Easy Popcorn and an Update

Wow!  Sometimes I learn something new and it really surprises me.

Making Popcorn

Today, I made popcorn in the microwave.

Popcorn

No, I don’t mean that microwave popcorn you can buy at the grocery store that has long lists of artificial ingredients or other stuff that you don’t want to eat.  I mean regular popcorn popped in the microwave.  I had no idea how easy it is to do this.

I came across this in Food Matters by Mark Bittman and in the 100 Days of Real Food book (I’ve talked about both books before).  A few weeks ago I bought a bag of just plain organic popcorn at Whole Foods.  I also found so small brown paper lunch bags.

Today, I finally made the popcorn.  Basically, I took a 1/4 cup of popcorn and put it in a bag.  I chose to put in 1/4 teaspoon of salt, but that is optional.  I folded the top down about an inch 3 times, then placed the bag on its side in the microwave.  I then ran the microwave for about 3 minutes.  Stop when you start having a few seconds between pops.

That was it!  It came out perfectly.  It was so good and was just as easy as cooking the microwave popcorn you get at the store.  I had actually started buying bags of cooked popcorn instead.  It usually has less additives than the microwave stuff, but it often has some and isn’t hot.

This was just dead easy.  I can’t belief I ever spent money to buy microwave popcorn when this is so simple, is healthier, and cheaper.

While the popcorn was cooking I heated up 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil and sauteed a pressed clove of garlic.  When the popcorn was done I tossed it with the olive oil and garlic and it was wonderful.

Experiment Update

A short update on the eating more experiment. Yesterday, I had talked about eating more for a couple of days to see if that would help metabolism to get going again.  Jillian Michaels has advocated eating 1800 to 2400 calories a day for 3 days to get through a plateau.  At the time I posted I was going to eat between 1400 and 1500 calories yesterday (on Wednesday I ate just over 1900 calories), but said I was too chicken to do it for a third day.

I finally decided that if I was going to do the experiment, I should eat the way she suggested …or at least close to it.  So, yesterday, I finished up just over 1600 calories.  Today, I am aiming at 1800.  I’m not sure if I will make it today or not.  I didn’t go out to eat today so I’m just eating at home.  I’ve had dinner as I write this and am just over 1200 calories for the day.  So, I doubt I’ll be able to hit 1800, but I go to bed late so will probably be able to have a late night snack.

It was a little hard for me to decide to do this the third day.  But, I’ve looked at my calorie deficit for the week and even if I do eat 1800 calories today I will still have enough of a calorie deficit for a half pound loss (I’m not weighing in tomorrow, but just saying the math would still be there for it).  I did exercise today, so even eating 1800 calories shouldn’t do any real damage to it.  Saturday I will go back to my regular eating and will find out soon if all this has helped.

Plateau AKA Practice Maintenance

Before my husband got to goal he was in a plateau for months.  Eventually, he decided to start tracking what he ate and he got off the plateau really quick and got to goal and then lifetime.  Anyway, he later said that he didn’t feel that bad about the plateau because it really could be called practice maintenance.  And, he has a point.

So, over the past few months I’ve been doing a lot practicing of maintenance.  Since September 27th, I’ve lost 1 pound.  Unlike my husband, I tracked what I was eating during this time.  I know that sometimes people don’t understand why they are in a plateau.  They say they are doing everything right, but don’t lose weight.  Sometimes, that is what happens.  In some cases, the person has lost enough weight that they aren’t burning as many calories so if they keep eating the same and don’t increase activity they quit losing.

But, in my case, I can look back and see clearly why I was in a plateau (well, still am, I guess) and I know that wasn’t doing everything right.

I was doing some things right.  And, that is why, I lost one pound over this time instead of gaining pounds.  It was a combination of things.

