5 ways I’m losing weight as a healthy lifestyle

June 22, 2014 · 22 comments

in Loving food, Money issues, Seeking holistic health

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Over the past six months, I gained 10 pounds — the same 10 pounds I lose and gain every few years. Big sigh. I’m SO TIRED of this cycle — and I think I’m finally ready to break it.

The motivating factor is a recent conversation with my 19-year-old daughter. I was enjoying a tasty snack, can’t remember what it was. Doesn’t matter anyway because, apparently, my behavior around food is always the same.

“Why do you always do that?” she asked. “You’re not setting a very good example for me.”

Do what? Until that moment, I wasn’t aware there was an issue. But the minute she called me out, I instantly knew.

What me, neurotic?

Here’s my pattern: indulge, savor, regret. Then, conclude the fat-shaming ritual with a few minutes of obsessing over calories. Then maybe, eat some more.

My mom used to act exactly like this, especially around chocolate and sweet treats. Mom, the diabetic. While I’m not diabetic and basically gave up sugar years ago, I have still become my mother. Another big sigh, a really, really big one.

There’s so much to learn about women and our food issues. The fact that my behavior felt so normal to me says a lot about eating disorders among today’s younger generations. They learned this stuff somewhere, right?

My NYU journalism student Avianne Tan explored the problem in one of our class homework assignments. The result was a terrifying story about blogs and websites glorifying skeletal young women. Her piece was so terrific that she got it into USA Today: “Thinspiration” social media stalls eating disorder recovery for some. 

5 benefits of losing weight

Among other eating issues, we are also an increasingly fat planet. Nearly 30 percent of the world’s population is either overweight or obese, according to a new study. In the U.S., fully one-third of all adults have been obese for the past decade, with 29 million adults over 20 suffering from diabetes — an increase from 26 million in 2010, according to government stats quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about gluten-free products.

I have tons of personal reasons for trimming down. Here are my top five:

Benefit #1: Financial savings enhance my bottom and my bottom line. When I eat out, I order less. Since chips of any sort are my weakness, cutting out these $3.99 bags of this and that are great for my grocery bill. By the way, these products that trigger non-stop snacking are called “avalanche” foods because we can’t stop eating them until they’ve buried us.

Benefit #2: I don’t have to waste money buying new clothes. My closet looks like I am three different people who range from size 4 and size 6 to size 8.  If I stuck to one size, just imagine all the shelf space it would free up.

Benefit #3: Shedding even a few pounds spares me from achy joints. For years, I’ve had one mildly arthritic knee. Those of us with arthritis or back pain have all heard the lecture. From the doctors to the physical therapists, everyone says it’s important to lighten the body load.

Benefit #4: It’s nice to look young(er). No explanation needed. Instant youthfulness.

Benefit #5: It’s easier to get around. Who can argue against having more energy? Or being able to fit more comfortably into the ever-shrinking coach seats on an airplane?

5 ways I lose weight

I’ve been actively changing my daily routine. Here’s what’s up:

Way #1: Get more sleep. Instead of binge eating when I’m tired, sleeping feels much better. My shrink calls this change a positive form of “sleep hygiene.” Keeping the cell phone off at bedtime helps too. Click here for a link to free New York Times stories about sleep.

Way #2: Drink more water. The Daily Mail has a great story by a 42-year-old mom who drank three liters of water a day for a month. That’s about three quarts — or 12 cups — a day. Her headaches and digestion issues cleared up. So did her skin and wrinkles. Water is filling, can be good from the tap (almost free) and has zero calories. Hydrate, baby, hydrate!

Way #3: Do things that I love. I turn to food when I’m stressed. And when I’m happy. And when I’m bored. But there’s no food in the picture when I’m doing something truly interesting that demands my full attention. In these situations, I just keep doing what I’m doing!

Way #4: Stop talking all the time about my weight, calorie counting, midriff bulge (aka muffintop), etc. Really, who cares? Enough, already.

Way #5: Use a weight loss website, with a smart phone app. Best for last. This is huge. Instead of boring my loved ones (Way #4), I am now having a very constructive conversation with myself. I do it online, by journaling my intake.

Several studies have shown that maintaining food diaries help us to shed pounds and keep them off. The websites and their phone apps are fast-and-easy options because they don’t require writing anything. Just click the cute little food icons.

