140s Weigh In!

Finally, I am in the 140s at my Weight Watchers weigh in!  Given being out of town last weekend and then having my mom visiting this week and eating out mid-week (which I don’t usually do), I wasn’t too sure how it would turn out.  In fact, this morning at home I weighed in at 149.1 pounds, which was a full 6 pounds lower than the scale read on Monday morning.  This is a good example of why a big number on the scale after heavier eating than usual may simply reflect fluid retention or other factors other than actual weight gain.

At Weight Watchers I weighed in at 149.6 pounds (higher than home because I had clothes on), which was loss of 1.0 pounds.  But, the huge thing was to be in the 140s where I haven’t been in over 20 years.  I am now only 1.6 pounds away from not having to pay at Weight Watchers and 3.6 pounds away from my Weight Watchers goal of 146 pounds.  My primary goal for June is to at the very least get to 148 pounds (not that 146 wouldn’t be great also).

May was a rough month with lots of eating out (son’s birthday, Mother’s day, family wedding out of town, dining while traveling, etc.).  And, activity was not as high as usual.  Part of that was due to the traveling.  Another big part of it was the raining/flooding in Texas that interfered with my going to the Y or walking outside.

This was also my first weigh in for 3 weeks.  I didn’t really set out to miss 3 weeks of weigh ins, but various events conspired to result in missing 3 weeks.  This week I was happy that I stayed within my  points, even with being out of town last Saturday and Sunday.  I ended up with 5 weekly points left and all my activity points (the week before I overdrew my points due to my eating out so much the day we traveled out of town).  My overall calorie intake this week was a little higher than what I usually aim for and my exercise was down a bit (but still met my minimum that I want).  I think that the pound I lost this week actually reflected some of the loss I would have gotten during the weeks I wasn’t weighing in.  Regardless, I’ll take it.

There was a time when everything this month from eating out more on some special occasions, to changes in routine due to weather and other stuff, and traveling would have gotten me entirely derailed.  And, the main derailing would have been on the exercise front.  I find it easier to stick with my eating plan and to get back on track with eating than I do sticking with exercise.  If I miss exercise several days, it can be weeks until I get back to it.  Well, months.  But, this time I haven’t done that.  I’ve managed to stick with exercising, even if I’ve had to dial it back from time to time.


Back in the Groove…Gently

Since I posted on Monday, I’ve stayed in the groove, although with less intensity than the past several weeks.  I like to average about 1200 calories a day and I quickly realized that after the weekend I would exceed that this week, unless I really cut my calories significantly below 1200 calories for Monday through Friday.  I chose not to do that.  I basically instead am just eating as I normally eat on week days.  My mom is visiting for this week and my son is staying here this week before going back to college for the summer.  So, I’m not on my usual schedule.  We ate out Wednesday afternoon at the Counter.  I planned out what I would eat in advance and followed through with it and my calories for the day ended up totally fine, as if I hadn’t even gone out.

Exercise has been kind of interesting.  I did a difficult strength training session with the personal trainer on Monday.  Normally, I would do a second session on Wednesday, but that was the only time all of us could go out to eat this week while my mom is visiting.  So, I was going to go and do a strength training session on my own after we had lunch.  Unfortunately, the Y was actually closed due to nearby flooding.

I did, however, do the treadmill and exercise videos on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I noticed something interesting Wednesday, though. About 8 weeks ago, I upped my exercise time. Initially I doubled it to about 300 minutes a week and then increased it to over 400 minutes the next week.  I hasten to say that not all of this was intense exercise.  Some of it was using the exercise bike while reading a book, that kind of thing.  After awhile of this I noticed I was having some pain on the inside of my left knee (my bad knee).  I wasn’t having any pain under my kneecap (I don’t have much cartilage there).  The pain on the left knee inside was a new pain, I hadn’t had before. About a month ago, I took 2 days off from exercise at my birthday and that didn’t help.  I was about at the point of going back to the orthopedic surgeon to see if I could find out what was going on.

