Sunday, 4 October 2015

Progress fits and starts

I have been pretty good about my exercise program and eating habits and was finally starting to see some progress when - whammo! - shark week.  Now this week is all the water retention, all the time.  Sigh. 

I get frustrated with my progress and its irregularity.  During - ahem - lady time, I put on anywhere from 2-5 pounds seemingly overnight.  That this is merely water weight is understandable and predictable.  That it takes at least a couple of weeks to get rid of is frustrating.  Then I have a couple of clear weeks of generally good - or even very good - progress before the cycle happens all over again.  I usually (if I'm in my groove) see some solid losses immediately before my cycle begins, which I suppose makes some perverted kind of sense (it is, after all, the least bloated I will be all month). 

I think I will do a detailed look at my exercise calories burned, food calories consumed, and day of my cycle in order to try and better understand some of these swings.  All I am hoping to do is to get a better handle on the variations in my progress and to figure out what role food, exercise, and hormones play in all of this. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Old Jeans (with photos)

This week has been another slow and steady week.  No illicit snacking at the office combined with my regular meals and workouts (including a visit from Mr. Fitness) have combined for a loss of just over half a pound.  It would have been more, but for the debauchery of last Friday's street housewarming party, for which I was paying most of the week.

We had another housewarming party this Friday for friends and coworkers, but this time I managed to keep my snacking impulses in check.  Not only that, I tracked what I consumed, which made it easier to stay on the right path.  Still, temptation abounded, and I was lucky that my hostessing duties kept me pretty distracted (we had 42 people over) otherwise it could have been another snack food disaster.

This weekend has been hugely social, with the housewarming, coffee/shopping with the matriarch, a book signing for one of the Nerd's hockey buddies, and then a 40th birthday party BBQ for another friend.  I kept snacking to a minimum at the latter because the hosts, while lovely people, let their 2-year old lick all the fruit, crackers, and cheese and then put them back on the trays, so there was no way of knowing what food was safe and what food had boy cooties.  Better safe than sorry, I say, so I avoided it all.  I have no problem with boy cooties generally, but I am choosy as to the source.

On a completely unrelated note, in preparation for our big house move I spent a lot of time beforehand cleaning out closets and cupboards of unwanted or unused things (the way one does before a move).  One thing I discovered was my blue jeans historical stash.  I had been keeping one pair of each size of jeans as they no longer fit.  Because I started at a size 26 you can guess that this amounts to a number of pairs of jeans between the starting pair and my current size 14s.

To say my current self is a mere shadow of the clown pants that I used to wear is an understatement.  Put another way:

Those are some - shall we say capacious - pants right there.

They all went to the Goodwill donation box during the move, but I'll always have the photo of the jean archive to help keep me on the straight and narrow during social weekends like these ...

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Move Complete - Settling Back Into Routine

Whew!  At long last, after what felt like an interminable period of time, the move is complete.  The boxes are unpacked.  The clothes are put away.  The usual patterns of daily living have been picked up again.  And not a moment too soon, I tell you!

When last we spoke I was just recovering from the end of the move.  I had managed to put on a ridiculous amount of weight, and ballooned up to 199 pounds (and more!) after all of my move-induced emotional eating and take out food consumption.  Last Sunday I got back on the path to righteousness by religiously tracking my food and engaging in solid exercise. 

The rest of the week was more of the same.  I tracked my food and I worked out as is my custom.  Mr. Fitness came by on Thursday to kick my ass with the dreaded high intensity interval workout - which I loathe...but still managed to complete.  Most importantly of all, I did not snack all week.  This sounds like such a little thing, but I know that the unbridled snacking is what killed me over the past month or so.  Because let me tell you, I can snack like a m-f-.  Some people are good at math, I am good at snacking. 

So this week was a big test of my ability to get back on track.  I have to tell you that the first day back at the office (the land of temptation) I was white knuckling it all day in an attempt to keep from snacking.  When I left the office to go home, I was in part fleeing all that temptation.  But it worked - I remained snack-free all day.  The next day was just a little bit easier, and the day after that was easier still.  By Thursday I wasn't even tempted by the chocolate covered almonds that one of my coworkers brought into our marketing approval meeting.  Well, not more than normally tempted - I am human after all - but it was comparatively easy to stand firm and avoid the treats. 

Friday I started strong, but then lost focus a few hours into our housewarming party.  I kept with soft drinks, mostly, rather than alcoholic beverages, which helped a lot.  But by the end of the night I went a bit off the rails and snacked my face off on the delicious party food.  It was all delicious, but full of sodium and I am sure all sorts of bad things.  However because I own my choices I tracked it, to an extent at least, by adding 600 calories to my food log for Friday night.  It may have been more, it may have been less, but that's as good an estimate as any.  The key thing is that I tracked it and owned it, which is critical - - my snacking binges of the last month went largely untracked. 

