I must first apologize for my lack of blog posts since I left for my honeymoon, which was my last post in July! Wow! So much has happened! Our honeymoon to Europe was a dream come true... We had quite the adventure. We walked at least 11 miles per day, learned a lot about foreign cultures, and my husband and I made so many happy memories together. Additionally, the food, wine, and beer was delightful! Somehow, I had no severe high or low blood sugar levels, and we even lost a few pounds on the honeymoon!
My husband and I also travelled along Old Route 66 to see the Total Solar Eclipse in Sullivan, Missouri this past August. We had travelled Route 66 in its entirety in 2016, so it was really nice to be able to go back, part way at least, and explore some more.
More about my weight loss:
My husband and I have been trying to eat along the Weight Watchers Smart Points guidelines using the iTrackBites and Lose It apps. We started toying with iTrackBites in the fall, and had used Lose It before that, but would really fall off of our diet quite easily.
As a New Years Resolution, we decided that we would follow Weight Watchers Smart Points without going off for one full year. I am not really sure what the difference has been this year as far as sticking with it is concerned, by so far, we have been really successful! We have not gone off of the diet once, have never exceeded our Smart Points amount, and have been exercising daily (well, me almost daily if my blood sugars are up to it!).
I’m down 29.1 pounds as of last Friday, and my husband is down over 30 since January 1. That’s only 2 months of dieting! I also reduced my A1C, cholesterol, and insulin usage. I feel great! I can’t believe how easy this diet has been this time around. Maybe it is because we decided to go all in for one year. Maybe it’s because we are really keeping each other accountable. Maybe because we thrive on challenges. Maybe it’s because it’s helping us to save a TON of money compared to how we used to eat. Who knows. But it’s been easier than any diet we’ve ever tried.
So what exactly are we doing to get these results? Well, this is going to require a very long answer. It isn't easy to just write a short little blurb about what we are doing, because, in all actuality, it's not simple. It's complicated, but it's working for us. Lots of people are asking us how we are doing it, so I’m going to do my best to answer here. My post may seem blunt and to the point, but I believe that honesty is the best policy if you really want to get real about losing weight and becoming healthy. If you have any questions, please comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
1. This is something that you have to go all in for.
I once heard that dieting is like a marriage, you can’t cheat and expect it to work. This means that you must track everything you eat--even the bites, licks, and tastes. This means you don't take a day, meal, or snack off of the diet. Every time you give in to temptation, it will be harder to get back on track. You also won't get the results that you want. I know it sounds harsh, but it's something we have learned.
2. This is time consuming.
When we started, it took what felt like forever to track the ingredients of the meals we cooked, and because we track in two separate apps, it took twice as long. It was frustrating when we would start preparing for supper at 5:00 and not eat until 7:00, especially since we were hungry with starting a diet. I often felt overwhelmed with all of the work of counting the points and measuring all of the food, however, it does get far easier and much quicker if you keep up with it. Now, it's like nothing to track what we eat.
3. Measure everything you eat.
We prefer to use a digital food scale over measuring cups and spoons to measure our foods if the labels have a weight for serving sizes. Often, when you are hungry, you can smash a lot of food into the measuring cups and spoons, but weight never lies. Measuring prior to cooking is helpful, too, as compared to measuring after cooking... For example, raw chicken will always have the same calories according to its weight, but depending on how it is cooked, and how much moisture is lost in the cooking process, or ingredients added during the cooking process, weighing it after will have varied results.
4. Do it with someone to stay accountable, if you can.
I must admit, I am weak when it comes to dieting. I have a hard time saying no to any temptations, which for me comes in the form of salty and savory snacks. If my husband wasn't doing this with me, I'd have fallen off of the bandwagon long ago. Having someone that you can trust to hold you to it, that you can also support when they feel weak, is beneficial.
