It figures.

After posting yesterday about my program and how great I’ve been doing at it, and how I’ve been following it so closely and not cheating I weighed in this week to find… a 2 pound gain. That makes no mathematical sense. I think my body is working against me some days. Working against physics, even!

You know, I should have expected it. Every single time I’ve tried to lose some weight in the last few years I get great results the first week or two then a gain and stubborn refusal to budge, no matter what I do.

So now I’m struggling to figure out the right course forward. Double down and eat even less/exercise even more? Try the paleo thing and replace the morning hot cereal with poached eggs, and find a grain-free lunch option?

Stay the course? Have a “free day” on the theory that maybe my metabolism has just decided I’m starving myself? Although a total of 1300 to 1500 calories a day is hardly considered starvation level.

This gets me every time. Even though I was sort of expecting it, it’s just as demoralizing every time it happens. Ever since I turned 35, it’s been like a hard halt at 200 for me. So depressing.


Greetings from Iceland!

Tonight I’m in a little village in the East Iceland fjords. I’ve seen a lot of amazing stuff so far, some of them the fulfillment of lifelong dreams, so I’d say I’m having a perfect vacation.

Couple of things I’ve had to adjust on managing my weight:

1. My normal travel strategy is to hit a fruit and vegetable market for snacks as I’m traveling. Well, in a country where most of the fruits and vegetables are shipped in, or grown in greenhouses, the fruit and veggies for sale are either sad and old or prohibitively expensive. (actually, I’ve only seen the former kind, haven’t even seen any locally-grown produce yet, greenhouse or otherwise). Time to be flexible! For breakfast I usually have some muesli with skyr, which is an Icelandic milk product similar to yogurt but non-fat and very low in calories – utterly delicious! For lunch I try to eat at a cafe that has a soup option, a bowl of soup and a roll is usually all I need to keep going. And for dinner – when on an island, eat the fish! The seafood here is amazing! I’ve had lobster, cod, blue ling (I dunno anymore about it than that, it was the special so I ordered it), Atlantic char, and um, a few others. Can’t go wrong getting the fish in Iceland.

2. There’s no artificial sweetener to be found anywhere. It’s sugar or nothing. So I’m drinking my coffee a lot less sweet these days.

3. I keep moving a lot more on vacation than at home, so I hardly even notice the time pass, which means I’m looking around to graze a lot less often. This has spurred me to try to pay more attention when I’m back at home and at work to see if I’m eating out of boredom or true hunger.

Lots of walking every day, hiking up and down seeing glaciers, geysers, volcanoes and puffins! Oh, and here’s a picture I took yesterday in a grocery store – I call it “accurately labelled junk food.” —->

And speaking of sweetened beverages, several people I know have posted this article about high-fructose corn syrup, and how it prompts more weight gain than regular sugar as a sweetener. This is certainly something to bear in mind, when making food choices – corn syrup is in everything. Everything processed, that is. If you make your food yourself, you don’t have to worry about it, because who would purposely add that junk to their food? Eat food – not “food products”.

Oh, and that article was originally written in 2010, so it’s not exactly news, but it’s a good thing to know.

All right, back to vacation with me. This time I’m trying to take a vacation from my constant anxiety that I’m gaining weight when on vacation. Oy, it’s a constant battle in my head some days.

Business Travel Weight Management Tools

A while back I did a series of guest posts over at Travels With Pain  all about weight management skills I use while traveling, you can find them here:

Part 1, Vacationing

Part 2, Business Travel

Today I am traveling for business again. I find that I need to have some good weight management days after an indulgent weekend, but I had to get up early this morning to catch a flight. So I’m practicing my travel weight management skills, which requires an extra level of vigilance. Here’s how I’m handling today:

  • Before I left for the airport I had a filling breakfast of oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar (my favorite).
  • At the airport I made sure to always use the stairs.
  • On the plane I asked for ice water when the stewardess came around, and declined the peanuts.

I knew I had to go straight from the rental car lot to my meetings without any time for lunch, so I decided my best option was to grab something at the airport and eat it before heading down to claim my suitcase. I’m extremely familiar with the Southwest terminal at LAX – I’d estimate I’ve through there around 50 times a year for the last few years. I know they have the typical fast food dangers – McDonalds, fast Mexican food, a frozen yogurt place, a pub-style restaurant. None of those were going to be supportive, but I also knew there is a deli, so I grabbed a Greek salad, a bottle of water (for my afternoon meeting) and a banana (for a midday snack).

If you travel enough you begin to realize that the pre-made salads available in US airports are exactly the same at every airport. It’s terribly boring, but it’s also familiar and predictable, so I already know that the Greek salad has around 470 calories, including the dressing. I threw out the dressing because it is almost all oil, which dropped my salad down to around 300 calories – lettuce, cucumbers, onions, feta cheese and olives. Almost all the calories are in the cheese and olives.  This is a totally reasonable tally for my lunch.

