FAQ

I get asked lots of questions about my weight loss, weight maintenance, running, etc. Here I will answer my most frequently asked questions. If there is something not on the list that you're curious about, feel free to e-mail me!

About Me
How tall are you?
Are your cats named after the Friends characters on purpose?
How long have you and Jerry been married?
Where in Michigan do you live?
Do you have a list of blogs that you read? 

General Weight Loss Questions
How much weight did you lose?
How long did it take?
How did you lose the weight?
Did you have any plateaus?
How did you stay motivated?
Do you have loose, saggy skin?
Do you have any tips for getting started? 
What is your history with weight/weight loss?

Diet
How many calories did you eat while losing weight?
Do you still count calories?
How many calories did you eat while counting Weight Watchers PointsPlus?
On Weight Watchers, do you eat your weekly/activity PointsPlus?
How did you track your calories?
What foods did you eat while losing weight?
How do you handle social situations (parties, vacations, etc) while staying on plan?
Do you have "cheat days" or "cheat meals"?
How much water do you drink? Did you force yourself to drink more water? 

Binge Eating
Is binge eating the same as overeating?
How did you stop binge eating?

Exercise
How did you get started running?
How did you get faster at running?
What exercise did you do in the beginning of your weight loss?
How often do you run? How far?
What is that watch you wear when you run?
What clothes do you wear when you run?
Do  you run in the winter? What do you wear?
Do you do strength training or other exercise?
How did you fit in exercise when you had small children at home?
What does "PR" stand for? (and other running lingo)
What kind of running fuel do you use?
What do you use to carry water on your runs?
Why does my GPS watch show that I ran longer than the race distance? (this is a fantastic explanation by DC Rainmaker)

Reader Questions and Answers Posts
2/19/12: People with little weight to lose; update on skin removal surgery
2/26/12: Calorie-free drinks; all about wine club
3/4/12: My depression/anxiety; how I feel about weight loss surgery; accuracy of body fat monitor
3/11/12: Favorite foods while losing weight; plateaus; examples of lower calorie eating days
3/18/12: How I found running partners; pre- and post-run routine; what to expect during your first 5K race
3/26/12: 'Friends' sitcom; avoiding eating out with friends; staying motivated during a run
4/1/12: Wardrobe as I lost weight; running aches in beginners; hydration on runs
4/8/12: Running faster; husband reading the blog; courage to start running 
4/15/12: Attending church; debt repayment; college
4/22/12: Treadmill running; starting a blog; running shoes
4/29/12: Cost of races, sports bras, running for time vs. distance 
5/6/12: Temptations at the grocery store; getting pregnant while overweight
5/13/12: Determining calorie needs; cross-training; relieving treadmill boredom
5/27/12: Accurate calorie counting; thinking of food all day; does Jerry exercise?
6/3/12: Heart rate and running; calculating calories from a binge; numb hands while running
6/10/12: Budgeting calories for each meal; my staple foods; weight loss aids; choosing a goal weight
6/17/12: Heart rate and calories burned; exercise clothes; fluctuating weight
6/24/12: Hydration belts; starting a blog; novelty races; my last name
7/1/12: Telling friends I was dieting; when did people notice my weight loss; which Garmin I recommend; running with asthma
7/8/12: What to look for when buying a treadmill; hard time sleeping during weight loss; bra size shrinking
7/15/12: Where to find local races, when compliments embarrass me, running while still very overweight
7/22/12: Preparing for walking a half-marathon; protruding bones during weight loss
8/12/12: My favorite brand of peanut butter; why I quit drinking coffee; do I count/worry about carbs
9/9/12: Did I have to resize my wedding rings; how many calories I eat in maintenance
9/23/12: Spending money on clothes during/after weight loss; did I worry about my kids being overweight; what podcasts I listen to




About Me

Q. How tall are you?
A. I'm technically 5'3.75", but I just say 5'4"  ;)

Q. Are your cats named after the Friends characters on purpose?
A. Yes, it would be quite the coincidence if they weren't! We have four cats: Chandler, Phoebe, Estelle, and Paolo (previously, we had a cat named Monica and a dog named Joey)

Q. How long have you and Jerry been married?
A. Since August 2003. We started dating in 1999, when I was 17, and he was 18.
 
