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January 3, 2011 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm about 25 lbs heavier than I'd like to be, and need information and motivation to help me get started eating better and moving more. I've previously lost a considerable amount of weight (growing up I had weight issues, and topped out at around 210. I'm a 5'6" female, and currently weigh 165) but that was mainly through very controlled eating, and while I was a smoker. I've quit smoking and now live with my boyfriend, which has led to me loosening up on my eating. In some ways that has been good, but has also led to weight gain.

I've lost around 10 lbs several times in the past few years though diets and exercise, but have trouble maintaining healthy changes for more than a month or so. When I'm eating well I usually have a protein and fruit smoothie for breakfast, a salad with fruit and a homemade low-fat dressing for lunch, grapes and apples or some other fruit as snacks through the day, and some sort of bean or white meat and vegetable dinner. This style of eating was mainly influenced by Eat to Live, and is a diet I enjoy when I can stick to it. I've also done South Beach, but enjoy it less, and feel that the emphasis on eating fruits and vegetables in Eat to Live is ultimately healthier in terms of lifelong disease prevention, if not in weight loss. There was an AskMefi earlier, though, that discussed hormones and blood sugar, and the effects a low carb diet has on hunger and weight loss, so I'm wondering if I'm maybe not eating enough protein.

Mainly I'm looking for books that can give me information and motivation to get myself together and start making my health a priority. I've started the c25k program (which has worked well for me before), but I'm still not confident that I'll keep that up, or add other forms of exercise. Any advice or motivating stories (or blogs) would also be appreciated!
posted by odayoday to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld's "don't break the chain" secret to productivity and motivation. You could probably find a way to make this work for healthy eating and exercise.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:03 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, just for reference, I find this blog very motivating, and would love to see more like it:
http://msbitchcakes.blogspot.com/
posted by odayoday at 1:10 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing that's been a really excellent exercise motivator for my wife and I was to enter some sprint distance triathlons (less than 1k swim, 10-15 mile bike ride, 2-5 mile run). They force you to workout because you really, really don't want to be on that starting line wishing you'd done more to prepare.

That was last year, this next year I'm going from two triathlons to six with one Olympic/International distance in the mix as well as several mountain bike races.

There are all kinds of great events that are less cutthroat competition and more comradery and fun. The Avia Wildflower in April/May is one out here in California.

YMMV but I find the competition aspect to be a fantastic motivation. Good luck!
posted by fenriq at 1:11 PM on January 3, 2011


It's very very hard to eat right if you're living with someone who is not completely supportive. It's even better if they'll clean up their eating with you. I think you'd do well to have a serious talk with your boyfriend about what sort of support you need in making this change.

That out of the way, I've lost a bunch of weight in the last two months eating a low carb diet. The thing that surprised me was how much my hunger changed. Instead of that ravenous, must-eat-now feeling that turns me into a hellion, I am now ... just hungry. It's not the most pressing thing in my life that keeps me from thinking about anything else. It has really helped me to eat right, because I'm just not tempted by "Bad" foods anymore. For what it's worth, I'm a vegetarian, so I eat mostly vegetables. It's definitely possible to put together a vegetable and fruit heavy low carb diet. I'm not following any set plan, just making sure that I'm eating foods that have lots and lots of fiber and protein. I'm eating no more than 10 non-fiber carbs per meal/snack, and I'm eating as much protein as I can stand. A lot of people leave beans out of a strictly low-carb diet, but I've found that they go really well for me. Fairly low calorie, very filling and lots of protein and iron.

My blood sugar has been a lot more steady since I started eating this way. I've lost that weight without working out at all. However, the diet has given me a lot more energy, so I've been walking and moving a lot more than usual. From where I'm sitting, I would be ravenous if I ate what you're eating every day. I need some more fat and protein in my diet than that. By the way, you should reconsider having so little fat in your diet. It's much less calorie dense than most people think, it's the carbs that it's usually packaged with that pack the caloric punch. It's also what signals our brains that we're full. It's also almost certainly not the cause of weight gain according to the newest studies.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:18 PM on January 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Living with your boyfriend can really go either way for healthy eating. On the one hand, he might be the one who turns to you at 9pm at night and says "Wanna go get a pint of ice cream?" (like my ex did... every night), but it's also a lot easier and cheaper to cook your own meals and eat healthily when you're cooking for two instead of one.

