Weight Loss Tools

Well, we are a few weeks in to 2015! How are your new year’s resolutions going? Are you still on track? If your goal was to lose weight this year, I hope you are finding your groove and settling in to your new routine.

I think there are a lot of different ways to approach weight loss. Weight Watchers is a great program and I think it’s one of the best options out there (although I never did WW). It teaches you portion control and how to eat in a healthier way in the “real world” as opposed to a Jenny Craig type program where you only eat their food.

Whatever your path, here are a few tools that can help you along your way:

Scale

I know, I know, the dreaded scale. If you can get away with losing weight and not using a scale–just go by measuring and how clothes fit–more power to you. You’re probably better off. But for most of us, a scale is a necessary evil. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of factors that go into weight loss and health and they can’t all be measured in a number. But this is a good place to start to track your progress.

If you can, find one of those fancy scales that don’t show the number. They sound fantastic and someday I’d like to have one. Basically you set up the scale, weigh yourself, then put in your goals. The next time you step on the scale it will tell you your progress without telling you your actual weight. I like the concept–I think it’s healthier emotionally than seeing a number and feeling devastated but instead you see that you lost a percentage of your weight compared to the last weigh in.

No matter what you decide to get, make it a habit to weigh yourself consistently. Whether it’s once a week or every other week or once a month, try and be consistent: same time of day, before eating or drinking any water. Keep a journal or track the progress in some way.

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Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve talked a lot about heart rate monitors on this blog. I never had one while I was losing weight and I kind of wish I’d had. I think it could have spend up some of the weight loss. What the HRM did for me was twofold: 1) It taught me to TRAIN SMARTER and 2) It gave me better accuracy in the gym.

With training smarter, I noticed it first with running. It taught me how to pace myself. It really did teach me how to run. When I first started running I thought it was “run as fast as you can as long as you can” and that’s not right. Or healthy. Or effective training. The heart rate monitor taught me how to pace myself and stay within the zone for extended periods of time. I am such a better athlete because of my HRM.

With the accuracy, I finally knew how many calories I was really burning. The cardio machines aren’t accurate at all, even putting in my age and weight. And when I don’t do machines, I want to know how many calories I’m burning lifting weights or doing body weight exercises. It helps knowing the actual number.

Read this old post for more details: Polar Heart Rate Monitor Tutorial.

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Food Diary App/Journal

I think tracking is THE number one way to lose weight. Being aware, being consistent, being HONEST with food tracking WILL work. The trick is to be honest with portions and calories you are consuming. If you aren’t honest in your journal, you won’t see weight loss. And this is something I know well!

There are a ton of free options out there. I know that Spark People was a really popular website for people. If you are on the go and want something that you can use anywhere, a smart phone app is probably the best choice. I use My Fitness Pal and I know that Lose It is also a really popular app.

The reason I think a calorie app or food journal is so important because it’s right in your face. It makes you be aware. You are aware of calories in food, you are aware of what you are eating, you become aware of what food makes you feel good and what food does not. Tracking your calories will show you where you need more work (for me, it’s sugar). If you get an app that breaks down your intake you can see if you’re eating enough protein and fiber, if you’re eating too much sugar (ME!), if you are deficient in vitamins. It’s just all around a great tool to help you in your journey.

Check out these old post for some more suggestions:

How Do You Track?

How to Count Calories

The Battle of The Calorie Counters.

 

Water Bottle

I am always trying to drink more water. I am so bad at this, but I’m getting better. Having a large water bottle at work that sits right next to my computer reminds me throughout the day.

Drinking water is a good thing all around, but if you are trying to lose weight drinking more water can be essential. It fills you up. It takes the edge off hunger pains. How often have you thought you were hungry and you mindlessly munch of snacks when in reality you were just thirsty? I’ve done that many times. Listening more carefully to body cues can help with weight loss (am I REALLY hungry? Or just bored? Thirsty? etc).

My tip would be to ditch the sodas, the juice, etc, stop drinking your calories and switch to water.