Q. Where in Michigan do you live?
A. Southeast Michigan, about halfway between Detroit and Toledo

General Weight Loss Questions

Q. How much weight did you lose?
A. I initially lost 125 pounds from August 2009 to December 2010. Since then, my weight has gone up and down a little--as high as 156 in September 2012, which made me panic. I joined Weight Watchers before it got too out of control, and am now back at my goal weight of 133.

Q. How long did it take?
A. About 16 months to lose 125 pounds.

Q. How did you lose the weight?
A. The short answer is counting calories and running. Here is a blog entry I wrote about the specifics. (In the very beginning, I started by counting Weight Watcher's points. I quit doing that, and here is why. However, in September 2012, I decided to give WW another chance, and I'm glad I did! I followed their PointsPlus program and got back to goal.)

Q. Did you have any plateaus?
A. No, not any "real" plateaus. When my weight stayed the same or I had a gain, it was ALWAYS because of something that I did (binge eating, particularly). Whenever I was staying within my calorie limit, however, I was losing weight.

Q. How did you stay motivated?
A. I didn't. I was very determined to reach my goal, though. You can read more about it here. I've learned motivation doesn't mean much when it comes to reaching goal!

Q. Do you have loose, saggy skin?
A. I hate this question with a passion. Unfortunately, people ask me this ALL the time. I spent the majority of my life (about 20 years) feeling incredibly self-conscious about my body. I was teased in school for being fat. I hated having people look at me, and I always assumed people were thinking about how fat I was. I hated myself--I hated my looks.  Fast forward to age 28, when I had lost 125 pounds. I felt AMAZING and I loved the way I looked--until I started getting e-mail after e-mail asking me if I have loose skin. YES, I have loose skin. YES, it's ugly.  Do I need reminding of how ugly it is day after day? No.

I know that when people ask me this question, they aren't calling me ugly, or saying I look gross--they are just asking out of curiosity. I get it. But please keep in mind that it's a very sensitive question for someone like me who spent the majority of my life being self-conscious. That's why it irritates me so much when a complete stranger asks me about saggy skin when we've never even had a conversation before. If I build a friendship with someone, I have no problem talking about my loose skin--because that person cares more about me than about my weight loss and all the flaws on my body.

When the first thing someone asks me is if I have loose skin, it's like saying that all the hard work I did doesn't matter; that losing 125 pounds means nothing if I have loose skin; that I might as well not have lost the weight since my skin is saggy now. I so badly want to put to rest all of the bad thoughts I have about my body and learn to truly love my body--but it's hard to do so when people remind me that I have gross saggy skin.

All of that said, if you MUST know, I have saggy upper arms, saggy inner thighs, boobs, butt, and a stomach that looked like a deflated balloon. My stomach was bad enough that I had a lower body lift in November 2011. You can read more about that here.

Q. Do you have any tips to get started?
A. There is nothing that I can say that will give someone the determination that he/she needs to get started and keep going. I spent many years asking successful weight losers this same question, hoping it would be the key I needed. But it wasn't until I found a reason for MYSELF that I became completely determined to lose the weight.  Besides, I've learned that while everyone wants to hear my tips, nobody wants to trust the process ;)

It's not going to be easy, it's not going to happen quickly, and it's going to have to be a change that you're willing to make FOREVER. I only made changes I was willing to live with for the rest of my life--I wasn't willing to give up my favorite foods, exercise six days a week, or live off of salad and yogurt (I hate yogurt!). So I didn't do those things. Instead, I changed the things that worked for ME, and that way, I knew it wasn't just temporary. Here is a post I wrote about it, which may be helpful.

Diet

Q. How many calories did you eat while losing weight?
A. I started out by eating approximately 1800 calories per day. Sparkpeople recommended that I eat 1,200-1,550, but I tried that and felt like I was starving. So I decided to try 1,800 and see if I lost weight--I did, and I felt good with that amount (not too hungry), so I stuck with it. I only lowered it a little toward the end of my weight loss. I was probably eating 1,400-1,600 toward the end. Here is a post about it. Now that I'm in maintenance, I'm not sure how many calories I get, but if I had to guess, I would say about 2,000-2,400 per day.

