Please help me optimize my plans for healthy weight loss.
March 23, 2017 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I have about 3.5 months in which I'd like to transform my body. Given a lack of flexible time (full-time job + mommying), I have some specific questions that will ultimately factor into how I stay consistent, enjoy my exercise time, and make sure I don't fall off the wagon.

In the last year or so, I've gained about 35 lbs. It's come to the point where looking in the mirror is depressing. While I understand that pregnancy and motherhood ravages a body, this body's been recovering pretty nicely - what's left is definitely a combination of a poor diet, exhaustion and laziness. I have a history of inconsistency when it comes to working out, mostly because running is my choice of cardio (and does work for me), but I intensely dislike it. I don't know how to swim or ride a bike.

1. Is rowing a good cardio substitute for running? I'm more likely to stick to that than the HIIT running I do. I plan to include strength training in my workouts, and attempt to incorporate interval training as much as possible, but need a good option for cardio.

1a. If running is the Best Cardio Thing Ever, how do I begin to like it? My quads burn out in less than ten minutes, and that's the part I detest the most - other pain I can deal with. I really want to love running.

1b. What kind of professional would I consult that could correct my running form? It feels like when I run, most of the stress is on my quads and shins and I barely feel my glutes/ core engage. This happens on ellipticals as well.

2. Outside of portion control, what should I be eating more of? I know what I should be eating less of, but I'm interested in knowing what's worked for you when you need to snack/ be less hungry during the day, that also provides the stamina for two 30-minute workouts a day (morning and evening) plus a full day of work and mommying. I'm not breastfeeding.

3. How do you psych/ discipline yourself to a long-term exercising and strengthening plan? Many of us are juggling a million balls during the day, and many of us find that the easiest ball to drop is the fitness one. Help me not be that person.

4. General tips and tricks to making this goal a success. A number isn't as important as being able to fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes and looking phenomenal in them. As in, the bridesmaid's dress I have to wear in three months is backless and the wedding guests may like to be spared the (to me, at least) offensive back roll that's developed there.*

*Please no discussions on body positivity - I don't hate my body, but I do know that I could be taking a lot better care of it and my goals are what I've decided work for me.

As always, thank you, MeFites!
posted by Everydayville to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I think jumping from no exercise to two 30 min cardio blasts a day is a recipe for failure. And you will probably be famished and overeat.

Eat less carbs and more protein. Don't worry about exercise yet. If you must, go for a walk.
posted by pintapicasso at 2:24 PM on March 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

This is slightly aside from the specifics of your questions but what about working with a personal trainer through a local gym?

I used to be a runner of some distance (I did some half marathons) and for a while I went to a weekly bootcamp where I worked with a trainer. Part of her program was evaluating running posture. I also know some people who have done this in the Bay Area through a place called Body Mechanix. So I would direct you to a personal trainer and maybe try to find one who specializes in running form if you want to continue running and be more comfortable.

All that said, working with a trainer more generally might help you get into a program that works with your goals and needs.
posted by vunder at 2:28 PM on March 23, 2017

Hi there,

1. The best cardio is the cardio that you will do, which often translates into whichever cardio you will enjoy. Like for me, I know running is 'better' for me, but I don't enjoy running, so I can run for a few weeks but I'll have a hard time continuing it.

2. It has taken me an embarrassingly long amount of time to realize that if I eat a ton of vegetables, I feel more full during the day without having eaten very many more calories. For me the problem is cooking vegetables in a way that I'll enjoy them; steamfresh microwavable vegetables that you make in the bag from frozen work for me here, or steaming broccoli in a microwavable steamer.

3. My best answer again is that I don't; I find a physical activity that I enjoy which just so happens to be exercise. For me this was wrestling other people around. This is probably not the same for everybody.

