Sunday, April 29, 2018

In Which I Lose Weight in the Most Boring Way Possible

Towards the end of last year, I realized my weight had crept up another few pounds, and I hated it. My clothes were too tight, and when I went shopping to find new clothes, I didn't like how anything looked.

I had a reasonable excuse: with starting a new job, losing that job, and then finding another new job, December had been stressful. Also, I'd been sick most of November, and so my exercise routine was in shambles.

But so what if I had a good excuse? There would always be an excuse I could find, and if I didn't change something, I knew I'd add a few pounds every year and then before long, I'd be at a weight that was not healthy for me.

So, I decided to do something about it. I signed up for the "kick start" program at the YMCA that is convenient to my new job, and picked a day in January for my first meeting with the trainer.

That was all I'd planned to do. I figured I'd get my exercise routine going again, and that would stop the increase in pounds. I figured it was unlikely I'd actually lose weight, so I'd just try to stop the increase.

Then, on a bit of a whim, I downloaded a calorie counting app and decided to start using it. I can't say why I decided to download it or why I decided I should try calorie counting for awhile. But I did, and I was surprised to find myself actually losing weight. The app lets you track calories consumed and calories burned by exercise. It has a large enough database that it can provide a calorie count for most foods without me having to figure it out. If it is a packaged food, I can just scan the barcode and usually it has the calories. It can also give an estimate of calories burned if I type in "20 minute walk" or something like that.

I set myself a net calorie target that would have me lose weight. I missed the target most days, but usually not by a huge amount. The more important thing was probably that it made me aware of how many calories I was mindlessly snacking through. It made me more conscious of what I was eating, and helped me "reset" away from some of my less healthy eating habits.

A couple of weeks ago, I was down 10 pounds from my peak weight at the end of December. Of course, that peak weight was three pounds higher than what I'd been at for most of the year, but it was still a quite noticeable loss for me. My pants aren't tight anymore! I don't think anyone else noticed, or if they did, they didn't say anything, but I feel better about how I look, and I feel like I'm being healthier, which is what matters most to me.

Sadly, when I stopped using the calorie counting app, I gained a couple of pounds back. But that puts me at the weight I landed at after the 5 pounds I gained when I hit perimenopause, and I maintained that weight without much effort for several years. So maybe that is a good weight for me? Or maybe I just stopped using the app a little too soon, and needed a few more weeks for the new habits to settle in. Or maybe it was that I had a few weeks where my exercise routine got disrupted? Who knows.

Here's the thing: I don't want to spend a lot of time thinking about my weight. One of the reasons I was able to stick to using that app for as long as I did was that it was pretty unobtrusive. I didn't have to calculate a lot of calorie counts and the like. But even so, I don't want to have to use it forever. I'll be pretty sad if I gain back any more of the weight I lost, but I'd be pretty sad if I couldn't have a beer or two now and then, or indulge in a decadent dessert sometimes, without figuring out how many minutes I have to run to compensate. It is hard to find the balance. I miss the days when my body just sort of took care of this for me, and I maintained my weight without thinking about it.  I don't think those days are coming back, though, so I had better find a new approach.

Mr. Snarky's approach to this is just to exercise more. I like that approach in theory, but in practice... my life has too many constraints right now. For instance, I went out for my rollerblade on Friday, but had to cut it short because it was windy and that slowed me down, and I had to make it to school to pick up the kids on time. Similarly, I skipped one of my usual weight machines at the gym on Wednesday because there were two dudes taking turns on it and I finished all my other exercises and they still weren't done... and I couldn't wait, because I had to get home by a certain time. I do get exercise time in, but I almost never have unconstrained exercise time.

The constrained nature of my time bothered me for a long time, but I have decided that I just have to accept this fact about my current phase in life and work around it. It isn't going to change until my kids get older, so there is no point pouting about it. I'm better served by acknowledging it, acknowledging that I do not like it, and then figuring out how to work around the constraints to get as much of what I want as I can.

I'd like to figure out how to get more exercise in, and I have some ideas. Now that it is staying light later, there's time for more after dinner games of birdie with Petunia and walks around the neighborhood with Pumpkin. But I don't think I should count on that. I think that if I want to lose more weight, or just stabilize at the weight I've landed on now, I need to use that calorie counting app for a bit longer. I'm going to start again today.

What do you do to stay healthy as age changes how your body behaves?


  1. I lost 45 pounds with a calorie counting app (Lose It!) and I still think it's one of the best (only???) ways to lose weight. It made me so much more aware of what I was eating. I've been maintaining the loss for more than two years (with a 5 pound margin of error!), though I haven't calorie counted since reaching my goal weight. It helps to have a couple of staples meals that I know get me full under my usual calorie allotment. I basically do not exercise, except for walking between 8-10,000 steps a day. I don't think much about my weight either, and I eat chocolate! Good luck with your weight.

