Sunday, January 18, 2015

How I Lost 10 Pounds and Kept It Off Even Over the Holidays

I've been trying to write this post for a few weeks now and it is proving difficult to pull together. The long and the short of it is that I have put on 5 pounds a year for the past few years and ended up in the overweight range on the BMI and all my clothes were starting to feel tight. It was time for a change.

I don't want to appear braggy in writing about my weight loss, but I also know that in all my 50-something years I have never accomplished what I did this past fall. I've never had a big weight problem, but I also have never been able to lose weight when I needed to or wanted to .. at all ... ever!  As I got older and went through menopause I was gradually putting on weight. I would find I would especially put on weight at Christmastime and I couldn't seem to do anything to lose those pounds afterward. I have tremendous admiration for people who lose weight and keep it off (both parts are equally difficult).

I am, and always have been a stellar super-healthy eater up until about 7:00 at night. Every day I would eat healthy high-fibre cereal with skim milk for breakfast, a sandwich and yogurt and fruit for lunch, and whole-grain pasta or rice with lean meat and lots of veggies for dinner. So what was my problem you ask? Well, my downfall was evenings, weekends, and holidays. I would finish dinner, clean up the kitchen, and sit down at the computer and immediately want some chocolate and then a cookie or two (or more), and then some cereal before bed. It didn't seem like too much to eat, but as I was getting older it was too much. I wasn't able to curb my sweet tooth and limit my snacking and I couldn't lose the weight I had put on. 

Last June, a friend from work and I were both feeling the need to lose weight so we made a pact to eat healthy fruits and vegetables and do lots of walking and swimming all summer. Well come the fall when we were back at work and compared notes, neither of us had lost weight and, in fact, we had both gone up a pound or two. So after a bit of discussion about what to do (like several weeks worth of discussion) we decided to try the Dr. Oz diet, but with modifications. It took a bit of time to get ready to try the new eating plan, both to gear ourselves up psychologically for the changes and to buy some foods we didn't ordinarily purchase so we were ready to begin. By the end of September we both were ready to start the new eating plan. 

For the next 10 weeks we ate the modified Dr. Oz diet during the week and our regular diet on the weekends and we both got down to our desired weight - my friend lost 8 pounds and I lost 10 pounds. 

Dr. Oz 2-week Diet

We decided to only follow the new eating plan on weekdays so that we wouldn't have to worry if we went out to eat at restaurants on the weekends. We also could indulge in chocolate or whatever was our most missed treat on the weekends and have that to look forward to all week. I found this very helpful and motivating as I would often say to myself that I only had to do eat like this for the next few days and then I could have chocolate. I was also concerned about not eating grains or drinking milk for a long period of time as I didn't want my GI system to lose the ability to digest them. So eating whole-grain bread and drinking skim milk on the weekends kept them in my diet. My friend had had lots of joint pain prior to the diet, which dramatically improved when she cut out grains so she is now limiting the amount of gluten she eats and is feeling much better.

Since we ate whatever we wanted (in moderation) on the weekends our weight went up a pound or so, but it came off at the beginning of the workweek when we resumed our new eating plan. Then as the week progressed and we continued to eat the Dr. Oz diet we would lose another pound or so by the end of the week.

One of the realizations I came to after following the new eating plan for awhile was that I had previously been trying to reduce my snacking through willpower alone and would always eventually lose the battle. I was successfully able to lose weight this time because I had a plan of what I could eat and I was never hungry so I was able to maintain the eating plan. It was more a change of habits than trying to exercise willpower alone.

The other key factor that helped me lose weight this time was that I did it with a friend who also wanted to lose some weight. Neither of us had much to lose, but we both had not been successful with anything else we had tried. Having a buddy alongside was key to our motivation and helped in providing tips and ideas to each other. We would check in with each other several times a week by email so that we kept each other accountable.

After about 5 or 6 weeks we both made some changes to the eating plan to increase the amount of calcium and iron we consumed as the diet seemed a bit low in it for long-term eating. Some of the changes included occasionally eating beef and whole-wheat pasta and we both added a glass of skim milk to our dinners. We also took multivitamins and probiotics daily to ensure we got adequate nutrition. 

