Andrea wanted to know how I’m handling my weight loss and health improvements. This is not medical advice. This is my road map on how I’m improving my health (and losing weight.)
You’re absolutely encouraged to verify what I do, learn about it, steal what you want. This isn’t your alley? Don’t worry about it and scroll on. (There is not going to be much about the writing world in here, but there will be some commentary about how I’m balancing my work life, home life, and dieting.)
Before we dig into this too much, there are a few background tidbits you should know about. Above all, it’s a thing to do with genetics. I have a great deal of slavic genetics and “peasant” stock genetics. “I will outlive you in a siege” applies. There is a reason for this. I call it the “feast or famine effect”, and it influences every element of my dieting / lifestyle choices.
Here is how it works. During a famine, people with my genetics balloon in weight if they do not get sufficient calories. We stockpile every single calorie we can and convert it to fat. We then lower our metabolisms to ridiculously low levels so those fat stores last as long as possible. (Thus ‘outliving you in a siege’.)
During a feast, where we have a stable supply of food for a time, we shed a decent amount of that fat. This fat shed can be like 5-20 pounds in 1-2 weeks. (It’s really not fun, don’t recommend. I am careful to keep my fat shed to the 5 pound level versus the extreme end.)
So, my diet has to account for these genetic quirks. I cannot eat a low calorie diet. I will gain weight rapidly. That’s how I ended up ballooning to 200 pounds in a very short period of time.
I was eating 1,200 to 1,400 calories a day before my doctor wanted to change things, and my doctor instructed me to eat less. He wanted me at the 1,000 to 1,200 calorie level on an extremism diet. (No sodium, no saturated fats, as low cholesterol as possible, as low sugar as possible.)
The diet was miserable, I was miserable, and… well… yeah.
It, as obvious from my rapid weight gain, did not work. Once I hit around 200 pounds (on a TINY 5’3″ frame, mind you), I did the equivalent of tell the doctor to fuck off.
I knew it wouldn’t work, I knew I would gain weight, but I did it because the doctor would NOT take me seriously unless I demonstrated why his “knowledge” is fucked up and he should listen more and trust outdated “nutrition” knowledge.
So, the first thing I needed to do was identify my lowest level. That’s 1,400 calories when I weigh between roughly 160-180 pounds, just for the record. Right now, at 180-190, I’m aiming for 1,450 for my low end calories.
For my upper end, I target roughly 1,900 calories. (My app gives me the exact number.)
I want my daily calories to hit SOMEWHERE in that range including any exercise calories I earn throughout the day.
There are a lot of apps that can help you track what you eat, but to do this how I’m doing it, tracking is mandatory. You need to hit a minimum and stay below a maximum.
The app I’m using is called Lose It. This is what it looks like in action:
Today was a mental health day. Very much “Fuck this, I’m eating what I want!” And, astonishingly… only 59 calories over my target goal. (This isn’t even unacceptable. I have the app set to target half a pound of weight loss each week.)
It also tracks things like protein, etc. Having high protein (Minimum 70 for women, 100-120 is better) per day really helps with weight loss. Your body is convinced food is plentiful and it can burn off the fat. It also helps your body heal. Omega acids are also important. Fiber is important. This app can help you track all of that. (Or any app similar.)
The method is pretty simple. I have my steps input into the app (currently 1,500 a day minimum) which then calculates how many I need for the day for my goal. As I get in better health, I’ll increase my daily steps.
Right now, walking is hard and exhausts me, so 1,500 a day is a good minimum. (In reality, I’m doing closer to 3,000… which usually earns me some treat calories. I usually spend them on drinking milk. I fucking LOVE milk.)
This method isn’t hard. But it does require dedication. I can’t afford to miss a single day of my minimum. I could go into famine mode with just ONE day… and then spend the next week ballooning because my body got confused.
1,450 calories is a mandatory minimum for me. And yes, just from eating enough daily, my fat started shedding off without a single step of exercise.
