Health Kick Chick

Join me on my laymen's journey towards better health. Eat. Move. Rest.

* Results not typical

We’ve all seen this disclaimer on everything from late night infomercials for  potions for frizzy hair to reputable weight loss companies.  However, the FTC decided late last year that this term must be removed from advertising for products, claiming that the advertising is deceptive and does not represent the average user.  So instead of seeing representatives for the best-case scenario, we’ll now see the typical user.

This is kind of defeating for me personally because I’ve worked really hard to be a *results not typical.  Now, it’s just a turn of phrase that many find confusing or confounding but for me it was the target I aimed for from the very beginning.  Why?  Because who wants to be average?  What’s inspirational about being ordinary?

I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for this phrase over the past few years as I’ve struggled with getting my eating and workouts in check.  Because at the end of the day, it’s easier to quit or half-ass your effort than it is to make decisions that’ll revolutionize your life.  Sure, I could sit on my butt and watch 30 Rock and Girlfriends reruns instead of doing strength training.  And it’s easier to stop at Chipotle for a Fajita Burrito than it is to shop for nutritious foods in the supermarket.  But it’s not always the better choice.  I make the tougher decisions that’ll get me closer to my goals.  Sometimes I succeed, others not so much.

But at the end of the day, I sure know that if I started any weight loss program at this point in time, seeing someone struggling on their journey also would not be motivating to me.  At all.  Give me the story about the guy who juggles a full-time job, taking care of his family, working and volunteering who carves out time to pack a lunch the night before and go to the gym at 5 am to get it in.  That, ladies and gentlemen is what we all tune in for, no?  I mean, would a show like the Biggest Loser even get any traction if everyone struggled and made little or no headway for 12 weeks?

Because that’s what the average weight loss is like.  Most people fail and restart several times.  Most people on maintenance regain some if not all of their weight within 18 months of losing it. Been there, done that, wrote the blog post.

I’m not about mediocrity, folks.   And I’m guessing you’re not either. We’re all about reaching for the stars (or in this case the asterisks): *results not typical here we come!


Point of No Return

My uncle flies planes and spoke about how there’s a certain point when you’re flying where you are notified that you are at the PNR or point of no return.  Literally, this is the point where you are at a point in your travel where you have your last chance to decide whether or not you’ll be able to successfully arrive at your destination or choose your backup plan.  If you’re in doubt, protocol says that you must default to your backup plan.

It makes me think of the point that all of us must reach in our weight loss journeys where we must decide if we will continue along or if we’ll chose an alternate path, whatever that may be.  At some point, we realize that we’re more than halfway to our goal and whatever choices we make will either bring us closer or lead us further away.  The PNR is a place of reflection or should be because the distance back to where you were is easier than getting to where you want to be.  Unlike aviation, our PNR is reversible.  Meaning, if we are not successful, we can pick up where we left off at another time.  Sometimes, though the danger and hazards of ignoring your PNR are too much to ignore.

I reached my PNR at some point last year when I decided that no matter what happened from that point on, I’d come too far to give up.  I try to fortify myself with success stories, good news, facts and even by looking at old pictures of myself.  Even though I get frustrated, sidetracked or even sometimes indifferent,  I have no choice.

Failure is not an option.

Send it back!

Last week, for the first time in a really long time, I treated myself to lunch.   Of course, I eat out but usually in the company of loved ones. But for monetary and sanitary reasons (usu. food poisoning) I prefer to cook my own meals.

I stopped into an Asian fusion restaurant that, ironically enough, my mother had just ordered lunch from.  As I scanned the menu, I decided to try the pineapple sauté with tofu since I really love the salty-sweet flavor combination.  I asked the waitress for brown rice instead of white and to bring the sauce separately. I’d already calculated how many calories I was willing to spend on this meal and with the sauce on the side, I’d be able to enjoy some miso soup, the rice, tofu, pineapples and veggies with a scant amount of sauce.

However, when she brought the dish to me, lovely as it looked, I could see that the tofu was deep-fried and drowning in the greasy syrup I was hoping to avoid.  As she placed it before me she winced and said “oops” in Cantonese.  Then she walked away.  I sat there for 5 full minutes thinking she was re-doing the order to my specification until the mâitr’e d asked why I wasn’t eating.  I mentioned, as kindly as I could, that I was waiting for my order to be brought to me.  He looked confused and called over the waitress.  She explained that she forgot that I’d made a special order.  Okay, so why did you realize it and then leave it sitting in front of me for 5 full minutes?

