Never in my life had I lost a pound — except immediately following childbirth — until I had COVID last fall. I had a pretty brutal case that landed me in the hospital with pneumonia. I was on oxygen and steroids for my lungs and blood thinners to prevent clots.
I was having trouble breathing, in addition to dozens of other symptoms and side effects — some of them being loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, loss of taste and smell and a little bit of weight loss. I didn’t lose a lot — about 10 pounds.
Once I regained my appetite, I still couldn’t taste things, but I liked the hot or cold sensation on my sore throat. So I ate what I wanted as I recovered. And as taste started to come back it was terribly distorted — something salty tasted like a whole bowl of salt was dumped in my mouth, something spicy set my mouth on fire for the rest of the day. I resorted to eating a lot of bland carbs like crackers, pretzels and toast. So, it wasn’t long before that weight was back on.
The COVID symptoms continued to linger and even worsened when I got the vaccine. Fatigue was keeping me in bed for 13 to 15 hours a day, and I wasn’t getting any physical activity in because I had no energy. I decided to start using the very short bit of energy I had each day to exercise and knew it couldn’t hurt to shed a few pounds. I just wanted to do whatever I could to feel better.
Since I’d never had success losing weight in the past, I wasn’t sure where to start. Then I met a lady I was writing a story about who had lost over 90 pounds gradually over about 18 months. She mentioned what her doctor had recommended for her, and it sounded doable to me.
The next day, I started following her formula of limiting calories to 1,200 a day, drinking at least four 16-ounce water bottles a day and exercising for 30 minutes five times a week. I also started making some dishes I’d made for my husband last year when he was following a keto diet, so I was consuming very few carbs.
In a month I was down about 10 pounds. I had started reading more on weight loss and listening to podcasts on the topic, but figured it would be a good idea to make a doctor's appointment for some guidance. As I was recording calories to make sure I didn’t go over 1,200 a day, I found that many days I was under 1,000, which a nurse friend warned me was not good.
I also realized where that number of 1,200 calories a day was coming from when I learned about eating in a calorie-deficit. By following the calorie-deficit method of reducing your daily diet to 500 calories below what you are burning in a day, it causes you to lose weight slowly.
When I visited the doctor, she urged me to eat more (1,200 to 1,400 healthy calories a day) and assured me it was OK to allow some carbs in my diet, especially when they were coming from fresh fruits. She encouraged me to look into a Mediterranean diet and said to allow myself up to 100 grams of carbs a day. She also told me to add strength training to the cardio that I was doing.
To be sure I am staying within my calorie deficit, I weigh/measure everything I eat and log calories into my Fitbit app each day. By wearing my Fitbit tracker, it’s recording my steps and exercise and I can manually put in workouts, bike rides or other forms of exercise. I record my water intake to make sure I’m getting enough. I also track my weight loss in the app, my heart rate and meditation.
I’m now down 23.5 pounds since March and am continuing to lose. I’m still logging everything I eat and consuming a lot more fresh veggies and fruits and a lot of grilled chicken breasts, but still having the occasional piece of pizza, slice of bread, cookie or a couple chocolate-covered cashews — I just make sure the serving is small and keeps me within my calorie deficit.
I’m still drinking 64-plus ounces of water more days than not (and it’s the only beverage I drink), and I’ve worked in some light strength training with my cardio activity. I feel more energetic when I exercise.
I also recognize the importance of sleep and have accepted that since having COVID, I need way more sleep to have a good day where I feel like I can function. I am allowing myself to sleep in whenever I am able to and not feel guilty about the things I should be getting done while I doze.
I believe having a lot more of nights of eight or nine hours of sleep also has contributed to my weight loss. It all goes together as part of a healthier lifestyle — better diet, regular exercise, good sleep and adequate hydration. When I put all those components together, it made a huge difference in how I felt and helped me lose weight that I never thought I’d lose.
My goal was to lose a total of 35 pounds (and now I feel like I might like to go even a little past that) and do it sensibly and gradually. So far, so good. I plan to keep at it and have those last 11.5 pounds off before the end of the year.