Minimalist Weight Loss Program

I didn’t even know it was happening, but a couple years ago, I was steadily and sneakily gaining weight.  At doctor’s appointments, I was used to saying “Start it at 250,” but one day they had to move that big metal counterweight over to the next slot on the scale.  Ka-CHUNK. Over 300.  I was used to being stuck at 280, but where did an extra 20 pounds come from, and how could I make it go away?

Being fat, or large, or overweight, or obese, or whatever you want to call it – being fat doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy.  I believe in the health at every size movement and I believe that you can have a healthy lifestyle while wearing double-digit pants sizes.  However, I was not healthy.  Not only was I obese, I had low energy, I could hardly get up the stairs, and I was depressed.  Something had to give.  And I sure wasn’t happy with that big 3 in my weight.

I did workout videos.  I joined a gym.  I drank more water.  Blah, blah, blah.  I got back down to about 280 where I stayed for over a year.

Last year in the summer, I began a goal of taking a walk each day.  And I did.  It wasn’t always a long walk, but I took a walk every day.  It helped boost my mood and made me feel overall better in my body.  Sadly when the weather turned cold, I stopped going outside to walk.  So I joined a gym, and promptly ignored my gym membership.  I have gone to the gym 5 times in 6 months.

How, how, how could I focus on getting healthier and losing some of the excess weight?

As my regular readers know, I changed my eating habits a few months ago and reintroduced meat into my diet  after a year of being nearly-vegan.  I also cut gluten.  A funny thing happened as I started eating eggs and bacon (sans toast) for breakfast.  My pants got looser.   Diet change alone lost me about 15 pounds in about four months.

I was intrigued.  Now that I was eating a healthier, more mindful diet that was helping my body to thrive, perhaps exercise would help really kick it into gear.  I am still struggling to exercise each day, but I do find my body “craving” movement if I sit too long.  I want to get up and move, to go to the gym, to go for a walk.  Just incorporating a little bit of exercise here and there has lost me another ten pounds.

At last weigh-in, I was at 254.4.

Do I have a goal weight? No.  Well, sort of.  I have a target weight that I think I will end up weighing, but I’m not stuck on the numbers.  My goal is to be able to get up my stairs without breathing heavily.  My goal is to be able to jog a mile without stopping.   My goal is to provide a healthy role model for my friends and family.

Caitlin’s Minimalist Weight Loss Plan

Step 1: Food.  You cannot out-exercise a crappy diet.  Stop eating processed food.  At least 80% of your diet should NOT come from a box, bag, or jar.  Eat what makes you feel good, but eat real food.  Mostly plants.  High-quality meat, eggs, and dairy (from humanely treated animals).  If it says “low fat,” put it away.  (A) You’re not supposed to be eating things with labels in a box, and (B) the words “low fat” can be effectively be replaced with the words “chemical shit storm.”  No.

Step 2: Exercise.  Devote 30 minutes each day to intentional movement.  If you want to include household chores in your “movement” count, that’s fine, but really be moving for those 30 minutes.  Sitting on the floor sorting a box of stuff is not high-octane physical activity.  Be honest with yourself.  Go for a walk, go to the gym, run around in the yard with your kids.  Just MOVE.

[EDIT] Step 3: Water.  I cannot believe I forgot to mention how important water is to your health, wellness, and weight loss goals.  Your body NEEDS water, and many times what you think is hunger (cue mindless snacking!) is actually thirst.  I don’t always succeed at getting enough water in my day but I find that if I start early, I continue drinking it all day.  If I forget to get a cup from the dispenser at work in the morning, I’ll forget until lunch and then I am way behind.  I have read that you should divide your body weight by 2 to find the number of ounces you should drink.  If I’m 250, that’s 125 ounces of water that I need each day.

You do not have to join a gym or eat special diet food.  In fact, special diet food is mostly crap.  Joining a gym is great IF you want to spend the money and IF you will actually go.  I have not been utilizing my membership and I’m out $20 a month to stay at home and write blogs about why you should be exercising.

