Saturday, June 2, 2012

How I lost 20+ pounds (almost) without trying.

Note: I wouldn't normally talk about my weight, especially on such a public forum, but I figured one of my blog's main focuses is post-grad life, and I attribute the great majority of my weight loss to simply graduating college. I think if you're going to make the lifestyle changes like the ones I describe below, the transition between college and "grown-up" life is the perfect time, so hopefully any recent grads out there will find my experience helpful.

Well, it finally happened. I looked at the scale yesterday morning and it started with “12” for the first time since I was a senior in high school. Toward the end of my college days, that number was more apt to start with a “15.” As I said in the title of this post, I lost this weight (almost) without trying. Let me explain the “almost” part....

I think there were three main things that contributed to my weight loss, but of these three, only one was a deliberate choice with the intent of losing weight. Here are the first two:

Photo via ADPi Mizzou

1. Moving out of the sorority house: I didn't really have a choice with this one. You graduate; you have to move out. Obviously, living on my own came with some necessary lifestyle changes. Instead of having a delicious buffet of unlimited food offered to me three times a day in the sorority house, I had to buy and cook my own food. I am fortunate to have a paid internship, but my monthly stipend isn't even enough to cover my rent. Therefore, I'm on a very strict budget, which means I am very careful about what type of food I buy, and I typically don't waste money on junk food. Also, when I make a meal and realize I am full before I finish, I just put the leftovers back in the fridge. In college, I felt bad about wasting food and didn't have anywhere to store leftovers, so I would eat everything on my plate, even if I was full. My budget also limits the number of times I can go out to eat. When I do, I only eat half the dish and save half for later. This isn't even a way to cut calories; I do it because it makes my money go further.

Biking along the Arroyo Chamisos Urban Trail. Photo by me.

2. Buying (and riding) a bike: Buying a bicycle when I moved to Santa Fe was a deliberate decision, but losing weight was not a motivating factor in my decision. Primarily, I wanted to save on gas. Plus, I work for an outdoor adventure magazine, so a lot of my co-workers do really cool things like rock climbing or backcountry skiing or kayaking. I don’t do any of these things, so I thought a bike might be nice company on the weekends and a good way to get outside. Plus, I work only a few miles from where I live, and with the morning traffic, it really only saves me a few minutes to drive instead of bike, so I became a bike commuter. I also bought a basket for my bike and use it for all my grocery shopping and other errands. Simply biking back and forth to work every day, plus the occasional trip to the library or Starbucks during lunch, gets me at least 25 minutes of exercise every day, sometimes more. Other than that, I don't exercise at all. My 8-pound weights are only used to hold down the corners of my yoga mat when I take it out to the deck to read.

Finally, the deliberate lifestyle change I made with the hopes of losing my "Mizzou 22":

3. Downloading the MyFitnessPal app: This is a great little app. I input my current weight, weekly exercise goals and ideal weight, and it told me how many net calories I should consume each day to reach that weight. That being said, I definitely don’t limit myself based on what MyFitnessPal tells me. I love food way too much to give up my weekly Peppermint Mocha or substitute french fries for a salad in exchange for losing one inch around my waistline, but it is nice to be aware of what I’m eating. That's honestly my favorite part about MyFitnessPal: I've learned more about how many calories are in different types of food, and I can make smarter decisions based on that information. Even so, I don't always make those decisions. In fact, for the three days leading up to my discovery that I was back down to “12” status, I surpassed my recommended calorie intake every single day, sometimes by a couple hundred calories. Usually, though, with my everyday bike riding, I can eat a perfectly normal amount without going over. For example, here's what I ate yesterday, and I definitely didn't go hungry!
Breakfast: Scramble of two eggs, sausage and avocado. Coffee with creamer.
Mid-morning snack: Baby carrots.
Lunch: Spinach salad with feta cheese and almonds.
Mid-afternoon snack: "Mocha Loca" cupcake from a local cupcake shop.
Dinner: Burrito with black beans, corn, avocado and tomato. Sweet tea.
Biked to work and back for a total of 22 minutes. Walked to and from the Plaza on my break for a total of 34 minutes.
Overall, I've lost more than 20 pounds since graduation, but 18 of those pounds were in the past 11 weeks (according to MyFitnessPal profile, which allows me to look up progress like that). I realize one pound per week might not sound like a lot if you’re actively trying to lose weight, but for me it was crazy to realize all the weight I had gained during college slowly melted away with just a few lifestyle changes, most of which I didn’t even notice on a daily basis.

I already got pretty personal with this post, so please feel free to ask me anything regarding my eating/exercise habits, etc. If you don't feel comfortable leaving your questions/reactions in the comments, you can always e-mail me at megancstroup[at]gmail[dot]com.

Disclaimer: I am in no way a health and/or fitness expert. This post is purely based on my own experiences and the conclusions I have drawn from them.


Jennifer said...

Congrats on changing to a healthier lifestyle. :) I am currently working on toning my body again from the senior 15 I gained. Whew. Senior year & being in a sorority will definitely get you. I'm so glad you commented on my blog post about sorority life. Congratulations on getting the traveling adviser position! That is so exciting!

Anonymous said...

You go, girl! When I move from Nashville, I think I'm going to see a huge drop in my weight (which is much needed). Can't wait to document that!

Keep Shining,

Carenpants said...

Get it girl! You looked great when I saw you, but I never considered you someone who needed to lose weight. This is a really great example of a few lifestyle changes can make a big difference. I've noticed how much better I eat at home because I'm making my own meals. I'm much more satisfied with less and have really decreased my portion size.

Sophie @ threetimesf said...

Great work! The same happened to me when I graduated, but some of it has since crept back on. I've been thinking about getting a bike so maybe that will help!

Colette said...

One pound per week is FANTASTIC! That's the healthy way to do it, and to maintain it. I'm starting to change my own eating/exercise habits, and someone pointed this out to me recently: a pound of butter contains four "sticks." Each "stick" of butter is 0.25 pounds. Start thinking about the weight you've lost in sticks of butter -- you didn't "just lose a pound"; you lost FOUR sticks of butter. That's huge. Your 20 pounds? That's EIGHTY sticks of butter. I think that's incredible :)

Whitney said...

I went and downloaded My Fitness Pal and omg. I already feel bad about what I've eaten today. I think that is exactly what I need to get a kick in the ass and start eating better!

Andi of My Beautiful Adventures said...

These are great tips! Definitely downloading MFP.

Sara said...

Congrats on the number change! Currently my number starts with a "13" on the scale but I would LOVE for it to start with a "12" again...I'm definitely going to take your tips and put them to good use, especially the eat half, save half for later tip...I hate wasting food and I find myself eating everything on my plate just for lack of storing purposes! Thanks again for the tips!