Plan for the rest of the day:

Tonight I plan to hit the hotel gym (the fitness room at Embassy Suites is possibly the most boring, depressing gym in hotel history but I’ll cope) for 30 minutes of HIIT on the elliptical machine, maybe some strength training, and then I’ll get a soup and salad for dinner at Mimi’s – there’s one that shares the parking lot with my hotel when I’m here.

Overall, it looks like it’s going to be a great weight management day,  even though I’m traveling! Feels pretty good.

Experiments With Eating Plans

I’ve been reading blogs of many people who’ve had great success on primal eating plans, or simply higher-protein, lower-carb plans. So in January I began experimenting with increasing the protein I eat and decreasing the grains. The first thing I did was replace my morning oatmeal (or other hot cereal) with two poached eggs. Now, calorically speaking this is a pretty close match – 2 eggs = 180 calories, a serving of hot cereal usually comes in around 200, so I’d actually reduced my breakfast calories with the substitution.

The next thing I did was replace some of my other options with proteins – instead of eating a meal replacement bar (packed with grains and sugar!) as a mid-morning snack, I substituted a calorically equivalent amount of smoked almonds. I avoided bread and pasta (which I normally do anyway), and stuck to mostly meat and veggies for all meals.

Before I talk a bit about my results I just want to say that every body is a laboratory, and each one of us needs to find the fuel that works in our laboratories. I’ve always been very adamant that what works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

So…this scheme completely failed me. I figured out on Monday this week what was going on.

The breakfast wasn’t doing it for me. Two poached eggs have a much, much smaller volume than a bowl of hot cereal, and I’m a volume eater. So I would eat my two poached egss (which took about 6 bites – making the whole ritual of eating breakfast significantly shorter and less satisfying for me) and go to work and immediately notice that I was hungry and eat my next snack. In an hour I was hungry again so I’d eat the next snack. Basically, the eggs gave me no feeling of fullness whatsoever and I spent almost the whole day trying to give my body the feeling of satiety it was accustomed to and craving from the hot cereal I normally eat. I ended up consuming more calories throughout the course of the day, despite saving a few (20-40) with my initial meal, because my body needs what it needs – it needs to feel full in the morning.

On Tuesday this week when I switched back to my beloved oatmeal, I lasted 2 1/2 hours before I needed to eat again, and then it was controllable with a banana. I didn’t notice the gnawing hunger I’d been feeling throughout January, and pretty much every day since then has been noticeably easier for me on the hunger front (despite Thursday’s binge – I wasn’t eating non-supportive foods because I was physically hungry that day…).

I’ve been hesitant to write about this because I worry that people who follow a higher-protein plan will feel defensive and want to tell me what I should have done and what they do and how it’s still a superior method, and I think I’ve always been very clear that I agree – it is a superior method for them. I have been inspired by the fantastic changes it has made in the lives of some people that I admire greatly, which is why I wanted to give it a try. But for me…I need my oatmeal, my cream of wheat, my malt-o-meal and my steel-cut oats in the mornings.

When all is said and done, though – experimentation is a worthwhile effort! I didn’t know until I tried it whether it would be something that could work for me. If it had worked how fabulous would that have been? With the potential boredom of a life of weight management in front of me, a month of trying something new is a small investment to make in banishing some of that boredom. Mission accomplished, too –  I’m excited about my morning hot breakfast again.

A Very Reasonable Day

I didn’t walk to work today because I was running a little late, so I took the opportunity to bring my gym bag so I can hit the weights and high-intensity cardio after work.

Every day, I plan to get about an hour of exercise, and I try to intersperse high intensity and weights with medium intensity, like walking. It’s just something on my list of to dos every day, like brushing my teeth or getting dressed.

Food today was the usual packed lunch. What’s in my lunch?

  • Tupperware bowl of soup ~200 cal
  • banana ~150 cal
  • apple ~75 cal
  • pear ~75 cal
  • Luna bar ~200 cal
  • Fuyu persimmon ~50 cal

I ate everything in my bag, grazing almost every hour throughout the day. That’s 750 calories, plus I treated myself with a non-fat latte, ~100 cal. So including my breakfast of hot cereal (~200 cal) I’m sitting at around 1050 calories so far today.

I’ll work out for an hour, probably burning around 500 calories (half hour of weight training, half hour on the elliptical at high intensity). Then I’ll have more soup for dinner (this soup is amazing), probably 300-400 calories worth, and maybe a glass of wine (~150 calories).

Total Cal: 1600

Net Cal: 1100 cal.

There it is, my perfectly reasonable healthy day, eating almost every hour. I don’t feel deprived in the least.

Weight Management on a Business Trip: Wrap-Up

I just returned from a week-long business trip. I had to use all of my weight management tools, and even then it was a challenging week for me. The meetings were held in small, windowless rooms, lunch was brought in and there was no time to leave the meeting for a walk or even to find my own lunch. I had to eat restaurant food for practically every meal, which is very hard for weight management. I fell into a sort of routine:

First thing in the morning I’d get some hot cereal from the hotel buffet, and grab a banana to put in my bag for later in the day, which I would eat whenever I needed throughout the day. Then, on the way to the meeting I’d hit the little cafeteria and grab some fruit and some coffee and fill my bottle with water. Mid-morning I’d eat my fruit, then await the bad news of lunch. Twice it was pizza, once each it was sandwiches and Mexican food.  I did put in a special request with the meeting organizer on the first day to make sure there was always salad. So for lunch I would fill my plate about 3/4 full of salad, be very conservative with the dressing available, then have a small portion of whatever the rest of the meal was. Two thin slices of veggie pizza isn’t too bad, as these things go. I did alright with lunches.