You'll both save money if you pool your cash to buy groceries and cook meals together. Moreover, I've always found it easier to stick to cooking and eating a healthy diet when there was more than one person involved because I'm able to vary my meals a lot more, rather than cooking one dish and having to eat the leftovers for days afterward.

Working out with your boyfriend also has the potential to help you stay on track. There will definitely be days when you're not feeling motivated and you want to bail, and the same for him, but pretty often those days won't line up, so you'll be able to perk each other up and get going. If he's not supportive about your healthy lifestyle (not participating is his prerogative, but actively trying to undercut you is unacceptable)... well, if he understands that this is important to you, in my opinion, that's a deal breaker.

The best advice I can give for exercise is to make it an immovable part of your routine. Rather than, say, coming home from work and then going to the gym or out for your run, resolve to always go for your run in between work and home (or in between home and work if you prefer to exercise in the morning). Even if I'm feeling sore and crappy, I always go from work to the gym, then gym to home; if I get there and honestly feel like I can't do my workout, I'll do some stretches and go home without guilt, knowing that I got myself there but knew the best thing for me was to take a rest day (and not the best thing for my television viewing habits).

For specific nutrition advice, I very strongly believe in a low carb, high fat and protein diet for relatively painless weight loss. People vary in their ability to tolerate carbs, even ones as innocuous seeming as fruit, so I would experiment with replacing your apples and grapes with various veggies. Carrots are good raw, and you can make the broccoli/cauliflower snacking experience a lot more pleasant by pre-blanching them and storing portions in the fridge (to blanch, drop them in boiling water for about a minute, then dunk immediately in ice water to stop the cooking process; blanched veggies are awesome in cold salads, too!!)

Roasting basically any vegetable on a baking sheet at around 400 degrees until slightly browned with olive or coconut oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper is also an express train to delicious town -- try coin-shaped slices of zucchini and yellow squash, or kale torn into bite sized pieces. A good guideline for a balanced meal is to put a portion of protein on your plate (3-4 oz of meat or fish), then fill the rest of your plate with veggies, and be sure to include some healthy fat with all.

Finally, as for inspirational or motivational blogs, I really love Oh She Glows. I could not have less in common with the woman who writes it from an exercise and nutrition standpoint (she's a strict vegan and endurance athlete; I eat meat with every meal and rarely have a workout last longer than 20 minutes), but she has an awesome positive attitude towards food and exercise that always takes me out of any kind of self-critical or defeating mindset.
posted by telegraph at 1:25 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love Bitch Cakes too, and I haven't found another blog quite like hers, but a book that I sorta hated but sorta enjoyed was Skinny Bitch. It's got some nutrition info in it that you probably don't need, but it's also got some great, motivating lines in the first few chapters ("You cannot keep shoveling the same crap into your mouth every day and expect to lose weight"), in a tough-love kind of way.

Two other books that also helped me:
Hungry: Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin by Alan Zadoff (this guy was hugely overweight and really got excellent control of his eating after years of yo-yoing).
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler (a more science-y approach to the same issue).

You might like the blog Jack Sh*t, Gettin Fit. He talks about his own weight loss and highlights other folks' too. He's funny.

The NY Times blog The Well is also great. The content is usually snippets of new research or other stories about health generally, but includes a lot of fitness and nutrition information. Today's entry, for example, highlights some research and news about exercise, eating, and weight loss.

