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Diet  |   Exercise  |   Vitamins  |   Improper Beds




Two years ago I weighed 25 pounds more than I do now. I repeat: I have lost 25 pounds!
I’m going to tell you how I did it, but I must say that I am not a doctor. I am also neither a dietician nor a nutritionist.
I am merely someone who researched methods and found the best way for me.

11 years ago, we made an extreme change in life style, and moved to a house with no stairs, no leaves to rake, and no snow to shovel. I gained three pounds immediately. Then I sat, chained to a desk, playing a corporate accountant for several years, during which time one of my social outlets was going out lunch. The combination of eating and sitting lead me to gain another 18(!) pounds. Over the next several years, my weight crept up another 4 pounds.

The National Institute of Health indicates that for my height (5’5’’), I should weigh between 111 and 150. At my largest, I weighed 151, and felt fat. I went to see my doctor, (whom I almost didn’t recognize because she’d lost 45 pounds using the HGC hormone, which I would have loved to have tried, but the cost of $600 was prohibitive for me at the time.) I wanted to feel normal again, and to increase my stamina and flexibility. Since my parents both had had open-heart surgery, I figured that it was a good idea to get my heart in shape, too. So, two and a half years ago, I joined the gym.

Counting calories was the backbone of my weight loss. I started with portion control, and yes, that is certainly key, but I got frustrated when I didn’t feel full. So, I started eating low calorie, fat-free food.

diet spreadsheet

I weigh myself every day - you have to, in order to keep track. I’m also a Microsoft Excel freak, so I made up a spreadsheet that calculated my rate of loss and predicted when I’d reach my goal

At breakfast, I have a bowl of cereal and coffee, with skim milk on it and in it, respectively.

For lunch, I make an omelet. The liquid eggs are more expensive than eggs in the shell, but they’re quicker to make, there’s no saturated fat, and there’s less clean-up, so sometimes I buy them instead of real eggs. I put cinnamon on my omelet because I read that it regulates blood sugar, and that it promotes weight loss. I found that to be true. I lost the most weight on days that I had cinnamon on my egg. I load the omelet with a half of a sliced banana (for potassium) or other sliced fruit. I buy packaged salad toppings of dried fruit and nuts and sprinkle a tablespoon of that on my egg. I either have that sweet and delicious omelet, or I have a savory one made with sliced peppers and seasoned with chili powder. Omelets provide a filling lunch that I enjoy nearly every day.

For dinner, I have very little starch, preferring to eat a lot of vegetables with whatever meat we choose. We eat a lot of chicken, pork and fish. Throughout this past year, we started eating turkey burgers and meatballs instead of beef. I have red meat once every couple of months. (I probably could be a vegetarian if no one else were around to influence my diet.)

I eat yogurt for dessert. I love it.

Beverages add a lot of hidden calories - especially alcoholic bevies. I drink tea or water during the day, now. I used to have glass of wine and/or a nice shot of Jim Beam with gingerale in the evenings. Now I pour a glass of water and lightly flavor it with wine or whiskey a couple of times a night. A bottle of wine now lasts me well over a week.

Logically, if I eat less, I don’t have to buy as much food, and I can spend the savings on healthier, higher quality items.

I love bread. If there were a loaf of bread in the house, I would eat it, so I simply do not buy it anymore. (This may be difficult for people who have to consider others in their house. People who love you should understand that you want to be the healthiest you can be so that you can take care of them.) On the occasion that I do eat bread, it sits in my stomach and my next day’s weight is higher. I don’t shop when I’m hungry. I do not have foods in the house that add unnecessary calories that will convert to excess weight. I eat a small slice of birthday cake when it’s someone’s birthday, otherwise I don’t eat cake. But, I don’t feel deprived. I go to Starbucks and get a mini vanilla scone now and then. That’s 120 calories. I buy Sunkist Dark Chocolate Plum Sweets - delicious little 4-calorie nuggets, and eat two of them to satisfy sweet-tooth cravings.

diet chart

I gave myself a year to lose 20 pounds. The blue is the daily recording. The purple straight line is the trendline.
The gap in the chart is for the 5-week period that I was away from home.   -AEL

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I’ve read everywhere that walking is the best thing you can do for your body. I diligently walked miles and miles on the moronic treadmill and through my neighborhood, and as far as I know, it didn’t do one good thing for me. Nothing. — My weight didn’t change, my stamina didn’t change, and my knees ached.

