Friday, April 24, 2015

The Weight Loss Challenge: Diet and Exercise Specifics

Image courtesy of marin at
I participated in a weight loss challenge at the beginning of the year and ended up learning a lot about myself and about being healthy. I have been sharing my experience with quite a few people as I was so amazed at how well I did (not that I was not super glad when the pressure of competing was over and could relax a little). I'd like to share my experience here on my blog in case people I don't personally know might be able to benefit. This post is going to be about what I ate and how I exercised. To know what I learned from the experience, check out the other post here.

During the challenge I tried to stick with eating three regular meals with an afternoon snack and sometimes dessert in the evenings. Breakfast and lunch were both fairly monotonous which helped as dinner was different nearly every day. My goal for each day was 1450 calories (excluding exercise) in order to lose at least one pound per week.

Breakfasts before the challenge were usually a bowl of cereal with milk (unmeasured for serving size) and a container of yogurt. The cereal did not tend to stick with me until lunch and I often had a snack of some sort.

Breakfasts during the challenge focused on protein and fiber. Calorie count was generally between 275 and 400 calories, mostly less than 350.
*Two eggs scrambled with spinach, onion, green pepper and a tablespoon of cheese (sometimes other/additional vegetables or a little sausage or bacon as well), pear (orange, apple, melon, berries, etc), 16 oz of water
*One egg scrambled, a slice of American cheese, slice of cooked bacon on 1/2 whole wheat English muffin, Kroger carbmaster yogurt, 16 oz water
*1/2 cup oatmeal with 1 tbs raisins, 1tsp brown sugar and 1/4 cup milk, banana, 16 oz water

I either had fruit or yogurt with breakfast. I ate two egg scrambles unless I was having a bread product and then it was just one egg and a little bit of bread. Occasionally (usually on weekends) I would have pancakes or a biscuit with sausage gravy or a cinnamon roll but I recorded it all and tried to moderate the rest of the meals' calorie counts for the day.

Lunch before the challenge was either leftovers from previous dinners or a sandwich with a couple of carrots and hummus and some chips or pretzels. Often lunch was followed by a sugary treat.

Lunch during the challenge was small tweaks to the usual such as using one piece of bread instead of two for sandwiches and half of a piece of cheese, increasing the vegetable portion with more carrots or a salad with reduced calorie dressing, adding a fruit and eliminating the after-lunch dessert. I also tried to keep lunch under 400 calories most days.
*Salad (lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, spinach, snow pea pods) with grilled chicken, light ranch dressing, honeydew melon, 16 oz of water
*One slice of whole grain bread, 1/2 Tbs miracle whip lite, slice of tomato, lettuce, 1-2 oz turkey (or ham), 1/2 slice American cheese (sandwich), 1 cup of carrots, 1 apple, 16 oz water
*Salad (like above with the addition of corn, black beans and avocado as well as a little barbecue sauce mixed with ranch for a southwest salad), 16 oz water
*3/4 cup sauteed yellow squash and zucchini, 10 spears of grilled asparagus, 3 oz London broil, 1 Tbs steak sauce, 1/2 cup blueberries, 16 oz of water (this was dinner leftovers)

Dinner was different most evenings. The biggest thing for me was inputting all of the items into the app to determine calorie content which I used to decide on serving sizes for everything. I ate pretty normal things - hamburgers, lasagna, steak, barbecue, fish, shrimp. The majority of my meals were prepared at home which helped with regulating ingredients and calorie content. Whenever I ate out for any meal, I tried to look at the menu ahead of time to make wise selections.
*Two chicken soft tacos (homemade), 16 oz of water
*Side salad, light raspberry vinaigrette dressing, green beans with onion and bacon (1/2 cup), pan fried tilapia, 16 oz of water
*Side salad, light Italian dressing, chicken parmesan, sauteed squash, 16 oz of water
*1/2 cup baked beans, 1/4 rack pork spare ribs, 1 yeast roll, side salad, light Italian dressing, 16 oz of water
*Grilled salmon (5oz), roasted sweet potato (1 cup), fettuccine (1 oz), butternut squash pasta sauce (1/2 cup)
*Chicken and andouille sausage jambalaya, 16 oz of water
*1 1/2 cup Turkey barley vegetable soup, 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich, 16 oz of water
*Bacon wrapped dates, rabbit empanada, seared scallops with saffron risotto, chicken confit, French martini (this was date night/cheat night at a tapas restaurant - sooooo yummy!)

Many days I would have a mid-afternoon snack, especially on days when I exercised. It was usually a snack of less than 200 calories.
*Carbmaster yogurt with fresh strawberries
*Fruit (1/2 cup blueberries, banana, apple, orange, pear, plum, etc)
*1 oz almonds
* 3/4 cup Honey Bunches of Oats with 1/4 cup of milk
*Fat free cottage cheese and a cutie orange
*Ants on a log (celery w/ peanut butter and raisins)

On days when I could afford a sweet treat I tried to be reasonable in my portion size.
*Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein Bar (by Kind)
*1/2 cup ice cream
*2 inch lemon bar (homemade)
*1 chocolate chip cookie (homemade)
*Popcorn (1 cup)
*Serving size of packaged candy
*2 inch caramel turtle brownie (homemade)
*1 slice angel food cake (homemade)

As I mentioned in the other post, I had to fit my workouts in during nap time inside my house (usually in my living room but sometimes in the garage. I had max an hour and a half but wanted to allow a little time for cooling down and showering before the kids got out. I alternated between cardio videos, workouts with light weights and the occasional yoga routine. One of my television channels has 25 minute workouts from Radius. It was a fun variety - kickboxing, HIIT routines, boot camp, kettle bells. I had previously done Jillian Michaels' 30-day shred workouts and  added those to my regimen. I found a few longer and more intense workouts by Jillian on YouTube which are fantastic (Banish Fat Boost Metabolism, No More Trouble Zones and 6 Weeks 6-Pack Abs are highly recommended by me). If I was feeling on the sore side on a workout day I might do a cardio-only routine or yoga to help stretch the muscles. Doing such a variety of workouts really helped to keep my body from adjusting and plateauing. Toward the end I added P90X's plyometrics routine to the rotation for a great calorie burn and even more muscle confusion.

The final thing that I think really made a difference was trying to drink enough water to keep my body hydrated. My goal was fourteen 8 oz glasses per day. I have had pretty bad eczema on my hands for several years. My dermatologist said that it was aggravated by continuous hand washing which is hard to avoid with all the dishes from homemade dinner and diapers that need changing throughout the day. I had started wearing gloves to do the dishes but it didn't seem to help a lot even with the super strong ointment. A couple of weeks into drinking more water the dry skin cleared up and my hands looked normal again. I think it also helped to curb food cravings and kept me from wanting to eat too much at meals.

So that's what I did and lost thirteen pounds in nine weeks. Not a biggest loser stat but pretty impressive (I think) considering I didn't have a personal trainer, gym membership or nutritionist. And a lot of the habits have stuck. I used to order the grilled chicken sandwich combo at Chick-Fil-A every time. Now all I order is the grilled market salad with the berry balsamic dressing (it's so good that I don't feel like I'm depriving myself by not getting a sandwich and fries). I'm also sticking to a regular exercise routine. I feel like if I get off track in the future I now have the knowledge and tools to return to a healthy lifestyle.

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