Since I lost 45 or so pounds about 6 years ago, my overall fitness goal has been to maintain my new healthy weight. I found to my initial surprise that my weight fluctuates (normally, I might add) daily, weekly, monthly, and even seasonally. I weigh myself most days, not as a self-punishing exercise, but because I’m intrigued by the day-to-day changes that present themselves. I guess you could call fitness a passion for me, and the on-going quest for improving my body composition a hobby. That said, I have found that seasonal changes show up as the biggest variation in my body weight and composition.
Every fall, starting around Thanksgiving, for several reasons I let myself gain a few extra pounds. First, to enjoy the holiday foods that I only allow myself in Nov/Dec. Second, the leaner I get, the more subject I am to feeling the chill of winter. It makes sense that the less fat I have on my frame, the less insulation there is to keep me warm. I discovered early in my weight loss journey that below a certain body weight, I feel cold all the time, chilled to the bone, in fact. So five or six pounds extra over the winter doesn’t bother me. Until now.
Maybe I gained too much this past winter, or maybe my age or peri-menopausal hormone profile is starting to play a role in weight maintenance. Either way, I have had a terrible time losing the extra pounds this year. I started out by doing exactly what I’ve done every spring for 5 years, lowered my carbs, increased protein, lowered overall calories, and started doing a little more cardio. My strength workouts always remain 3 times a week, with an occasional 4th day thrown in. But the scale wasn’t budging. In fact, it started jumping upward. I thought I was doing everything right and I know my calories were down because I was hungry all the time.
This was crazy and I talked to my trainer about it. When he heard I was hungry all the time, he immediately had me increase my food intake, keeping it to mostly protein for satiety and muscle saving measures. Then I increased my cardio. But with my back not always feeling great, I had trouble doing HIIT in the form of stairway sprints or sprints on the elliptical. So I started walking… a lot.
I have an app built in my iPhone that acts as a pedometer and since I’ve broken every FitBit-type device that I’ve tried, I decided to use my phone. I’m getting 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day. And low and behold, walking is working. I’m walking outside, inside around the house, and on a treadmill. The weight is dropping off easily, even with the increased calories. I’m getting leaner and my strength isn’t suffering at all. I’m not hungry (most of the time). And the walking is not interfering with my strength workouts like sprinting and even steady state jogging did. I’ve never done so much low level cardio but it makes sense.
I think there are a couple of reasons walking is helping me now. Even though I work out 3 to 4 times a week, I’m sedentary much of the rest of the time. Like many people, I’m on a computer or at a desk everyday. Even though I’m active as a trainer, I don’t have a full load of clients and until now, didn’t think to increase my “actively moving” time. Now I’m walking another hour or more of the day, although it might be broken into many 10 minute sessions. Taking the lead from my husband, who paces incessantly around the house when he’s on the phone for business, I’ve tried to do the same.
The second reason it’s working is that I’m intentionally going outside to walk in the fresh air at exactly the times when I know I get hungry. (The treadmill isn’t quite the same since I can’t get away from the kitchen.) If I’m walking, I’m not eating and it’s actually blunting my hunger. I’m also enjoying nature, listening to music, and I’m feeling more in control of what I eat when I do get around to having a meal.
Finally, I think the walking is keeping my metabolism up and running well. This means I can eat the higher calorie diet and still lose or maintain weight. It’s a fact that the older you get, the slower your metabolism. But it’s also true that increasing your activity can help you stay revved up. As I face turning 55 later this year, I want to be in complete control of my metabolism, my body, and anything I can do to stay young or at least stay functional as long as possible. I’m convinced walking is one of my answers.