4. In my experience (and I'm a dude, so it's easier for us), weight loss is about food intake, but what kind of weight you lose is about exercise/diet. My other superpower is that I can eat the same thing every single day, so if I find something relatively healthy that I enjoy, I can eat it for years, and I can have a nice consistent calorie intake. My wife, on the other hand, gets bored with food really quickly, so this doesn't work for her ...
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:37 PM on March 23, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I went from hating running to loving it. My number one big advice starting out is run slower and don't be afraid to take walking breaks. Tell yourself that you can walk the whole thing if you want. I found that the more I let myself walk, the more I wanted to run, until I was running 10km stretches without walking breaks at all.
posted by 256 at 2:38 PM on March 23, 2017 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I think jumping from no exercise to two 30 min cardio blasts a day is a recipe for failure. And you will probably be famished and overeat.

Sorry, neglected to mention that I'm not completely sedentary right now - I do a 45 minute walk with my son around the neighborhood everyday and also quick sets of mountain climbers, burpees or weighted squats every morning for 15 minutes. I just need to transition to full-blown cardio.
posted by Everydayville at 2:48 PM on March 23, 2017

Exercise is good for you, but pretty irrelevant to weight loss (unless you're doing a shit ton of it). But if you want to run for your health, Couch to 5k is a good ramp-up program.

I wouldn't worry too much about carbs versus whatever if you're not the type of person who thrives on strict diets. I've lost quite a bit of weight just counting calories the old fashioned way. At a certain point, you might need to carb restrict to lose those last few pounds, but it's up to you if it's worth it and how sustainable you think it is.

I know that protein promotes satiety and carbs can give you a sugar crash. I know this, intellectually. How my body feels is a different story. Eating carbs and eating some protein don't make me feel that different when done in moderation; what seems to make a difference is my actual stomach, which hates being empty, no matter what it ate recently. So fiber and roughage like veggies are a huge part of my meal plan. (Fats also seem to make more of a difference for me than protein, but obviously healthy fats and moderation are good.)

My main trick is just finding foods that combine indulgence with low calorie counts and eating three meals a day with 1-2 healthy snacks (fruit or popcorn usually). If I have a pizza craving, I eat an omelette with cheese & tomatoes instead. Or I eat 1 slice of pizza with a nice big salad. That works for me.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:49 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I also did a Whole30, which some people say helps them lose small amounts of weight. But all I did on Whole30 was eat eat eat, so I ended up losing exactly 0 pounds. Which is why you may or may not want to completely change your diet versus just watching your calorie intake.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:51 PM on March 23, 2017

Please especially if you're nursing (or were) make sure to get enough calcium. It's hard to believe when you're still of baby-making age but it really is important to take care of your bones now.
posted by flourpot at 3:06 PM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Do you have child care available for your full-blown cardio sessions, or are you hoping to tote the kiddo along with you in a jogging stroller? (My experience has been that even previously-good running form gets bad when you push a jogging stroller, FWIW.)

I also tend to over-engage my quads and under-engage my glutes. On an elliptical, it's usually a matter of being more conscious of moving my center of gravity backwards, so that I'm pushing through my heels rather than the balls of my feet. I haven't yet figured out how to do this reliably with running, though.

I will put in a plug for swimming, though. I like running okay but have always felt like it's pretty hard on my body (especially post-partum) and when I got pregnant again I took it as an excuse to sign up for private swim lessons through my local rec center. I was previously totally comfortable in the water but didn't know diddly about swimming laps, and it's honestly only taken 2 lessons to get me to the point where I am doing a decent workout by myself in the lap pool. The thing I find absolutely best about it is that it gives me the same cardio work-out as running (I've never found another exercise that does, as much as I love cycling/elliptical-ing/hiking) but spreads the load over my entire body. It only takes 20-30 minutes in the pool for me to feel like I got a *very* good cardio work-out, and the next day I tend to be equally sore in most of my major muscle groups (shoulders, core/abs, quads, calves, and even a bit in the glutes), which feels better than post-running soreness being concentrated in just 1-2 muscles.

