Biggest Loser.. or Just a Loser?

Despite the provocative title this is actually a constructive glimpse into a lifestyle and weight loss journey.. during COVID. That addition is pretty crucial because "the Rona" altered my perception of space-time through sabotaging my work-life balance, and dare I say (?) for the better. My weekly travels of a 1000 km by train stopped and I started teaching my piano students online from the comfort of my own living room. (The sheep skin on my piano stool sure is comfortable, and the 1 minute commute between my kitchen and grand piano is the bomb.) Also, my work at the Music Academy stopped completely and all my concerts were cancelled which didn't just remind me how precarious my work situation really was, but also relieved me of a whole lot of stress and work-related social interactions. All that combined with the fact that I had already been following the Corona situation for weeks before it hit the Finnish media I was relatively well prepared to handle it when it did hit. And I know many people don't like to hear this but it wasn't all bad..

As Rona-time went by I gradually felt more inclined to take a closer look at my lifestyle which had previously consisted of late-night dinners in the restaurant car of a train (yum!), excessive cola drinking, and an overall disregard for my own well-being in general. I had simply been working too much to have energy left to prioritize my health in any way. I wish I had the paycheck to prove it but as I am a pianist, accompanist, and a piano teacher I don't exactly make six figures.. but my weight was gonna hit triple digits if I didn't do something fast. Well, that was an exaggeration but it sounded dramatic enough.

We rekindled the habit of walking together with my husband, and the walks weren't "walks in the park" but 2-hour excursions -- half forest, half civilization. The walks themselves weren't really a weight loss tool but like any exercise they probably acted as the primus motor for a mental shift. Before I knew it I had started to eat less. And gradually I started to examine how much I really needed to eat to lose weight, and how many times a day was a good system for eating in general. I got interested in figuring out those basic things that had been going a little cuckoo the past year(s).

So what did I find out about my eating self? Well, firstly I became a disciple of my own Three Meals a Day strategy. As I didn't exactly have to bounce out of bed at 7 am I could easily combine breakfast and dinner into brunch. Then around 4-5 pm I would have my warm meal of the day, and then I would have something small in the evening. It just works. No snacking in between, everything that gets eaten is a part of the portion you lay out in front of you. And you don't do refills. And you use the smaller plates you have. Just do it - that is if you want to lose weight easily. If you don't, do whatever you like!

So that's that. The next thing I noticed was that if I skipped my protein everything went sideways. My breakfast usually consisted of self-pressed orange juice and the excellent  Finnish 100% oat bread with toppings (and porridge if I felt like it. I perfected my microwave porridge recipe btw, stay tuned for porridge updates lol). If, however, the toppings lacked a couple slices of ham I would be craving more food in no time! The same went for the bigger warm meal of the day: when lacking in protein I would be starving come nightfall. So that's that, protein truly is as effective in keeping you satisfied longer as they've been telling us for years. Protein for the win, carbs for the dim! And I don't mean the dimwits but the evening - that's when you want to eat something easily digestible so your beauty/weight loss sleep doesn't get screwed over by your unfortunate meal choice.

But, there's much more to it than figuring out things you should do. Eventually you will feel hunger when you start doing something right. And if it's the first time in years you might get a little freaked out. Solution: don't freak out. As much as they try to tell you that feeling a little hungry here and there during the day is horrendous, it isn't. It's not a gateway to binge eating, it's not going to sidetrack you from your goals if you're able to befriend your hunger. And let's be clear what I don't mean by hunger: lightheadedness, overpowering weakness, and other low blood sugar symptoms like sweating. No, I mean feeling a slight sensation that something's going on in the body.. Like a little pinch in your stomach or a slightly lighter feeling. Maybe that tells you that you might actually have a chance of starting to burn of fat pretty effectively!