The importance of food

I write a lot about food.  I think food is miraculous.  We take in something from the earth, or from an animal, and turn it into fuel for our bodies.  When you understand the function of food, you appreciate the importance of good, healthy foods instead of processed food-like things.  I used to mow down candy bars, and now the sugar in a piece of fruit is sometimes too sweet.

The most important thing about changing your diet is that you understand it’s not “going on a diet.”  It is changing. your. diet.  Your diet is the food you eat.  Change the food you eat, change your diet.  For me, it’s quite simple to turn down food that I know is bad for me, because I simply do NOT eat those foods.  Hot dog at a fair? No, I can’t eat the bun and I am certain the meat doesn’t meet my standards.  Popsicle from the ice cream truck? No, I don’t eat processed sugar or corn syrup.  Doughnut at the office? Absolutely not.  (In fact, office visitors have started to bring me apples, strawberries, and salads instead of doughnuts).

I was told on a recent vacation that I would probably have to relax my rules s a little because it would be hard to find food that met my high standards.  Challenge accepted and met.  I didn’t eat a thing that I would normally avoid.  You just make a commitment to only allow certain foods into your body. And then you do it.  Once you understand that food has a direct impact on your wellness, you eat differently.  Or at least I do, your mileage may vary.

The moral of the story

I am apprehensive about sharing my weight on such a public forum, but it helps me to share my journey with my readers, even this journey.  When you don’t like something about your life, you need to change it.  I didn’t like weighing over 300 pounds, so I changed it.  I didn’t like weighing 280, so I changed it.  I have weighed at least 250 pounds since high school.  I am currently at my lowest weight in seven or eight years, and it’s great.  I feel more energetic, I have far less joint pain, and I feel happier.  My weight does not define me, but it is something I have to literally carry every day.  By deciding to change it, I am taking control of my life and my health.   It really is as simple as eating and moving.

27 thoughts on “Minimalist Weight Loss Program

  1. livingsimplyfree says:

    That took a lot of courage to admit a number on a scale, but what a great story, I am so happy for you. As I am less able to do the things I used to do ky weight has steadily crept up, I am busy filling my freezer with organic locally grown food and hope to realize the same results you have by eating from my freezer and being able to avoid the grocery store.

    • Caitlin says:

      Thanks! I am sure you can meet your goals. That grocery store is a terrible place of impulse purchases and scary food🙂

      I have been freezing shredded zucchini lately, to make bread throughout the winter if I feel like zucchini bread. I also put it into meatloaf, meatballs, etc. I want to learn how to can so that I can preserve all the food I grow.

      • livingsimplyfree says:

        Canning scares me. I used to can applesauce every year for my boys and had no trouble. I also put it in the jars while still hot to help the sealing process. Then one year I decided to do peaches. Every recipe I found called for a ton of sugar, but I was canning to avoid things like sugar. Needless to say I altered the recipe and by the time we went to pull out a jar to eat in the winter months they all had mold growing in them. I haven’t tried canning since. You might not know but the lids used in canning have BPA still in them, just so you know.

        A lot of foods can be dehydrated, I am more comfortable with that process as you can see within days if you did them right. They take up very little space to store and can be kept in glass jars. To use in soups you simply add them to the stock and they rehydrate and cook up nicely. To make bread, like your zucchini just soak them in some water and then add to your recipe as normal.

        Thank you, I hope I can reach my goals, but the secret for me will be to have a houseful of healthy food and make sure I stay as active as I can.

      • livingsimplyfree says:

        Me too. The one I had didn’t dry the foods well so I gave it to the thrift shop. I hope I didn’t scare you off canning though. If you follow the directions closely you shouldn’t have a problem. My grandmother used to can her own spaghetti sauce, but she never even put it in a water bath. She poured the hot sauce into clean jars, sealed them and waited for them to cool. The lids sealed well and they went directly into the pantry. I understand it’s the acid in tomatoes, I never got sick from her sauce (which had meat in it too) but never had the nerve to do it myself. But yes, I would still can tomatoes and applesauce. Btw, wish you lived closer I have a water bath canner a neighbor gave me to get rid of, I’d give it to you.

