I'm going to start off by putting the standard disclaimer out there of "Don't start any new medical regimens without first consulting your doctor".
Even though I have a degree in nutrition, I have not worked in the field for over ten years, and things have changed a lot since then, so I do not consider myself any sort of specialist. I do however still have the basic knowledge that came with my degree, and that served me well over the past months.
The way I see things, barring any major medical issues, losing weight is a matter of simple arithmetic, ie you need to burn off more calories than you take in. My thoughts on all of the various diets out there are this - there is no magical diet out there, they all work by forcing you to remove a major food group that you would normally eat, be it carbs, dairy, etc, thus decreasing your calorie consumption. So for example, it's not that high protein diets = fast weight loss, it's just that you have cut out an enormous number of your normal daily calories and you can only eat so much protein.
With that in mind, I didn't want to do any crazy fad diet, I just decided to set certain goals for myself. And be warned, they were very strict goals, but then again, I'm not one to do things half-way. I decided to limit my calorie consumption to 1200 calories per day and a minimum of one hour of exercise per day, seven days a week, with the goal of burning at least 500 calories.
Regarding the exercise, I was already working out on average 5 days per week, but maybe only for 30-45 minutes, and given how much weight I gained, it was obviously not enough to counteract everything I was eating and drinking while on the road! So when switching to working out daily, I also decided to mix-up my exercise program in order to not get bored. It's also a good idea to alternate exercises in order to keep your muscles guessing.
We have a membership at Club Med Gym, and I usually rotated between various dance classes (Zumba, Body Jam, Sh'Bam) and higher cardio things like Body Attack, running on the treadmill or the elliptical trainer. If you're looking for an extreme cardio workout, Body Attack is your class. I swear, I was in fairly good cardio shape even in the beginning, and that class made me want to puke afterwards for the about the first month. But the exercise high you get afterwards is amazing... I also lifted weights 2-3 times a week in order to continue building muscle.
As a side note, there are a lot of arguments on there back and forth on whether or not you should be adding your exercise calories back in in order to avoid your body going into starvation mode (ie consuming 1700 calories, so that your daily net calorie intake is 1200), but I decided not to. If you're trying to lose weight, I say everyone's body reacts differently to weight loss, so only you can know what's best for you individually.
On the other hand, 1200 calories is not very much, so my goal was to maximize nutrients and fiber as much as possible. I did this by limiting my consumption of most processed foods, sugars, etc - basically anything that was high in calories - and went back to the basics of consuming mainly fruits and vegetables. I also took a daily multivitamin and shot for high-fiber grains, like oats and quinoa - anything that would help me stay fuller longer was welcome!
I also drank lots of water during meals and through out the day in order to stay hydrated and stave off hunger. One thing I did not drink though was alcohol. Those of you who know me, know that I love my drinky-drink, so this was probably one of the hardest things for me to cut out. I also have friends and family who love to drink, so it made social events difficult (I got a lot of "Are you pregnant" questions). But minus a few very special occasions, I held strong and can count on one hand the number of drinks I had during that 6 month period. There just really wasn't any room for calories to be wasted on alcohol, and when I had to decide between reaching my goal of -1kg (-2.2lbs) per week or having a drink, the weight loss always won out.
It did however get a bit frustrating eating the same thing over and over, so I had to get creative with time. In the next post, I'll provide links to a lot of the recipes that helped make eating fun (or as fun as eating 1200 calories/day can be lol).
Labels: Frenchwomen do get fat