I've had a lot of questions lately from blog readers about what exactly my exercise routine is, and what exactly am I eating. I am going to tell you what I am doing, and what is working for me, but know this: I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I'm a graphic designer and a scrapbooker. You have been warned.
When I started to Live My Best Life (thank you, Oprah), I started out taking some big steps and some baby steps, but all were of the non-negotiable sort.
First, I joined Weight Watchers online. Now, I'd like to say this: having recently read Women, Food and God, I do get the author's premise that diets don't work. I mean, I get it in theory, but when I'm facing the prospect of getting a handle on horrible eating habits, I require guidelines. Plus, when I had a physical last December, my doctor basically said that Weight Watchers is really the only diet she endorses, because it really is a common-sense, physics based approach. Eat less, move more.
Weight Watchers helped me to get a handle on just how much food I was eating. It also helped me to realize that just because a food only has one point (think Weight Watchers Giant Fudge Bars) it doesn't mean that I should be putting it, and all of its bizarre, unpronounceable ingredients into my body.
It helped me to find some foods I really love (Green Giant Steamers frozen broccoli, string cheese and freeze dried strawberries from Trader Joe's) and to find ways to fill out my day with healthier, less processed choices.
It also helped me to start eliminating sugary stuff from my diet, which is never pleasant or easy, but once you get a week or two under your belt, you realize you CAN live without tons of sugar in your life.
But then there was the "move more" part. I knew I had to get moving and I knew it needed to be a concerted effort, not just a "Oh, I think I'll go for a walk this afternoon," or a, "I'll walk Cole to basketball practice instead of drive" kind of approach.
I knew I had to commit to exercise. Daily exercise. Sweat inducing exercise. The kind of exercise that for most of my life I have almost completely avoided.
I knew I wouldn't make it at a health club. Being self-employed, while a wonderful way to earn a living, also means about a two-hour round trip to the gym. And that translates to two hours you can't bill a client. I also didn't like the idea of working out around people. I needed something immediate and accessible. I had an ancient treadmill in my basement, so that's where I began. Walking for four minutes at 3.2 mph, then jogging for 1. Every. Single. Day.
Eventually, I bought a new treadmill and worked my way up to 20 minutes of jogging (still no faster than 3.5 miles per hour mind you) and slowly but surely, weight was beginning to come off. Along with that, however, came a bit of knee pain, and that's when I realized (with a little helpful input from my athletic, personal-trainer friend Lisa Cohen): you need to cross train.
Enter Jillian Michaels and The 30-Day Shred. I decided to do this workout 3 days each week. At first, I am not going to lie, I thought I was going to die. Literally. That Dan would come home and find me prone, on the floor, dead from doing knee push ups. But true to what Jillian promised, after a week or so of doing it, it got slightly more do-able.
Then, with my running steadily increasing to 30 minutes by April, I went completely out of character and joined a group fitness class. Zumba, to be exact. For the first three weeks, I was giddy with the fact that not only could I keep up with the class, but it was yet another fitness activity I was working in.
Then, the side of my foot said: you are doing just a little too much, Cathy. Sorry.
No more Zumba for you. No more jumping jacks with Jillian. It's time to dial it back a bit. Take it to the previous level, if you will.
So I decided to add in bike riding (which my foot and knees greatly appreciated), modify my running to 3 days a week, and take at least one day off.
And that brings me to where I am today.
As far as what I eat, here's a typical day:
Breakfast: fat free yogurt, bowl of mixed fresh fruit, black coffee or tea
Lunch: a big steaming bowl of broccoli (no butter or butter spray, with a little Penzey's Seasoned Salt sprinkled on it), light string cheese, and a toasted piece of Flat Out Bread. (I realize that Flat Out Bread has many ingredients that don't occur in nature, but it is the one diet-y food I allow myself. And I love it. Very filling and tasty when toasted.) If this seems like a light lunch, you're correct. It is. I like to save my points for spending at dinner time. It's just how I roll.
Snack: Oregon Chai Latte, and some fruit. (The Oregon Chai latte is the best treat of my day. That's where I embrace sugar to the fullest and feel no guilt. I also don't record the two points it's worth. I know, a little rogue of me, but it is what it is.)
Dinner: this varies, obviously, but I look for lean proteins, lots of veggies and some type of healthy grain. I try to keep it interesting, but there are weeks when I just grill some marinated chicken, make some steamed veggies and a side of jasmin or brown rice and say, "Done!"
Snack: most nights after dinner I have another yogurt, and some fruit, and then some freeze dried strawberries for a treat. Lately, I've been saving points to have some graham crackers, or a bowl of Pirate's Booty. I usually end my day around 23 points right now. I'm supposed to be at 20, but a 30 minute run will get you 4 activity points, so I am eating more than recommended to give my body the fuel it needs.
Some of you may think: and that's it? And my answer is this: that's it. And that is the reality if you are trying to shed weight, something's gotta give.
Are there better choices I could be making? Sure. Yoplait Fat Free yogurt may be low in calories, but it's high in high fructose corn syrup. I am making changes as I am ready to make them.
In short, I am consciously eating less and moving more and I have lost almost 30 pounds to date. Tomorrow is my weigh in day and maybe I will hit that 30-pound mark, maybe I won't. But one thing I do know: this is a lifestyle. If I choose not to do this, my body will respond accordingly.
I will also tell you this: I am learning to like exercise. I like that it makes me feel strong. I like that it reminds me that being in my 40s doesn't have to be a limitation. That if something hurts, I can try something else to keep that heart pumping. I don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I am actually beginning to feel like an athlete of sorts. And that is pretty cool.
Remember, I'm not an expert. This is my story and this is what's working for me.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's Friday, and I have a date with my treadmill.