Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Back in the saddle again - appreciating my routines

I love traveling and I hate traveling at the same time.  I love seeing new places and learning new things, and I love hearing about the history of a place.  For example, did you know that Washington D.C. was built on a malerial swamp?  Explains how stubborn Americans are - - "We'll go ahead and put our nation's capital right here in this swamp with all these biting insects that carry disease".  And they made it work, somehow.  That's determination for you.  Explains a lot about the people - - they just make things work.  I have to admire that. 

But I hate traveling as well, because it completely jacks up my routines.  And god knows that it has been my routines that have enabled me to be so successful in my weight loss so far.  I work out the same time every morning, on the same machine.  I eat the same breakfast every weekday.  I pack my predictable, prepared lunch and dinner every day to the office, full of delicious healthy leftovers courtesy of the Nerd.  I drink 3 - 5 bottles of water while at the office, refilling as I go.  I have built up a series of good habits that have helped me to control my calories in, and increase my energy expenditure out.  Because my patterns are so predictable, so habitual, it makes it hard for me to skip a workout day (I haven't missed a workout in more than 21 weeks), and it helps to keep me on track.

When I travel, though, all those routines are thrown upside down.  I found last week that I was eating at different times than usual, and I was really struggling to make healthy food choices from the hotel restaurant menu.  Portions were HUGE, and the foods were largely fried or cooked in butter or lots of oil.  Even the salads were minefields, dripping with dressing and full of cheese.  Mmmmmm, cheese... Sorry, went to my happy place there for a second. 

I was also struggling to drink enough water.  Next time I will buy a bottle of water and then refill it throughout the day as I do here at home, but on this recent trip I was drinking glasses of water at meals, and it just wasn't enough to counteract all the sodium in the food. 

On the good side, my hotel had a 24 hour fitness center, which enabled me to work out on an elliptical machine (as is my custom at home).  But the machine had a different stride than my machine at home, and I found that I was holding my feet in unnatural positions the first day, which led to minor muscle pulls that still plague me today.  I know that in time my legs will heal up and feel great, but I can still feel the muscle soreness in my calves, which is no fun at all.

Now I am home, and well ensconced back into my routine.  Sunday was the start of a new workout week for me and I am already back on my weight loss path.  I have returned to eating healthy, planned meals at regular times, and drinking my 9 - 15 glasses of water every day.  My workouts are back to their old predictable selves, with 40 minutes on the elliptical 6 days a week, and free weights 3 times a week.  My only change this week was to add another set of 12 reps to my weight routine, for 4 pounds x 12 reps x 3 sets, 3 times per week.  Still with the baby weight, but I can really feel the third set in my muscles, so I am happy to have stepped up the sets.

And I am seeing the results of my routine kicking in.  Last week (when I was in Washington) I did not lose any weight, but this morning I was at my lowest weight yet.  Still not a heavyweight, but very close.   Only another pound and a half and I will be at a fighting weight.  Not that I am a fighter, but it's the point of the thing, is all - - it's a goal.  The Nerd is officially a light heavyweight, and he wants to get down to middleweight.  I am currently above heavyweight, and want to get down to welterweight.  We're both well on our way.

Now that I am back in my routine and seeing positive results again, I appreciate the benefits of my good habits all the more.  That will make getting up early to work out on the elliptical tomorrow morning even easier. 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Washington D.C. Interlude

I had a conference in Washington, D.C. this week, and it has thrown off my routines for the entire week. 

I started off on the wrong foot Tuesday afternoon.  For some reason I thought that I was traveling to D.C. Thursday morning, when in fact my flight was scheduled for Wednesday morning at 6.45 a.m.  This meant that all the work I had planned to do Wednesday was all thrown in a tizzy, and I had to rush to pack, get ready for my trip, and try and get a couple of hours of sleep before leaving for the airport at 4.30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

I had a good flight down on Porter airlines (my new favourite airline), and was able to check in and have a nap.  What I was not able to do was work out, because I selfishly opted for 2 hours of sleep rather than 1 hour of sleep + 40 minutes on the elliptical.  So we're going to call Wednesday my rest day this week.  I did get some exercise lugging my heavy briefcase through various airports, but it doesn't really count as a workout, not in the traditional sense.

