Welcome to 'Keeping the Bulge at Bay'
This blog is designed to discuss the hardest part of losing weight...keeping it off! To understand my story and what my reasons are for creating this blog, please follow this link to my first post: "The REAL Beginning..." It's raw, real, and honest.
Hope you enjoy reading my posts, and please feel free to leave any feedback you may have!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tantalizing Triggers

Imagine… You’re on a desert island and you can only have one food for the rest of your life (as if you’ve never heard this scenario before…), what would that enchanting treat be? Chances are, whatever you chose to solely eat for the rest of your days is not only one of your favorite foods, but it is also probably one of your trigger foods! For me, cheese and crackers (HANDS DOWN) is what I would have all day, every day, if I could!

Many of you may be saying, “Why are cheese and crackers bad? They aren’t an unhealthy thing to eat if you eat small amounts of it;” this I concede is true. However for me, because it is one of my favorites, it is also a ‘trigger’ food for me. This means, generally speaking, eating small amounts of them MAY NOT be that possible…

For those who are not familiar with the term, trigger foods are foods that once you have some-you not only start eating more and more of them, they also trigger you to eat more and more of anything and EVERYTHING else in sight! To (not so proudly) exemplify this scenario, I will share with you a little occurrence from this past weekend. My sister was having her Bridal Shower (she is getting married in March, I am getting married in September), and I was assisting my mom in setting everything up. One of my jobs was to put the crackers on a beautiful platter. As I was delicately arranging them I was popping a cracker here, a cracker there, into my exceptionally happy mouth! It was after those crackers that I started to have ‘samples’ of all the other appetizers. I did rein it in and didn’t go too crazy later on (I filled up on tons of fruit salad to avoid eating copious amounts of chicken piccata) but the crackers did trigger my little taste buds to want to try a smidgen of everything.

Though I would like to blame the crackers for being my kryptonite and sending me into a tornado-like frenzy of sampling; I cannot blame those helpless bagel crisps (seriously though, how good are Bagel Crisps?!?)! One has to recognize that trigger foods relate directly self-control. With cheese and crackers, sometimes my self-control is on point and I can have one or two,  be totally satisfied, and not go back for more. Other times however, they ignite a fire in me to chomp, chomp, CHOMP (PS-I was curious to see how Encarta Dictionary would define chomp…and I love their definition chomp- verb, to take big bites of food and chew steadily, noisily, and with obvious satisfaction-love it!)!

There is a healthy balance between depriving yourself entirely of these scrumptious delights and indulging until you have to unbutton your pants (don’t lie, you all have done it). I struggle with this balance every time I am faced with a platter of cheese and crackers. Consciously being aware of the foods I don’t have control over is one step forward-but gaining control of them, and more importantly myself, is a goal I have not yet mastered. I am human, and hope that the next time I’m faced with arranging those devilish crispy bites of splendor on a plate, I will know if I have the control to just have two or three, or know if I need to take a step back because I won’t be able to control myself.

Maintaining weight is about having your mind and body in sync. Some days you will succeed, some days you will fail. But we have to learn from those past failures to make better decisions in the future. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will be 260lbs again laying on the couch having an entire block of cheese and box of crackers while waiting for dinner to be ready!

Until next time, keeping the bulge at bay…

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weight Loss Throughout The Years...

I decided recently that if I am sharing this journey of weight loss with everyone, then I need to be entirely transparent and show what the evolution of weight loss (and maintaining) actually looks like. I have always despised showing these pictures to anyone (including myself), but I feel as though it is important for everyone to see them so that they can fully comprehend what a life changing transformation weight loss can be.

When someone is maintaining or trying to loose weight, people can see every set back, every 'Yo-Yo', and every diet hiccup they may have in their photos (and Facebook makes this even more evident these days)! Someone who loses weight remembers exactly how much they weighed, and how they truly felt about their body, health, and life when they look at themselves in each, and every, picture...

