Monday, July 30, 2012

How I lost 75 pounds - Part 4: How I MAINTAIN my healthy lifestyle

On my journey to changing my lifestyle and creating a healthy life, I learned quite a few things.  It was only after making the vow to Get FINE in 2009 that I decided to get my MIND healthy and my BODY healthy too.  I knew three things going into this:

 1)    I wanted to get healthy
      2)    I wanted to lose weight
      3)    I wanted to stop the life-long yo-yo weight cycle that I had fallen into.

I got my mind healthy by reading everything I could get my hands on that had to do with fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, calories, portion control, fiber intake, vitamins, water, healthy recipes, running and weight training.  I got my body healthy by getting active; I started taking step aerobics, weight training, spinning classes, Zumba, Pilates, and I even became a runner.

It’s tough work to bust your butt and lose weight…but it’s just as hard to not gain it back!  I think all of that crazy-fast-weight-loss stuff doesn’t work in the long run because it doesn’t really fix the problem, which usually has to do with a lack of knowledge, motivation, commitment and follow-through.  The truth is, anyone can lose weight but it takes a completely committed person to keep it off.    



I made up my mind and committed to getting healthy and all of the hard work paid off. It certainly wasn’t easy – and it didn’t happen fast either! The steps below explain how I did – and continue to do – it without giving up and reverting to bad habits.

How I maintain my health

I am conscious of everything that goes in my mouth. 
The problem – actually, I don’t see it as a problem – and never did – which is what led to the real problem – is that I love to eat!  I am a foodie at heart and have never been good at denying myself and have been guilty of over-indulging a time or two (or two hundred). 




To be completely honest, it bugs me when people I’m around (usually women) go on and on and on about “being so bad” or “oh, I shouldn’t eat this!” or “I’m going to have to workout extra hard at the gym tomorrow to work this off!”  Talk about ANNOYING!!!  To avoid this, I try to stick to the 80%/20% rule.  I try to eat right most of the time so that I can eat the desserts and treats that I want (when I want them) and not feel guilty or bad about it.  I still love food but make smarter choices because at the end of the day I want to remain healthy more than I want that second slice of chocolate cake!  It’s worked pretty well so far. J

I continue to workout.
I go to the gym five, sometimes six times a week and take a variety of classes like step aerobics, weight training, spin, Zumba, and Pilates.  I also designed my own weight program, which I change up about every five to six weeks and make sure to cover all the major muscle groups and vary the weight, which includes alternating between “light weight/high rep” and “heavier weight/lower rep” weeks.


After all, there is nothing wrong with girls having a few muscles, right?!?!  

I surround myself with positive, supportive people.
1. My family (husband, daughter, mother) is my biggest supporter!!  My husband, who still says he never saw me as overweight (love really makes us blind, doesn’t it?), was my biggest cheerleader!  Not only did he verbally cheer me in, he supported me 100% in other ways too.  He became a gym rat with me, never complained when I completely revamped our pantry, fridge, freezer, and daily meals, and is there to photograph my races, even the early morning ones!  Our daughter is my second best cheerleader; although she’s only eight, she constantly tells me I’m the best cook in the world and that I should have a healthy cooking show on the Food Network! 
2. Girlfriends (like this girl, these girls, and these girls) and co-workers who were witness to the progress.  They motivated me through every step of my weight loss journey, whether it be by coming to work out with me or by simply noticing when I started shedding the pounds and the praise and compliments they showered on me.  I am blessed to have this support system!
3. Gym-Rat friends that I see every evening at the gym.  We hold each other accountable and have fun while working out, thus we’ve actually ended up going from just “gym” friends to real-life friends too! J
4. Online community, like the healthy living blogging circle.  I have been reading healthy living/healthy eating/running blogs for about two years.  It feels good to surround myself with like minded people; other people who are just as obsessed concerned with eating healthy, working out, and running!