      • Kimberly says:

        I taught myself to can about 10 years ago, starting with jams and proceeding to pickles and lower sugar preserves like apricot and peach butter. The only thing I’ve ever canned without using a hot water bath to ensure a seal was dill pickles, which had a boiling brine that created a good seal. If you want to can vegetables, I would recommend either pickling them (the acid in vinegar is a great preservative) or learning to use a pressure canner, which is the only type of canning that’s safe for low-acid vegetables and meats. I got one recently, but haven’t learned to use it yet.

        There are PBA-free canning lids available, though they’re a little trickier to use. Since I don’t turn my jars upside down, and the food isn’t in contact with the lid, I don’t worry about it too much.

        I dehydrated cherries this year (very yummy), and think I’ll try cherry tomatoes, too, as I have a glut of them.

  2. Nicola B says:

    Yes! I weigh around 200lbs, and am aiming to weigh less. I’m not totally fixated on a number, but I am thinking around 170lbs…will see how I feel physically when I get there! I find numbers on the scale useful to track progress, but I agree that size/weight are not the measure of health. As someone on the edge of the ‘obese’ BMI category, I can run 5K without stopping- I imagine there are people in the ‘normal’ BMI category who would be exhausted after a few yards! However, I am hoping that running will feel easier as my weight decreases.

    Well done on sticking to your food principles! I am determined to lose weight whilst eating full fat everything (just less of it!). I find, as you seem to have found with your breakfast, that protein and fat make me feel full, so I don’t get hungry as fast or snack etc.

    Apparently, one is supposed to drink 1l of water per day for every 20kg of body weight…for me this is 4l (well, possibly 4.5 but 4 seemed like a lot!) Apparently, people mistake thirst for hunger. I have actually found it quite easy to drink so much, and it seems to have been helping- I have been feeling the need to snack less, and have lost a few lbs in the last week. I find it helpful to record what I eat/calorie count, as I do have a bit of a distorted view of how much food is ‘ok’. Also important to meal plan..and if I am hungry before ‘lunchtime’, have lunch early- I am always hungry earlier in the day and not so much later on, so have accepted this.

    Exercise- best for me is dog walking- my parent’s dog is staying at the moment, and although she is elderly and thus only needs three 30 min walks per day, it is the best way of getting regular exercise, as I can’t think ‘can’t be bothered!’. It’s like having a permanently willing exercise buddy🙂

    Apologies for the rambling essay- I found myself reading your post going ‘yes I think that too!’🙂

    • Caitlin says:

      Oh man, I totally forgot to mention how important WATER is!!!

      When I get enough water throughout the day, I feel so much better overall, and I don’t mindlessly snack.

      I usually pack lunch and a snack for work. I have found that, since cutting out processed and junky foods, my appetite has decreased and I eat a lot less than I used to. I can still get a Chipotle burrito bowl in there though… haha.

      I appreciate your rambling essay! Good luck on your fitness goals. I am doing a 5K later this month and I really need to get off my butt and start walking/jogging to prepare. Eek. If nothing else, I know I can WALK it with zero issues, but I would like to jog at least half. Baby goals.🙂

      • Nicola B says:

        Baby goals rock- my aim with each 5K is just not to walk…and not get lapped by the scarily fast teenage boys! My mum is doing a half marathon next weekend- she knows that she can’t run it all (knee injury!) so she is going to walk fast and run as much as she can.

