In October, I feared the dreaded weight-loss plateau, as I only managed to lose a pound for the entire month. That said, I had a few challenges, so in November, I stepped up my training and cut back on grains in an effort to break through my stalled weight loss.
And this month, the scale finally budged and I lost 3 pounds!
But let’s be real, the scale isn’t always the best measure of weight loss. And really, we don’t talk about it much here at Experience Life. We put fitness and good food first. Many of our experts credit real, health-improving (and sustainable) weight loss to a foundation of eating whole, nutritious foods that heal inflammation, exercising regularly, and adjusting one’s lifestyle to lower stress and obtain adequate sleep. Those who have lost weight before know there are other routes to make the numbers drop, although you may feel hungry or moody or tired while doing so.
So even though the scale shifted, I noticed a difference in my mood and energy.
Food, Energy and Strength
My appetite decreased significantly, which would seem good for weight loss but made my workouts more difficult. I found myself getting light-headed frequently and didn’t feel as strong in lifting weights.
I was also much more tired than usual. Instead of my typical end-of-day energy that propels me through my after-work training session, I felt like I was dragging myself to class and counting the minutes until it was over. (Disclaimer: I’ve done that occasionally before, even with loads of energy, but usually because the workout is so challenging.)
Was my body just adjusting to not eating as many grains? Hmmm. That didn’t seem right. People who follow a Paleo diet report feeling great. Or was it because I didn’t add in more veggies in place of the grains, and just ate less altogether. Or! Was it a need for more protein, as my trainer suggested?
After eating all that turkey on Thanksgiving and the days following, along with green beans and salad, I was feeling better and had my appetite back. So maybe I’m not getting enough food, and enough protein. In December, I’m going to keep my usual food journals, but for a week, keep track of portion size and macronutrients.
For me, “eat less to weigh less” has been one of the hardest weight-loss myths to extinguish. To lose weight before, I would eat less food overall, and maybe drop a few pounds, but eventually gain it back. However, I wasn’t eating “food,” meaning real food that’s grown or raised, not processed and packaged. (Read more in “Weight-Loss Rules to Rethink.”)
Depending on where you’re at in your weight loss, you may need to cut back on your caloric intake overall. (Both my trainer and a RD consultation with Life Time Fitness provided great insights.) But I’ve found that switching to whole foods, and adding in more leafy greens and healthy fats, has helped me naturally feel fuller. I may eat less overall, but the food I eat is full of vitamins and antioxidants so it’s doing good work in my gut, helping heal inflammation (more in our upcoming January feature story, “True Blood”) and improving my metabolic functions.
TV Time: My Winter “Activity”
In my recent post on promises, I mentioned that I keep track of the number of hours I spend watching TV, and send it in a report to life coach Lauren each night. Why? Because I love love love watching TV and movies. Kyle and I recently got into Homeland on Showtime. I watch Dexter every Sunday night. And I never miss Parks and Recreation on NBC. (And with our DVR, I don’t have to.)
My TV has gotten me into trouble in the past, when I’d watch it over studying in high school and college (I still managed to pass my classes and do quite well, in my opinion). Or last winter, when I was feeling nostalgic and decided to watch Felicity on Netflix, staying up till the wee hours watching the love-triangle drama (she still picked Ben). Sleep? Oh right.
I had made a new rule for the fall that I would only watch “quality” programming, which, of course, is totally subjective. And I would save TV viewing time for the end of the day, after I finished my workouts, making dinner, and completing any chores. I’d limit my schedule to 10 hours a week, which would give me enough time to watch all my shows. (Note: As the magazine’s multimedia editor, I also watch videos online during the day, but this rule applies only to my leisure time.)
During Thanksgiving week, I somehow managed to watch 13 hours of TV. How’d that happen?! Was it Homeland? Football on Thanksgiving? Both, most likely.
Now, 10 hours seemed like a good number to me. To some it may be too much; to others, too little. Perhaps it needs to be less, or more, for the winter months, when frigid days convince me to stay inside. If it’s less, then maybe I can take up a hobby. Or start listening to the radio or records in the evening. Or read a book on my looooong to-read list.
The point is, my TV time is a habit, and I’m looking to examine, reevaluate, and break habits during this lifestyle change. I enjoy watching TV for entertainment as a leisure activity, and I think there’s a place for it in my life. How much — and when — is still something with which I grapple.