After what seemed like an interminable amount of time towards the end, my body fat loss contest is over. I didn’t win (though it looked like I actually had a chance towards the end), but I was very happy with my results. The winner was calculated by who had the highest percentage loss divided by their starting percentage. Since my starting body fat percentage was 33.7, that’s a pretty big number to divide by. I did actually lose the highest percentage of body fat, but the calculation put me in third place.

Looking back, I had some pretty lofty goals as to what I wanted to achieve. I hit my target for overall weight loss and then some, and was very close to my non-stretch goal for percentage body fat. I did lose nearly a pound of lean body mass as well, as I found first hand what is true for most people – it is extremely difficult to both lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. But of my weight lost, less than 10% was lean body mass – and over 90% was fat. So not bad at all.

Here are my starting, goal, and actual stats:

height: 5′ 3+3/4″
weight: 140 lbs
lean body mass: 92.9 lbs
fat body mass: 47.1 lbs
percentage body fat: 33.7%

Main Goal / Stretch Goal:
weight: 134 lbs / 132 lbs
lean body mass: 94.9 lbs / 97.4 lbs
fat body mass: 39.1 / 34.6 lbs
percentage body fat: 29.2% / 26.2 %

weight: 130.4 lbs ==>  -9.6 lbs
lean body mass: 92 lbs ==>  -0.9 lbs
fat body mass: 38.4 lbs ==>  -8.7 lbs
percentage body fat: 29.4% ==>  -4.3%

When I started out, I think my daily calories were too low, and I was restricting myself from indulgences too much. I didn’t make wonderful progress to start. The changes that resulted in finally moving in the right direction consistently were 1) eating more calories, 2) adding some more indulgent foods back in, 3) more ‘natural movement’ workouts (walks and hikes instead of cardio machines), and 4) longer workouts. Once I made these tweaks, things started happening. I know that graphs aren’t typical fare on a food blog, but I am a physics major/career software test engineer, so I found these quite interesting. All of these graphs are a 7-day rolling average, with polynomial trendlines added. You can see very clearly how when my caloric intake increased, and I started to increase the duration of my exercise (also burning more calories), my weight started to go down. The exercise graphs look a little wonky, but I think the reason is that whenever I did long hikes, the calories and duration were way up there (most of the hikes I did have an average grade of 10-20%, so they burn quite a few calories). And on weeks that I did more weightlifting, the calories and duration were lower.

Daily Calories
Note: My scale showed me 1.4 lbs heavier than the ‘official’ scale did. Hence the ending rolling average weight of about 132 in the graph below.


Exercise Duration

Calories Burned

So, the bottom line conclusions that I’ve drawn from the experience: If you try something for several weeks, and it’s not working, shake things up a bit. No one thing works for everyone. You have to find what works for you. And often that means varying things fairly often! Find whatever exercise(s) you enjoy doing and will keep doing. If something doesn’t feel natural (like a lot of cardio machines), then you probably want to limit your time doing that, or better yet, find something else. And lastly, eat healthily, and don’t eat too much, but don’t deny yourself completely from having something fun once in a while. It will keep you going without feeling like you’re sacrificing everything. And remember – tomorrow is a new day, you can start over as often as you need to. Just don’t quit!


I’m just about done with week ten of my summer body fat loss contest. And I’m kind of ready for it to be over. But there’s about three weeks and a couple of days left. I had started to get kind of discouraged after hitting a plateau for several weeks, so I decided to make a few changes, just to shake things up a little.

First I decided to be a little more lenient on what I eat during the week. I started letting myself have some good chocolate a couple or even a few times a week. I stopped focusing so much on how many grams of fat and protein I was eating, and just looked at the over-all calories. (Since it’s become ingrained over the past couple of decades for me to eat lower fat and mostly non-processed foods, I just depended on that to keep the fat down, and I knew I was still getting more protein from the yogurt, cottage cheese, and lean meats that I continue to eat regularly).

For exercise, I was getting tired of my lower back being sore after a good cardio workout at the gym, so I decided to try switching to more intense ‘actual’ activities like more hiking and longer walks. As a result, my back has definitely appreciated not being subjected to repetitive movements on equipment that doesn’t seem well suited for my body mechanics. (Of course in the winter when it gets dark right after work, I’ll be back in the gym doing this, but it’s summer right now!)

Cragmoor-Hardscrabble Trail

Cragmoor-Hardscrabble Trail

After making these changes for a couple of weeks, I’m finding it’s a little easier to keep motivated about the contest (but I’m still ready for it to be over), and I’m a bit more pleased with my current results to date. If I can trust what my scale told me this morning, I’ve lost six pounds, and about three and a half percent body fat. I took my measurements and compared them against ones I took sometime early this year or late last year, and I am down 4+3/4 inches when I add what I’ve lost for bust/waist/hips. So THAT definitely makes me happy.

