by Rachel Keller
After a few months in the Philippines, I noticed my clothes getting lose, but not having access to a scale I did not know my weight. I had to move buttons on skirts, alter some clothes and get a couple smaller items. I figured I was back down to my usual 110. So imagine my surprise when we bought a new scale and discovered I had lost 10 pounds in about 5 months. I had never intended to lose weight as I’m already thin. So why did I lose weight?
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Since high school, I’ve weighed around 110 pounds. (I’m 5’4” and am definitely a small-bone structure.) My cholesterol is good, blood pressure is excellent, heart rate that of an athlete, and body fat on the extreme low end of normal. I’ve never tried to lose weight except after having each one of my five children.
In September 2009, our family left for an eight and a half month mission trip. The year before we left for the Philippines, I had gained 5-7 pounds (mostly because I had cut back on the intensity of my exercise but kept eating everything I had been used to eating). I was fine with the weight gain as I knew I really should gain a little weight to be at the ideal 120 for my height and body.
So HOW Did I Lose 10 Pounds?
I’ve exercised faithfully for almost 14 years. However, I enjoy exercise more as I meet new people with whom I can run or bike. I increased my exercise from three or four days to five or six days plus longer time periods and at greater intensity levels. Also, because of traffic congestion (and price of gas which is a little higher in the Philippines) I walked or biked almost everywhere rather than driving.
2. Strength Training
While in the Philippines, we lived on the fourth floor of an apartment. We kept our bike in the apartment. Every time I rode, I carried the mountain bike down several flights of stairs. Whenever I biked to Quezon Circle, I carried the bike down through a tunnel and up the other side. Coming back, I once again carried the bike. Even when I walked or ran, I usually carried fresh vegetables and fruit—sometimes a mile or further. Grocery shopping allowed me more strength training as I always walked to the nearby stores.
3. More Fruits and Vegetables, Limited Dairy
No, I did not purposefully diet. I chose to eat the many fresh fruits and vegetables which were so readily available at great prices. I also chose to greatly limit my dairy consumption as fresh milk is not available, only powdered and ultra-pasteurized boxed milk; and cheese, ice cream, butter, and all dairy products are more expensive.
4. More Protein and Less Simple Carbohydrates
I had always eaten a rather high carbohydrate diet simply because I love breads, potatoes, and pasta. Refined and fortified grains were less available. I did eat rice almost daily because it was a great buy, but I chose the whole grain rice which was so good! I also ate some of the homemade breads such as pandesal because the price was very affordable and the bread tasty, but I ate it sparingly.
5. No Processed Foods
The Philippines has much less processed food than America. Processed food contains unhealthy ingredients and is loaded with empty calories and fat. Cooking food from scratch requires more preparation and careful thought, but is so much healthier.
I always eat breakfast, and I had begun greatly reducing the consumption of processed, refined cereals for my family while in the States. In the Philippines, breakfast cereal is very limited and costly. Fresh milk (and I don’t call box milk fresh) is nonexistent in Manila, and the box milk and powdered milk are also expensive. I made homemade granola which we ate plain or with powdered milk, and occasionally we ate cornflakes or bran flakes. However, our breakfast consisted mainly of oatmeal or oat bran, some type of eggs, and about once a week, pandesal or pancakes.
7. Sugar Reduction and No Sodas or Juices
Sugar, rather than corn syrup, is used as a sweetener in the Philippines. Because flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate chips are costly, I chose not to make all the cookies, cakes, breads, etc that I did in the States. Yes, I missed the ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, plus a few other treats I enjoyed, but I wanted to make wise choices with our money. Why spend money on food that really wasn’t good for us? Limiting sugar (soda, juices, desserts, and much processed food) reduces calories and promotes a healthier body and overall better sense of well being.
Although water has always been my beverage of choice, I drank even more water while in the Philippines because of the heat. And speaking of heat, I think I may have sweat a couple pounds every day!
9. Eating Slowly and Chewing More
I don’t know if it was the heat, water consumption, or real food snacks (fresh fruits and vegetables) between meals, but I seemed to eat less because I got full quicker. Most people rush through meals gulping down their food as quickly as possible. Not only are you more apt to get indigestion, but you will eat more food since it takes your mind about 15-20 minutes to register that it is full. Enjoy your food and eat it slowly. Take small bites and concentrate on chewing your food more thoroughly before swallowing!
10. Eating When Hungry
Instead of three big meals, try three smaller meals with a healthy snack between meals. Don’t stuff yourself at meals. Instead, eat until satisfied. Then in between meals, eat some real food, such as fresh fruit as a snack.
Maybe I’m not one to write about weight loss having never been overweight (except when I was pregnant with my 5 children). However, I really believe so many people (especially Americans) are overweight due to their diet choices and lack of exercise.
Instead of spending money on expensive weight loss programs and regaining the weight (and more) as soon as you quit the diet, try making simple adjustments in the diet. Eating real food (fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains) in place of processed foods or reducing sugar consumption (especially corn syrup, soda, and juices) can make a significant difference. By adding some fitness into your routine, you can gain energy and burn excess calories.
Am I saying that you have to give up all sweets and junk food. No! Fourteen years ago, I chose to permanently give up sodas because of their high sugar content (At first it was difficult not drinking sweet carbonated drinks when everyone else was doing so, but now I don’t miss them, and actually don’t care for the taste, preferring water instead. My youngest two follow my example and won’t drink soda either.) I do, however, occasionally have ice cream or a sweet treat and pizza.
If you try to permanently remove something from your diet, especially without replacing it with something else, you may give up in frustration. Just be aware of your food choices, and make those special treats a rare well-planned treat. Eat only one or two cookies and not half a dozen!
How will things change when we return to the States in a few weeks? We’ve been told that people going to the States from the Philippines often gain weight because of the change in diet (more processed, refined foods and less fresh produce). I hope that our family continues to eat healthy and exercise. My husband and sons also lost weight due to the healthy diet and exercise. If our family maintains healthy habits, I will be content even if we gain a few pounds back (especially since most of us are now underweight).
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Author’s Note: I realize that being too thin is not good. Since writing the article, I’ve gained a couple pounds (on purpose). I had my weight and body fat checked at a free nutrition/health screening. I weigh about 49.8kg or about 109 lbs. My body weight is normal (1.5 points from the cut off for being too lean.) They did tell me I could gain 3-5 more pounds but other than that I am fine.
Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.