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Food Scale

This has done so many great things for my weight loss. For a long time I just went off the nutritional labels and then eye-balled portions. Portion sizes have always been my downfall and you can go along, thinking you’re doing great and then discover you’ve been tracking for 1 serving when really eating 2 or 3! No wonder weight loss wasn’t happening. For awhile I did the food measuring with measuring cups. This is better than eye-balling it and guesstimating, but it’s still not perfect.

A food scale was so eye opening for me. We got one a few years ago and one of the first things I used it for was cereal. The box says a serving size is 3/4 of a cup or 1 cup. Okay cool. I measure out a cup and think I’m doing ok. Then I used a food scale and measured out the serving according to grams (per the nutritional label) and HOLY COW. I had been eating way more than I thought!! (Read this post: M is for Measuring Mistakes!)

A food scale is fantastic. If you buy ONE THING to help in your weight loss goals, this would be the one I’d recommend.

Finally, if you’re new to my blog, check out this weight loss series I did a few years ago:

How to Lose Weight Series: 

Week OneWeek One Check In

Week Two , Week Two Check In

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Five Truths of Maintenance

Hope it helps jump start your weight loss resolutions!

How Do I Look? Or, How Do I Feel?

I’m pretty sure my boyfriend hates that time of the month.

Nope, not THAT time. It’s the one time of the month that I weigh myself. I’ve been doing the once a month step on the scale for about 3 or 4 years now. I had to limit it because I was getting a little too obsessed with whatever that number was and I let it ruin my whole day. It could have been +1 pound (probably water retention) but I still let it totally deflate me. It wasn’t a healthy cycle to get into and since I was pretty much maintaining (within 2-3 pounds both ways), I didn’t NEED to get on the scale every week. In fact, I found that my weight always leveled out and remained the same when I let the hormonal flux each week even out on it’s own. Weighing once a month meant I never saw that 3 pound boost of pre-hormonal water retention. It was like it never happened!

Weighing in once a month took away that obsession with the scale. Or at least, for 3 weeks of the month. Having a set time and day that I weigh each months means that I can check in with myself, catch any slip-ups that might mean I need to reign in the food, and it’s consistent. I was between 143-145 for nearly 4 years.

So why does Michael hate that time of the month? The day (and let’s be honest, sometimes the day before I weigh in) I see that number STILL fills me with anxiety. I anticipate it–“I have to weigh myself this Thursday.” UGH. It’s only Monday but I see that day coming quickly and I start to dread it. I feel like a whiny kid that doesn’t want to do their chores. I just don’t WANNA! But I have to. It’s my check-in.

Depending on what that number is, it can still ruin whatever good body image feelings I’ve been having. I cannot tell you how many times I’m thinking “I feel really good about my body today!” And then I see the number on the scale and that feeling is gone. Replaced with disappointment, sometimes sadness, sometimes self-loathing…but only if I don’t catch myself quickly enough to stop the negative spiral of thoughts. Poor Michael. He has to deal with me throwing a mini temper tantrum in the bathroom if I don’t like that number. He says the same thing every time I don’t like that number: “You’re fine. You haven’t gained weight. It’s water/it’s muscle” etc etc. I appreciate that he says that, but honestly I hate that he feels like he has to and half the time I don’t hear him anyway. I’m stuck in my own thoughts.

For the most part this isn’t an issue. It’s not an every month kind of thing. Just lately. I was doing really well for a long time and when I stopped basically all the cardio I was doing in March of this year (knees again), I started to see my weight go up a little bit. It wasn’t hitting the danger zone yet, but it wasn’t making me happy.

Yet I was seeing such awesome results in the gym! My shoulders were sculpted. My biceps were bigger, my triceps were more toned and slender. I felt like my core strength had increased and I was almost up to a minute doing a plank (honestly, I get bored after awhile and quit instead of keeping the pose to see how far I can go). I saw a picture of myself recently in my cycling jersey and thought, “Wow, my waist looks really slender and my stomach is smaller.” AND my pants are still fitting. I haven’t felt like I’ve grown out of the sizes I’ve worn for 5 years.

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Why, then, do I let myself get so bent out of shape about that stupid number that I see once a month? Sadly, this is probably something I will always struggle with. But I’m working on focusing on the positives (my clothes fit, I like how I feel, etc) and not focusing on the negatives.

Can you focus on how you feel and not how you look (or how much you weigh)?