Monday, October 24, 2011

To carb or not to carb

      I'm not a nutritionist, so I'm not going to try to sound like I know all the science behind food and how we process it because I don't.  Instead I just want to share a few things I learned while fine tuning the foods I choose throughout the day. Today's tips are on carbs.

        I've done no carb diets, low carb diets, and eat every carb I see ( guess what happened on that one) diets. Depending on the current fad trends, carbohydrates have been unfairly cast as the bad guy.  Like most everything else in life the answer is someplace in the middle.  Carbohydrates in itself aren't evil, which ones you pick and how you eat them can be. I've said previously that carbs and fats react chemically to each other, so it is generally not a good idea to indulge in both heavily.  That said, carbohydrates serve a very important function, your body's favorite fuel.  One of the reasons Low carb diets are so successful in short term weight loss is because when the body is deprived of its favorite fuel it goes next to fats.  But a low carb diet doesn't work long term especially if you have any athletic aspirations.  Most athletes, runners, trainers, etc. will tell you that if you want to have energy, your body need to have carbs.  How much energy you use and need should determine how many carbs you eat and when. Carbs can be most efficiently used after a workout. They go to your glycogen stores as fuel for next time.

       If you are an elite athlete you will probably carboload pastas and breads both before and after a race or extreme workout.  Here's a hint... you are probably not an elite athlete.  Your body probably doesn't need to completely refuel.  Figure out what you've burned and how many calories you "earned" (remember your budget) and use that as a guide of how much you should have.  I made this mistake when I first started running. First I was finishing the HCG protocol and having no carbs, but then decided "I'm a runner, I need lots of carbs."  BZZZZ wrong again Betsy. Just because I was running didn't mean my body had magically changed into a metabolic wonder.  I still had to abide by my calorie budget and fit in the carbohydrates and the calories they contained.

   I found what really works for me for energy and weight management is the 50/25/25 diet. That's where 50% of your calories come from carbs, 25% from protein, and 25% from fat.  Does that sound like too much math?  It's not really that bad once you figure out a few things.  One gram of carbs is 4 cal. One gram of Protein is 4 cal. One gram of fat is 9 calories. So if I had a daily budget of 1800 calories, then 50% of those should come from carbs or 900 calories. 900 divided by 4 is 225. So I should have 225 grams of carbohydrates a day.  If you are not exercising you might need less, or if you are training really hard you might need more.  Let your weight and your energy level be your guide.

   As far as which carbs to eat, that's up to you. As always I recommend moderation. I like whole grains, but sometimes I want sugar.  Sugary snack are often packed with fat. So when I have these treats, they are usually small and under 100 calories.  Try to pick the better option if it's available; long grain rice, whole wheat, black beans.  But if you are having dinner somewhere that has a white roll and that's it, (Texas Roadhouse, yumm) then no big deal.  The biggest thing is to accurately chart how many calories you spent and stay on budget and you'll be fine.

   A word of caution about water weight. Water weight is not fat.  Carbohydrates can have the effect of making your body retain water.  Double edged sword. Means if you suddenly cut carbs you can lose 5 lbs or more of water weight very quickly, like 2 or 3 days. But is that really meaningful weight loss?  No it was just water, and water is not fat so we didn't get any skinnier. The other side of the coin is that when eating carbs for enregy we sometimes get the water storage that goes along with it.  Don't flip out if you are up a pound or 2 after a heavy carb meal or day.  It's just water, not fat, so you didn't really get bigger. Just calm down and drink lots of water and the water weight will take care of itself.

Here are a few hints:

  • A lot of carbs at once is usually hard to process unless you are storing energy after a long owrkout (3 hours or so long)
  • For energy before a workout try a small snack of simple carbs (fruit or chocolate) for a quick burst of energy
  • If you have been without carbs for a while from dieting, ease back into them slowly. Reintroduce them one at a time so your body can readjust how it burns fuel
  • Think if you really need them. Do you really need that big stack of crackers mushed up in your chili? Or are you just used to doing so? Does it taste better with em or can you live without.
  • In moderation, one roll is sufficient 
  • If you have a lot of carbs in one meal, go low in the next

Thanks for reading. I've had a lot of fun this week. Now that I have a few posts under my belt I realize I better post less often or else I will run out of stuff to talk about. So until next time stick to your plan. Dont' give up, You're worth it! 