I feed my mind the right things.
1. church – a weekly does of Pastor Joel always does the trick!
2. informational texts about health and wellness (I’m always brushing up on my favorite topic!)
3. reading healthy living blogs like Hungry Runner Girl, One Fit Foodie, Blonde Ponytail, Peanut Butter Fingers, and Bess Be Fit to name just a few of my favorites
4. collecting motivational quotes (especially fitness motivation) – along with collecting quotes in the binder I started in sixth grade, I also pin cool stuff on my “Inspire Me” and “Getting’ My Sweat On” Pinterest boards to look at when I need some “getup-and-go”.

I constantly try new things…
…so that I never get bored!!
1. When I hit my first plateau, I hit the gym hard everyday twice-a-day for a month.
2. When I hit my next plateau, I started running, a habit that I continue to enjoy to this day! 
...and set new goals!!
3. During this past fall and winter, I felt like I had lost that lovin’ feeling for running.  Such a shame, too, because I love to run in the cold!  I rekindled the romance by starting a RUNstreak.  This year for Lent, instead of cutting something out, I made a promise to run at least 2 miles a day.  I ran 46 days straight without missing a single day, which was exactly what I needed to jump-start my passion for running again!  This summer I decided to do the same thing and I’m calling it “Leti’s Summer RUNstreak.”  If I manage to make it though the whole summer (June, July and August) without missing a day of running I am going to reward my self with some new running shoes, a few new workout clothes, and *fingers crossed* a new Garmin. 
RUNstreak: as of tonight, 58 days and counting…
4. Now that I feel it’s time to kick it up another notch, I am itching to try CrossFit and WILL try my first session this week using this girl’s awesome workout plans!


For anyone out there reading this that is on a journey of their own, one thing is for sure, and PLEASE remember this:


Go ahead and mentally prepare for that.  Be ready and have a game plan for what you are going to do when that happens.  In these tough times you just have to remember that yes, eating healthy, working out, and staying motivated can be hard, but there are other things that are just as hard, like being unhappy in your own skin.


What did I do to continue through the tough times?  Honestly speaking, probably the biggest thing that inspired me to continue was my stubbornness. J I am the kind of person that has to finish what they start and will do whatever it takes to make it happen!  Aside from that, though, I would have to say that the support from family and friends were my biggest motivators when times got tough.  Find what works best for you and motivates you…and HANG IN THERE!!  You will succeed!!


And now for the grand finale…and the real reason you should hang in there?!?!  You should hang in there because you will feel such a true sense of accomplishment at knowing that you set a challenging goal, committed to doing whatever it took to reach it, stayed motivated and persevered through the tough times, and, above all, followed-through.  It’s the BEST feeling in the world!! 

What is the BEST PART about being in shape for me now? EVERYTHING!! 

·        I love the way I can run three miles without even really breathing hard. 

·        I love that I can lift weights at the gym with all the big boys and they leave me alone because they can tell I know what I’m doing. 

·        I love the way my arms look in sleeveless shirts and the way my legs look in a dress. 

·        I love that I can walk into a store, see something I like and try it on, and that it actually fits the way it’s supposed to. 

·        I love knowing that I finally have my mojo back!  I had really lost her there for a while!

·        I love the way my husband can wrap his arms all the way around me now when he hugs me. 

·        I love that I see my former students at the store and they are shocked and they compliment me tell me that I look younger than I did when I taught them years ago. 

·        I love that I can still eat what I want – in moderation, of course – and not feel guilty because I know that I will work it off anyway.

·        And above all else, I love that I am setting the example for my daughter of what healthy living looks like!

**DISCLAIMER: please keep in mind that my hubby’s an artist/photographer and always has me posing!!**

Hubby and I at the 2011 Blue Bell Fun Run.

4th of July celebration with our friends!

Me in San Antonio on the River Walk.

The bambina and I on the Galveston Ferry.

Our friend (a theater professor, can you tell?) and I striking a very dramatic pose!

My little one and I at the Astros Race for the Pennant last year.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! J

So where am I now?