I would not have expected it to be so easy/quick to pick up lap swimming skills and I kind of wish I had done it sooner. My local rec center is affordable for drop-in swimming fees ($6/day) and also provides childcare which is a bonus.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:07 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

1. Rowing is great! Anything you're happy to do long-term is great! I would recommend thinking about your goals when choosing your exercise. You talk about weight loss, but it seems like if your goal is to burn the maximum calories possible, it's most important to focus on what you will do consistently than to spend ten minutes a week doing the exercise that burns the most calories per minute. You talk about interval training, which some studies show to be the most efficient way to cardiovascular health, but that doesn't mean intervals are the easiest or most efficient path to weight loss. And if you like weight training and don't like cardio I would just focus on what keeps you happy - weight loss is mostly about diet, and if you can stay active through weight training you're doing great things for your general fitness and overall health.

2. I find that this depends a lot on what's going on with my body. If I'm maintaining or losing weight slowly and want to fight the urge to snack, roasting a pan of whatever vegetables I have on hand, with a little oil and garlic or balsamic vinegar, puts any hunger to rest for a while. If I've recently increased my activity by quite a bit, or if I've been a little more aggressive in cutting calories for whatever reason, I find that vegetables are just too psychologically unsatisfying. On the other hand, something like baked chicken breasts, maybe breaded with bread crumbs or panko or crushed corn flakes, with some paprika and/or garlic powder, is easy and satisfying. The key is to cook less than you think you want, wait twenty minutes, and only if you're still hungry, prepare yourself some more.

3. I never thought I would be a counting calories person. Too restrictive, too time-consuming, didn't want to interfere with my enjoyment of life. However, at one point I signed up for myfitnesspal because I felt I was eating too much take-out, and even though I was at a healthy weight, I had gained a few pounds and I felt that my running (which I have always enjoyed!) was suffering because of it. I actually found that keeping track of calories was super liberating - I didn't need to feel guilty about having a hamburger after a nice 10 mile run because it fit into the plan, and alternatively, on days/weeks when I didn't have time for intensive workouts, I could just cut down on the calorie-dense foods and know that I was still maintaining my overall balance. This gave the flexibility I needed to stick to a long-term plan, and I ended up much more active overall because I wanted to be able to have that beer at the end of the day without messing up my calorie count.
posted by exutima at 3:25 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Don't be too hard on yourself! And don't be too discouraged by the inevitably contradictory advice you'll get on this thread.

You sound like the type of person that would benefit from the use of commitment devices. Present You needs to make it really hard for Future You to change Past You's plans.

If you want to lose 35 pounds in 14 weeks you need to take in probably about 500 calories fewer than your body's daily energy requirements every day for the next 14 weeks. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to eat fewer calories rather than trying to use more energy by exercising (it takes two minutes to eat a Snickers, might take an hour to burn it off). The r/loseit subreddit is a great resource.

Commitment devices that worked for me are: Joining a CrossFit gym (the peer/social atmosphere and high cost meant I rarely missed classes), not buying any "junk food" including simple carbohydrates for the house (if it's not on hand, it's harder to eat it), and telling myself I could eat whatever I wanted once I wrote down everything I ate in my daily food log (the "permission" to eat anything staved off feeling deprived, but the accountability of having to write it down made me rethink a bunch of absent-minded calories I'd have otherwise consumed).
posted by bimbam at 3:30 PM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

3.5 months is plenty of time to transform your body, but probably not by 35 pounds. So be realistic and kind with yourself, since getting discouraged is a huge reason people drop off the fitness wagon.

Every body is different! That said:
Your workout regimen actually sounds really great: a 45 minute walk, plus 15 minutes of full-body exercises (burpees, squats) that you're already doing, PLUS your plan to add in weight training? I'd say don't worry about adding MORE cardio because you're already burning plenty of calories throughout the day. Doing more will ONLY make you hungrier.

2 & 4: I'd recommend either A) picking a commercially available (or free, if it's good) eating plan that takes into account your lifestyle calorie burn and resolving to STICK WITH IT no matter what for the given duration, or B) if you already know exactly what you're eating that you shouldn't be (generally things processed or high in sugar), then stop buying those things or putting yourself in situations where you'll eat them.

I do a lot of cardio and lifting too, and when I'm trying to cut weight I eat a lot of protein... like so much protein. Buy or make whey protein bars with minimal carb filler. I also drink a lot of herbal tea, if I get hungry but suspect it'll pass. Listen to your body, not your stomach. When I'm just maintaining a steady, healthy weight, I add in more healthy fats like nuts and avocado. This does a lot to curb hunger post-cardio, way more than low-cal veggies, so in the aggregate I end up eating less than if I skip the higher calorie food upfront.

