Authorial Sludgebody: How To Fix?

Once again, it’s that time of the year where I feel like a hibernating bear who suddenly wakes up in his cave surrounded by candy cane wrappers and choco-smear paw-prints and the bones from various turkey dinners. It’s that post-holiday wake-up call where your body reminds you:

“DEAREST SLUDGEBODY. IT IS WINTER AND YOU ARE NOW SWADDLED IN SLUDGE. FIX THIS, FLAPJACK. EITHER THAT OR JUST PUT ON 100 MORE POUNDS AND COMMIT TO THE SLUDGE.”

This is all pretty normal for me, though this year it seems a bit worse than in prior years (the curse of getting older? the doom of living with a toddler where it’s harder to amend my diet for the better?). I assume my routine will be the same as in former years, and the answer is of course a straightforward one — “Modify lifestyle by changing diet and increasing exercise.”

Still, I’m curious — the simple answer is a good one but I’m also curious about the more granular answers. For those of you who have tried or are trying to lose weight — what works? What didn’t? What diet? What exercise? Give a shout.

Curious to hear your experiments, expectations, and results.

If you don’t mind sharing, of course.

My hats off to those who do.

I’ll hang up and wait for your answer.

Click.

NO CARRIER

143 comments

  • Waving at you from the land of Overweight-to-Morbidly-Obese-All-My-Life-and-Finally-Figured-it-Out.

    Hi, Chuck. What a brave discussion. Shortly before my 46th birthday, in 2011, after years of meal replacement shakes (started at age 9, let’s move along), Richard Simmons, Weight Watchers, meal replacement shakes, Atkins, The Belly Fat Cure and Atkins again, I returned to Weight Watchers. Starting weight: 348 pounds (like I said, morbidly obese), and I stand 5′ 4″ tall.

    Lost 63 pounds in 14 months, and then got stuck losing and gaining the same 2 to 3 pounds, over and over, week after week. Hello, menopause. This is how it’s going to be, eh? Made it through the holidays with a .7 pound loss, but knew I needed to do something different to keep losing. I’d been playing, now and again, in the nutritional vegan (more specifically, plant-strong/plant-powered; Oreos are vegan – aah!) pond since January 2012 because it intrigued me. Made the full commitment as of January 2, 2013.

    Since then, by eating a fat-free plant-based diet, guided by sites like Happy Herbivore, Engine 2 Diet, Fat-Free Vegan, Kid Tested Firefighter Approved, Oh She Glows and other sites, I’ve lost weight consistently and easily every week. I eat ridiculous amounts of delicious food, I count calories based on my age, weight, and activity (I use caloriecount.com, which has Android and iPhone apps), and I lose weight.

    As of my weigh-in this morning, I’m at 264 pounds. I’ve lost 21 pounds since January 2; essentially, 3 pounds per week. I feel great, I sleep well, I’m ridiculously healthy, and I have a ton of energy. I eat chocolate most days. I drink beer or wine at least a couple times a week. I’ve found my “it.”

    I trust you’ll find your “it,” too, amongst the plethora of comments your inquiry has returned. Good luck! :-)

  • BTW French Fries don’t count as veggies, and you can reward yourself for hitting goals with a little whiskey now and then. You need to count those calories otherwise. Avoid potatoes and corn the first couple of weeks. I’m getting back on my kick now too, good luck!

  • My doctor told me the best strategy is to make sure that half of your plate is leafy green or cruciferous veggies. It’s a good idea in theory but I’m pretty awesome at gaming this kind of system. (Sure I can eat a chimichanga as long as I have some spinach on the side)

    I finally got tired of feeling like crap, so I decided to do the Whole LIving 21 day detox cleanse. You basically give up anything with flavor so your liver has a chance to get rid of the bourbon sludge and you can get past sugar and carb cravings. I’m on day three right now. I’ve lost two pounds and I haven’t murdered any of my kin.Take that as you will.

    • I’ve heard that the “detox cleanse” thing is largely a myth, yeah? Like, our bodies — assuming a functioning liver/kidney combo — handle toxins just fine? That said, I am on board with pushing past the sugar and carb cravings, which can get pretty intense. I am less on board with not murdering kin, because I have kin that, well, y’know.

      — c.

  • So many great tips… and so much total shit. Blood type diets? Really?
    And yet, I still feel compelled to add my two moldy pennies.

    I put a piece of wood across the hand grips of my treadmill. “Voila!” I can write, edit, or totally waste time playing the newest whateverVille on Facebook without having to sit on my fat ass. I walk slow, so I don’t trip all over myself, but I get to keep moving and the couch cushions get to keep their assprint-free shape for a little while.

    If you want to see a photo and/or read more about it, you can here:
    http://rebeccabarray.com/2013/01/08/weekly-photo-challenge-resolved/

  • I second the Paleo, although the diet I follow is a modified Paleo, the Dukan Diet. Mostly meat, veg, fruit, with oat bran for breakfast. Dukan allows for the use of Splenda. I lift weights, do yoga, run occasionally, but I’m not strict about it; I work out when I feel the need to move, and/or I need to think past a plot difficulty or get a better fix on dialogue. Dropping sugar was probably the hardest change, but it was the one that had the most encouraging results. Leaving breads, pasta, cookies, chips behind hurt, too. I do allow myself a few cheat days when I’m allowed to do whatever the hell I want: eat a Snickers bar, mug a hooker, have whiskey with my Lucky Charms. I’m totally kidding. It’s whiskey and pizza. Cereal’s for kids.

