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If there is any conclusion I have come to on the subject of weight loss it is that there are A LOT of tips out there, and they can often conflict with each other. It is hard to know what will work and what won’t.
For me, the weight loss is about being healthy. That’s a nice cliche line to throw out, but it is true. Actual weight loss is also a big challenge for me. I have not only PCOS but I am hypothyroid, both of which not only make it hard to lose weight, but cause weight gain. It is a battle. I can go months without losing a pound, but I keep going. 6 years ago, I thought I was likely done having children and started to put real effort into getting in shape. I also was diagnosed with PCOS at the same time. I got into great shape (over 2.5 years of effort). Then we decided to have another baby. After this baby, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The battle has been longer since having Brinley (my fourth). I am almost 3.5 years in and have just gotten to the same spot. I have the thyroid, I have my 30s, and I also had a severely sprained ankle, which was the biggest setback.
Over the years I have learned a lot/ Here are the things I have learned in the last 6 years of working on this. Now, whenever I meet someone in real life who has “heard” me talk about weight loss frustrations and goals inevitably has a comment of how I don’t look like I need to lose weight. You might be wondering about it, too, if you have seen pictures of me on this blog over the years. My body really hides my weight well. Since last June, I have lost 8 pounds and very few people have even noticed (although some have noticed even just through pictures). In the last 2.5 years, I have lost 14 pounds. So I am not a person with amazing before/after shots. I do look very similar, though you can see differences if you study pictures side by side. I also haven’t been severely overweight. My current numbers would satisfy everyone for life–even the infamous BMI.
1-Make it About Health
Jillian Michaels says “Change is not a future event; it is a present day activity.” You have to have that mentality. Exercise is your new normal. It is not what you are doing until you lose weight. You will exercise at least several times a week indefinitely now. Just make that your new lifestyle goal.
It can’t be just about the weight. If it is about weight, your exercising won’t stick. There are so many ups and downs and plateaus along the path that will deter you and get you down if your only focus is weight. Exercise is good for you no matter what your weight loss goals are. It helps with cholesterol, depression, general mood, and healthy sleep. Exercise reduces the risk or at least the impact of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Even if (and when) you are perfectly happy with your weight, you should be exercising.
Exercising is not fun initially. If you stick with it, you will come to appreciate it (even if you harbor a loathing on some level). I initially started out exercising three days a week. I dreaded it the night before every one of those days. I worked up to five days for sure every week. Some weeks I do six. I never dread it anymore. In fact, when I hurt my ankle and couldn’t do a lot (I still exercised five days a week but I was obviously limited) I very much missed intense exercising. I craved it.
2-Count the Calories
I loathe counting calories. Loathe entirely. BUT it is often a necessary evil for me for a 2ish week period every so often.
When you exercise, you burn more calories than you would otherwise. This will likely translate to you being more hungry than you would otherwise be. A huge rookie mistake people make with exercising as a means to lose weight is that they only exercise. They think exercise means they can eat more and so they just eat away.
In some ways you can eat more, but let’s put this into some perspective. This morning, I did 43 minutes on my elliptical. It was intense and I was literally dripping sweat when I was done. The estimation for that workout is that I burnt 244 calories. That means if I add 244 calories to what I would normally eat in a day, then I have replaced what I expended for that work out. It doesn’t take much food to get to 244 calories. When you are pregnant, you add about 300-350 calories a day. Breastfeeding adds about 500 calories a day. You are burning some more calories when exercising, but not enough that you get to eat whatever you want every day.
Losing weight must include the calorie in vs. calorie out game. If you are eating more than your body is burning, you will not lose weight. If you are equal, you will not lose weight. If you want to lose weight, there must be a deficit. As a mom, you probably are going to be be lucky to fit 30-60 minutes of daily exercise in each week. The way to help with the weight loss is to watch the calories. By the way, if you are struggling trying to figure out how to fit in exercise, see How I Do It: Exercise.
For me, I find if I count calories for about 2 weeks, it helps reset my cravings. It helps me regulate my hunger patterns. It helps me learn what I can be eating each day. It is a reality check. After that two weeks, I can stop counting and just go off of feel and be fine.