He then took over as my waiter and replaced my meal as she apologized and twittered about.  I’ve been a waitress before and I know that you live on tips.  I also know that when you mess up, you fix it.  So, unfortunately for her, the tip was scaled downward.  Her little mistake would’ve cost me 650 calories and that’s unacceptable.

Once the proper meal was returned to me, I savored every delicious morsel.  It was well worth the fuss:

A few years ago, I would’ve eaten the meal in silence but now I realize that when I’m not the one in the kitchen I have to be extra vigilant about what I consume–especially when one mistake is equivalent to an entire other meal’s worth of calories.

I just hope they didn’t spit in my food.

Will I Regain the Weight I’ve Lost? (a.k.a. Everything in Moderation)

This article talks about the very thing that I think is the reason so many people regain all the weight they lose: because they live their lives to one side of the pendulum or another.  An all or nothing approach to weight loss will get old quickly.

The first time I truly dedicated myself to losing weight, I went to the supermarket armed with a certain popular printout of go-to diet foods from a woman we’ll call FamishedGirl.  Most of the foods on that list were processed within an inch of their life and full of food with little or no nutritional value–but they were low calorie.  And really, aren’t all calories created equal?

However, I got night sweats at the thought of never eating cheesecake or fried breadfruit ever again.  So, I decided that whatever path I embarked on would have to allow me eat what I wanted and still lose.  In time, I realized that I did crave Cheez Doodles but I also craved fresh blackberries.  Moderation is, as far as this HKC is concerned, the pillar of any successful lifestyle change.

This isn’t Biggest Loser, folks this is life.  Some days will be better than others and then you have to get up and try again the next day.  You just have to. Because, really, what are your options?  Time will pass regardless and wouldn’t you rather be a work in progress than stagnant?

So, guided by the ever popular weight loss mantra “don’t do anything while losing that you can’t sustain on maintenance”, I’m seeking balance and moderation.

Eat. Move. Rest

Nutrition from the Ground Up

A few weeks ago, my friend Christine asked me if I’d been physically active all my life.  Instantly, I said “no”.  Then, as we were talking I remembered growing up playing hopscotch, double Dutch, tag, hide and go seek and about a million other active games that didn’t include a gaming console.  I also remembered how in high school for one season I was on the softball team and the other 3 years, I took a class with no-nonsense Ms. Mushroom (my nickname for her since she was short, stumpy and had a bowl cut hairdo).  Her gym class made you suffer but by the end of semester even those who put in minimal effort were 20 lbs lighter.  I’d also remembered riding my bike and walking everywhere with my family and friends.  Then I remembered how I used to work out with ESPN’s Cory Everson and the BodySculpting team. Somehow I’d forgotten about this.   So, naturally I revised my answer.

Then I wondered how I still managed to be so chubby–and eventually fat if I was eating a fairly healthy, pescatarian diet.  My mom grew a lot of our produce and kept fairly healthy foods in the house like raw nuts and whole wheat bread while banishing soda and junk food.  Like most kids, though I still snuck in the occasional bag of Reese’s cups or Cheez Doodles from the store but that still didn’t account for the rest of my diet.  Or why, despite the fact that I worked out 5 times a week I still only lost a few lbs a year.

Along the way, I decided to overhaul my diet including keeping an eagle eye on my calorie intake and trying to eat more whole foods.  To me, whole means that I can pronounce every item listed on the ingredient list and educate myself about the ones I didn’t know.  For example, I eliminated foods with “tocopherol” listed in the product thinking it sounded vaguely carcinogenic…only to find out that it was the scientific word for good ol’ Vitamin E.

Learning more about where my foods came from and what they were made with made me realize that processed foods are usually only created for the sake of profit, not nutrition.  I didn’t want my health to be overrided by some corporate conglomerates need to turn a profit.  That meant that though the artificial sweeteners I’d used to shave off a few calories were touted as being “made from sugar” didn’t make it a natural ingredient.  I returned to sweeteners like honey and Demerara sugar from my youth that were minimally processed and full of flavor and micronutrients.  Micronutrients are our friend.

I also educated myself about “diet” foods and the role they play in the obesity epidemic.  Foods with marketing keywords like “enriched/fortified” or “whole grain” or my personal favorite, ” “with more fiber!” scare me now.  I know that enriched/fortified foods are stripped of essential nutrients during processing and a cheap vitamin powder is added back to replace what has been lost.  While this may sound like a fair trade off, think of the health benefits lost from processing white bread that can’t be found in any vitamin powder like amino acids that help keep your heart healthy or fiber that keeps your colon happy.