  • Well, Chuck, I’m going to turn your writing advice back to you on this topic. How do you lose weight? You just do it! There’s no magic pill, secret system, perfect, easy solution. It’s mostly hype. Weight Watchers is a good system, but it’s mostly what we already know. Eat less junk and processed food, less sugar and alcohol, and load up on veggies and fresh fish and maybe chicken.
    And then exercise. You go out and walk – put the toddler in a stroller and go, or take the dog. It’s not necessarily easy, but… it works.
    Just Do.

    • That’s what I tell all my paraplegic friends–just get up out of that damn wheelchair and stop being a wuss. Mind over matter. You’re just weak-willed.

      Well, it ain’t so. I’ve struggled with weight all my life. The problem is that I can starve and exercise like an anorexic for weeks and lose 2 or 3 pounds, and then cave in one Saturday night and suddenly I’m up ten pounds.

      For some people, maintaining weight is not a problem. Others can diet with relatively little effort, so it’s easy to look down on the obese and say, ‘I did it and so can you.’. For still others, like me, the most strenuous attempts yield nothing but failure and the approbation of skinny folk who think I’m morally impaired.

      We’re all different in strengths of our addictions. Compare with cigarettes. Some folks never smoke them. Others can pick them up and put them down. Other build their lives around them. We all know folks in each category.

      Most doctors today recognize the futility of giving ‘just do it’ advice, and don’t even mention weight unless they’re specially asked about it.

      • I’m with Bill. While the only truly proven “method” of losing weight is to burn more calories than you consume, the implementation of that can be problematic for some. My Dad lost 30 pounds in a month by not having thirds for dinner and walking 3-5 miles a day. Me? I’d be lucky to break even doing that. Some people need a gym environment for exercise, others are fine at home.

        It’s best to be patient and develop a weight-loss program that fits you. If you need help, talk to your doctor, a nutritionist, a trainer, any trained expert you can find. All you need to do is take that first step.

  • I have the advantage of being single and no kids, so for exercise I hit the gym two nights a week. I also went back to my old Karate dojo and started generating some sweat equity there (three nights a week).

    I’ve also gotten strict with my diet. 3/4s of a cup of cereal in the morning, maybe some OJ. Lunch is a sammich or wrap with an apple and some Greek yogurt. Afternoon snack is two tablespoons of hummus, using carrots to shovel said hummus into my mouth. Dinner is a cup of rice with some sort of curried protein (salmon, chicken, turkey or chick peas, lentils are good too but they need lots of curry sauce). I give myself a single “cheat day” every two months to go ape-nuts and cram anything I want into my esophagus.

    YMMV, I’ve lost twelve pounds since January, and despite eating way too much food on a business trip two weeks ago it’s been staying off.

    Mike

  • After a lifetime of struggle, I discovered the low-carb diet almost 20 years ago. Removing the carbs and leaving the fat deducts a bunch of calories from the diet, while minimizing hunger. Seems it’s fat that satisfies hunger, but no matter how many carbs you eat, your stomach still shouts up the pipe, “Send me fat.” (Note that removing carbs is not the same as *substituting* fat for carbs.)

    I was able to stay on that diet for about eight years, keeping my weight constant, until one Christmas at my in-laws’ house, almost every dish on the table was heavy-duty carbs, and I caved in. Just one leetle scoop of mashed potatoes and gravy. That did it. I haven’t been able to successfully go back on the diet in ten years, and I’ve gained 45 disgusting pounds in spite of regular, heavy duty exercise.

  • It’s not a detox cleanse in the “take these laxatives and your colon will be clean” sense. Mainly it’s cutting out dairy, wheat, caffeine, sugar and processed foods to give your body a break.

    • Excellence. That sounds more, er, sound. (I just get worried whenever I hear “detox cleanse.”)

      All that said, there’s hella no way I’m cutting out the caffeine. I WOULD KILL ALL THE PEOPLE. Or would if I could wake up.

      – c.

  • I might also add that for exercise, Fitocracy is a helpful site with a mobile app that helps keep track of your activities. It’s calculates points for whatever you do, and has a “level up” system that’s good for the occasional “atta boy,” but once you start connecting with people there it’s good for extra encouragements. Fitocracy does NOT track diet however, nor does it give you fitness data like calories burned, et al. It just tracks what you do — as long as, of course, you tell it.

  • There was this guy, he was really cool. He was talking about what you need to write every day and he summed it up as simply as: “Just write”. I’d take that advice and apply it to taking exercise and eating better :P

    Seriously though, I’d go experiment with exercise until you get one that works for you. Walking every day with the pram is a good one. When my son was little I did that and actually got fitter than pre parental duties! Also, toddlers are ace for training. They’re like little weights that giggle. You can lift them up, put them on your shoulders, carry them on your back. And they love being picked up (generally) so everyone’s a winner.

    I used to think I wasn’t sporty at all but it was just about finding something that I enjoyed. If you don’t enjoy it (diet or exercise) it won’t last.

    Good luck!

    • Peter —

      Trust me, I know the deal is “exercise and diet,” but like I said in the actual post, I’m looking for more nuance — there is, after all, SCIENCE afoot, and there are effective ways of doing those things and less or ineffective ways. Hence, the question. I’m not looking for motivation or inspiration. I’m looking for technique.

      — c.

  • I went from 275 to 220 last year (from a size 44 waist to size 36, and XXL shirts to L) … did it with a combination of quantifying what I ate plus working out four to five times a week. The biggest difference-maker for me was myfitnesspal.com — it sets a baseline of calories you’re allowed (based on your BMI) and you add to that number with the amount of exercise you do. (Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated w/the aforementioned website.)