3. Figure out what is your primary motivator (looking good? health?) and focus on that. "Not having time" is always a question of priorities, so remember why you're going to the gym or w/e. If you focus on "45 minutes working out is 45 minutes I don't spend with my kids" you'll stop doing it, whereas "45 minutes working out now is absolutely necessary to look the way I want in 3 months" will be enough to keep you going.
posted by smokysunday at 3:35 PM on March 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

Best answer: As for diet information: I was pregnant for ~3 months and then miscarried but gained about 15 lbs during that time! I assumed it would fall off (YEA RIGHT) when I was no longer pregnant but I struggled. About a month ago I adopted a new "diet" that one of my coworkers uses. Her daughter is a bodybuilder and uses an extreme version of this to cut weight but my coworker and her friends have used it for several years when they want to drop a few lbs. The original diet was too low-calorie for me but I've found my sweet spot and have lost 6 lbs in the last month (I'm only 4'11" so this is pretty fast weight loss).

Breakfast: two eggs cooked in a spritz of coconut oil, two pieces of low-calorie (45 calories each) toast.
Snack: a 100 calorie pack of nuts and a small piece of fruit
Dinner: half of a Joseph's Flax wrap with 3 slices of deli meat, 2 tsp mayo, mustard and dill pickles.
Snack: fat free greek yogurt
Supper: Side salad with chopped bell pepper and cucumber and 1 tbsp no sugar dressing. Small portion of lean protein and about a cup of steamed veggies.
Desert: small scoop of ice cream

I think it works because it's specific enough to take the thinking out of it but vague enough to not get boring. I am the type of person that will research the shit out of anything and meal-planning combined with dieting was a rabbit hole. This way I vary it up slightly by the type of salad dressing, or deli meat, dinner protein or flavor of greek yogurt. It is SUCH A RELIEF to not be punching numbers into MyFitnessPal - some people are bean counters and love this but it just doesn't work for me.

I realize this is the ultimate YMMV but I've had such great success with this that I've been singing it from the rooftops and I hope it helps someone else.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:47 PM on March 23, 2017 [16 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Is rowing a good cardio substitute for running?
Rowing is a great cardio option - it works your full body so tends to burn slightly more calories. It is possible to hurt yourself, though - make sure to watch a few youtube videos on rowing form first to make sure you don't injure your back from pulling the wrong way/in the wrong order.

1a. If running is the Best Cardio Thing Ever, how do I begin to like it?
The thing that stops most people is lack of breath, but if your issue is in your quads you might benefit from doing some strength training in your legs in the meantime (which rowing will help with, but I'd recommend things like squats and lunges as well to target the quads specifically).

1b. What kind of professional would I consult that could correct my running form?
A personal trainer at your gym might be able to help you with this, but their level of knowledge can be hit or miss. I'd start by searching for "glute exercises for running" or similar things ("posterior chain running", "glute activation running", etc). There will still be conflicting information, but if you read 5 articles and 4 of them recommend an exercise, you can be pretty confident it may help.

If you mean changing your running form in general, maybe look to specialized running stores? They will often have experts who can analyze your gait and may be able to offer suggestions as well.

2. Outside of portion control, what should I be eating more of?
The best tips I know of on the "add" side rather than subtract side are to eat 1-2 servings of veggies (ideally more of things like peppers and broccoli rather than corn and peas, but the latter are good too) with every single meal, and eat them first. That way my stomach fills up with the veggies and I don't feel as compelled to go crazy with the rest of it. Plus you can eat quite a bit of greens for the same calorie cost as say, bread, so if you're really hungry, go for high volume foods. The other thing to add is water - again, I try to drink a whole glass of water before a meal to make sure I'm really eating stuff that I want to eat, and not just because it's in front of me and my stomach is empty. (Note that water never takes the place of eating, just serves as a means to slow down my eating that comes out of boredom). A diet heavy in protein will also serve to keep you fuller longer, so if you don't get a ton of protein now that could be something to add as well.

