For the first time in 10 years, I woke up happy today with my weight. I'm totally, entirely, completely happy. It's been a long and steady and slow process, but I've lost 30 pounds, got toned, and got healthy. I also lowered my resting heart rate from about 85 bpm to 38 bpm. I'm posting this under the mini-goals because I'm still about 5 lbs away from actually reaching my true goal, plus I want to tone my arms the way I've toned up my abs. Amazingly, I can actually see a six-pack-ish kind of shape to my stomach (with good lighting, of course).
My method: 1300 to 1400 calories a day and a ton of exercise. I work out at least 2 hours per day. I jog, take speedy uphill hikes, yoga, and private pilates 3 times a week.
Biggest food change: portion control. I always ate very well/healthy, but I ate a lot and often. And I had a love affair with cheese. My first few weeks doing calorie counting were brutal. I honestly thought I was doing it wrong because there did not seem to be any way a human could live on such a small amount of food. I even got a new food scale because I thought my old one must be broken. The portions seemed so so SO tiny! I would blow my daily calorie budget by mid morning and then have to starve the rest of the day. It took me about 2 months to figure out how to spread out my calories. Now I feel the opposite! I can't imagine eating as much food as I used to eat. There are many days I have to force myself to eat something before going to bed so that I don't under-eat. Under-eating is something I would have never, ever, in a million years thought I'd struggle with...but I do.
Biggest surprise: I can't be sedentary. I need exercise. The fact I just typed those sentences is amazing. I was the biggest, laziest slouch. I would go months without proper exercise. Now I can hardly skip a day. Most days I work out twice. I do not "eat back" the calories I burn exercising, but on the rare days I do 3 hours of exercise, I'll up my calories to 1500.
Tech Gadget: I used My Fitness Pal to count calories and record my weight. It's a free app download on my droid. I used it faithfully for months and it was very helpful.
Foods I can't live without: Fage 0% greek yogurt, kashi lean, and splenda.
Cheat days: I don't have cheat days. Personally I didn't need them because I don't crave sugar or fried foods. I never ate badly - I got fat because I was sedentary and ate too much. Everyone is different, but for me a cheat day would have really messed me up. My goal was to change what I thought of as a normal amount of food.
Pharmacological Help: Even though I don't have cheat days or cheat meals, I do love a little bit extra cheese now and then and because I travel a lot, I can't always be totally in control of what I eat. For the meals I eat at restaurants or for the times I added a little extra cheese, I took an Alli (aka. Xenical) tablet. It helps absorb some of the fat and minimizes the damage a restaurant meal can cause to the daily calorie budget.
Plateaus: I've had months of plateaus, probably because I was exercising so much and not eating enough. I'm not really sure why I didn't lose weight faster considering that I ate very on-plan and was very active. In hindsight, I probably should have taken a diet break and eaten more but I liked the consistency of 1300-1400 calories a day and didn't want to adjust. I stopped being bothered by my plateaus (bothered me a little, of course) because I really saw this as a permanent change and I was confident that in the long term I'd reach my goal. I didn't see weight loss as a race so time wasn't an issue.
Photos: Oh I wish had taken more photos!! I have no true before photos because I avoided the camera. The before photos here are at about 175 lbs. I'm wearing the same jeans in both photos.