  • While I am still the size of a major appliance, I have lost 100 pounds. Quite a feat for someone who adores food and hates to sweat. Rule 1: Sneak exercise in everywhere. Park a long way from the front of the store. Carry items up the stairs immediately instead of waiting until you have a bunch. Don’t coerce your spouse or children to unload the groceries, you do it. Rule 2: Eat the essence of your favorite foods so you don’t feel deprived. Love bacon cheeseburgers? Eat a BLT instead to get the bacon yummy. Love spaghetti? Dip french bread in a small bowl of marinara instead. Love ice cream? Only eat a single scoop on a small cone instead of a bowl with three scoops and toppings. The results are slow but it’s been easy to keep it off. I wish you all the best with your winter weight.

  • Another vote for the reduced-carb diet – it has sound scientific backing (I’m a biologist). I admit it can be hard to stick to, and it requires a lot of cooking, but it’s healthy for all ages so the whole family can adopt it with no dangers. Bdub doesn’t need sugar in his diet, after all.

    The version I’m following is The Harcombe Diet – basically no processed food at all (including dried fruit and fruit juice, as well as sugar, white flour, etc), and you avoid mixing carbs and fat, because it’s insulin (produced when you eat carbs) that your body needs to lay down fat. Three meals a day, no snacking – but low-carb high-fat meals are very filling, so you soon adjust.

    Most of my meals are either Atkins-esque (lots of meat and greens) or low-fat vegetarian (chilli/curry/stirfry with brown rice). Very filling, so I’m never hungry as long as I can get access to “allowed” foods – which can be tricky when travelling, admittedly.

    Every so often I go off the rails and have a pizza, but I soon climb back on the wagon as the diet is very tasty. Compared to calorie-controlled diets, being able to slap butter on your broccoli and green beans feels so decadent!

    Also: BACON. You too can eat lots of bacon and lose weight. Seriously – I lost nine pounds in the first three weeks of January.

  • What’s worked for me is WeightWatchers. Mainly because it taught me to pay attention to portion sizes. What we think of as a normal portion is usually a lot more than 2 serving. So I still eat the things I like. I just eat less of them. After a few weeks of initial hunger, my body adjusted and now the gargantuan portions are nearly impossible for me to eat. Plus, a nice bonus is whenever we go out to eat, I have lunch for the next day.

  • I am in much the same boat as you at the moment; each winter my body declares that it quits, & each spring I have to put it back to work.

    Basic principles I have always found effective are:

    Eliminating anything entirely from your diet doesn’t work. Allow yourself moderation in all things. Obviously you can’t be consuming nothing but Five Guys & bourbon 24/7 & expect to treadmill that shit off your arse, but you are totally able to have those things sometimes without forever retaining sludgebody.

    Burn more calories than you take in; if you have a party day, make sure you balance it with a day of more austere eating & some amped-up exercise.

    Exercise a little bit every day.

    Weight train. I don’t mean Ah-nold levels of ooh-rah, here, just body-weight exercises & simple dumbbell work. Muscle burns fat even while you are sitting still, but you lose ‘em when you don’t use ‘em, so take care of the muscle you’ve got.

    Here’s to us both attacking (with love) our respective sludgebodies!

  • I lost 100% of my body weight on the Jack Russell Terrier Blood Diet. Anyone who even tries losing weight a different way is an immoral weenie dunce and probably a communist.

    Well, that and I cut out as many white carbs and liquid calories as I could and concentrated on lean protein and veggies. One of those two. Good luck, Chuck.

  • I don’t diet, ever, because diets don’t work (in any good study, 95% of all people regain all their weight lost — plus some — within 5 years). However, I have reached a weight I’m happy with by learning to follow my body’s cues. I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m full. I eat what I’m hungry for, whether it’s salad or ice cream. This is harder than it sounds! Dieting teaches us to ignore our hunger (conquer it!) and Western culture teaches us to eat until we’re stuffed. When you follow your body, you reach a good equilibrium. You may never be skinny, but you’ll be healthier.

  • Have you looked into High-Intensity Interval Training? Workout programs like INSANITY or CROSSFIT are great for losing weight. The overall idea is to keep your heart rate up by minimizing rest periods between sets in your workout, which kickstarts your glucose metabolism and burns fat like Brad Pitt making soap. Just don’t use those workouts as an excuse to eat a bushel of bacon lollipops or tub of Nutella ice cream.

    Remember, the mind will always quit before the body.

  • What an appropriate post! I’ve also just embarked on a ‘healthier lifestyle’ mission, having realised that my ass will shortly achieve gravitational field (with orbiting celestial bodies and everything) and send us crashing into the Sun. I prefer to call it ‘healthier lifestyle’ rather than a ‘weight-loss’ program because the former is more likely to be sustainable.

    Re: food. It’s about portion control, lean protein and high fibre. Carbs are in but the more complex the better. I shop online and I’m very strict about what I put in my basket. No chocolates, crisps, biscuits, etc. If it ain’t in the cupboard, it won’t be eaten. Of course, I currently have a stock (which is fast expiring) of things I got for my birthday and Christmas: despite my repeated ‘glare-of-death’, family and friends have yet to get the message not to give me chocolate for special occasions. A fresh basket of puppies would be fine.