When I joined the gym, I started doing yoga for an hour with an instructor in a group class. This form of yoga was not an aerobic workout, but it strengthened my body and mind and increased my flexibility. I could barely touch my toes when I started, but now I can put my head to my flattened knees with palms on the floor and can bend in ways I never thought I could. It feels good. I’ve been going to yoga twice a week ever since.

Although I benefitted from yoga, I didn’t lose any significant weight (5 pounds) for a year and a half until I started taking a spin class. The first time I tried it, I thought I might not make it through the hour. My knee was unstable due to an old ACL tear (I’m a mess!) and I couldn’t get myself off the seat for the sprints. At the end, the people in the class applauded my effort (how embarrassing!) It took three or four times before my heart responded to the exercise and I could keep up with the class. I started going once a week and the weight started creeping off.

Finally, I wanted to kick up my exercise to add one more hour of cardio and a half hour of strength training per week, so I could keep my heart and muscles strong. I added an hour on the elliptical machine per week, and mimicked the interval training of the spin class, which pumps the heart up and then allows it time to recover. So now I’m up to two hours of yoga, two hours of aerobics, and a half hour of weights, for a total of four and a half hours per week, which is really not a lot, but it really makes me feel good!   -AEL

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I take a shot glass full of vitamins every morning. I spent a lot of time researching what I ought to take to keep me the healthiest. Different vitamins and minerals come in different forms.

This is what I take:

    Calcium Citrate - My doctor says this is the most absorbable form.
    Magnesium Asporotate - Again, my doctor says this is the best form. It makes my body run more efficiently, and helps the absorption of calcium.
    Vitamin B complex - This stress reliever and energy provider contains the B Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, folic acid, and B12.
    Vitamin C - Taking 1,000 mg per day keeps me from getting sick. I’ve had one cold in the last three years, and it was brief. (It didn’t stop me from getting the flu, though.)
    Vitamin D3 - One of my favorites, Vitamin D also helps with calcium absorption and keeps my bones and skin healthy. Even the conservative NIH admits that "there are indications" that correct doses of Vitamin D prevent certain cancers.
    Vitamin E - Another of my favorites, this one - an antioxidant - makes me feel healthy.
    CoQ-10 - I take this twice a week for heart health.
    Selenium - It’s another antioxidant that I take on the days I don’t take the CoQ-10, because they don’t work well together. It attacks free-radicals.
    Omega-3 Fish Oil - This keeps my heart, skin, bones and internal organs healthy.
    Lutein - I take this three times a week to regulate the blood pressure in my eyes, which was high a couple of years back, and now it’s normal.

    Again, I reiterate that I am not a health professional. These things are what I believe make me feel my best. Check with your own doctor for dosage recommendations that are right for you.

    I have a lot of energy and I urge everyone to improve their health!  -AEL

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Ann’s Waterbed

I’ve been sleeping in a waterbed for over 20 years, and wouldn’t dream of ever going back to a regular mattress (even though a doctor once told me to "Get a proper bed!") For me, it is the most comfortable sleep surface imaginable.

We bought a split mattress that has separate heat controls, because I like it warmer than my husband does. Ours is also virtually motionless because I was afraid that if I were in the bed before him and he got in, that a wave would take me out and over the other side. This is certainly something to consider when you're buying a waterbed mattress. The other is how warm you want your bed to be. The waterbed heaters are placed under the mattress. The more fiber inside the mattress (that restricts the motion) the more depth the heat has to travel through to keep you warm. So, there's a decision to be made when buying the waterbed mattress: Do you want less motion, and a consistent, but never too warm temperature, or more motion and toastier feet on cold nights.

Sleeping in a waterbed took some doing. The first three nights we wondered if we had made a mistake in buying it. It was a long process to set up. It was difficult to get in and out of and a struggle to roll over on, but once we figured out the techniques, we loved it.