Think of how “whole grain” is an empty term further diminished when you realize that a closer inspection of the label does not reveal any grains on the ingredient list–and no wheat flour does not mean “whole or multi-grain.”  Did you know that many manufacturers skimp on whole grains and simply color the food with molasses or other brown colorings to create a healthy appearance?  Don’t even get me started on the glut of children’s cereals with as much as 56% sugar that claim to be made with whole grains.

And since the FDA recommends that American’s need 21-38 grams of fiber daily, it has become a trendy ingredient added to everything from artificial sweeteners to dairy.  Be especially cautious with fiber because the added fiber is usually commercial grade added to appeal to consumers and legally lower the calorie count of foods can cause painful bloating or worse if over consumed.  Added fiber hides under a multitude of names like inulin, ogliofructose, chicory root fiber or oat fiber.  While these foods may be fine in moderation, be aware that if you’re transitioning away from processed foods that these powdered fiber additives are chemical derivatives.  Also realize that even a slice of a typical whole wheat bread has roughly 2.5 grams of fiber per slice.  However, a popular fiber-added whole wheat bread boasts 7 grams of fiber per slice and looking at the ingredient label it’s easy to see why:

I write all this to say that you have to be making educated decisions about what goes into your body.  Trusting manufacturer claims is dangerous as your choices directly affect your health.  Know what’s on your shelves and in your food.

Before meets after

Sorry about the long delay.  I just haven’t been in a bloggy mood recently.

I just wanted to recap what happened this weekend that really reinvigorated me.  A few days ago, I was talking to a woman who we’ll call M. who has only known me at my current size/weight.  Like hundreds of thousands of women, M. is a single mom, juggling home, work and school while trying to maintain a healthy body to support her lifestyle. She’d commented that after having her last baby she’d put on a lot of weight but didn’t realize how much until she went for her mandatory annual physical for her job.  When the nurse read off the weight, she was surprised because she hadn’t weighed herself in over a year and didn’t realize she’d put on 20 lbs since her last weigh in.   I told her that I know how that feels because at some point when I started ballooning, I’d refuse to step on the scale–even going so far as to bully the nurses into not telling me my weight once I’d stepped off the scale.

Now, as part of my journey I weigh myself weekly.  Once I step off the scale I can reflect on the past week or two and think about ways to tweak my diet and exercise accordingly.  Either way, instead of demonizing the scale I use it as information and not a condemnation.  The scale only tells part of the story of my weight loss journey and I know that I am more than just my weight.

Back to M.  M. didn’t believe I’d ever struggled with my weight (not a struggle so much as a complete resignation).  She thought I was naturally thin but when I showed her my “before” pictures, her eyes grew wide and she gasped.  While I’m proud of how far I’d come and look at my pictures as a part of my story, I didn’t realize that it would have that kind of effect on someone else.  It made me regretful and self-conscious at the same time.  Thoughts raced through my head like ‘did people used to do that behind my back?’, ‘was I the person everyone used as a cautionary tale?’, ‘what did I look like to others?’  I’m glad I didn’t have these thoughts back then because being overweight is judgment enough in the real world; I didn’t need to add insecurity to my list of issues.

When M. finally closed her mouth and looked back at me she said “you should be proud of yourself, for what you’ve done.”  You know what?  I am.

No cottage cheese, please

When I first started my weight loss journey, I decided that I’d eat real foods that I thoroughly enjoyed–even if it meant eating less of it.  But under no circumstances would that include my arch nemesis.

My memories of cottage cheese revolve around being an overweight tween and having diet books handed to me that always started off the suggested breakfast menu with the ever delicious combination of 1/2 c cottage cheese and hard boiled egg whites.  Blech!  What’s worse is my grandmother who I lived with always had it on hand and snuck it into everything from Ritz Cracker sandwiches to omlettes.  This runny mess and I always met against my will with it’s curds an ever-present reminder of what it meant in the 1980’s and early 1990’s to lose weight.

I like cottage’s more sophisticated Italian cousin ricotta and will gladly eat a variety of other cheeses with much delight.  But I just can’t stomach this hog food (I will put a pox upon the house of anyone who suggests that I eat more dairy and consider cottage cheese as a snack because “it tastes good”.  Liar!)

I’ve managed to cut calories by eating smaller portions, reduced fat or even fat free dairy when appropriate (but never cheese).  I’ve managed to lose weight and keep it off without eating foods that I don’t like or wouldn’t be able to eat for the rest of my life.  Including cottage cheese