Diet, Fitness

A Backward Glance: Reviewing my Journey Since January 2017

The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come. (Anonymous)

MyFitnessPal informed me today that I have logged for 95 days in a row and I realized that it has been exactly 3 months since I began my Journey Past January. While I’m nowhere near the end of this process, I do think it’s good to look back to see progress and learn from mistakes. Specifically, I’m looking back on how my diet has changed, how my physical activity has transformed, and what are my best resources. Read on for my glance back.

Diet

At the beginning of my journey, I decided that I wasn’t looking for a diet; I was looking for a way to adapt my lifestyle for the better. I didn’t want a diet that would help me shed 150lbs and then never be able to enjoy food again. I get enjoyment from food. It’s not the only pleasure in life, but there’s a reason we care about seasoning, texture, and consistency.

So yes, maybe drinking three shakes per day or cutting food groups from my diet would have sped up my weight loss, but it would have reduced my quality of life in the long run. When speaking to a weight-loss doctor about this, he shared with me his belief that our healthiest weight is one where we can live life to the fullest and still enjoy eating. When he explained further, he stated that our healthiest weight had to be a balance of body fat percentage (which is waayyy better than BMI) and being able to enjoy life. This really stuck with me as I figured out food and what works for me.

I started my journey by planning every single morsel of food I would consume. This worked for the first month, but ultimately, it’s hard to plan what I’m going to be in the mood for. I still try to have a general idea of my lunches and dinners each week, but I’m definitely more flexible now. I love to look up new recipes and try them out. And I plan for busy nights like evenings when I have dance and can’t be home at dinnertime. Those are the nights I plan to try crock pot recipes or casseroles.

When it comes to macros, I’ve also learned about how they affect me and what my body needs. I started the year thinking that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, but that’s not the case. All calories are not created equal. Volumetrics and clean eating really come into play here. For example, a bag of low-sodium turkey jerky versus a frozen pasta meal. Both are 150 calories, but the jerky takes longer to eat, has few carbohydrates, more protein, and doesn’t feel “diet”. This isn’t the usual carrots versus fries-type argument, but it’s one of the choices I’ve made.

I’ve changed my macros a few times since starting. I’ve stayed with about 1250 calories per day, however. Initially, I gave carbohydrates the most room in my diet (as MyFitnessPal automatically does) which was 50% carbs.  This was fine, but was not really helping my feelings of afternoon fatigue, bloating, and carb dependence. Slowly I transitioned to an almost ketogenic/low carb diet. I saw more weight loss with this diet, but it was hard to maintain with low calories as well. A ketogenic diet basically entails eating low carbohydrates (20-50gm/day), high fat, and moderate protein. It works really well for some people, but I’ve also seen that some people notice that it causes hormonal imbalances and trouble concentrating. I found that eating high fat made me nervous and that I generally craved more protein. I also talked to a few post-keto friends who felt that it had affected their metabolisms after they lost the weight. I really didn’t want to get into that territory so I started changing again.

It took some time, but I finally found that my most comfortable macro split is 40% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 30% fat. It’s low carb enough that I don’t feel extra tired or bloated, but not so low that I worry about brain function or metabolism. I also love that extra protein with all my workouts.

I know that I’ll adjust my eating more in the future. I’ve already done it a few times when the need arose. For example, I was feeling on the verge of getting sick a couple of weeks ago and was preparing for my big dance show so I increased my calories to 1400 and added a few more servings of veggies to my days. It really helped to stave off the cold, though I eventually succumbed when everything was over and I went back to 1250 too soon. I do find that not enough calories can be a problem sometimes when I’m eating a lot of veggies so that is something I am currently working through. MyFitnessPal is a great resource here because it won’t let me close my diary for the day unless I’ve logged more than 1000 calories. Sometimes it’s annoying to have to eat a banana and peanut butter or some oatmeal before bed, but I know my body needs it.

I think that’s the thing I’ve really learned the last three months: listening to my body. I don’t eat if I’m not hungry. I drink water before meals to actually determine if I’m thirsty, not hungry. I have a nice big bready sandwich once a week when I feel depleted and need some carbs. I try really hard to listen to my body. It’s taken some time to figure out the signs and what they mean, but the difference is so worth the confusion and crankiness!

Physical Activity

I’m so lucky to have a great workout partner. My big brother has been working out and bodybuilding for about eight years now and he joined my gym in the fall so we could work out together. He’s so positive and patient with me during our workouts and I owe a lot of my gym breakthroughs to him.

