Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My personal weight loss story....just in time for the New Year

With every new year many people automatically begin to think about weight loss.  Using my unscientific research methods, I would assume that dieting/weight loss is the most common New Year's Resolution made and probably the most common resolution that fails, year after year.

Well, I actually started thinking about weight loss back in October....6 weeks after my youngest was born.  Following my typical pattern, I lost an easy 20 pounds of baby weight, leaving about 10 pounds that just wanted to stick around (literally) forever.  Over the course of 5 babies in the past 8 years, that adds up, a lot.  I wanted to lose 40 pounds, and having never even attempted to diet or lose significant weight before, I was clueless. 

Now, I'm not trying to put myself up on a pedestal to be praised, but I'm sharing my story for the benefit of anyone who may be looking to lose weight but feels overwhelmed and doesn't know where to begin.  I felt the same way a few weeks ago.  I would not be sharing this if I had not seen success, but I'm using my own experience as an example to show that this works (at least it has for me) if you stick with it.  Not only have I noticed the effects, but friends and family have noticed a difference too, and graciously offered compliments on my appearance or asked for details on how I was losing the weight in recent weeks.

How I started....
At my 6 week post-partum check-up, I brought up the weight issue.  My doctor recommended the Sugar Busters diet, suggesting that most people lose about 6 pounds per month, and I could reasonably expect to reach my goal (40 pounds) within 6-8 months.  I had heard of Sugar Busters but did not know the details.  I started researching it online that night and checked the book out from the library.  It's basically a modified Atkins diet, although the "right" type of carbohydrates are encouraged, while all refined sugars, white flours, corn products and potatoes are "no-no's".  Although I was not looking forward to saying "good-bye" to potatoes, I started the next day, thinking that I would follow the diet to a "T" for at least two weeks before giving up.  Well, 3 days later, I had lost 6 pounds and I was convinced.  By the end of the first two weeks I had lost the last 10 pounds of baby weight from the most recent pregnancy, and I could see a noticeable difference in my waistline.  The post-partum jeans I had bought a size larger than usual (because I didn't have any that fit comfortably) were tossed into the Goodwill pile because they were now noticeably big and baggy.  I finally fit back into my regular jeans, comfortably.  That convinced my to stick with it, even through Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

The Specifics
Sugar Busters is basically the recommended diet for diabetics.  While I didn't pay too much attention to the "science" behind it, it recommends that you eat foods that have a low glycemic index and avoid foods that have a high glycemic index because your body will convert any unused sugar into fat, resulting in extra pounds.   It does not require you to count calories or fat grams.  As a word of warning, many foods advertised as "low fat" have more sugars than their "regular" counterparts.  Simply eat a moderate portion of the recommended foods and avoid the discouraged foods.  Easy enough, right?

In addition to cutting out all obvious sugar (ice cream, Dr. Pepper & cookies), I also stopped eating all forms of potatoes (including chips), corn (including corn chips, cornstarch & cornmeal), fried foods, and white breads, flours, & pastas.  Brown rice and whole grain breads and pastas are allowed and encouraged, in moderation.  I was thrilled to discover that I could still make some of our favorite pasta dishes with whole grain pasta (Barilla Plus).  I also make my own whole grain bread and have started buying brown rice.

Sugar Busters encourages you to eat some fruit everyday, however no bananas or pineapple, as they are naturally very high in sugar.  I have kept a supply of apples and oranges that I typically eat with breakfast or lunch or for an afternoon snack.