The two most popular websites are Loseit.com and MyFitnessPal.com. Which one is better?

Hard to say. They both offer free versions. They both log your meals, scan bar codes on food packages and feature menu items from fast food and restaurant chains. You can also create and list your own foods on your personal account, including favorite home-cooked dishes, special ingredients and items from chain restaurant menus.

As far as I can tell — beyond the look and feel of the two sites, there are only two main differences:

Weight loss apps

I use Loseit.com. Found it years ago and stuck with it because of the graphic option that I mention above. It helps me to see my patterns: My loseit.com graph

This chart could get intimidating because it shows me just how far I am from a 125-lb. goal. But quite frankly, I no longer think I need to drop that much. Getting to 127 lbs. would be just fine.  No problem! Just hit re-set. Punching in my new goal moved up the green base line on the chart. In the second chart below, you can see the green line has floated me two pounds closer to the finish line. Instant progress, haha.

Check out the green line in each of the two graphs below:

Loseit.com charts
If you’d like to learn more about using Loseit.com, check out my YouTube video: How to lose weight on Loseit.com

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Looking ahead….

Mirror, mirror

I am ready for a new lifestyle and attitude about my body. It’s all part of making the most of what I have. Hope you’ll weigh in with your thoughts, tips and suggestions! xo.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Boiling June 22, 2014 at 10:08 pm

I loved this. Where do children learn bad eating habits from ? :) Where do we learn not to love our bodies from? :)

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betty ming liu June 22, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Boiling! It’s not like we should blame Mom — and Dad — for everything, right? But still, there’s stuff that happens at home. Plus, we get such mess-up messages about food from the media, society and business. Thanks for the feedback! :)

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Doralee Halperin June 23, 2014 at 9:17 am

Hi Betty!

It’s so nice to see your posts again. One thought on the weight issue: we can gain weight when starting a new relationship because we may be eating out more and drinking a bit more alcohol. Perhaps that’s been a factor for you? It will all balance out and you’ll be fine. Congratulations on the new relationship, by the way!!

Peace and blessings,
Doralee

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

Doralee, you are spot on. I love to eat out and it does indeed impact relationships. At the end of my marriage, we wined and dined to turn things around. Instead, I hit an all-time high by devouring every bread basket in sight. The last bad relationship was a similar story. And in this new relationship, the food was all about being relaxed and enjoying ourselves. One thing though, I hardly drink anymore. Stopped about half a year ago. Saves on a lot of calories. Thanks for the compassion and for encouraging me to keep blogging. Big hug to you!

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carol June 23, 2014 at 10:21 am

Couple great tips I have been given:
1. vegetable at breakfast. Take last nights leftover veg and stick into your scrambled egg or smoothie. Keeps you full and gets one of your 5 veg in.
2. 250/250 simplest weight loss program eat 250 calls less a day and add 250 calls of exercise a day (walk 2.5 miles) that gives you a pound a week off without the dieting taking over your life. That is how guys lose weight.
3. Carbs at 150 gms a day max. A killer 4 me. 3 servings and a snack. serving is one slice of bread or 1/2 cup rice etc.
4. Buy new clothes NOW. I went to my favorite store -Puritan Hyannis and asked for summer clothes that would go +/- 5 pounds. Got black pants,skirt,shorts and bright tops , white jacket. Looks FAB ! I feel great and I am sticking so much better to my ‘regime’ now that I feel I look good.

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 10:23 am

Carol, I like all of your tips!! I totally relate to the carbs issue. My Chinese herbalist has had me on a low-carb, gluten-free regimen for years. But it’s tough, man, really tough. Tons of veggies are also a great way to go. And this is the first time I’m hearing the 250/250 concept…nice! Congrats on the clothes too. Another great piece of advice. :)

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Dougie June 23, 2014 at 10:25 am

I love reading about how motivated you are! I was a trainer for a hot minute years ago, so here’s a bit of advice: While the scale is a good tool, don’t be a slave to it. For someone with your body type, how you feel, how you look, and how your clothes fit are more important than how much you weigh.

Also, EXERCISE! Find something you enjoy and move your bod!

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 10:31 am

Thanks, Dougie! Glad to get your reminder about the scale; perspective helps. I can actually get into most of my clothes, which means going to the gym has turned more flab into muscle. It’s the reason my goal weight is not as low as before. As for enjoying exercise, I’ve recently discovered that I like using the ARC trainer — one of those walking machines — while I’m watching “The Ellen Show.” She’s another one of my new activities!