Get FINE in 2009

 Action Plan

Step 1

admitting I had a problem that I wanted to fix.   CHECK
Step 2
form an action plan to carry out that plan – CHECK
Step 3
get informed and acquire the knowledge that I would need to best tackle my problem – CHECK
Step 4
follow-through and WORKING MY BUTT OFF, no pun intended! – CHECK
Step 5
Continue to eat well and stay active to maintain the weight loss and live healthy from now on. – LIFE-LONG CONSTANT WORK IN PROGRESS…

Just in case you missed something:
PART ONE – to read about my Action Plan and see BEFORE pics, click here.
PART TWO – to read what I learned about getting healthy, click here.
PART THREE – to read about what I actually did to get healthy and drop the weight, click here.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lunch date, Olympic Opening Ceremonies and Late-night Pho

Yesterday was a great day, filled with great food!

I had lunch with two of my favorite people, my best friend Rachel and her mom, Dian who I call “Ma” because she is like a second mother to me.  I love spending time with these two ladies!  Whether it’s a road trip, early morning breakfast meet-up, or lunch or shopping date, they make the hours slip by like seconds!  I feel so comfortable with them and can let my hair down, so to speak, and be my real (crazy/dramatic/silly/random/OCD/sarcastic) self and they don’t even get scared away! 

We ate at Mi Luna, a Spanish Tapas restaurant, in Rice Village. 


Mi Luna is an old favorite, although I hadn’t eaten there in almost a year.  We ordered several Tapas, including some of my favs like Empanadas and goat cheese with marinara sauce and garlic toast, and beef kabob skewers over Saffron rice.  DELICIOUS!!!  It was Ma’s first time eating there and she really enjoyed the food.  Rach and I considered ordering some Sangrias but since it was only noon on a Friday, we decided to be good.  I regret that decision now, though; we totally should have done it.  I mean, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, right?!

After eating, we walked around the many shops in Village Arcade, which is famous for lots of little shops and restaurant.


I love this area and used to frequent it often when I lived inside the loop with some college roommates back when I first moved to Houston.  We shopped for clothes and makeup.  Rachel is THE person to shop with if you really want to get serious about it – she really knows her stuff!!  Shopping with her is like shopping with Stacy and Clinton from TLC’s “What Not To Wear,” which happens to be one of my favorite shows.  I may or may not follow both of them (and of course, Carmindy too) on Twitter.  #crazyfan


Shopping kind of turned out to be “window shopping” since neither one of us really bought anything.  I take that back, I did buy some body spray from Victoria’s Secret…but refrained from going crazy on the makeup (another obsession of mine!) even though we went to MAC and Sephora.  Hubs, aren't you proud of me? Man, I’ve come such a long way. #progress

Afterward, I came home and took a nap.  I have a CONFESSION to make: I slept through the Olympics Opening Ceremony even though my daughter kept trying to come and wake me up like I asked her to, and even though I was being a grumpy napper and shooing her away.  I finally woke up around 7:30, got dressed and went out and ran 2.6 miles in 24:39 minutes with a pace of 9:30min/mile.  #proud  #usuallyslowerbutnottodaysucka

After coming home and cleaning up, I was fortunate to catch the repeat of the Opening Ceremonies.  The Parade of Nations literally made me cry; I’m such a baby sometimes!  It’s just unfathomably amazing to me how the Olympics magically brings so many people from different cultures, backgrounds, languages, heritages, all together in one place at one time.  And for that one night, everyone is so united – and EVERYTHING else is put aside: language barriers, wars, civil unrests, and religious differences.  It’s all so absolutely incredible!  Of course, the next day things are different because the competition begins but for one magical night, all the rest falls away and is forgotten. 


I thought the ceremony was fantastic and loved all the little surprises they included.  Great job, London!!

While watching the ceremonies, my hubs came home from work and it was then that I realized 1. that I had not eaten since noon, and 2. that was almost 12 hours ago, and 2. no wonder I could feel a huge headache coming on.

The solution?  Late-night Pho.

We went to one of our favorite Vietnamese restaurants, Pho 24, since it stays open reaaaaaly late.  We love the atmosphere of the place, love how the owners always greet us like we’re their long-lost personal friends, and (of course) love the food!  The little one and I ordered our all-time favorite, the Pho Tai.  If you’ve never tried Pho, I encourage you to go out and try it TODAY!!  Pho, in case you are wondering, is a rice noodle soup with the most flavorable broth and meat.  I favor the steak, which is super-thinly sliced and served raw but actually cooks in the steaming hot broth while you stir it around a bit.