    Re: exercise. I’m walking about 2 miles a day and use an oscillation/vibration plate twice a day for 10 mins per session. I discovered Zumba fitness (you’re allowed to roll your eyes or snigger) two years ago and absolutely love it (the most fun class I’ve ever done), but injured both knees and can’t do it anymore. My surgeon told me I’m allowed to swim and walk and that’s about it. Considering the temperature of the local swimming pool is fast approaching that of the last Ice Age, I’m walking instead. I use the JTX fitness Salon Pro 2 plate (from a British company) and have already toned up in my legs in the last two weeks.

    Good luck with your endeavour! Say hello to the unicorn!

    AD

  • Keep it simple. Keep your goals obtainable . Keep it “real” in terms of the food you consume. No processed garbage, or anything that is no longer identifiable as something that was either 1. Once living, be it animal or veg and 2. What color is that? There isn’t even a name for that color.
    Don’t think diet, they never work, and they are unsustainable. You have to think life change/adjustments and starting points: What worked for me, and I do say what worked for me was walking a minimum of 90 minutes every night after dinner, no stopping! You can walk at any pace you feel comfortable with. I did this for a full year, just walking and dropped over 40 pounds. Of course I was eating fantastically well and smaller portions saw the surface of my plate. I love my walks. I can either clear my headspace with music or talk away at my portable recorder. But it’s my time! Now, I run like a maniac and enjoy pilates, yoga and sometimes even weights. Who dat?! When did that happen? Step counters help, and even motivate. You should be getting a min. of 10K steps per day, but with added long walks, I was pulling in between 15-22 each day. If you get the cool counter, it shows you aerobic steps and calories burned as well… very motivating!
    Calorie trackers online annoy the piss out of me. They never have the “exact” thing you consumed and I find them to be belligerent and confusing. Fuck that. I keep dibs on my intake, mostly tracking meat and beans, or sauces if I have them.
    I went to a mostly veg diet, and have stuck that for almost 3 years. I do still have fish, tuna, salmon, crab, but not as an everyday protein source. I’ll swap with beans or eggs. The same should be said for any meat, really. Limit the portion to the size of your fist, and no more than once a week on red meat.
    Bread is a big baddie in the weight world, mostly because of the wheat. Wheat is not good for you, and the carbs involved wreck a body. You’d be amazed at what cutting down bread/starch intake can do for you. You can still love your carbs, but get them from a natural source.
    Great reading materials that were inspiring for a “change” and not a “diet” were: In Defense of Food; Wheat Belly; Good Calories, Bad Calories; Food Inc.; Fast Food Nation; and Primal Blueprint. I sort of pick and pulled the good that worked from all of them, some here, others there, not fully paleo as I don’t really do the meat thing. BUT, the key is finding what works for you. And it’s okay to have a brownie or two, or some cookies… just not every day! ;) Or try a coconut and other nut flours instead of wheat. It’s fun to play with alt flours and recipes… but don’t expect success each time! AND – stay away from artificial sweeteners. Don’t have diet, if you’re going to cheat, go full flavor. It’s bad for you, but not as toxic as the sweeteners are proving.
    Total of 80 pounds down and kept off. You can do it! But you have to want to do it, and no half-assing it, either. Commit to changing and discovering new flavors that you like, new routines you are into, it’s all about nutrition and moving a little bit more. There’s no magic pill, and roadblocks happen all the time, which is when you lean a new activity! But feeling great and non-sluggish is well worth it.

  • After being an overweight kid and an anorexic teen, I spent 20 years working as a professional fitness / aerobic / personal trainer. Not such a great job for a bipolar writer. It was more of a paid addiction. One thing I learned is that every ‘body’ is different and reacts different to diets and exercise. Some people just eat half of what they’re used to and stop drinking coke and they lose 20 lbs. Other people diet and exercise and have to fight every single gram. I personally believe in exercise, not just to lose weight, but to insure that when one gets closer to 50 or 60, they will still be able to walk, their heart will still be able to beat and the lungs will take in air. (Have a look at all the people I know between 40 and 60 who have had heart attacks, some fatal, in the last few years.)

    What works for me may not work for others. I went vegan last year and it was the best and easiest decision I have made in a long time. I’m not losing weight, a vegan diet is not necessarily low-fat, but let’s just say, everything works better. I only manage to exercise one or twice a week but I have a dog and have to go out every day, in all sorts of weather. It’s a big dive after training 20 hours a week for years but writing is more important these days.

  • Weight is not as much my problem as generally being unhealthy. I also hibernate come winter, and I lose all that fitness I pick up in summer. It’s like the ultimate long-term crash diet, molded around seasons.

    You know how you had to build the discipline to write every day? Or whatever your schedule is? It’s the same way with exercise. I had to force myself to set aside 30 minutes a day—that’s 20 for the workout, 10 for various set-up and motivational yelling—to work out. Every day except my day of rest. Force. Myself. It wasn’t easy. There’s a million excuses why now is not a good time, why something else with immediate benefit is better done now, etc, etc. All the same excuses as why someone isn’t writing, interestingly enough. It’s too hard. So on.

    I picked up Jillian Michaels’s Shred, which is a 20 minute workout that really started showing results. I eat well already—I’m part of a co-op thing that delivers farm fresh meal ingredients from local farms and communities—but I did have to start pounding a protein shake right after workouts (my goal isn’t to lose weight, just get fit). I started using Zombies, Run! as a motivational thing to run every other day (which takes longer, but the app is fun) and Shred on non-run days.

    Then I found kettlebells and they kick my ass on a regular basis. So, that’s also fun.

