This last Spring, the company I work for hosted a “Biggest Loser” competition. For those unfamiliar with the television show (as I previously had been), this is a contest to see who can lose the most weight (by individual percentage) within a set time frame.
This type of thing doesn’t really set well with me for several reasons, however, seeing as I was sitting just shy of my heaviest weight ever and needed a good kick-in-the-pants incentive, I decided to throw my hat in and motivate myself to really honestly lose the weight I’ve wanted to lose for over 10 years now.
For a $20 buy-in, you had a chance at first, second and third place monetary prizes, none of which were too shabby after the owner of the company threw some extra in the pot.
It’s interesting how money *can* be a pretty good motivator.
I ended up coming in second place, with a total percentage lost of 8.3% of body weight, coming out to around 14 pounds I believe (I don’t remember exactly, now.) Not bad. But that was just the beginning. My lofty goal was (and is!) to lose a total of 60 pounds. And you know what? I’m going to succeed.
Let’s go back for a moment. Last August I hit my all-time high of 210 lbs, and while I wasn’t miserable because of my weight, I was certainly miserable *with* my weight, but I always felt powerless to do anything about it. I ate pretty well, all things considered. Made most of my own food from scratch, tried to always take my lunch to work, etc. What I didn’t realize was I was eating good food but in quite the wrong ratios, and I was eating a *little* too much bad food (justified by how good I always ate, of course) and the weight just kept creeping on.
(Not surprisingly, it’s hard to find pictures of me from the last 10 years as I detest having them taken. I managed to track down one which amply shows off my double chin, chubby arms, but… I just couldn’t bring myself to post it.)
Now I had managed to take 10 pounds off by myself just by cutting out snacks at work, but then was stuck stubbornly at 200 for the next five months until the Biggest Loser competition started. I had considered re-joining Weight Watchers, as it had worked for me when I had been on it before, but I just couldn’t (then or now) afford the cost. Even without going to meetings or buying any of their products, just access to the site was more than I could afford.
Enter one of the coordinators of the competition at work who told me about SparkPeople.
This website has given me every tool and resource I need to meet my goal. You sign up and enter all your information such as height, current weight, goal weight, level of normal activity, style of work, etc. and SparkPeople gives you a calorie range. Sounds pretty standard, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t.
Instead of focusing purely on calories, it focuses on several key nutritional requirements (calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates) , and you can choose to track even more (salt, calcium, vitamins and minerals) all to help you know what your body needs and where you may be right on track, or under- or over-doing it.
The tracking system is very much like WeightWatchers, but it also has a very good activity tracking system as well, including strength exercise routines you can have it create for you.
There are tons and tons of helpful articles, an entire recipe section, dietician blogs, forums to chat, and special interest groups to connect with others just like you.
But the very most amazingly awesome part of this website… is it is absolutely, 100%, no strings, FREE. You don’t pay one cent for anything. Oh, you *can* buy products, but nothing on the website requires you to spend a penny to access or use.
Now, my only gripe with the website is it can be a little difficult to navigate, but worry not, there’s a youtube video for that! It’s a little out of date, the website has been updated since, but it’s accurate enough that you can take what it says and find your way around without any trouble.
But I don’t call SparkPeople a diet. It isn’t. A diet, in today’s world, carries the connotation of “restricted eating to lose weight.” The way most diets work is you go onto one for a time, lose X amount of weight, and then you stop the diet. At which point, statistically speaking, you will gain everything back that you lost plus some bonus pounds on top for good measure.
More traditionally, ‘diet’ is merely the foods you eat, period.
Your diet consists of whatever you put into your body on a regular basis. SparkPeople isn’t *a* diet to start and stop, it’s a tool which helps you create your diet for life, to not just get to where you want to be but gives you the resources to maintain that forever.
I signed up immediately and am so glad I did! I followed my calorie tracker, logging all my meals, snacks, and even cheats to get a clear picture of what it was I was eating and how it was affecting me. I saw right away I barely ever get enough protein in a day, but have no trouble hitting my carbs. I also wasn’t getting enough calcium, which I supplement half of my daily requirements with a calcium pill, the other half I drink my almond milk. Let me wax on about that for just a moment.
