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20 Down, 50 to Go

I'm Bipolar Journal - August 6, 2008


Updated May 15, 2012

In 11 months I have lost 20 pounds.

I lost 20 pounds while taking Seroquel (quetiapine), the drug that put those 20 pounds on me. I only went off Seroquel 6 days ago.

I have lost 20 pounds. My pants are hanging off me. My right knee is better. I've taken 4 inches off my waist and even better, 4 inches off my dangerously big pot belly.

I still have 50 pounds to go to reach my goal weight of 135, but hey, I've lost 28.6% of the 70-pound total!

How Did I Lose 20 Pounds?

My method is tailored toward my own personal circumstances, so I'm not here to recommend it to everyone. I just hope that reading what is working for me will inspire others to find a way that works for them.

I'm not "on a diet." I'm not "on an exercise program." I've tried both. The South Beach Diet started out great but preparing foods specially for the diet quickly became a burden. On a $2,000 weight loss program, I lost 2 pounds. One summer I walked 80 minutes a day and lost no weight. I tried a strenuous daily exercise program unsuccessfully.

What I did this time was to find a way to eat foods I like (though not any food I like) and find a way to increase activity that suited me.

Calories: I began by using a previously purchased software similar to About.com's free Calorie Count Plus program to set a daily limit for myself. My software recommended 1,437 calories per day as my goal.

Then I religiously entered every single thing I ate or drank in to the program daily. One nice thing about these programs is that they have databases of foods, so you don't have to look up everything individually. You can also figure out (or get from the package label) the calories in a food or drink that isn't listed or that you make from scratch and add these as custom items. Thus, I was able to track the smallest thing, such as the fact that a cup of coffee with the amount of CoffeeMate I use is 21 calories. I can't track what I eat at a restaurant, and sometimes I just let myself go. Mostly I order fish. I love fish.

Counting calories was very illuminating. One thing I was eating often at the time was graham crackers in milk. I found that if I used enough graham crackers to satisfy me, it was way too many calories, while if I had a single serving, it left me unsatisfied. The only solution was not to buy any more graham crackers.

It is not a diet. I don't have to make special foods or starve myself. Everything I eat is something I already liked, and none of it takes any special preparation. A sliced apple with a generous serving of peanut butter on every bite is about 452 calories and makes a whole meal. A small can of V8 is only 50 calories and the taste lingers long enough to control cravings in the evening. And I can have a bottle of Frappucino (180 calories) in midafternoon as a snack.

The calorie counter also tells me how much protein, carbs and fat I should get each day. I never get the proportions right. I am always high on fat and carbs and low on protein. By eating three small and -- very important -- tasty meals plus my afternoon snack and V8 in the evening, though, I am usually within a hundred or so calories of my goal for the day. And that's where calorie-burning comes in.

Activity: As I said, exercise never helped me to lose weight -- but I had never tried both exercise and reduced calories at once. Now I had to find some method of burning calories that I could do year-round, no matter what the weather (I can't walk in high heat or freezing cold). I hated my treadmill, so what could I do?

I could clean the house.

Housework burns about 3 calories a minute. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it adds up. My overall goal is to do an hour a day, but failing that -- which I usually do -- it is to burn enough calories to get my total calories for the day down to or below that magic number of 1,437. So if I am going to go 75 calories over my limit (having planned what to eat that day), I need to do housework for 25 minutes minimum. It works.

It's more difficult now. In June, my family and I cleaned the house out -- selling, donating, trashing a truckload of stuff (including the treadmill) and putting enough things I want to keep in to the garage to fill half of it almost to the rafters. There's no clutter to be worked on, so now I'm doing detail work, such as cleaning woodwork, polishing door hardware, etc. Scrubbing the (filthy) textured handles of the oven and refrigerator took 15 minutes. That's 45 calories.

Next: Unique Elements, Difficulties and Medication Changes

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