    Anyway, my point is, it does take discipline, which can be hard to muster if you don’t have any motivational help from friends and family—but I bet you do!—and a very real, serious, honest talk with yourself whether “it’s too hard to do it alone” is the truth or if it’s just a convenient way to psyche your brain out. I’m not saying it isn’t a legit excuse—some people need nutritional help or doctor help or whatnot—but all too often, we can be very, very good at rationalizing ourselves into not doing something for what can be “very good reasons”—but possibly superfluous ones.

    Good luck, Cherk. <3 You can do it!

    Oh, and in the realm of more integral to the point: a friend of mine is now trying to lose very unhealthy weight. She is working with a varying number of Jillian Michaels' videos, including yoga and kettlebells, and is already seeing results. She does it every day except one. She struggles with motivation, but the numbers are there. :)

  • Honestly the best way to lose weight is to eat better. Lean protein, lots of fruits and vegies, and as few simple carbs (white bread, pasta) as possible. Really, in the end it’s about taking in fewer calories than you’re using each day. Calculate how many calories you are currently taking in each day (fitday.com is good, or you can just read all the labels), and then make a habit of eating less than that, slowly decreasing the amount of calories eaten per day to account for your metabolism adjusting over time.

    I highly suggest ignoring specialty diets–you know, the ones with names, that come and go like the seasons. Eat lots of protein and healthy carbs.

    Do weight training for exercise! Do compound movements using heavy weights for relatively few reps per set (12 or less, about). The following routines/programs are pretty good: Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, Reg Park’s Beginner’s Routine, the stuff found in Chad Waterbury’s “Huge In a Hurry” book, and the routines in Lou Schuler + Alwyn Cosgrove’s “The New Rules of Lifting” series. Study after study has shown that putting on muscle is generally healthy and can seriously help with weight loss. If you have a fear of moving heavy things, then you use body weight exercises. The principle is the same; it’s all resistance training. Wight weights the process is simplified and made easier, and you’re not limited to your own bodyweight (whether it’s too heavy, or too light).

    I just threw up information. Sorry, lol.

  • Regarding Technique

    This’ll learn me to do a comment before finishing my coffee.

    Here’s what I learned, via trial and effort and watching my own weight.

    1. Work out every day, save one day of rest. This builds discipline.
    2. Do not eat before a workout. It hangs in your gut and makes you very sluggish and slow. To say nothing of that fact that a hard enough workout will make you vomit, if it’s trying to digest at the same time.
    3. Eat something high in protein—a shake also works—in the hour immediately following a workout. Disclaimer: Science appears to be arguing on this matter. Some says this gives your body energy to work fat into muscle, others say that you don’t want to eat in that hour because your body will then start consuming fat for energy. I don’t know for sure—I had to eat, or I’d shrivel up and die.
    4. Do no, do not, do not eat right before bed. Give yourself enough time so that your food is more or less digested before going to sleep. Your body more or less hibernates when you sleep, so any undigested food pretty much goes to pot in there. Digestion is a surprisingly active process requiring lots of energy. Who knew?
    5. Lots and lots of water. Especially if you do running or the 20 minute workouts. In general, the shorter the workout, the more intense it is, so you sweat like a dessert baboon covered in wax. Need to replenish the water.

    This is all the science I have for you. :/ There are talks about diets and nutrition and stuff like that, supplements and whatnot, and I just don’t know enough about diets to go there. Shedding a ton of weight very fast is unhealthy, according to nutritionists I’ve spoken to, so be wary of any that promise epic results with no added exercise routine.

    Hope those help?

  • I’ve tried both calorie counting and low-carb diets and found that calorie counting makes for a much more peaceful household. Hubby and I both lost some weight on low-carb (South Beach) but neither of us ever lost the carb cravings. When I stick to the diet I’m crabby all the time because I’m craving carbs. When I cheat on the diet I’m crabby because I feel guilty for cheating and because the scale shows it. (As you said, “KILL ALL THE PEOPLE!”)

    Calorie counting using the LoseIt! app for iPhone worked much better for me. I lost about 40 lbs in 4 months. I can eat what I want as long as I don’t eat too much of it, and having a calorie limit helps me make good choices. (I can eat a doughnut for breakfast and not eat again all day, or I can eat eggs and whole wheat toast and still have lunch and dinner. Hmmm.)

    As for exercise, I think it comes down to finding some activity you actually enjoy. I get bored with exercise routines like going to the gym or working out with videos or equipment at home, so I don’t keep up with them. Instead I get my exercise by walking the dog in the winter (trudging through knee deep snow wearing 20 lbs of winter gear while trying to control a crazy dog on a leash definitely burns some calories) and gardening in the summer. You just have to find what you enjoy enough to stick with it.

  • Since committing to the Write Life, I’ve been actively trying to shed the pounds that the Corporate Communications life brought to me. I walk every day (save really nasty weather days). Having a dog to do that helps — so, you’re covered there. I drink water constantly. I’ve cut out sugar and most wheat. Eating fruit when I want something sweet. Staying away from soda (save in my adult beverages). I’ve dropped 30 pounds slowly and am wearing smaller clothing than I have in three years plus. Just being cognizant of it helps. I also won’t let myself sit at the computer more than :40 in a stretch. I get up, do laundry, walk around the yard with the dog…whatever. Then go back to the writing cave. Rinse repeat.