Maintenance of a waterbed is not the same as a dry mattress. Making the bed requires more finesse and special waterbed sheets. We’ve replaced our mattresses only once because they sprouted leaks. But, on other occasions we’ve made repairs. There’s no more of a sinking feeling than getting into a wet bed and knowing you’ll have to sleep on the couch for the night – and that you may have to drain the bed to find the leak, and then patch it, refill the mattress and wait for the water to heat up before you can get back in.   -AEL

Sunnie’s Hammock

A while ago, I wrote an article (a rather long one) for HfC about how I sleep in a hammock. And it was up for a while, and it got revised several times, and for a while I was ok with it, but recently, I started to think about taking it down. It’s just weird to announce to the wide, wide internet that you sleep in a different way from everyone else. And it made me kind of uncomfortable to know that that particular, rather private information was out there.

But HfC is supposed to be a website for things that are awesome but maybe not super conventional. And when I was trying to figure out what hammock to get, and whether I should actually do it at all, there just wasn’t that much info available. And there are a lot of reasons why I sleep in a hammock, the biggest being that it is ridiculously comfortable. So I don’t really want to take this article down. Even though it makes me sound weird. I am weird‐ I sleep in a hammock. And I like it.

Hammock weaveThe Plus Side to Sleeping in a Hammock:

‐‐‐It’s comfortable.

I used to sleep on a very decent mattress. And every morning, my back hurt. It hurt all the time. Now, I’m in relatively good shape, and I’m not very old, but this back thing has been a real problem for a long time. I can’t say that the hammock has solved all of that‐ if I sit in front of the laptop for long enough, my back hurts, and that’s all there is to it. But the first morning after I slept in my hammock‐ no ache. I felt freaking awesome. And it’s been that way ever since‐ I hurt way less. Let me lie on a mattress for a few hours, and that pain comes back, but it doesn’t happen in the hammock.

Not only does my back feel better, but I just find that hammock really comfy, otherwise. I fall asleep, and most nights, I am out. I seem to sleep much better in the hammock than I ever did in a traditional bed. It did take some getting used to‐ I tossed and turned a lot that first night, and despite how much better I felt, physically, in the morning, I didn’t feel super rested. But after a couple nights, I got used to it, and now I don’t really ever want to go back.

‐‐‐It saves space.

I live with my parents (this is probably much more reason to think I’m strange than the fact that I sleep in a hammock.) I have a lot of space, for still living in the house I grew up in, but the fact is that most of my life is crammed into one room. By the time I got my hammock, I simply did not have room in my bedroom for a bed anymore. I needed the floor space. And the wall space. The books, man. They take precedence. So the idea of having a bed that I could fold up and tuck into a very, very small space every morning was more than appealing. And I still love that about my hammock. It goes away every morning, and I have all that room.

‐‐‐It’s cool‐ temperature wise.

I live in Arizona. It’s hot. The idea of a hammock, with that nice weave that lets air circulate, was pretty appealing. If you live in a hot climate, maybe it’d be a good idea for you, too. Unfortunately, this did not really work out like I planned… More on this in the hammock downsides.

‐‐‐It makes you feel like a pirate.

Enough said.

‐‐‐It’s cheap.

My hammock cost about $60 all together. I use a pillow, pillow case and a comforter. No sheets. No bed frame. No box spring or new mattresses.

The Downsides to Hammocks:

‐‐‐People think you’re weird.

We’ve covered this, I think. You get weird looks, and people insist on telling you it’s bad for your back even though a) they are not doctors, b) they have never slept in a hammock, and c) you know it feels better on your back. Smiling and nodding is your best bet on this. Remember that they don’t know what they’re missing. They’re probably jealous.

‐‐‐Hanging them is a bitch. Hammock hook

Find the studs and make damn sure they can support you. I had my dad hang mine and I was pretty confident in it because he’s a genius when it comes to doing this kind of thing right. Still, he himself wondered if my walls would come down, and I slept with a mattress under me for a few weeks, just in case the bolts pulled out of the wall. (This makes me sound very heavy. I’m… not. But you just can’t be sure how much the walls can hold, so be careful.)

You can get a hammock hanging kit, or, if you know what you’re doing, some super sturdy hooks, which is what we did. Mount them evenly and high enough and far enough apart so that the hammock doesn’t touch the floor. Hammocks stretch, so you’re going to want to mount it pretty high. I’m five foot two and the hooks for my hammock are a few inches over my head. I had to stand on a stepstool to get into the hammock for a little while, before it stretched enough, but now it’s perfect.