No exercise – This was something that really started in the summer.  After my leg injury I couldn’t exercise for awhile and then when I started back I had to do different things.  I had a plan to do the recumbent bike a couple of days a week and go to the Y to do the elliptical on 2 days a week.  And, I thought I might get a trainer there to work with me on strength training (I need a new routine due to my knee problem).  But, my husband had rotator cuff surgery in July and wasn’t able to exercise and then, when he was released to do some exercise, his time was taken up with physical therapy.  And, I didn’t like going to the Y by myself.  Early on, I always planned to start exercising but I let stuff derail me.  One time, when the weather got cool enough that we could walk aside, my husband wanted us to go for a short walk.  I was going to do it but my heart rate monitor wasn’t syncing properly so we didn’t go.  And, then I just didn’t get back to it.  After a couple of months of not exercising, I no longer really thought about it any more.  I have found that, for me, exercise has to be a routine that I do every day or two or I just get out of the habit and can stop it for months.

The lack of exercise meant I burned fewer calories, so my calorie deficit was less.

More food – I did track what I was eating, but I wasn’t as careful.  I tended to track calories and didn’t really track points as closely.  So, I wasn’t always as aware that I was eating more points than in the past.  In October, I averaged 125 calories a day more than in September.  In November, I averaged 57 more calories a day more than in September.  I started pulling back in December although I was still about 80 calories a day over what I ate in September.

The combination of less exercise and more food meant that my average daily calorie deficit (per Fitbit) was halved in September and still smaller in October.  I started doing better in December but the bottom line was that my calorie deficit during the last quarter of the year was half what it was the prior quarter.

Weighing Less – In the first quarter of the year I ate more than in the third quarter, but my calorie deficit was more.  This was because I burned more calories.  Part of that was that I was more active in the first quarter.  But, part if it was that I weighed more at the start of the year so I burned more calories.  Even had my activity stayed the same, I would have lost more slowly later in the year due to my having lost 28 pounds.

So the above is the basic explanation.  I also changed a lot of habits.  I didn’t really see that happening at the time, but I did a lot of things that made it more likely I would exercise less and eat more.  Some of the things I started doing differently:

Stayed up later and slept less – Most of this was due to taking in more caffeine as I started drinking lots of Cherry Coke Zero again.  This created lots of problems for me.  I would not get to sleep until 4 or 5 in the morning and then would wake up exhausted.  I didn’t want to exercise or move at all.  And, I didn’t have the energy to think about food.  It was like I was in a daze during the day.

I quit eating fruits and vegetables – Early in the year I made salads.  I ate frozen vegetables.  I ate fresh fruit.  I didn’t do it enough, but I did it regularly.  In the last quarter of the year, I quit even trying to do it.  I tended to eat snacks that were higher calorie.  They weren’t awful, necessarily, but it regularly added more calories to each day.  Not to mention being less healthy to eat.

I got careless at restaurants  – Early in the year I hardly ate Mexican food at all.  Later in the year, we did it much more often.  That is a type of food it is harder for me to eat lower calorie.  Early in the year I avoided restaurants that were hard to eat at and I made good choices when I did eat out.  Later in the year, I had more higher calorie meals.  Early in the year, those meals were occasional.  Later in the year, they were typical.

I didn’t plan out my points as carefully – Early in the year, I would have a rough mental plan each week of how I would spend my daily and weekly points during the week.  I would usually plan to eat about half my weekly points.  Later in the year, I didn’t plan this out in advance and was always ending the week having eaten all my weekly points or having gone over by a few points.  Now, I’m a believer in eating weekly points and I can eat all of them when I’m being reasonably active and exercising a few times a week.  But, when I’m not being active I don’t lose much if I consistently eat all of them or go over.

I didn’t manage time well – Early in the year I made losing weight and exercising a key priority each day.  Later in the fall, I was doing other stuff that was fun that took up a lot of time and focusing on weight loss and exercise was much farther down the list of things that I was doing.  Learning how to manage my time better is going to be key this year.

