Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How sodium changed my dieting mentality

Not to sound like a broken record, but what the heck is going on with this weather?! I wore my Heat Gear capris and a short-sleeved tech shirt on my run today, and was totally comfortable. Living in Michigan, I'm used to freezing cold December weather. I'm not complaining, I just think 61 degrees at this time of year is strange.

Anyway, I was scheduled for a three-mile easy run this morning, and I had no plans of pushing my pace today. I'm thinking of rearranging my run days because of my race this weekend. Instead of taking tomorrow off, I might run tomorrow and Thursday, then take Friday and Saturday off before the race. My long run is 10 miles this week, so I would like to have two days off afterward.

I did an out-and-back route and it went by pretty quickly. I couldn't believe how warm it was outside.


Tomorrow is my weekly weigh-in day, and as I was trying to decide what to eat for breakfast, I remembered why I despise having a particular day for an "official" weigh in. In all of my past attempts at losing weight through the years, I always avoided sodium for a day or two before weighing in. I could easily drop a couple of pounds of water weight in a day of low-sodium eating.

But it drove me crazy! I didn't want to avoid sodium--I like salty food. And because I have very low blood pressure, my cardiologist (after I fainted, I had to see a one to rule out heart conditions) suggested I actually get more sodium in my diet. So I have no medical reason to avoid sodium.

When I was finally successful in losing weight, it was because I did on a daily basis what I knew I could live with forever. I didn't reduce my sodium on the day before a weigh-in. I decided that if I lost weight on the scale, I wanted it to be REAL weight--fat--rather than water weight; so there was no purpose in deliberately avoiding sodium that day. As far as sodium goes, my diet was pretty much the same day in and day out throughout my weight loss. When I had a loss on the scale, I didn't feel like it was "only" because of the reduced sodium.

(source)
Then this morning, I found myself thinking about what I could eat that was lower in sodium because I am weighing in tomorrow. No idea where that thought came from--I gave up that thinking a long time ago! So I did not reduce my typical sodium intake today, and I'm happy about that. If I have a loss tomorrow, awesome--if not, that's fine, too. At least if I lose a little, it won't be just water weight.

That whole sodium realization back in the day in 2009 (when I first started losing the weight) actually played a big part of my weight loss success. It wasn't just the sodium that I didn't want to have to think about daily; it was calories and exercise and food choices.

I knew I could probably get the weight off very quickly if I exercised seven days a week for a few hours a day (Biggest Loser-style); but I didn't want my body to adapt to that, because then I'd have to do that every week in order to keep losing weight (and maintain, if it ever came to that).

I also knew that I could lose weight quickly if I ate just 1200 calories a day. But again, if my body got used to that (even for a few weeks), if I ate any higher than 1200 calories, I wouldn't be losing weight anymore. And I most certainly didn't want to live off of 1200 calories a day forever. So I ate the most that I could get away with and still lose the weight (about 1800).

I knew I could lose weight faster if I gave up sugar, or carbs, or other "bad" foods; but if my body got used to that, I would probably gain weight if I ate a single cookie or ice cream cone after that, so I didn't want to give those things up--even temporarily.

The whole point is, I made choices I was willing to live with forever; that way, I was okay with my body adapting to them, because I planned to continue it. The sodium is a good example of seeing immediate results, but also seeing that it's only temporary.

Another example would be when I went to Weight Watchers way back in the day. The day of my meeting, I would skip breakfast and not even drink water that morning because I wanted my weight to be as low as possible at the meeting. That's ridiculous thinking!

Avoiding water wasn't going to give me "real" weight loss on the scale. It would dip down for that morning, and then go right back up when I drank my water and ate breakfast. I should have just aimed to be consistent--eat breakfast and drink water before every meeting, and then if I saw a loss, it would be because I had actually lost fat.

So I made my main focus on consistency. As long as I was consistent, I felt like I was doing it "right".

