Monday, February 13, 2006

Dr. Crazy's Weight-Loss Plan (But I'm No Expert, Nor Am I An M.D.)

Ejnw06 asked in a comment what I've been doing to lose weight. Let me preface all that will follow with the fact that, as I stated in the title to the post, I'm no authority on things fitness or weight loss. I should also preface this with the fact that I really love food, and I generally have tended to hate exercise.

As many of you know, I quit smoking in November, the day before thanksgiving. I had been a smoker for 10 years. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I gained 10 lbs. My clothes weren't fitting right. This was no good. One of the reasons that this was no good is that I'm not a tiny girl. I have the body of my Hungarian/Polish ancestors, which means that I've always been, as my mother horrifyingly put it throughout my adolescence, a "big girl." Now, I've never been what I'd call fat, but if I gain weight, I'm ever in danger of having to shop at plus-sized stores, which for me is the thing that drives me to any attempt at weight loss. Now, it's also important to note here that I've been carrying around about 20 lbs. extra weight since I began dissertating/began dating my ex-boyfriend. Thus, with the added weight of quitting smoking, I was NOT happy. I should also note that I tend to need to gain/lose a significant amount of weight in order for it to change my size significantly. I've ranged from a size 10 to a size 16 since I was 12 years old, and for the great majority of the time I've been a size 12-14. When I started this whole "new year, new me" program, I was threatening to bust out of size 16. The last time that I was in this predicament, I took up smoking and stopped eating. I also walked a ton because I didn't have a car. This was a) not wise and b) not something I wanted to try to do again.

The Plan:
Ok, so what I've done is nothing mysterious. I've been exercising 3-4 times a week (without fail) and I've been watching what I eat. I haven't in any way been fanatical, but more exercise (and before I was doing pretty much nothing) plus fewer calories is going to equal weight loss. Even if you cheat sometimes on the diet stuff, which I do. But let me be more specific.

Dr. Crazy's Exercise Plan:
First and foremost, I joined a gym. For me, this was entirely necessary, as I really can talk myself out of exercising and into a snack without much effort at all. By joining a gym, I increased my motivation to work out in three ways: 1) I'm wasting money if I don't go; 2) the people at my gym are really friendly and congratulatory about the fact that you are showing up regularly, and that makes me feel good; 3) As long as I go on my way home from work, I'm totally motivated to go, whereas if I am at home, the likelihood of my forcing myself to exercise is small indeed. On top of those three main things, the gym is a good thing for me because the machines time exactly how long one is working out, and I'm the kind of person who can cheat myself if I don't have a clock right in front of me (for example, if I go walking around my neighborhood I will lie to myself that I've gone farther or longer than I really have gone or I won't walk as fast as I might).

So, when I go to the gym, I work out solidly for 40 to 50 minutes. I always start out with the exercise bike, because the bike doesn't feel as much like working out to start because I'm sitting down. Also, I like to warm up with the bike. I usually ride the bike for about 10-15 minutes. From there, it depends on what I feel like doing. Now that I'm finally in shape to do it, I'm a huge fan of the elliptical, and I've been doing it for 30 mins after the bike. Then I'll walk on the treadmill to cool down for maybe 10 minutes. On days when I'm tired, I might do the elliptical for only 10-15 minutes and follow it up with walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes. On days when all of the elliptical machines are being used by others, I'll just do the treadmill for 30/45 minutes, with a combination of walking/running. NEVER have I worked out for more than an hour. NEVER have I worked out more than 4 days in a week. I'm going to start incorporating weight training in the coming weeks, but just for the toning up stuff - not because I have learned how to enjoy exercise. Exercising sucks, even if it does relieve stress (which I like).

