Friday, April 24, 2015

The Weight Loss Challenge

At the end of 2014 I was offered the opportunity to participate in an eight week (which turned into nine weeks, much to my chagrin) weight loss challenge with a group of people beginning in January. I had fallen victim to the food holidays and gained some weight I was not keen on retaining. I hesitated to sign up because there was an entry fee and I knew the odds of me being the big winner (or loser, as is the case of a weight loss challenge) were very slim. While I needed to lose some weight, it didn't seem like I needed to lose enough to result in a high percentage of weight loss. However, the fee was small enough that I could use it as motivation to stick with the challenge and there was the added benefit of accountability via a Facebook page which would certainly encourage me to stay on track. I am a competitive person so I knew I would at least try to end up in the top half in the standings.
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So on January 4th, the challenge began. I thought I ate pretty healthy to begin with (minus all of the sweets I ate in November and December) so I knew I needed to cut down on high sugar food. I cut out any after lunch treats (which the kids were forlorn about as I made it a family-wide rule to help me stay on track) and decided to try to keep dessert in the evenings to no more than every other night, but hopefully less frequently as my willpower allowed or as the lack of available calories remaining demanded (perhaps you do not have a sweet tooth, but I definitely do). I also saw a segment on the Today show saying that eating our kids' leftovers could lead to a seven pound gain over a year period so I decided to refrain from finishing their meals and only eat what I served myself.

The second week of the challenge I decided to use the My Fitness Pal app to track calories of foods as I was not very knowledgeable about that aspect. The app let me input my current weight, my goal weight and how much I wanted to lose per week. From that info it told me how many calories I ought to consume each day. I ended up using the app to input my exercise as well as water consumption.

I thought I might benefit from drinking the recommended amount of water each day. I knew it would help me to not be as hungry and perhaps I was a little dehydrated. Water was the only beverage I drank throughout the challenge (I did have some milk in my cereal snacks but it wasn't in a glass). I don't drink a lot of other beverages generally but I had gotten into drinking soda several times a week (and I only drink regular soda, not zero calorie) and I knew that could help me save some calories.

As a stay-at-home mom of at least one child who needs constant supervision, I knew that my exercise had to fit in to the hour and a half allotted for nap time (I was already getting up an hour before the kids to pray and read my Bible so I didn't want to get up any earlier and I wanted to be able to relax in the evenings) and take place within my house. I found some exercise videos on YouTube and our NBC Sports channel that ranged in length from 25 minutes to an hour. I decided that my initial goal was three times per week for at minimum 25 minutes each. As I got further in the challenge, I increased to exercising five days per week. Toward the end I chose to do a P90X video for added intensity and chose the lengthier exercise videos. I tried to do a different video each exercise day of a given week. Some I liked more than others so I did them for more weeks (but still just once per week).

I learned a lot through the experience. I became much more informed about the calorie content of food. I learned that getting enough water kept me from being prematurely hungry and that I could survive a few hunger pangs between breakfast and lunch without snacking as well as the pangs as my stomach adjusted to receiving smaller portions of food. I learned that I won't feel deprived if I eat healthier foods and make wiser choices in restaurants. I also learned that a cheat day does not mean "eat all the sweets I can see" unless I also want it to mean "do not lose any weight this week." I learned that being properly hydrated would significantly improve my eczema (hallelujah!). I learned that I can make time for exercise and that, as I'm aging, my body needs a healthy diet in addition to regular exercise to change and improve tone (I used to be able to eat whatever and then exercise well and be fine. Not anymore).

So what was the end result? I ended up in fifth place of about twenty people, missing 13 pounds from my body and about eight percent of my body weight. Not bad, right? I surpassed my personal goal weight which was the exciting part for me.
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It has now been approximately six weeks since the challenge and I have continued a lot of the habits I picked up. I don't eat as many carbs (specifically chips and other prepackaged food), eat more fruits and vegetables, try to drink plenty of water and continue to make exercise part of my weekly routine. I weighed myself a couple of days ago and found I had lost another pound even without using the app to track my calories. I'm hoping this means that I have developed a lifestyle with wise and healthy choices.

If you'd like to learn more about what I ate or the exercise videos I used during the challenge, I have a separate post with that information here. Please feel free to ask me any questions about my experience. I'm more than happy to share!

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