  • The problem is, there’s no one answer. All of these things only work if and when you decide to stick to them. For me, my “fitness” goals throughout the winter months pretty much consist of not *gaining* anything. When I’m ready to get back to trying to lose weight, here are my granular details:

    1) Drink water. If you think you’re hungry, drink a glass of water first. Before you work out, after you work out, before you drink vodka, after you drink vodka; Drink water. And then drink some more.*

    2) Exercise. Doesn’t even really matter what, because the trick is finding what works for you. I do Hip Hop Hustle twice a week, weights/strength a couple of times a week, and run when I feel like it (which happens more in warmer weather, because I go much further outside than on the treadmill). I also recently found a Pilates class I liked, so I’ll probably try to work that in, and I’m doing the 100 pushup challenge (hundredpushups.com). I’m also on Fitocracy. You can definitely take the toddler for walks, either with the stroller or, even better, get a hiking pack.

    3) Track your food intake. I use Myfitnesspal.com because it’s free, and has a social pane (which means my friends all cheer for me when I lose weight, exercise, etc). I’ve also heard good things about Livestrong’s tracking site. But again, the tool doesn’t matter, what matters is that you measure and write down what you eat. Most Americans have a completely fucked up sense of portion sizes, and it’s easy to let them creep up. I have three sets of measuring cups and 4 sets of spoons, so that I always have one available. I also have a scale.

    4) Eat your Fruits and Veggies. In as pure a form as you can get them. Our CSA starts delivering usually around the end of March, and that often corresponds to when I can start losing again. Coincidence? I think not. Treat your veggies the same way you do the water. Think you want crackers? Have some carrots. Think you want cake? Try berries with Greek yogurt and a little cinnamon. Instead of spaghetti, try spaghetti squash (no, it’s not *exactly* the same, but it works in a lot of applications).

    5) And this is kind of a more generalized version of 4… Eat Real Food. Chicken > Chicken Nuggets. Broiled Salmon > Fish sticks. Crackers, chips, cookies, cakes… are not real food. Sorry. I try to stay away from them, because I’m very susceptible to the Betcha Can’t Have Just One.

    6) Don’t neglect protein (especially if you’re following step 2 like you should). Protein will give you energy and keep you full longer.

    *It doesn’t actually have to be water. Water is best, non-caffeinated and calorie free is second (Crystal Light is good for this), caffeinated last, but the key is to hydrate plenty, preferably without added calories.

    I have a bunch of healthy recipes on my (now mostly neglected) Mommy blog here: http://mamaknowsnada.blogspot.com/

    and you can also search G+ for #KateysKitchen for my culinary conquests.

  • 1. Count calories (for a limited time). Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass, but it’s good info to have. First, establish a baseline by tracking your current eating for a week – analyze what you’re missing or eating too much of. You will probably find you don’t eat enough fiber, and perhaps some other nutrients as well. Then as you gradually change your diet, track for a week here and there to compare and make sure you’re on the right track.

    2. “Boot camp”. I know it’s the trendy exercise class right now other than crossfit, but it will kick your butt. I lost 30 pounds doing a 1.5 hour class two times a week for a semester.

    3. Measure your body, not just your weight. Use a measuring tape and measure around your neck, bicep, waist, hips, thigh, and calf once a week at the same time of day. Even if your weight doesn’t change, your measurements will show your improvement!

    4. Eat whole, minimally-processed foods. Only whole grains, none of this white flour or white rice crap. I’m vegetarian, but do what works for you.

    5. Know your weaknesses. I had a rule for a while that I could only eat desserts if they were homemade, but that didn’t work for me since I enjoy baking, and then had to eat all of what I made :) Now I’ll only do fancy treats like bakery cupcakes. I also have gotten into vegan baking.

    6. Small meals and small snacks throughout the day. I keep trail mix and dried apricots at my desk to much on, and carrots in the fridge. I also recommend the book Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles – a book of all raw snacks.

  • I do intermittent fasting (every two weeks for 3-5 days in a row). It’s short enough that it’s not too hard to do, but long enough that by the end, I’m over junk-food cravings and really REALLY want green delicious things (straight-up spinach is now a staple in my house). It’s kind of a domino effect–the fasting triggers a craving for healthy foods, and eating healthy foods gives me more energy, and that leads to me doing active things like exercise, and by the time the junk-food cravings come around it’s almost time for fasting again so it’s easier to say “…nah, maybe next time.”
    This doesn’t work for everyone, and I get a lot of flack from friends and family about “but you staaaarving yourself!”…but I’ve lost and kept off 30 pounds since I started about five months ago, my blood pressure is now under control (it used to be ridiculously high) and feel stronger in general. It was really hard to stick to the regime starting out but now it’s just part of the routine.
    Hope you find a process that works for you! :)

  • The best answer I can give, which has kept me in shape ever since I started doing it: Intermittent Fasting. Sounds scary, huh? I think you and the “creator” would hit it off. He is into tough love and swearing.

    I like it mostly because it lets me EAT, and not, like all other freaking diets where you starve. Sure, the first two or three weeks before lunch I was hungreeeeeee, but kept it under control with caffeine. Now, 5 years later it’s no biggie.

    Here’s a primer, best 5 minutes ever: http://www.leangains.com/2010/04/leangains-guide.html

    Basically, 2-3 strength workout per week. High-intensity, low-reps and compound movements, think benchpress, squat, deads, and not bicep curls and enormous pythons.

    Shave of the obvious carbs. Attack them there veggies; omnonom a lot of ‘em and increase lean proteins: it will keep you full longer and preserve muscle mass.

    Summary: A no-bs approach to training and dieting (scientifically supported, which most diet gurus can’t really say – it should always be kind of mythical and the more far-fetched things are the more people buy it. Like that fakking Stealth Jet people used to get abs – ya that’ll work, ese).