I think everyone is different, and the best way to find out how many calories you need is to experiment. If you go from 5,000 calories a day (like I was eating when I was fat) down to 1200 per day, you'll feel like you're starving and you'll quit. Trust me. Try something like 2,000, and see how your body reacts. I wrote a little more about this here. My goal was to eat as much as I could and still lose weight, so I had to experiment to find that number.

Q. Do you still count calories?
A. I spent over a year counting calories and learning a lot about my body, training it to live on less food. I stopped counting after I'd reached 125 pounds lost, and regained a little weight. I spent two years trying to eat "intuitively", but I couldn't keep my weight (or my binge eating) under control. I think I will have to count (either WW PointsPlus or calories) forever to maintain. I started counting Weight Watchers PointsPlus in September 2012, which got me back to my goal weight.

Q. How many calories do you eat while tracking Weight Watchers PointsPlus?
A. I don't track calories AND PointsPlus, but I did do it for a week so that I could answer this question. You can read the results on this post.

Q. On Weight Watchers, did you use your Weekly PointsPlus and/or your Activity PointsPlus?
A. Yes. I eat ALL of my daily PP, ALL of my weekly PP, and ALL of my activity PP. My opinion is that those extra PP each week help me to stay on program. I can fit foods I love into my plan and not feel deprived. To live off of just my daily PP, I would feel like I was starving, and I wouldn't be able to fit a single cookie into my diet! When I was losing weight, and now that I'm maintaining, I always use all the PP available to me--and it's never caused me a problem. In fact, using those extra PP has helped me to stay binge-free, because I can fit treats into my diet!

Q. How did you track your calories?
A. I used a free website called Sparkpeople.com to track with their nutrition log.

Q. What foods did you eat while losing weight?
A. At first, I ate the same things I always ate; but I measured out the portions, and I counted the calories. Gradually, I made a few small healthy changes to what I was eating, and those changes added up over the course of a year. Now I eat pretty healthy for the most part, but I still eat junk food too. I feed my body with healthy food, and my soul with junk food ;)  To see some specific recipes, you can check out my recipes blog.

Q. How did you handle social situations (parties, vacations, etc) while staying on plan?
A. I constantly remind myself that this party is only going to be a few hours... and in a few hours, I can go home feeling really happy that I'm still on plan, or I can go home and feel like crap because I let FOOD take control over me.

I also plan everything before I go... if the hostess is a friend of mine, I'll even call and ask about the food situation so that I can plan my calories. If it's a restaurant situation, I look up the menu online and plan EVERYTHING I'm going to eat and then I stick to that plan. If I am going somewhere where I don't know what the food situation will be, then I eat before I leave or after I get home... or I even pack a lunch or snack to have to hold me over until I get home.

I also make sure that I don't let ANYONE tell me how I should eat... and it never fails that people will tell me, "It's a party, you can splurge!" or "No dessert?! But it's Christmas! You can treat yourself!", etc. I make the decision about my food, nobody else.

Q. Do you have "cheat days" or "cheat meals"?
A. No way! I truly enjoy all the foods that I eat. Living off of salads all week and then having a "cheat day" just doesn't sound like fun to me. I'd rather enjoy EVERYTHING that I eat in moderation. I eat junk food, but I also eat a lot of healthy food. I don't have specific days or times set aside to gorge myself. I just make sure I include treats daily to keep me happy.

Once a week, on my long run day (when I run 8+ miles), I like to spend those extra calories burned on something really indulgent, which I call my "long run treat". It's usually a big cookie loaded with frosting, or a big doughnut, or a pint of ice cream. Generally about 700-1,000 calories. This is something I look forward to all week, but it's not a "cheat".

To be successful, I think that we need to find a plan that works for US. We should shape a plan to fit into our lives, rather than shape our lives to fit into a plan. You can read more about that here.

Binge Eating

Q. How do you define a binge? Isn't it the same as overeating?
A. Overeating and binge eating are actually very different. Lots of people overeat, but a binge has a psychological component to it--where you lose all control, and you cannot stop eating. If you're unsure about what exactly a binge is, here is the Mayo Clinic's definition.

