Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weight Loss Challenge - 27lbs Lighter, $140 Richer

Sometime before the holidays my friend Stephanie (who has a degree in exercise science, runs marathons, last year completed a triathlon, and "for fun" just started doing body building competitions) sent out an e-mail telling a bunch of us she was going to do a clean eating challenge.  The participants would throw $30 each in a pot, work out and eat according to a plan that could gain you points and at the end of the eight weeks the one who lost the highest percentage of body weight would win 80% of the pot and the person with the highest amount of points would win 20%.  I wanted to join but I'd just found out I was pregnant so I barely loosely followed.  Basically I did three weeks of paleo and wanted to go nuts.  I was super stressed out.  Being pregnant with a fifth child due after you are suppose to have left for a trip to Africa is not relaxing.  Then we lost the pregnancy and I was depressed eating.  Then it was just the holidays.  My whole life I've been chubby.  Sometimes I try really hard to keep my weight under control, sometimes I sort of just throw up my hands.  This winter I threw up my hands.  With all the stress and trauma going on we ate out more than we should.  With the holidays we had treats all over.  With the month long miscarriage, Christmas break, and all the illness in our house I didn't go to the gym for months.  As that original challenge was coming to an end I was heading to the beginning...the beginning of weighing the most I've ever weighed in my whole life!  I mean seriously, more than I'd ever weighed, even when nine months pregnant.  I couldn't fit into a single pair of jeans I owned.  I pretty much lived in sweat pants and way too tight clothing.  I couldn't button my pea coat or zip up my winter coat.  I couldn't get my leather dress boats zipped up.  It was BAD NEWS!

When Stephanie said she was starting another challenge I jumped in full force.  From day one weekly point sheets were like my religion.  If Stephanie said drink 86 ounces of water, I did.  If she said drop all sugar, I did.  If she said eat more veggies, I did.  Whatever that sheet said, I did.  I also recommitted to going to the gym, and the two weeks when Cheetah was sick and I couldn't go I did exercise at home.  It has been ten weeks and the results are in.  I didn't win the challenge.  I was just three pounds off from that, but I did win the points challenge.  Today Stephanie brought me the points money.  I'm now $140 dollars richer and 27 lbs lighter.  I also saved myself some money by being able to fit into everything in my closet again (much of it even fitting loose).  I still would like to lose 30 more lbs or so but right now I'm  happy with my progress and am planning on sticking with the plan for as long as it takes.

 Lots of Water
Feeling hungry, get a drink of water.  Stephanie asked us to drink a lot of water.  Lots and lots.  No soda (even diet), no alcohol, no crystal light, no juice.  The sweet stuff and alcohol was easy for me to avoid.  We almost never drink soda and we don't drink alcohol.  The extra water was a little harder.  We started out at 64oz a day.  We ended at 86.  I feel like I always had a water bottle with me.  Some of it was easy.  I would drink 24oz of water during my workouts and easily another 8oz after.  Some of it was a little harder, but I tried to sneak sips in all day and also drink a big glass before I'd eat.  I also tried to always know where a bathroom was because I was peeing ALL THE TIME!

Don't Eat Late
We got points for either not eating after seven or stopping eating 3 hours before bed.  There were times when this was rough for me.  Name that last time you went to a book group or a ladies night out where they didn't serve something but after awhile I just got used to avoiding the snack table all together.  I spent a lot more time talking since I wasn't doing any munching.  There were a few things I just skipped because I knew the temptation to eat would just be too hard (a couple birthday parties).  I also realized that at home I pretty much never ate anything after dinner that was healthy.  My favorite late night snack, sugary cereal.  I also realize that I would survive if I didn't eat anytime or if I had to go to bed hungry.  Most nights after the kids went to bed I'd just get a drink of water and curl up in bed with a book.  It was a lot easier to not think about eating when I stayed away from the kitchen downstairs.  The only negative here...a certain husband sometimes would still get his late night cereal snack.  There were times when the smell coming off that bowl almost drove me to jump over the couch and attack him.  Did you realize cereal smelled so strong?  Neither did I.  Just one more reason to stay away from the kitchen after dinner.

No Added Sugar
Stephanie gave us a cheat day so if you wanted to eat something sweet one day a week you could without taking a hit in points but every other day she asked you not to eat anything made with sugar, honey, maple syrup, fake sugars, corn syrup, even dates (there went my Larabars).  Cutting out sugar cut so many foods.  I really had not realized how many products had sugar in them.  Check out your bottle of soy sauce, your salsa, every cereal product you have, your bread, most canned goods.  I couldn't believe how many things had sugar in them.  I learned to make Paleo ketchup in my crock-pot here.  I learned how to make homemade Paleo mayo here.  Just so you know I had zero luck making it by hand.  Buy or barrow and immersion blender!  I started making my own salsa every week.  It was hard to give up sugar but I noticed that while I still love sugar (I really enjoyed my shared banana split victory sundae), avoiding most of it helps me not crave it as much.  I also drank a smoothie almost every morning to help hit that sweet craving.  I alternated between a green smoothie and a chocolate almond smoothie.  The chocolate almond smoothie really hit the spot for me, especially after I'd gone a few weeks without sugar.

