Sunday, 30 September 2012

Another month done - progress and pics

Well, it's the end of September, and you know what that means - it's measurement time! 

Here are the stats for this month, showing changes in measurements versus month ago and versus December 2011 (before I started working out) for comparison:

With the usual caveat that I am still morbidly obese (Class III!), I am seeing progress on all my measurements this month.  I think what is driving these results is the elliptical machine combined with the incremental walks, which have helped me to lose 3.75" overall compared to last month, and an amazing 24" down from last December.  Think about that - I have lost 2 feet of me - - that's a lot of mass that has simply disappeared.  *Poof!*  Aaannnnnddd it's gone, just like that!

Of course everyone knows there is no "Poof, gone just like that".  It's a little bit here, and a little bit there, grimly clawed out of repeated workouts and obsessive attention to my food consumption.  While it's really gratifying to see the results from month to month, I am waging the battle from day to day, every day.

You can really see this in my fasting blood sugars:

The green lines indicate normal sugars, while the yellow lines indicate elevated fasting blood sugars in the pre-diabetic range (between 5.6 mmol/L and 6.9 mmol/L).  I am making progress at managing my sugars, even though I have the same number of normal results in September (5) as I did in August.  The difference is that in September I was able to string together two consecutive days of normal sugars, twice, whereas in August, my normal results were always isolated events. I also did not reach a value of 6.8 mmol/L in September (unlike once in each of July and August), so my high values are not as dramatically high - in September my highest reading was 6.3 mmol/L, which although high, is better than it was.  I'll take what I can get. 

You can see a progressive improvement in my average fasting blood sugar numbers: July = 6.3; August = 6.0; September = 5.8.  Further, the standard deviation decreased from 0.4 in August to 0.3 in September, meaning that my values were more tightly clustered around the mean (there were too few values in July to get a meaningful standard deviation).  In other words, my average fasting blood sugar is lower from month to month, and the swings from highs to lows are narrower as well, suggesting that I am (ever so slowly) getting control of my blood sugars.

What I would like to see is a further decrease in my average fasting blood sugar numbers in October, and perhaps a streak of 3 normal values.  Baby steps.

As for weight, my weight as of August 31, 2012 was 284.3 pounds.  This morning I tipped the scales at 274.3 pounds, for a loss of 10 pounds in September.  Since the end of July I have lost 19.4 pounds overall, something I would never have said was possible.  That damn elliptical machine works miracles.  

So, can I see a difference in my face from month to month?  I don't really see a difference.  But I can certainly see a difference from how I looked in August 2008 and today:

OK, sure, the hair is still unruly.  That's just not gonna change - - there is not enough product in the world to tame my mane.  But I am definitely less jowly than I was, and my face is becoming more of its natural oval, as opposed to circular, which is was.

In summary:

Pounds lost this month: 10
Inches lost this month: 3.75"
Clothing size: US/Can 22
Average fasting blood sugar: 5.8 mmol/L
Number of ankles: 0
Number of cankles: 2
Number of clavicles seen: 0 (a girl can dream...)

Friday, 28 September 2012

Week 36 - Progress and Update

Another week is in the books, and it went pretty well.  I am down another 0.8 pounds, for a weight of 275.1, down 58.8 pounds total since I started this journey. 

All in all, it was a good week, bad back notwithstanding.  I stuck to my eating and exercise plan, and I was able to lose all of the water weight from last week and a bit more.  I am officially in new territory, lower than I have been since 2000 (the last time I worked out).

I had the extra bonus this morning of having normal blood sugar.  My reading was 5.4 mmol/L, which is under the cutoff of 5.5 mmol/L, and one of the lower readings I've had in recent weeks.  I am almost more happy about the normal blood sugar than I am about losing weight (but not entirely, as I know the two go hand in hand).

I now have 110.1 pounds left to lose, just under double what I have lost to date.  It sounds like such a big number - humungous, really - that I think sometimes that I will never accomplish it.  But then I look at my weight loss over time, and think back to the beginning of August, when I was pushing 295 pounds - - I have lost 18 pounds in just about 2 months, and that goes to show you that baby steps can add up to big results. 

The key is consistency, and sticking to the plan.  I am determined to keep exercising and eating well each day.  If I watch the days, the weeks take care of themselves.  And once the weeks are taken care of, the months seem to work as well.  So far, it's working.  I haven't missed a workout in 18 weeks, and I am becoming a more savvy shopper and eater every week. 

Photo courtesy Istvan Takacs, licensed CC-BY-SA

I have decided to reduce the gluten in my diet moving forward.  It's not that I have any real or imagined gluten intolerance, it's just that gluten is highly correlated with carbs, which raise my blood sugar.  And carb-y foods are trigger foods for my binges.  Even though it has been literally months since my last binge (in truth, I cannot remember exactly when I last binged), I know that as an emotional eater, I could relapse at any time, just like an alcoholic.  I'm a foodaholic. 

I am not going to cut out all gluten from my diet because that would require a more significant lifestyle change than I am willing to undergo right now.  But I will cut out bread and wheat-based pasta and flour-based snacks as much as possible.  If gluten appears in a sauce we use, or flour is used in a recipe as a thickener, for now we are going to ignore it.  The objective is to reduce the amount of gluten consumed, and see where that takes us.

The Nerd read an article from a researcher who claims that today's genetically modified wheat has an interesting feature - - when you eat products comprised of this wheat, it makes you crave more wheat-based products.  A vicious cycle, as it were.  Now I have not had a chance to review this guy's methodology, and his hypothesis sounds suspiciously like any number of self-serving "gurus" selling cheap fixes for weight loss and eternal happiness.  But I know from observation that people who cut down on their gluten consumption are also cutting down on other things that are not good for them at the same time, and they generally experience positive health benefits as a result.  I'm down with that.

My back is 100% better than earlier this week, although it is still a little twinge-y when I move in certain ways.  I still don't know what caused it to vex me so much, but at least whatever it is, is going away.  Not that it will go away forever - I know that back issues at my age typically recur. 

So, next steps: keep on doing what I am doing.  Try and be better at going on incremental walks (I have let that slide in recent weeks), and keep sticking to my eating plan. 

October will be a challenging month - - we have my nieceling's birthday party on Thanksgiving weekend, and then the Nerd and I are going down to Columbus to visit his parents for our birthdays.  Fortunately, the Nerd's mom really likes grim death marches around the neighborhood, so I think she would be supportive of my desire to keep active on our visit.  At the end of the month I will be in Washington DC for three days at a conference, and it will be particularly challenging to eat well and keep exercising.  No matter which way you slice it, there are a lot of things happening in October that will be a challenge for this little foodaholic, and it will take iron discipline to keep on path.  

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

I'm finished with Gym-Pact

This week I finally gave up on my Gym-Pact app. 

I will be honest and say that when I was first using the app, more than 17 weeks ago, I needed motivation to keep me working out the 5 days a week that were in my plan at the time.  Back then, I worked out on the recumbent bike and the rowing machine, and while these machines were having an impact and were working, it was torture to motivate myself to work out each morning.  The bike was so boring, and it was tough to get and keep my heart rate up high enough to make it worth while.  It was difficult to hold my iPad so that I could read whilst pedaling, and it was tough for me to get up and down off the bike and rowing machine because they were each very low, and my knees and back were so very very bad. 
Plus, did I mention how boring these were?  Mind numbingly boring.  By the end of May, I was starting to skip workouts.  It was clear that I needed to do something to keep on my routine, and this is where Gym-Pact came in.

For those of you who have not read my previous posts on this app, the premise is simple.  You simply make a bet with yourself that you will work out a set number of days each week.  For each week that you make your bet, you receive money for each day that you worked out.  For each day that you miss, you pay the amount of money you bet.  The idea behind the app is that the money collected from the missed bets goes into a pot of money to be split between all the people who made their bets. 