  2. xykademiqz6:07 PM

    Good for you and congrats! I did lose 35 lbs a few years ago with calorie counting, but I find it to be soul-sucking in the long run. Maybe I should try another one.

  3. xykademiqz6:36 PM

    Cloud, which app did you use?

    1. My app is Nutritionix Track. It isn't anything special, but it works well enough for me!

  4. I really don’t want to count calories - I did about 5 years ago w my fitness pal & it was eye opening. But I really don’t like doing it and often would just skip a snack or tasting a bite of something because I didn’t want to log it.

    But I am 7-10 lbs over my previously steady state weight and like you, I don’t like the way my clothes are fitting.

    For me, I need more intense excercise but find it very hard to work that in to my routine. I walk a lot but that isn’t going to do it.

    Sigh, I too miss the days where things leveled out without effort. But at almost 40 with 3 kids (body will never be the same after twin pregnancy) I need to embrace the new normal & figure out how to make it something where I am healthy, strong & happy with how I look.

    1. @ Frugal - I hate calorie tracking too, but what has helped me in past is just a simple notebook writing down what I eat for a bit. It's less obsessive (and in my mind it's so hard to put home cooked food accurately into MFP!) but does the same thing - just makes you more aware of what you are putting into your mouth!

  5. Socal dendrite8:26 PM

    This was a timely post for me: after staying essentially the same size and weight for 20 years without having to think about it, it was a shock to find my weight had started going up over the last year or so. I am about to hit 40, so I guess that's why. Like you, I realized the scale would just keep creeping up unless I did something about it. I have never counted calories but this month I started eating a bit less at meals and only snacking when actually hungry, not just bored. Perhaps I should give that app a try! Thank you for mentioning it.

    It's hard to find time to exercise, but I finally hit on at least one thing that I think will help: I am getting up an hour earlier than usual so I can go for a decent 30 minute walk before the kids get up. I'm hoping it'll morph into a 30 minute run once I'm more used to new start time.

    I hope you manage to stay on track, and thank you for the post - it was refreshing to read a down-to-earth post about this topic!

  6. I did calorie counting for a while and hated it. I haven't quite figured out a long term plan for keeping my weight stable. I'm up 5 lbs from last year this time and all my pants are tight, even though I don't think I've changed anything. I just do not do well with feeling deprived, I'll do really well for days and then just have an all out binge. But I know that I need to overall eat less.

  7. I'm having the same issue - definitely seems to be age related! Have been considering food tracking, so I might check out that app, but for the moment I'm just trying to cut out evening snacking. I know I eat when I'm sleepy, so hopefully this will help.

  8. Alexicographer7:54 PM

    Interesting topic. After my son was born, I tried swimming laps for a bit, but found that difficult; there's the part about getting to the pool, and then there's the aggravation of having actually to get into the pool, and for different reasons (time, psychology -- respectively), both were barriers.

    Next I tried running. I tried C25K and absolutely positively couldn't stand it, even though lots of people love it. Then I found Dr. Mama's "Listen Up, Maggots!" approach (anyone interested can google it, and it works really, really well for me. I now run regularly (slowly, every other day, as she recommends) and it just -- works. Realizing that I am not a morning person and am basically never going to run before noon and therefore have to fit it into a later part of the day has also been essential. That whole "just get up ~ minutes earlier thing" is not a recipe for success for me.

    All that said, exercising did not lead to weight loss and I was experiencing the same problem you describe. About 6 (?) months ago I decided I just had to eat less, and then, I did that (I will say I decided I could eat less or eat better but wasn't going to manage both and picked the former). I haven't counted calories, or really done anything tracking related and it's worked fine (though I do often skip breakfast altogether and not eat anything until noon). One thing I will say is that I've realized that as a mom I got used to the whole "3 meals a day" thing, whereas when I was younger/single/not mothering, I wouldn't necessarily worry if I skipped a meal in order to say, take the dogs out for a long walk in the woods. Or, I'd eat a banana and call it lunch. And I'm pretty much doing that again, and it seems to work well for me (also, for the record, though I do eat some junk, and more dessert food than one should, I do basically also eat a lot of healthy whole foods. So I'm not really worried about nutrition, I mean, I'm sure I could do better, but looking at the whole of human history and geography I'd bet I'm among the best fed 5% in terms of human needs, and I don't worry about it.)

  9. Agree with Alexicographer. For me, exercise doesn't equal weight loss. I just have to eat less. I don't have the energy to count calories. It's more a matter of just not putting as much food in my mouth. One big thing I did was to pretty much stop drinking. I was never a big drinker, but I started tracking and I was having way more than I thought. I cut down to once a season (one beer or glass of wine wine every three months) and it's made a huge difference in the way I feel. And I've lost that 5 pounds that was bothering me.

  10. Socal dendrite9:51 PM

    I tried out the Nutritionix app and it's kinda neat! I doubt I'll keep logging food in the long term, but it is helpful to get an idea of my general caloric intake, and where I can cut back a bit. Thanks, Cloud.


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