Senior Year of High School and Senior Year of College

Early in High School & The Day I Received My Master's Degree

Red and Black Outfits...One From Then and Two From Now

Weight loss can change not only how you physically look but can (and usually does) change who you are through and through! In the slideshow below, you will see the evolution of weight loss in picture form rather than merely just the timeline I stated in my first post. I believe an important factor of maintaining is occasionally reflecting on where you came from and how your weight loss has potentially changed every aspect of your life. I like to keep a few 'fluffy' pictures of myself handy so I can always keep myself inspired on the journey that I have forged down...one of health, happiness, and (most of the time) positivity. Seeing how much I have accomplished helps me to maintain my loss...

Until next time, keeping the bulge at bay! :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Falling Off the 'Healthy' Wagon…

Well, as any fellow maintainer can attest to, I fell off the ‘healthy’ wagon this past weekend. I found myself doing really well during the day light hours and then gorging myself at night (and let me tell you, the leftover Valentine’s Days Reese’s and pretzels were to die for)! I tried to justify that it’s OK to have a bit of a treat because of the 80/20 theory to maintaining weight; however lying in bed stuffing pretzels and Reese’s into my mouth while watching the movie ‘Signs’ probably doesn't exactly fit the theory per se (maybe I can use the excuse of emotional eating because I was watching a scary movie?!? …scary movie+nervous emotions=eating more?!? If excuses could burn calories, I sometimes think I would be fit enough to be in the Olympics!)

For those of you who don't know, the theory of '80/20' is that 80% of the time you are good-meaning you eat healthy, and 20% of the time you are allowed to have a bit of a splurge-nothing TOO crazy though! I try to really stick to this concept in general because I have found that depriving yourself of those few treats can actually make you gorge on those treats at another point (insert the massacre of Reese’s with their fallen solider Reese wrappers all over the bedroom). In a previous blog, I mentioned that splurging can be a slippery slope because having one chip can lead to suddenly being at the bottom of the bag and not remembering how you got there! Adversely however, if you deprive-deprive-deprive yourself and then suddenly allow yourself one bite-you may not be able to STOP! I usually allow myself to have small bites of the foods I really want, and those small bites here and there tend to keep the pounds and ‘gorging demons’ at bay! This works because the small bites here and there keep me from feeling entirely deprived of those foods. This is MY version of the 80/20; everyone must find a system that works for them!

However, this weekend was probably more like 60/40 for me, and though I was disappointed in myself I have to remember to climb back on that god damn healthy wagon; and yes, sometimes the ladder to climb back on seems longer and more painful than it does at other times! Don’t let the fact that your health food wagon lost one of its wheels and axles (right after going through the drive through of McDonald’s) stop you from fixing it and moving onward and upward.

After eating poorly, people who are trying desperately to maintain have the tendency to feel as though “S#!+, that’s it, I’m going to be large and in charge again!” But that ISN’T the case (I constantly have to remind myself of this)! After eating poorly this weekend I was lying in bed half asleep and I remember rolling over and having my arm brush against my stomach. I actually thought to myself, ‘wow, it’s not already fat again!’

One or two slip ups aren’t going to pack the pounds back on as long as you get back to being ‘good.’ When I was going to weight watchers meetings I heard a lifetime member who had been maintaining for years say, “If you gain 5 pounds get back on track, if you gain 10 go back to a meeting.” I wholeheartedly believe that only you are responsible for your own health, and if you live by this rule, you CAN and WILL succeed in maintaining!

Trying to maintain weight loss isn’t about being perfect 100% of the time. Instead, it’s about finding a healthy balance in eating; which is why 80/20 tends to work beautifully for some former ‘fluffy’ people, like myself, that are trying to keep the bulge at bay (however, the creamy salad dressing, tons of honey glazed bread, and huge bowl of pasta I had on Friday night probably isn't the best way to exemplify this theory...or to start off my weekend)…. 

Until next time, back on the healthy wagon and continuing to try to keep the bulge at bay...

Friday, February 17, 2012

DO Make a Mountain out of a Mole Hill!

For those of you who have shrunken your muffin tops to the size of a ‘mini-muffin’ as if it were a scene out of ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’, it is very likely you have noticed changes in your everyday life since losing the weight. Having your jeans feel looser, or friends/relatives noticing your weight loss is an obvious change and should give you a jolt of self-confidence (which usually lasts about 1 minute due to your skinnier, taller, and prettier friend having walked in the room)! However, these are merely the obvious changes that folks think about.