3. How do you psych/ discipline yourself to a long-term exercising and strengthening plan?
For me, I think 4 things contribute to my long-term commitment to exercise (I've been going to the gym 4-5 days per week for about a year now with only a few blips).

A) Choose something you don't hate. Maybe that's rowing, maybe it's strength training, maybe it's zumba classes, whatever works. You don't have to love it (especially at first) but if you hate it, you'll find every excuse not to go.
B) Make it soooo easy to go. This is especially important at the beginning when you're setting up a habit. Lay out your workout clothes ahead of time (underwear + bra too if needed) so you can just pull them on. Choose a place to workout that's convenient to your schedule/commute. Maybe go to the gym right after work so you don't have a chance to sit on the couch at home and change your mind.
C) Track your progress. This is the thing that I think was the biggest key for me - I do powerlifting, and seeing my weight/rep numbers go up is a huge mental boost. But maybe it's decreasing your run time or heart rate, maybe it's not getting out of breath during a class, maybe it's being able to do the higher setting in spin class. Some things are easier to track than others, but a note on your phone/a real notebook where you record your feelings & successes during each workout can be hugely motivating.
D) Find a community. This isn't totally necessary, but I do think it can be really helpful. Some options here would be a local running club, becoming a regular at the 7am workout class, doing athletic meetups, or joining an online fitness group. I chose the latter one, and if you MeMail me I'd be happy to invite you - it's a women's fitness group on facebook and seeing so many inspiring posts or posts from people dealing with the same shit as me has been so awesome.

I clearly have a lot of thoughts on this subject, feel free to message me if you want any further tips or just want an accountability friend!

PS - on preview, my tips are more about making exercise a long-term thing rather than your short-term goals. I agree with smokysunday that losing 35lbs in 3.5 months is not likely to occur, and in general if you aren't counting calories it may be hard to lose consistently. No matter how you lose weight, the scale won't move downward consistently, so it's important to track overall trends (the app Happy Scale for iOS or Libra for Android are great for logging your weight trends so you don't get freaked out by a random spike up) and other metrics as well - taking measurements and progress pictures can help keep you motivated even when the scale won't budge (as you may be replacing some fat with muscle but keeping the same number of pounds).
posted by jouir at 3:56 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here is what I did as a mom with full-time job to start to get my fitness in better order, including running.

I was a total novice runner, so I did the Couch to 5K program and used the app to keep myself on track. It starts with very short runs with intervals, and works up to longer runs as your stamina builds. I did it with a friend in a similar situation, so that we had each other for accountability and encouragement. After she moved away, I joined a running clinic through a local running store, where I got great advice on form and how to build my workouts and meet goals from the group leader. I also signed up for a couple of 5K and 10K races to have a goal for myself. I need that sort of structure to keep at it -- otherwise I just drop off if it's up to me to feel like going for a run.

Diet-wise, I worked with a nutritionist friend to arrive at a plan that worked for me. It limited sugar, dairy, and breads/potatoes/rice and encouraged a cup a day of things like beans and brown rice. I kept the meat portions to a few ounces. Most critically for me, it limited alcohol to 3 glasses of white wine per week, and I went down to only one coffee a day. To make sure my blood sugar stayed even through the day, I added two snacks to my routine (things like an apple with almond butter, or some nuts and dried blueberries), and found that a little snack eliminated my need for that afternoon cup of coffee. I also stopped eating anything after about 8pm. I also made drinking water a part of my daily routine. But we made sure to keep a few things in there like my family's waffle-and-bacon Saturday breakfasts so I don't feel left out and craving.

I lost 13 pounds in about 3 months and have been able to keep it off. I think 35 in that amount of time is probably not a very realistic goal, but certainly you can move in that direction and start to feel better about yourself.
posted by gateau at 4:28 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Are you by any chance near a Corepower Yoga location?

