Beating My Metabolism Into Submission


I have struggled with weight my whole life, even if I appear to be in great shape now. I almost wish sometimes that I let myself put on a ton of weight before getting into shape to prove that I do have to struggle. It gets old listening to people say how nice it must be to have it so easy. I look the way I do because of choices that I make every day, and things could be very different, if not for an embarrassing trip to the pediatrician when I was ten or eleven. Instead of gently telling me that I needed to lose a few pounds, my doctor pinched my far-from-flat belly in one hand, jiggled it, and with an expression that said Do this or die, told me I needed to take care of that.

I was mortified. I knew that everyone on my dad’s side of the family struggled with obesity, and my dad had warned me on more than one occasion that if I entered adulthood overweight, it would be hard to take and keep the weight off. But I wasn’t worried—I was nowhere near adulthood, right? That doctor’s visit was the first time I felt degraded enough to do something about my body.

If I were to be reincarnated based on my metabolism alone, I would come back as a sloth. So for me it doesn’t come down to just diet or exercise but both. Over the years, I’ve discovered the tricks that do and don’t work for me. For instance, those cute little ten minute workouts don’t work. They simply don’t burn the amount of calories that I need to maintain weight, much less lose.

So when I come across something that works, I add it to my routine. The jump rope was the first tool that really helped me shed pounds, and I’ve used it regularly since my senior year in high school. Then in college I started drinking meal shakes, more out of convenience than anything else. I’ve drunk them ever since, from Kashi to Slim Fast, and now ViSalus. People have teased me about them, but if I didn’t drink them, it would be so much harder to maintain my weight.

I added P90X in 2009, and I love it. I supplement with the jump rope, a recumbent bike, and some circuit training to keep my muscles challenged. Someone told me once that I was crazy for trying an extreme workout. And I have no delusions of being on the next cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition—I’m still going to have knot-knees, no matter how fit I am—but with P90X, I did achieve the best fitness of my adult life. Never before could I do a real, unassisted pull up, but P90X helped me build up enough strength to finally do what I thought was impossible.

With P90X, I became a stickler for logging my food intake, something I only did sporadically before. Whenever I don’t do it, I gain weight because I don’t feel accountable. I finally found an app called SlimKicker that not only counts calories, but it also keeps a log of my weight and exercise, and it has fitness, diet, and lifestyle challenges that keep me on my toes.

I’ve organized my life to make sure that fitness is a priority (one of many). It takes discipline and sacrifice, but I hope to be a good example to my children. More importantly, I hope to be healthy enough to see them into adulthood.






If You Don’t Like Diets. . .

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I am not a trainer or nutritionist, I have been overweight before, not to mention that I lost more than I put on after both of my pregnancies. I do exercise regularly, but that’s not all there is to it. Here are five tips that I’ve applied to my own lifestyle and could be helpful to you.

1. Keep a food intake log.

This can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. The point is for it to help you, not bog you down with needless details. There are some great calorie counting and fitness websites and apps that will track calories for you if you input what you eat. When I did the P90X diet (yes, I did—religiously for two whole months), I kept track according to which food fell into which category (carb, protein, dairy, etc.). Then I switched to tracking the number of calories I consumed versus how many I burned in a day. That was a pain, but it helped me understand my own personal limits. Once I had a handle on that, I scaled back to a list of the food I ate every day along with a record of my weight. I noticed patterns, for instance, if pizza was on the list one day, my weight would probably go up the next. You can employ any of these methods or do something different. If you have a calendar, you could write, “Ate cake today—no more this week!” The point is, make it work for you. As I discovered when I first wrote down what I ate, I wouldn’t eat something if I didn’t want to have to account for it.

2. Monitor when you eat and drink.

This was very important on the P90X diet, but that wasn’t the first place I’d encountered it. I’d heard from different sources that you should always eat within the first 30 to 60 minutes of your day. But you should also not workout within an hour of eating. That means, to follow this rule and get out the door with my kids by no later than 7:10 during the school year, either I have to get up at 3:30 or sacrifice something. I choose to sacrifice eating within the first hour most days. Sorry, but I need my sleep (and there’s a lot less of it to go around these days). With this in mind, I at least try to be good about when I eat at the end of the day. Some sources say not to eat within the last hour, although others say not to eat within the last three. I eat small portions all day long, and so I’m full well before bedtime. But you know what I’ve found makes the most difference? Liquid intake. And I’m talking plain old water. If I eat something super salty and drink water all night afterward, I’ll weigh more the next morning. It’s even worse, of course, if I drink something with actual calories. (Sports drinks seem to be the worst culprit. I never drink them at night, if I can help it, although I sometimes crave one after an evening workout.) I am not saying to deprive yourself and go thirsty, but keep in mind that twenty ounces of water right before bed will probably mean more on the scale the next day. So hydrate during the day, and determine when your cut off point should be for guzzling.

3. Cut out carbonated beverages.

This was extremely hard for me after I had my second baby. I couldn’t drink many carbonated beverages at all when I was pregnant because of swelling. So I craved them and went kind of crazy after delivering my little bundle of joy. That was a contributing factor to not losing weight as quickly as I wanted. As soon as I limited my intake, it became a lot easier. Carbonated beverages, even the zero calorie ones, contain sodium, and sodium makes you retain water weight.

4. Weigh yourself regularly.

For me, it’s a daily thing. The usual recommendation is to weigh once a week at the same time of day, but I just do it every day when I wake up. Yes, there are a lot of fluctuations, weighing every day, but the good thing about it is that it keeps me honest. I think hard about if I want that bowl of ice cream, knowing that I could very well see the negative effects the next morning. I became a believer in the daily method when, after plateauing, my mom suggested it to me. I was firmly against it at first but then tried it anyway, figuring I had nothing to lose—except seventeen pounds. What do you know? It worked, and quickly, too. That plateau became a thing of the past, and all my pre-baby clothes fit again in less than three months. (Do remember, if you’re exercising and your weight goes up slightly, but your clothes still fit, you might be converting fat to muscle.)

5. Eat Enough

The rule of thumb is to burn more than you eat in order to lose weight, but if you’re burning two thousand calories and only consuming five hundred, you won’t have the stamina to get through the day. I am not a huge proponent of crash diets because it is so easy to lose control and gain more than you lost to begin with when you start eating normal portions again. (I’ve done it myself, and it took a good four years to lose the weight I put back on.) I suggest that if you plan to do an extremely low-calorie diet, make sure it’s monitored by a nutritionist. If you exercise regularly, your body won’t take well to a lettuce and water diet. This doesn’t mean picking up a two hundred calorie candy bar because you need an energy boost (read about empty calories here). You need a balance of proteins (to rebuild muscle mass), complex carbohydrates (to give you energy), plus fruits and vegetables (for vital vitamins and minerals).