My 3 Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes

Weight loss is such an individual process – what works for one person won’t work for another, and sometimes you try something once without luck and then on the second go around, something just clicks. Having lost 80lbs, gained it all back (plus 20 pounds), and then lost it all again, I’ve run the gamut as far as weight loss tips and tricks goes. Finally, I’ve come out the other side and a little bit wiser, if I do say so myself. They say hindsight is 20/20 and I’d have to agree; I’d like to save you some time during your weight loss journey and offer some words of wisdom about the process that just might make the whole thing a little more pleasant. I’m going to share some mistakes I made that I’m hoping I can spare you from making, too!

Mistake #1: Using Self-Loathing As Motivation

Both times that I really committed to losing weight, it was because I simply couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I hated my body more than anything, and I was furious at myself for being fat. When I decided once (ok twice) and for all to lose weight, it was just because I literally couldn’t stand another day in my body.

All this might sound great, since it did result in me losing the weight. Four years removed from this process, though, I realize that I could have saved myself a lot of agony, tears, and frustration if I just approached weight loss from a place of self-love rather than self-hate. Of course, it’s hard to fake loving yourself when you really don’t feel the feelings, but it is somewhat easier to reframe weight loss as an act of self-care rather than an effort to distance yourself from a person you hate.

The reason I wish I had realized this sooner is that weight-loss is one of the greatest – and maybe only – experiments you’ll ever get to conduct on yourself. You get to try out different types of foods, different exercises, and making different choices, and you can adjust based on the results that you see. When I was 245 lbs and trying to lose weight, any day that the scale wasn’t down just a smidge was a total failure and a reflection on my self-worth….not the feedback that it really is. When you respect yourself and your decision to lose weight, you are able to semi-objectively gauge your results and use what you see to inform the decisions you make next.

Mistake #2: Cutting Too Many Calories Off The Bat

I never took the time to track my baseline calories when I started my weight-loss journey, so I really have no idea how much I was eating to get me to 245lbs. When I decided to drop the weight, I immediately cut my calories down to 1400 and then to 1200 and eventually, as low as 1000. I saw great results…until the numbers on the scale stopped dropping.

The body is such an incredible, adaptive, intelligent machine. If you cut yourself, it begins to heal almost immediately. If you do an exercise a few times, your body remembers and makes it a little easier for you each time. Weight loss is similar – your body learns to do what it needs to do on a certain number of calories a day, whether that number is 5000 (in which case it may be doing what it needs and then storing the rest, hence weight gain) or 800 (where you might be able to get by with basic functions but things like sleep, digestion, and complex thoughts might be compromised). When you decrease your calories dramatically from the start, your body will learn to operate efficiently using only that many calories. This means that once your body learns to run well on 1400 calories a day, for example, you will need to reduce again in order to get the weight loss going again. Rinse and repeat until you’re eating 700 calories a day and wondering why you can’t lose weight.

My advice? When you decide to lose weight, track your calories without modification for a few week and weekend days to see what your baseline is. Once you’ve established how much you’ve been eating to weigh what you do, begin by subtracting 250ish calories a day and monitor how your body reacts. Continue dropping in small decrements as needed – if I were doing it all again, I wouldn’t drop in intervals greater than 75 calories per day. Just saying ;)

Mistake #3: Only Doing Cardio

It’s not news that the key to incorporating exercise into your weight-loss program is to do both cardio and strength training. Still, when you’re 100lbs overweight and desperate to lose the weight as soon as possible, you tell yourself “I’ll just do some cardio to shake the first 20 or so pounds and then I’ll start lifting weights.” Then you see your weight dropping and you start to equate cardio with burning calories, which of course mean weight loss, right?

The problem here is both physiological and aesthetic. When you do only cardio, you start to compromise your lean muscle, which is what part of what keeps you running after your grandkids at 80 years old rather that wheeling yourself from the bingo table to your knitting club. You also end up with that ‘skinny fat’ you hear people talking about (unless genetically you are designed to hold muscle, which may be the case…lucky duck!), rather than looking lean and fit. To top it off, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate…which means you burn more calories doing your day to day things than if you were the same weight but mostly fat.