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Plan Part 3 - A Balanced Budget

Make sure you read The Plan Part 1 & 2 first!

       My friends and family would giggle uncontrollably at the thought of me in an apron cooking a healthy meal, with lean proteins and veggies. Let's just say I've almost mastered making Ramen.  So changing my lifestyle to include fresh healthy organic meals cooked from raw was just not gonna happen.  Don't get me wrong, if that's something you enjoy and have the time and money to spend on it, go right ahead.  I just knew that wasn't a change I could stick to and live with.  So I needed to figure out a way to eat that fit with my lifestyle and didn't make fat. Sounds impossible right? Nope, all it takes is a little common sense and a little balance.

       The first thing you need to know is that like most of us, your body lives on a budget.  Your body works super hard every day to earn caloric credit. Everything it does, even sleeping, earns you "spending money". You are spending your calories with everything you put in your mouth.  So think about it for a minute.  Are you spending calories faster than your body can earn them?  I did and that's why I got fat. Repeatedly. (Also how i racked up credit card debt, but that's a whole different blog)

      You basically have three choices on how to run your budget based on your goal

Gain: If you run your budget like the government does, you take on weight like the nation takes on debt.  Now you probably won't hit the 14 trillion mark, but your caloric spending will inflate your fat. Gaining weight and debt  is the simple result of spending more calories than you've earned.  Our nation's solution is to increase revenue (taxes), or slash the budget. For you that translates into Move more or Eat less.  Or both.

Lose:  Hopefully, if you are in debt, any extra money you earn is going to pay down your creditors. Same principle to lose weight. If you are losing weight that means you are continually earning more calories than you are spending.  That surplus of caloric credit gets applied to your debt, your fat stores. Just like with money this is generally a slow and steady process that is reliable.  As opposed to a lump sum payoff, or crash diet.

Balance:  Once your debt is paid off and your fat stores are diminished, you can run a balanced budget.  Fiscally you would then try to save your money for a rainy day.  Your body can do that very short term..  Suppose you know you are going to a party tomorrow.  You might want to eat less today to save your caloric spending for tomorrow.  However, in the long term if you are continually "saving" your calories in a high enough amount your body will go into starvation mode and lower your metabolism, causing you to earn less calories even though your doing the same thing.  So for the most part you want to spend around the same amount you earn.

   The first step in any budget is to figure out what your cash flow situation is.  How many calories are you earning just by being alive? That's you Base Metabolic Rate or BMR  I suggest using this calculator to figure it out   Super easy. Then you add in how much you earn through activity. There are countless apps and website that can calculate that for you.  I like My Fitness Pal personally, but there are plenty of choices. Add that to your BMR and voila you have your daily income.  It's wise to note that this is an estimate yours may vary up or down. You can adjust it based on your body's reactions to your plan.

    Now that you know your income, figure out how much to spend. Most experts agree that the healthiest and safest weight loss is an average of 1-2 lbs a week.  A pound is 3500 calories. So to lose 1 lb a week you need to be spending 500 calories less than your income for the day.  You can do that but cutting your food intake or upping your exercise.  I recommend doing both at once so you are not overtaxing your body or starving.  It's worthy to note that for women, most doctors don't recommend dipping under a 1200 calorie diet.
   What you spend your calories on is up to you. Play with it, experiment.  Your body is unique, remember? See how you react to carbs, dairy, or fats.  Everyone will process them differently.  General guide is fats and carbs do not mix.  So if you are eating a high carb meal like pasta, limit the sauce.  Bread? Use less butter.

   The rest is all common sense and simple math.  Spend wisely. If you have budgeted 200 calories for a snack you can either have one cookie or an apple, granola, and yogurt parfait.  Do you want to fill you tummy or satisfy your craving?  On some days you will really want that cookie even though it means less food. Go for it!   As long as you have budgeted correctly, your diet won't suffer.  One of two things will happen. You will either be completely satisfied with the yummiest cookie ever, or, you will quickly learn that most of the time eating junk is not worth the calories they cost. No wrong answer.