    OK, I am not in any way affiliated with the guy behind this (wish I was, need them there cash), other than that we have written for the same Swedish fitness magazine (www.body.se).

  • Alright here is my lay-down of diets summed up in one word; don’t!
    If you want to lose weight in a healthy way then dieting in the starving yourself manner is not the way forward. I have always been in between overweight and chubby, but have lost 18 pounds since June last year and a lot of centimeters. I did this by simply cutting down on my portion sizes and salt intake, no fancy diet products, no strict food plans, just plain old smaller plate and exercise 2 times a week. I eat small snacks during the day like carrots with homemade hummus or 1 apple with lemon and cinnamon. Avoid processed foods because of the levels of salt and try and keep an eye on your calorie intake (it is pretty normal for dieters to eat far too little calories in a day which also brings your digestion to a halt) by using free programs like myfitnesspal or something similar.

  • A combo of obsessive tracking what I eat via Sparkpeople, and getting 3rd degree brown belt in Chinese Kenpo shaved 20 pounds off me, my goal for the year is to either stay at this weight or drop another 10 pounds, but I’m in the size of jeans I like. And hitting things and people is a hell of a lot of fun!

    And when I say “obsessively tracking everything I eat” I mean including the 2 teaspoons of dried milk I add to my morning tea and that sneaky mini Snickers from the jar in the break room. Everything.

  • February 18, 2013 at 6:05 PM // Reply

    My doctor gave me sound advice: Eat a diet rich in protein, fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods, fried foods, sugary foods. Eat breakfast very day. Try to eat five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big meals. Do some type of activity for 30 minutes each day. I choose walking, first slow then brisk. Drink plenty of water. If you’re sitting most of the day, try to get up every 20 to 30 minutes and move around. Hope this helps.

  • Speaking as someone who works as a full-time novelist, cycling helps for me. It’s exercise, but the kind that doesn’t feel like exercise. I don’t go bombing around in lycra – I wear more or less street clothes, with a couple of ‘technical fabric’ items added for dealing with perspiration – and go exploring around canals and back streets and cycle routes here in Scotland. I also, I must admit, do make a habit of walking many places.

  • You’ve got dogs, right? Each day, make the walk a little longer. And faster. Make a game of it – try to get a personal best. Each day, a little quicker on the same route. Maybe work up to running some of it. (bonus- walking the dog gives me time to think about what I’m going to write today) Also? Your dogs will love you.

    Yoga is good too — I’ve seen a couple of *amazing* stories come about through various forms of yoga. (I can link if you want, but one includes one guy who was morbidly obese AND had injuries so the docs said he’s never walk without aids again. Now he’s half the man he was and can run….)

    Other than that, eat sensibly. Have a little treat if you like. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Hairy Bikers i the US, but they’re chefs, and they both needed to lose weight. So they dedicated themselves to making great, tasty recipes as much less calories/fat ( a series I think they called the Hairy Dieters). They both lost a shed load of weight. I’ve tried a couple of recipes and they’re bloody brilliant. Food that is good for you needn’t be tasteless.

  • I get winter sludgebody, but it’s annual not authorial. I eat breakfast every day, not many processed foods, almost no fried foods. I eat out only once a week. I drink only two glasses of tea a day and the rest water. I probably don’t eat as many veggies as I should. My doc says that whenever I fix green veggies, I should automatically double the portion. My weight gain stems from lack of exercise, love of dessert and cheese, and having had a baby 1 year ago.

    For a long time, I didn’t have the time or energy for anything but to do my job, do my husband, and keep the house from becoming unlivable. Now that Spawn is one and I feel like doing more than falling asleep when he does, I’ve been getting back into exercising.

    I started the way I usually did in late winter/early spring: the dreadmill. But this year, after whining about the damned thing, a friend suggested a new exercise routine that only takes aobut 20 minutes and burns fat and adds muscle more efficiently than just walking. It’s been five weeks, and judging by the underwear photos I’ve made myself take each Wednesday, I can see some difference. Even my saggy gross post-babybelly skin is better. I have to take lots of breaks, but he assures me that as I take fewer breaks in the routine, I will see more results. The main point is that I feel better. Now, if I could give up dessert and cheese, I would be golden.

    The routine takes some ‘splainin, but if you’re interested in specifics, here’s a link to his Tumblr where he has links to youtube videos of the exercises in his routine with intructions as to how he modifies them. http://cheekyguy.tumblr.com/post/40698860384/why-dont-you-post-a-video-of-your-exercise-i-cant .

  • I keep candy, chips and soda out of my living space whenever possible. I also have a “if I don’t see it I don’t know it’s here” policy with my current housemates (temptation is harder if I don’t find tempting stuff). I picked a room a full flight of stairs and one hall away from a bathroom and kitchen, so that helps with the ‘get at least minimal movement in’ every day. I get a lot of airplane/train station exercise just about every month due to travel,and what home exercise I do is generally physical therapy stretches, yoga, and a little time on a manual treadmill as asthma and movement issues allow. I don’t have kids, but I do have a cat. I try to play with him for 10-15 minutes every day, with string-toys or a laser pointer. It keeps him from getting bored and gives me another opportunity for movement.

    I try to keep stuff in the kitchen that’s very little effort for me to eat on tired days. Low fat cottage cheese, fruit, avocados, whatever. I honestly don’t eat as much or as often as I should, even for a fairly sedentary person (lingering issues post-treatment for an eating disorder.) Trying to make a better effort this year to eat small, healthy and often. I really like crunchy veggies and hummus.