5. Exercise is optional, but really helps yield good results.
Some people say they don't have time to exercise. I get it. I am a teacher, and often stay after school to get caught up. My husband works full time, is working to complete his Masters degree, and has a small business on the side. Granted, we don't have children, but we are busy people and we feel like we hardly have enough time together. However, we work to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, often more. When I first started this diet, I couldn't exercise for very long without feeling extremely worn out and in pain. Now, I can exercise for an hour and I feel good afterward. Hubby and I put on a movie or show and work out together, or we do exercise videos. Sometimes to switch it up, we turn on Just Dance on our Wii and do a Just Sweat program. If the weekends are nice, we get outside and do some hiking together. It's quality time we get to spend together, even though it isn't as fun as other things we could do.
6. Weight loss should really be about getting healthy.
We've done a ton of different diets, and while we lost a little weight at first, the weight loss would stop--and when we quit, we would regain and go even higher. We also weren't feeling as though we were getting healthy on any diet, and felt starved and deprived the whole time. My A1C and cholesterol kept going up, so did our scales. Our current diet is helping us to make healthier choices, and my A1C and cholesterol are both decreasing. We feel good, and don't feel deprived. I won't lie and say we don't feel hungry sometimes, but this is the best we've felt on any diet.
7. You can fail at this diet, and even gain weight, if you don't do it correctly.
Eating too many free foods adds to your daily caloric intake. It is possible to eat only your points and then fill up on free foods, but that won't help you lose weight. Fruits and vegetables do have calories, so you must be mindful and aware of what you are eating. This is why we also use Lose It along with iTrackBites in order to keep an eye on how many extra calories we consume per day.
What apps to use
We use iTrackBites and Lose It on our iPhones to keep track of our diet. Both apps are free to use, but we recommend a $0.99 purchase to unlock the online food database in iTrackBites. This isn't necessary, however, as you are still able to scan barcodes and create your own foods. We just have found it helpful.
How we do it
In a nutshell, we weigh and measure everything we eat and track it into Lose It to have an overview of our daily nutrition, and track everything that has points into iTrackBites, following the Smart plan. We are certain first and foremost not to go over our daily point limit (and sometimes don't even eat all of our points if we aren't hungry), and are mindful of how many calories we consume when it comes to eating free foods (more below on that). You can eat whatever you want, as long as you track everything you eat in both apps.
We recommend using the iTrackBites Smart plan, which will give you a daily amount of points to eat based on your gender and weight, as well as some weekly points you can use if you want to. If you track your exercise, it will also give you more points you can eat. Our recommendation is to only eat your daily points, forget you even have weekly points, and to not even track your exercise in the app. Yeah, the philosophy is good that you could earn more points by exercise and that you can have extra points in a budget to use each week, but just because you have the points doesn't mean you should eat them.
Note: iTrackBites is coming out with their own version of the new Weight Watchers' Freestyle plan, but my husband and I need the discipline of counting points for everything we eat. We recently saw a blog post featuring a bunch of Freestyle recipes with zero points, and saw that the author wrote to make sandwiches with chicken breasts as a substitute for bread, and that you can eat as many as you want for zero points. Yeah, that's the kind of loophole we would get sucked into. We can't and won't do Freestyle.
On the Weight Watchers Smart plan, you can eat foods that are considered "free," or having zero points. Now that Freestyle has been launched, it's very difficult to find a list of the old free foods. The one I reference if I need to can be found and downloaded here. These foods we do not track in iTrackBites, but we do track them in Lose It. It is important to know how many calories you consume. We very rarely go over on our calorie limit according to Lose It, even when incorporating free foods, but it is possible to eat so many free foods that you do go over. It's a checks and balances system that we put in place to keep ourselves more accountable.
How are Smart points calculated?