        There are loads of ‘couch to 5K’ programmes around..if you want a more well planned method than mine, which was ‘run really slowly so only just faster than a walk’🙂

      • Caitlin says:

        I did a couch to 5K once… I still “ran really slowly” anyway hahaha. I was the second to last finisher, but I FINISHED. And then we went to Subway and ate giant sandwiches. I will skip the sandwich this time around😛

  3. Maria says:

    In my early twenties I started to gain weight seemingly of of the blue, and even if I lost some of it, I just couldn’t keep it off. I wasn’t overweight, but those 20-25 pounds just didn’t seem right on my body. But I totally agree that people can be healthy and fit at different sizes! I was trying to limit fat in my diet, exercising several times a week and pretty much always hungry and craving food. Then I started eating more fat and protein, and I also had to stop exercising because of health issues. I literally lost weight while lying on the couch eating fat. My blood sugar stabilized, which felt AMAZING (for years I’d been close to emotional break downs every time I was hungry), and I lost pretty much all my cravings for unhealthy foods.

    There are two keys for me. The first one is that I have to listen to my body. After a few years of craving and eating a lot of fat and protein, my body started wanting more carbs again, and I listened to that. Now I try to eat whatever whole foods I want/have on hand and that work well for me, in whatever ratio and amount my body feels like. I don’t count calories. My problem now is that I’m sometimes too lazy to prepare and eat proper meals, so I’ll snack instead, which doesn’t work well for me So there’s still room for improvement.🙂 The second thing is that I have to take care of myself in all areas of my life. If I’m too stresed, upset, busy, mean to myself, not honest about my wants and needs or something like that, I’ll feel the need to stuff myself with something, to numb the pain. That’s always a good warning sign that more self care is needed!🙂

    It seems like you’re well on your way! When it comes to exercise I think the key for me is to do something that’s fairly enjoyable and easily accessible. It has taken me many, many, MANY years to admit to myself that if it’s too much of a hassle to get to the gym and/or if I don’t like the activity, it just won’t happen in the long run.

    • Caitlin says:

      That is so true… if I don’t like it, I won’t do it. I’m not going to force myself to do something I hate. But I really do enjoy walking (in nature) and sometimes like the elliptical at the gym. For some reason I can’t just leave the house and go there though, I’d rather walk around the block or in the local nature preserve. It’s prettier and there are deer.

      If there wasn’t a stupid cancellation fee, I’d cancel my membership with my gym. As it is, I guess I’ll just try to go until membership is up. Meh.

      Isn’t it crazy how our bodies tell us what they need, if we really listen? I work with a guy who thinks if you hold a food in your hand, your body will naturally lean away or toward it depending on whether or not your body needs it. I haven’t tried it, sounds a little hokey to me, but I’m pretty much princess hokey, right? Maybe I should give it a shot!

      Thanks for writing and sharing your tips! Especially about self care… I need to remember that.

  4. Maria says:

    I agree, it does sound a bit hokey, but who knows? The self care part is SO important! It’s key for me. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that the body would tell us what it needs. I mean, that’s kind of what it’s for, right? It does tell us when we should sleep or drink or use the bathroom. And I think a lion or a deer has a pretty good grip on what they should and shouldn’t eat, so why would it be any different for us? Thank you for writing this post, I appreciate your honesty. And it made me face up to the fact that I haven’t really been feeding my body what it needs lately (we teach what we most need to learn, right?). And we’re totally not a number on a scale! People really do have different body types and weights that are healthy for them. I don’t have a scale, and I try to avoid weighing myself. It can trigger all kinds of destructive thought patterns, doubts and paranoia in me, even if the number is something I appreciate. I’m just happier and more relaxed about everything when I don’t.🙂

    Here’s an article I really like (I’m not affiliated in any way): http://www.doctor-natasha.com/one-mans-meat-another-mans-poison.php

  5. EcoCatLady says:

    I totally LOVE this post! I was a struggling vegetarian for about 20 years, but I finally gave it up a few years back because my body just couldn’t take it anymore. I think I knew the writing was on the wall when I found myself really looking forward to dinner with my parents because I knew that I’d get to eat some meat and I’d get to feel better for a few days (my parents are total psychos who generally push me very near the edge of sanity, so looking forward to dinner with them is a pretty big deal).