So there you have it. The 3 weight loss mistakes I would NOT make again if I could do it all over again.

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Current Favourites

I’m a little (ok a lot) late sharing my favourites for June, and I’ve contemplated just not posting them. But then you would be missing out on the splendor of the products I want to share with you! So without small talk (we’re in a time crunch here, people), here are the things I’m loving lately…not just in June ;)

1. My Marathon Training Plan

Source: Furman Institute.

I do plan to do a full update on this at some point if anyone is interested, but the Coles Notes version is that I love this plan. It involves running 3 days/week, with cross-training replacing the ‘junk’ miles (running for the sake of accumulating mileage) that is a part of most plans.  I chose this plan for my second marathon because I’m hoping to improve my time and that’s exactly what this program is designed to do. As such, all the runs on this plan are deliberate; by that, I mean that they each serve a very specific purpose. As someone who finds it hard on my body to run two days in a row, this plan has been a godsend. And along with that…

2. My Garmin 405

I’ve had my Garmin for about a year and a half, and until I started following the FIRST plan I didn’t use it to even a fraction of its full capacity. By the miracle of technology, I’ve been able to upload all of my workouts down to the second (track repeats and all). I just push the button and go! Love it. These are pricey but if you’re trying to meet a specific running goal, it’s a fantastic tool to have in your belt.

3. Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement

[Source: Natural Calm]

This stuff is amazing! I heard about it through word of mouth, gawked at the price tag (it will run you around $30 for the smallest size), but decided to give it a shot. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insomnia, migraines, joint pain, anxiety, digestive issues, and the list goes on. Since I started taking 3/4 tbsp of Natural Calm in the morning and again half an hour before bed, I’ve noticed that I’ve been sleeping better, much more relaxed, and my headaches have been AWOL. It also does wonders for digestion (but I won’t get into that ;) ). I make mine into a slush by blending the powder with a little water, a ton (like a whole tray) of ice cubes and a little stevia.

4. Songza

I’m sure this is old news to you all, but in case you haven’t discovered Songza yet, get on that bandwagon! Essentially, it offers you playlists to choose from based on day of the week, time of day, and mood. I’ve discovered SO much good music through Songza and listening to it while I work and work out has made the time fly by.
A few of my favourite playlists are:

  • Blogged 50
  • Hip Hop/R&B Pool Party
  • Indie Apartment Party
  • Frat-Rap House Party

5. Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer

[Source: Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer]

I have combination skin, meaning that most of my face is normal but my nose and forehead tends to get very oily. I’ve tried a million different primers but always found that during the summer, my makeup would slide off my face. Last year, on a whim, I followed the advice of one of the Sephora makeup artists and picked up this Hourglass primer. No regrets here! This primer is amazing and will keep your makeup on all day, whether your skin is oily or combination like mine.

6. How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too – Josie Spinardi

[Source: http://www.amazon.com/Have-Your-Skinny-Jeans-ebook/dp/B00B9JKNBC%5D

I happened upon this book after reading a half-dozen other books along the “eat like a naturally thin person” vein. Although all the books have been brilliant in their own way, this one is far and away my favourite so far. Josie touches on all the areas that the other books discuss, but provides a practical, hands-on approach to changing your relationship with food, while the others are based more in theory. Plus, Josie is adorable and so down to earth and approachable.

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From my shower to yours: a tip

Just a quickie for you today.

I’m terrible – I mean AWFUL – at moisturizing my body. I take good care of my face but I can never be bothered to put on body lotion…especially not in the summer when it’s steamy outside.