In iTrackBites, Smart points are calculated using a food's total calories, saturated fat, sugar, and protein levels. Calories, saturated fat, and sugar add points to a food, but protein lowers the amount of points. This is smarter than just tracking calories alone, as it has been pushing my husband and I to make smarter choices. We figure it's better to eat smarter and be fuller than to eat whatever we want and be hungry later. For example, we could eat one slice of a Pizza Hut large Thin 'N Crispy cheese pizza for 9 points, but we found that we can make a homemade full-size cheese pizza on our own using whole grain crust and be able to eat half of it for only 10 points. Right now, I only get 32 points per day, so that really puts some perspective on choices you can make that are healthier.
So you can really eat whatever you want?
Yes, but the catch is you have to track it and you can't go over your daily points and have to be mindful of your daily calories. If you want to follow a low-carb diet, go for it, just track your meats, cheeses, and low carb foods in both apps. If you want to follow a gluten-free diet, just track everything in both apps. Vegetarian or vegan? Yup. On the go and eating lots of fast food? Track it.
You don't have to follow a specific meal plan to eat and succeed on iTrackBites if you combine it with Lose It. You can follow whatever diet you want as long as you don't go over on your Smart points and are mindful of your calories. You may have to change your portions in order to lose the weight, though.
What do I eat?
Weekdays (Monday-Friday), my husband and I eat the same exact breakfast and lunch. It makes our morning routine before work run smoother, and we know just what lunch to pack the night before. We can also copy our food in both apps to make tracking these repeat meals quicker. Below is what I eat each weekday for breakfast and lunch, including points, calories, and carbs.
2 Johnsonville Turkey Breakfast Sausage Links
2 slices of Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat High Fiber Whole Grain Bread
Suppers vary for us depending on what we want to eat. We meal plan for two weeks at a time, based on our pay periods, and do our grocery shopping in one visit to reduce visits to the store (which also saves us a ton of money!). Sometimes we crave Chinese food or Mexican food, so we find recipes on Pinterest to try out. Sometimes we crave comfort foods like spaghetti and meatballs, so we just make smart choices (like choosing whole grain pasta, no sugar added pasta sauce, and turkey meatballs) and track what we cook.
We eat whatever we want to eat for supper, but we track our points. Sometimes when we make a recipe, we see that it will be more points than what we have left in our budget. No problem, I just freeze portions of the recipe, labeling them with the recipe name and the date we ate it. Then, the next time we are meal planning, we can plan to eat the frozen meal, then just copy over the nutrition data in both apps on the day we eat it.
Weekends are a little different compared to weekdays. We have been eating just breakfast, supper, and sometimes an evening snack on weekends because we do like to sleep in. For breakfast, we typically eat two eggs, two turkey breakfast sausages or some turkey bacon, and toast. Sometimes we make eggs with cheese and veggies, sometimes I make cloud eggs, or sometimes we make French toast with sugar free syrup. Again, we track everything we eat, but we enjoy a nice breakfast on the weekends. Weekend suppers are similar to weekday suppers, and sometimes we can add in wine and/or popcorn with our remaining points in the evening when we watch a movie.
You don't have to eat like my husband and I do, however. You have to find what works for you, and what makes your body feel healthy. I am simply sharing what I eat to give you an idea of what you could eat, too.
Will there be any surprises?
Probably. We found that foods that we were always told to eat a lot of because they were healthy (nuts in particular) are very high in points. It is recommended to eat 2 servings of nuts per day, however, two servings of almonds has 10 Smart points. Like I mentioned earlier, I only get to eat 32 points per day, so that's 1/3 of my daily points! We will eat nuts as a filler for points if we have some points left but aren't too hungry, so it isn't like we've sworn them off!
We were also surprised how we didn't feel any particular cravings for junk food like we used to get. My husband loves donuts, and I love Taco Bell, however, we haven't craved either badly enough to make us sabotage our diet. Yes, that has happened to us in the past on every other diet we've tried.
We are also learning that feeling hungry isn't always a bad thing, and we are drinking more water. We've even found that making popsicles out of Crystal Light helps us feel more satisfied. Who would've thought?
Additional Tips and Tricks
These are by no means rules you have to follow, but we found they work for us. Take them with a grain of salt.
Good luck, and here's to a better you!