The money is not paid on the basis of how many times you actually work out, but rather, how many days you commit to work out in your bet, or pact.  I started out with a pact of 5 workouts per week, which meant that I was entitled to 5 shares of the overall pot of money when I met my pact.  Eventually I changed my pact to 6 days per week, entitling me to a slightly larger share.  Each week money was credited to my user ID.

Initially only workouts at accredited gyms counted towards your pact, but recently Gym-Pact integrated with Runkeeper, which meant that one could do walks or runs using the Runkeeper app and it would count towards your pact. 

Overall, the Gym-Pact app worked pretty well, for a while.  I had one massive issue shortly after signing up with the app because my sign-in was incomplete, which led to me being billed for missing my pact for the first 6 weeks - - for charges of more than $300 on my Visa.  Gym-Pact eventually credited back the money, but it took a week of emails back and forth and a lot of nagging on my part.

But the issue that broke the camel's back was the repeated issue I had with the app not recognizing workouts that I had done.  Time and time again I would do a workout, it would show on the app, and Gym-Pact would not count it off against my total workouts pledged.  The whole point of the app is that you are rewarded for working out, and punished (monetarily) for missing workouts.  When the app does not count a workout, it puts you at risk of having to pay money despite doing the required workouts.

Time after time I had to email Gym-Pact customer service to get them to fix whatever was the problem causing them to fail to track my workouts.  Time after time it would be corrected, until last week, when I simply never heard back from customer service.  They never got back to me, and that was the final straw.  I put the app on suspension so that I would not be charged, and then withdrew the funds that had accumulated on my account, and deleted the app. 

I was concerned that the same issue was coming up over and over.  If you look at Gym-Pact's Twitter feed you will see that I am not the only one who has been having issues with the app. 

Overall, I was happy to use the app when I first got it, and it helped me get back into good workout habits.  But the poor customer service and repeated technical issues put me at financial risk, and that I could not have. 

We'll see whether I ever receive the promised funds. 

I wish I had ankles...

Here is a picture of my feet in the sand of Myrtle Beach, taken in August of 2007.

On looking at photos from this trip, I think I am lighter now than I was then.  My face appears thinner, and the shorts I am wearing in the photos are at least 2 sizes too large now.  I have changed quite a bit.

What hasn't changed - - I still have no ankles.  Yes, I have to admit it, I have cankles.  It's a shameful secret that I hide by preferentially wearing pants to hide my little Lulu legs. 

I envy those women with ankles. I see women of size in my office and on the streets all the time with delicate feet and lovely, well defined ankles, and I am jealous.  Me, I have these spatulate, size 11 hooves that come at the end of my tree trunk legs without even a hint of an ankle.

I hope that I will eventually develop ankles as I continue to lose the weight.  I say "I hope so", because I have yet to stumble across exercises that allow me to spot train my ankles.  For some reason, the ankle does not appear to be a focus area for most people.  Perhaps it's because they, like most people, have ankles without needing to do anything special. 
Perhaps having cankles is genetic - - I saw an episode of Making the Team (the reality show about the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders) (don't judge - you knew I had a dark side...!), and one of those size 0 girls trying out for the team had cankles and it was enough to keep her from moving on to the next round.

I would love to wear more skirts and dresses, but I am sensitive about my utter lack of definition in the ankle area.  Cheekbones and clavicles I will eventually get.  I can only hope that ankles come along for the ride...!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

I am a poorly adjusted bipedal hominid

I remember reading one of Stephen Jay Gould's essays on life, the universe and everything, and he was discussing our present bipedal form, and how as humans we generally suck at bipedalism (compared to other animals).  As Wikipedia notes:

     Even with much anatomical modification, some features of the human skeleton remain poorly adapted to bipedalism, leading to negative implications prevalent in humans today. The lower back and knee joints are plagued by osteological malfunction, lower back pain being a leading cause of lost working days, because the joints support more weight. Arthritis has been a problem since hominids became bipedal: scientists have discovered its traces in the vertebrae of prehistoric hunter-gatherers. Physical constraints have made it difficult to modify the joints for further stability while maintaining efficiency of locomotion.

I was never more reminded of this than this weekend when I hurt my lower back - - what a typically bipedal hominid thing to do!  There I was, standing there, minding my own business when BLAMMO!  my back went out.

Saturday and Sunday were painful, but Monday was especially bad - - with all the water I drink in a day, sitting still is just not an option, and every time I got out of my chair to walk it was agony.  That is, until I wised up and took 3 extra strength Advils.  Once the pain was down to a dull ache, I could function again.

This morning my back is still sore, but I definitely see progress from yesterday and the day before.  And I will make a point of remembering that painkillers were invented for a reason - to stop my incessant whining - so I should stop trying to be a hero and take something when the discomfort is starting to impinge on my ability to function.

I predict tomorrow I will feel 100% better, at least according to my mother's scale of things.  For her, every day is 100% better than the last.  She's an incurable optimist, my mother.  A stoic with a high pain threshold, and an optimist at the same time, she possesses the perfect combination of traits to get over physical issues, and I am happy to have inherited these qualities from her.  Yay, mitochondrial DNA-linked traits!

On the good side, my back has not affected my ability to sweat on the elliptical machine, which is good.  I would hate to give back all my hard work due to inactivity.  As it is, the weight is trending in a very nice direction (i.e. downwards), and I just need to keep it up.  I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other until I don't notice my lower back any more...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Week 35 - Progress and Update

This week, as expected, I mostly fought to get back to last week's weigh in number.  Since it is almost impossible to lose 8 pounds in a week (and keep it off), I thought that most of the astonishing loss from last week was due to water weight lost, or perhaps, scale error. 

I would seem to be borne out by my results this week.  My official Friday weigh in was 1.3 pounds heavier than last week, for a total loss of 56.7 pounds down.  However, by this morning (Sunday) after my elliptical workout, my weight was down still further to 276, for a total of 57.9 pounds lost.  It's almost as if this last week hasn't happened. 

I am most happy with the fact that I didn't let my gain after last week's weigh-in defeat me and start me on a cycle of emotional eating (which would have been much more difficult to recover from).  I kept my focus, kept eating well, and kept working out.  As a result, I am only .1 pounds off of last week's weigh in, essentially neutral. 

My sugars were somewhat high this week, but they are coming back down - today's reading was 5.7 mmol/L, which is only slightly above a normal reading.  Hopefully I can begin to string together some normal values again.

My BMI this morning was 40.8, which puts me on the edge of Obese Class III (according to the government of Canada).  Compared to my starting BMI of a whopping 49.3, I have come a long way.  My weight is still high enough at 276 pounds, that it does not appear on most BMI charts (they only go up to 40), but I can hope that within a month or so I could be below 40 and into Obese Class II (BMI of 35-39.9), which is one of my short term goals. 

On the good side, I went to a barbeque yesterday and managed to stick to my plan even though almost nothing was on my list of "safe" foods.  Instead of vegetables as a snack, the hosts had put out chips and dip, stuffed jalapeno poppers, and cheese and crackers.  No chicken, but only barbeque pulled pork.  There was a salad, which I loaded up on, and potato salad, which I shunned.  For dessert the Nerd made cookies.  I discovered that the Nerd's peanut butter cookies are my kryptonite, and I had 4 (1 in batter form and 1 to taste before we left, and then 2 more at the party). 

In the end, pre-planning helped me out.  I completely avoided the potato salad and stuck to the caesar salad.  I did not take a bun, but added onion and tomato to the pork.  I drank lots of water, and I stopped at 2 cookies (at the party), where previously I would have had 6 or more.  All in all, it was a great day for discipline for me, and I feel pretty good about that.
Photo courtesy Dr. Donald Corenman, licensed CC-BY-NC-ND

Which is good, because physically I am feeling terrible. 

