The Continuing Weight Loss Journey – After Weight Loss Ends

I’ve been in maintenance for going on 3 years this month. I lost, at my max, 115 lbs, and have kept off more than 100 lbs of that this entire time. That 10 lb regain? A lot of it is muscle, because I’m a physically smaller size than I was when I hit my goal of 160 lbs. While I’m extremely proud of my weight loss and keeping it off, losing the weight has been the hardest part.

I’ve been overweight from birth, so being at a healthy weight for the first time ever at 33 years old was a strange and wonderful thing. I quickly realized, however, that my brain had adapted quite well to being the fat girl. You know how they say you didn’t gain weight overnight so don’t expect it to come off overnight? The same is true for your mental state. You don’t just wake up on the day you hit your goal weight and think like someone who’s never been fat. Your brain is still a fat girl. A fat girl in a fit girl’s body.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been 3 years since I hit my goal weight. In those three years I’ve gone from only walking to someone who works out 5 days a week. I can do one arm swings with a 40lb kettlebell. I can deadlift with 52.5lbs per hand (and probably more but that’s as heavy as my dumbbells get). I have gone from the baggiest clothes possible to preferring slimmer fit clothes, from covering up on the beach to owning FOUR bikinis.

I call this my uncomfortable pose.

Now let me tell you: wearing a bikini on the beach at the Jersey Shore in the middle of peak season is terrifying. I can’t speak for the never-fat, but I felt scared and exposed and paranoid that people were whispering about me behind my back about how grotesque I was. This is the third year I’ve worn a bikini to the beach, and this is the first time I really felt like something changed inside me.

This past Sunday The Hubs and I spent the afternoon and evening in Ocean City, NJ. The weather was blissfully perfect and we found a nice spot on the packed beach and I stripped down to just my bikini… and my anxiety set in. Were people staring? In a bad way? The Hubs assured me that was not the case. When we were done roasting ourselves I decided that I didn’t want to put my tee shirt back on because the sun was beating down something fierce. So I pulled my jean shorts up and folded my tee and stuck it in my bag. And at first I was really, REALLY self conscious. But after a while I started to not think about it. We walked the boardwalk and went into shops and just enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean.

I put my tee back on to eat dinner, but when we got back outside it was just so wonderfully breezy and the temperature was perfect that I took it off again and just enjoyed the feeling of the sun and wind on my skin. And I stayed that way until we got back to the car at the end of the night.

I’m not saying my insecurities are gone now, far from it. But I think I crossed a threshold on Sunday. I think my brain is slowly catching up to my body, and I’m proud of that. I’ve come a really long way, and while there’s always someplace higher to go, I know I’m moving in the right direction. ❤

 

How to Work Out Your Legs When Your Knees Hurt

A good friend of mine is dealing with some messed up knees exacerbated by a bad personal trainer, and I wanted to help out a bit and do some research on strength training exercises that won’t cause harm to the knees. I personally do a lot of lunges and squats with heavy dumbbells to get my lower body training done, but I’m lucky to have healthy knees.

One thing I do after my heavy weighted workouts is Pilates, and tons of Pilates exercises can be done without too much knee usage. Here’s my favorite Pilates butt and thigh workout:

You don’t have to totally give up some lower body weightlifting either. The Romanian Deadlift is a bit easier on the knees than a standard deadlift. You start from a standing position and lean down, keeping your back straight, until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then, keeping your abs tight, slowly stand back up.

The Single Leg Deadlift is another exercise I do often, usually with heavy hand weights (20-30 lbs per hand), but it can be done without weights to start.

Good Mornings are also a great exercise that isn’t hard on the knees. Similar to the deadlift, the knees are slightly bent, the back is kept straight and the waist hinges while the arms hang with the weights.

And I can’t write an exercise blog without mentioning kettlebells. The kettlebell swing, while LOOKING hard on the knees, is actually a movement focus on the pelvis. The knees only bend slightly in order to aid momentum.

All of these exercises can help strengthen and tone your lower body without overdoing the strain to your knees. Please chime in with any feedback below!

Quick and Dirty Guide to Healthy Fats

Fat is flavor.

Fat is filling.

And yes, fat can be GOOD for you! We’ve heard so much about low-fat this and low-fat that and reduce fat blah-blah-blah but in truth, not all fat is bad. Heck, not even all TRANS FAT is bad! (But stay away from man-made trans fats: beware the words “partially hydrogenated”.) Here’s the skinny (haha) on healthy fats:

Carnivore

Grass Fed Beef

Yes, BEEF. Red meat has natural occurring trans fat that is GOOD for you. CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, helps reduce belly fat and improve heart health. Stearic acid, a saturated fat, reduces LDL cholesterol. Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner, is lower in palmitic acid, which is unhealthy, and is higher in CLA, stearic acid and omega-3’s than conventional beef. MY RECOMMENDATION: Cook it medium-rare. 😉 

Duck

Quack quack! Did you know eating fat could build muscle? Arachidonic acid (AA for short), a polyunsaturated fat, has been shown to increase lean body mass, strength and anaerobic power in men. (Come on, scientists, study this in WOMEN, too!) Plus, duck is delicious. MY RECOMMENDATION: Just like beef, cook it medium-rare. 