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon

So three more weeks, and then I can get back to doing more of a food blog than a diet and exercise reporting blog. But I am planning to keep many changes I’ve made overall. So 22 more days! Look for a final body fat loss report after August 20th.

Fern Canyon to Bear Peak

Fern Canyon to Bear Peak

I’m at about week 8 in my summer body fat loss contest, and to be honest, have pretty much been on a plateau for the past month. (Actually my weight has kind of gone up and down by two pounds for a couple weeks, so that’s been more of a roller coaster – today it’s down about 4 lbs from the start. But my body fat loss seems to be staying at around 2.5%.) Definitely not as good I was hoping for. At all. But I’ve had some issues with recurring lower back pain for multiple days at a time, and may actually have been over-training (as improbable as that seems for what I’ve been doing compared to a lot of my fellow Boulderites!).

So at this point, I’m going for a bit more weight and body fat loss over the next five weeks, but am mainly focusing on how my clothes do feel a bit looser, my resting heart rate has lowered, and I discovered that I CAN actually still do the hikes that I did back when I was in college.

I do feel better eating more fruits and vegetables, and more lean protein like fish, chicken breast, fat-free cottage cheese, and fat-free Greek yogurt. I have several things that have become new staples, such my go-to dessert of a peach, fat-free Greek yogurt, and either All-Bran or Kashi Go Lean.

Peach, Yogurt and Kashi Go Lean Cinnamon Crisp

Peach, Yogurt, and Cinnamon Crisp Kashi Go Lean

I also frequently eat a modified Fattousch salad (romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, olive oil, red vinegar, sumac, parsley, mint, and aleppo pepper).

Modified Fattousch Salad

Modified Fattousch Salad

And nothing makes you feel healthier than building a salad with nothing but vegetables and no-oil balsamic dressing at Whole Foods. They say that the more colors represented in your salad, the healthier. When I was a kid my salads were all iceberg green-white and then brown and orange with croutons and cheese. These days I really do enjoy the vibrancy of a truly healthy salad.

Salad form Whole Foods

Salad form Whole Foods

I have become a bit more relaxed in my eating rules (in addition to my one meal splurge a week), so that once in a while I can have some sprouted flax-seed bread French Toast with blueberries.

Sprouted Flax Seed French Toast with Blueberries

Sprouted Flax Seed French Toast with Blueberries

And to finish the post, here are some pictures from those hikes I mentioned!

Mt. Sanitas

Hike on Mt. Sanitas

Hiking in Shanahan Ridge

Hiking Shanahan Ridge

Hiking Fern Canyon Trail

Hiking Fern Canyon Trail

Tomorrow will be four weeks in my body fat loss contest. It’s still going well, and this time I actually have some decent results to show for it. I have a body fat scale at home, and while they aren’t completely accurate, I ‘calibrated’ mine to the best of my ability the day the contest started, so I’m treating it as if it always measures an average of 1.35% lower than it should. So I weigh a few times to get the same measurement twice (usually only 2-3 times), and then add 1.35%.

Taking all of these measurements with a grain of salt since they are all using a home scale, as of one day before the official 4 week mark, I have lost 3.8 lbs, and about 2.45% body fat. My calculations show that I’ve lost just under 4.6 lbs of fat and gained just under 0.8 lb of lean mass. I’m very pleased with the fat loss, but the lean body mass gain is much less than I was hoping for. I’m a bit over halfway down to the total weight I want to be, and don’t want to go lower for both bone density and maintainability reasons. So that means I need to kick up the muscle building a bit. The reading I have done tells me that, horrifyingly to the average American woman, this requires eating more calories than you burn. Because your body needs extra fuel to build muscle. Logically that makes sense. You are adding weight, it’s just a different kind than you normally add when you overeat dessert or snack foods while not working out. But it’s still a pretty unnerving thing after all the lifelong mental conditioning for losing weight – especially to a person who has struggled with their weight. So I’ve got some more balancing to figure out for the next couple of months.

A couple days during week three, I felt as if I had a lot of extra energy. I was hoping that would continue, but sadly, during week four, which was a busy week schedule-wise, that surplus energy feeling went away. And my sense that semi-sweetened yogurt tastes sweet on its own has lessened, which I find somewhat odd.

My workouts have consisted of a full body weight lifting session three days a week, two days of harder cardio training, with seven to eight one minute all-out/two minute recovery intervals, with a five minute break and then 20-30 minutes of more steady cardio, and then a day where I just take a long walk. I’m still struggling with feeling like my lower body has recovered enough to handle the squats and lunges I do, but the rest of my weight lifting is going well. I’m concentrating on only doing about six reps at higher weight in the interest of building muscle mass over muscle endurance. Diet-wise, I’m still eating whole foods with no refined ingredients (aside from protein bars or shakes), but giving myself one meal a week where I eat out and split a dessert.

Bring on weeks 5-13!