I weighed myself Friday morning (pre-party, thank god) and lo and behold after a week of sticking to my plan, working out, and not snacking, I lost 1.5 pounds.  I am back down to 197.5 pounds (again), and feeling pretty good.

A new wrinkle to my routine now is that I weigh myself before working out.  So that 197.5 is an honest weight, prior to any sweating-induced water loss.  I previously always weighed myself after my workouts so as to get to the lowest possible number.  This way feels a bit more honest - it's my walking around weight, after all. 

All in all it was a good week.  I saw positive progress back into my routine, I was able to resist temptation at the office, and our house held up to the housewarming party.

Here are some photos of the place (minus party-goers, of course):

I really enjoy discovering the routines and flow of this house.  Our neighbours are wonderful, and I actually had a really nice time at our housewarming for the street last night.  

And now it is back to continue these routines.  I have some laundry on the go and I will steal some time to do a bit of weaving.  Ahhhhh....

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Moving Induced Break in Routine

I suppose it's fair to think that I love moving house considering that I do it so frequently.  For one reason or another it just seems that I move every 2 or 3 years.  Trust me - I can explain each move.  They all make sense at the time. 

After all these moves, you would imagine that I have moving down to a system by now, and you would be correct.  That doesn't change the fact that routines get thrown out the window, bodies get injured, and nerves get frazzled.

The Nerd and I moved from our cool - but seriously overcrowded - St. Lawrence Market-area multi-storey condo unit to a rowhouse in Corktown near the river valley.  Because it's a house, the new place has 2 bedrooms plus a den plus a finished basement plus storage space plus a small back yard, all of which combine to alleviate the overcrowding issue we had in the old place.

But no matter how good your movers are (and ours, Collins & Greig, were amazing), moves are still exhausting.  Between the packing, planning, lifting, unpacking, and multiple trips up and down stairs both of us were completely knackered for weeks. 

On the good side there is, at long last, a light at the end of the tunnel.  We are virtually all unpacked (all that is left to do is organize our crawl space storage and back porch storage a bit more), and all of the main areas - living room, kitchen, bedroom, weave-ateria, and gym - are all finished, with furniture in place and pictures hanging up on the walls. 

This is the first weekend in about 3 weeks that we are no longer packing or unpacking, but merely living in our place.  We had guests over to watch the UFC fights last night and the place showed like a charm.  The Nerd and I are slowly discovering the traffic flow and process flow in the new place (for example, our desks / office space are in the basement rather than in the living room), but that's a fun discovery.

As an example of how fractured our routines were, this Thursday was the first time in three weeks that Mr. Fitness came to kick my ass.  Between his schedule and ours we had to cancel two weeks of sessions in a row.  I still worked out with weights a couple of times on my own, but it's just not the same as when he enthusiastically pushes me beyond what I thought I could achieve.  I missed that, and was frankly very nervous about getting back into our training sessions.

It turns out that the new gym space (in our upstairs den) worked just fine, although it was a little bit of a pain in the butt to move the dumbbells from the linen closet where they are stored when not in use (the new gym has less floor space than the old gym area, and there's not as much free space to leave dumbbells laying about).  As far as the workout went, however, it was just as intense as always, and I felt wonderful when it was done.  Completely done in, as well, but then that's kind of the point, isn't it?

With some minor adjustments there is more than enough room for one person to work out, and even enough room for me and Mr. Fitness to go through our routines.  The space is not quite as large as the old gym, but overall the new place has so many benefits that a slight reduction in gym size is worth it in the big scheme of things.

For example, now my view from the elliptical is a pleasant look into our back yard, as well as our neighbours' yards.  The old place looked out onto an alley where the garbage bins for our building were stored.  Ambiance central, not so much.

On the downside, I now have "closet weights".

So we're still working out a solution for those...

On the good side the move is essentially complete, the house is amazing, our neighbours are wonderful, and I can still walk to work in the morning (my commute is now a 15 minute walk instead of a 10 minute walk). 

On the bad side, I have managed to undo almost a year of progress with all the chinese food, burgers, and pizza we have been eating during this transition period.  I don't blame anyone - I certainly was too exhausted to even think of cooking most nights, and ordering in was just too tempting.  Add the emotional eating on top of that, and ... let's just say it's a good thing that I am back into my routine. 

I am counting today as official post-move Day 1, and the Nerd and I had a healthy day together.  We both worked out, we stuck to our delicious homemade meals, and we went for a long walk today.  The walk happened to end at an ice-cream truck, but that's kind of the point.  I tracked all the food (including the ice-cream!), as well as my exercise, and it was a good balanced day. 