The Diet
Ok, so I began the new year with a modified version of the south beach diet. Modified because I didn't restrict myself quite as much as they tell you to (I didn't cut out carrots for example), but basically a diet of veggies and lean meats and some lowfat dairy. No bread. No potatoes. No fruit. It was rough, but it did get me off of the carb/sugar habit that had dominated my diet since quitting smoking. That lasted for two weeks. Because I didn't follow it precisely, I lost only 5 lbs. in that first two weeks (they say that during phase one you can expect to lose 9-14 lbs.). After that first two weeks, I could then start adding back in some "good" carbs, like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fruit, etc. As soon as I entered phase two, I was fine in terms of feeling like I'm not even on a diet. Yes, I've had to pay more attention to what I'm shoving in my mouth, but I like what I'm eating, and I don't feel deprived. Also, I really enjoy cooking, and this means I have to cook, so it actually forces me to do something that I like to do, which I need sometimes.

I cheat one day a week and I eat whatever I want. What I've found is that I don't tend to eat as much of the bad stuff because I'm so used to eating well, even on the day when I'm "allowed" to cheat.

Crucial to my success with all of the diet stuff has been the following:
1) I pack myself a healthy lunch every single day.
2) I try to eat breakfast every morning, but if I don't I bring an apple or something to eat so that I don't gorge myself later in the day.
3) I don't keep crap food in the house. If it's in the house, I will eat it.
4) 100-calorie packages of microwave popcorn.
5) nuts.
6) tea.
7) splenda.
8) diet cherry coke.
9) not really drinking alcohol.
10) I don't want to eat garbage after I work out.

The Benefits:
I suppose having done all of this for a month and a half I'd say the benefits are these: My skin looks great, I get amazing sleep at night, I have a ton more energy, and I'm much less stressed out (not only because of exercising but also because cooking relaxes me). Again, I'm no doctor (well, unless you count being a doctor of philosophy) and I've got no real secrets to impart. But this is what I've been doing, and it's working, so there you have it.


ScienceWoman said...

I am in awe of your weight loss prowess. I was doing great in January (being sick curbed my appetite), but I have totally stagnated in February. Keep reassigning your time to the gym, and maybe you'll manage to guilt me into going too.

Jesse said...

Everytime I start up an excercise regiment, I get some nasty cold like 2 weeks after I start, which promptly stops it, then when I get better I forget to start excercising again....

I have lost a chunk of weight in the past year though, mostly from walking to and fro work, about 6 miles total a day, and nearly cut out soda and juice from my diet and drink water instead.

I really should start the packing a good lunch and breakfast bits... Probably save money not buying food at eateries every day.

Larry said...

[If I really took the time, I suppose I could revise this so it doesn't sound so evangelical. But I'm not going to take the time.]

Want to lose weight and meet more "bachelors?" Play ultimate frisbee! According to the Ultimate Players Association, 41% have or are working on graduate degrees (most people take up ultimate in college). They're very welcoming to new players (especially women since 70% of UPA members are men - the m/f ratio among casual/non-UPA players is probably higher).

Also, ultimate's "Spirit of the Game" ethos tends to discourage the sort of "win-at-all-costs" nonsense that plagues other competitive sports and discourages new players.

Check out this link to see if there's a pickup game in your area: (or, if your school has a team, ask one of the players about local pickup games.)

Dr. Crazy said...

suggestion noted, CL. I will say, however, that I'm not one for group sports generally. Hand-eye-coordination just isn't my strong suit.

Seeking Solace said...

Thanks for sharing your tips!

I work out with a couple of my fellow professors. We meet twice a week and hit the gym together. It’s great incentive, because you don’t want to let the others down. Plus, we motivate and push each other. I also work out at home twice a week.

I follow the Mediterranean diet, which basically consists of chicken and fish, some pasta and lots of fruits and veggies. And of course, red wine!

Moderation is the key. I don’t deny myself anything. It will lead to a binge. So, if I have a craving, I‘ll have a little bit, and savor every bite!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Dr. C, I love you, because you're me!! (Well, except that you're actually LOSING weight.) My ancestors are from a slightly different part of the old country - Slovakia, to be precise - and I, too, have always been a "big girl" (as my mom says, "you're never going to be a tiny little waif"). And I've been carrying around an extra 20 lbs or so since I started my first tenure-track job. And yes, if I get any bigger I'm going to be in plus sizes, too, which also horrifies me (and for some reason I've GAINED 5 lbs since the New Year! maybe you're sending yours my way??).