I’ve also been doing more research on the products I’ve been putting on my skin lately, since what’s put on the skin is absorbed into our bodies and bloodstream. I’ve switched over to natural mineral sunscreen (love my Coola!) and started using an oil-based skin care regimen (I use olive oil and castor oil to wash, and avocado, tamanu and grapeseed oils to moisturize) and have been shocked by how well my skin has reacted. The last on my list was body moisturizer.

I shopped around some natural food stores, and hit up our newest local eco store, Terra20, to see what was out there. The thought of spending $15+ on a natural body lotion didn’t sit well with me, so I hit google for other options. There, I stumbled upon lots of rave reviews of coconut oil and other body oils, so I decided that after my next shower I’d slather myself in coconut oil – I mean I keep the stuff around anyway, might as well use it! The plus is that I smelled delightful; the con is that I could have competed in a luge competition…sans sled.

One day, I ran out of shaving lotion and, in a pinch, decided to use an avocado oil I’d bought for salad dressings. My legs had never felt softer! The next time I showered, I decided to moisturize my whole body in the shower with the avocado oil and give a quick rinse before getting out. The result is seriously amazing – my skin is SO soft and well-moisturized! You can use any oil you want, but I’m loving my $8.99 President’s Choice Black Label Avocado Oil – and it’s got one ingredient: extra virgin avocado oil. In case you’re curious, avocado oil has the following benefits for the skin (from this website):

  • Strong UV absorption properties
  • Regenerates connective skin tissue and inhibits bacteria growth
  • Nourishes and repairs dehydrated, scarred or mature skin
  • Stimulates collagen metabolism to retard visible signs of aging
  • Accelerates the healing process to wounds and skin burns
  • High levels of fatty acids to keep skin moisturized
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Running: The Missing Puzzle Pieces

I’ve mentioned my amazing Ottawa-based physiotherapist, Amy Fahlman, before on this blog so I won’t drone on and on about what a wealth of knowledge she is and the great energy she gives off. I will tell you, though, about the amazing tool she forced me to become acquainted with, and how it’s become my most valuable running buddy.

When I went to see Amy back in April, she enlightened me to the fact that I was a pretty hardcore heel-striker. As far as proper form goes, heel striking essentially requires that you jut your foot out in front of your body, where it acts as sort of a brake in preparation for you to launch off onto the other leg. This, apparently, is where most runners’ injuries come from. Instead, your foot should be landing very close to, if not directly under, your center of gravity. What’s more, your cadence (the number of times your feet hit the ground) should be somewhere around 170-180 beats per minute – mine was 160 when I first saw Amy.

Cadence is what really links all of this together, because in order for your feet to have such rapid turnover, they will essentially need to fall under your body – there just isn’t enough time to reach your foot in front of you, set down your heel, and push off while maintaining the appropriate cadence. Amy’s philosophy, as she’s explained it to me, is that your cadence is not as important if you are able to maintain proper alignment while running (that is, foot landing close to/under body and landing on the midfoot); however, for most people this is not easily attained. In comparison, if you watch elite runners in action, they seem to glide; no matter how fast they run, their feet stay in alignment with their bodies, even when their cadence is not necessarily at 180 bpm. Case in point:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjNLuuTEhMA

For us non-elite folk, the best place to start trying to align your body properly during runs is to hike up that cadence. This is a difficult feat for a couple reasons, the first being that it’s hard to count your foot-strikes while running. One way to do this is to count how many times your left (or right) foot hits the ground in a minute, and double it. The second thing that makes increasing cadence difficult is that you might find yourself running faster to try and get in more strikes. When I made this complaint, it was explained to me that you can quite feasibly run on the spot at 180 bpm and so putting that in motion in no way necessitates running faster.

Amy provided me with two invaluable tools for picking up my cadence and minimizing heel striking on my runs. Both require a lot of getting used to.

