Tag Archives: fitness

How I (Barely) Survived 3 days of the Weight Watchers

I injured my shoulder a while ago playing ping-pong. You are probably thinking “How in the world can you injure your shoulder playing a harmless game of a ping-pong?” If you have a couple of cocktails and swing too hard, that’s how. I finally dragged myself to the doctor and found out that I cannot lift weights for about 6-8 months after I am finished with physical therapy.

Not being able to lift weights was the worst news I could possibly expect. I got so upset about it that I stopped going to the gym. If you remember from my previous post, I hate cardio. So, pounding endless miles on the treadmill was not really an option for me. In a couple of weeks of not working out, I started gaining weight at a fast and steady rate. I went back to the gym and worked out like crazy on elliptical without reducing any body fat I accumulated over the weeks of self-pity. A cold realization hit me – my dietary habits required a very thorough and close re-evaluation.

So what is a girl to do if she doesn’t want to work out but wants to shed some pounds? Diet! I don’t believe in diets because they limit consumption of certain nutrients (protein, carbs) or food groups. Diets seems to fight against what your body needs to function most efficiently. Also, I believe that diets cause a loss of lean muscle and ultimately reduce our metabolism. Did you notice how fast people put their weight back after they are done dieting?

I contemplated all of this and decided that I need to have a better accountability of what I eat and what portions I consume. So, I signed up with Weight Watchers. I liked the idea of Weight Watchers because the program lets you eat anything you want, it makes you think about your food quality, portion size, and it teaches you to prioritize your food choices. Immediately I learned that I am used to overeating, especially if I eat something delicious. You know how difficult it is to stop eating when something tastes so good, and it seems that you can eat, and eat, and eat … until your belly almost bursts.

We shop for food responsibly and selectively, trying to buy nutritious, quality food. As it appeared after one day of starvation trying to follow the Weight Watchers prescribed 22 points a day, our refrigerator at home did not contain any filling foods such as almonds, carrots, grapes, whole-grain crackers, hummus and low fat cheese. I ran to the store and got carrots instead of my usual Luna snack bar.

On day 3 of my Weight Watchers ordeal I ate a cup of cereal and a toast of wheat bread with a sprinkle of peanut butter for breakfast. On the way to work I was craving a latte and since I am not a very strong person when it comes to food cravings, I gave in to my desire. The latte kept me going for a couple of hours but by ten o’clock I was starving and feeling weak. I ate a bunch of carrots that were supposed to be a satisfying food. Unfortunately for me the carrots did not fill me up. I was still feeling weak. So, I ate six crackers that my co-worker generously gave me after seeing my desperate and hungry eyes.

By lunch time I was dreaming about a rib-eye, French fries and a slice of chocolate cake. Just before I got a chicken pot pie and a piece of apple pie from the cafeteria at work, I cancelled my Weight Watchers membership.

I never was obsessed with food until I signed up with Weight Watchers. Constant point counting and thinking about food made me feel awkward and hungry. The Weight Watchers helped me realized that sometimes we eat too much and not the healthiest foods. But I also realized that if you reduce your food intake, count carrots, crackers and grapes, sooner or later you will start obsessing about food.

The obsession that you will develop will not be about good, nutritious, healthy food. You will start noticing pastries, donuts, bagels everywhere. You will stare at happy people eating juicy hamburgers on benches in the park. You will inhale the delicious smell of your co-worker’s lunch and wish it would be yours.

I know people who love Weight Watchers. The program worked for them in the best possible way: they lost weight, they learned all the right eating habits, and they figured out how to prioritize their food choices. However, I have yet to meet a Weight Watcher who didn’t gain any weight back after finishing the program. If you are depriving yourself from things that you like, sooner than later you will attempt to catch up with all the lost opportunities and voilà – you will be back to the Weight Watchers losing weight. Again.

As far as my life goes, I am back to the gym.

How To Get Stronger, Smarter and Better All At Once

I always thought that making and keeping a commitment to fitness takes years. Not a day, not a week, not even three months – years! I could not be any more wrong. It took two weeks! But let me start from the very beginning…

In high school I hated physical education class and barely attended it. It was a really bad idea because I failed a running test. Instead of running, I walked most of the track and botched the test miserably. My PE teacher called my mother and told her that if I don’t shape up and run or at least attempt to run, I won’t be allowed to take graduation exams (the school system in my country is different from the school system in the US).

At sixteen I was not fit to run. I smoked like a chimney! What running are you talking about? But I had to buckle down and attempt to run. It was imperative to pass the running test and take the graduation exams. A great future laid in front of me and the only obstacle in achieving this future was passing the running test. The physical part of the test, the track, the PE teacher and his stop watch was a nightmare that is impossible to forget. I’ll leave it at that. Lesson One – quit smoking.

Years later, I was in the US attending college. By then I quit smoking and attempted a few work out sessions at the gym with my friends. My best friend used to run on a treadmill, watch TV and tell me about her love life. All at the same time. She was a multitasker. I barely could breath while briskly walking on the treadmill next to her. The whole experience was pretty overwhelming: her fit body, iron lungs and constant talking. I stopped working out. Lesson Two – choose carefully with whom you exercise.

Six years and twenty extra pounds later I started thinking about signing up for a gym. But I made a big mistake. I overestimated cardio, hoping to shred twenty pounds in ten days, and pounded endless miles on the treadmill. Don’t misunderstand me. Cardio is a good exercise that makes your heart stronger. My misconception was that cardio was supposed to burn all the extra fat I acquired during my years in college fast and efficiently. When it didn’t happen, I gave up, accusing genetics of all my weight problems. Lesson Three– cardio is not a solution to your problems.

Then the unexpected happened. My husband started to work out three times a week. He was lifting weights and doing a very little cardio. I suspiciously watched him lose weight, build some substantial muscle and change his body in a surprising way. His transformation inspired me, and I signed up for the gym again. Yes, third time! This time I started lifting weights and since then I never looked back. It took exactly two weeks to see changes in my weight and my body. I finally made a long-term commitment that I was afraid to make for years. Lesson Four – find the right exercise and stick to it.

As a result, I became stronger, smarter and indeed I live better.

Stronger: it doesn’t matter if you are male or female, old or young, don’t be afraid of weights. You simply need to adjust weights, lunges, squats, repetitions to your level and capabilities. You will notice your body getting stronger, leaner, healthier. You will not need to spend long boring hours laboriously pumping away on some treadmill or elliptical. Weight training builds muscle mass and increases your metabolism. What else do you need?

Smarter: my food choices improved significantly and I am eating much healthier. Once I started eating healthy, I found that I no longer crave junk food (oh well… I still do but very rarely). I believe that healthy diet starts with choices we make at the grocery store. Try not to shop hungry to avoid impulse purchases. Try to plan meals for the entire week, so you know what you are shopping for. Please don’t over eat. American portions (I blame my extra 20 lbs on it) are much bigger than European portions. Portion control is essential.

Better: exercise will improve your life. You will make healthier and smarter choices, reduce stress, get adequate sleep and build a stronger immune system. Oh, and don’t forget – you will look better too!