But I also want to hike so I can take photographs of really cool places. So, I’m doing limited exercise. Right now, I’m targeting 1 mile a day (in one go.) I’m not consistently making this, but that’s okay. I’m trying.
Failure is absolutely allowed and encouraged. By failing, I’m trying. Even if I only make it a quarter of a mile, x3-5 days a week, I am out there trying to do better.
This actually slows my weight gain because I’m developing muscle. This does not bother me in the slightest. I’m out to become healthy, and that means a little more than just watching numbers drop on the scale.
So, the scale is an interesting tool. You need to understand what the scale is telling you in order to really benefit from it. There are numerous ways the scale can trick you, and I’m going to go into them a little.
I hugely support using a scale. It can tell you about potential health problems you might not notice. If you’re a female, you can judge where you’re at in your hormonal cycle (weight gain due to hormonal cycling is real) and you can even tell things like if you’re holding too much water weight in non-beneficial ways.
So, here we go.
Water weight: If you drink a lot of liquids and you’re usually dehydrated (which is very common) you can balloon up to 3-5 pounds in a single day just from properly hydrating yourself. Your body does a water grab. Once you’re hydrating properly, water shed will happen. (Your cells will adjust to proper hydration and shed out the excess water weight.) If you’re really dehydrated, you may not water shed, and that’s fine. You’re healthier.
Fat shed but muscle gain: metabolism can spike up if you’re suddenly eating well for an extended period of time. This can drop your weight somewhat rapidly. However, your body is also going to start working on your muscles, so you can be shedding fat and not realizing it.
Muscle gain: Sometimes, fat is persistent and it sticks around but you gain muscle. This is just a weight gain on the scale, but it’s HEALTHY weight gain. And that’s important.
You can tell if you’re shedding fat by judging how your clothing feels or your physical appearance. Are your pants looser? Does your face look thinner? There are a lot of ways to tell. (The appearance of loose skin is a definitive sign. This is the product I am using to help counter the loose skin problem, and I’m really pleased with it.)
This is part of why I’m targeting closer to half a pound a week… this gives my skin time to tighten while I gradually lose weight. I also avoid fat toxicity. (All fat accumulates toxins in the body that haven’t been filtered out by your organs; when you drop a lot of fat rapidly, these toxins end up in your bloodstream, requiring your organs to filter out. Drinking a good amount of water and watching how much fat you lose at one time can prevent you from feeling like garbage or damaging your organs during a fat shed.)
My weirdest trick is… probiotics. A healthy gut can literally result in weight loss. This PISSES ME OFF SO MUCH. Let me explain: when I was a teen, I became very, very ill. I was on hospital grade antibiotics, which completely destroyed my gut biome. Back then… probiotics were not a thing, nor were they understood. Or taught.
I became lactose intolerant and had a poor relationship with food, and this started my weight gain.
I began taking probiotics at x4 – x8 the standard rate; you need a LOT of probiotics to restart your healthy gut if you have done things like used a antibiotic without rebuilding your gut biome. I feel HUGELY better. This will NOT work for everyone, but if you have weird gut problems, try a probiotic. Any one will do, try to get one with a prebiotic that keeps the probiotic working. I’m using these two: one for everybody, one for women. Just slam your digestive system with the probiotic, because their recommended dosage is insufficient to fix a broken gut biome. x4 is the minimum, I suspect… but I used x8 to start with because my gut problems were so severe. They are hugely improved, and I’m feeling much better.
Spoiler alert: I weighed 116 pounds way back when. I want to be 125-135, probably closer to 135. (I like being warm in the winter… and I like having breasts. 125 is my ‘athletic, ultra muscular, little fat’ weight.) 116 was my ‘meeting society’s standards for women at the time’ weight. 116 was not healthy.
So, yeah. I have a long, long way to go.
But that is okay. In a society about instant gratification, it’s hard to go “It’s okay to take my time.”
By understanding what my body is doing (feast and famine, metabolism, when I gain weight from my gender, what happens when I’m dehydrated…) I know how I have to adjust each day.