   I personally learned that I liked eating more lower calorie small meals throughout the day as opposed to the few days I tried spending my whole caloric income on, let's just say hypothetically, a bin of Ben and Jerry's Pumpkin cheesecake. (I won't lie, at the time it was totally worth  it.)  As long as you are happy, and balance your daily budget, you will stick to it and be successful no matter what foods you choose.  
On Monday's blog I will give some helpful hints and common pitfalls in choosing which foods to eat.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Plan Part 2 - Be Happy

   If you haven't done so already, read The Plan Part 1.

   Discovering that I had never had a weight loss problem, but instead had a weight gain problem, was a turning point in both my attitude and my behavior.  I had mastered the art of weight loss and proved that I could lose weight again.  This time I would figure out how NOT to gain weight. If only I could do that, then I was sure the remaining pounds would fall into place, or more accurately off my butt.

   So I went to the library, the bookstore, the internet and my doctor.  Anywhere that might have "reliable" information. (please, for your own sanity, do not Google weight loss). What I found was not a surprise, because I had been hearing it all my life.

  Eat less, Move more

    There's no way around it people. If you do not want to gain weight you need to use the fuel, (calories) you consume.   And how does your body use fuel? By moving.  Unused fuel turns to fat. So what you take in, you have to expend out.

  There were many misteps along the way. I'm sure I will use them as Blog Fodder in later posts. Long story short after much trial and error I learned a beautiful and simple truth. The only way change your life is if you not only enjoy the results from your change (ie weight loss, toned body, better mood), but enjoy the act of changing in itself. (ie healthier foods, exercise) 

  Why is it that most people know they need to live healthier but don't?  Because it's no fun! If you gag  on tofu everyday and kill yourself working out at the gym, do you think you are likely to continue that lifestyle indefinitely? Hell no! That's why diets are miserable too. Because you are trying to do too much to achieve max results.  And let's be honest, not many people really like living in the extremes. Working out 3 hours a day, eating totally vegan or raw. No way.  The exception being if you like it. That's the key.  If you love the way working out for 3 hours feels, Go for it! If you feel like you've been run over afterwords? Don't do it!

   Here's the secret. You have to find a way to be healthier that makes you happy. When you are happy all sorts of wonderful magical things happen.  Most of the chemical reactions I can't explain, but when you are unhappy or stressed you release more cortisol, which makes you fat.  When you're happy you get all those wonderful endorphins that for me at least, made it so I could stop taking the antidepressants I had been on for 14 years.

   So go try everything. The best exercise is the one you enjoy. Finding an exercise that burns alot of calories but you hate to do is counter-productive because if you hate it, you won't do it.  Then you'll be burning 0 calories.  So forget about maximizing the calories burned for a minute and find something that gets you moving that you like! For me it's running and Zumba.  I have no coordination, but a love for music and it gets me moving.  It makes me want to exercise. Gasp! I never thought I'd want to exercise. But I like spending time doing things that make me happy.

   Follow the logic? Need to spend time exercising ----> Find exercise you enjoy ----> Doing things you enjoy makes you happy-----> So now exercising makes you happy.

Never thought you'd be saying that huh?

Next time we will look at the other half of the equation, what to eat.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Plan Part 1