Chocolate Almond Smoothie
1 ripe frozen banana (I also would just use a banana and ice if I didn't have a frozen one, but I liked the consistency better when I didn't have to use ice).
1 cup non sweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter (You can make your own or get it at the store.  I like the brand at Costco.  It is just peanuts and salt and it taste delicious!)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Blend.  This was my "Paleo Shakeology" drink.  I drank one of these shakes almost every morning before I worked out and it always gave me the energy I needed.  Plus it cost a heck of a lot less than Shakeology.  If I felt like I needed a little extra kick I'd throw a tablespoon of canned coconut milk it.  That definitely kept me full!

The only way to lose weight is to use more calories than you bring in.  One way is to cut calories.  One way is to add activity.  The best way is to do both.  We got points for exercising at least an hour five days a week.  This is when my Y membership really came in handy.  I'd drop Peach off at preschool, walk Cheetah to child watch and have two hours to sweet it out.  I spent an hours each day doing cardio, trading off between the bike, the elliptical, the stair master, and the rowing machine.  I liked to shake it up so that my body didn't get too content.  It was also a great time to catch up on my reading.  Seriously I probably got through ten books in those ten weeks at the gym alone.  After I'd been sweating for an hour I'd switch over to weights.  Weights are a great way to build muscle, increasing metabolism.  I'd trade off between arms and legs, keeping track of how much weight I was lifting each day so I could slowly increase my numbers.

A couple of weeks in the challenge my kids were sick so I couldn't go to the gym.  On those days we satisfied ourselves with walks and bike rides in the neighborhood, and exercise videos that I found on youtube.  We did aerobics, indoor walking videos, zumba, and kickboxing.  I say WE because the girls were always with me and in one super unfortunate event I actually threw Cheetah across the room when she walked into my hand while I was doing a zumba move.  Otherwise they were pretty good and they always enjoyed throwing themselves on my back for a little extra weight when doing push ups. I also have some weights at home that I could use along with my exercise ball in place of a bench.  It wasn't as effective but it was better than nothing.  The funny thing about the kickboxing is the last couple of weeks I started to do a little ten minute kick boxing routine every night before I went to bed, just long enough to heat my body up but before I started sweating.  It was embarrassing, especially if Dr. J was watching me but I figured it couldn't hurt to kick up my metabolism right before I went to bed.

The great thing about being in the group is we got credit for talking and supporting each other each day.  We also got points for keeping a food diary.  To make it easier on me and Stephanie I started using the myfitnesspal app my sister had told me to download a year before. Because it was on my phone I could easily add my food and exercise right as it was happening.  It allowed me to add friends for support and let Stephanie see my diary so she could look over my food journal.  It also gave me a good idea of where I should be trying to hit calorie wise and when I lost weight it readjusted my allowed calories.  I seriously love this app and I think one of the greatest parts of this challenge is that after ten weeks it is like second nature to me to use it daily.

The Food Part
Stephanie eats Paleo so a lot of our food points came from trying out pieces of the Paleo diet.  For almost the entire challenge we didn't eat gluten and for the last couple weeks of the challenge we didn't eat any grains at all.  It was a hard adjustment for me because before those weeks I was really enjoying an almost daily snack of air popped popcorn but I think coming out I'm going to continue to limit my grain consumption.  I'm not going to say completely goodbye to grains but I do know that for me that when I planned meals really high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and lean meats I could hit my calorie goals with little thought, feeling full.  Wheat makes that hard for me to do.  I just eat and eat and eat and never feel full.  So I think from here on out I'll just be careful to not let grains be too big a part of my meal.  Honestly by cutting cereal I was able to cut about 80% of my grain consumption :)  Most of my other favorite grain meals could either be eaten as a salad or on some type of vegetable.  Here are some of my favorite grain free meals that I ate all the time during the challenge.