People who have never had to struggle with their weight don’t entirely understand that there are things that happen in people’s daily routines that ‘fluffy people’ (my favorite term for people fighting the battle of the bulge) can’t do or struggle with doing. Noticing and consciously recognizing these changes, as minute as they may be, is an integral part of embracing and celebrating maintenance.

For example, when I go to the doctor’s office these days I find my own small jolt of self-confidence in the visit. No, I am not referring to seeing the number on the scale being in a range I never thought it would be, and I also am not referring to my doctor saying that I am in a perfectly healthy BMI (body max index) range for my height.  These are definitely wonderful feats and trust me, I celebrate them often! However, I am referring to the self-confidence I attain from getting my blood pressure taken! Again, I am not referring to the medical results of the doctor squeezing my arm so tight that it feels as though it may just POP off my shoulder! Instead, I am speaking to the small victory that I no longer need the doctor to try to fit the “normal” person’s blood pressure cuff onto my arm out of politeness then say, “Oh, let me just try one a bit bigger…” A BIT BIGGER? Really? I wonder which chip gets bequeathed the honor of being the defining one to send me from a ‘normal’ cuff to the “bit bigger” cuff-the FLUFFY person’s cuff?!?

These small, every day, experiences stay with you long after the weight is gone-and then some…

Now, I go into the doctor’s office and sometimes the “normal” cuff is too BIG and I need the small one! In fact, it is the feeling of having the doctor put the normal cuff around my arm recently that made me decide I HAD to write this blog! Little incidents like these are a DAILY occurrence for someone who is trying to maintain their weight and these occurrences should be valued and celebrated. You SHOULD make a mountain out of these small mole hills! These mole hills should be given recognition in a new positive light because if they aren’t; the old memories will remain sedentary in the negative shadows in your mind.

Another example is that I used to own tons of earrings.  The reason I had an addiction to earrings is because they were, as I always joked, “one size fits all!” (which is a term that people who struggle with their weight know is the biggest lie since Bill Clinton said he ‘did not have relations with that woman’).  Now, when I borrow a friend’s bracelet or ring it is a mole hill that I consider a mountain! To go from being anxious to even try on a bracelet around my friends because I knew it wouldn’t fit-to trying any and all jewelry on is something I am proud to celebrate!

Weight loss and maintenance is not easy, and no one ever said it would be. Whether it is wearing jewelry, having a smaller blood pressure ‘cuff of death’ at the doctor’s, buying a size smaller shoe (yes, your feet lose weight too!), or simply being able to see your toes again while standing straight up-these are milestones that MUST be celebrated (and no, do NOT celebrate them by eating a piece of cake haha!). Every time I experience a little flash back to the chubby days and see how my life has changed today I just take a moment to bask in it. I think about where I’ve come from and how hard I worked for it; and I will be damned if I don’t take a second to reflect upon my accomplishments! But please note, I reflect these accomplishments many times internally-I’m not sure people would entirely comprehend my love/hate relationship with a blood pressure cuff while sitting in an emotionally sterile doctor’s office! ;)

Remember, celebrate we will-because life is short but sweet for certain…

Until next time, trying to keep the bulge at bay!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trying Not to Burst Your Belt OR Your Wallet…

“Hello, my name is Rachel, and I am a couponer!”

Yes, I will proudly stand up and admit my addiction to couponing. Couponing has saved my fiancĂ© and I a lot of money (they say [whoever they is] 1 hour of couponing can equal $100 in your pocket)! But, it is not always easy eating as healthy as possible with a grocery list that adapts itself weekly to only the items that are on sale. I pride myself on getting the best deals every week, but sometimes trying not to break the bank could lead to breaking out the next size up jeans (damn that deal on Cape Cod chips and Cheez-Its...epic fail). These types of foods are commonly on sale in the grocery store, which combined with the matching manufacturer coupons create deals that can get you sometimes up to 75% off (or in one case the store paid me 50 cents to take the item home-I bought three-LOVE IT!). Anyway, couponing on a healthy diet isn’t always the easiest thing to do-but it can be done!