Pho, with the meat cooking in the broth.

I am convinced Pho is the cure for everything.  Or at least, it’s cured many of my ailments over the years.  Colds, body aches, tummy aches, hangovers (tried and true from my partying days!), Pho cures anything that aches!! 

Pho Tai once it's been sturred around.

The hubs ordered his favorite pork porridge stew.  We both got some sandwhiches too; I got the Chargrilled Pork and he got a fried egg and pate one.

Chargrilled Pork Bánh mì  (Sandwhich)

Hubby's food. Yum!!

Hubby getting his food ready.

Only this crazy little family does things like go for Pho at midnight on a Friday.  We are so random and I love it! 

Little one enjoying her Pho.  She's becoming a pro on the chopsticks!

I'm doing a happy dance on the inside.

One last thing I have to tell you about!  I downloaded the Instagram Collage app to my Ipod while we were at dinner.  (The restaurant even has free Wifi too, does it get any better?!?)

Late night Pho!

Having lots of fun playing with it!  Expect to see lots more collage pics like that one.  Kind of like all of the # you saw in this post!  J



Friday, July 27, 2012

How I lost 75 pounds - PART 3: What I did to lose the weight…

On my journey to losing 75 pounds, I learned quite a few things.  It was only after making the vow to get FINE in 2009 and learning about eating the right foods, calories in vs. out and portion control that I got my MIND healthy.  Now it was time to get the BODY healthy too.  And by body, I mean starting with my head and going all the way down to my feet!!


To get my body healthy, I took these 3 steps:

Step 1 changed my attitude

Step 2 changed my diet

Step 3 changed my physical activity 

In this post, I will explain these four things and how I went about doing them.

Just in case you missed them, here are the two previous posts in this series, PART ONE and PART TWO.

Step 1 I changed my attitude…

First, I had to get my head straight and change my attitude toward this whole “getting healthy” thing!!  I also had to make healthy living a habit that would stick with me, hopefully, for the rest of my life.  I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with myself (so to speak, but I definitely knew I was going to need His help too!) to get things straight with me.


I knew if this was ever actually going to work, I had to be patient.


Above all, I decided that if I was really going to do this, failure was not an option.  


So I completely changed my lifestyle.  Fortunate for me, I was blessed in the sense that my husband was 100% supportive and on-board because he wanted to get healthier too. 

When I say it was a LIFESTYLE CHANGE, I am not exaggerating!! 

I completely changed:
-         my attitude
-         the foods I ate
-         how I ate
-         the times I ate
-         the way I prepared the foods I ate, AND started writing down and keeping track of everything I ate, AND the amount of physical activity that I did (well…I went from zero to lots, basically)

Step 2  I changed my diet…

Honestly, it was the food part that had me the most worried.  I love to eat and knew that I would need to control this part the most.  So the first thing I did when I decided to get healthy was change my diet because I had heard 70% of weight loss was what you eat. 

So I started eating a more balanced diet.  I started eating more veggies, especially green ones because I had read all about the benefits of getting enough fiber.  I also upped my protein intake, and started drinking protein shakes and eating Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.  I was lifting weights at the gym and knew protein would help that muscle build faster and stronger, and I was looking forward to arms that didn’t jiggle! 

I started eating lean meats such as fish, chicken and ground turkey, and extra-lean cuts of steak and pork.  I added in whole grain breads, pastas, rice, and oats and discovered new things like quinoa and wheat berries.  I started drinking lots of water, and started taking vitamins, and watched my sugar intake. 

I started packing my lunch – and snacks – for work every day so that I wouldn’t be tempted to go get fast food during my lunch break or buy a sweet treat out of the vending machine in the Teacher’s Lounge.  Not only did I save my waistline I saved some money too! 

I was realistic, though, and implemented a “cheat day” every Sunday where I could still have the foods and treats that I wanted.  As time went by, though, and I started really assimilating my new way of eating, I found that I didn’t need the cheat days as often, and that I actually craved veggies!  Not only that, knowing how hard and how long I had to work to burn off that dessert, was the only deterrent I really needed! 

