Me Minus 10: Reaching the target weight

By Jennifer LaRue Huget
Thursday, July 8, 2010; GZ11

I weigh 133 pounds.

I never thought I'd be able to say that. It's by far the least I've weighed in my adult life. It's a bit less than my Me Minus 10 goal of 135. And, man, it feels good.

When I set out in February to lose 10 pounds (and keep it off before I turn 50 in December -- my next goal), I didn't have much of a plan. I didn't even know how much I weighed; I thought it was 145 pounds, but when I stepped on a decent scale I learned it was more like 147.

Once I figured out how to proceed, with the invaluable advice of "Mindless Eating" author Brian Wansink and Bethesda-based physician and exercise expert Pam Peeke, removing weight (not just "losing" it, Peeke insists, as losing implies I'll find it again) turned out to be easier than I'd imagined. The key was to figure out which tools and techniques worked with my lifestyle and personality. Then I could relax, confident that I could do this thing after all.

Most of what worked for me could for others, too. One big caveat: Losing 14 pounds over four months required an insane amount of exercise, often three hours a day. That's a luxury few can afford. It was hard even for me, with my flexible freelancer schedule, and my husband ended up doing more than his share of driving kids to activities to accommodate.

I knew that keeping strict track of calories or maintaining a meticulous food journal would drive me bonkers. So I compromised: I keep a blank book on my desk and scribble down what I eat, along with notes about how I'm feeling, my physical activity and any special challenges or triumphs. That's helped me gauge how my strategies are working and gives me a record to turn back to if ever I stray off course.

Here are some of the things that have worked best for me. They might not all be right for you, but I hope they at least inspire you to find your own little bag of tricks.

Skip seconds, but not meals. I eat three modest meals every day, with small snacks in between. Once I've finished my "Jennifer-size" dinner (half the size of the teenage-boy portions I had been shoveling down), I'm done eating for the day.

Enjoy martinis. I don't eat sweets, but I do enjoy my nightcap. I knew I couldn't maintain any regimen that required me to eschew that pleasure. This is in keeping with Wansink's small-changes approach.

Chew gum. Both Peeke and Wansink suggested substituting gum for food when I wanted the sensation of chewing, or to distract me from picking at leftovers in the kitchen. I wish I had stock in Wrigley's.

Food equals fuel. Choosing foods that promote muscle building was a new concept to me. I used to skip meals, especially before working out, but I learned workouts work better when I've provided fuel for my body to burn. Lean proteins, fiber, fruits and vegetables rule!

Use resistance bands. Peeke suggested I try resistance bands to build muscle so I could shift my body-fat ratio. It worked: I'm at 25 percent body fat, down from the 28.6 percent I started at, which Peeke called average.

Involve family. Wansink encouraged me to make healthful foods more accessible to my family. Now everybody's eating more fruit and vegetables and less white bread, pasta and cheese.

Bounce back. I've made a few mistakes along the way. The difference this time has been my ability to say "That's okay" and get right back on track. The journal helps.

Do Bikram yoga. Ninety minutes of challenging yoga poses in a 105-degree room may not sound like fun, but Bikram yoga has helped me stay focused on my goal. It doesn't hurt that I feel skinnier every time I leave that hot room, dripping in sweat.

As you read this, I am touring Italy with my daughter. I wonder how I will fare, away from the foods and exercise routines I've relied on these past few months. I sure don't plan to skip all that good Italian food. I hope all the walking we'll do will offset those calories. I'll let you know how it turns out. Buon appetito!

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