Well, last week, I took off 4 days from exercise.  This was from Thursday (when I got my hair done for the wedding) through Sunday when I came home.  I did exercise Monday through Wednesday.  Anyway, on Wednesday night, I realized my knee didn’t hurt.  Sometime, during the past week, the pain went away entirely.  So, I’m thinking now that when I upped my exercise several weeks ago, I simply increased it too much, too fast.  What I did Monday through Wednesday didn’t bother me, though.

I still don’t know what will happen when I weigh in Saturday.  I’m at a point right now where I could show anything from a small gain to a small loss.  Fitbit says I have about a half pound calorie deficit, but sometimes those show up in a delayed fashion.  Also, my weight fluctuates quite a bit depending upon carb intake.  That is such really water weight either way, though, so it doesn’t bother me.

And, I will be so glad to have May be over.  Starting with my birthday in April and going through Mother’s Day is always difficult since I have right in a row my own birthday, then my son’s and then Mother’s Day.  This May was even worse since we went out of town to the wedding and my mom is visiting (I like her visiting, but I do eat out more and my schedule is a little different). It is just that I’ll be glad to get back to a regular routine.

Friday morning edit:

I woke up this morning and, as usual, weighed first thing.  I’m down over a pound from yesterday (I know this is mostly water weight) and down almost 5 1/2 pounds since Monday.  I am now unofficially in the 140s for the first time in many years.  My scale was at 149.7 this morning.  I still don’t know how it will be tomorrow at weigh in.  It isn’t unusual to have to suddenly jump up a pound for now apparent reason so I could still end up with a small gain this week.  But, it was really nice to see a number in the 149’s for the first time in over 20 years.

The Wheels Fall Off…and Go Back On

I was away from Friday to Sunday (therefore, no weigh in Saturday) and the wheels fell off on my eating for that time. The good news is that the wheels are back on.

The good part of my eating for the weekend:  I tracked. That’s it.  I tracked.  Actually, I can see how it could have been much worse if I hadn’t tracked.

The rot set in on Friday and that was by far the worst day.  I had planned to eat a little more than usual.  It was the last day of my Weight Watchers week and I did have 8 Weekly Points left and 14 Activity Points.  So I could have eaten 45 points that day and still been within my points for the week.  Alas, I did not eat 45 points that day.


I actually ate 59 points, which I estimated at 2368 calories (I didn’t have solid nutritional info for some of it).  The big problem was that I ate out twice with large meals and I didn’t make the best choices.  We were on the road when lunch came around and we stopped at Subway.  I could have gotten a 6″ sandwich with chicken or turkey, whole grain bread, and no topping or just a little oil.  Given that I would be eating out in the evening, it would have been best to stop there.  Sometimes, I do order chips or a cookie at Subway (yes, this is where I sometimes have one of my few cookies during the year).  This time I did what I haven’t done in a long time — I ordered both.  I did stick to a 6″ sandwich (in the past, I sometimes ordered a 12″).  I rationalized the chips and the cookie with having a snack later during the drive.

All of that still might have been fine ….well, not fine, but not horrible if I had had the dinner I had envisioned.  I thought about having a grilled chicken salad at Chili’s or maybe a Power Hummus Bowl at Panera’s.  We tracked down both Chili’s and Panera’s within a few blocks of each other…and then decided to go to Macaroni Grill.  I rarely eat there because I find it hard to stay within a reasonable calorie range there.  Going there on the same day I had that meal at Subway was not a good decision. I did do some things there that weren’t terrible.  When the waiter tried to bring the second loaf of bread, we waved it away.  I ordered a Create Your Own Pasta dish which was fairly reasonable – pasta, grilled chicken, olive oil, roasted garlic, roasted red bell peppers and some pine nuts.  So, it could have been worse.

Still, the day as a whole was a lot of points and calories.

Saturday and Sunday ended up being a bit worse than I had estimated they would be, but weren’t awful.  Saturday, we had lunch at Genghis Grill which I eat at often and isn’t a problem for me.  That evening was the wedding and I had dinner at the reception.  I ate what I wanted which was what I had planned to do. It was mostly OK on calories, although a bit more than I had thought it might be.  Still, Saturday was 41 Points (about 1700 calories).  Then, Sunday was…OK, but not great.  We were coming back home that day so had to eat out.  Actually, I did fairly well on the way home, but I still ended up at about 1600 calories.