    I take a metric ton of supplements under doctor’s orders, incl. iron, vitamin d, vitamin b, and calcium. When they checked my vit. d on bloodwork they, uh. Couldn’t really find any. Always good to get your blood checked for deficiencies that could be fucking you up (as well as hormone issues which can fuck with weight/health.)

    Due to allergies+religious stuff, I don’t eat: walnuts, anything out of the ocean that isn’t a fish with scales, no pork, and I have to avoid anything with gluten like the plague (doctor figured out the gluten issues 15 years ago. My teens sucked.) I also consume a low level of dairy compared to most people I know. I eat ice cream about three or four times a year. In deference to most of the health issues going on in the house, I eat low sodium, and low-fat.

  • I’m on vacation right now eating all the stuff I shouldn’t be, but when I get back home, I’m going to give “The Plan” a shot. http://lyngenet.com/

    The gist of it is that there are foods which your body naturally rejects causing inflammatory reactions that exacerbate your weight gain. You start out on a three day “cleanse” eating just the least reactive foods to give your body a chance to reset, then start testing the foods you love to see if they’re okay or going to cause inflammation. Dr. Recitas explains it better than I do. :)

    I don’t know how well it will work, but I’ve got high hopes.

  • My suggestion is…don’t diet. Robbing yourself of the foods you like only leads to bingeing so just eat the foods you like but in much smaller portions. Not everyone can workout everyday so pick some repeat ice exercise that you can do reps of during writing breaks (squats, push-ups, jumping jacks). If you don’t take regular breaks, do it once an hour. That’s a start. Works for me!

  • If you don’t want to leave your house P90X is an excellent workout too. I’ve done it once and tried to repeat it several other times, my wife has completed 3 rounds of it.

  • My husband and I started losing together at the beginning of the year. We use the Lose it app on our phones (which you can get on the regular old internet, too, if you go to loseit.com. It’s pretty much our best way to lose, though it may not work for you or someone else. I have also enjoyed reading about Drew Manning’s journey on fit2fat2fit.com. He got fat on purpose then lost the same 75 pounds all within a year. He has very strict meal and exercise plans, so if you need someone to tell you exactly what to do, probably check him out first.

  • February 18, 2013 at 9:53 PM // Reply

    I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but Weight Watchers works pretty well for me and for my husband as well. I also remind myself that if I don’t get active at least a few times a week (my drugs of choice: running, biking, and kung fu) I turn into a raging moody bitch. When I do get active my moods are better, I sleep better, I eat fewer comfort foods and more healthy stuff to fuel all the aerobicizing. (I gained some over the winter because we went to Alaska and the winter diet in Alaska apparently involves putting potatoes and cream sauce on EVERYTHING.)

    Of course some of this is certainly personal to me–my husband HATES working out and only does it because his cardiovascular system will conk out on him otherwise–but there it is.

  • I lost 40 post-baby lbs on Weight Watchers. I don’t chart anymore because I don’t feel like paying, but the experience of doing it for a year really changed the way I eat in terms of choices and portion size. Also, you can factor in a daily treat or one big one for a special occasion — it’s all about moderation. Sacrifice some of this for some of that, or save that for tomorrow if you had this today. Balance. After struggling with anorexia in college, my body seems to have retained a certain shock memory — withdraw all of anything and it freaks out and shuts down. But moderation I can do.
    I try to walk when I can, but that’s easier in an urban environment (one of the reasons I detested the burbs), especially in a place like PIttsburgh that’s walker accessible. And has lots of museums in which one can chance three year olds.
    I just got back on the wagon this week after a couple of false starts, so woohoo!!

  • You should look this up because I’m fuzzy on the details and they might have changed since I looked it up, but increasing your intake of black coffee and high-capsaicin peppers (throw some cayenne powder on whatever you’re eating) will jump start you metabolism increasing your bodies natural calorie burn by around 1000 calories and giving you the energy to be more active. I’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s helped me. The only down side is that it can do terrible things to your toilet. But it keeps you regular. Very, very regular.

  • Like everything else in life, I am only limited by time and money.

    We tried going low-carb but it tended to blow up our grocery budget. Just emphasizing fresh meats and veggies is hard enough with two boys and their bottomless-pit stomachs. We’re at least more conscious of the carbs we ingest and limit ourselves to single servings at dinner.

    I’ve always exercised but ended up letting that go when I decided it was time to finish my first novel – I gained 20 lbs that year. Now I’m trying to get rid of that 20 while finishing my second novel, and I kind of *have* to since I’m also committed to a major backpacking expedition this summer with No.1 son’s scout troop.

    So, the writing routine had to change. Instead of getting up crazy-early to write before work, I get up less early and do about a 30-min workout. I stay up a little later to write after the kids are in bed. Overall I’m not as tired as I had been just because my body’s getting the workout it needs.

    I’ve found regular exercise also has the benefit of reducing my desire to eat. Once I’ve spent some time working up a good sweat, I’m a lot less enthusiastic about stuffing down that cupcake sitting on the kitchen counter.

    Which workout to recommend? P90. The original, not the crazy-assed P90X: that stuff looks nuts. P90 can still be found on the interwebs, and there’s a shortened 30-min version as well. It really works if you stick with it.

  • As far as exercise goes it’s best to always keep it changing. Run, swim, bike, hike, play a sport that involves running. Just don’t let your body get used to doing the same thing.

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