I hope this is making sense. I understand it perfectly in my head, but it's not very easy to write out! ;)

Basically, it call comes down to what I tell anyone when they ask me for weight loss advice:

43 comments:

  1. I loved this post and understand exactly what you are saying :)

    Great advice that I will be taking to heart!

    Colletta

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  2. Great post! I totally did the same thing on weight watchers. Would not eat until after the weigh in, sometimes that wouldn't be until noon! I would also wear only my lightest clothes... never jeans or sweatshirts. What you are saying totally makes sense and I hope to follow those guidelines in my own weightloss journey.

    Sarah

    www.someseesarah.blogspot.com

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    1. It's hard NOT to do those things to make ourselves lighter--problem is, then we have to do it EVERY week before we weigh in, just to be consistent. This time around, I'm always weighing in (at meetings) with my shoes on and after breakfast :)

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  3. Perfect advice Katie and it definitely makes sense outside of your head :) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'm glad you understood what I was trying to say :)

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  4. Exactly! It's not about quick fixes, because really..what does that do for you anyways?

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    1. Quick fixes are VERY tempting, and I can understand why people would want to do them (I'm tempted to do them sometimes!); but I finally learned that it's much easier in the long run to do it the long way ;)

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  5. Good advice! I tend not to focus on every single pound I lose so much because I know that the scale can vary between 5lbs on any given day. I have friends that freak out/get excited about a .2 loss, which is a concept that I have never been able to understand. Although, maybe they have better scales and a more stable weight than I do.

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    1. Yes, I think it depends on the person. My weight fluctuates wildly (I can gain 10 pounds in a weekend!) but I have friends who eat the same thing as me and don't gain an ounce.

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  6. I needed to read this today! I have started to research Paleo eating and while it may be great for some people, I am still not sure I can/should commit to doing it. The reason = 'I don't think I could eat that way forever.' Will I attempt a 30 day challenge - maybe. the jury is still out on it.

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    1. I'm all-for challenges! Like giving up my precious peanut butter for 6 weeks. I knew it wasn't going to be permanent, and the challenge was a way for me to gain back the feeling of being in control. Testing out Paleo for 30 days might give you the boost you need :)

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  7. TOTALLY makes sense, it's so refreshing to hear someone talk as "real" as you are about losing weight--thank you!

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    1. I'm glad you understood what I was trying to say :)

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  8. Your post today is exactly why I love your blog and use it as my example and inspiration. It is real, it is workable, it is reasonable and it is long-term planning. Thank you again.

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  9. Such a good reminder!!! Just what I needed to hear today, thanks Katie!

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  10. I think the key here is consistancy. I get what you're saying, but avoiding sodium the day before your weigh-in only works the first week. The next week, if you don't avoid sodium, you may gain or stay the same, which would just mask any real fat loss because of the increased water. Either way you go, you should do it the same each week. Personally, I just avoid any unnecessary sodium...in other words, I don't choose the night before my weigh-in to splurge and have some Taco Bell :).

    I've never officially weighed-in anywhere (never been to meetings, just do WW online), except when I was pregnant at the doctor. I would wear the lightest clothes appropriate for the season, shoes I could easily slip off, and make my appts for early in the morning to avoid food or drink before my appt. So goofy! Not sure what I was so worried about since my doctor concerns herself very little with weight gain unless you're shooting for well over 50lbs of gain.

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    1. What would happen when I avoided sodium for a day or two prior to my weigh in is that my weight would dip down a few pounds, and then the next day (after eating more sodium) it would come back up. I would then spend the rest of the week trying to get it back down, until the day before weigh-in, in which I would restrict sodium again. So it was constantly going up, down, up, down. Now, I just eat a fairly stable amount of sodium (I don't eat out much), so that if I have a loss or a gain, I know it's probably not the sodium!

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  11. i agree with your thinking on not making changes that you can't live with forever, for me that doesn't work unfortunately because i'm insulin resistant and i've been told i need to watch my carbs for my health and weight loss. otherwise i love the idea!

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    1. Yes, sometimes our health makes those choices for us, unfortunately.