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ingrid wiegand June 23, 2014 at 10:45 am

When I’m out cycling in the country with a group of friends and we stop for lunch, almost everybody has a salad of some kind. I usually have a pastry. The conversation almost always is about food — the usual. I wish they’d talk about more interesting things. It never happens. It seems to me that the problem we all have is that we don’t think enough about what we eat: we think about it too much.

Like yours, my weight used to go up and down, until I switched the way I thought about food. I was facing the usual weight gain, when I somehow remembered how I’d stopped smoking many years ago. I just decided that I wasn’t going to “stop” smoking. I could still smoke all I wanted. I just wasn’t going to have the next cigarette unless I absolutely, desperately HAD to have it. I carried a pack of filterless Camels around just in case. At the end of 6 months there was a residue of dried out loose tobacco in my bag. I can still smoke any time I want, but the idea just doesn’t appeal.

I decided I could eat all I wanted any time I wanted. A quart of ice cream? No problem. Six hamburgers? Sure. But the moment I thought of it, it didn’t seem as attractive.

It took some time for this change in my attitude to take hold, but I did stick with it. The change in mindset where food was always both abundant and permitted took hold, and as a result, I often don’t finish what’s on my plate and my weight is no longer an issue. When I start to feel I’ve had enough, my appetite just disappears and that’s all I eat, even if my plate is still half full. I rarely think about it, unless I start to look gaunt (and older, God forbid) when I get on the lower end of my natural 5-pound weight range, Then I make sure i don’t eat too little.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE food. I LOVE eating really good food and I always eat all I want of whatever it is, including pastries. But I no longer restrain my desires for food and I have absolutely no guilt about it. My only food problems are my hosts at dinner parties, for whom I never eat enough.

I’m sure this wouldn’t work for everybody, but I think the going systems which are so touted, and which require you to obsess about weight and food even more, are obviously not the answer. For our part of society, food, except the pleasure we take in eating it, is not scarce. If we took away the guilt and the idea that we need it (to “keep up our strength”) or because it’s some kind of reward that we somehow “deserve”), we’d all have smaller butts and fewer diseases.

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 10:50 am

So well said, Ingrid! I want to reach your state of nirvana. As you know from this post, I love food too. But it’s all tied up in emotional baggage. How nice if we could just appreciate food for what it is instead of layering all the overthinking that you mention. Thanks for taking the time to explain your strategy. You keep us on track.

One thing I will say, though — it’s not just the food journaling that helps me, at least right now. I tend to journal stuff about my accomplishments throughout the day. It’s all part of making gratitude my default state of being. Once I’m there, maybe I can let go of some of the list-making!

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Toby June 23, 2014 at 10:53 am

OK – no one is going to like this one but here goes – for 22 years I ate exactly the same breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was oatmeal. Lunch was a bunch of grapes, 6 cinnamon graham crackers, an apple and a banana. Dinner was normal and varied. No snacks and NO candy, Also I never drink beer or hard liquor. An hour at the gym 3 times a week. It worked for me. Zero weight gain or loss the whole time. I’ve eased up a lot since semi-retirement and gained a few pounds but hey – I’m old! I don’t have to look cute any more.

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 11:41 am

Well, Toby, the comments show there are tons of ways to deal with today’s weighty issue, haha!

You’ve got a regimen that reminds me of two books I really like. I just discovered “Vegan Before Six,” by cookbook author and food activist Mark Bittman. He recommends lots of fresh produce & legumes and in his case, carbs. Then after 6 pm, he eats anything he wants. This is how he lost about 35 pounds and kept it off.

Then there’s “Younger Next Year,” by medical doctor Chris Crowley. (He has a version for women too). In it, he recommends regular daily exercise or at least three or four times a week. Each time, it’s important to work out enough to find yourself damp, in at least a little sweat. That’s my goal on this round too.

But I need snacks, Toby, snacks!!

P.S. — You’re NOT old! xo

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Cristopher Soto June 23, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Today, our food is addictive and we overconsume junk food. However, models, actors, or any other famous personalities are skinny. The general population struggles to be in shape due to their busy schedules. Also, overweight people are being bullied in school or work.

