How two small changes helped me lose 20 lbs in a pandemic.

A post I made on FB exactly one year ago

Oh, irony. I see you.

Back in February (pre-pandemic mania,) I went in for my annual physical and got two very disturbing numbers. My cholesterol level (which later turned out to be a testing error) and my weight (unfortunately NOT a testing error.)

At the time, I didn’t own a scale, so I assumed my weight was about what it usually was… Maybe a pound or two bigger. Not so much. I had packed on 14 pounds since my last physical without even knowing it. I wasn’t getting any younger and neither was my metabolism. I was starting down a very fast hill if I didn’t make a change.

It was the scary-high-off the charts cholesterol number that got me motivated. Well, terrified, that I was one bowl of ice cream away from not being alive to see my kids grow into adults. While that test proved faulty a week later (my levels were still high but not to the point of insanity) that first week of really looking at what I put into my body with a food journal was eye-opening and life-changing. Here are the two major (but not impossible) things I did. (Please note: This is what worked for me and after I spoke with my doctor about things I could do with my medical history. This may not work the same for you.)

  1. Started a Food Journal to monitor my calories

Per my doctor’s suggestion, I started a food journal to take a look at what I was eating so we could see if it was my diet that might be contributing or something else. I already take 13 pills a day to monitor my Ulcerative Colitis. I really didn’t want to add another to help the cholesterol, so I agreed to try this approach first. Up until the food journal, I really didn’t think I was eating all that much. Sure, I probably should cut out a few snacks here and there, skip the drive-through dependency, but I couldn’t really be eating that many calories a day. Could I?

Oh yes. Yes, I could. And was.

The thing about food journals is that they require you to be honest with yourself. If you have a handful of M&Ms while making cookies for the kids, you write it down. If you have a giant glob of ketchup with your fries, you measure and write it down. If you have three glasses of wine with dinner, you got it; write it down. The theory being that after a week you start to notice your patterns so you know how to change them. Seemed logical.

I didn’t make it a week. I knew I had to make a change after counting the calories of my morning cup of coffee on day one. I plopped in my normal 3 tablespoons of sugar, (48 cal per tbsp. Yikes. Really?) And, instead of adding creamer to the cup until it was the right color, I added the cream tablespoon by tablespoon, growing more and more concerned with each 35 calorie tablespoon I was adding. It took 6 tablespoons of creamer to get it to the ‘color’ I usually drank my coffee. It was 5 in the morning and I was about to consume 354 calories. And I usually had 2 to 3 cups each morning… If I was only supposed to have 1,500 calories in a day, and I had 2 cups of coffee like this that meant I had 792 left for actual food. Holy crap!

I dumped that cup of coffee and have not had it like that since. I’m now down to 120 calories in my coffee (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drink it black) and limited myself to one cup a day. After that, black tea and water. No more drinking my calories away! That was a HUGE step one. Paying attention to the foods that helped keep me full, and those that made me ravenous a few hours after eating was step two. I’m looking at you, BBQ chips. (I still love you, I just can’t have you every single day. You are now a treat that I plan for. Aren’t you special?)

From there, I made small changes. If I had a sandwich, say, I only had half of it, and if I have chips, I MEASURE OUT A SERVING SIZE. Clearly, my idea of a serving size and the actual measurements of a serving were wildly different things. To keep full, I’ll add some cucumbers or an apple or something with protein to help keep me full when the pm munchies hit. If I want something sweet for dessert (and let’s face it, I do) then I have to make room for it in the day. That means keeping meals under 400. Some days it’s a choice of what I want more. Does this burger really need that 110 calorie slice of cheese or do I want my oreo thing later tonight?

Some days, I stay under my 1,500 calorie goal (a number my doctor and I settled on. Everyone is different.) Some days, I go over it. But that is where step 2 comes in.

2. Dreaded Exercise

Look, I am no fan of working out. In fact, I loathe it. I don’t run unless chased, I don’t wanna get sweaty and gross, and because of my back and auto-immune illness, my range of motion and ability to do some stuff is just not happening. Someone like me can’t POSSIBLY workout, right? Sigh. Unfortunately, wrong. BUT, here’s the thing, even with all of my limitations, (and my laziness, let’s call it what it is.) I am still getting 20-30 minutes of movement in a day, 6-7 days a week. Me. The person who hates exercise. So, what am I doing? Simple stuff. Yoga, for 10 min in the morning before breakfast. Moves that I can do on the floor mostly because I’m tired in the morning. I can rationalize moving if I’m on the ground. After that, I do either simple weights (like 2 lbs) for my arms, or squats/leg lifts reps. Nothing insane. 25 squats, 25 leg lifts, 2-3 reps depending on the day, or I walk on my treadmill at a brisk pace for 20 min while I watch Netflix or listen to a podcast. Yoga to wake my body up then some movement for 10-20 min. That’s it That’s all I’m doing movement wise for now. Though I am eyeballing 3 lb weights… It may be time for an upgrade!

Yes, I made work out cards because I’m a dork. I pick two cards each day. One Yoga card and one Movement card.

Using those two steps, I lost 20 lbs over the course of 6 months by doing the darn things you’re supposed to do. Diet and exercise. What do you know, my doctor might have been onto something. She’s so smart. Now, if you’ll excuse me. My yoga mat is calling.

Danielle Bannister, author and still not so bendy at yoga


2 thoughts on “How two small changes helped me lose 20 lbs in a pandemic.”

  1. So glad you ‘discovered’ yoga – it has helped me: postpone knee replacement; allows me more calories/day (only a few, though!), helped me center my breathing & mind; and strengthen all my muscle groups; and keeps all my joints stretched out. I don’t know why doctors don’t recommend it as a first defense against our aging bodies! I love Yoga by Adriene on YouTube – she has all lengths and levels for those days when I need something short and sweet or long and more challenging.
    And glad you are taking care of your health!!

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