Wild Salmon

If you haven’t heard someone recommend salmon as containing heart healthy fats before, you’ve been living under a rock. Salmon is LOADED with omega-3’s. Pink salmon is second best after wild salmon for nutrients, so try to use one of those two varieties to get the maximum benefit. MY RECOMMENDATION: I don’t actually like salmon very much but cedar planked salmon is very popular and doesn’t add a lot of extra calories while still imparting flavor. 

Tuna

Tuna has the highest quantity of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA of any fish in the sea, literally! And it’s CHEAP. Canned light tuna is the most affordable healthy fish you can buy, and researchers say that DHA is effecting at regulating fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from growing in size. MY RECOMMENDATION: Skip the mayo and eat a delicious Salad Nicoise with buttery extra virgin olive oil instead.

Vegetarian

egg-1536990_1920Whole Eggs

Yes, people, WHOLE eggs. Unless you are advised by your doctor to avoid eggs, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the whole thing. In fact, most of the fat in yolks is monounsaturated and found to reduce “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Eggs are also the best dietary source of choline, a nutrient that can help reduce the fat stored around your liver. MY RECOMMENDATION: Eat eggs for more than just breakfast! A hard boiled egg is a protein packed snack and a quiche or fritatta can be a delicious evening meal.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has TONS of protein and calcium so it’s a great food for strong muscles and healthy bones. Add fat to the mix and you have a hunger-bashing snack that can go savory or sweet. Yes, most of the fat is saturated, but Greek yogurt also contains monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and naturally-occurring trans fatty acids, all of which balance the saturated fat so your cholesterol is not affected. MY RECOMMENDATION: Purchase plain whole milk Greek yogurt and have it with fruit and a small drizzle of honey for a filling and satisfying afternoon snack.

Cheese

People who eat full fat cheeses regularly are actually less prone to diabetes, and the fat in the cheese helps our body more readily absorb the other things that cheese provides in spades: protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. It also helps promote a feeling of satisfaction, and slows the absorption of sugar and carbs which can keep your energy levels steady throughout the day. MY RECOMMENDATION: Enjoy 1 ounce of full fat cheese with one small apple or one cup of grapes for a well-rounded snack.

Heavy Cream/Milk

Milk fat helps keep blood sugar stable and is more filling: this means you’ll find up eating less overall. In 2013, the European Journal of Nutrition published a study that found that people who eat the fattier dairy products were less likely to suffer from obesity. MY RECOMMENDATION: Splash a moderate amount of half and half in your coffee instead of the skim. It will feel like a treat and leave you feeling more satisfied.

Vegan

Coconut

Coconut contains a lot of saturated fat, but the majority of that comes from lauric acid, which is unique among triglycerides in that it fights bacteria, lowers bad cholesterol, and increases energy. Coconut oil is a popular cooking oil these days, which is great since it can help reduce abdominal fat. MY RECOMMENDATION: sprinkle unsweetened coconut flakes on overnight oats topped with fresh fruit for a tasty, satisfying breakfast.

Olive Oil

Olive oil has been touted for years as a healthy mostly-monounsaturated fat and even has an entire diet (The Mediterranean Diet) dedicated to waxing poetic about its benefits. It contains adiponectin, which is a hormone that helps break down fats in the body, and the more you have, the lower your BMI tends to be. MY RECOMMENDATION: Make your own salad dressings with 1 part robust-flavored olive oil and 2 parts citrus juice.

Nuts/Nut Butter

The polyunsaturated fats found in nuts can really help satiety and improve insulin levels. Walnuts are highly recommended for both diabetics and those who suffer from high blood pressure because they have more omega-3s than any other nut. Almonds and almond butter have higher amounts of protein than other nuts. MY RECOMMENDATION: Pair nuts or nut butter with fruit to make a healthy and nutritionally complete snack that really satisfies.

Avocado

Avocado is a fabulous alternative to butter for those who prefer to stay away from dairy. The healthy monounsaturated fat and oleic acid in avocado stave off hunger, and unlike butter, it also contains protein and fiber. MY RECOMMENDATION: I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of avocado, but I did make homemade Green Goddess salad dressing and used avocado to make it vegan, and it was FABULOUS!

Flax & Chia Seeds

Flax & chia seeds contain ALA, an essential Omega-3 fatty acid. ALA promotes blood vessel health and acts as an anti-inflammatory, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. MY RECOMMENDATION: Use in homemade muesli or sprinkle on overnight oats.

So what’s YOUR favorite healthy fat? Mine are nuts of any kind, including nut butter! I can make even healthy fats dangerous, haha!