But first, there is one thing that anyone who is trying to eat healthy and save money should know. You must find unusual ways to save money and calories; yet be just as satisfied as you would have been if you had eaten a gallon of Rocky Road. For example, think about freezing low-calorie yogurt or even better, freezing a can of pineapple (Dole goes on sale very often) then eating them frozen. It’s like having a very refreshing ice cream dessert! Besides the cost effective nature of it, frozen treats like these take a long time to eat so you will eat less! (Warning: channeling Charlie Sheen)*winning*

Now, I want to explain two ways to save money because most people choose not to use coups; and for any of you who don’t want your coups-feel free to send them my way (just kidding, wait-not joking)! The first is the ‘Flyer’ way the second is just the ‘Couponer’ way.

The ‘Flyer’ Way:
Couponers (or anyone who is truly on a budget) eats, breaths, and sleeps by a grocery store’s flyer! But if couponing isn’t your thing-you should live by the flyers too! My hubby-to-be and I only buy things that are in that flyer. For example, last week strawberries were BOGO (buy one get one free-sorry, couponer talk) and the week before potatoes and onions were BOGO. The items on sale, especially in the fresh produce section, circulate often enough that you could be getting many different kinds of produce/products every week! Also, though the flyer shows some great deals every week, don’t forget to look for sales that are occurring in the store that are NOT in the flyer. Last time I went shopping turkey meatballs were on sale and I had no idea -now they are resting half in the freezer, and half in my belly!

I want to take a moment however and concede that, yes, there are times that you need to buy things that are not on sale-and that is OK…everything in moderation right (dieters know this best)? ;)

The Couponer Way:
First, if you are new to couponing go to this website: http://livingrichwithcoupons.com/ It’s a great tool for coupon virgins and explains the ‘ins and outs’ of couponing quite well. 

There are two important rules to couponing, and these rules especially ring true for people trying to keep the money in the bank and the bulge at bay. 

The first commandment of couponing is: thou shalt not be brand loyal. If you are brand loyal you are missing out on both trying new things, and saving as much money as possible. Be willing to try new brands and new foods-you may be surprised and find out that you prefer a different kind of cracker that you never would have tried otherwise (personal amazing experience with crackers)!

The second commandment of couponing is: thou shall learn when certain products go on sale. Granted, this comes with couponing experience but some of it is common sense. For example, diet products and low calorie foods go on sale in the beginning of the year because that’s when everyone is determined to keep up with those pesky New Year’s resolutions-we are all better though and do them all year round, right? haha... Therefore, stock up on products when they are on sale-which many times coincide with when there are coupons available for them (again refer to the above website if you’re confused).

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, ‘OK, so you explained couponing, but how does this help my waistline?!?’ Well, I’m glad you asked! Many times just because the coupon shows the full-fat, full-calorie, full-WAISTLINE, version of a product- doesn’t mean it won’t work for the healthy alternative! Allow me to explain.

I discovered (because of a manufacturer coupon combined with an in-store sale) that Tollhouse Low-Fat Crackers are a really great low calorie snack. You get 6 large crackers for 60 calories (one WW point). Now, I could literally have a love affair with crackers and cheese (may have cheated on my fiancé with them yesterday) so this was such an amazing find for me to discover! Another time I used a Nabisco coupon towards Nabisco 100 Cal packs and discovered a whole new nightly treat!

Overall, your healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to cost you your budget, and your budget doesn’t have to cost you your healthy lifestyle.

Until next time…trying to keep money in the bank and the bulge at bay!

Stability in Instability? That is the Question...

I bet Shakespeare never had to struggle with his weight. Even if he did, he definitely didn't have to lose weight or maintain loss in a society where 68% of adults are overweight!

One thing that I have found extremely difficult in my most recent chapter of weight loss is the instability that the maintenance stage can bring. Trying to switch from a 'diet' to a 'lifestyle' is an issue that I believe every person struggling with their weight faces. For me, stability brings control and control brings results. But life surely isn't that simple, if it was, I would be a size 2!

