A Little History

When I was fifteen years old, I joined Weight Watchers for the first and only time. I weighed in at 232.5. I was 5’7″ and my only form of regular exercise was trying to wiggle out of P.E. class. It was difficult to walk up stairs and I remember walking up a slight incline from the high school parking lot and being completely (and embarrassingly) out of breath.

Over the course of a year, I had lost 90 pounds. I went from a size 40 (purchased at Catherine’s Stout shop) to a size 7/8.

During my Weight Watcher’s career, I hit my first big plateau at 165. I hit another at 156. My goal weight was 140 and I left Weight Watchers when my weight was 142.5. The reasons that I left were complicated. Suffice it to say that I never hit goal and, somewhere along the line, developed the limiting beliefs that I would never hit goal and–more importantly–that I couldn’t. Last year, at age 37, I got to 141.5 and promptly gained six pounds. I was close, but not close enough. And though I looked and felt great, I ended up reinforcing the belief that I couldn’t do it.

In the 23 years since my decision to leave Weight Watchers, I have fluctuated between 155-165, with a few spikes to 175 and fewer dips into the 140s. I currently weigh 146.8 And most of that maintenance was achieved not by diet, but by exercise.

So I lost the weight originally by diet alone (this was before Weight Watchers promoted exercise as a supplement to weight loss) and I kept it off (more or less) with exercise.

Over the last two years (following the biggest weight gain I’d seen), I started losing weight the old way: by counting calories and combining diet and exercise. But before I could even start, I realized that I was missing some key information. First, I had no idea how many calories I really needed! I originally found this information in Jillian Michael’s book, Winning By Losing. But the short version is this: your BMR x 1.1 (if you have sedentary life style like most Americans). You can figure out your BMR here.

My BMR x 1.1 = 1561 (so I should eat 1561 calories to sustain my current body weight)

Essentially, I can eat 1561 calories and not gain weight.

My next problem was that I didn’t know how many calories I burn a day in exercise. My sister remedied that! I love my polar watch; not only does it make sure that I’m exercising within my range, it also keeps track of my daily, weekly, and monthly burns. It’s great. I refuse to exercise without it! Thanks Laura!

So, I knew how many calories I could consume in order to sustain my weight and I could figure out how many I need to burn if I wanted to lose weight.

A pound is 3500 calories, so when I wanted to lose two pounds a week, I burned 1,000 more a day than I consumed.

Now that want to lose a pound a week, I burn 500 a day more than I consume.

Because you NEVER want to eat less than 1,200 day (if you are a woman), this means that I typically try to burn 500 calories on the days that I exercise, in exercise.

There are obviously a number of ways to exercise (and to count calories); I’ll return to both of these topics in depth later.

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