11 April 2017

Weight Loss Challenge Reflection

So now that I'm all in the habit of blogging daily, I figured I'd keep the gravy train rolling and chat about the Zumba weight loss challenge.

My Zumba instructor started a non-competitive weight loss challenge in January that centers around common sense: track what you eat and work out daily. The key to make it successful is the accountability of doing it as a group. Each week after class, we have private weigh-ins and then meet together to talk about our successes and difficulties. She made up binders for us and filled them with goal worksheets and food journal pages and each week she emails around new workouts for us to do. They started easy, like take daily 20 minute walks, hold two planks a day, and slowly added new exercises and hand weights.

Normally Matt gets off work a few minutes early one day per week for me to attend Zumba, it's my one thing a week. But part of the challenge was to attend two Zumba classes per week. So Matt and I sat down and talked about it decided that since it was only eight weeks, he could make it happen.

The first weigh-in was tough. Even though it was just me and the instructor, I was embarrassed for her to see the unexpectedly high number. I usually weigh myself in the morning before I eat breakfast or get dressed, and this was in the evening and I was wearing my workout clothes. I couldn't wiggle around on the scale to get the smallest possible number - on my scale, if I put most of my weight on my toes, the number is bigger, when I rock back to my heels, it's smaller. Plus, the number was only a few pounds lighter than I was when I was pregnant with Theodore. All that motivation - plus the fear of getting on the scale again next week and having to explain a crappy number - powered me through the first two weeks. I tracked everything I ate, counted calories, and did every single workout. It started getting tough in the third week, I missed a few workouts, but I wrote down everything I ate and made it through. The fourth week, though, stunk.

I was loosing motivation, wanting to eat junk food all weekend, and, just feeling a lot of resistance in general. I indulged too much and gained weight by the next weigh in. I was pretty crushed. I felt like I was letting everyone down - Matt for getting off work early, the instructor for putting in so much time and effort into our binders and our workout schedules, myself for wasting this golden opportunity. At the group meeting, I found out that week four was bad for almost everyone! Almost everyone had either gained or only maintained their weight! One of the girls suggested a brilliant idea: we buddy up. We all paired up to created "accountability partners" - people we could check in with daily and text when we were feeling weak. It was just what we all needed to get through the rut. I passed up on temptations so I wouldn't have to tell my accountability partner about it that night, and I pushed myself to hold planks and do weighted wall sits because I didn't want to text her a lame excuse. When she had a crazy 12-hour work day for a big conference and still found time to get her bicep curls in, it encouraged me to get off the couch and do my own reps. And this is the best tip I can offer you from my challenge experience - get yourself an accountability partner. Someone with whom you can text daily and will call out your BS excuses.

My accountability partner and the weekly weigh-ins are what got me through my epic sicknesses of the year. I had the flu, a bronchitis-like chest infection, and a number of head colds, and I still lost weight! I still tracked my food daily, filling up on fruits, yogurt, and almonds, and oatmeal, and I was motivated to make healthy dinners instead of asking Matt to pick up a pizza or McDonald's. It also really pushed me to be honest about which exercises I could actually do. While I couldn't really hold a plank with my nasty cough, I could certainly do the leg lifts and bent rows. A coughing fit doesn't inhibit bicep curls and I could still take a 20 minute walk with a head cold. I don't think I've ever powered through a cold and continued to loose weight, especially not a series of colds lasting months.

During the last two weeks of the challenge, my weight loss slowed to a trickle, holding steady or only loosing half of a pound. I was starting to get frustrated with myself and suddenly a bunch of people around me started reporting mega weight-loss using the Whole 30 or Whole 30-like diets. Someone really close to me lost as much weight in two or three weeks as I had in seven weeks of doing the challenge. I was happy for her, obviously, but totally crushed for myself. The wind was completely sucked out of my sails. I'd always dismissed the Whole 30 diet as just another fad diet, but suddenly I was ready to jump in, angrily vowing to eat only raw veggies until I hit my goal weight. It bothered me for days until I finally prayed about it. As soon as I started praying, a friend I'd met in Zumba - an instructor friend of my instructor, actually, popped into my head. I knew she'd lost a lot of weight, but I didn't know what method she used. She had joined our Zumba challenge Facebook group and was following along, so she knew our background. The more I prayed about it, the more drawn I felt to her, so I sent her a message. "Hey, I'm really struggling," I explained how disheartened I felt. "How did you loose your weight? Do you have an advice for me? Slow and steady wins the race, right?" I knew my voiced sounded desperate, but I didn't care. That girl messaged me back the most awesome pep talk! She filled my sails right back up! She had lost her weight the old-fashioned way, the same path we were trodding. "Weight loss is 75-80 percent is what you put into your body. Only 20-25 is exercise. When you do a drastic diet change like Whole 30, vegan, etc., you will initially get a BIG bang. There are lots of theories and ways. No one is right or wrong. But I tend to think that eating for real life is best." Her "been there done that" confidence was exactly what I need to hear. I was stuck in this rut, but she could see the big picture. "6 months from now is 24 weeks. That is 4 times what you've lost... uh, imagine all that weight gone!!!"