That's 1 down.  13 more to go to re-establish my good patterns.  364 to go to see big improvement. 

But step 1 is done, so I've got that going for me, which is good. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

6 months with the personal trainer (with photos)

Time sure flies when you are pushing yourself to work out every day.  And by "flies", I mean, of course, "passes predictably with the rotation of the earth around the sun". 

It has snuck up on me, but believe it or not it has been 6 full months that I have been working with the personal trainer, Mr. Fitness.  We have had 23 sessions in that time and the only missing sessions have been planned in advance around our respective holidays - - I am pleased to say that I have yet to cancel one of our workouts, no matter how little I look forward to some of them (high intensity intervals, I'm looking at you!).

My objective in working with the trainer was to help me break through that plateau that had me trapped cycling in the 200-210 pound range, and to help me to be stronger and more toned.

On a purely numerical level, we have achieved positive results.  I have lost more than 20 pounds since I began working with the trainer (although I confess to giving up some of these losses thanks to my recent trip to PEI with the Nerd).  Rather than the low 200s, the 180s are now my easy set point.  Getting lower will take still more discipline and work, but it is very achievable given the results I have seen so far.

As for my measurements, these appear to be stabilizing.  With the trainer I have lost around 12", to bring me down to a size 12-14 (in pants, skirts and dresses) and a M (in shirts and tops).  I still struggle with my own self-image as a "big girl" so I find it difficult to believe that a size medium top will actually fit me, but time and time again when I chicken out and default to the large I discover that those tops are too big for me.  Eventually I will learn to accept the reality that I am a size medium.  In the meantime this means that the Nerd and I actually wear the same size tops, so I can steal his clothes.  Tee hee.

The body shape is where I see the most difference:

My biggest frustration at this point is with my loose skin on my arms and belly.  Sadly, there are sequellae to being super-obese, and loose skin is one of them.  It is not ridiculous and obvious like some people experience - - I don't have giant flaps of skin hanging everywhere - - but there is definitely excess tissue making it impossible to tone as much as some other people.  I am very happy with the tone that I do have, though, and where I am less toned, like my belly, I like the suggestion of tone, assuming that is the best result I will see. 

Some nice changes I have noticed since I first began working out: I enjoy wearing colour more than I did before.  Although I still wear an inordinate amount of black, that's more because it's a very flexible colour for a professional wardrobe rather than the camouflage that it used to be.  I now preferentially seek colour for outfits, and this is a nice thing.  I am embracing colour as I come out of my shell with my weight loss. 

Another change: I do not dread body hugging clothing any more, and in fact I am more likely to go out of the house in yoga pants and an exercise top than ever before.  When I was heavier I believed in the magic of layers, which is poor magic at best.  Almost no one looks thinner by adding layers, but that it the delusion under which I laboured when I was heavier.  Eventually I will feel confident when I wear workout clothes out of doors, but for now I am glad to have the option. 

Another, more profound change: I am no longer automatically the biggest person in the room.  In fact, I am just as likely to be considered "average".  This by itself gives me confidence because I know that people are much less likely to be judging me by my food choices or making assumptions about my intelligence or work ethic because of my weight (sadly, this is a thing that happens, and happened to me).  Sure, there are still jerks out there, but as a more stereotypically "normal" looking person I can blend into the background in a way that I never could when I was heavier. 

A friend said last night that I am the same person I was when I was heavier, I just look different on the outside - - my essential inner core remains the same.  This is true.  But people make so many judgments on the outer package in this world that even though I am the same person, I am viewed differently.  People at the office are surprised to look at photos of me from my heavier days because they do not associate me with "a fat person".  News flash: I was just a "person" - - the weight was not the defining factor.  Now, at least, it is less of a distraction.

So six months in with Mr. Fitness and things are progressing nicely.  I am pleased with my results and don't see changing my routine anytime soon.  Our Thursday grueling workouts will continue, holidays and vacations permitting.

Here's a gratuitious photo from our holiday in PEI, taken in front of the Confederation Bridge:

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Walking in Prince Edward Island (with photos)

The Nerd and I are on holidays this week visiting family in Prince Edward Island.  We drove out with our looms over a couple of days (it turns out PEI is quite a hike from Toronto), and arrived Sunday morning on the Island.  It was a Very Long Drive.

I always find holidays to be somewhat stressful in part because my routine gets shot all to hell - - staying with family means no gym full of equipment near to hand and lots of meals out.  A fun time is had by all - - and don't get me wrong, the Nerd and I are having a fabulous time - - but the lack of routines can be challenging.  For example, 2 days of road food and all the Tim Hortons cookies we can eat (which is a lot) can really mess up good eating habits. 

