My Weight Loss Journey: The Tools I’m Using

My weight loss journey involves more than nutrition and exercise

As I embark on my journey to lose 40 lbs and hopefully help alleviate some of my arthritis pain, I’m using a few tools I thought I’d share with you.

First and foremost, I’ve accepted and confessed to myself that my number one problem is using food as a coping mechanism. So while I’m increasing my physical activity and decreasing my caloric intake, I’m also working on the psychological part: finding different ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. So the tools I’m using address mental health, exercise, and nutrition.

Tools for Weight Loss: Mental Health

A long time ago, I started reading the book Mind Over Mood, and at the time, it seemed helpful. I then abandoned the book for various reasons. I’m starting to read the book again, and I believe it will help me in finding healthier ways to cope with difficult situations and time periods. So Mind Over Mood is tool #1 for the mental health part of my weight loss journey.

Tool #2 also addresses emotional needs: I’ll be making a point of journalling for a minimum of 5 minutes a day. Writing is my escape, and it has helped me since I was a small child. Writing can be really therapeutical, so I’m going to prioritize those 5 minutes during my day.

Tools for Weight Loss: Exercise

The hardest part of adopting an exercise routine for me isn’t about the physical aspect—it’s about the emotional one. I worked for eight years as a Kinesiologist specializing in exercise for people with chronic illnesses. I know exactly what I have to do to adapt workouts so I can do them without creating further damage to my unstable joints… but it’s so hard to accept that this is what I have to do.

It’s hard to go from doing triathlons to calling a half-hour walk (while wearing braces) a workout. So I suppose the exercise portion of my weight loss plan is also emotional. I’ve finally accepted that I can’t work out like I used to (at least not right away, anyway). So I started with a simple goal: walk for 30 minutes 3 days per week for the first week.

I’m happy to say I’ve surpassed that goal and was able to walk for 30 minutes all 7 days last week. I also did all my physiotherapy exercises every day last week. The plan going forward is to add 5 minutes to the walk each week, until I’m walking for a solid hour, as long as my body can take it. I might also alternate some bike rides in there if I feel like it.

The only physical tool I’m using for my exercise, for now, is a physiotherapy band and stress balls for my physio.

The tools I'm using for my weight loss journey

Tools for Weight Loss: Nutrition

Now for the nutrition part. Firstly, let me say this: there are always people trying to tell me that I need to give up this or that nutrient to “cure” my chronic illnesses and/or to lose weight. This is one of the main reasons I don’t often talk or write about my chronic illnesses, and one of the reasons I left the fitness industry. Too many “experts.”

So let me clear from the get-go: when I get comments about what I should or shouldn’t eat, what exercise regimen I should adopt, or any other medical advice from non-medical professionals, I’m simply not going to answer those comments.

I’m a former Registered Kinesiologist and my sister is a Dietitian. I know good nutrition information when I see it (and it generally doesn’t come from lay people with no formal training).

There is a tonne of misinformation out there about how nutrition works, and the constant barrage of people telling professionals that they know more about nutrition and exercise than the professionals do (because they’ve read the “latest research”—usually on a blog) gets really tiring, really fast. <end rant.>

So, moving on. Despite what the credential-less “experts” have to say, weight loss, while a complex issue, comes down to one thing in the end: calories in, calories out. You burn more calories than you take in, you lose weight. Do the opposite, and you gain. Take in the same amount as you burn, and you maintain. It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.

While I know that counting calories is what every single weight loss plan is based on (despite the lies marketers tell you), I find it cumbersome and tiresome to try and calculate calories all the time. So I’m using a tool to do the job for me. Eatthismuch.com is a great website where you can enter your goals and how many meals you’d like to have in a day. It then gives you how many calories you need to reach your goals, and generates a meal plan with the exact calories you need. You can change things around and do all sorts of neat things with it, too. I’ll be using this website as I plan my meals for the weeks ahead.

If anyone’s wondering, I won’t be following a particular diet or restricting any particular foods. I’m simply going to eat the amount of calories I need to try to reach my goal by the end of December—which is a reasonable amount of time to lose the amount of weight I’ve set as a goal.

The only restrictions I’ll have are not eating meat, because that’s something I already do (not for weight loss, but for other reasons), and I might take cheese completely out, because I have no discipline around it (and because it gives me gas!) Otherwise, I’m eating normal food—yes, including sugar and carbs.

You can lose weight eating anything, as long as your caloric output is greater than your input. I don’t recommend a diet of Twinkies and Doritos, but the fact that you can lose weight on that diet emphasizes my point.

If you’re curious, I’ll mostly be eating vegetables, eggs, hummus, fish and yes, some bread will be included, too. And yes, there will be sugar in my tea, but not a lot of it—and I won’t be drinking tea every day.

I’ll check in about how my weight loss journey is going each Sunday during my Weekly Review. And no, I don’t need nutrition and exercise advice. If I do, I’ll go to a professional in the field of nutrition or human movement.

If you’d like to read some of my thoughts on weight loss, you can read this LifeHacker article, where I was quoted as an expert back when I was a personal trainer. You can also read some of my weight loss tips here.

 

Arthritis and Weight

I’m in pain. Every day. Between joints that don’t stay in place and the ostearthritis affecting several of my joints, running, high impact exericse, and even going down the stairs have all become unpleasant activities in the last few years. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about the arthritis. But there is something I can do to hopefully lessen the symptoms.