Anyway, I can see why I had the plateau.  It wasn’t terrible.  I found I was capable of maintaining.  I also found out that I’m not happy with how much I can eat to maintain with when I don’t exercise.  So, exercise is absolutely critical for my eating plan to be long term sustainable.

So far this week, I’ve been planning out my week, eating way more fruits/vegetables and being more careful at restaurants.  This morning I had green tea instead of Cherry Coke Zero (I did have a Coke Zero at a restaurant, but that was my only soft drink all day and evening).  I’m hoping that with the lower caffeine I will sleep better and will have more energy for exercise.

 

 

 

Saturday Weigh In

First Weight Watchers weigh in of 2015!  Sigh. I was up .2 of a pound to 159  pounds.  And, to be clear, I was right back where I was on the week before Thanksgiving:

Weigh Ins 159

 

So, one way to look at it is to say that I made absolutely no progress on weight loss during the last 6 weeks.  And, that has the virtue of being true.  At the same time, I can’t work up too much angst about it since there was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all occurring during that time.  And this ended up being a very stressful time due to various family illnesses during this time.

I actually think that but for a couple of events I would have likely lost at least a little weight this week.  It was actually not a horrible week foodwise.  I did eat all my weekly points, but did not go over.  Still, my original plan had been to eat a lot of my weekly points, but not all of them .

I was expecting to be out of town for a day during this next week, during which I would eat out at least once.  However, plans changed and I found myself doing that trip on New Year’s Eve.  That was fine, but I had planned out my week’s eating with the assumption that I would not be eating out on New Year’s Eve.  That made it more difficult when my plans changed.  I was able to manage to not go over my weekly points, but I ended up eating a bit more this week than I had originally planned.  I still did better than I did during November, but not as well as expected.  So I adapted as well as I could, but I wasn’t surprised that it was enough to push the weight up a bit.

I did start in on working on my 2015 goals yesterday.  I was about to have a dinner that would have included no vegetables when I remembered my goal to eat 3 fruits and/or vegetables a day.  I was behind on that so I changed my plan to eat fish plus some Green Giant frozen vegetables, thereby adding in 2 vegetable servings.

Good WW meeting today.  The leader asked us who was happy the holidays were over and I almost couldn’t get my hand high enough.  I enjoyed the holidays actually and love that time of year.  But, from a weight standpoint, I’m glad to be able to get back into a regular routine.

 

The Importance of Routine

As I’ve been struggling through what I see now is a true plateau, I’ve been pondering the importance of routine.  When things are going well, whether with weight loss or other self-improvement, it is usually at a time when I have a routine that I follow.  I have a routine that becomes a habit that I see as just something that I do.  For example, tracking what I eat.  I just realized that I have tracked every meal and every snack for over a year now.  The last day that I missed was August 8, 2013.  From August 9th of 2013 to the present I have tracked everything.  It is, of course, possible that I may have forgotten a snack here or there and maybe it isn’t always totally accurate and sometimes I have to estimate something, but I really think any of those blips are minor.  To my knowledge, I’ve tracked each and every day.  I’ve tracked even those days and those snacks when I overate.  I have tracked even those foods that I wished I hadn’t eaten.  I’ve even tracked when it was really hard to figure out how to record something (a buffet, for example).  I don’t even consider the possibility of not tracking.  It is simply something that I do.

I went back to Weight Watchers last October.  And, since then I’ve missed precious few meetings.  Since I started this blog almost 8 months ago, I’ve missed weighing in only 4 times.  And, each time there has been a reason for it.  It wasn’t that I just decided not to go.  Going to Weight Watchers and weighing in is simply something that I do every Friday.

And — for the most part — eating the way that I started out the year wanting to eat has become a habit.  When I analyzed my food data from 2013 (I tracked most of the year beginning in March with only a few missed days in the summer), I realized that I was eating some snacks that had no nutritional benefit and that weren’t helping my weight loss.  So, I quit buying cookies from the grocery store.  I stopped going out for ice cream after lunch on Saturday.  (I do think I can occasionally do these things, but I really haven’t done them hardly at all during this year).