‐‐‐Two people would be awkward.

I’m single. I sleep alone. Supposedly, if you get a wide enough hammock, you can put two people in it, but… you’d really have to like that person. I don’t use spreader bars in my hammock, so it kind of curls around me and throws everything‐ me, the pillow, the blanket‐ into the middle. If I slept with another person, I can’t imagine how we wouldn’t be completely crammed together.

Also, I probably wouldn’t want to… hmm… do the horizontal tango in a hammock. I would be seriously afraid all the movement would cause it to come out of the wall. Just saying.

‐‐‐It’s cool‐ temperature wise.

So, like I said above, it seems like a great idea that you get such awesome air circulation. Until the A/C kicks on, or the heat’s not quite enough, and your bum freezes. And it does. If you’re sleeping without any air conditioning in a hot environment, I imagine you’d be quite comfortable. But I freeze. So I fold a comforter in half and lie on half of it, with the other half over me. And I’m very comfortable. As much as I’d love to not have to do this… I just do.

‐‐‐You can roll out…?

This isn’t really a downside, because I think you’d have to try really, really hard to do that. I was concerned about getting in and out of my hammock when I first got it, because I’d never actually been in a hammock before. But it’s very easy, and once you get the hang of it, it’s like getting in and out of bed. And since it does curl around me, I’ve never been afraid of falling out. I roll over, too, and no falling out has happened. You’d have to lean way over the side and actually attempt to toss yourself out to make that happen. (If you had spreader bars, I have a feeling throwing yourself out of the hammock might be substantially easier, but I’m not positive.)

To get into the hammock, just an aside‐ the first couple times, you want to sit on the edge, grab the opposite side and pull it kind of up over your shoulders, and then roll backwards. You won’t need to do this forever, but it’s easier at first.

Types of Hammocks:

When I was looking for a hammock, I came across a ton of different styles, but there were three that seemed to be both the most popular, as well as readily available. They were‐

‐‐‐Brazilian Hammocks.

These hammocks usually have a thick weave and are made with denser thread, so they’re warmer, which, thinking back, might have been nice. But they also usually have fringe and I am not so fond of fringe. And my cats are a bit too fond of it. So that was out, for me.

‐‐‐Nicaraguan Hammocks.

These are kind of an in‐between hammock when it comes to weave‐ they have a dense weave and are considered to be very durable. Apparently, the weave makes snagging easier. (Snagging is a pain in the ass. You never want to wear jeans or anything that can catch in the hammock. One of the first things that I did was snag my hammock, and I could never get that particular piece of the weave to go back right, and now there’s a bit of an odd spot that wears faster. Don’t snag your hammock.)

‐‐‐Mayan Hammocks.

These hammocks use thin thread and a pattern that looks intricate but is, apparently, pretty simple. The thread is soft, and because of the weave, it’s generally the least expensive hammock style. They compress down, are washable, come in a bunch of colors… This is the type of hammock I went with.

What to Look for When You’re Buying:

When you’re buying a hammock, it’s a common rule of thumb to buy the biggest one that can fit in the space you have. And, aside from weave and color, that’s pretty much all you have to look for. I bought a medium hammock online. It was supposed to be about five feet across (which I think it is) and about eight or nine feet long‐ which it isn’t. It’s about twelve feet, I think, and I have to stretch it all the way across my room. So, for one person of my height, I probably could have done with a small hammock. But it ended up working out well.

You can also choose spreader bars‐ I wasn’t interested‐ and, if you’re not sure about your walls’ strength, a frame, which is just a metal frame that sits on the floor and holds the hammock. Again, this defeated a lot of the purpose of the hammock, so I didn’t even look into it. You can also get ’spreader pillows’ which are kind of stiff, long pillows that act as spreaders. I just use a regular bed pillow, and it spreads the area around my head enough that I’m perfectly comfortable.

So. I’m weird. I sleep in a hammock. People give me the side eye when I tell them, if I tell them. Now the whole internet can give me that look. But I like the hammock and that’s all there is to it.   -SEL

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