When one is able to actively plan their meals and know ahead of time what they will be eating and when, maintaining or losing weight is that much easier. However, throw holidays, birthdays, family parties, nights out, hell-even forgetting your perfectly packed lunch for work with the points already calculated (insert picture of my perfect lunch sitting at home on the dining room table) can throw your weight loss challenge for a loop! For me, I try to find as much stability as there can be in the instability that is called life.

For example, Tuesday was Valentine's Day, or Single's Awareness Day-whichever holiday you observe I am not one to judge. Either way, it is a day of extreme happiness or self-loathing...both of which can cause people to throw their dietary judgement onto cupids back and send it flying. Many people will say (and I tend to agree) that a splurge now and then is OK, which is seemingly the main concept of the "80/20" strategy of maintaining weight loss (this will be discussed in a future post) but splurging can be a slippery slope. Therefore, I try to find as much stability there can possibly be in the instability that exists.

Take my Valentine's Day for example. I knew my hubby-to-be and I were going to be going out to Olive Garden for dinner (shout-out to one of my best friends for giving us a 'congrats on your engagement gift card' to OG)! The day before, I looked up the menu online and calculated the points (again, I'm an old WW member and count points on my own-can't afford the meetings anymore). I knew exactly what my choices were going into the restaurant and it allowed me to be 'good' while I was there.

But looking up the nutritional information did another thing that I think is even more important. As I looked around at what people were ordering around me I KNEW EXACTLY how many calories they were consuming-and let me tell you, being healthy is way more satisfying than chicken Alfredo at 1,440 calories; 82 grams of fat! (http://olivegarden.com/Menu/Nutrition/) I allowed myself to go "wild" and have an extra bread stick (making 3 all together) since, they are addictively good. Overall, I skimped where I could and splurged where I wanted-this, I think, is the true key to general maintenance.

But there are times when instability will creep into your day without you being able to create an action plan for it, and adapting is essential. Everyone hears people say that portion control is pertinent, and I agree it is, but sometimes it's harder than it seems-put me and a bag of Salt and Vinegar Cape Cod chips in a room together and I'll show that bag who's boss!

When faced with situations where I have no control on what is being served, how much is being put on my plate, or how it is cooked, I try to eat slow and consciously. At Olive Garden, I ordered one of their tiny new deserts (it was Valentine's Day, I wasn't about to settle with the after dinner mints they give you) that are only a bit over 200 calories; and yes they are TINY! I ate it at a glacial speed with my cup of coffee (coffee/tea-another trick to having something sweet and filling) and at the end I felt as though I had eaten an entire slice of cheesecake! I enjoyed everyyyy, singggggle, bite and avoided the downfall of eating 500 calories to receive that same enjoyment. Slowdown. Think. Enjoy.

The world of food is a fairly unstable place and forging through it finding ways to maintain weight loss is very difficult. I try to explain to my friends and family, that I am not one of those lucky people that can eat whatever they want-I have to fight for the healthy body that I want. It is a constant battle but one I am trying to come to terms with. I just know that one day I will be sitting on my future back porch looking onto the lake of my nonexistent vacation home and will be eating a slice of fresh apple pie; and I won't be thinking twice about it because I will have mastered maintaining!

But until then....still trying to keep the bulge at bay!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The REAL Beginning...

This may seem odd, or even trite, but I decided I need to start a blog! There are so many blogs that exist about people documenting their trials and tribulations down the path of MOST resistance-weight loss; but I've been pondering the thought: are there really many blogs that exist which document what is said to be (and IS) the most difficult part of weight loss...maintaining it!

To explain a bit further as to why I am doing this...at my heaviest I weighed over 260 pounds (I have never really admitted that number to anyone before)! In fact, I weighed so much that at one point I remember contemplating the thought *if I just gain 20 more pounds then I can qualify for gastro-bypass surgery and the FAT will just mellllllt awaayyyy!* I don't remember what exactly made me decide to lose the weight but there were enough reasons that existed as to why I should.