I just have a routine now in terms of what I buy at the grocery store and I don’t even have to think about it any more.

Having these routines make it very easy for me to stay on program and to consistently lose weight.  When things are going well, it actually seems almost effortless.  I find that while individual days may vary in terms of number of points eaten, I’m fairly consistent on a weekly or monthly basis.  And, it seems like I will never struggle again.  It seems so easy.  I won’t buy cookies, I won’t have ice cream desserts, I won’t eat at certain restaurants except once a year, etc.  And, I know that when I do these things I lose weight.

And, yet, look at this graph which covers the 4 years from August 13, 2010 to August 15, 2014:

WW 4 years

The notable thing is that my current weight is awfully close to my low weight in January 2012 (162 pounds then versus 163.6 pounds now).  Look at where I started in August, 2010 and how I steadily lost weight to get to 162 pounds in January, 2012.

I have to say that, in late 2011, I thought I had total control of weight problem.  I thought I had solved it all.  It seemed to be easy.  I did have a plateau in November and December, but then it seemed to resolve and I was losing again.  I had a routine and I couldn’t imagine it ever changing.

Of course, my confidence was misplaced as you can see from what happened from January, 2012 until about a year ago.  My weight went up and up and up.  I occasionally lost a few pounds but I didn’t stick with it.  In the last year, I’m back on the downward path again.  Just like in late 2011, it has seemed easy.  All I have to do is follow my routine.

But, now I have a plateau.  I know that plateaus are common.  I’ve weathered many of them in the past.  I’ve had two weeks where I have lost weight, so it might be thought the danger was behind me.

But, I’ve realized this week that this is actually a dangerous time for me.  The reason is that I see that I have gotten out of my routine in a number of ways.  The big one is activity.  To a certain extent I can justify getting out of that routine because it was due to my leg injury/knee problems.  I was on non-weight bearing status for weeks and had to make significant changes in my activity.  I had thought I had a good routine for activity earlier in the year — walking outside in my neighborhood (which has hills) in good weather and using a treadmill with incline when the weather doesn’t cooperate.  But, doing that at the intensity I wanted led to my trabecular bone injury and my knee MRI revealed my lack of cartilage under my left kneecap.  And, that led to my doctor recommending that I find other exercises with less impact.

But it has been 2 months since I’ve been able to theoretically get back to exercise and the truth is that I have lost my exercise routine.  I had been exercising 5 or 6 days a week.  But, now I am totally out of that routine.  I’ve been exercising….some.  Let me go look.

My last workout was using the exercise bike on August 5th.  I actually exercised 4 days between August 1 and August 5.  July?  I had workouts on only 2 days.  June had a few more, but really I haven’t done much in almost 2 months.

Yes, there are reasons.  My husband had shoulder surgery in July and I’ve been really busy since then, since I’ve been doing the driving.  And, my mother visited for awhile.  And, my son moved into an apartment near school so we were busy with that.  There has been a lot going on.

Still.  The reality is that let myself get out of the routine of exercising.  It has been something I’ve thought of during the last 2 months when the stars aligned and everything was going well.  Earlier in the year I simply exercised as a matter of routine.  It was like tracking my food.  It was just something that I did.  I didn’t really see it as optional.  Now, I’ve made it really super optional.

I can also see that — as so often happens — when one routine is breached so are others.  While I’m not walking in my neighborhood any more, I also am sitting way too much.  I’ve gotten out of the habit and getting up from the computer every hour.

And, I can see that I am starting to slack ever so slightly on the food end.  I’m eating fewer vegetables.  I’m been doing well overall on calories during the last month.  The problem has been more lack of activity.  I’ve eaten fine in terms of how much I’ve eaten.  But, I’ve started to make choices lately at restaurants that aren’t the best.  They are OK occasionally but I am doing it more than occasionally.