The hotel is good, as always, and the conference has been a whirlwind of sessions and networking with people.  As a natural introvert, I find all the networking activities to be exhausting, and I find I need to make time for myself away from other people from time to time, to recharge.

 I did something this week that I have never done before - - I went to the hotel fitness center and worked out.  This is a huge triumph for me, because I was never confident enough in my ability to work out in front of other people before.  The reality is that in a hotel fitness center everyone is completely self-absorbed and no one is paying attention to anyone else, but I was still too self-conscious to be seen in one of those places before now.  It helps that this hotel has a 24 hour fitness center, which meant that I could choose a time of the day when fewer people were likely to be there.  It turns out that the place is a veritable ghost town at 4.30 in the morning.  I had my choice of elliptical machines each day, and there was never more than 2 other people in the gym at any one time.  It was almost perfect.

I say "almost perfect" because my legs are quite stiff and sore after having worked out for 3 days straight on the hotel's elliptical machines.  The stride on the hotel's machines is shorter than the stride on my home machine, and I found that I was prone to keeping on my toes more than I should.  As a result, I was working my legs in a completely different way, and I can really feel stiffness in my quads and calves right now.  Tomorrow morning I will be back into my routine on my home elliptical machine, and hopefully my legs will settle down once I return to my normal stride.  Stiff sore legs are no fun.

But still - - working out 3 days this week on the hotel elliptical out of 4 days of my trip, I will take that as a win for good habits and be happy with this new development.

On the food front it has been extremely difficult to eat healthily this week.  American restaurant food is generous - - far too generous for a sensible portion - - and full of fat, sodium and calories.  Sure, the hotel had salads (dripping in dressing), and grilled chicken (smothered in cheese and sauce) and fish (breaded).  I have tracked everything and have tried to be as disciplined as possible, but there's no question that I have been eating much less balanced meals than my normal routine.  For that reason alone I can't wait to get home.  Is it strange that I just want some greek yogurt, strawberries and bran buds? 

Of course, because I have been eating such unbalanced meals, I am terrified to get on the scale tomorrow morning when I get back home.  Oh well - - I knew this trip would be a difficult one, what with all the cocktail parties and drinks / meals with foreign associates.  I did the best I could, though, and tried to keep under my calorie targets every day. 

Only one more networking event this morning before I head back home to Toronto.  Hopefully Tropical Storm Sandy will not pose too many problems for me in getting home in my small prop jet.  Turbulence is no fun. 

Tomorrow morning it will be back to my normal Sunday routine of elliptical and weights.  And the Nerd's cooking.  Let's not forget how spoiled I am...!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

My Weight Loss So Far - from A to Z

[for those of you outside of the Commonwealth, that's "A to Zed"  ;-)]. 

A - Apps.  Lots of them.  I love using a whole slew of fitness apps to track my progress and to help keep me motivated.  Some of the apps that I use daily are MyFitnessPal (for food tracking and a fantastically supportive online community), DigiFit (for tracking my heart rate zones during workouts), Lolo Beatburn Elliptical (to jazz up the music during my daily elliptical workouts), and TactioHealth (for a health snapshot).  I also use the iFitness app for my free weight workouts every other day.  I love that so many aspects of my health and fitness are quantified, because it permits me to see progress and helps keep me on track.  And progress is motivating. 

Photo courtesy Kaudris, licensed CC-BY-SA
B - Back pain.  Something I rarely get any more, now that I have been exercising regularly and working out.  I used to be so physically compromised that I could not walk to the corner, and now I can walk for miles without even a twinge in my back.  My back still goes out occasionally (as it did last month), but on a day to day basis, my back gives me no problems at all.  This is a huge improvement in my quality of life, because a sore back limits you in so many ways.