Good luck! I'm pretty much the same weight and height as you, with the same goal.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:33 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This doesn't work for everyone, and there are some issues I have with the program, but the online version of Weight Watchers. I've tracked calories before using free programs like Sparkpeople or CalorieCount, but paying for Weight Watchers is making me actually DO it because I hate the idea of paying $18/month for nothing. As far as motivating blogs, I really like Kath Eats - seeing the way she eats makes me want to eat better too, even if I think okra is gross. Plus, she has a lot of good ideas for oatmeal add-ins.
posted by kerning at 1:49 PM on January 3, 2011


Nthing the low-carb recommendation. It's the only thing I've seen work well in practice. I also can't recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories enough.
posted by shponglespore at 1:50 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've also had a lot of success since switching to a low-carb lifestyle about six months ago. I did want to point out one major misconception about low-carb eating that I noticed in your post:

There was an AskMefi earlier, though, that discussed hormones and blood sugar, and the effects a low carb diet has on hunger and weight loss, so I'm wondering if I'm maybe not eating enough protein fat.

In order to be successful with a low-carb approach you need to up the fat, rather than the protein (which should stay at about the same level). The fat is what will satisfy your appetite. Most folks make the mistake of trying to eat low-carb/low-fat and which just sets them up for failure, your body needs one or the other for fuel. Luckily, fat isn't nearly as bad for us as the media makes it out to be. As it turns out, it's much healthier than the carbs we were eating all this time!

Personally, what motivated me was in learning about the actual proven, tested science. Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes was my starting point. It's not a "diet" book, it's a nutritional science book, but if you're interested in how food physically affects our bodies, it's fascinating. I hear he has a new book out that is a quicker and easier read than that one, but I haven't seen it yet.
posted by platinum at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went from 165 to 120 within the year my son was born by snacking a lot and having meals not so much. There's also the lack of sleep, the nursing, and the lugging around a growing weight in a sling, but it's mostly the change of foods that did it.

It wasn't so much a diet as I just took everything I loved eating and made healthier versions - I still ate pancakes, but used whole grain flour and applesauce in it, and topped it with peanut butter instead of butter and syrup. (I developed an extremely fatty and strange diet when I was pregnant...which is usual, I guess.) It was also easy to keep up - for a year I basically lived on baby greens (spinach mostly), olive oil, seeds, plain yogurt, mixed nuts without salt, apples and other seasonal fruits. Lots of peanut butter and salmon. I also got into the habit of eating a lot of vegetables raw - if it takes longer to eat it, you will eat less of it. Even so, I remember constantly snacking - raw broccoli, cherry tomatoes, dry roasted nuts.

I made a rule for myself to not eat anything that came straight out of a prepackaged bag or box - it's too hard to keep track of the salt / sugar / oil that's in them. If I prepped it myself, I know what's in it.

I didn't really exercise that year. The little things added up - taking the stairs, walking everywhere. I found that any weight training while carrying a few extra pounds KEPT the pounds on and made it easier to bulk up. It was also very hard to keep up with an exercise routine purely FOR exercising. Come up with something difficult and necessary that you have to do; for me, it was using a wagon to buy groceries every 2 days while lugging child in a sling, from a store around 3 km away. You can try the same with a backpack. Wear comfortable shoes going to / from work and pick a more scenic route to walk. Park your car 5 blocks away if you live too far to walk. Do something fun like a jazz ballet (brutal!) or rock-climbing (also brutal) class.

As for the boyfriend, I made a deal to eat one meal a day with him, confining myself to one plate half the size as his. It is more challenging because he did bring junk food into the house, and it was very hard not to eat it. Having my own version of junk helped - I popped my own popcorn and ate that while he had chips. Snacked on nuts while he had chocolate. Do make sure you're on the same page though, so he knows not to sabotage you unintentionally or otherwise.

It's easier to stick to a diet (and keep it up even after the weight is off) if you like the food that's in it, so don't think about "sticking to a diet" rigidly, but instead change things around to your liking within reason.
posted by Sallysings at 2:02 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


My boyfriend is definitely supportive, and is working to eat healthier and work out more as well. For a while we were walking together every night, which was great, but his schedule has changed temporarily and he's working nights now, which I think is a part of both of our difficulty with getting motivated to move. It's more an issue of me breaking the habit of eating just because he's eating, and forgetting that he's almost a foot taller than me, so he can eat more, than the actual food we have in the house.