      So today I wanted to talk specifically about how I lost my weight. I needed to get the pounds off fairly quickly so that I could look good during the holidays.  On impulse, I bought some homeopathic HCG drops.  Then I went home and downloaded the free ebook, Pounds and Inches by Dr. Simeons. The first 2 days of "loading" sounded like heaven.  Who wouldn't like eating whatever they wanted in mass quantities? It was the next three weeks that sounded scary. 500 calories a day. That's it. I could eat that much before brushing my teeth in the morning! But the drops promised 1-2 lbs a day average loss.  For that, I could survive 3 weeks of hell.
     I'm not going to get into the specifics of the HCG protocol at this time. Maybe at a later post I will go into depth about HCG diet and various other methods available. From the end of October to mid November I religiously followed the rules and never cheated once.  I lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 21 lbs.  But now it was time for maintenance.  I could either be happy with the 21 lbs and start the stabilty diet, where you slowly up your calorie intake and no carbs for 3 more weeks. But with Thanksgiving coming up I knew I would blow that.  Or I could go back and do round 2 of the HCG drops.  So I planned very carefully so that my 2 loading days fell on Thanksgiving. Stuffing my face with food didn't taste as good as I remembered it. Then came another 3 weeks of starving and no exercise.  The first time wasn't too bad, the second time was hell.  I wasn't really dropping the weight like the first time.  I had no energy and I was super crabby.
    It was almost the end of the second round and Christmas was in two weeks.   11 more pounds had come off for a grand total of 32 lbs. in less than two months.  I remember thinking, not bad, but I still want to lose at least another 30 lbs.  I had to change my plan. There's no way I could do the HCG diet again. It was getting less effective and harder to stay on it.  I hadn't cheated yet, but it was only a matter of time when only eating 2 apples, zucchini and lean turkey everyday ad naseum. But I wasn't ready to call it quits yet either. So I started researching other weight loss method to try.  One friend had had great success with cleanses, another heartily endorsed Slim Quick.
   All at once the cold hard truth smacked me in the face.  If I resorted to methods so outside my normal routine to lose the weight, didn't that mean when the diet was finished and I went back to my regular life that the weight would either creep or jump back on? Isn't that exactly what had happened umpteen times before? Did I really want to be riding this rolling coaster and putting my body and my family through hell again in another year or two? The answer was a resounding NO! There had to be a way to keep the weight off without dieting several times a year, or putting more harmful drugs and chemicals in my body.  The solution was painfully obvious, but that didn't mean I was excited to hear it.

  Stop dieting.

      I didn't need to find a way to lose weight, I had proven over the years that I knew lots of ways to get the fat off. It's always the gaining it back that's the problem.  If I wanted the weight to stay off for good I had to change my routine into something that wouldn't keep making me fat. But it couldn't be for just a week, or month, or however long it took to get the other 40 pounds off. I had to find a new way to live.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The How: Fast, Cheap, or Lasting

     So hopefully now you have the What I'm going to do.  Now you need to figure out the How I'm going to do it..  Do some research, make a plan, and write it out.  Take a look at your natural resources and see what you have in abundance.  Do you have lots of time available to you, or maybe some excess cash. Do you have a support system in place, (you have me at least!), or do you need to create or find one? Here's a good rule of thumb to decide how best to approach your goal. There's fast,  there's cheap,  and there's lasting. You can combine 2 out of the three, but very rarely can you have all three at once.  You can do it  fast  and cheap, but it won't last. (crash diets, cleanses, etc)  You can do it fast and lasting, but it won't be cheap. (Surgery, professional trainer, etc) Or you can do it cheap and lasting, but it won't be fast. (eat less, move more, healthy life changes) 
    Last year when I decided that I needed to lose weight, I hadn't yet discovered my  Philosphy of Finishing. We will get in to that in a later post.  I wasn't thinking long term, I was thinking "I can't be fat for one more day!".  I didn't care how the weight came off, just that it came off. I was so blinded by desperation that I couldn't see the big picture and didn't make a plan. I went for cheap and fast.  I wanted to be skinny and wanted it now.  I hadn't put a lot of thought into maintaining and so I had set myself up for success that could't last. I have repeated this cycle dozens of times over the years
. Get fired up-----> Lose Weight -------> Stop diet and go back to life-------> Gain Weight back------> Get depressed------> Get fired up-------> and around and around for 15 years. 

   I want you to break the circle and make a plan that's a straight line more like this
 Get Fired up------>Lose Weight-----> Change outlook on life -----> Develop Healthy Lifestyle -------> Tone up and find your ideal weight-------> Maintain and continue your new healthier lifestyle.

   Think about which two you want to choose: cheap and fast, fast and lasting, or cheap and lasting.

Next time I'll go into my orginal plan, my revised plan, and  my suggested apporach to weight loss

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who do you want to be today? You!