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  12. Just love this post! I think you are absolutely right!

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  13. This is exactly why people yoyo with their weight ... they are not willing to maintain the changes they made to lose the weight initially.

    i am guilty of that several times in my life ... but not any more!!!

    "a dab will do ya"

    Thank you for posting this!!!

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    1. I've done it MANY times in my life as well. Live and learn, right? :)

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  14. I understand exactly what you mean!
    When i got down to my lowest weight of 214 a few years ago, I ate very limited carbs and didn't enjoy many of my favourite things. I also didn't eat or drink before my weigh in, which was sometimes later in the morning and I would be starving! I lost weight quickly, but I couldn't live forever like that.
    Now I'm eating what I want (within reason) and losing weight. It's slower, but this is something I could do forever.

    Also, I live just outside of Toronto and the weather has been crazy here too! We actually broke records yesterday because of how warm it was and not this morning there's light snow... so strange! Looks like it will be another Green Christmas here :)

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  15. During my frustration of my plateau of the past 6 months my WW leader told me not to exercise the day before weigh in because your muscles retain water in aid of repair. I have found that it seems to actually be true which is frustrating to me. Have you heard this in your journey of weight loss?

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    1. Yes, and I've actually written a little about this before, which you can find here: http://www.runsforcookies.com/2011/12/when-weight-gain-isnt-bad-thing.html.

      Since muscles retain water, if you're exercising regularly, you'll always be carrying around extra water weight. In fact, the few times that I've gone more than a week without exercising (after my surgeries and after my marathons), I dropped 4-8 pounds within a week--but then as soon as I started exercising again, it came right back. The difference is, my body fat percentage stayed the same, so I know that it was just water weight from the exercise.

      I have to disagree with your leader that you shouldn't work out the day before weigh-in. If you're working out on a regular basis, your body will always have a few extra pounds of water--so by losing it just before weigh-in, you'll pick it right back up when you work out again. Rather than yo-yoing that way, I would just maintain a consistent workout schedule, and then if you see a loss on the scale, you'll know it's from fat.

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  16. i actually did WW for a few months back in the summer, as i was losing weight i was not eating enough calories (and miserable as a result). so i gave up on it. i know you like to track, what is your actual calorie intake on WW? mine was around 1330. im back at counting calories and try to stay around 1550 but end most days at 1650, which is fine with me. im losing weight but it is slower than i was with WW and i feel just fine.

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    1. I'm not sure exactly what my calorie count is on WW. I deliberately haven't calculated it, because when I've done that in the past, it tends to sabotage my efforts--not sure why! But if I had to guess, I would say probably 1600-1700 on the days that I don't run or when I run a short distance. On my long run days, I usually eat more like 2200 ish. I eat ALL of my daily points, ALL of my weekly points, and ALL of my activity points. The reason I like WW this time around is that the fruit and vegetables are free, so there is no reason I should ever feel hungry--I can fill up on the fruits/veggies!

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  17. That makes COMPLETE sense to me. I struggle with the sodium thing too... I am so sensitive to it that my weight can go up a few pounds from one meal, then usually back down. I don't pay much attention to those losses and gains because it's just because of the sodium. It's not a gain or a loss of fat. I'm annoyed with my scale being so up and down lately, generally because of that. It's obnoxious when you're still trying to actively lose weigh, eat healthy, and exercise like a beast...And still don't lose. It's kind of depressing when the only changes are because of things like sodium! UGH! :)

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    1. I know how you feel! My weight has been moving sooo slowly these last few pounds, and I've been following the program to the letter and doing my exercise. But I know that my efforts will eventually pay off :) I'm only a pound from goal now!

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  18. Sadly we're back to typical cold November mornings in Michigan this morning...brrrr. The past few days were nice, but it was rude for the temp to drop so suddenly!