I was shopping with my mother yesterday (as is my custom), and when I was reaching into my purse to hand her a wet wipe, I felt a sudden stabbing pain in my lower back.  Holding on to things with my arms outstretched was incredibly painful, as was slouching.  It almost took my breath away.  After a couple of minutes of wriggling around and trying to figure out less painful positions, I discovered that standing straight and walking were fine and sitting was fine, but transitioning between the two positions was agony, as was lifting or holding anything.

Initially I thought that I had reverted to the old type of back pain I used to experience after walking any distance before I started working out.  But back then, it helped to sit and lean over and stretch out the muscles in my lower back - - now that only causes more pain. 

I took some Robax and Advil, which collectively did nothing, and managed to make it through the party last night with relatively little discomfort by being careful to stand or sit, and my lifting as little as possible. 

I did not sleep well at all, mainly because any movement brought discomfort.  Changing sides - agony.  Rolling over - agony.  Lying flat and stretching - agony.  Every time I moved I woke up, and I am sure I got only half the sleep I usually would have gotten because of this stupid back thing.

This morning was another scheduled workout day, and I was pleased to find that doing the elliptical was fine, as long as I maintained proper posture.  Slouching would bring another jab of pain, and there is this constant dull ache in my back reminding me that it is there.  Thank goodness the workout was fine, though - - ironically, it hurt more to bend my body and lift my leg to put on my workout pants than it did to do the actual workout.  At least I will be able to keep active and exercising through this.  Although the pain was there during the workout, it was more as a reminder of what could be. 

Let's hope this goes away soon - - I am such a miserable wuss when I get hurt. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Weekend Barbeque Stress

Photo courtesy Technikil, licensed CC-BY-SA-NC
Tomorrow the Nerd and I are going to the "end of the year" party for his softball team. 

Aside from the fact that I am an extreme introvert and the thought of meeting a yard full of strangers fills me with dread [interesting sidenote: according to Susan Cain in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, introverts are far more likely to blog about intimate details of their lives than extroverts.  What a typical introvert I am - you can't get more intimate than blogging about your body!], I am also dreading the inevitable question of what to eat. 

The last time I grazed at a party, I went over my calorie objective for the day even though I had a solid plan going in to the party - - my problem was that I lost count.  A barbeque has lots of food consumed over a long afternoon/evening.  The likelihood of me consuming too many calories is high.  My ability to control what is served is nil.  My ability to control what I eat will be compromised the later in the evening we go - surrounded by food and the smell of cooking food, especially where some of those foods are my trigger foods, I will find it increasingly difficult to say no to food as time goes on.  I still have a lot of bad habits lurking in my memory, and it wouldn't take much to completely binge at a backyard barbeque - - all the traps are there.

My only chance not to go completely off the rails is to think about the calorie counts in certain typical barbeque foods, and to try and plan my attack well in advance. 

Hamburger - one 4oz patty cooked on the grill (no bun) = around 180 calories, 0g carbs
Grilled hot dog (no bun) = 110 calories, 0g carbs
Grilled Schneiders sausage (no bun) = around 260 calories, 4g carbs
Broccoli salad (1 cup) = 125 calories, 0g carbs
Potato salad (1/2 cup) = 200 calories (ack!), 21g carbs
Pasta salad (1 cup) = 220 calories, 43g carbs
Chicken skewers (per skewer) = 100 calories, 0g carbs
Celery (10 x 4" strips) = 6 calories, 1g carbs
Sweet red pepper (3 rings) = 13 calories, 3g carbs
Cherry tomatoes (1 cup) = 66 calories, 6g carbs
Baby carrots (14) - 30 calories, 7g carbs
Nanaimo bars = 196 calories, 20g carbs
Strawberries (1 cup) = 49 calories, 12g carbs
Green grapes (20 grapes) = 52 calories, 14g carbs

Don't ask me why, but it is a Canadian barbeque tradition to have a tray of Nanaimo bars for dessert. 

Looking at these numbers, I see that vegetables are essentially free, or very cheap.  Fruit is pretty good, but it is easy to get carried away.  Chicken is better than a hot dog is better than a hamburger is better than a sausage.  Broccoli salad is good, and potato salad must be avoided at all costs.  Because of the carbs, I can't have buns with anything.  :-(

I am not on a diet, but am trying to make a lifestyle change.  A normal lifestyle for me requires dinners out, parties with friends, and going out to restaurants.  I just need to accept that I will have to make some of my choices on the fly, rather than having everything planned out in advance. 

I confess that it is the lack of control that is causing me the stress.  If the host had posted a menu of every food that was going to be served, I could have the luxury of thinking about the tradeoffs I need to make, and could plan accordingly.  Unfortunately, because the host is a normal person (unlike yours truly, the obsessive), the whole thing will be a surprise. 

But by thinking ahead, I can see roughly what I need to stay away from, and what I can fill my plate up with.  Hopefully I can stay on track!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

How I am trying not to lose my mind

Photo courtesy Justin See, licensed CC-BY-SA-ND

I am about 1/3 of the way through this ever-so-gradual journey to fitness, and it is, I confess, daunting to think that I have twice again as much effort and commitment still to put in as I have managed to accomplish to date.  In other words, if I have accomplished any milestones thus far in my travels, I still have to accomplish just as much two times more before I am done.

The mere thought of that is exhausting.  And frustrating.  I want my immediate gratification, and I want it now!

So that I do not lose my mind at the thought of all the work I still have left to do, I thought I would reflect on some habits that I am trying to internalize that can help me along the way.

1. I am my own person.  Comparing myself to others is the quick road to depression.
If life has taught me anything, it is that although we are not all precious snowflakes, we are all individuals.  My body is not built like anyone I know.  The peculiar mix of my family history and Mendelian genetics is not replicated by anyone else in the world.  So why should I look at other people as a benchmark for how I "should" look, or what I "ought to" do?  It's fine for me to be inspired by others, but lining myself up against a fitter, smarter, more attractive person will demotivate me faster than anything else in the world.   And there is always a fitter, smarter, more attractive person lurking out there.  I can't let myself get sucked in to the comparison game.

2. Consistency, consistency, consistency.  [repeat]
I am a boring person, I will admit.  I am not quite so predictable that you could set your watch by me, but I do like me some routine.  Routine is comfortable.  Routine is understandable.  Routine allows me to plan my day for success.  I know when, how, and how long I am going to work out each day, and I am getting better at knowing what to eat and how much.  Having a predictable selection set of healthy choices makes it easier for me to stay on track.  Doing roughly the same thing every day (exercising every day, sticking to a healthy meal plan) makes it easy for my body to cope with the demands I am putting on it.  It has also helped me to almost entirely eliminate food cravings.  Scratch that -  I still get food cravings, don't think I am superwoman - but the cravings are manageable.  I haven't binged in months, and am slowly learning to have the discipline to control my moods and their impact on my food choices.  Doing the same good things day after day is helping me set up habits and patterns that will become second nature in time.

3. Accept that there is no quick fix. 
As my mother says "the weight did not go on all at once, so it won't come off all at once".  I am by nature impatient with many things, and it causes me great frustration to have to patiently follow the plan and see the results.  I see my impatience in how frustrated I get at my blood sugars and their stubborn refusal to come down in any material way.  I also see my impatience in how frustrated I get when my Friday weigh ins do not go as planned/hoped.  The reality is that my brain knows that it will take me another full year or more to lose the weight and (hopefully) bring my sugars under control.  Emotionally, though, that tiny dinosaur part of my brain wants total success all at once.  I don't know when I am going to learn zen-like patience, but if it's anything like weight loss, it will be a long time coming.  Sigh.

4. Persistence pays dividends.  
This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Ask anyone who is trying to make a lifestyle change. It's such a cliche because it's true.  And, as with any long term project, there will be days that are good, and days that are bad.  Occasional backsliding is more than made up for by continued focus on the plan day after day.  I consider getting healthy to be like a gradual war of attrition on my unhealthy habits and overweight self.  Over time, my stubborn self will wear down those bad habits. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Is "Pre-Diabetes" like being "a little bit pregnant"?