Photo courtesy Madhero88, licensed CC-BY-SA
C - Cardio.  I started off my workout plan by doing nothing but cardio exercise, because I knew that endurance was my first and biggest problem.  After working out with the recumbent bike and rowing machine for 5 months, I had lost 36.5 pounds, and my stamina had greatly increased.  When I started, I could only manage to do 7 minutes on the recumbent bike 5 days a week and now I do 40 minutes on the elliptical machine 6 days a week.  Along with the stamina increases, my resting heart rate has decreased from 120-130 bpm to around 45-55 bpm.  Cardio is good for me. 

D - Diabetes.  I am not diabetic.  Yet.  But I have an absolutely terrible family history of diabetes, which means that I have an extremely elevated chance of becoming diabetic in the future if I do not take active steps now to prevent it.  I was terrified to check my fasting blood sugar at first in case I was already diabetic, and as it happens, I am pre-diabetic.  This means that although my sugars are elevated, they are not in the diabetic range.  The more weight I lose, and the better I control my carbs, the easier it will be to control my sugars, and the lower the risk that I will develop diabetes.  Still, it's something that I monitor every day, to make sure I am on top of things.  I hope to one day have every reading in the normal zone, with only the occasional blip.  It's the reverse right now (mostly elevated readings with the occasional normal reading).  But in time, this will improve.

E - Elliptical.  I love my elliptical machine.  A present from my parents, this monster has completely replaced the recumbent bike and rowing machine in my affections.  It's just such an effective way to work out - low impact on my joints, smooth action, arms for adding effort, and it's in my apartment.  It is almost impossible to avoid the elliptical machine, and I haven't missed a workout since I got it.  My results have accelerated since starting on the elliptical, as well.  It used to be that I was lucky to lose a pound a week, and sometimes I could go weeks without losing a thing.  Now I am no longer afraid to get on the scale, because I am seeing so much progress in any given week.  Plus, my monthly "water" gain has virtually disappeared since I began using the elliptical - - every week sees at least some loss, which is a huge improvement from B.E. (Before Elliptical).

F - Fitbit.  I love my Fitbit.  I picked up the Fitbit Ultra early this year as a way to track my activity levels, and boy, was I in for a rude shock!  It turns out that I was barely active.  Most days I was hardly walking at all, in large part due to the crippling back pain I suffered with even the shortest of walks.  Fast forward to now, and I am more than 60 pounds lighter, and I am habitually walking 5,000 steps a day, and even, when I add an incremental walk to my routine, walking 7,500 or even 10,000 steps a day.  My goal is to regularly walk 7,500 -10,000 steps every day.  We'll see if I can make it!

Photo courtesy Lar, licensed CC-BY-SA
G - Goals.  I have goals.  Lots of goals.  Short term goals, long term goals, fitness goals, weight goals, measurement goals, lifestyle goals ... you get the picture.  You don't know when you've arrived unless you have an idea of where you are going, and I personally find having goals to be very motivating.  Goals help me stay focused on what I need to do every day. I have so many interim goals in part because focusing on the single long term weight goal is too overwhelming - - after all, who thinks they can lose 168 pounds?  It doesn't even bear consideration.  But I could lose 20 pounds, then 33.9 pounds, then 50 pounds...and on it goes.  Now, having lost more than 60 pounds, I look at my next major goal (to lose 100 pounds) as completely doable, since I only need to lose around 35 pounds.  And I know I can do that, because I've already done that.  Whee!  Bring it on!

Photo courtesy Tax Credits, licensed CC-BY-SA
H - Health.  By any number of metrics, my health has improved since I first began working out at the end of January this year.  I have more energy, I am more mobile, my resting heart rate and fasting blood sugar levels have both decreased, and I have lost more than 60 pounds.  I haven't had problems with my asthma in months.  My body is no longer the limiting factor that it once was - - I am physically able to do things I haven't been able to do in a long time.  And over time, as I increase my workouts and continue to eat healthy foods, my health should continue to improve.