Nature's awesome majesty
But we are here safe and sound on the Island and after a Sunday afternoon of more poor food choices we have gotten back into the swing of things with a modified healthy plan of activity.  We are trying to replace our usual workouts with nice walks through the area.  We are paying attention to what we are eating and drinking.  We are volunteering to cook our usual repertoire of healthy balanced meals rather than eating out for every meal.  Every little bit helps.

Confederation Trail map
One of the fun things we did today was walk part of the Confederation Trail.  The Confederation Trail is not unlike Toronto's Beltline Trail in that it is a multi-use trail installed where a railway once passed.   Used as a walking and cycling trail in the summer, the 410 km of crushed gravel path is used as a snowmobile trail in the winter.   The Trail extends from one end of Prince Edward Island to the other and makes for a simply wonderful walk.  The Nerd and I spent more than an hour exploring part of the Trail this morning for our morning constitutional and the entire time we saw two people - - in stark contrast to the Beltline with its traffic jams of runners, walkers, and people walking dogs and pushing strollers. 

View on the Trail.  Notice the complete absence of people.
We ended up walking 4.92 miles or 7 km this morning, which means we really walked about 3.5 km along the Trail (out and back), leaving a mere 406.5 km of Trail left to explore.  We're probably not going to finish walking the entire Trail on this visit (!).   

Aside from the legions of mosquitoes which made walking almost unbearable at times, the walk was peaceful and lovely.  The Nerd and I really enjoyed the walk and are definitely going to walk more portions of the Trail tomorrow...after bringing more bug spray with us for safety. 
We did a lot of sightseeing today including visiting a couple of local Island distilleries (that make Shine as well as a variety of spirits) and stopping for ice cream in downtown Souris (the local small town).

I can imagine you saying to yourself: "Ice cream?  Again?  But what about eating healthy?".  My response is my usual "It's all part of my balanced day that includes an hour of hiking to ensure that we have burned enough calories to let us have ice cream, silly".  Because hey, ice cream makes a long walk in the woods surrounded by mosquitoes totally worth it. I regret nothing.  Ice cream is delicious.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Clawing my way day at a time

I had a major breakthrough at the end of April finally breaking past my previous low weight of 185.4 to reach 184.9 pounds.  It took months and months and months of work to undo the impact of poor eating habits over the period before I started work at my new job last year, and the holidays at the turn of this year.

My personal trainer, Mr. Fitness, was a major part of this turnaround.  Another part - - a very big part, as it happens - - was my disciplined eating habits.  Reducing snacking and keeping my calories within a reasonable range helped me drop the weight slowly but steadily.  The workouts helped me improve my overall fitness and get me toned.  Together the eating habits and my workouts combine to improve my fitness level every week.

At the end of April, right after hitting this milestone, I went home to Edmonton for a holiday.  Healthy eating habits went out the window with numerous dinners out combined with unhealthy-ish food at the Patriarch's house.  After I got back from Edmonton I had a few moderately good weeks, then it was back on a plane to New York and all the food and drink that one finds there.  More eating out, and more street food.  It turns out that I am very good at finding food in New York.  Hey, a girl's gotta have a skill. 

After this veritable smörgåsbord of eating and drinking I knew it would take a few weeks of highly disciplined eating and intense workouts to get me back into shouting distance of my previous low.

So that's what I did.  I kicked the workouts up a notch and I stopped snacking at the office.  After the usual 3 or 4 day withdrawal period this was no longer a major struggle and I found it relatively easy to stay on track with my eating plan.  Now after a couple of "clean" eating weeks I have virtually no desire to snack and it is much easier for me to manage my food consumption every day.

I am now back down to 186 pounds and change, a mere whisper away from my previous low milestone of 184.9 pounds.  I feel toned and strong and am noticing that my clothes are fitting better than before. 

On the one hand it is easy to get despondent about putting myself through what is essentially a 2-month plateau.  One week of really bad eating requires at least 6 weeks of good behaviour to undo - - yikes!  That math really sucks.

On the other hand it is wonderful to know what works and to have the confidence to apply what works knowing that it will pay dividends sooner or later. 

On the "sooner or later" front, one comparatively recent innovation is that I no longer set time limits on myself to lose "x" pounds/week or to reach my goal weight by a specific date.  As long as I am making positive strides in controlling my eating or pushing my exercising or I see that I am losing something (no matter how little), I remain positive.  I know that the way my body behaves it will lose a little, or none at all and then suddenly lose pound after pound in its own good time - - as long as I stick to my program.  Although I would like to control when the weight comes off I am apparently not the boss of this and so have gradually learned how to accept the uncertainty (although admittedly with more zen-like calm some weeks than others). 

All in all, then, it has been a good couple of weeks.  I am sticking to my program and I continue to see progress.  That makes me very happy.