I continue these healthy habits to this day, and since healthy eating and exercise have become a part of my daily life, I don’t really ever even thing twice about them. 

Step 3 I changed my physical activity… 

 …or, started actually started working out.  That’s probably more accurate to say! J

I knew the working out part wouldn’t be too hard for me.  I had been an athlete for most of my life.  I knew that working out 3-4 times a week was for maintenance and 5-6 times a week was for weight loss.  I knew about creating a calorie deficit and that burning 3,500 calories would equal one pound lost.  I knew that high-impact cardio activity, coupled with weight training to build muscle and burn fat, was the best way to go.  I knew these things…but actually doing them would be a whole other story!


I wish I could say that the first thing I did was check with my doctor (as any good fitness pro will tell you to do) to make sure I was physically ready and able to launch my 5-6 times a week high-impact/vigorous cardio activity routine. But I didn’t.  Matter of fact my first time back to the gym I did a Step class and just about died.  Almost, but not quite. J


I wish I could say the next thing I did was go out and invest in cute new workout clothes and some good-quality cross training shoes.  But I didn’t.  Matter of fact, I used old gym clothes and hand-me-down Nikes.

I wish I could say that I did the smart thing and slowly and cautiously eased into a workout routine so as not to harm my body or injure myself.  But I didn’t.  Matter of fact, my first week back to the gym (after seven years of very little physical activity) I went six days in a row, and ended up doing Step classes, Zumba classes, and Body Pump.  I’m a “full monty” kinda person.  I almost did because the classes were crazy hard…but I kept at it.


Here’s what I DID do:

1. I bought a heart-rate monitor to start tracking calories burned and learned all about my heart-rate zones!  To read more about this, click here. 

2. I figured out approximate calories burned in the different exercises that I was doing.  I really wanted to know so that I could keep track of calories in vs. out (and know when I could eat a little more!).  I used the website NutriStrategy to help me, but there are a couple more that you could also use, here and here.

3. I became a gym rat and started working out ALL THE TIME!!  I did a variety of different types of workouts so I wouldn’t get bored: step aerobics, spinning, Pliates, body pump…and later added Zumba and running.


And I knew, from past experience, that after the first couple of weeks of panting, dying, and wanting to quit, my body would adjust and the physical part would get easier more manageable.   


I started working out in March and by July I had dropped about 20 pounds.  I worked out all summer and by the beginning of the next year (2010) had dropped another 20.  By now I had lost about 40 pounds in a little less than a year.  One thing I noticed is that the weight was coming off a lot more slowly now (that I was 30) than it had when I was 22 and had lost all of that weight when I first moved to Houston.  I continued to workout and weight train and maintained my weight loss because of this, but also because by now I had learned how to eat.  That summer I hit it hard at the gym, working out twice a day and really concentrating on my weight-training program. 


Because of this, I lost another 20 pounds.  It was shortly after that that I hit a plateau and felt like it was time to kick it up a notch.  That’s when I started running.  By the end of 2010, I had run two more 5Ks and a 5 miler.  I ran six more races in the Spring of 2011, and dropped another 15 pounds. 



So here I am now, three years and 75 pounds lighter.  I have lost body fat, gained muscle, am healthier than I have ever been, feel better than I’ve ever felt, eat better than I’ve ever eaten…and I’m a runner!  I finally got my mojo back…and worked darn hard to find it…so I am not about to do anything to jeopardize it! J  I wish I could say it’s been an easy journey but I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I did.

So where am I now?

Get FINE in 2009

 Action Plan

Step 1

admitting I had a problem that I wanted to fix.   CHECK
Step 2
form an action plan to carry out that plan – CHECK
Step 3
get informed and acquire the knowledge that I would need to best tackle my problem – CHECK
Step 4
follow-through and WORKING MY BUTT OFF, no pun intended! – CHECK
Step 5
maintain the weight loss so that I stay healthy from now on. …still to come


***Stay tuned for Part 4, the last post in the series, where I share my AFTER pictures and talk about what I do to stay healthy and maintain the weight loss.***