A quick bit of history. A long, long time ago I lost a lot of weight and eventually became a runner. Like almost every other woman in the world, runner or not, I've never been able to achieve the perfect weight, although I'm fairly happy where I'm at. A couple years ago I picked up a few pounds and last spring and summer I manage to shed those extra pounds, but still was unable to get below that elusive 150-pound mark (or stay consistently below 155 pounds).
This year I'm going to change that! (Well, I hope I will.) I've decided to make a concerted effort over the next two months until my 45th birthday on August 19 to get my weight down to 145 pounds. Then I'll have more than a month before the Bellingham Marathon in September to keep it there (and assure that it's not just a momentary blip, like the one day when I weighed 149 pounds in September 2009).
A caveat: I don't want to begin by failing, but I do want to make clear that if I don't, or can't, accomplish this I am not going to sweat it. I am not willing to make myself nuts if this proves to be an unreachable goal! I think it is reachable, but...we shall see.
Okay, so what am I going to do to make this happen? I'll begin by making the crazy-sounding statement that I don't really want to eat less or exercise more. At least not drastically. I believe that generally speaking I eat very well, and nutritiously, and fairly low in calories compared to the exercise I engage in. And as far as quantity of exercise, I think it would be difficult to spend a lot more time at it than I already do. In fact, I expect that over the next couple months I will be running slightly less mileage than I was in the last stages of marathon training.
First, my diet (meaning what I eat). I plan to generally stick with my same types of foods, but with the following modifications (let's call them improvements, shall we?).Stop it with the sweets already. My greatest temptation and downfall is undoubtedly cookies, cakes, and candy. Even though I account for my self-indulgence in my calorie allocations, I am probably underestimating and an almost-ban on goodies will surely make a difference. I am limiting treats to birthday cake (or equivalent) for actual birthdays of close family members. There may be other exceptions but I am definitely nipping the mindless nibbling in the bud. That includes bakery samples in the grocery store!
Be careful with portion size for proteins, fats, and carbs. I am pretty good about this already—I almost always weigh or measure these higher-calorie food items—but it never hurts to take a closer look. And stop the extra nibbles (a bit of this, a scrape of that—e.g. maple almond butter!).
Eat more salmon (wild Alaska salmon). That is, more often, not quantity. Although salmon is a little higher in calories than chicken and turkey, I believe that its Omega 3 fats really help with weight loss (I ate salmon all the time when I was losing weight). There are also other fishes that I should eat more of. Plus shrimp, which is not an Omega 3 food but is really low in calories! (I love all seafood, eating it is not a sacrifice!)
Take Vitamin D and fish oil supplements. Both of those are good for general health and weight loss. There is also some indication that Vitamin D might help with athletic performance. In any case, we have had so little sun around here that I am sure I need to boost my Vitamin D levels! I'm also going to take Vitamin C because I have two whole bottles and at the very least, it is good for your gums.
Cut back and/or eliminate diet pop, as well as other diet beverages and artificially sweetened foods. This will be so hard for me. I find it hard to believe that a substance with no calories can affect your weight, but other people have had good results with giving it up. I can't say that I will never, ever drink a diet coke, but I am going to seriously reduce my consumption. I am still going to put Splenda in my coffee, though. And I don't think I will completely give up Dannon Light & Fit yoghurt, but I will substitute Greek yoghurt at least some of the time, especially as fresh summer fruits become more available.
I already eat lots of fiber, so I don't plan to make any changes there. I also eat tons of non-starchy vegetables, and reasonable amounts of fruit. I do plan on eating grapefruit more often, and I am looking forward to delicious ripe canteloupe during the summertime!
Now, as for exercise and lifestyle. I have put together a training plan for improving my half marathon performance this summer. It's very similar to my marathon plan, actually, except that the long runs don't get as long and the pace and tempo runs will (hopefully) be a little faster. At this point, I am not changing my practice of running four days a week on most weeks, and five days on occasion. I will also continue to fill in the gaps with cross-training (mostly elliptical at the Y) on off days and an extra cross-training stint on some running days.
I have some other thoughts, but the fact that I am just thinking them, and not committing to a plan yet, probably means that I won't follow through. But here goes...
Strength training, probably with weights. Yes, I know that building muscle through strength training (e.g. lifting weights) will build muscle which raises your metabolism and burns calories more effectively. The problem is finding time to fit this in, as well as (frankly) the motivation. Or a plan, really. I'm ruminating on it, though.
Adding an extra high-cardio activity other than running (e.g. spinning). This is really a long shot that I'll follow through. I don't want to increase running days because I want to avoid injury, but really the only type of exercise that brings my heart rate up (very high at all) is running. The exception is spinning, on the few occasions that I've done. But. I. Hate. It. (And that aside, scheduling is still an issue.) So we shall see.... (Update as of Friday: all the spin classes at the Y are at bad times for me and on running days. So spin is out. So sad. Haha.)
I guess I'll have to think about the exercise component more, but my gut feeling is, other than strength or weight training, there is nothing major I could or should change in my exercise plan other than continuing to work on my training plans for running more effectively. I actually believe that what you eat has more effect on losing weight than exercise does. And I think it's unrealistic, perhaps even harmful, to try to pump up the volume higher than it already is.
There are a couple of other strategies I might consider, depending on how things go in the next couple of weeks. I'm keeping them in my back pocket for use in case of emergency.
Consider giving up my pre-run, pre-Y snack in early mornings. I suspect that I use this more as a treat to get myself out of bed than as fuel (100-150 calories). I probably could give it up and just wait for breakfast when I get home. I would continue to eat breakfast on days when I go out later, though, or if I am going for an extra-long run!
Stop using half and half in my coffee. I don't use much (I don't think), and the total over a day is less than the calories in a nonfat latte (but with fat and without much calcium). I don't want to give it up unless it's really necessary.
Give up my yoghurt/fruit/Fiber One (or alternative) snack in the evenings. I do include this in my overall calorie count for the day, so I don't see how it can hurt! But if emergency calls....
Eat less vegetables. Does that sound crazy or what? I eat lots of spinach, salad greens, and non-starchy veg. Maybe the calories are adding up....
Cut back on salt/sodium. This is kind of a last-ditch, Biggest Loser type of strategy that I may employ as a last resort to hit my number by deadline. I used to really restrict sodium because I felt it made me retain water (as it does for most people). But with the volume of running I do, and especially after the very hot and sweaty summer we had last year, plus my tendency to get leg cramps, I have rethought that. I still eat very little in the way of processed food (which tends to be high in sodium), but I do use salt in cooking, sometimes add salt to my meal (if it is bland), and drink Nuun while running (which has sodium). I would only take this step if it seemed truly necessary.
So there you have it. There is more I could say but I think this is plenty for now. Just for fun I am putting a weight loss ticker in my sidebar, to show my progress (and the unfortunate fact that I am starting three pounds higher than I had hoped to). I'll probably only update it once a week or so, don't want to be obsessive! (No, not me!)
So tomorrow, June 19, is Go Day! (Also I am running another 5K tomorrow morning. I'll report later how it goes.)