Even if I wasn’t lactose intolerant, I always hated milk. I mean passionately hated. There is nothing about it I find appealing. Oh sure, I enjoyed ice cream, but I didn’t even like cheese. So giving up dairy (at least, mostly) was not hard for me to do at all. The only question was… if I want cereal, what do I put on it? If my recipe calls for milk, what do I use? Can hot chocolate *really* taste rich and creamy in just water? No, it can’t, let me answer that right now.
There’s soy milk, of course, but I don’t like the idea of having so much soy in my diet, and rice milk, but both of those also have quite a bit of sugar and that seems to defeat the purpose of eating better.
Enter almond milk. Specifically: Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk. Unsweetened means not just no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, either! The variety I currently drink gives me 45% calcium in a single glass (calcium varies between shelf-stable and refrigerated varieties), contains only 40 calories in 8 oz, and uses GMO-free almonds. What’s not to absolutely love about this? (well, unless you’re allergic to almonds…)
Okay, so I’m getting enough protein and calcium, I’m eating within my calorie range (1,200-1,550 per day) and I’ve even manged to work in that dreaded “daily exercise”. I do that by making use of my breaks at work. Two 10-minute breaks means I get 20 minutes of walking in per day, at least, without taking one second out of my otherwise busy schedule for it! Rain or shine, I get up from my desk and walk for 10 minutes during my breaks. Because hey, what was I going to do during those ten minutes anyway except browse the internet?
So that gets me part of the way there. Sometimes I walk on my lunch breaks, but I’ve had to stop that for Summer, it’s just far too warm for me. I also bought myself an XBox with the kinect and I play active video games like Kinect Adventures, Your Shape 2012 and Dance Central. But again, I’ve had to reduce that due to heat being just too much, and I have no air conditioning. I’ll resume all my extra exercises when the weather cools, and I’ll just resign myself to being an 9-month-per-year exerciser.
Despite the lag in activity, the calorie counter is still keeping me on track, though with my hectic schedule right now I’m happy to be maintaining.
I’ve reached the lowest I’ve been in 6 years: 180 lbs! That’s 30 lbs down from where I started. 30 lbs! HALF WAY TO MY GOAL! In 7 months I’ve made it half way to where I want to be. I’m hoping to lose the other 30 in the upcoming 7 months. And I’m perfectly fine with a 14 month journey. I didn’t put it on overnight, it won’t come off overnight either, but it *is* coming off! Better slow than not at all, and really, better slow than fast for keeping it off.
So back to the Biggest Loser: as I mentioned, I won second, which came with a decent little cash prize, which I claimed would go into savings for buying new clothes (which I didn’t need quite then at only 14 pounds down, but I knew I would need eventually) but of course it instead got spent on bills and the like.
Skip ahead, I had to start belting my pants. Skip a bit further ahead and that belt just isn’t cutting it anymore, I officially graduate down one size pants, from 16 to 14, and am feeling really glad I hung onto that last pair I had.
But then my old boss (same company, different department) makes a very good-natured comment, and all in the spirit of how far I’ve come and how wonderful that is, about how I’m *swimming* in my shirt. So I decided it was time to get out of the pool. (ah ha! See, I finally get back to the title of the post!)
I realize that not only are my pants hanging off me, my shirts are really starting to as well. Which is great, right? I mean YAY I’m losing weight, and *noticeably* losing weight, but suddenly that problem of having to buy clothes crops up again, and when it comes to spending money on clothes you know you’re going to shrink out of, it feels less exciting. Maybe that’s just me? I’ve never been a big shopper.
But still, I can’t keep bagging it at work. Even a few trips to the thrift stores don’t net me quite enough of the clothes I need. So I hang my head and head to the mall. I hate malls. But they do have clothes, so off I go.
And I found a 50%-70% off sale going on in a store that had some absolutely *adorable* tops! And at 50%-70% off, they’re just about worth the prices, too!
So I wrote all this…
just so I could say…
I got some new clothes!