Photo courtesy CollegeDegrees360, licensed CC-BY-SA
I was talking to my mother on the weekend at our regular coffee/shopping trip, and she said: "Pre-diabetes doesn't exist.  You're either diabetic, or you're not.  If you're numbers are over 6, you're diabetic."  She said it with conviction, too.

Two things to note here.  1. My mother is an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic.  Her strong convictions come from experience.  2. My mother does not know I have fasting blood sugar levels that are higher than "normal" but less than "diabetic". Would it have changed her position if she had known?  Who knows?  She's stubborn, so I will say that the knowledge likely would not have changed her viewpoint.  She's funny that way, sticking to her guns when she thinks she's right.

In the "pre-diabetes exists" camp is the preeminent peer-reviewed medical journal, the New England Journal of Medicine.  In its August 9, 2012 edition [citation: N Engl J Med 2012; 367:542-550], Dr. Silvio Inzucchi writes:

"Type 2 diabetes is preceded by a lengthy asymptomatic stage, termed prediabetes, which is characterized by mild hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, and early decrements in insulin secretory capacity."

Given the fact that the NEJM has published an article about diagnosing diabetes that directly refers to pre-diabetes as an actual thing, presumably the leading medical establishment (not to mention the CDA and ADA) hold fast to the idea that there is a grey zone between "normal" blood sugar and a level of high blood sugar that is symptomatic of diabetes.  This grey zone is pre-diabetes.  My mom, unlike Dr. Inzucchi, has not had her opinion that pre-diabetes does not exist published in a peer-review journal.  I will have to defer to the experts, while respectfully allowing my mother to believe what she likes. 

I am able to be convinced of the existence of pre-diabetes if only for the fact that if any elevated blood sugar level meant that you are diabetic, the cutoff levels would be different.  If normal is 5.5, a diabetic would have sugars at 5.6, not 7.0, which is the current accepted level.

Compounding my frustration and uncertainty is the fact that sources do not agree.  I am frankly surprised that almost 100 years after Banting and Best discovered insulin, the medical establishment does not definitively know how to cure diabetes, or even how to define diabetes. 

I suppose the question for little miss hyperglycemic over here is: "what would I do differently if I were a type 2 diabetic, as compared to a person with pre-diabetes and a terrible family history"?  The answer is: "Nothing". 

The CDC says that healthy eating, physical activity, and blood glucose testing are the basic therapies for type 2 diabetes. In addition, many people with type 2 diabetes require oral medication, insulin, or both to control their blood glucose levels.  Further, lifestyle intervention to lose weight and increase physical activity reduced the development of type 2 diabetes by 58% during a 3-year period in one large prevention study.

Anyone who has looked at my food diary could tell you that, thanks to the Nerd, I am well on the way to eating healthy, every day.  As for physical activity, I work out for 40 minutes on the elliptical machine, 6 days a week, and I go for incremental walks at least twice a week.  I walk to and from work.  With my job and the hours it demands, it is difficult for me to be any more physically active (although I am certain I will find a way, with time).  I also test my fasting blood sugar every morning, so I know exactly where I stand.

I am doing all the right things.  I just get frustrated that doing all the right things is not resulting in instant reductions of my blood sugar levels.  I guess the biggest problem for me is that changes in my blood sugar levels are so gradual, and intermittent, compared to my weight loss, which is more predictable. 

Lifestyle change takes time to kick in.  I just hope I have time for it to kick in before I kick over to being a full-blown diabetic.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Walking and wins

Photo courtesy Bradley Buhro, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA
Saturday I had the usual routine of coffee and grocery shopping with my mom at McEwan's (a premium grocery store in North York with amazing service), and then grocery shopping (for the bulk of the food) with the Nerd at the St. Lawrence Market.

I had planned to go for a walk after shopping and before lunch, but it was 3pm before we finished lunch as coffee ran a little long this morning.  One thing led to another and before I knew it, it was getting into the early evening, and no walk was in sight.

I had suggested to the Nerd that we go for a walk a few times today, and got a non-committal response each time.  I suspect he is starting to realize that these grim death marches are becoming a trend, and perhaps he is regretting his early enthusiasm for walks.

I finally decided to go myself if the Nerd would not accompany me, and headed out alone around 7:30 pm - - in time for a perfect sunset, and then a nice walk alone in the increasingly dark streets.  That latter part was not so fun, as inevitably in downtown Toronto there are certain blocks or areas that are less comfortable to walk past, either because of the number or type of people hanging out on the street.  But I am a big girl (no kidding), and I was walking at a good clip, and I appeared to be aware of my surroundings, so I was not bothered by anyone.

I tried a new app for the first time on this walk, the BeatBurn Treadmill app.  You may remember that I use the BeatBurn Elliptical app 6 days a week during my elliptical exercises.  The concept behind both apps is the same: the app adjusts the beat of your personal music to hit a specific cadence, and varies that beat/cadence throughout the workout.  On the elliptical machine this is accomplished by varying the intensity on the machine and your strides per minute.  On the treadmill app the intensity is varied purely modifying the walking pace.

Overall, I enjoyed using the app for the walk.  I would have enjoyed it more if it were light out and not so scary on the street, but the fact that I was walking at night was not the app's fault.  I found the variety in the music to be quite stimulating, and I did not get bored with the pace on the walk.  I also found that walking in time to the music helped me keep pressing the pace, avoiding my tendency to slow down over time.

I was surprised that I was so keen to walk, especially since I ended up walking alone.  It can't be because I get to eat more when I work out ... well, not only that, at any rate.  I think it is because I am committed to adding walks to my routine, and I am also committed to doing something active every day.  Going for a walk is a simple fix to a workout problem - - it's free, and can be as intense (or not) as you wish.

I still find walking challenging, because I have an unusually bouncy stride and cannot for the life of me hit a 4 mph pace.  But distance is not a problem any more, nor is time.  I walked for around 50 minutes, and could easily have gone longer if I did not need to get home for dinner.  My legs still feel achy when I get home and have sat for a while, but the next morning there are no sequelae from the walk - - no muscle soreness, no joint pain, no sore feet - - which is great.

I hope that the more walks I do, the better I will be able to dial up the pace.  I would love to walk 5 km in under 60 minutes (or preferably much less).  This is not because I would like to be a competitive walker, but rather, because I hate the idea of doing anything for 60 minutes that doesn't involve words like "snuggle" or "nap", or "tasting menu".

Photo courtesy Alien Skyy, licensed CC-BY-SA
As for wins, aside from the win of being motivated enough to go for a walk on my nominal "rest" day, I noticed today for the first time that I am having an easier time getting out of chairs. 

I have a couple of very comfy chairs in the living room, which by their nature are difficult from which to escape.

In the past, before I started working out, I would have to lever myself out of the chairs with great effort.  My knees would be very sore and weak, and there was no question of simply standing up - - getting to an upright position almost required a winch and a crane, and was a major undertaking.  Getting out of the chair was so challenging that most evenings, once I was in the chair, it was more practical to just accept that I was there for the duration.

A few weeks ago (or maybe even a couple of months ago), I noticed that it was somewhat easier to get out of the chair, in that it was easier for me to bend over and put my computer lapboard on the ottoman to permit me to lever myself out of the chair.  The simple fact was that having lost around 5" on my stomach, there was less of me in the way impeding bending at the waist.

Today I noticed that, although I am still levering myself out of chairs, the effort required is much less.  I am not leaping out of chairs like a springbok, by any means, but I am noticing that it requires much less effort to lever myself out of chairs than it did before.

I expect this means that my legs are getting stronger with all the exercise that I am doing.  After all, all those elliptical workouts and walks must be good for something, right?  Regardless, being able to get out of chairs with (slightly more) grace and dignity is a win, and I will take it. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tea time drove me to a one-cup brewer...