I’m going to go straight out and say it: I’m overweight. Not obese, but definitely overweight. I weigh more now than I ever did, if you don’t count my pregnancies and post-partum periods. While my weight gain didn’t cause my arthritis, the 182 lbs I’m carrying are certainly not helping. So I need to do something about it.

In the past, when I wanted to drop some pounds (like after having my first daughter), my solution was to do high intensity exercise (and lots of it). Unfortunately, that’s no longer an option, so the changes have to come mostly from diet. And that’s hard, because I love to eat. That’s why “diets” will never work for me, and I refuse to give in to the fads of eliminating whole food groups by relying on pseudo-science.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to go gluten-free to stop my arthritis pain, I’d be filthy rich by now. I’ts so frustrating, because there’s no solid scientific evidence that justifies this advice. People just read some popular book based on really unsound science, and then they’re nutrition experts. So if you’re about to comment below about how I have to give up some food group to get rid of my pain, don’t. 

I’m still going to eat the things I like to eat—just less of them—in order to drop some pounds and relieve some of the pressure on my joints.

 

Arthritis and weight: What I'm doing to lessen joint pain, www.marianamcdougall.com. Background photo: x-ray of a knee by Dr. Manuel Gonzales Reyes on Pixabay

I found a great website to help in this endeavour: it’s called Eat This Much, and it’s a great resource if you need to control calories. If, like me, you need to drop some weight, you can enter your current weight, your goal weight and when you want to reach that by, and your activity level. The software will then tell you how many calories you need to take in every day to reach your goal, and it’ll generate meal plans and recipes according to your food preference and caloric needs.

I’m giving this website a shot and seeing if it helps me be more intentional about my food intake. I created a meal plan for myself this week, and I’m following along. I’m actually excited to try the new recipes and see if I can manage to stick to the meal plan. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you plan your meals? What tools do you use to stick to your meal planning?

Getting back into Exercise

Trying to get back into a regular exercise routine has been frustrating, to put it mildly. During our RV adventure, I did a fair bit of hiking, but not nearly as much exercise (and not nearly as high-intensity) as in my triathlon days. I’ve given up a lot of the physical activities I love over the last few years, and getting back into exercise hasn’t been an easy journey.

Continue reading “Getting back into Exercise”

Is Your Health Research Good Enough?

The age of information has several advantages. It’s never been easier to find answers to burning questions. With a few taps of a keyboard, a sea of information can be yours, and research has moved beyond card catalogues and long hours in libraries (though you should still spend long hours in the library).

This easy access to information is both a blessing and a curse. Continue reading “Is Your Health Research Good Enough?”

The Best Exercise

What is the best exercise everyone should be doing?

The best kind of exercise isn’t one single activity.

Anyone who’s known me since my personal training days knows that I don’t fit into the all-or-nothing thinking that plagues the industry. We all know that bodies are so diverse that there simply isn’t one diet that could work for every body on the planet, and the same goes for exercise. But there is one type of exercise that everyone should definitely be doing. Ready for it?

The Best Exercise Everyone Should Be Doing, www.marianamcdougall.com, person walking in black shoes, Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash
The best exercise everyone should be doing is the one they enjoy and that works best for them. -click to tweet

Whether ultra marathons make you happy, or HIIT exercise floats your boat, whether lifting heavy things puts a smile on your face  (and leaves your spine intact), or yoga centers you, the trick is to find the exercise that you enjoy (and therefore will stick to).

Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore; it should make you happy and have you feeling strong. Try different kinds of exercise and find the one that works for you. And remember to discuss any new exercise program with a doctor, registered kinesiologist, or certified physiologist, especially if you have health conditions that can be impacted by exercise.

What’s your favourite type of exercise?

Why I rarely write about my health conditions

I enjoy writing about a variety of things, as seen by my varied articles and blog posts across the web. This website alone is a great example of the types of things I enjoy writing about, and my website encouraging MultiTalented writers to start and grow a multi-niche writing career is another. But there’s one thing I rarely write about: my health conditions.

Continue reading “Why I rarely write about my health conditions”

Chronic Illness and Exercise: What You Need to Know

If you have a chronic illness, you’re probably tired of hearing the “expert” opinion of random people.

Living with a chronic illness (or several) is hard. But dealing with people who seem to take joy in blaming you for your condition is even worse. From people blaming “toxins” (whatever that means) in your food to people telling you that you need to get up and move when your joints don’t work, it’s kind of hard to maintain a positive attitude when you live with a chronic illness. And I totally get it.

Continue reading “Chronic Illness and Exercise: What You Need to Know”

Vegetarian Diets: Should You Be a Vegetarian?

Should you be a vegetarian?

Like everything else in nutrition, the answer isn’t simple. A lot of factors go into deciding on a lifestyle diet change: your beliefs around nutrition, scientific research, how your body reacts to foods, allergy considerations, and moral dilemmas. At the end of the day, only you can decide what to eat, and it’s no one else’s business what you put in your mouth (unless they’re feeding you, of course. Then they kind of need to know what you’ll eat). Here’s my story.

Continue reading “Vegetarian Diets: Should You Be a Vegetarian?”

Emotional Eating Is a Form of Self-Harm

Emotional eating. Behavioural Eating. Disordered Eating. Food Addiction. There are so many names for it, but no one ever calls it what it is.

Self-harm.

Emotional eating is a form of self-harm. And most people who engage in this behaviour, myself included, don’t see it. We see it as comforting ourselves. Even when it just makes us feel worse. It’s time we call our own selves out on it.

Continue reading “Emotional Eating Is a Form of Self-Harm”