They also recommend the following eating habits...
  • Nothing to eat after 8pm
  • Drink LOTS of water - Water will help keep your metabolism up throughout the day as well as help you feel full and prevent unnecessary snacking
  • Eat breakfast EVERYDAY - You've heard it all your life, and yes, it is that important.  This jumpstarts your metabolism for the day.
  • Cooking with olive oil mostly and sometimes canola oil
  • Portion control - Just because it's low sugar or whole grain doesn't mean you can turn dinner into an all you can eat buffet.  I usually use a small dinner plate and fill it without piling foods high or spreading onto the rim of the plate.  I only get seconds on salad or plain vegetables like green beans or broccoli. 
  • Avoiding processed frozen foods because many have hidden sugars
  • Eating at HOME instead of going through a drive-thru.  If I'm cooking it, I know exactly what's in it and can make necessary adjustments to make meals more Sugar Busters friendly.
Ideas for meals and snacks that have worked for me...
  • 1 1/2 scrambled eggs (I cook 3 and share with Charlie)
  • 1 slice whole grain toast with butter, 1/2 an apple or orange
  • 1 egg and 2 slices bacon (not sugar cured, if possible)
  • Sausage and egg scramble - I only eat this when Ezra cooks breakfast.  The sausage does have some sugar in it, but I don't eat it that often and I do not wrap it in a flour tortilla like the rest of the family.
  • 1/2 an apple or orange (split with kids), avocado slices, Triscuits
  • Chicken salad with grapes on whole grain bread or homemade wheat thins (store-bought have added sugar)
  • Homemade mac & cheese with whole grain pasta
  • Caesar Salad (with whole grain croutons, from my homemade bread)
  • Leftovers from dinner the night before
Dinner - At first I struggled with ideas for dinner, thinking that we would only be eating baked chicken, but after some research and reading labels, I discovered that we could still eat many of our favorites with just a few alterations.  Here are several that have been family-pleasing and met my dietary needs as well.
  • Chili with beans and cheese (no Fritos for me)
  • Taco soup or chicken tortilla soup with no corn (and no chips for me)
  • Shrimp or chicken pasta (whole grain pasta)
  • Sauteed or grilled shrimp
  • Baked or grilled fish
  • Baked or rotisserie chicken, seasoned
  • Taco salad (no chips for me)
  • Spaghetti (whole grain pasta), caesar salad
  • Steak (I usually cook mashed potatoes for everyone else) and asparagus
  • Pot Roast with carrots (again, I make potatoes for everyone else)
  • Hamburgers (whole grain bread for me)
  • Jambalaya (brown rice) 
  • Fried rice (brown rice)
  • Sauteed mushrooms and spinach (a favorite of mine that I usually fix as a substitute for potatoes or corn that the rest of the family is eating)
Snacks and Dessert - I only eat snacks if I am truly hungry, usually between lunch and dinner and I always drink a full glass of water with them to help fill me up.  I also pour out the recommended portion instead of just eating from the can/box until I get full.
  • Peanuts or Cashews
  • 1/2 apple or orange, handful of grapes
  • Triscuits (I had no clue they had different flavors now!  I like the parmesan garlic and four cheese.)
  • Dark chocolate - 1 or 2 pieces 
  • No sugar added ice cream - Usually after dinner, but it's hard to squeeze this in before 8pm, so most nights I go without.  I bought one carton during week 1 and it's about 3/4 gone, 10 weeks later.
Results to date
After following the dietary recommendations almost exactly for 10 weeks, I have lost 27 pounds...much better than the average 6 pounds a month that I was hoping for.  I am still looking to lose about 13 more pounds to reach my goal.  I'm not there yet, but seeing early results was extremely motivating for me to stay on track.  I recently ordered a pair of jeans a size smaller than what I was wearing, hoping to be able to wear them later in January or February; however, they fit perfectly the day they arrived!  So, at the suggestion of a friend, I went ahead and ordered another size smaller pair of jeans for continued motivation to reach my goal....well, they arrived today.  And they fit perfectly!  I don't feel nearly as bad about spending money on new clothes in a smaller size as I did buying clothes in a larger size 2 months ago!  I have successfully dropped 3 sizes, and even kept the weight off during the holidays, when I did take a few days off from strictly following the plan.

I also feel so much better physically!  I have more energy, and I haven't felt the need for a nap in the middle of the day, like I so often did (but rarely got) previously.  I really feel more healthy, which is important to me.  I have a husband and 5 children who depend on me, and I want to be there for them when they need me. 

Do I expect to stay on Sugar Busters for the rest of my life?  No.  I miss my chips and salsa and baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, hashbrowns....you get the idea.  However, it is an easy diet plan that has worked for me that does not have a monthly fee, special (unappetizing) meals that you have to purchase, points or calories to count, and I can easily start it back up again later if I feel the need to.  There are, however, some new habits that will be easy to stick with even when not strictly dieting....not eating past 8pm, cooking with whole grain pasta and olive oil, portion control and drinking water (instead of tea or soft drinks) regularly. 

I also need to add more exercise into my daily routine.  I've been saying that for weeks, but haven't had the motivation to do it yet! Although I am hoping to run a 5K in 2012, so I need to get started!

If I've peaked your interest, I highly encourage you to do more research either online or in the Sugar Busters book.  I will tell you that most critics of Sugar Busters do not deny the effectiveness of the plan, just that the nature of the diet tends to be low-calorie, resulting in weight loss, instead of the weight loss being a result of eating fewer sugars.  Honestly, I don't know the "why" or the "how."  Just that it has worked for me, I don't have to count calories, and I am not hungry all day long eating rice cakes.

Best of luck to anyone trying to lose a few pounds this year... I'm right there with you!  I'd be happy to answer any questions that you might have.

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