Today I purchased a Bosch TASSIMO one cup-brewer, because of the tea.

Perhaps I should take a step back.  I used to be a big coffee drinker back in the day.  Coming in to work on the subway would take me past a Tim Hortons, and I would routinely buy my regular (XL coffee with two cream and 4 sugars), along with two donuts.  According to Tim Hortons' convenient nutrition calculator, the coffee was 380 calories and a whopping 62 grams of carbs.  The donuts would be another 580 calories, and 74 grams of carbs.  And I wonder why I was morbidly obese - - the coffee alone had enough calories and carbs for one of my typical meals nowadays.  I won't even discuss the days after I pulled an all-nighter and my assistant would bring me 2 XL coffees ...

[As an aside, sometimes I still crave a Timmies - the old routine was so comfortable.  But looking at those numbers reminds me why there is no going back].

Anyhoo, once the Nerd gleefully told me how many calories and carbs were in my special Sunday morning coffees (coffee with cream and sugar and 1.5 oz of Baileys Irish Cream) - - i.e. way too many calories and carbs - - I stopped drinking coffee pretty well overnight.  Initially I did not replace the coffee with anything, but in recent weeks we have been drinking Earl Grey tea.  The ritual of sitting and chatting whilst sipping a warm beverage is a nice one, and it's tradition after a meal out at a restaurant to finish up with tea or coffee.  I have replaced the sugar with Splenda sugar substitute (recommended by one out of one diabetics who happen to be my mother), and so the caffeine hit is now pretty diet-friendly.

But brewing tea - wow, that takes forever.  Heating the water on the stove takes time, then steeping the tea takes time.  Before lunch this afternoon while the Nerd was upstairs grilling the kebabs, I set the table, put away dishes, and thought it would be nice to enjoy a cup of tea with lunch.  I was still waiting for the water to boil when the Nerd came back downstairs with the food, and it was still a further 5 minutes or so before the tea was ready.  Well nuts to that! 

So yes, I snapped.  It was destined to happen, since I had been pricing out one-cup brewers months ago.  As it happens, today I saw that one model happened to be on sale in the grocery store.  And it happened to be the brand that has the licence to brew Twinnings tea, Tim Hortons coffee (starting October 2012), and Cadbury hot chocolate. 
I know that one-cup brewers are prone to have pump problems, and I know that the cartridges are more expensive on a per-cup basis that normal coffee or tea.  But I also know that I am the world's most impatient person when it comes to brewing coffee or tea, and that in my billable-hour world, time is money.  So there's that.

We fired the brewer up this afternoon and I had a couple of cups of tea.  It was much faster than brewing with a kettle.  The tea was, to my palate, identical to home-brewed, and there was no fuss or mess. 

To be sure, aside from the cost issue, the selection of packaged teas is much more limited, although the company produces orange pekoe, green, and chai teas as well as Earl Grey tea, so the flavours I typically choose are covered. 

We'll see how the little guy stands up over time, and whether my tea habit becomes unquenchable with on-demand brewing.  Who knows - - perhaps it was only the fact that brewing took so long that kept me from becoming one of those people who drinks 6 cups of tea in a day. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Week 34 - Progress and Pics

This week I had a huge weight loss, one that I am at somewhat of a loss to explain.  I lost 7.9 pounds last week, down to 275.9 pounds - - a loss of 58 whole pounds since I started working out.  To put that into perspective, 58 pounds lost represents 17% of my starting body weight, and 34% of my total weight loss goal.

I would say that this is an artificial water loss, but the charts would appear to bear out at least some directionally similar results:
The overall trend is strongly in this negative direction, so this dramatic weight loss may result in me plateauing for a couple of weeks, but it certainly may be legitimate.  Only time will tell, I suppose.

So what's different in my plan to explain these results?  This is the second or third week of eating more calories in an attempt to come close to covering my TDEE.  This is also the third or fourth week of adding the walks to my routine, and these have definitely added exercise to my base plan.  And of course, this is the first week in which I have done the 40 minutes x 6 days/week elliptical workouts, which has definitely taken up the intensity level of my workouts.  Perhaps this weight loss is just the perfect storm of all those virtuous behaviours coming together.

Since I have started tracking my food (and alcohol) consumption with the food diaries on the MyFitnessPal app I have been eating much better, and more balanced, meals.  I have also been more attentive to water consumption, although I was pretty good at drinking water once I cut Diet Pepsis out of my regular diet.

As for my fasting blood sugar levels, although I only had 2 normal results this week, they were back to back, which hints at good things to come.  Of the remaining days in the week, I had only 1 result over 6.0 mmol/L, which is a huge improvement from when I first started tracking.  I am still pre-diabetic, but my numbers are directionally much better than they were.  In time, I hope that the normal readings will be in the majority, until the only readings are normal readings.

In celebration of my massive weight loss, I went and got my hair done this morning.  I had it trimmed, and touched up the colour, and had the stylist blow it out straight (a nice change from my normal naturally curly hair).  Here's a photo from 2008 (top) showing my usual hair and one from this morning (bottom) to show the difference. 
 I don't know what I weighed in 2008, but it was nowhere near my heaviest.  Even so, it looks like my glasses are bigger now, which means my face must be smaller, so I must be lighter now than I was then.

My hair will not stay this straight for long - - maybe not even until I go home given that it is raining right now.  My natural curl will not be denied!  But hopefully I can keep it until tomorrow morning when I go shopping with my mother, because she loooovvees me with straight hair.

I am comfortably back into my normal first thing in the morning workout routine, and I have to say that I really enjoy working out in the morning.  When I exercise before I start my day, it's done and I don't have to worry about making time to fit it into my schedule later in the day (something I find very stressful).

On an unrelated (or quasi-related) note, I saw this morning when I was checking my weight on my wifi scale that the Nerd has weighed himself, and he has lost more weight - - 1.9 pounds down from a couple of weeks ago, to 202.8.  He hasn't been doing anything particularly special, but he has been cooking healthy meals for me, which means that he has automatically been eating better.  And he has been accompanying me on my walks on the weekend, so he's been getting some incremental exercise that way.  I wish I knew what he started at - - he only started using my wifi scale (and thereby leaving his digital footprint, as it were) after he had already lost some weight.  However just with those readings he has lost 30 pounds, which is amazing.  He is very excited at the prospect of breaking 200, since he hasn't been below 200 pounds since his college days.

I am very happy for him, but damn, I wish it wasn't so easy for him to lose weight when it is such a slog for me.  I spend 4 hours a week on the elliptical machine (!), go on incremental walks, and monitor my food intake like an obsessive-compulsive, and all he does is do his normal routine.  Sheesh.  But he is so darn cute and proud when he tells me he needs to put another hole in his belt, so I forgive him his relatively easy weight loss.  Mostly. 

I will be very curious to see what next week's weight loss will be, if any.  My overall numbers have been trending down in this direction for several weeks, so this week's loss may not be completely out of the blue.  I am ok with plateauing for a couple of weeks, if it looks like my body just got ahead of itself.

I see from the numbers on my TactioHealth app that I have 111 pounds left to lose.  My immediate short term objective is to i) reach 270 pounds (because that brings me to a 40 BMI), and then my next goal will be to break the 100 pounds left to lose mark.  That will be a big one. 

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Whew - back into the routine!

Photo courtesy Shelly Munkberg, licensed CC-BY-NC-ND
I managed to eke out a workout last night after working late-ish and going to the grocery store for the usual mid-week provisions (fresh fruit, vanilla non-fat yogurt, cheese, olive oil).

After all the sturm und drang of yesterday's blown schedule, I decided to change my workout to a simple fat burning program just using the music on my iPod.  In trying this I discovered that the BeatBurn Elliptical Training app really does make workouts go much quicker.  Last night I spent the entire time on the machine looking at the countdown, and waiting until I could get off.  Time seemed to stretch forever, which I know is just not scientifically possible (at the speed I was going, at any rate).