  • Spaghetti squash with meat sauce.  They aren't wheat noodles but it still tastes pretty good. 
  • Tuna fish salad on cut in half sweet peppers
  • Taco Soup
  • Taco Salad
  • Chicken soup with carrots, celery, and potatoes
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps
  • Beef Roast
  • Steak and baked potatoes
  • Salmon
  • Roasted Chicken
  • Lettuce Tacos
  • Chicken Salad on Lettuce wraps
  • Deconstructed Hamburger-This was pretty much my favorite meal ever.  I'd chop up 3 cups of lettuce, throw in some cucumbers and chopped or sliced tomatoes, cover the salad in a tablespoon of Paleo mayo, ketchup and mustard and then toss a warm hamburger or cheeseburger on top.  Dr. J gave me a hard time saying it looked weird but I'm telling you it was delicious.  Just think how much you enjoy a big juicy hamburger.  Getting rid of that bun doesn't make a whole lot of difference.  
  • Sweet Potato fries with pretty much anything.
  • Lots of black beans.   
  • A sweet potato (baked in the microwave) with two easy over eggs on top.  It was warm and delicious and I loved it.
  • Humus and veggies
  • Potato bar
I used a lot of unsweetened almond milk in place of cows milk but I still ate cheese most weeks although I kept it in moderation and I ate unsweetened yogurt occasionally with bananas and blueberries in it.  Super yum!  As far as oils were concerned I stuck to olive, coconut, avocado, and butter but I tried not to be too heavy handed. I would never go completely Paleo because I could never say goodbye to legumes or grains and sugar completely but I have definitely seen the light on limiting my grains and sugar.  Just easier to stay full when they don't make up most of your calories.  This is totally a true story but one day I made four pieces of cinnamon sugar toast and was totally still hungry.  That is just how I roll.  It is easier now for me to say, just grab a handful of nuts and stay full for longer.  As part of the challenge we had to eat 3 fresh veggie servings a day (1 cup each) and 2 fruit (1/2 cup).  I've always been good about eating my fruits and veggies but this just kept me on track.

We also got points for menu planning and eliminating all processed foods (anything with more than five ingredients on the label).  My mom taught me how to make pretty much everything from scratch but I think it was good for me to be grounded again in staying more connected with my food.  Sometimes I get swept up in convenience.  It was a good reminder for me to make a little more effort on the front end before food actually passes into my mouth.  I also started carrying snacks with me everywhere.  A little bag of nuts here, an apple there.  It helped when I was hungry and running around if I had a snack from home already prepared to keep me from getting sucked into a fast food line.  If I was going somewhere I knew I wouldn't be able to eat without breaking the rules I would eat ahead of time or actually pack my meal in.  During the challenge I had two mom's nights out dinners and a couple of restaurant dinners with my in-laws who were in town.  I would look for a steak or chicken dish without a sauce or a salad with the dressing on the side.  It was hard not to eat the bread, or try a piece of the appetizer, or desert, but every Sunday at weigh in I'd be grateful for that choice.

Finally my last two piece of advice from the challenge, one, hide the scale and only bring it out once a week.  I actually had to have Dr. J hide it from me.  I'd get so obsessed with each rise and fall I was driving myself and everyone in the house crazy.  Only weighing in once a week made me a lot happier.  Two, ladies don't diet with guys.  No seriously!  It is demoralizing.  After seven weeks I was so excited about losing 20lbs.  Then I was talking to my good friend and she told me her husband had lost 20lbs in two weeks by cutting his calories to 1,300 and running five miles a day.  Haha!!!  I wanted to scratch his eyes out.  Well not quite, but almost.  Girls we just don't lose weight as quickly.  Guys have more muscle, faster metabolism and don't seem to be saddled with the hormones that try to hold onto weight so strongly.  In the words of my friend Amanda, "My husband just has to say weight loss and he will lose three pounds that day."  It is nice to have your hubby on board as far as food and exercise goes, but when it comes to competition and support other ladies (in my opinion) are the way to go.  At the end of our challenge I was edged out from being the second highest percentage weight loss by .2% to third by a guy who had half the points me and the winner had.  Basically he had not been participating and then in the last three weeks really threw down.  Oh man was I so glad then that Kelly had won.  It would have just killed me to lose to a guy in that way!  So that's the story of how I lost 27lbs and net myself 140 dollars.  Now to see if I can budge any more of this stubborn weight!


  1. Way to go, Crystal! I don't have much to say on this topic other than that Andrew and I have been trying to be a little healthier. We do our bike riding at night after the kids go to bed which has really cut down on nighttime snacking because it's difficult to wolf down a bowl of popcorn while you're riding 20 MPH. ;)

    I haven't lost any weight (that's kind of a goal of mine since I just got to my pre-pregnancy, I gained it back finally. Don't hate me...we all have different struggles) but now that I've been cycling my thighs and glutes are noticeably larger. I actually don't think anyone notices but me...but my pants fit differently and I feel stronger, which is kind of fun.

    I wish someone would pay me $140. ;)

    Anyway, keep it up! You're doing great!

  2. Woot Woot! Go Crystal! This is awesome!!!

  3. Twenty-seven pounds?? That is amazing! Great job!

  4. You look beautiful! I love the tips you shared!

  5. Thanks for posting, Crystal. You really rocked it! I loved all your advice and am going to try to implement a lot of it. I have been known to down four pieces of cinnamon sugar toast, too! (Oh so good!) Eating better (and less) is my new mission of late. (And I'm with you about guys losing weight so quickly. In the two weeks Matt lost 20 pounds, I lost a whopping 3.)

  6. Very inspiring! You had a great progress and a terrific approach! Great Job!



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