In Which I Lose a Few

No, not brain cells. Too late for that. Pounds!

About five months ago, I decided to become an incredibly irritating control freak and shed the ten pounds or so with which 2011 had cruelly loaded me down. (One of the more interesting results has been that people are apparently now finding my blog by searching for “irritating control freak.” Hm.)

For several weeks, I religiously entered all my food and exercise into This was about as entertaining as you might expect, and I eventually bagged it. BUT, it really did help. Before I started tracking, I honestly had no idea how many calories anything had, or how many calories anything burned. Yes, I was one of those people who never really had to worry about it much. There was only one other occasion when my weight sneaked up on me, and that was partly due to an under-medicated thyroid. I’m not skinny (thanks to my slow thyroid I probably never will be again) but I’ve never been more than ten or fifteen pounds overweight either.

Don’t be a hater—I come by it honestly. There are no obese people in my close family. Combination of genetics, omnivorous diets, and being naturally inclined to outdoor activity—hiking, walking, gardening, etc. That’s my theory, anyway.

I can now officially declare victory: I have lost about ten pounds, and am back in all my good jeans, yay! I’ve decided to move the goalpost just a bit to allow for the next winter, the next move, whatever life throws at me. So, I’m going to aim for about five more over the next two or three months.

I really feel that I have won a battle against the forces of evil here and I don’t intend to let them get the upper hand again. A few people have asked me how I did it. Keeping in mind that this is just a case of fighting middle-aged spread, not actual obesity, this is what worked for me.

Tracking and learning. See above.

Lots and lots of veggies. Fortunately, I like vegetables, and they have pretty good ones here, especially at my new Saturday hangout, the Naschmarkt. We’ve been grilling, roasting, sautéing, stir-frying, and making salads more than ever before. I don’t punish myself with boring steamed veggies as a side dish, either. I’ll add butter, olive oil, salt and pepper, spices, salad dressing, whatever makes it taste GOOD. And then I’ll have seconds.

Lots of fruit, too. Fruit and yogurt for breakfast, fruit for snacks, fruit with my sandwich for lunch instead of chips. We are in berry season now, and I’m piling on the cherries, blueberries and strawberries.

Minimal sweets and breads. You would think, in Vienna, that this would be a big problem. But it really hasn’t. I don’t bring a lot of sweet stuff home, and in restaurants, I have a rule that I can have either wine or dessert but not both. Generally, I go for the wine. In moderation.

To be honest, you can also get kind of burned out on pastries living here. They are so in your face all the time, that you get tired of looking at them. And while they are always good, they are not always great. I mean, not so wonderful that you would have them for lunch instead of real food, as I have noticed many women here do. That just wouldn’t work for me. I tried it once, with a big plate of traditional apricot dumplings, and though they were very good, I just felt kind of ill afterwards. Sugar shock.

Real exercise. Now, maybe you are the kind of person who can just walk the dog every day and lose weight. But I am not. I need to work hard to make a difference. When it was still cold out, I was going to the gym 3-4 times a week, for a good hour-long workout on the elliptical and weights. Now that it is (somewhat) sunnier out, I go to the gym about twice a week, but on other days I go for a long, fast walk. About an hour usually. In real exercise clothes and shoes, working up a real sweat.

I will admit, sometimes I have to force myself to go the gym. But a couple of things make it easier. One, we invested in a good gym. It is not the cheapest, but at about $100 per month for myself and my husband (we got a discount by paying for a year upfront), it’s not too bad. It is clean and airy, with lots of equipment in good working order, and it is conveniently located right between my husband’s office and our new apartment. Worth every penny, especially in the dark, dank Viennese winter. We consider it to be a lot cheaper than therapy and major drugs! And there are additional health benefits for my husband, whose blood pressure tends to be on the high side. I can’t imagine why, being an FSO and all…

Two, I invested in some good workout music, downloading a lot of songs from itunes for my workout. It really helps! And I load up my mp3 player with lots of NPR and MSNBC podcasts, as well. These are great for long walks. I actually look forward to catching up on news this way. I don’t ever have to force myself to go for a walk.

I also invested in the right gear to go to the gym or deal with the weather. Aside from an mp3 player, I now have good running shoes for the gym, a couple of different raincoats and fleeces, decent hiking boots and socks, a collection of maps, and a handheld GPS unit. On weekends we usually go for a hike of some kind, rain or shine.

You have to have the gear, that’s all there is to it. You can’t let not having the right shoes keep you from getting exercise. That is just silly. Go buy the shoes.

I work a lot of walking and other exercise into my daily life. The great transportation system here helps a lot. I always have the option of walking somewhere and taking the tram back, or walking halfway and hopping a tram, or really any combination that I have time for that day. Obviously it also helps that we are in a developed, low-crime post, and I am very thankful for that.

Because we are in a first world post, I don’t have a cleaning lady. I will admit, that is mostly because I don’t want to pay for it. Really expensive here! Still, about once a week, I crank up the music and clean like crazy. So, instead of paying for cleaning, I get a free workout. Well, OK, I admit, it’s not that great a routine. Cleaning still kind of sucks. But every calorie counts, and I’ll take ’em, especially if they are saving me money.

I’ve been rewarding myself with new clothes. Last year my life was just so insane that I never did that shopping I should have done before coming to post. So, I am shopping online now, and getting me some pretty things! (On sale, of course!)

Now for the Oprah moment. I turn forty-six in a few weeks, and I figure that marks the midpoint of my life, more or less. I have a choice about how I want to live it. Well, OK, this is the Foreign Service. I don’t have control over everything. There will be other crazy stressful moves, that’s inevitable. The bureaucracy will definitely screw with us again, that is guaranteed. But, I do have control over this one thing. I can decide whether I want to be a healthy, fit, middle-aged woman or not. It is entirely up to me, and is all about the choices that I make every single day for the rest of my life.

I choose fabulous, so there!


  1. Kelly, I really think it is easier to lose weight overseas where you are forced to eat more “fresh” veggies and fruit versus all the processed foods you are tempted by in the US. I lost quite a bit of weight in Peru and now have gained it back being in the States for 2 years. I’m now trying to adopt the eat more “fresh” veggies and fruit into my diet especially since it’s summer time. Glad to hear you are enjoying Vienna!


    • Honestly, I never had any problem finding good food and fresh vegetables in Reston. Giant had a good produce section and we were regulars at the farmers market. I gained weight because I was distracted, stressed out and craving carbs!


  2. Congrats Kelly! Vienna is such a go will power girl. I grew up in a family with Austrian/German/Russian roots. Homemade strudel, zwetchenknoedel, and mohn kuchen were on the table at home! I no longer cook like that.

    We have farmer’s markets here in Spotsylvania with a great selection of fruits and veggies..I have no excuse. (trade it for the Naschmarkt however!) I now do Zumba 3x a week and pilates (which I hate, but I need it) 2x a week) and it has made a difference. Not as much success as you have had however, even walking the dog daily for an hour! But then I have 20 years on you!


  3. I definitely need this inspiration, as I somehow have gained back a bunch of the post-baby weight from 2 years ago. The cold (still only in the 50s here most days) and the lack of any time that isn’t taken by work, children or sleep has been my excuse but the truth is as I get older I can’t just cut back a bit on sweets and do a few pushups to get back into form. Ick to getting older!


  4. I’d be screwed if I was faced with apricot dumplings on a daily basis! Good for you for resisting temptation, and congrats on the success 🙂


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