Monday morning, my scale said I was up about 4 pounds from Friday morning before I left.  I actually ended last week (Saturday started my new week) with a half pound calorie deficit for the week (per my Fitbit).  Of course, for Friday through Sunday as a whole I don’t have a calorie deficit.  I actually ate 1279 more calories over those 3 days than I burned.  That would be an actual gain of close to .4 pounds.  So, I know that the 4 pound “gain” I showed this morning isn’t real.  But, I’m not sure that it will all be gone by weigh in on Saturday.

The good thing is that I did put the wheels back on today.  I went to the Y for my personal training session and that really helped me to get my head back into activity and burning calories.  I also did the elliptical and treadmill, so I ended up OK on calorie burn.  And, I ate food typical to my normal eating so this day should send with a calorie deficit around 575 calories.

I’m not sure how things will work out for Saturday weigh in.  I do plan to be really careful on what I eat the rest of the week and will be exercising  every day.  However, my mom is visiting and we are going out to eat Wednesday afternoon.  We are going to The Counter and I will get a chicken burger in a bowl.  So, that shouldn’t be too bad, although I don’t usually like to eat out that close to weighing in on the weekend.  And, due to going out that afternoon (the only day that worked for everyone’s schedule) I will miss my personal training session for that day (I do plan to go there later in the afternoon and work out on my own).  Given eating out on Wednesday, I’m not sure where I’ll be on Saturday.

Regardless, what I am happy about is that I haven’t gotten derailed by the overeating and the several days with no exercise.  In the greater scheme of things, this weekend was something special.  And, while I regret what I ate on Friday, I don’t regret anything about eating what I wanted at the wedding.

I will end this with a photo of me with the lovely bride, my niece.


XBox & Fitness (and more Y)

Today was a fitness day.  That was to make up for yesterday when I did no exercise.  Monday night I had a terrible time sleeping and didn’t fall asleep until after 5:00 AM.  I was tired the whole day and a little sore from my workout Monday with the personal trainer.  So I took the day off from exercise.  I also had stuff I needed to do to get ready to go out of town this weekend.

Tuesday, I was sleepy in the early evening, but knew I would be sorry if I went to sleep since I would wake up in a few hours and never get back to sleep.  However, when I went to bed (at my normal time) I still couldn’t sleep and didn’t do much better than Monday night.

Even though I didn’t get enough sleep, I had more energy today (go figure).  Early afternoon, I went back to the Y and did the elliptical for 10 minutes as a warm up and then worked with the trainer.  He had me doing some exercises of different body parts than on Monday, and I explained to him that I really want to do a whole body workout on the two days (same exercises).  I know splitting up workouts can be good, but I think that for me at this point a whole body workout is better.  So, he is going to switch to that next week.

When I got home, our new XBox had arrived.  My husband saw one at the mall the other day and saw someone doing a dancing activity on it and thought it would be good for exercise.  And, we wanted to put it on a TV that didn’t have any way to access internet.  This way we will be able to watch Netflix, etc. on it. (We were using the Playstation 3 for that until our son took it with him to his apartment at college last fall).  So the XBox gets a lot of birds with one stone.

We immediately set it up and I used XBox Fitness (this required an XBox Live subscription) to do a short cardio workout.


If you look in the upper right corner it actually has a silhouette of me doing the workout.  As I move, the silhouette moves.  That was really cool.

Then, I tried out Dance Central which came with the XBox.  You basically follow along as it teaches you various dance moves.  I was terrible at it (my coordination is awful), but I did move around a lot and it got my heart rate going.


On this one, you can also see my silhouette on the upper right.  Below it are cards that show you the moves that are upcoming.

After all of that, I thought I would be done with exercise for that day since I was at about an hour and a half of exercise (including the strength training) for the day.  But, then I realized I wasn’t going to be very active from tomorrow through Thursday.  We are leaving town Friday morning to go to a family wedding.  The hotel has a fitness center and I will take my laptop.  So I could do YouTube videos in the room or use the fitness center on Friday and Saturday.  And, I was thinking I would do my regular exercise on Thursday.