Anyway, I don't know if this makes any sense, but for some reason your post makes me all happy, because I had this image of you as a tiny little cute person. Or perhaps tiny little hot prof is a better way to put it. So I was all hating the weight you've lost because I was convinced you were little and tiny to begin with. But now - now I can take you as a role model!

(I realize this really probably DOESN'T make any sense, and I apologize for sounding like a crazy person. But your post does give me hope.)

Larry said...

Dr. C,

Hey, I'm about as unathletic as they come (ditto on the hand/eye coordination) and probably 15-20 years older than you are. I started playing in 1998, not having exercised since Jimmy Carter was president. I still can't throw a sidearm throw more than 15 feet that doesn't wobble (sort of like playing tennis for 8 years without being able to hit a backhand).

ejnw06 said...

Ok, aside from all the other good stuff on your blog, this is doable. I think it is one thing to read a book on weight loss---precisely what an academic would do and hear real experience. I am going to keep gym clothes in the car. The only drawback here in Nowheresville is that the only gym in town is the student gym. It sounds dumb, but I never thought of modifying the SB diet. It just sounded so grim, I couldn't motivate myself to do it. I too have about twenty pounds of dissertation weight I would like to be free of. This said, I am going to the gym! Thanks!!!!

What Now? said...

Well, this is all very inspiring. I've been doing a lot better with the breakfast/lunch thing, but dinner and snacking in the evening tends to be my undoing. That and the fact that I hate exercise, although I have been doing 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer 3x a week (which I know is a pathetically little bit of exercise, but I decided I had to start somewhere). But perhaps I'll let your post motivate me to get more serious about improving my health and losing the weight I gained over the last 5 years.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Good for you! I see we were both thinking of the same topics today. It does feel good, doesn't it, to get the whole gym thing going on, have the muscles building up, know that you're eating healthy foods, etc?


shrinkykitten said...

Ok, so I think I may be both Dr. Crazy and New Kid. My mom told me in high school that I would never be "dainty." I also remember once she told me that a bracelet looked "dainty" (again with that word) on my wrist (it was a HUGE bracelet) and I muttered, "the rock of gibralter wold look dainty on my wrist."

I too am of hearty slovak stock (well, 50% of me is).

Dr. Crazy said...

Big Girls, unite! And New Kid, what you said totally made sense, though I've got to say that I think it's so funny that you thought I was one of those little tiny hot girls. My cross to bear in this life has been to always be the friend of the little tiny hot girls who towers above them ;)

That said, I'm TOTALLY hot, even in all of my "right off the boat figure" glory ;)

New Kid on the Hallway said...

My cross in high school was to be friends with 2 women who were taller than me, but skinnier and TOTALLY gorgeous - I could either tower over the little hot girls or be lost next to the two gorgeous Amazon women! Sigh...

Shrinky, I so totally think of you as willowy!

And we're ALL hot, that's all there is to it.

Manorama said...

I see I have joined the comments thread at just the right moment: yes, we are all hot! :)

negativecapability said...

I'm on the road to gaining those dissertating pounds. And I don't want them. So I'm taking inspiration from you and profgrrrrl and kicking my own butt into shape!

Kristiface said...

I'm in the same boat! I was upset with the 20 pounds I already had, but then, suddenly (and I mean literally OVER NIGHT) I gained almost 10 pounds and nothing fit and my whole self-image changed... I never LOVED my body, but I never hated it the way I did mid-January.

I'm on week three and feeling MUCH better-- no numerical losses yet, but I do feel good about going, and I fancy I just might start losing any day now.

If you can work it in, I suggest weight machines 2-3 times a week... I've noticed the progress I've made in terms of what I can lift so quickly, which has been a huge morale boost-- and building lean muscle is supposed to help burn fat and increase your metabolism.

And kudos to you for your successes!