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!

Handling breakfast and lunch for the Body Fat Loss Contest I’m taking part in this summer has been relatively simple. I make large batches of healthy items like bulgur or boiled chicken breast ahead of time, then pack that along with fruit, vegetables, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other items to take to work. But dinners take a little more planning, since it’s not just myself eating. I’ve done scrambled eggs with sautéed pea tendrils, whole wheat flax pasta and tomato sauce with clams, meatloaf made with antelope or bison, and a few other healthy standbys. This past week I planned one meal short, so needed something to make Friday night that wouldn’t take too much effort, because after a tiring week the last thing I wanted to do was spend a long time cooking.

Enter the frozen barramundi we get from Costco. (I’ve been reading recently about imported seafood, and the lack of inspection done as part of importing. My husband has done some reading on Costco, however, and how they do some of their own inspection, and maintain relationships with their suppliers. So at least for right now, I’m going to go with that. Plus there has never been any fishiness to the barramundi we’ve gotten, nor has it ever been freezer burned.) I had bought a large bunch of green beans which we had yet to eat, so that was easy to figure out. But I needed some kind of grain dish. I happened to have some campari tomatoes (my go-to out-of-season tomato – hydroponically grown, and quite delicious, actually), and since I’ve got cooked bulgur on hand at all times now, it dawned on me that I could throw together some tabbouleh rather quickly.

The barramundi is ridiculously easy to make. Once thawed, I just rub both sides with a small bit of olive oil, then salt and pepper both sides, and bake it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. For two servings of tabbouleh, I used 1+1/3 cup cooked bulgur, six campari tomatoes, seeded then chopped, a large handful of chopped fresh parsley, 3 chopped garlic cloves (I like it garlicky!), 2 tsp of olive oil, 4 tsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp ground sumac, a little urfa pepper, and salt and pepper. I just steamed the green beans.

When I looked down at the finished plates, I realized that it actually looked like a picture that you’d see in an article on healthy eating! But more importantly, it tasted wonderful, and really was healthy.

Barramundi, Tabbouleh Salad, and Green Beans

Barramundi, Tabbouleh Salad, and Green Beans

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