But, then I remembered I am getting my hair done Thurday afternoon.  Frankly, I don’t want to get super sweaty after getting it done because I don’t want to have to wash it before the wedding. It looks so much better when the hairdresser does it than when I do.  I will be able to do a little exercise Thursday morning, but I also have things to do to get ready to leave Friday morning.  I’m not going to want to do much activity Friday or Saturday due to my hair.

So, thinking about that, I went ahead and did another 36 minutes on the treadmill to kind of make up for what I won’t be doing over the next 3 days.  And, of course, since I’ll be eating out a lot it will be harder to stay within my usual calories.  I think I can still manage to have a calorie deficit on most of the days we are gone, but just not the usual one.

Does Exercise Help Weight Loss?

I keep reading all these articles that seem to take the position – explicitly or implicitly – that exercise is useless for weight loss.  And, finally I was incredibly annoyed by an article in the Washington Post, Take off that Fitbit. Exercise alone won’t make you lose weight.  When I first saw the first part of this, I thought this was going to be an article railing against activity monitors.  However, this is just another article about how useless exercise is to weight loss.

I recognize that authors don’t always get to write their own headline, so I won’t blame the cardiologist author, Aseem Malhotra, for the headline.  That said, regardless of weight loss, there is no reason to take off your Fitbit.  And, furthermore, it simply goes too far to say that exercise alone won’t make you lose weight.  If exercise results in you having a calorie deficit that you didn’t have before, then you will lose weight.  If you have a calorie deficit due to reduced food intake, and you add on exercise and keep the same food intake, then you will lose even more weight.

It should be obvious, of course, that if you exercise and eat extra food with calories equal to the amount of the exercise, then you won’t lose any extra amount due to the exercise.  If you exercise and eat food with calories greater than the calories burned in exercise, then you will gain weight.  This is not rocket science.  It shouldn’t take more than a moment’s thought to realize these basic facts.

The entire article seems to basically take the position that it is all but impossible for people to exercise and not eat back all their exercise calories.  This seems defeatist to me, and can lead to people being discouraged from exercising.  The author bluntly states:

Exercise — no matter how many gym memberships you buy or how often you wear your Fitbit — won’t make you lose weight.

The fact is that it will make you lose weight, or will increase the amount of weight you are losing, if it results in you having a greater calorie deficit. The author does acknowledge the health benefits of exercise, but goes on to say that “weight loss is not one of them.”

To support this, he in part relies on the fact physical activity increased between 2001 and 2009, but that the increase in exercise was matched by an increase in obesity. As a physician, the author should recognize that correlation does not equality causality.  That is, it goes way too far to hang the increase in obesity on people exercising more.  In the first place, lots of people who have become more obese weren’t exercising at all, or exercised very little.  I certainly increased in obesity over that time period and I wasn’t exercising at all.  Further, some people may have exercised more and not changed their weight at all.

He explains this by stating that people who exercise stimulate their appetites “spurring them to eat more than they would have without working out.”  He apparently can’t comprehend that some people may nonetheless not eat back all the calories burned during the exercise. He argues that “[p]eople also assume that expending more energy necessitates higher calorie intake, but they often overestimate how much.”  And, he argues that the idea that exercise speeds up metabolism is exaggerated.  I don’t disagree that these arguments do apply to some people.  Yes, some people don’t really understand how many calories are in certain foods and have no idea of how many calories they burn.  And, I’m sure that some — maybe even most — people do eat back all the calories burned during exercise.  But, some and most aren’t all.

People engaged in serious weight loss efforts can be far more knowledgeable than he posits in his article.  In fact, an activity monitor like a Fitbit can help.  I personally count my calories at MyFitnessPal and my points at Weight Watchers.  MFP talks to Fitbit and tells Fitbit how many calories I’ve eaten.  I know perfectly well how many calories are in a cookie or an ounce of chips or a piece of chicken or half a cup of blackberries.  And, I also know the calories I burn during exercise because I’m using an activity monitor. I also know that my basal metabolic rate is about .9 calories per minute.  If I exercise 30 minutes and my Fitbit says I burned 150 calories, I know that my net added calories due to the exercise was about 123 calories.  Yes, I know that none of this is exact.  But, I’m not just guessing that because I exercise 30 minutes I can eat a 420 calorie Cinnamon Crunch Bagel either.