This morning, working out for 40 minutes felt long, but the time was no real problem using the BeatBurn app.  I like that the app constantly mixes up the intensity, speed and songs with different time intervals so that it is almost impossible to get bored with the workout.  Don't like something?  Wait a minute or two - - it will be different soon.  Straight pedalling, in contrast, is tedious as hell.  I don't know how my mother does 60 minutes twice a day, I honestly don't.

It took me what felt like forever to get out of the house this morning.  I did sleep in to 6.30 am (from my usual 5-5.30 am), but it was putting together the lunch and dinner to take to work that killed me.  Sure, the main courses were all pre-packed, but I still had to cut stawberries, measure yogurt, measure peas and corn, measure sunflower seeds and salad dressing, and get everything together.  I am glad that I planned everything out last night, so I had a plan of attack this morning.

But you know what really slowed me down?  Ants. On. A. Log.  Those suckers take some craftsmanship to make, that's for sure.  Craftsmanship that I do not possess.  I ended up looking like a small child on her first birthday, with peanut butter all over the counter, the spoon, my suit, in my hair ... everywhere, in fact, but on the damn celery, where it was supposed to go.  It turns out that wet celery does not hold peanut butter.  A marvel of physics under our very nose.  Lesson learned - - I will leave the Nerd to make Ants on a Log from now on.  He has the patience of Job!

Perhaps in the spirit of learning from my mistakes I will try and prep my lunch/dinner tonight, rather than in the morning.  The tricky thing about that is that I need a lot more tupperware to pull it off - - I am pretty much using all the tupperware I have each day for lunch, and it doesn't work to put food into wet containers, fresh from the wash.  At least based on my learnings from the celery this morning. 

My weight bottomed out this week on Tuesday, and has now started to come back up.  I am strangely reassured by this because I was actually concerned that my weight was too low.  I know, it sounds crazy when I say it like that (!).  But the new program of 40 minutes on the elliptical was, I think, causing me to shed more water than before, and the weight I reached was not a true weight.  I just am keeping my fingers crossed that I don't go too far back up - - let's hope equilibrium is 2 pounds down versus last week.  Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Oh, how quickly routines become a scramble...!

Photo courtesy of J. Ludwick, licensed CC-BY-NC
It's days like this that really test my ability to follow a plan.

People who have been reading my blog might have noticed that I am something of a creature of habit (I am aware of the understatement in that sentence, thank you very much).  I get up between 5 am and 6 am and test my blood pressure and blood sugar, then I work out on the elliptical machine, weigh myself, and get ready for work.  I will eat breakfast either at home or at the office, but I will usually have fruit and yogurt, and then I will eat lunch and dinner at the office.   Lunch and dinner are usually comprised of delicious leftovers courtesy of the Nerd, who pre-packages individual meal sized servings of everything on the weekend, ready for the taking during the following week.  I will get home sometime between 9pm and midnight, and I will fall immediately in to bed, where I will read for a bit on my iPad.  If I am very lucky, I will not fall asleep whilst holding the iPad over my head, as that's a quick route to a shiner (don't ask me how I know this). 

I may be an unpredictable glamourpuss in my mind, but the reality is that I am actually pretty predictable.  And that predictability is comforting as I continue on this journey, because it means that I have a routine I can trust to keep me a) exercising 6x/week; b) eating 3 meals per day; and c) eating a manageable number of calories in the range of 1800-2000 per day. 

Predictability goes out the window when I pull an all-nighter.

Last night I was working on discovery answers and a licensing agreement until 2:30 am, and I didn't get into bed until 3 am.  When my alarm went off at 5:30 am I actually got up and tested my blood sugar, but I did not test my blood pressure, or weigh myself, or get on the elliptical - - I was too tired, and I needed to be in the office for 8:00 am for a practice group meeting this morning.  I made an executive decision to try and get at least 4 hours sleep, and left my house with 35 minutes to spare before the meeting.  I did not work out this morning, because working and getting 4 hours of sleep do not go together when you are recovering from an all-nighter.

Trying to squeeze in extra sleep meant that my morning routine was incredibly rushed and I had no time to waste.  When I am cutting things fine like that, I depend on the provisions set up for the routine, because - - trust me - - I don't have time to prepare from scratch.  It was a relatively quick and easy matter to get my yogurt and berries for breakfast (I ate them in the meeting, which was fine because it was a breakfast meeting).  But the only way I had anything close to a decent lunch and dinner is because the Nerd had prepacked so much stuff on Monday night.  If I did not have a fridge full of leftovers, already organized into perfect servings, I would not have had any time to prepare lunch and dinner, and my eating plan for the day would have been put into jeopardy. 

As it was I am a little low in calories and I am having to fill some of the gap with a skinny cow brand ice cream sandwich tonight.  (It's a tough life, I know...!)

I will need the calories when I get home because I still have to do my elliptical workout this evening (!).  I have not missed a workout in 15 weeks, and I will be damned if I am going to let one little all-nighter cause me to miss one now, no matter how tired I am.  Plus, if I skip today, I will just have to work out Saturday morning to make up the time, and I would prefer to sleep in on the weekend.  

So my schedule went from boring and predictable to wild and chaotic all in the space of one day, simply because of the all-nighter. 

If this had occurred three or four months ago, I would have simply skipped breakfast and ignored the food in my house because I would not have had time to prepare anything.  There certainly would not have been a fridge full of fruit and yogurt and vegetables and other healthy choices, let alone pre-packed meals.  I would have ordered some dinner to be delivered in the evening, but that would have likely put me well below 1200 calories for the day, and probably all the wrong kinds of calories, to boot.

It is easier to succeed once you get on a program of regular exercise and healthy eating.  Just having the good stuff in the house takes a lion's share of the problems out of the equation.  The routine gives structure and predictability, making it easier to plan and execute the plan.  On a day like today, when I had to make snap decisions about food and I had to reschedule exercise, it was my familiarity with the plan that made it possible.  I didn't have to spend 10 minutes staring into the abyss of the fridge, because I knew ahead of time what I was going to eat.

I am not good enough at this whole lifestyle thing, or disciplined enough (yet) to go free range and stop tracking my food.  But this minor all-nighter induced blip in the program has convinced me more than ever that I am on the right track.  If a little sleep deprived.   

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The new program appears to be working ...

Photo courtesy marsmet544, licensed CC-BY-SA-NC
I have been working the new elliptical program of 40 minutes per day for 3 days now, and am definitely feeling wobblier when I get off the machine.  I am thrilled that I am able to last 40 minutes, which would have been impossible even a couple of months ago when I first got the elliptical machine.  I am definitely working much harder than I was last week, and I am feeling the workouts more, even though I am only doing a mere 5 minutes of incremental time each day.   

My eating plan appears to be working as well.  I am eating between 1800 and 2000 calories each day in an attempt to cover both my BMR and most of my exercise calories.  Since I have taken the food levels up, I have found it generally easier to lose weight.  I am not feeling hungry at night, and my food cravings have largely disappeared when I am eating three meals a day.  My cravings are not entirely gone - - I noticed them last weekend when we only had brunch and dinner and I wanted to eat all afternoon - - but they are manageable.  I am taking each day as its own goal and trying to hit the target for that single day, rather than trying to look ahead too far, and this has helped a lot. Especially since the overall goal is still so far away.

This week in particular, with the step up in exercise and the higher calories, I have noticed that weight is coming off - a lot of weight has been coming off.  It almost feels like it's coming off too readily, because I am already down quite a bit and it's only Tuesday.  I can't quite believe the numbers on the scale, but my philosophy is to accept a good number with grace, and get the heck off the scale.  It's not good to tempt the weight loss gods by spurning a good result!

I am not getting too emotionally attached to the numbers I am seeing on the scale (they're in the 270s for the first time in years) because I expect to see a little rebound up in weight as the end of the week appears.  This is pretty typical for me.  My usual week has the lowest weight on Thursday, with Friday mornings - - the day I actually log my weights - - being a bit higher.  

