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Realizing the road ahead

Staff writer Amy Rumball scours a local supermarket for healthy options.

Since my first article, a lot has happened, including a change in my weight. I met with both my nutritionist and personal trainer, and I am happy to say that I am finally on the right path to losing weight. While many factors contribute to excess weight, in my case, laziness is the culprit. After spending all day in class and/or working, I don’t feel like devoting time and energy to watching what I eat. Somehow, it’s easier to devour everything in sight. In order to learn healthy eating habits, I met with USF senior dietician Kim May. After the introductions, I was led to the scale. That short walk from May’s office to the scale felt like the last mile – you know, the final walk that death row inmates take en route to the electric chair. An overly dramatic statement, perhaps, but I was actually curious to see how much I have let myself go. I will divulge that I have at least a good 20 pounds to lose, maybe even 25.

We then returned to May’s office, where she scared me by showing me her fat models, which are actual representations of what one pound and five pounds of fat look like. These bright, yellow-orange clumps of dimply fat are really gross, yet I couldn’t help thinking about how interesting they would look on my coffee table. May also had quite a collection of plastic food, which she used to demonstrate appropriate serving sizes. Looking at them made me realize exactly how much I have been overeating.

Besides impressing me with the weird items in her office, May provided me with useful information about weight loss. For example, there are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat. When a person achieves a deficit of 500 calories per day, he or she loses a pound a week. In order to reach that deficit, it is recommended not only to decrease calorie consumption but also to increase physical activity. Safe and healthy weight loss is one-to-two pounds per week. Anything more than that, especially more than three pounds per week, can lead to health problems and usually results in losing muscle instead of fat. May then used the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine a healthy range of weight for me. As it turns out, my current weight is considered on the high end of my healthy range, and May encourages people to aim towards the middle of their healthy weight range. Conveniently, losing 20 pounds will put me right in the middle, so my goal is a healthy and reasonable one.

The nutritionist and I then examined my lifestyle, which included going over my eating and sleeping habits. I suspected that I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle, especially since I bombed the lifestyle questionnaire from Campus Recreation. My diet, though, was quite simple – two to three venti Chai Cream Frappuccinos from Starbucks and 10-15 Chocolate Raspberry Yoplait yogurts. Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol – I am addicted to yogurt. As I explained all of this to May, a look of absolute horror spread across her face. Her terror increased after I told her that I wake up 5-6 times throughout the night to binge on yogurt. Due to these problems, I was referred to the Counseling Center for help, but I am still waiting for my appointment.

Instead of going over proper eating habits and developing a meal plan for me, May instructed me to spend the next two weeks trying to eat healthy solid food.

The next day I met with Rob deFreese, my personal trainer through Campus Recreation. The first session was a fitness assessment, which included taking my body measurements, conducting cardiovascular and muscular endurance tests and setting realistic goals. In other words, I’m not going to have a perfect body in two weeks. However, my goal of losing 20 pounds in three months is reasonable enough.

DeFreese then conducted skin-fold tests to determine my percentage of body fat. Healthy ranges are 11-19 percent for men and 18-28 percent for women. I have 30.6 percent body fat, which means I am slightly above the high end of the healthy range. Losing 20 pounds will reduce my body fat to 21 percent, which is slightly above the low end. Next, my cardiovascular endurance was determined by doing a 3-minute step test. However, it turned out to be a 2½-minute step test for me because I couldn’t keep up. For those of you laughing, try it. It’s hard.

Lastly, deFreese tested my muscular endurance by counting how many push-ups I can do. I laughed when he told me to do push-ups, especially because I knew what was going to happen. I got into position, lifted myself up, started lowering myself down and then fell onto the mat. Yeah, I can only do one push-up. At least that means I can only improve. I then spent the next week eating solid food, which turned into me binging on a whole tiramisu cake. Instead of waiting two weeks to see May again, I saw her after a week for intervention. I noticed my clothes were already fitting different after one week, only now they were getting tighter! I gained four pounds on the first week of my “diet.” However, I did manage to stop drinking Starbucks and soda. I now drink only water, so I’m blaming my weight gain on water weight instead of the entire cake I consumed.

May then drew up a meal plan for me. She first determined how many calories I should eat in a day based on my height, weight and age. Due to those factors, I should consume 1,600 calories per day. She also determined how many servings of each type of food I should eat.

In order to meet these requirements, the nutritionist also gave me a servings list, which explains serving sizes for each group. For instance, one starch is equal to one slice of bread, and one serving of milk is equal to 1 cup – or 8 ounces – of milk or ¾ cup – or 6 ounces – of light yogurt. May also gave me a healthy shopping list to help me pick out the right foods at the grocery store. Then she supplied me with a daily nutrition and physical activity record, which is a pocket diary to keep track of what and when I eat and how often I exercise. My food diary will be reviewed every two weeks when I meet with the nutritionist. As previously mentioned, exercise is also important when trying to lose weight. May recommends 30-60 minutes of exercise five times per week. In order to meet this requirement, I met with deFreese again. This time, we actually got to work out, as I did squats, lunges, crunches and bicep and tricep curls.

The workout was really productive, and it really does help to have someone next to you who encourages you to keep going. I plan to meet with my personal trainer twice a week. However, since I am supposed to exercise at least five days a week, I plan to do aerobics as well. I’m also going to check into joining Mallwalkers of America. I like the idea of walking around the mall with retirees early in the morning before the mall opens.

Like I said in Part I, losing weight isn’t easy. I’ll let you know how it goes.