The author also points out that people’s basal metabolic rates drop as people lose weight, even if they engage in daily exercise.  Well, yeah.  Basal metabolic rate is the rate you burn calories just existing, doing nothing.  It goes down as you lose weight since your body is smaller and it takes less energy to sustain it.  I don’t think I have ever taken the position that exercising is going to have a profound effect on my BMR.  Rather, exercise primarily adds to the calories I burn during the time I’m exercising.

Malhotra then makes the point that it is “calorie intake that is really fueling the obesity epidemic.”  I actually agree with this point.  Of course, that is true.  However, that is entirely beside the point in arguing whether exercise can help weight loss.  Exercise can help weight loss, even if weight gain is largely fueled by excessive calorie intake.  I also agree with him that the “food and beverage industry is most guilty of perpetuating the false belief that the obesity epidemic is simply due to lack of exercise.”  Again, I don’t have to think that obesity is primarily caused by lack of exercise (which I don’t) in order for me to think that exercise can be a helpful addition to a weight loss program. And, I agree with him that poor diet contributes to disease and that “[y]ou can’t outrun a bad diet.”  I am a big believer in eating a healthy diet.

Sure, I believe that exercising alone is not going to cause sufficient weight loss for most people.  Cutting calories will also be needed.  And, of course, if you eat back all your calories earned through weight loss then the exercise didn’t increase your calorie deficit.  But, that is not the same as saying that exercise is useless for weight loss.

The author seems to accept as a given that every person will eat back every last calorie burned during exercise, because exercise stimulates appetite.  I think there are two primary problems with this.  Not everyone eats back every last calorie earning during exercise.  I certainly don’t.

Fitbit shows me my calorie deficit.

Fitbit shows me my calorie deficit.

I do think it is important to have a good understanding of how many calories you burn and how much you eat (I personally track it, but I recognize not everyone likes to do that).  For me, I eat pretty much the same calories on average during a week whether I exercise or not.  I do not eat back all my exercise calories.  But, my calorie deficit is far larger on the weeks that I exercise. No, not everyone is me.  Some people (maybe most) do eat back all their exercise calories.  The objection I have to the article is that the author doesn’t even seem to recognize that some people do achieve a greater calorie deficit through exercise.

The other problem that I see is that even if someone eats back every calorie burned during exercise, that could still help them lose weight.  How?  It could make the weight loss program more sustainable.  I personally average about 1200 calories a day and don’t find that really hard to do.  But, some people do find that hard to do.  Imagine someone who, without exercise, burns 1700 calories a day and eats 1200 calories a day, causing a 500 calorie a day deficit.  But, that person hates eating at that level and gives up on weight loss a week later.  Now, imagine that person starts exercising and burns an extra 300 calories a day and ups the calories eaten to 1500 calories a day.  That person now has a 500 calorie a day deficit, but finds the plan far more livable and stays on it.  Yes, that person ate back all the exercise calories, but is more successful because the plan has become sustainable.

As I’ve stated, there are things I agree with in the article.  I do think that obesity is primarily caused by increased calorie intake and I agree that people wanting to lose weight will do best if they reduce the calories eaten.  I also agree that there are many non-weight loss reasons to exercise and I agree that eating better food, including food with less sugar, is a good thing.  And, I do think that exercise can increase appetite and that if you eat calories equal to what you burned, then you don’t get any extra weight loss from increasing activity.  And, yes, the world is full of ignorant people who way overestimate the calories burned during exercise and way underestimate the calories they eat.

But, exercise can still help weight loss.  If you are knowledgeable about the calories you are taking in and are knowledgeable about the calories you burn (and a Fitbit can help you with gaining that knowledge), then exercise can be a valuable adjunct to weight loss.  Take off my Fitbit?  Not any time soon.