Q. How did you stop binge eating?
A. I still struggle with binge eating, and I think I always will. But I did manage to go an entire year without a single binge while I was losing weight, and as I write this (March 2013), I'm on another long binge-free streak (six months and counting!).
How I refrained from binge eating for a year while losing weight
A little of my history with binge eating
How I'm successfully on another binge-free streak in maintenance

Update: In January 2014, I read a book called "Brain over Binge" by Kathryn Hansen. I'd previously read dozens of books on the subject, but none of them really "spoke to me" like this book did. It had a completely different perspective and approach to quitting binge eating. I highly recommend the book if you have troubles with binge eating.


Exercise

Q. How did you get started running?
A. You can read my running story here. And here is a post about getting started as a runner; and a plan for people who hate to run here.

Q. How did you get faster at running?
A. You can read about getting faster at running here and here

Q. What exercise did you do in the beginning?
A. I didn't do any exercise at all until I'd lost 60ish pounds. I tried, but got discouraged because it caused my weight loss to stall (click here to read a post about why that's VERY common, and not necessarily a bad thing!) I lost weight through counting calories alone. Then I started by walking 3-4 days per week. Eventually, I began to add a little running to the walking, and then switched completely to running.

Q. How often do you run? How far?
A. I usually run 3-6 days per week, depending on if I'm training for a race. I made a vow to run at least three days per week, no matter what, and that's all I did for a long time. Sometimes I'll do a little more to train. I typically run 3-4 miles a few times a week, plus one longer run of 8-12 miles. While training for the 2013 Chicago Marathon, I tried a 6 days per week schedule, and I (surprisingly) really liked it! But my general rule of thumb is that I can't go more than two days without a run.

Q. What is that watch you wear on your runs?
A. That is a Garmin Forerunner 620. It's a GPS watch that tracks distance, pace, time, splits, etc. for running, walking, or biking. I used to use the Garmin Forerunner 910XT before the 620 came out. You can read how to use it here (this is a previous version that I wore, the Garmin Forerunner 305).

Q. What clothes do you wear when you run?
A. I love Under Armour brand clothing! Normally, I am super cheap when it comes to clothes--I buy almost all of my clothes at thrift stores and garage sales. But my running clothes are worth the splurge. I like the Under Armour Heat Gear and Cold Gear (depending on the season). I usually wear the Cold Gear compression fit tights in winter and the Heat Gear compression fit capris in the summer. I wear cheap sports bras, because I don't have much to support ;)  And my tops are usually just technical race shirts in the summer, topped with a fleece jacket in the winter.  My shoes are Brooks Adrenaline.

Q. Do you do strength training or other exercise?
A. I know that strength training is really important, but I never really did a regular program. However, one of my goals for 2014 is to do strength training a minimum of two times per week, and I'm doing really well with sticking to it. I like to do the Wii Fit U, because I can create my own program with their exercises, and it's fun and fast.

Q. How did you fit in exercise when you had small children at home?
A. I don't think that having children at home is a valid excuse for not exercising. My kids were 3 and 5 when I started losing weight. When I started exercising, I made the decision that I was going to fit in a run three times per week NO MATTER WHAT. Sometimes I had to ask my brother or my parents to watch the boys for 30 minutes, sometimes I had to run at 6:30 in the morning when my husband came home from working the night shift, sometimes I had to run at 7:00 at night to fit it in. Sometimes I would even ask a friend to watch the kids while I ran, and then I would watch all her kids while she fit in a run. I would also plan my runs on the days my husband had off of work. I think that three days per week is completely do-able for anyone.

Q. What do you use to carry water on your runs?
A. I've tried several things to carry water--hydration belts, handheld bottles, and a CamelBak vest. For shorter runs, where I won't need much water, I like to use my Amphipod Handheld. It holds 10 ounces, and has a little pocket big enough for my car key and some other small item. If I carry water during a half-marathon, this is what I use (and I just refill it, if needed, from an aid station).

For longer runs, like during my marathon training, I absolutely love my CamelBak Marathoner vest. I was lucky enough to be asked to write a review for it, so I got it for free, but this is definitely the most comfortable way to carry water. I really didn't think I'd like it, but I was very happy with it. Here is a link to my review.

My least favorite way to carry water is a hydration belt. It made my back ache after a while, and I just don't find it comfortable.