I’m two weeks into my three-month body fat loss contest at this point, and it’s gone pretty well so far in terms of diet and exercise. (I’ve only lost one pound, but I kind of expected that things would start slowly for me.)  The food modifications haven’t really been that big a deal, aside from having to quash the occasional flash of ‘Hey, I should stop for gelato!’ as I drive past the Glacier Ice Cream near my house. I think my week of eating real food was a good warm-up.  With a few exceptions I’ve had pretty much no refined sugars, no refined flour, and no nutritionally devoid foods. My worst offenses have been five Diet Cokes in the past two weeks, the awesome tasting protein bars I discovered, and half a slice of vegan carrot cake the night we went out to dinner at Leaf.

And yet I really don’t feel I’m missing much. I have rediscovered how pleasurable a whole food ites can be when it is fresh and there isn’t much else to detract from it. A cup of organic blueberries, a third of a cup of All Bran Buds and a cup of fat-free Greek yogurt makes a really tasty breakfast. I remember now why I love bulgur wheat so much – it’s got such a great nutty flavor and is actually pretty satisfying. Mixed with some shredded chicken breast, or an ounce and a half of avocado, it’s really quite awesome for lunch. My dinners really didn’t change much, as I’ve always tended to make dishes with a large amount of vegetables, and nothing refined or processed. But gone are the low-fat ice cream sandwiches, low-fat high fiber bagels made with a ton of additives, cinnamon toast cereal (even though its organic, I’m not sure it’s really a positive nutritional item), and even bits of chocolate bars (I still get some chocolate from my protein bars). And what I’ve found really interesting is, now that I’m not eating as much sweet stuff, that Yoskos honey and blueberry yogurt that I always thought was too sour tastes SWEET!

A couple of differences I have introduced to my diet is more fat (I was probably hovering between 10% and 15% of calories from fat – now I’m aiming for closer to 20%), as well as a lot more protein. I’m finding a lot of references to over 100 grams of protein per day for a woman my size trying to build muscle, but that tends to be about 40% of my calories (which seem to average between 1500 and 1700), which is just a bit higher than I’d like it to be. So I’m still working on balancing that. CORRECTION: I had somehow gotten it into my head that a gram of protein was 7 calories, when it is in fact 4 calories. So 100 grams of protein actually turns out to be about 23% of my calories. Which I am just fine with. My fruit and vegetable count is way up (about 8 servings a day, which is fine by me!), but my grains are down to around 4, which I’d really like to increase a bit by taking the protein down a tad. So I’m still trying to balance things nutritionally. I’ve included lists of the foods I’ve been eating for the past two weeks, organized by type, at the end of this post.

Workout-wise, I went back to the rec center and got a 40-punch pass so I could start lifting more serious weights. While I was there I sampled some of the new cardio machines, and remembered why I used to work out at the gym before I had a bad bout of tendonitis in my knee. I can burn a lot more calories in a much larger variety of ways at the gym than I can at home or just through walking. So I’ve been doing interval training (40-60 seconds all-out then 80-120 seconds at an easy pace, repeated 5-7 times), plus some extra more steadily-paced cardio. I had a bit of a setback on my upper body weight lifting when I neglected to notice that the assisted pull-up machine was set on zero pounds instead of 76 pounds, as it was the first time I used it. I ended up pretty much taking my full weight with some torque on my right shoulder in a failed attempt at a triceps dip. It hurt worse every day for four days, but I resolved the issue a bit by making an appointment with an orthopedist. (Not actually going to the appointment, just making it, and then riding the ‘things always get better as soon as you make an appointment to see a doctor after agonizing over whether to make one or not’ phenomenon.) So it’s still a tad bit wonky, but I took 10 days off, and it seems fairly usable again as long as I avoid some specific exercises. My goal with lifting is to do full-body workouts that will focus on the largest muscle groups, since that’s where a person can make the most gains. This weekend I finally felt brave enough to try weighted squats without the Smith Machine (using an 18 lb body bar), and discovered, much to my surprise, that I’m not as bad as I thought I would be. And I finally gave in and decided I would add lunges to my workouts. (I really hate lunges.)

Fruits & Vegetables
Acorn Squash
Bell Pepper
Bing Cherries
Green Beans
Tomato Sauce

Barramundi (fish)
Chicken Breast
Eggs (Duck, Chicken)
Fat Free Greek Yogurt
Low fat Cheddar Cheese
Neufchatel Cheese
Protein Bars (Pure Protein and Detour Lean Muscle)

All Bran Buds
Flax and Whole Wheat Pasta
Sprouted Grain Bread
Wheetabix (cereal)

Starchy Vegetables
Sweet Potato

Butter (just 1/2 Tbsp for cooking eggs)
Olive Oil

Balsamic Vinegar
Diet Coke (yeah, couldn’t help it)
Honey (for salad dressing)
Low Sodium Chicken Stock
Black, Urfa, Aleppo peppers

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