So did I burn off fat? The first month I lost 4 kg (check the stones somewhere else, I can't be bothered). People usually say you can't really lose that quickly, it will come back. Well, it didn't. And I wasn't starving myself either. I was enjoying it, eating the same things I always did just in lesser quantities than before. It was like my body finally got the chance to shed that extra weight. Was it water weight? I don't think so, haven't seen it since. After that it continued a little slower but steadily for a couple more kilos.. and then it stopped. I didn't change anything. What happened? I plateaued. I read about it, and started adding more exercise, even went back to my old buddy Tony Horton. Didn't help - I actually gained weight. Be it some physiological process of muscles tearing, water retention.. Whatever it was it wasn't getting me into a better place so I stopped. I continued with just my eating plan and sure enough after my body had had a couple of weeks to stabilize the weight my body gave in and started to let me lose again. So the lesson learned: you need periods when you give your body time to adapt. Some people call them plateaus, I call them adjustment periods. We're not robots after all! The thing is not to go cuckoo during those periods and start shovelling food down your throat like a maniac. Pace yourself, breathe, and trust in the process. And for the ladies there's extra challenges every month: during certain times of the hormonal cycle (pms anyone?) you're wiser not to be too strict on yourself. Bloatedness is going to temporarily make you "fatter" so stay off the scale if you don't enjoy hurting yourself. If or rather when you experience cravings find sensible ways to work through them. I came to the conclusion that something that has a little zing to it usually works better than something bland. So a small piece of a dark chocolate cake might work wonders, instead of downing a pack of crisps. And again, you should only eat things served as portions, and not from seemingly bottomless bags that you'll end up finishing being the "perfectionist" you are. And one last thing: food intolerances and allergies. If you suffer from them like I do it's crucial you figure out your triggers! If you continue eating in a way that makes you react you'll have no energy, your activity levels will go down, and your body will be a little off all the time: not a good place for weight loss. I will write about food issues in another blog but that is an absolutely crucial step if you want to get anywhere with anything!

So where am I at now? After four months I'm approaching my initial goal but I'm faced with a new challenge: work has started! I'm seeing some of the old habits I had re-emerging: tired eating, emotional eating. It's nowhere close to where it was before but at this rate I won't be losing weight, if not gaining either. I need to figure out the last missing pieces of my puzzle but I feel I'm much more well equipped to do that because of my Rona weight loss experience. Only time will tell if I'll end up in the category Biggest Loser of Just Your Average Loser ;)

What are your tips and tricks for weight loss? How has COVID affected your lifestyle? My heart goes out to everyone affected by this thing, but I'm here for the silver lining. Thanks for reading, and remember to leave a comment! xx Anni

P. S. Here's the Finnish newspaper article I was featured in about the same topic:

Korona pyyhki pianisti Anni Collanin kalenterin puhtaaksi.

Korona pyyhki pianisti Anni Collanin kalenterin puhtaaksi.­



KYLLÄHÄN MINÄ tiesin olevani väsynyt. 500 kilometrin junamatkaa tuli taitettua viikoittain, koska pianistin työt olivat Turussa ja Haapajärvellä. Istuminen oli puuduttavaa, eikä itsestä huolehtimiselle oikein ollut aikaa. Lisäksi tylsillä matkoilla tuli puputettua jatkuvasti jotain pientä, joten painokin oli nousemaan päin.

Sitten korona tuli ja pyyhki muusikon kalenteriin tilaa kertaheitolla.

KUN ALKUSOKISTA selvisi, aloin pikku hiljaa tajuta, että tässähän on ollut aika pihalla. Kun sain levätä pari kuukautta, muisti tuntui paranevan ja mieli kirkastuvan. Minua oli jännittänyt mennä koesoittoihin uusia töitä varten, koska tuntui, että pää ei enää omaksu uusia nuotteja yhtä nopeasti kuin aiemmin, vaikka olen vasta 36-vuotias. Jännitin, muistanko ja opinko uutta. Kun olin levännyt, luottamus omaan muistiini palasi. Olen kirjoittanut aiheesta myös blogiini 

VUOSIEN varrella myös kiloja pääsi kertymään. En ole aiemmin onnistunut pudottamaan painoa, mutta nyt sekin on onnistunut. Lepo on kova juttu myös painonhallinnassa. Ihminen voi käydä jatkuvasti ylikierroksilla, vaikka ei sitä itse tajuakaan. Liityin keväällä myös Patrik Borgin painonhallintakurssille, ja on ollut inspiroivaa saada joka viikko video tai muu viesti, jonka ansiosta asia on pysynyt mielessä. Eniten on vaikuttanut päätökseni syödä pienempiä annoskokoja. En välttele mitään ruoka-aineita, vaikka itselleni sopivatkin tietyt ruoat paremmin kuin toiset. Huolehdin myös, että joka aterialla on jotain proteiinipitoista. Sillä on ollut yllättävän iso merkitys.”

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