There are times I have to count calories again. For example, I had to count calories for a few days after our Chicago trip. On the trip, we ate a lot of delicious food that was very high in calories. I didn’t gain any weight on the trip because we were so active each day, but I did come home with a taste for the high-calorie foods again. I had to retrain my cravings. It only took a few days and I got it under control. This post contains affiliate links.
I like the app “Lose It!” for counting calories. I know a lot of people like “My Fitness Pal.” If you use a Fitbit, the app for that is good, too.
I have come to realize that for me, I can’t have as many calories as the apps say I can have and lose the weight they say I can. I am sure it is a combo of the PCOS and thyroid issues. If I put a goal of losing 1.5 pounds per week, the calories it “allows” me will really get me .5 a pound of weight loss each week. So my point is, if you are struggling with losing weight and doing things “right” according to your calorie tracker, you might have to go lower and more aggressive.
Know that counting calories doesn’t mean that you can’t eat yummy things. I still eat desserts. Sometimes you have to choose between seconds and dessert. Sometimes you have to hop on the elliptical or go for a long walk at night because you ate too much that day.
3-Change Your Workouts
This is something commonly discussed with weight loss, but when I first started out, I didn’t know about it. You need to change up your workouts when exercising. You can’t just do cardio every day. You must have some strength training in there, also. I initially started with a cardio only focus 6 years ago. I saw a small result that way, but the big results didn’t start coming in until I wised up and realized I needed some strength training in there also.
You will have to figure out what kind of workout system works for you. I do elliptical two days a week. The other three, I do strength training. I typically do Jillian Michaels DVDs because I find they work really well for me. I have 3 different ones that I rotate among. When I finish one round up (her DVDs are aimed at a one month process), I will usually throw something different in for a week. I often do pilates and/or Zumba for a week in between. They are just fun and different.
In nice weather, I also walk or run.
Just experiment with what works for you. You might need to go to a gym rather than workout at home. I have written in the past on Exercise and Weight Loss.
4-Track Your Activity
Last summer I got a Fitbit and it was really eye-opening to me. I have really loved it. The thing I love about a Fitbit is that it tracks your activity, so the amount of calories it tells you that you can have will vary from day to day based on your activity level. If you eat too much for your activity for the day, then you know you need to add a walk into your day or maybe even hop on the treadmill that night. It just really helps you be more self aware of what you are putting in vs. putting out. I have a Fitbit Charge and I really like it, but if I did it over again, I would get one that tracks your heartrate–I feel like that would provide better intel into your calorie burning. Read more about my newest Fitbit here.
Expect no quick fixes. When you are exercising and watching what you eat, progress will be slow. But the progress you make will be progress you can maintain. It is more about lifestyle change and adjustment. I want my change to be something I can maintain. I want my adjustments to be things I can live with long-term. Like I said, I go through periods where I don’t lose weight. I keep going with the exercise. The payout does come. Be like the tortoise–slow and steady.
Do not underestimate the power in drinking enough water. If I am not drinking enough, my body will not lose weight. It just won’t. Not only does it help your body function as usual, but it helps control cravings. Sometimes you eat food when what your body really wants is a drink. Being hydrated also significantly impacts energy levels, which means you will be more active AND you won’t turn to things that contain sugars to get an energy boost.
Make sure you drink enough water. I use an app called “WaterMinder” to track my water intake.
7-Figure Out How to Track Progress
Recognize there are many different victories in the journey. Be aware of and accept the different signs of progress.
As you get into shape, you will be building muscle. Sometimes you aren’t seeing weight loss but you are seeing your body getting healthier. You might be losing inches or you might find your clothes fit in a more flattering way.
You will also notice changes in energy levels. You will notice changes in what you can do before becoming fatigued or out of breath.
Celebrate those victories!
Now, the scale is something I stay in touch with. Some people say to never weigh yourself or to do it once a month or once a week. I weigh myself every day. Doing it every day helps me learn my natural fluctuation–there are consistent times of the month my weight goes up and times it goes down. If it is going up when it isn’t normal, I step back and look at what I am eating. Too much Halloween candy going on? Better watch it for a couple of days. It helps me not get too comfortable in my efforts. Some people find it very discouraging, but it works well for me.
What things have you found helpful and essential in your own weight loss journey?