    Deciding to eat meat again was one of the best decisions that I ever made, and I feel soooo much healthier than I have in years. Keeping the grains down to a minimum is also a huge part of a healthy diet for me… my body just can’t seem to handle the inevitable blood sugar spike that comes with a grain-heavy diet.

    I know that all bodies are not the same, and people seem to have differing needs, but I get really tired of listening to evangelical vegans who act like it’s a foregone conclusion that everyone would be so much healthier if they just went vegan.

    Anyhow, congratulations on your healthy changes. I’m so happy for you and so glad that you decided to write about this journey. I am chuckling a bit about the goal of being able to walk up the stairs without breathing heavily though, because I weigh about 135 pounds, I’m in pretty good shape – I go for 40-50 mile bike rides several times per week, do yoga, garden, walk, lift weights etc, and I STILL can’t make it up the damn stairs without getting out of breath! What’s up with that?!? I guess my point is: don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get there right away.🙂

    • Caitlin says:

      I will keep that in mind about the stairs🙂 thanks for your comments! I agree, I get frustrated when ANYONE tells me the virtues of this diet or that diet… it simply doesn’t work for everyone. I know one person who just thrives on a vegan diet, and another who tried to be vegetarian and was sicker than ever in her life. It really depends on the person🙂

  6. Joseph says:

    Great story! Used to be a time in my youth that I couldn’t hit 150 no matter how hard I tried. In my mid-30’s, sitting in a cubicle, I quickly rose to over 165 (that is a lot for a little guy) and couldn’t stop gaining. The harder I tried, the harder it was to balance my life. Finally, I just decided to focus on the little things I could control. Eating better was the key of course (though nobody really wants to hear that😉 and in fact, the more minimalist my activities were, the faster and better gains I got. Now I’m back under 150 but I’m leaner and stronger than ever before. Quit the expensive gym for cheaper alternatives: ditched the car, doing 20 minutes of high-intensity interval exercises with dumbbells 3 times a week and of course eating better daily… but still giving myself a couple of cheat meals a week. Moral of the story is: Never try (too hard).

    • Caitlin says:

      I have purchased a set of workout DVDs that I am really enjoying… but I know that if I didn’t actually like them, I wouldn’t do them. It’s so important to actually like what you are doing when the goal is health – so if that means walking, walk, and if it means interval training, then train!

      There are so many avenues to fitness and wellness. Thank you for sharing your experiences! 🙂

      • Joseph says:

        Caitlin, you are so right when you say “you cannot out-exercise a crappy diet”. Once you realize the importance of what you put into your body, the fitness routine you choose is only important in terms of your enjoyment of it.

        Btw, really like the theme of your blog. Most of our lives, we try to accumulate more stuff in the (false) hopes of making us happy. Once we start clearing room in our hearts for it, (more) happiness enters. Cheers!

  7. Grandma G says:

    Caitlin,
    Luv your story! I’ve been living in an unwillingness to change mode up until about a month ago. The reality that my health was being negatively impacted by my weight came to me one day and I just decided this is it, I’ve had enough. I decided to make HEALTH my top concern, losing weight would be a part of that journey, but it would be a side note, not my main goal. I’ve been able to transform my eating by letting go of all grains and sugars, and I may release dairy shortly (?) and oddly for me, I don’t miss the old foods. I have a new attitude about food, I feel like I am a new me too; I am a health regenerater! I appreciate your sharing, congratulations on your healthy improvements!

    • Caitlin says:

      Thank you very much! I am glad to hear you have been improving your health with diet changes. I am just beginning a new approach to diet, a 30 day elimination protocol to identify some autoimmune triggers. It’s crazy what food does to us when we don’t realize it. I hope to see you around more on the blog!

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