My concern about rapid weight loss is two-fold.  

  1. I want to ensure that any loss is sustainable, so while a big loss one week is great, it doesn't really count until I can sustain that loss and build on it over successive weeks.  We all know the impact of water weight, either cyclically or due to high sodium intakes.   A huge loss of water that isn't sustainable isn't really a huge loss in the end. 
  2. I want to have a manageable weight loss to avoid the dreaded loose skin issues that accompany dramatic weight loss.  I am in my mid-40s now, which means that my skin no longer has its previous elasticity.  This means that taking off the weight a pound or two each week is good, but 5-10 pounds a week is too fast.  
I am probably worrying for nothing, since it is unlikely that these ridiculously low weights will stay until Friday.  I am sure that I will come back closer to last week's 283.8 weight, although I certainly hope I don't exceed it...!

As for the concerns about loose skin, I have read a lot of articles that recommend weight training as one way to reduce the incidence of loose skin.  Right now my workout routine is exclusively cardio, but my old routine had weights integrated into the routine 3x per week, and I know that I will need to work my way back to incorporating weights eventually. 

All in good time.  For now I am working on adjusting to the new workout plan.  Let me get through that on a daily basis without my legs falling off, and I will consider adding weights. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

There's no forbidden fruit this time...

Photo courtesy Mike McCormick, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA
Although I only log my weight once a week, on Fridays, I weigh myself every day.  I know, it's a sickness.  It does, however, allow me to get immediate feedback on my diet and exercise, which is why I do it. 

This past weekend we took some friends out to a Mexican restaurant, as mentioned in a previous post.  This morning I weighed less than I have weighed in literally years.  Inconceivable!

Not quite.  In the past I would have eaten a meal much like the one pictured here, with lots of fried food, cheese, sauces, and huge portions.  Even looking at the picture makes me salivate. 

This weekend, however, I ordered a small fried appetizer (of which I only ate two of six pieces), and I had the fish as my main course.  I was not overful, and I stayed on my plan.  I also religiously tracked my food consumption and planned my meal before going to the restaurant, so that I would know what I could eat before stepping in the door.  Would I have preferred to eat the cheese-smothered fried stuff?  Yes.  Did I?  No.

And this is not the only time that I have eaten out since embarking on this journey.  A couple of months ago we went to that barbeque restaurant, and last month we went to North 44, a gourmet restaurant in midtown.  A couple of weeks ago we went to an Italian restaurant, and last weekend was Mexican.  And if we're not eating out, the Nerd and I are entertaining - - a couple of weeks ago we had a friend over for lamb chops. 

The thing that struck me last night is that I don't feel deprived.  I am not changing my habits, in that I am still going out for dinner and still having friends over.  What is different is how I look at food.  I plan my day's food consumption before going out for dinner, so that I know how to balance the intake for the day against my plan.  I enjoy delicious food that I love - - but I enjoy it in sensible portions. 

Truffle risotto is delicious, but I can only have 1/2 cup instead of the 1.5 cups on the plate.  No problem.  I still get to taste and enjoy the risotto, and I get to stick to my plan as well.  It's a win-win, the best of both worlds. 

I have to admit, the Italian and Mexican restaurants were both tough, mainly because of the nature of the food served, and how high many of the dishes are in carbs.  But they were doable, which is important.  Because if I start feeling deprived, then my food plan begins to feel like a diet rather than a lifestyle change, and that is simply not sustainable in the long term. 

I like being able to budget for delicious food, and I really like having the discipline to stop eating at a serving.  It is still a tough thing, sometimes, and I still get the desire to eat my way through the fridge, but luckily, I no longer keep most of my trigger foods in the house.  That's important, because it's when I'm weak that I'm most likely to stray off plan.  And given my past habits, I would be likely to stray in a big way.

This is a long term plan for me, and there will be some days that I am not successful in my fight to hit plan every day.  But if I keep my eye on the long term goal and don't beat myself up too badly for the occasional mistake, I am confident that things will work out in the end.  And I like the thought that when I hit my goal weight, I can celebrate by going out to dinner.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

It's time to take it up a notch...

Photo courtesy Barry Solow, licensed CC-BY-SA
Another week has passed, and I think it is time to take up the intensity.

Today I stepped up my elliptical routine from 35 minutes to 40 minutes.  I felt a bit tired this morning, but then, I usually feel a bit tired on Sundays, coming back from my 'rest' day.  Physically, it was an intense workout, but it felt good. 

Now, all I need to do is to replicate that feat hundreds of more times [grin].

On another good note, I had a major win today - - my fasting blood sugar was normal, for the second day in a row.  (!)

This sounds like such a minor thing, except that in all the months that I have been tracking my blood sugar levels, I have never had two consecutive normal readings.  Sometimes the day after a normal value would be only slightly high, but it would always be high.

This is a great result, because I have been very diligent at trying to keep my carbs under 200g each day.  For the past week, for example, my numbers have been 208g, 164g, 165g, 171g, 152g, 195g and 178g (planned).  I think that the long term impact of managing my carbs and gradually losing weight will show itself in increasing numbers of normal blood sugar readings.  That's my hope, at least.

The really nice thing about this is that these numbers were accomplished without giving up all fun in my diet.  Yesterday we took some friends to Habaneros Mexican Restaurant, on Wellington Street East.  It is true that I had the tilapia where I previously would have had something full of cheese, meat, and deliciousness (and fat, and calories, and carbs...), I was able to have a little treat in two taquitos, which let me enjoy the crispy/meaty/spicy taste of something, without having it take over my entire dinner.  I ate two, and left the other 4 in the serving for the others at the table, and they quite happily ate my leftovers. 

I am not going to say that it was easy - - it took me the better part of the afternoon to work out what were the healthier choices at a Mexican restaurant (the short answer is that you need to avoid flour tortillas, fried anything, sour cream, guac, and cheese.  And chips.  You need to avoid tortilla chips like the plague). 

I am very encouraged both by the fact that I am staying on the plan, and that the plan is yielding results. 

Now all I have to do is survive 40 minutes on the elliptical machine 6 days a week...!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

I'm Melting...!

Another week down, another 0.5 pounds down.  There are a couple of wins there.  First, I was still able to lose weight from my last official weigh in on Friday last despite the infamous "sausage cassoulet affair" (see previous post).  Second, I broke 50 pounds lost, for a total of 50.1 pounds lost overall.  Yay, me!

On the one hand, I (and my mother) am thrilled that I have lost 50 pounds.  On the other hand, I still have that amount again, twice, still to lose.  More, actually, since I need to lose about another 120 pounds or so.  Ack.  When I think about it like that, it sounds like a really big number.  Better not to think of that.  Let's think about wins, so as not to become utterly discouraged.

One win this week is that I have really been tracking my carbs, and I actually had 2 normal fasting blood sugar readings this week.  Down from my all-time high of 3 normal readings in a week, but way up from last week's result of zero normal values.  I will take the wins where I get them, thank you very much.  2 normal results is a third of the way to all normal results - - baby steps, people.  One day at a time.

The other win is that I finally broke out some of my size 22 clothes, which is the size that I now am, compared to size 26, which is where I started.  On Friday I wore a pair of size 22 jeans into the office, and although they were tight (not grotesquely so, just not loose), they fit, and I got compliments on how good I looked.  :-)  Today I looked through my clothing archive (carefully organized under improvised garbage bag garment bags, grouped by size) for my size 22 clothes.  Apparently I blew through that size pretty fast (at least according to my mother), which suggests that I held on to the size 20 clothes much longer than I should have, because I was almost ready for size 24 by the time I transitioned into size 22.  The net result that I had very few size 22 clothes compared to other sizes.