I find that once I break the routine in one way it becomes easier to break it in other ways.  That was the main reason I started gaining weight in early 2012.  We were eating out a lot while we were getting ready to move and so I changed that routine (eating out 2 or 3 times a week became eating out once or twice a days).  But, I didn’t stop with changing that routine.  I started changing all my routines.  Eating food that was too high in points.  Stopping activity.  Eventually, I quit going to Weight Watchers meetings and quit weighing and quit tracking.

I realize that it is so easy for me to get out of my routine.  It happens slowly enough that I almost don’t realize it at the time.  For example, I knew I had not been as active but I had no idea that I had been as inactive over the last 2 months as my workout records revealed.

So — I need to start patching up my routines.  I realize that on workouts I have to change my old routine to something new.  And, yes, that is more difficult.  But, having a workout routine is very important to me particularly since, without one, I tend to let all the other routines slide.

Friday Weigh-In

 

I weighed in today at my Weight Watchers meeting at 165.8, for a loss of 1 pound.  That, however, did cover 2 weeks since I didn’t weigh in last Friday.

WW 6-27-2013

I was happy to have a pound loss, of course, but I want to average closer to .8 a week in order to get to my goal weight of 146 pounds by the end of the year.  I’m still on course to do that, but as I lose weight I know it will get more difficult.

The first weigh in I did right before starting this blog was on December 27, which is exactly 6 months ago.

WW 12-2013

At that time I weighed 186.8 pounds so in the last 6 months I’ve lost a total of 21 pounds which works out to about .8 pounds a week.  I’m happy overall with the progress made.

I am getting a little nervous about the next 4 pounds.  Way back  in October, 2011, I weighed in at 165.8 pounds, the exact same as today.  The week after that I had a good loss down to 164.6 pounds.  That was the last October weigh in.  I then signed up for a challenge at 3fc where my goal was to get below 160 by the end of the year.  Basically, all I had to do was lose 4.7 pounds in 2 months.  I was highly motivated to do it and I remember that I ate very well.  And, I hit a huge plateau.  In seven weeks, I lost a total of .4 pounds.  It was one of the worst plateaus I’ve ever had.  Finally, I started losing a little bit the last 2 weeks of the year and on my last weigh in of the 2011 I weighed in at 162.8 pounds.  The following week was the first weigh in of 2012 and I weighed in at 162 pounds.

As I get closer to 162 pounds again, I am nervous about having another plateau.  At the time, I was exercising, but I think I was sick for part of the plateau.  Also, we were just about to start looking for a new house and I was preoccupied with that so my exercise wasn’t as intense.  One reason I had wanted to do well before the end of 2011 was that I knew early 2012 was going to be difficult because we were going to be finding a new house and then moving.  And, I was right.  My next weigh in after the one at 162 pounds was at 173 pounds at the end of February.  And, from there I just keep going up and up until I got into the mid-190s last summer.

As I get closer to the 162 pounds again, I have such mixed feelings.  I so much want to get back there and to get below it.  To know that I am doing better than I was doing back then.  At the same, there is always the reminder to me that I got to 162 pounds and then I failed and regained.  And, there is some amount of fear that I will fail again.  Rationally, I know that it is a different situation now.  I’m not buying any more houses and I have no real reason to think that I can’t continue doing well.

This week went reasonably well.  I did fine from a food standpoint.  I made my 2 lowest days on calories Tuesday and Wednesday and then ate a couple of hundred calories more on Tuesday to see if that would work better.  I’ve had a tendency to gain about half a pound every Friday morning (according to my home scale) and I think it has something to do with my eating low calories Wednesday and Thursday.  I think this did work better.  My home weight stayed the same from Thursday to Friday which is an improvement.

On the exercise front, I basically didn’t do anything much after going to physical therapy on Friday.  I woke up with a sore throat on Wednesday and ended up not doing much on Wednesday or Thursday.  So, my calorie burn wasn’t as great as I would like.  I am hoping to do better this upcoming week.