Thanks for all the advice and book and blog ideas. Please keep them coming!
posted by odayoday at 2:06 PM on January 3, 2011


I found that any weight training while carrying a few extra pounds KEPT the pounds on and made it easier to bulk up

Weight training is unlikely to make a woman "bulk up." Weight training while attempting fat loss helps to preserve lean mass (i.e. muscle and bone) so that weight loss actually represents a reduction in bodyfat.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:14 PM on January 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


You HAVE to check out the Four Hour Body by Timothy Fenriss. Full of real-world, proven techniques.

What you measure, you will affect...

Also, share your goals.

I'm starting from 35% body fat. Eek.
posted by lrivers at 3:23 PM on January 3, 2011


To stay motivated, I've found that two things really help.

1) Finding something you actually like doing. I really hate running so had a lot of trouble staying motivated to do it. But I love cycling, weight lifting, and competitive ultimate frisbee. Seeing my bike in the hallway gets me excited to ride it again, and competing at ultimate in front of other people motivates me to run (gasp!) to train for it.

2) Surround yourself with people that will motivate you and model an active lifestyle. When I was in a relationship with a daily runner, I found myself automatically building exercise into my daily and weekly schedule. It became the daily norm. He also modeled what it looked like to really prioritize exercise. If he had social plans after work, he would run during his lunch break instead of just saying "I'll do it tomorrow."

Foodwise, I highly recommend Weight Watchers. I liked it because it was not a diet, but a cognitive framework (and social support) for changing your lifestyle forever. They also do a good job of addressing the emotional aspects of eating which may help with the 'weight issues' you describe. Has worked really well for many people I know, as well as the blogger you cite.
posted by squasher at 5:58 PM on January 3, 2011


As I've suggested before, I think Dick Watson's book The Philosopher's Diet is great inspirational literature--and a great read, too.

It doesn't contain much diet advice, other than the basic: count calories and make sure that you expend more than you take in. But it's spot-on in terms of the dedication that you need to change your life, which is what you propose to do.

There's a lot of snake oil in the diet and weight loss world. Gary Taubes's Good Calories, Bad Calories isn't too bad, but he does beat the carbohydrate-insulin drum too loudly, according to many experts. If you have access to the journal Obesity Reviews (subscription/paywall), you might find it interesting to look at George Dray's review of the book, Taubes's response to Dray, and Dray's response to Taubes:
doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00476.x
doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00510.x
doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00526.x

Personally, I've found that there are four things that have helped me with weight loss:
(1) regular exercise,
(2) limiting snacks,
(3) taking small portions and eating slowly, and
(4) reflecting carefully before eating, or taking seconds, to decide whether I really am hungry.

I lost about 50 lbs. between 1990 and 1995 (from about 185 lbs. to about 135) by cutting out most between-meal snacks, cooking regularly, and exercising regularly (swimming and then running 3 times per week, for 30-90 minutes each time, plus walking 3-4 miles each day to and from work and shopping). When I got a job in the country and cut back on my walking (due to driving most places) and exercise (due to hours and stress of new job, followed by my father's final illness and death), I slowly gained about 75 lbs. between 1997 and 2008. Since then I've lost about 15 lbs. by watching my snacks and exercising more (mostly cycling, with some walking and hiking mixed in).

I did count calories for a few weeks to get a sense of my intake, which was helpful for getting a sense of how much I actually was eating. Studies with doubly-labeled water have shown that most people who track their food intake grossly underestimate how much they eat. It's important that you be honest with yourself.

The basic principles of weight loss and fitness are simple, but it's very hard to put them into practice. Inspirational literature--books and blogs--can be a big help. Good luck!
posted by brianogilvie at 6:06 PM on January 3, 2011


I also want to put in a plug for weight lifting. The New Rules of Lifting for Women lays out the case for women lifting weights, and clearly explains why you will NOT bulk up, and will in fact look and feel better. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn and the better you look and feel. It also contains a really well-designed lifting plan. I have never stuck to a lifting program before this one. I love it. Gradual but always challenging, progress without feeling overwhelmed, and working hard but not hurting. And cardio optional!

If you haven't lifted before, consider seeing a personal trainer who believes that women won't snap in half if they lift heavy. They can get you started, and the book will take care of the rest.