The archive for size 22 was somewhat sparse.  A skirt, a scarf, and one jacket.  That will not hold me for long, that's for sure.  The jacket, however, is a nice green tweed, that I bought as a casual Friday jacket for use with jeans.  I tried it on and could do it up for the first time in literally years, and it looked nice.  Because it was the same size as me, the shoulders actually came around the same width as my actual shoulders, instead of looking like massive 1980s-era shoulder pads.  Sweet.

And I got compliments with the jacket.  I wore it shopping today and my mom loved it (she remembered the last time I wore it, years ago), and one of our friends commented how much she loved the jacket when we met them for dinner tonight.  Double sweet.  :-)
Photo courtesy PhotOZraphy, licensed CC-BY-SA-ND

I discovered one thing about my twisted psyche today, however, which is that I am not comfortable wearing clothes that fit.  Strange, no?  I am so used to wearing clothes that are too big, literally overflowing off of me, that I can use them almost like a cape or protective layer, hiding how my body really looks.  When you wear clothes that fit, your actual size is obvious - - the clothes highlight your form.  I am still uncomfortable in how I look (relative to the general population), so that wearing size-appropriate clothing makes me uncomfortable.  I can't hide in it like I could hide in my old black size 26 suit jackets.  In time this will be self-repairing.  Either my current clothing will become too loose, in which case I can use it as a shield, or I will become more comfortable with my form, and I won't mind if my clothes fit. 

I found it interesting that I only discovered this when putting on the jacket that fit well.  Strange how one's mind works. 

Another win (yes, I know, I said there were two wins when actually there are 3.  You should know by now that there are always 3 things with me, just like the Spanish Inquisition) is that the Nerd and I went for a 3.3 mile walk this afternoon, uninterrupted by breaks. This walk felt pretty good, and it took under an hour to do, which is my fastest time yet for that distance.  A couple of months ago I would not have even thought I could walk a couple of kilometers, let alone three+ miles. 

I am enjoying the feeling of being able to walk places in the city.  Today we walked up to Dundas Street, then back down to Front Street and over to Sherbourne Street.  I was actually surprised when we reached Dundas, because the street appeared much quicker than I expected - - after all, it's 2 subway stops north, which is a Long Way.  Well, maybe the old me would have not been able to walk that distance, but the new me actually suggested the walk, and enjoyed seeing the sights. 

The fact that I was able to eat extra food at the Mexican restaurant this evening because of the calories expended on the walk was just a bonus, I swear [grin].

Onward and downward!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tough week, but I just have to keep going

Photo courtesy Michael Summers, licensed CC-BY-SA-ND
It has been a difficult week this week, after such a weekend of triumph.

Last weekend I broke the 50 pounds lost mark, and went on my first 4.4 mile walk.  I had broken through a plateau and was riding high.

This week, however, it seems that every time I get on the scale the number is bigger.  Today it was a full pound heavier than yesterday, which was heavier than the day before.  Fortunately I only log my weight once a week, on Fridays, but the trend is still extremely frustrating.  Especially since with only a day to go before my official weigh in, it will take a miracle to hold steady.

What was puzzling me is the cause.  I was exercising every morning, religiously - in fact, I haven't missed a workout in almost 15 weeks.  I was eating pre-planned meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, ensuring that I was eating enough calories to avoid going into starvation mode.  I was not doing any late night snacking, or cheating that would put me over.  I was drinking no less than 12 and sometimes as much as 15 glasses of water a day.  And still I gained.  It's not that time of my cycle, so why? 

I was talking to the Nerd about it this morning and it turns out that the sausage cassoulet may be the culprit.  According to the recipe, a full serving is rich, but doable.  The carbs and calories are somewhat high, but well within my plan, especially when worked into a thought out meal plan.

Except...not so much.  The Nerd did not measure the sausage.  While the recipe calls for a pound of sausage (which in some cases is 4 links, but not always), he did not weigh the meat and simply used 4 links.  And these are big links.  Judging by the effects (and their size), these suckers are easily double the allotted weight called for in the recipe. 

And so, with all the best intentions in the world, the Nerd has been undermining my efforts this week, albeit unknowingly.  And I have been the unwitting participant in undoing all of the hard work for the past two weeks at least. 

I just feel so depressed right now.  I have been so disciplined, and have been doing everything according to the plan, and then a failure to measure bites me in the proverbial ass.  It was all I could do to drag myself into work this morning, because I cannot face having to re-do all of that good work. 

And I can't even get mad at the Nerd, because he certainly would not knowingly sabotage me.  It's his freewheeling cooking style that has finally come home to roost. 

I have a kitchen scale - - it looks like we're going to have to get a lot better at using it. 

The only ray of sunshine in this otherwise bleak day?  I feel absolutely no desire to emotionally eat.  That's a win, right?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

I may not see it ... but my Fitbit does

As you know, I began officially working out at the end of January, 2012.  Before that, and in fact, as early as November, 2011, I was watching what I ate (although not, apparently, watching it very closely).  Trying to manage my food consumption alone led to some minor weight loss, but it took adding exercise to really see the pounds start to come off.

I, like most people, look at myself in the mirror every day.  Changes are happening to my body, but I don't really see them until I compare two photographs, side by side.  It's just that all the changes are so incredibly gradual, that I don't notice them from day to day.

But my little Fitbit sees the changes, too, and tells me so.  Let's look at my very first weekly report from Fitbit (at right).  I walked a whopping total of 13,209 steps that week, for an average of 1,887 steps per day, and a total of 5.94 miles for the entire week. 

Thinking back to this timeframe, at my heaviest, I simply couldn't walk more than a half a block without extreme discomfort in my back, and without my asthma kicking in to make me sound like a freight train.  Not to mention the ever-so-attractive bright pink face.  And that is from walking half a block.

I couldn't walk to the office (a 3 block trip) without stopping at least once to stretch out my back, and I would do whatever I could to avoid walking at all, it was so uncomfortable.  I spent $12 each week on transit to the office, and $50 per week on cabs home from the office.  All because I. Could. Not. Walk. 

Let's compare, shall we, to one of my recent tracking reports (not last week's because Fitbit decided not to track an entire day's worth of steps for some reason, but that's another story). 

A couple of weeks ago I walked more than 48 thousand steps, covering more than 23 miles.  Not only can I walk to the office without discomfort, but I recently went on a 4.4 mile walk, for "fun".  I would never have even thought that I could do such a thing, when I started this workout kick. 

Last week I walked to the office and home again every day (except for Friday evening, when I took a cab to meet a friend uptown for dinner).  I then had a long walk on Saturday afternoon, home from Yonge and Bloor, and I had the monster of all walks (for me) on Sunday, at Tommy Thompson Park. 

The Nerd has noticed that I walk faster, when I walk places, and that we do not need to stop when he walks me to the office in the morning.  He also notices that we go on walks together at least 2-3 times per week, where in the past I would have done everything in my power to avoid walking anywhere.  And there's also the money saved in transit and cabs - - a not immaterial thing in this economy, when times are tight.  And there's also the attitude shift.  Before (in the "dark times" before working out), my default was to take transit everywhere.  Toronto is blessed with a pretty good transit system downtown, and I am smack dab in the center of it.  Over time, however, I have noticed that I find waiting for the streetcar to be more of a pain than it is worth, especially when I know it will be packed and uncomfortable.  I am finding it just easier and nicer to walk to work, and many times I will arrive before the streetcar would have dropped me off.  That change in my mindset is a huge thing, and is the thing that will help me keep with these good walking habits more than anything else. 

I don't notice these differences, because they sneak up on me so gradually.  I can't tell you the first time I was able to walk to work without significant discomfort.  I can't tell you when my wheezing started to get better.  And I can't tell you when I first thought it was easier to walk to work than to wait for the streetcar.  But I can tell you that all of a sudden I am noticing that I can do things that I could never do before. 

And that's a good thing. 

I can't wait to see the story the numbers tell 6 months or a year from now.