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Yes, Chris, it’s such a depressing cycle. But we can’t give up, right?

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Toby June 23, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Hey! Don’t take away my “old” or I’ll lose my senior discount on NJ Transit – that’s 50% off!!! LOL

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I can’t wait for those senior discounts — oops, did I really just write that? Haha. I’m just saying that “old” can NOT mean “not sexy.”

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Leslie June 23, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Cooking from scratch always helps me cut down, because I’m buying real ingredients and not relying on “processed foods”. I’m certainly not vegetarian nor vegan, but I know that working more fruits and veggies into what I’m eating always makes me feel better. For women, I believe menopause can bring about weight gain, even when you’re not pigging out. So the answer is, keep it moving, and watch the portions. Also, a big part for me its to be a peace with the fact that 53 ain’t 23, no matter how you look at it. Taking lots of Zumba classes make me feel great, even if it hasn’t taken off lots of pounds, it really gives me a good workout and I’m firmer, which is a plus.

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Leslie, I actually prefer eating in these days. It’s so much easier to get good ingredients from the farmers market and prepare them myself. And thanks for the other reminder…I really should check out some of those exercise classes at the gym. Great to hear that you’re having fun with Zumba!

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Kellie June 23, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Awesome plan, Betty! I’m doing the same thing, as the late forties’ spare tire has shown up. It’s so good to hear about other women taking charge of their bodies and doing what feels right. Love that you are doing what you love. I’m actually doing the same…dancing feels amazing.

Keep up the great work! Sending you some energy for your journey.

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betty ming liu June 23, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Thanks for the good energy, Kellie! Ohhh, now that I’m in my late 50s, I’m really appreciating how GREAT I looked in my late 40s! Enjoy who you are right now. I will take my own advice on that — along with cutting back on the carbs. By the way, going gluten-free did wonders for the midriff bulge/muffin top/spare tire issues. It also cleared up the cellulite. Even though I love the taste of wheat products, they just make me too bloat-y.

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Cassandra June 23, 2014 at 11:54 pm

I hate to remind you but “falling in love can make you gain weight” both for you and the significant other, lol. But, your daughter was right–you have to set a good example and eat healthy since as Americans we have become one of the fattest people around and we have the diet to prove how we got that way. I am obese–you are not–but I thank you anyways for trying to help all of us lose weight with your blog.

BTW, you are the second Chinese American female I know whose mother had diabetes. That’s not common in the old country so was it a combination of things here in the U.S. or too much white rice?

Wear that bikini with pride!

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betty ming liu June 24, 2014 at 9:21 am

Cassandra, you are brave. Thanks for sharing about your obesity. And, for reading my blog post with such openness. :)

My only personal experience with obesity was in meeting a woman years ago. We were in the same therapy group. The things she said were a revelation to me: that women turn to food rather than alcohol. The reason is that society can accept a man who drinks but a boozy woman carries a bad connotations.

For that reason, she said women like her turn to food to “anesthetize” and that it becomes a buffer, a form of armor. I’m wondering what you think of this because her reasoning certainly explains part of my relationship with food.

Thanks for the reminder. Falling in love — and out of it — certainly does have an impact on weight. And the funny thing about my daughter….we seem to have more conversations these days about, well just about anything. Made me think of otherwise nice people that have been in my life, who I’ve avoided because I didn’t want to hear about x,y,z again. Clearly, it was time to look in the mirror.

As for diabetes, it’s a MAJOR problem for Asians and Asian Americans. Here is a link to a recent NYTimes piece about diabetes in China. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/health/diabetes-epidemic-grows-in-china.html?_r=0

China now has the largest diabetes epidemic in the world. About a third of all diabetes are Chinese in China. That’s 114 million people, with another 99,000 who are pre-diabetic.

And relevant to my issues of needing to lose “just” 10 pounds, the Times story makes a point about weight gain which typically leads to Type 2 diabetes — Asians don’t need to gain as much weight as blacks or whites in order to trigger this ugly disease.

Wow, all these people at greater risk, stroke and kidney failure. Not to mention the impact on quality of life, and even sex life (impotence is an issue for men who have high blood pressure and diabetes).

For more fun reading material, this is a link to New York Times free articles on diabetes. You can access them at no charge: http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/diabetes/in-depth-report.html

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