And want inspiration? This and this and this and holy shit, this.

(Oh, and this makes me love Nike.)
posted by squasher at 6:23 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


They're kind of a slog, but I recommend the same things over and over in these weight loss threads: the SomethingAwful forums on low carb and paleo eating as well as chicks weight lifting, Stumptuous.com, Starting Strength, Mark's Daily Apple (with a big honkin' dose of eye rolling skepticism at the cultlike and obsessive tone, granted) and Gary Taubes' writing both online and in print (not without faults for sure, but a good way to reconsider conventional wisdom as you start out at least). There are some good low carb recipe blogs out there too that have been linked before in AskMe, but I don't have the time to sift to find them just now. And if you decide to try the limited carb approach I recommend some kind of way to analyze your macros and nutrient levels daily for a while to see what you need to swap out to reach your ratio goals and all that (CRONometer, SparkPeople provided you ignore the recommended levels and advice for certain things since they take a more carb-heavy approach, NutritionData to find foods that will help you with your goals). There are a few dedicated and vocal low carbers and pro-strength training folks on AskMe, won't name names for the sake of propriety but you can figure it out pretty quickly if you go through the tags/archives for these kind of questions. A lot of them consistently give good advice.

This stuff is so complex and we're still so in the dark about how all of it really works--I recognize the low carb/paleo and strength training/HIIT approach isn't for everyone. But I gotta say, it seems to work remarkably well for a sizable population of folks for whom nothing conventional seems to. I've rambled at length about this before--less than 7 months ago I stopped trying the conventional approach which wasn't working and hadn't been for over 2 years. Started this low carb/fat is ok/vaguely paleo (I consume plenty of dairy) plus weight lifting and HIIT tack and in less than 6 months went from a size 14 back to my high school-era size 6. I'm stronger and feel much better now with healthy skin, hair, and nails. Got tons of energy and am spending waaay less time figuring out diet stuff and finding time to exercise now. I'm much happier and still shocked at how much easier this approach is.
posted by ifjuly at 6:38 PM on January 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


(I'm not a professional trainer, but I am an avid exerciser and have given advice on the subject to many many friends.) Anyway, for the exercise portion, I would definitely advocate light weight training as part of your routine. Doing sets of 10-15 reps at a low weight (such as 50% of the heaviest weight you can lift) will not only tone your body, but increase muscle mass in such a way that cardio exercise becomes infinitely easier. Lifting weights also helps prevent degenerative diseases, like osteoporosis. Start your focus on larger muscles, such as the quads and calves in the legs, and the pecs, biceps, obliques and lower back for the upper body. I would also set small goals for cardio, such as running a moderately paced mile - mile and a half 3-4 times a week. No matter what kind of exercise you do, nothing helps fat burn like keeping an elevated heart rate. You don't need to move mountains for weight loss, but you do need to get moving. Good luck!
posted by msk1985 at 6:46 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lift the heaviest weights I can and I'm willowy. Seriously- unless you take testosterone you're not going to bulk up like a man. Weight training and lots of walking is an easy way to lose weight.
posted by fshgrl at 7:44 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, thanks for the New Rules of Lifting suggestion! I did crossfit at work for a while, and definitely noticed a change in my body, but it became difficult for me to organize my day around it, so I stopped. The reviews of the book look great, and my boyfriend is always encouraging me to strength train, so this looks like a good way to go about it. I'm also open to learning more about limited carbs and how I can healthfully incorporate some of the principles into my diet. I'm definitely getting motivated, so thanks so much for all of the suggestions!
posted by odayoday at 8:00 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you thought about starting your own motivating blog?
posted by p1nkdaisy at 8:34 PM on January 3, 2011


I love the Eat This, Not That books. I am the worst at sticking with major diet changes, but I've discovered many small changes I can make to eat better. It's really amazing to see how two foods that are similar can have really big differences in calories, fat, sodium, etc. The books have definitely helped me become much more conscious of what I put in my mouth.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:48 PM on January 3, 2011


Seconding ifjuly! Paleo (or paleo-ish) works like a charm, not just for weight loss but general health.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 8:53 PM on January 3, 2011


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