I think most locations will give you a free week of unlimited classes. I am not a yoga person at all. I detest heat and am a ridiculously sweaty mofo. But I was able to "win" a free month with them, and have been loving their "Yoga Sculpt" classes. After doing it a few times a week for about 3 weeks now, I already noticed some changes in my body, and am kind of addicted. There's only maybe 5 mins of cardio, but I love that it has a mix of everything packed into an hour - a little yoga, a little cardio, upper and lower body strength training with weights, and a lot of core and abdominal strengthening. I'm in decent shape and run and strength trained before, but I'm loving this new mix of stuff and it's kind of kicking my butt. Worth looking into, if you're near a location and the scheduling works for you.

As far as food goes... everyone is going to have their anecdotes. I lost over 50lbs a few years ago and have maintained it by eating mostly plant based. I still have some dairy and meat occasionally, but lots of vegetables, lots of fruit, lots of grains, and everything else in moderation has worked well for me.

Find something that is sustainable for *you* - both with regards to exercise and food. You can achieve some change in 3.5 months, but better to have those changes last you for years and years and years.
posted by raztaj at 4:46 PM on March 23, 2017

Rowing will give you a lovely back -- partly from the back muscles, partly because your posture will get better if you're doing it in good form. However, I worry that your running problem would be echoed in a rowing problem; do you have a coach or trainer to check you occasionally?

I got vital advice on running form at a running shoe store. It happened to be a women's-shoes-only store, which might have helped.

And in general what jouir said.
posted by clew at 4:50 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you don't know how to swim, your local YMCA may very well have a class. I find that learning something new is the best way to get me interested in new cardio. There may also be a local program for children and parents to learn to swim together.

If you're not into swimming (I am!) you can try water aerobics. It's fun and easy like land aerobics, but a great workout and easy on your joints. If you're running you might come to a place where you need to give your joints a break and it's good to have something in reserve.
posted by blnkfrnk at 5:35 PM on March 23, 2017

Rowing is even better than running. I'd go so far as to say that if you're only going to do one thing, it should be rowing.

Even though I know it's kind of cheesy, I've had success with the "don't break the chain" method (aka the Seinfeld method). is a good tracker for it.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:40 PM on March 23, 2017

I lost 60lbs last year, with the help of ex-NASA biochemist, Ray Cronise, who also helped magician Penn Jillette lose lots of weight. I reached my target weight last May, have kept the weight, love the my new plant-based diet, and can't even imagine going back to the way I used to eat.

I wrote about the experience, here:
posted by grumblebee at 7:14 PM on March 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I had a similar goal after pregnancy a couple years ago and did a program. I lost about 15 pounds in as many weeks. (Anything more than a pound a week is super aggressive, and I agree with others that 35 pounds in 14 weeks is not realistic.) I'm now repeating my program to make further progress.

The main components:
Diet: relatively ketogenic, with some carbs on exercise days. I have found that keto makes it fairly easy to sail through the day on 1000-1100 calories. My trainer assigned me macro targets for my workout days and non-workout days. I find it easier to track macros vs. calories, and it gives me better information. If you go this route, the best app for tracking is the pro version of myfitnesspal. Yeah it costs but other trackers don't do macro counting well. You also don't *need* a tracker if you can create a menu you can follow everyday, which was also part of my homework. Most progress is going to come from adhering to a diet, so most of your attention should be figuring out how to cut calories, be comfortable, and stick to it.
Exercise: My trainer assigned me only strength-training. If you do a weight workout correctly, you can get cardio levels of heart rate so you're killing two birds with one stone. Strength training also means you are helping your body change its composition - gain muscle, lose fat. The plan "let" me do cardio, but only to the degree it wouldn't interfere with my weight routines and diet.
posted by emkelley at 7:19 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rowing is great if you can do it. Full-body engagement, high calorie burn, no impact to joints. Running can be effective cardio but has a high injury rate (I've seen anywhere from 20-80% for first-year recreational runners). If you want to do this for the long haul and want fewer injuries, stick to rowing. For necessary bone-building impact, just walk more. Go for the elliptical or circuit workouts for a change now and then. Low impact all the way, imo, for sustainability. (Especially if you have concerns about your biomechanics as it is.)