I spend the first month following him through each workout and copying everything he did. This was great for my form, strength, and confidence in the gym. He cares about protecting your back and optimizing every move for the best workout possible so he instilled those things in me. But the most valuable thing he instilled in the importance of learning. He learned all of his gym knowledge through lots of reading, Youtube videos, trial and error, and cold, hard research. He spent time learning about muscle groups, joints, what muscles do what, the cardiovascular system, and so on.

When I felt confident with our workouts, I started looking at parts of my body I wanted to strengthen and tone. Not spot training so much as caring about specific muscle groups and how they work for me. Of course my booty was high on the list, as well as my lower chest muscles, my lower abdomen, and my lats (the muscles under my armpits). While my brother worked some of these groups, things like a big, round butt are not on his set of fitness goals. This is when I started my own research. I started with Pinterest and eventually found my way to Bodybuilding. Along the way, I also looked at other people working out in the gym. The woman with the amazing hourglass figure did these weird leg lifts so I looked into those and found she was strengthening the lower glute muscle for a high butt. Another woman who has amazing tone to her lower abdomen did a lot of workouts where her legs would lift a medicine ball up and down. I started incorporating the things I was learning into my workouts and made it my own. I still ask for help from my brother and we work out every day together, but I’ve learned how to adjust and add where I need to.

Working out more has also had an effect on my fitness goals. When I started, I wanted to be skinny. Full stop. I didn’t have any idea what that meant for my body or my shape or my fitness level. After working out for three months, I know that I want to be strong and lean. Where’s the fun in skinny when I can be fit. I know that I want to keep wider hips and work for a leaner waist and I understand the mechanics of working out to achieve that goal. I finally have a vision of what I want from my body. This journey is about so much more than being “smaller” and I’m finally learning that.

I’d be lying if I said the gym was the only place I found fitness. My dance classes with Army of Sass have made such a difference to what I want from my body. I dance for at least three hours each week and it’s added another layer to my fitness routine and my goals. I do a mix of cardio, strength, and stretching during my classes and it’s been amazing to see improvements. I’ve added flexibility and balance to my fitness goals because I know the effect those things have on my dancing and progress.

Snow White Profile Picture.

Playing Snow White in our last show was also a really great way to stay motivated during the last three months. Every time I wanted to give up at the gym or eat something unnecessary, I thought about how I wanted to feel onstage. Talk about a wake-up call. In the end, I wasn’t a small as I wanted to be, but I did every move in our choreography and I trusted my body.

In general, I’ve realized that exercise is a small part of weight loss. As the saying goes, you can’t outrun a bad diet. However, the strength, the confidence, and the mental clarity I get from working out are incredible! Working out in the morning helps me stay on track all day. Even emotionally, working out is amazing. There just isn’t room for sadness or anger when you’re holding 150lbs on your shoulders; the only thing that matters is that bar coming back up. And when that weight is off, those emotions are usually a little easier to deal with.

My Best Resources

There are a looooot of resources out there for people looking to lose weight and get fit. There are thousands of books, apps, weight-loss programs, Youtube videos, Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and more. It’s hard to know where to start. I’ve explored a lot of options, but my best ones have been there since the beginning.

  1. MyFitnessPal – So easy to log everything and give and get encouragement from others, including friends. This app gives you a great overview of your day and even estimates how much you’ll weigh in five weeks based on your day. (Shrinking_Kathryn)
  2. Instagram – I have a second Insta account just for my weight loss journey (Shrinking_Kathryn) and it is a great way to build a community of like-minded individuals who share support, information, tips, and personal experiences.
  3. Bodybuilding.com – A great resource for everything fitness.
  4. SkinnyTaste – I’ve talked about it before, but this is a great resource for recipes and inspiration.
  5. Pinterest – I love Pinterest! It’s great for recipes, workouts, motivation, and lots more!
  6. Reddit – There are a number of subreddits which are dedicated to weight loss and fitness. The community is usually supportive and you can lurk or post; whatever works for you.

Really, it takes research and trying things out to know what works. I got lucky in that I found all of these quite quickly, but I know that there are other great resources out there.

I don’t use all of them every day, but I usually get to each once a week at least. My most common one is MyFitnessPal which I do use every day. They’re all great for different things. The most I surround myself with positivity and support, the better I do.

Cold Hard Progress

So all in all, I’m happy with how I’m doing. I’ve lost 27.4 lbs, I can run for a few minutes at a time, I’ve lost inches all over my body, dropped a size or two (depending on the store), and I feel strong. I can’t wait to see where I’m going to be in three more months.

 

How are you doing in 2017? Have you learned a lot about your body? Any hard hurdles to get over? Comment below.

 

Thanks for reading,

Kathryn

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