You can see in the list above what was recommended by Dr. Oz, but we did make changes to the eating plan to suit our lives. Here are a list of the modifications that I made:
1. I always have bran in the morning and really needed to continue eating it. Since milk was not part of the plan, I had my bran with plain greek yogurt. Frankly, the plain greek yogurt and bran tasted awful so after about a month I added half a banana to the mix and that was enough sweetness to get me through.
2. I used hemp hearts in my morning smoothie instead of flax seeds and protein powder.
3. Dr. Oz lists the veggies he recommends (low GI veggies), but I didn't want to make the eating plan difficult to follow, so my motto was - any veg would do! Any vegetable, even one that wasn't low GI, was certainly better than eating a cookie or chocolate or more pasta and they are all full of vitamins and minerals and fibre.
4. I always have an apple after school because I'm so hungry then that I could probably eat your arm if you held it in front of me. So every day I eat an apple and 20 almonds on the way home in the car. This was my routine before starting the new eating plan so it wasn't a change, but apples aren't on the Dr. Oz approved list (fruit is limited to try and keep the intake of sugar low).
5. Dr. Oz recommends not drinking any tea or coffee (only green tea and hot water with lemon in the morning), however his reason was that you associate drinking tea and coffee with having a cookie or muffin so you want to break that habit. However, I don't associate the two and love having a cup of tea in the morning so I skipped the water and lemon and had tea instead.
6. I skipped the detox broth as I couldn't figure out when to drink it and it seemed like a waste of veggies to make a broth and chuck the veggies.
7. I'm always hungry in the evening and overnight so I had some greek yogurt every evening. I added unsweetened applesauce or applesauce-berry-carrot mix to the greek yogurt so it was palatable. I also sometimes added cinnamon to change up the snack.
8. I was open-minded with the flavourings I used to make dinner as I figured you don't use much of them, but they add a lot to the meal. I included things like soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, mustard, and tzatziki (I used it on the chicken burgers and as a salad dressing).
9. I wasn't sure how much 6 ozs of protein was, so I just ate lots of meat, tofu, beans, eggs, and nuts so I wouldn't get hungry, but if you are a huge meat or nut eater you might need to be more accurate.
10. I sometimes used brown rice vermicelli in place of plain brown rice. I checked the ingredient list for vermicelli and it only listed brown rice so I decided it was a good substitute and it added a nice variety to our dinners.

So what exactly did I eat? Well, here's what I eat on a typical workday:

Breakfast: 1/3 cup Bran Buds with 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt and 1/2 banana

Smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/2 banana, 3 rounded tablespoons Hemp Hearts, generous 1/2 cup frozen berries

Lunch: leftovers that included a protein and vegetables or salad with protein (usually a boiled egg and sunflower seeds and walnuts)

Snack: apple and 20 unsalted almonds

Dinner: 1/2 cup brown rice or brown rice vermicelli with protein and vegetables, glass of skim milk

Snack: 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt with small container of unsweetened applesauce or applesauce mix

Apart from losing weight so my clothes fit better (and gaining the confidence to be able to tuck my shirt into my pants or skirt - thankfully, as that seems to be the style now), one of the most surprising benefits was that I lost my sugar cravings. I used to sit down at my desk in the evening and just pine for chocolate. Now I don't even think about it. I can sit through a meeting with a plate of cookies on the table and not be thinking the whole time about eating one. I have read about people losing their craving for sweets and I thought they were crazy and it could never happen to me, but sure enough it did and relatively quickly too. After a few weeks on the new eating plan, I actually found that some things tasted too sweet (I'm talking about you Kit Kat bars) which was a little disconcerting.  

I have often heard people remark that when they go off sugar and eat healthier they have so much more energy. I wouldn't say I noticed a huge difference apart from how I felt after parent-teacher interviews in the fall. I am usually very tired on the day after parent-teacher interviews, but this past fall I sailed through the next day as if I had had a regular work day the day before, instead of an extended day. 

I seem to be able to tolerate being slightly hungry now, whereas before I would get the shakes and a headache and ... well "hangry" (you know ... so hungry you easily get angry). I also seem to be able to eat sweets with moderation now. I think both of these factors helped me keep the weight under control over the holidays.

Surprisingly, I only gained one pound over the holidays. I had given up trying to stick to the new eating plan over Christmas and New Year's and wasn't weighing myself every morning as was my habit. So I was very surprised to find out I had only gained one pound when I weighed myself when I went back to work in January.The new eating habits were difficult to stick with when everyone was around, without the structure of work, and with all the special foods that Christmas brings. However, this year I had far fewer cravings than before and was able to eat in moderation. I also continued to have the smoothie every morning throughout the holidays so I wasn't very hungry during the day. 

I'm still working out the kinks in a long-term version of this eating plan and trying to incorporate more exercise into life. The husband and I got Fitbits for Christmas to track our activity (or lack thereof) and hopefully improve our fitness habits. 

So there you have my grand eating adventure of 2014. It's definitely not that I have all the answers, but I thought I would share my experience in the hope that someone finds it useful. I love reading other people's success stories as I find them very inspiring and I hope mine is motivating for someone reading this. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to answer them.


  1. Hi Grace! Thanks so much for sharing your weight loss journey with us. I am pinning your great blog post for inspiration and information. I have put on weight as I have aged and need to get rid of it before it gets even harder to lose.

  2. I love that you shared this. It's just the type of inspiration I need.

  3. YAY!!! So inspirational as I'm trying to lose weight now. Sort of on the same diet-ish. Bravo!

  4. I love smoothies for breakfast! I've been adding kale to mine lately. Fitness has been my downfall the past couple of years (yes, years!), but I went to the gym last evening and am hoping it put me back on track. I used to be so good about exercise, from swimming to weights. I've had a back problem flare up each fall for the past three years, and that hasn't helped! Thanks for sharing your plan and inspiration.