For the imbalances you mention, see a trainer with a qualification in rehab (get recommendations). Include glute bridges, SHELCs (google it), and hip work in your warm up to activate thosr muscles before your workout.

Diet and weight loss: 2 lbs a week is the most it's recommended anyone safely lose. And if you eat for that, probably ~1200 calories or thereabouts, you're going to feel like crap.

I would shoot for a rate of loss of -0.5 lb a week. Much more comfortable, and allows you to work out with some energy (which will do a lot for you in all kinds of ways, but isn't to be relied on for weight loss). 35 lbs is probably not going to happen, at least not in a safe or comfortable way. Adjust your expectations.

Since you're very keen on this fast loss, take pics as you go, so you can see the progress you're making, and you don't underestimate it.

Even losing 10 lbs in this time might have a big effect on your shape, though, especially if you're consistent with workouts (esp lifting).

To keep muscle while you lose, go for 0.8 g protein / lb of lean mass. More if you can fit it into your calories. Lots of fiber. Complex carbs.

Sustainability: reserve 20% of your diet for stuff that isn't "healthy". Plan that in.

If you go over your target one day, don't freak out or go for broke, or try to make up for it by eating half the next day or spending another three hours on a machine. Just get back on track at the next meal.

If you didn't plan a treat but had one anyway, instead of beating yourself up, review what happened so you're better prepared next time & can tweak that. (Maybe your breakfast was too small and left you too hungry by lunch. Tweak = eat a bigger breakfast. Maybe you forgot to shop or start dinner on time, and McD's was right there. Tweak = set an alarm to start dinner at 5:30 & make sure you do a shop twice a week. There's always a reason & there's always an answer for it.)

Keep things you can't control that well out of the house (eg chips). Have them but in small portions, outside the house. Keep easy, filling snacks at home that give you good macros for fewer calories. (Low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, oatmeal, pistachios, and baby carrots are ones I like.) Good to combine a lower fat protein with some fiber, helps control hunger. (Berries are great fiber.)

Cook one big meat dish per week and freeze it in portions so you always have something ready to go. Also grab some smarter choices re prepared frozen foods, for evenings you're tired.

Handy cheat sheets for meal planning: this infographic from Precision Nutrition and Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate. (Unlike that PN graphic says, I'd include 1/2 a cup of beans or potatoes with skin as an option for starchy sides for dinner or lunch. Good fiber and micronutrients in there, and protein from the beans.)

Rotate the same ~10 meals for dinner, maybe keep 2-3 breakfasts going. The less you have to think about things, the better.

It's all about consistency, and that's about tweaking things to set you up for success, making it easy.

What I'm doing now is: 2 eggs or ham & cheese + toast + yogurt + coffee for brek. Starbucks sandwich or similar for lunch - 300-500 cals max - because I'm after convenience for lunches lately. Or, 2 soft Taco Bell Taco Supremes (good macros + still under 500 cals). Dinner: 200 g (raw) meat + 1/2 cup starchy side + 1-2 cups salad or steamed veg. Snack depends on activity level that day - one of the ones I mentioned, or 1/2 a Clif Bar. I try to get 1 hour of easy cardio in every day as a buffer, because I prefer to move more than eat less. Also hits the NASM cardio target, also hits my antidepressant target, win-win-win.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:52 PM on March 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

You already have a lot of answers but: rowing is awesome.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:04 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

My favorite exercise is dancing. Zumba will give you an intense all-over cardio and muscle workout, and will work on your posture and flexibility. I personally like ballroom dancing better. You can take a class and then dance at home when you have time. But either one will give you stamina and fun at the same time. Ballroom has more types of dances but Zumba or Salsa will work well too. Lots of professional athletes have discovered that dance is a helluva workout, and you may too.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:31 PM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for these informative responses!

I do want to clarify that I don't expect to lose 35 lbs in 3 months, rather, there are certain areas such as belly and back that I'd like to carry around less fat on. The only way I achieve that is HIIT or interval cardio as I can't target those areas specifically and it's what's worked for me in the past. I've also been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and am convinced that my current overweight state is the culprit.

Thanks again!
posted by Everydayville at 11:24 AM on March 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

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