    Do you mind if I ask how low your low blood pressure is (I won't be upset if you would rather not say)? My blood pressure, last I checked was 104/70 to which the person commented that it was great. I've been finding that I'm not liking it. I have to take off my shoes to take my daughter into the baby room at her nursery. When I bend over to tie my shoes and then stand up, I feel quite light headed. I've read your story of what happened to you when you fainted and it has me nervous as there have been times when I wonder how close to fainting I get. I'm wondering if I should talk to my doctor about adding salt to my diet (I hardly put it on/in anything I eat) the next time I see him as I'm getting quite annoyed that I can't crouch to tie my shoes or my daughter's or to do any number of things without being concerned about passing out.

    I'm with you on not making weight loss about drastic measures and just had a conversation like this with someone who works down the hall yesterday. I've lost weight more quickly in the past by doing more extreme diets, but I'm currently living a lifestyle that is bringing the weight off slowly, but I'm also not depriving myself of all the foods I like. I feel like I'm doing something I can keep up indefinitely. I've read a couple blogs from people who avoid all sugary foods all the time. I don't think I could do it. I know I wouldn't want to do it.

    You are such an inspiration for sensible weight loss! Thank you.

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    1. Yes, it was FREEZING this morning! So weird.

      My blood pressure is regularly 90/60. So it's pretty darn low! I always used to think the lower the better, but that's only true to an extent. Even when I was obese, my blood pressure was normal at 120/80 ish. My mom also has very low blood pressure.

      Anyway, I do get light-headed just about every time I stand up from a sitting or lying position. My doctors ran a zillion tests on me after I fainted, and they are convinced it was from the low blood pressure. So I just have to be careful when I stand!

      But the sensation just before I passed out was unlike any other. I knew something was wrong. I felt EXTREMELY nauseous, and I thought I was going to vomit, so I started walking to the bathroom. I had tunnel vision, and my hearing was muffled. Knowing what I know now, if that happens again, I would lie flat on my back until the sensation passed. It has happened once since, but I knew to lie down and I didn't faint, thank goodness!

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    2. Wow. That *is* low. I've never had mine nearly that low. Even at my heaviest and pregnant, I don't think it was ever over 120/80 either. It's normally 110/70ish so I was a bit surprised this last time to see 104/70.
      I have fainted once in my life. It was over 10 years ago after some time spent in a hot tub and before dinner. It was such an odd sensation. I know what you mean about the tunnel vision and muffled hearing, but I didn't have the nausea. Thankfully the person I was with caught me because he noticed that I was acting odd. Whenever I get lightheaded I start really paying attention to sight and hearing and there have been times where my vision goes a bit off. I prepare to get to the ground safely if it doesn't clear quickly and I always make sure I'm OK before picking my daughter up.
      I have an appointment with my doctor today for a sore knee. I may ask him about it while I'm there anyway. It sounds like it may just be something that I have to get used to and learn to work around.

      Thank you for the information :)

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  19. It makes perfect sense. That sodium might cause a momentary gain, but it's not FOOD weight. I have always figured any water weight isn't REAL weight, and if the scale shows a gain on a day after I have eaten a lot of salty stuff, I know it's temporary. I will not avoid sodium either. I got my BP back down to normal so I could eat salt and like you, I LIKE salty stuff. I do try not to salt my food without tasting it first, but if I think it could use a little salt, I put it on there. What you're doing is obviously working, and you didn't make changes you couldn't live with, so you are doing something right Katie!!!

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    1. Pam, you've obviously got it figured out too! You've been maintaining for a long time now :)

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  20. That's the best advice EVER. It's the all or nothing mentality that usually trips us up in the first place. ;-)

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  21. This is such a wise post, Katie. I read so many blogs where people either eat or exercise so extreme and then just can't keep up with it and get so discouraged. Slow small changes sounds boring, but it is just so much easier to stick to.

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  22. Wow! I have heard that advice so many times before, but the way you worded it made an aha! moment for me. I constantly find myself thinking, "don't eat that because it's somewhat high in sodium so you won't see a loss on the scale tomorrow". What dumb thinking! Thanks!

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  23. Thank you Katie for giving me a real light bulb moment here!

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