-on work, and most of that is just measuring flour. No kneading involved, the long rising time does that job.
    • This is what to make if you want to impress people, or just enjoy a seriously perfect loaf of bread.

    Best Scrambled Eggs
    • You might have seen this video - in it, Gordon Ramsay shows off his method of making scrambled eggs. I was skeptical because they looked undercooked, but they’re actually amazing - creamy and really rich, even though there’s only a pad of butter in the whole thing.

    Balsamic Baked Tilapia 
    • I use feta instead of the bleu cheese, and also often use less than the recipe calls for. You don’t miss it. 
    • Balsamic is an underused ingredient. It is so good on basically every kind of meat and fish.

    Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
    • This recipe is perfect, except you should add onions at the beginning. Quick, delicious, and healthy, a new way to prepare chicken breast.
    • The site I linked above, Mel's Kitchen Cafe, is also just a kick-ass site. So many good recipes, I've made several of them and they all come out great. (See especially cookie bars below)

    • This recipe sounds a little weird (baking cut-up refrigerator biscuits in sauce?) but is delicious and makes a huge, filling serving size
    • I make it vegetarian by using soy crumbles, and usually cut down a bit on the cheese

    • I shared this recipe a while back on this blog, and it’s worth mentioning again. If you’re willing to buy pre-cut veggies, it comes together in about five minutes

    • Great, easy-to-follow recipe that yields tender, delicious meatballs. 
    • The secret ingredient is mint - you don’t taste it at all, but it adds this great extra flavor


    • I made this for a work event, and people were raving over it.
    • Bonus: It is incredibly easy to make and happens to be gluten-free, but is rich and chocolaty, and looks impressive. I pressed chopped almonds into the rim, which made it look extra fancy (it's a terrible photo; it actually looked pretty good

    • The name is exactly what they are. Simply spiced, soft and chewy cookies. They sound basic but are surprisingly wonderful.

    • I quite frankly can’t recommend these highly enough. Easy to make, you don’t even need a mixer, and they taste like perfect, chewy chocolate chip cookies, but without having to form individual cookies.
    • Note: Be sure not to over bake them though.

    The Best Brownies I’ve Ever Made
    • Okay, they’re called “Brooke's Best Bombshell Brownie,” but they are the best. These are the brownies that you’re looking for - with the crackly, shiny top, gooey inside, and rich chocolately taste throughout. And easy, too! I made these as part of the Mother's Day meal we put together, and my mom loved them and thought we'd gone to a bakery.
    • The only change is to replace half the white sugar with brown

    I’m always looking for new recipes, so feel free email or comment with your favorites!