But above all, eating enough is critical for me to lose weight.
I know plenty of Americans who eat too much.
But I know even more who don’t eat enough, and then they wonder why they’re overweight.
The answer is in our genetics. Yes, sometimes, to lose weight, eating more is absolutely required.
As the resident of your body, you’re the sole person who can judge what works for you. This is how my body works… but I’m not alone in being encouraged to starve because I’m fat.
My doctor did it to me, and because he did, I ballooned.
Take a look at what you’re eating, and then do the math. Are you eating enough? Are you eating too much?
Identifying my relationship with food made a big difference for me.
I’m down 14 pounds, and I’m watching my scale gradually creep down. This is because I changed what worked for my genetics: I needed to eat more.
Now, this is where I’m going to get into the specifics of what I’m eating. For the first 13-14 pounds, I was eating x2 a day healthy choice cafe steamers. They ranged between 230 to 500 calories. To increase the calorie count, I was adding a table spoon of chia seeds. (Bonus of adding fiber and protein to each meal.)
I’d make something for dinner, careful to watch my calories for the day.
Now I’m eating Factor75 (Factor ) meals x2 a day during the week, maybe x1 a day on weekends depending on the weekend. (This is a referral link. I have 4 free boxes, and if you want to try with a free box, when you comment, include your email in the email box, and the first four people to ask for the free box, I will send the link to your email.) Please note that the free boxes are good for new users only.
They range between 350-600 calories a meal, take 2-3 minutes to microwave, and everything I’ve tried so far has been absolutely delicious.
Rather than lose 60-90 minutes a day to cooking breakfast and lunch, I’m happily eating and doing work instead. (I’m working better, I’m FAR less stressed, and I’m getting enough calories a day.)
They’re kept in the refrigerator, and you’re mailed a box of nummy food once a week. In my area, they use a hire car service rather than FedEx or UPS. My first week they were delayed a day, but my food arrived all safe and sound and the right temperature, and I got a discount for them being late.
Where factor is really helping me is portion control. The portions are reasonable and filling, and I don’t have to think about the portions. Before I started using tv dinners to portion control, I was either eating too much or not enough.
The “not enough” was a serious problem for me.
That’s basically it. Right now, I am just aiming for consistency. I am walking 3-5x times a week (x2 rest days minimum for recovery) and making sure I eat more than 1,450 calories a day.
Then I just plod along, letting the fat slowly, slowly creep away. It’s not a race. Lifestyle changes cannot be rushed.
But I’m already feeling better, which makes it worth the effort.
Look at segment 1 of the second workout.
Improvement is happening, and it can happen in as little as a week.
Most of all, just keep going. This is not a race. It’s an endurance walk, and the reward is better health… and yes, feeling better is a huge relief when you finally get there, look back, and go “Huh, I couldn’t do that a month ago.”
I don’t get runner’s high or anything like that. These exercising sessions are, frankly, miserable… but I AM improving, and this will help me meet my goal of taking beautiful photographs in places that are hard to reach.
It just takes time.
This is a very brief road map on how I’m handling my exercise. Right now, I’m doing a mix of endurance and brisk pace exercising.
If I do a certain number of exercises at a certain distance or pace, I get a road trip to a little park somewhere near where I live.
x5 .50 mile walks at a pace of 20 minutes per mile or better = a small trip.
x10 1 mile walks at any pace = a small trip.
150 pounds (50 pounds total loss) = a trip to Yosemite.
140 pounds (60 pounds total loss) = a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Carrots are very useful for helping me make my goals. I recommend picking goals that you want bad enough to work for… and that someone else can hold you accountable for.
My husband will be checking my scale for proof I made it to 150 pounds and 140 pounds.
I’m of the strong belief that if weight loss was easy, everyone would be thin because… I ain’t gonna lie… being overweight is hugely painful.
And that is ultimately why I’m making the lifestyle changes to be slow and steady (but wins the race)… I’m tired of hurting, and the weight is playing a huge role in the pain.