I powered through the last week of the challenge, elated at my overall numbers. In eight weeks, I lost 12.4 lbs! I lost 14.75" off my body, 3.5" just from my waist! I can hold two 90 second planks back-to-back, I can do a wall sit for 2 minutes straight with 8lb weights in each hand, during my first run of the year, I easily ran for 2 miles without stopping, and I can do two hours of Zumba straight.

Those of us who made it through the full eight weeks unanimously decided we wanted to do another eight week challenge. And so we dove right back in. Small note: we decided that I will go back to just one class per week so that Matt doesn't have to take off early twice a week. I do a Zumba dvd at home on Mondays now instead.

Part II
So remember how my weight loss had slowed to a trickle at the end of Part I? Well, at first I attributed it to the muscles I'd gained, but when it continue to be lame and then I actually gained, I knew I needed to change something. I recalled hearing Jillian Michaels talk about weight plateaus before and how rare they truly are. She'd said that often times, what we think are plateaus are really us getting sloppy with our diets. I had tracked my food every single day during those eight weeks, so I thumbed back through my old food journal and discovered how sloppy I was getting. During the third or fourth week of Part I, our instructor had recommended we try using Weight Watchers points instead of counting calories. She showed us a couple of free apps that told us how many points we were allowed and how many points were in various foods. At that point, I wasn't even counting calories, merely writing down the food I was eating resulted in a lot of success, so I didn't count my points for longer than a few days, but in Part II, I needed an extra level of support, so I opted to track my points. I rebounded with a whooping 4.6 lbs gone!

Side note: Counting points is a pain in the ass when you make your own food. Figuring out how many calories are in mac n' cheese in the slow cooker is a pain, let alone how many points! Homemade bread, homemade granola bars, it's so daunting. But as much work as it is, I prefer points to calories. Two reasons. 1. With Weight Watcher's (WW) points plus system, most fruits and veggies are 0 points. If I get hungry between meals, I can grab a banana, I can add a scoop of blueberries to bulk up a small lunch without penalty, I can grab a strawberry instead of an animal cracker when I walk through the kitchen. I hate with calories being like, "Okay, Theodore didn't finish his banana, so I ate it. How much was it? A half, maybe?" Then I have to Google "How many calories are in a banana," divide it in half, take up a line in my food journal for 55 calories of banana that are not in a million years going to make me fat. For me, this encourages "common sense" eating, which is going to help me hard core when I loose the weight and am in maintenance mode.
2. There are no runaway cheat days with WW. When I have cheat days with calories, I tend to go crazy. Junk food bonanza! Who cares, I'm not counting calories today, it's cheat day! And then it's super hard to stop after Saturday and return to normal on Sunday. But with the points plus system, you get "flex points." They are like cheat day points. Now I don't go crazy on cheat days, because I don't have infinitely many points, and I get back on track on Sunday because I only have so many points and I don't want to tell my accountability partner that I have negative points at the end of the day!

Okay, back to the challenge.
At this point in the journey, a large number of people in our group were going on vacations, taking time off for spring break, and our instructor had caught a nasty cold, so we decided to pause the official challenge for a few weeks. In the meantime, I've been continuing with most of the exercises (honestly, I haven't been planking. I'm planked out) and tracking my WW points. According to my scale at home, I lost another 4 lbs (this time over two weeks) and am down a total of 20 lbs since I started in January!

For the first time in my post-kids life, hitting my ultimate goal weight finally seems achievable. 20 lbs down. 30 to go. I'm almost halfway there and I have a system I've proven I can do.

Since the challenge is on break, we don't have accountability partners anymore and I can tell by my food journal that I'm starting to get lax with my diet again, so I decided today was a good day for a blog post reflecting on my journey. It's exactly what I need to redouble my efforts and head in to Part 2.5 with a bang. Thanks guys! If all goes well, I should hit my ultimate goal weight this summer and I'll post some before and after pictures! I had the foresight to take a few pictures during week one of part one! 


Anonymous said...

Would it be possible for you to share pictures of what your logs look like? If you don't want to share your info (totally understandable!), then maybe a blank one? I'd love to try to do something similar, but I'm awful at creating templates like that...

Good for you for sticking to it!

Jacqueline said...

I'll do you one better - here is the exact food tracker print out we use! http://www.freebeemom.com/2010/04/05/54/

Anonymous said...

Squeeeee! Thank you! You just saved me a huge amount of time and aggravation! --Katherine

Anonymous said...

I love it -way to go, Mama! Spring is here and daily walks are option once again! TB