1) Swing your arms. If you’re thinking “well, duh”, it’s ok – so did I. But once I watched back the video of myself running, I realized that I was really only swinging one arm when I ran, and I was not drawing power from my shoulders. That would explain why my traps felt so sore when I ran long distances. Apparently, if your ponytail swings like hell during your run, it means you’re doing more torso rotating than arm swinging, and that’s a no-no. The best exercise for this is to sit on a stability ball in front of a mirror, tighten your core, and swing your arms while maintaining core stability and making sure not to rotate your torso. Swinging your arms is a fantastic way to increase your cadence, too, since your arms swing in sync with your feet touching the ground (so when you swing your left arm your right foot touches the ground in sync…the faster your arms, the faster your feet).

2) Use a metronome. This was the real game-changer for me, and the suggestion I resisted with force. As you all know, I’m a big fan of listening to music while I run, and I really thought there was no way I could run while listening to a metronome. First of all, I don’t bring my iphone when I run. Second of all, I was positive my ears would bleed after 20 minutes. That said, after my second visit and being shamed for not using my metronome, I begrudgingly downloaded a metronome app, set the timer to 170bpm, and set out on my run. Know what? I wasn’t so bad at all. In fact, it was kind of hypnotizing and a nice distraction to be consciously focusing on keeping up with the beat and making sure to swing my arms without sprinting. This is the metronome app I suggest.

I feel wholeheartedly that even if you only use a metronome for a handful of runs, you will learn a lot about your running technique. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reaching for it from time to time when you’re feeling a little heel-strikey ;)

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Running/Workout Playlist: Welcome Summer!

Allegedly, summer started the other day. If someone could tell the weather that, it would be great. As some of you know, I LOATHE winter and pretty much live for spring/summer (and just a titch of fall), so the temperamental weather we’ve been having here in Ottawas has been really messing with my running and my mood.

One thing that’s been helping to get me out the door is my beloved running tunes! I’ve been running without music lately (it’s not what you think…stay tuned), but every now and then I ‘treat’ myself by listening to some music. I get asked every so often for workout music suggestions, and I’m only too happy to oblige when I have some gems to share :)

The Obvious Child – Paul Simon

Don’t doubt me here…just try running to this song and feel your feet grow wings ;)

Fucking Problem – A$AP Rocky

Get Lucky – Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams

Power Trip – J. Cole ft. Miguel

$100 Bill – Jay Z.

Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison Remix) – Lana Del Rey

Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton

 

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Protein Ice Cream

Alright, I’m just going to confess: I love ice cream. Shocking, right? I love ice cream-y treats in all their glorious forms- slow-churned, soft-serve, frozen yogurt, in an ice cream sandwich, in an ice cream bar, in a cup, in a cone…I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Part of living a healthy lifestyle is enjoying treats like ice cream in moderation, and needless to say that for me there is not a lot of arm-twisting required. Nevertheless, there are times when I’ve been a little too indulgent but find myself craving ice cream like no other, and that’s where my protein soft serve swoops in to save the day. The best part about this is low-calorie ice cream alternative is that, unlike many other protein ‘ice cream’ recipes, you don’t need a Vitamix to get an amazing, fluffy consistency.

Protein Ice Cream*

DSC_1195

Serves 1

Base Recipe:

  • 1 cup of milk (can be dairy or non dairy. I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk), frozen into ice cubes
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (can be soy, pea, rice, whey, etc. You can also use any flavour that you want, I just prefer vanilla)
  • ½ teaspoon guar gum
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Sweetener to taste (I use stevia)
  • Extract of choice (vanilla, almond, maple and coconut are all delicious!)
  • Dash of salt OR ¼ cup cottage cheese
  • Liquid to blend

Optional Add-Ins:

  • PB2
  • Peanut Butter
  • Chocolate Syrup (sugar-free chocolate syrup is pictured)
  • Avocado
  • Frozen banana
  • Maple Syrup (Sugar-free or regular)
  1. Freeze milk in an ice cube tray. I usually freeze extra just in case.
  2. Add all ingredients except ice to blender (you can use a Magic Bullet or NutriBullet but you might need extra liquid). Personally, I use my immersion blender and mix in a thick plastic glass because I find that pushing down on the ice cubes helps them blend more easily than in a blender.
  3. Blend, adding ice cubes one at a time until you reach a consistency you like.
  4. Eat immediately, or freeze for 30-60 minutes to make thicker.
  5. Top with syrup, if desired, and enjoy!