In the afternoon I’d go to the little cafeteria during one of our 10-minute breaks and grab some fruit or a Greek yogurt for a mid-afternoon snack. I posted on Monday that I would hit the gym twice during the week. That didn’t happen, I did the gym on Tuesday and by Thursday I was so exhausted from the grueling, non-stop meetings that I just couldn’t make myself go. Instead I went out for Peruvian food at a nearby restaurant. You know what’s great about Peruvian? They usually have a great selection of seafood, so I had some grilled prawns and a glass of wine.

Last night I got home after dark so my husband went with me for an hour-long walk around the neighborhood, we were both hungry and tired, and without any food in the house so we also stopped for Indian food, I had bindi masala – okra stir-fried with onions and chilies. I like Indian because you can always get dishes that have lots of vegetables.

It wasn’t a great weight management week, but it could have been a whole lot worse. How was your week?

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day. Except when it’s not.

Everywhere you go in the diet industry, you are exhorted to eat a hearty breakfast, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I’m not so sure.

Everybody’s body is different. You know your body better than I do, better than an anonymous diet industry does. So you tell me – for YOU, is breakfast the most important meal of the day?  It very well may not be. Have you experimented? If you’re not the kind of person who is hungry first thing in the morning, but you’ve been hearing the diet industry advice for years to FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAT BREAKFAST OR WE’LL KILL SOME PUPPIES, have you tried cramming some breakfast down your throat just to appease the diet experts?

What happened? Did you eat fewer calories the rest of the day, or did you still feel hungry at the regular times you feel hungry, and end up just increasing your overall daily calorie total by eating when you’re not hungry?

How 'bout some fruit?

The theory behind the advice to eat breakfast whether you want to or not is that having a full stomach early on will prevent you from snacking as the morning wears on, and also by lunchtime you won’t be ravenous and prone to over-eating because your body will have already received fuel to run on.

Here’s my experience: If I’m hungry when I wake up, I eat breakfast. If I’m NOT hungry when I wake up, because I’ve woken up earlier than usual, for example, and I eat breakfast anyway, I will still get hungry at my usual times, and the breakfast calories end up increasing my daily total. If I’m not hungry when I wake up and I DON’T eat breakfast, but instead wait until I AM hungry, guess what? Sometimes I can eliminate that meal entirely from my daily total and end up with a deficit day.

My general stance is to question the pop-Rx from the diet industry, and try to get behind the advice to find out what they are actually trying to accomplish with the advice. In this case, I think that eating breakfast every day is advice that should be questioned, and really should only be followed by people who want to eat breakfast every day already. At the most basic level: If it works for you, enjoy your breakfast. If it doesn’t work for you, enjoy not eating breakfast. BUT – experiment with it and see what works best for achieving your goals before you come down hard on one side or another. As the owner of your body you get to experiment with it, in fact you have a responsibility to do so until you find the things that keep it running optimally. Until then, be flexible and stay attuned to what your body needs.

And if you’re interested, here’s what I do: Mostly, I eat breakfast every day. I love breakfast foods. In particular, I love, love, love hot cereal. Oatmeal, grits, malt-o-meal, cream of wheat, I love it all. I eat it with a sprinkle of brown sugar, sometimes with some fruit cooked in as well. It doesn’t take very long at all to cook up some breakfast on the stove, but also, if I just don’t have the time in the morning the cafeteria at my office usually has a pot of oatmeal on the boil all morning long and I can pick some up there for a couple of bucks. A dry half-cup of oatmeal with some brown sugar on it comes in at about 200 calories for me. I once backpacked all over Scotland for a month, carrying my ziplock of locally-purchased oats and making my hot cereal every morning in the hostel kitchen. Not because I had to but because this breakfast is my comfort food and I don’t like starting my day without it.

Other types of breakfasts that I’ve enjoyed when I didn’t have time for cooking anything include: a banana (very portable and nicely filling, ~150 cal), an apple or other piece of fruit and a yogurt cup (also portable, but need to pack a spoon – apple ~75 cal, yogurt ~100 cal), if I’ve planned ahead a hard-boiled egg or two is great (90 cal each), or if nothing else an energy bar like Luna or similar.

As a quick side note: Energy bars are lowest on my hierarchy of quick foods because I try to avoid highly-processed foods, but they are very portable and decently nutritious in a pinch. I need to be careful though – I’ve seen some outrageous calorie totals on some of them, and they are not particularly filling, so I’ll probably be hungry again soon if I eat them. I consider them emergency, “I’ve planned poorly” food.

So there it is. Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. For some people.