In gym class I ran a 21 minute mile (everyone was already done and playing tennis while I and one other girl finished), I was the fattest one of all my friends-by a large margin (pun intended), no guys were interested in me at all, not one of my senior portraits did I want to put into the yearbook, and honestly-having that much weight on you makes you feel like S#!%! Therefore, I decided that I had to make some changes. They were very small at first, and increased when I was ready. In looking back at pictures of myself from those old fat days, back then I never thought I was as fat as I actually was-a blessing in disguise I suppose...

Something interesting that I believe many people trying to get rid of the bulge do is: you document your life's milestones in pounds not feelings (note I'm a bit under 5' 10'')...
  • 2003-2004-sophomore and junior year in high school-heaviest ever 260...
  • 2005-high school graduation 230...
  • 2006-end of freshmen year of college 211...
  • 2007-studying abroad 190....
  • 2008-camp counselor at a summer camp for international students (first summer) 180....
  • Jan-2009 returning from the Dominican Republic and joining Weight Watchers 204...
  • May-2009 graduating college 174...
  • Nov-2009 meeting my fiance, Mike 164...
  • May-2011 walking in my Master's graduation ceremony 160...
  • Aug-2011 getting my first 'real' job and moving in with my fiance 164...
  • 2012 starting my at home workout videos (something I had never done before!) 158...
  • TODAY: 152
  • UPDATE: as of 7/31 149/150
In looking at those numbers, people will see three things that I genuinely believe ring true for those that struggle with their weight.

First, it can and usually does, take a long time to loose the weight. When I tell people that I have lost over 100 lbs they constantly ask me, "Oh my god, that's amazing-how long have you been doing it?" It's as if I'm supposed to say-well, I'm more amazing then the Biggest Loser contestants and I lost 100 pounds in one  month! Instead of conjuring up a sarcastic and diabolical lie such as that, I always respond by saying "it's over a few years." But to tell them the truth, that I've struggled with the battle of the bulge for over 7 years, is a hard pill to swallow-something in fact I have not swallowed until this very moment (thanks to my little handy-dandy timeline above-can't ignore it when it's in black and white)! Weight loss can take a long time, and if you want others to understand that-you must first understand it yourself.

Second, the number doesn't always go in that southern direction you are hoping and are working so desperately for. There were times in between these milestones in life that I was 'Yo-Yo-ing' up and down in the same 8-10 pound range for what seemed like years. In fact, since I met my fiance in late 2009, I have been Yo-Yo-ing (or as I prefer to call it, maintaining) around that same range for years-literally!

And lastly, third, one does not lose the same numbers when they weigh 170 that they did when they weighed 230. When I look at a scale these days and I only lose .2 of a pound it sends literal shivers up my spine because I have a need to see BIG numbers. I want more of those times where I lost 5 or 7 pounds in a WEEK to feel like I have truly accomplished something! Proportionally though, my body is not going to lose the numbers it used to-but believe it or not, this is one of the hardest things in adapting to losing major amounts of weight. It ties into the whole mind-game that exists in losing the big L-B's. The mind-game of weight loss is enough for at least two or three separate blog posts haha...But I try to remember that even when I stay the same and don't lose one freaken ounce, that if nothing else, I should count that as 2 lbs that I didn't gain!

So with ALL of this being said, I want to conclude my introduction post with what this blog is and is not. I do not believe that my opinions from my own weight loss journey (or life in general where it may apply) are what all people struggling with their weight go through. Everyone is different, and their experiences are even more different than they are.

Also, as stated in the first few sentences, there are a ton of blogs out there documenting people's weight loss journeys. They are each different in their own right, and document their journey accordingly. Admittedly, I can't write about the struggles with keeping the bulge at bay without touching upon the process of getting here (or there, since there are a few more pounds to go). But with this being said, I want this blog to concentrate on just that-keeping the bulge at bay! I truly believe maintaining is harder than losing, and that is what I will explore! Feel free to agree, disagree, discuss, and share. Hell, I just admitted my actual current weight to the world-hope my Dr. doesn't feel slighted since she was the one trusted soul with that CONFIDENTIAL information before now ;)

So, just like that, let the NEXT journey begin...keeping that damn bulge at bay!