Calories: 133| Fat: 0.5g| Carbs: 2g| Protein: 30g

* Adapted from Stuftmama and Heather Eats Almond Butter

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What’s Keeping Me Busy

I know I haven’t been blogging so much lately – I have the best of intentions but dang, I have a lot of stuff keeping me busy these days. Here’s what’s keeping me from blogging more frequently:

1. Real Estate

Around 7 months ago, I got my real estate license. Since then, I’ve pretty much been dabbling in real estate as an ‘odd job’; I listed a friend’s condo for sale this past winter, and will be listing another friend’s row home in the coming weeks (and helping her and her husband find a new home!).  I’ve also been helping Matt with his real estate endeavours, like holding open houses and doing photography for his listings. I kind of love it and hope that I can do more in real estate down the road, but for now I’m happy that I have people in my life who believe in me enough to trust me with selling their property.  The icing on the realty cake is that I have three more courses I need to do in the next year in order to graduate from being an articling realtor to a…well, a ‘real’tor ;) I couldn’t resist…

3. The Weather

I can’t sugar-coat it – our winter was hell and our spring has been crap. I am 100% positive that I am one of those people who thrives in a warm climate all year round, and while I may fraternize with winter when forced, I do not enjoy it. No, I don’t think the snow falling is pretty, and no I don’t think that the trees look magical when they coated in a fresh powdery layer. Know what I think is magical? Palm trees.

So, with that in mind, I spend every sunny and warmish moment outside, come hell or high water. I walk to watch Matt’s softball games, I walk to the far grocery store just for the air, and I walk just to walk. Walking is not conducive to typing, so you can understand how this would interrupt even the most dedicated blogger.

3. Studying Personal Training

One of my personal and career goals for 2013 is to complete my personal training certification. I don’t necessarily intend to work as a personal-trainer in a physical gym, but since I spend most of my spare time reading about fitness and health, it seemed like a natural progression for me to get some formal training on the subject. I’m pretty motivated to cross this goal off my list, but even more so because I’m registered for the Precision Nutrition Nutrition Coaching Certification, which I can’t complete until after I’m a certified personal trainer because it (the nutrition certification) counts as a continuing education credit for the personal training certification. Does that make sense? I can’t even tell.

4. Marathon Training

The sun is [sometimes?!] shining, the birds are chirping, and my running route has thawed…which means it’s marathon #2 training time! Due to my previously mentioned back tension, each of my training runs has become a ritual involving running drills, running, stretching, foam rolling, more stretching…you get it. In any case, the running itself is not what has been taking up my time, but the visits to the physiotherapist, chiropractor, and massage therapist sure have been. On that note, so has…

5. My Nutrition Coach

After my weight loss essentially stalling between January and May, and some compulsive eating habits that I wasn’t too fond of (a nasty residual habit from the days of marathon training), I decided to call in the big guns. Enter: Georgie Fear. Georgie hangs out on some forums I frequent, and I’ve been subscribed to her blog for year. Although she’s a registered dietician, her approach is focused far more on the psychology of eating behaviours than on the dietetic aspect – ie you won’t get a meal plan if you work with her. What you will get is guided leaning activities, challenges, paradigm shifts and habit changing.

So that’s what’s keeping my schedule packed these days – thankfully all positive things, but I do find myself wondering how I ended up taking all these courses (and there are a half dozen more on the back-burner, trust me) after finishing 6 years of university just three years ago. Suffice it to say that if I could talk to 17 year-old me I would tell her to take a very different path than the one she was planning to take. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20, right?

What’s keeping you busy?

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