     One size fits all isn't a good idea for clothing and it's an even worse idea for goals. If you pick your goal based on someone else's achievements or ideals, the end result will probably not be what you had hoped for.  Let me give you an example.  When I started to lose weight I was thinking, "Hmmm. My sister in law and I are about the same height, so if she can be that little and skinny so can I.".  BZZZZ  Wrong answer.  As I started to lose the weight I realized how completely ridiculous this was.   She has a very slight and petite frame, while I, on the otherhand, have very wide shoulders and at least a medium frame.  If I were to starve myself and become skin and bones, even my bones would be bigger than she is.  I had fallen into the precarious trap of trying to be like someone else instead of trying to become a better me.
      Each of you is amazing, fabulous, and completely unique.  No one else has a body exactly like you, so why should you try to force it to behave like someone else's? Your individual composition of body type, metabolism, and genetic predispositions means you will lose weight differently than any other person on the planet. You and I could eat the same exact foods, do the exact same exercises, and we will still always have different results.  So once you let go of any lingering desire to look exactly like that guy/girl at the gym that's amazingly toned and fit, then you can start to find and work towards your body's version of healthy and fit.

     Now you're ready to find your goal. To do this you, need to seriously evaluate what you really want and who you are doing the work for.  The answer to the first part will vary, but the second part should always be yourself. Try asking yourself this list of questions.

  • What do I want to do?
  • Why do I want to do it?
  • Is there anything that could prevent me from achieving my goal?
  • Is this a long term goal or a short term goal?
  • How am I going to achieve this goal?
  • If something gets in my way, am I willing to keep going until I finish?

    You should ask yourself these questions anytime you want to accomplish something. Whether it be a broad goal like becoming a healthier person, or a short specific goal like getting the house clean today. You might not know all the answers yet, and that's ok. The How is always tricky. But it is absolutely essential that you can answer the first and last questions. Because if you can, you'll now know 2 things. First, where you are headed. And second, that you will without a doubt figure out a way to get there.

Monday, October 17, 2011


    Hello. My name is Betsy Schow and I'm an FFP, a former fat person. Yes you've read correctly, former. One year ago today I decided I was finished with being fat.
     On October 17 2010, I begrudgingly stepped on the bathroom torture device, otherwise known as a scale. After the dust had settled and the little 0.00 had stopped blinking, it betrayed me by saying 216.8. The lies, the horror! I checked behind me to make sure my daughter hadn't inadvertently stepped on the scale. Nope just me. Must be one of those freak miscalculations. I would step off and try again. You see, over the last four months I had been exercising at the gym, and mostly avoiding sweets. Last month when I weighed myself the scale read 205.  All that work couldn't have disappeared in just one month right? If you believed the gremlin  that lives inside my scale, it did. A second, third, and fourth weigh in all revealed the same exact results, I had gained 10 lbs. in one month!

    Such a drastic change demanded an equally drastic plan of action.  My doctor had been warning me for years that I was obese and at very real risk of becoming diabetic. I'd never really believed him until that moment.  My parents are type 2 diabetics, my husband is type 1 1/2. If I could gain 10 lbs. in one month, it could happen again, and again, until I became too big to get out of bed. Looking back now, I realize that I was probably overreacting a little bit, but I'm grateful I did. That was not going to be me. My life was not going to be filled with needles, insulin and mumus. I was going to change my life and my unhealthy attitude towards food.

    And I did. Not in a week. Not in a month. But in a year. Like I said earlier, today marks the one year anniversary of going from fat to fit.  This year I lost 72 lbs. Went from 44% body fat to19%.  From being winded running to catch the mailman, to finishing a marathon.  But more important than numbers or percentages, I learned to like myself. I learned what amazing capabilities each and every person has hidden inside.  And all it takes to unearth this untapped well of potential was a little hope, faith, and finally listening to my mother's advice "Finish what you start."

     This blog is intended to help others like me who have tried and failed one too many times. Who are ready to say I'm finished with being fat. Everyone say it with me now, "I am finished quitting on myself."  I hope by sharing my story and some of the mistakes I've made and tricks I've learned, that I can help you finish your own goals.

    Fair warning: I'm not perfect, as anyone who knows me will gladly attest. I'm not a doctor, trainer, model, athlete, or superskinny.  I'm not advocating any particular lifestyle or diet plan.  As always, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet plan. I'm just a sometimes frustrated mother of two that wants to share my thoughts and listen to yours.


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