LOSING 26 POUNDS
My Journey: Exercise and Tracking Nutrition
by Shakurra Amatulla
You would think I’m old enough to know what works when it comes to losing weight. Wrong! At 68 years old, I’m still stumped. And it’s not helpful that nutrition experts are constantly contradicting each other.
For a long time, I walked around with the Pollyanna mindset that if I exercised 6 days a week, I can eat what I want and lose weight. Wrong! Instead, I gained weight with my waistline, belly, hips and butt sadly expanding.
Frustrated, I decided that, as a last ditch effort, I would monitor each and every food substance that crossed my lips. I got a portable food scale to measure my foods in grams. I bought two food scales, one for home and the other for acting work. Without a doubt, the free fatty foods offered on Hollywood production sets are fast tracks to Weight Gain Hell!
Daily, I tracked my caloric intake using the free Nutritionix Track program available online and as a mobile app. I also logged in all of my completed exercises via free videos as well as videos I purchased online from my favorite fitness guru, FitnessBlender.com. And I was giddy beyond belief to discover that driving a car, doing laundry, studying, etc., are unusual calorie busters that can be subtracted!
Most importantly, I eliminated all added sugars. I was so addicted to added sugars that when I first started cutting back, I was like a twitchy junkie kicking heroin! Added sugars…bad news.
I committed myself to a 1500 a day calorie limit, because I realized from tracking my food intake that I habitually ate too much food. Having smaller portions of fatty foods was not the answer. No more boxed foodstuffs, canned goods, cholesterol-high eggs, pasta, beef liver, lamb, cakes, potato chips, cookies, muffins and bagels, etc. Fresh, plant-based foods were my new regimen while I drank only bottled water, seltzer water and herbal coffee. For me, it wasn’t about the calories, but it was all about the nutrition.
I experimented with all sorts of plant-based and vegetarian recipes I found online. But first, I ran them all through the Nutritionix Recipe Database section. I was so shocked to find that even some of those supposedly “natural” recipes had very high counts of added sugars, sodium content and the like! I then developed the habit of weighing myself every Saturday, and since I was never a scale watcher before, I invested in getting a weight scale for accuracy.
To kick the McDonalds and Five Guy’s French fries habits, whenever I went to work, I took along my homemade Sugarless Apple Muffins and green apples. One muffin and an apple at lunchtime on the run would suffice me. Making meals in advance nipped any chances of my noshing on fast foods. I made my homemade breakfasts (such as Overnight Sugarless Oatmeal) and homemade dinners (such as Oven Fried Catfish Fillets). I especially enjoyed fresh pineapple from the supermarket, a regular and favorite dessert treat of mine. A surprising find: unsalted Matzos (from the Kosher food section) spread with unsweetened applesauce killed my chocolate candy bar cravings!
Gradually I required smaller food portions, and I engaged in fewer middle-of-the-night refrigerator raids. What helped was that I kept count of all my midnight bingeing, and in the cold, sober daylight I cringed when I saw the high caloric counts of my nocturnal raid. But I noticed a peculiar pattern in my night bingeing: it usually happened if my daily caloric count had not reached 1500. Evidently, I couldn’t skip any of my 3 meals a day routine and go below my 1500 calorie intake because it triggered hunger pangs!
To eliminate the boredom of watching exercise videos over and over again, I used lightweight wireless ear buds to listen to my favorite podcasts as I worked out before a muted computer screen. Podcasts not only enlightened, but also helped make workout time fly!
-ENTER THE PANDEMIC-
By March 2020, I was so used to my new eating and exercise schedule that I wasn’t tempted toward comfort food overload. As a treat for my hard work, I finally added drinking red wine again (yay!) and, on Zoom, am enjoying toasting to survival with friends. And I faithfully measure out my wine portions in grams as I do everything I consume. (In fact, when I need nutritional information for my favorite wines — and that isn’t printed on the bottles — I email the specific wineries and they have been wonderful about getting the caloric info to me.)
But I’m not entirely out of the woods yet. I recently added Pahla B Fitness Walk/Run at Home free YouTube videos to my regimen and am loving it. I really enjoy building original recipes within the Nutritionix Track Create Recipe database. And I find myself constantly tweaking my food plan, as I search for cleaner, fresher and healthier ways of eating.
This new food lifestyle marks a significant journey for me. For the first time, I didn’t rely on someone else’s fad diet, but, instead, took the time to test and work out the best foods to fuel my body. I feel really good now that I’ve designed a nutritional plan that I can uniquely call my own.
Yes, I’m human and still crave ice cream, chocolate cakes, coconut cakes, cream cheese filled-hot buttered bagels/bialys, donuts, etc. But I now look up the caloric, fats and sugar contents of these “bad boys” and figure out how much exercise it will take for me to burn them off, and 9 times out of 10, my mind says: “No, thank you!” And the one time I do indulge, I immerse myself in that little bit of cheating heaven and then…I’m good. It will be a long while before I’d even consider that temptation again.
Of course, all is not rosy. I have to consider that I’m a mature, seasoned woman. While I would love to exercise 6 times a week, I have to humble out that my body sometimes just “ain’t up to it.” And I love and respect my body because it has given me sensuous curves and natural tucks that would make a plastic surgeon jealous! So if I feel any pain, later for exercising and it’s time to chill out and rest my bones. No getting around it. The more I listen to my body, the more fit I become, both physically and mentally.
At my advanced age, there may come a time when I won’t be able to get up so quickly from floor exercises. All I can say that if I can’t get up, I hope that some Good Samaritan comes around and spreads a blanket over me so I can take a well-deserved nap!
In these strange and stressful times, it’s trying being all alone. I miss my family sooooo much, especially my 10 wonderful and sweet grandchildren ranging from babies, toddlers and all the way up to an adult Army soldier who recently served in Afghanistan (I’m so proud!). I can’t wait to hold each and every one of my family members in my arms again!
Acting work is scarce, but I’m using all my time researching, writing and developing projects that will hopefully become income-sustaining. And my new way of eating seems to suit me as I’m committed more than ever to reaching my desired weight goal. I welcome you to follow me as I post daily progress reports.
I hope that my weight loss journey inspires you. Take good care and success to you in your nutritional endeavors!
Originally published online in Medium, October 29, 2020