I - Injury.  Touch wood, but I have not been seriously injured since I began my workout regimen this year.  Sure, my back went out for a couple of weeks last month, but overall, I have been very lucky so far as injuries have gone.  My groin pull from my move two years ago is still a chronic nagging issue, but it is a low intensity problem for the most part.  I have not broken any bones recently, nor have I pulled any muscles that I need to work out.  This has not always been the case - - I have a history of overdoing things to the point of severely injuring myself.  So far, however, so good - - and I intend to keep it that way!  No more overdoing things!  Slow and steady are my new watchwords.

J - Junk food.  Since I have started tracking what I eat (about 3 months ago), my junk food consumption has dwindled to almost nothing.  I love me some fast food - - it's all brown and fried, after all - - but the calories, carbs, fat and sodium in these foods is astonishing.  I am no saint, but I am really reluctant to give up an entire week's worth of eating well and working out just to eat at McDonald's and gain it all back.  Most of the time I am eating home cooked meals (thanks to the Nerd), with plenty of vegetables and protein.  And I find that it makes a huge difference in the results that I am seeing.  Take prepared or fast food out of the equation, and the weight has just been falling off me. I am privileged to have someone at home cooking meals for me, which is a huge benefit.  Left to my own devices, and I am sure prepared foods would begin to creep back into my diet.  But for now, junk food is a thing of the past, and my body thanks me for it.

K - Knees.  Yes, my knees still sound like popcorn when I bend them.  Yes, my knees don't like to bend all that much.  Yes, they are a lot better than before I began working out.  No, I won't stop working out.  No, my knees do not hurt on the elliptical.  Squats, though - - boy are those frightening to listen to!  It's like a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal in there for all the noise my knees make when I do squats.  Although the noisy knees may be here to stay, I am hoping that with time, my mobility will improve as the weight continues to come off.  Eventually I would love to see what all is happening in my knees (via an x-ray or MRI), just to see if I have any cartilage left at all.  My guess: no.

L - Logging food.  I first began to keep a food diary when I signed up with MyFitnessPal almost three months ago, and it was an eye-opening experience.  To that point I had never considered the carbs or calories in beverages, and I never thought about eating too little in a day.  I could not understand why it was so difficult to lose weight, but I never correlated this fact with what I was eating.  Keeping a food diary has changed all of that.  I see now that what I was eating and drinking was unbalanced, and that I was eating too little and putting my body into starvation mode.  Logging my food has been the first step in learning to control what I eat, which is the first step in a true lifestyle change.  I do not have a natural grasp of all of the healthy options yet, but logging my food has gone a long way to helping me understand what healthy choices look like. 

M - Measurements.  Not only do I weigh myself every day, I also measure myself once a month with a tape measure.  In the past I have seen that sometimes the weight just doesn't come off, but I have lost inches from various parts of my body.  Measuring myself is concrete proof that my efforts are having an effect.  So far to date I have lost more than 24" across various parts of my body, and two full clothing sizes.  While my moods may change with the wind and the scale torment me, measurements are real.

N - NSV. Not every win along my path to fitness has come by way of the scale, although there have been many "scale victories" as well.  The non-scale victories include things like dropping two clothing sizes, having more energy to walk places, having people notice that I've lost weight, and fitting easier into seats.  It's the non-scale victories that keep me motivated between milestones on the scale. 

O - One day at a time.  "This is a marathon, not a sprint" is something I have heard over and over during this journey.  And you know what?  It's true.  If I think about the enormity of the task ahead of me, I will get depressed because it's clearly impossible.  No one can expect to lose 168 pounds and keep it off.  So I try not to think about the big picture.  I focus on hitting today's plan, and only today's plan.  I try and keep doing my workouts, keep eating right, and keep drinking enough water, every day.  If I do that, the weeks and months will take care of themselves, eventually.  But I can't push it or hope for shortcuts, because this is a long term play, and one day at a time is the only way that it's going to work.

Photo courtesy Bradley P. Johnson, licensed CC-BY-SA
P - Portion control.  This was something I never did until this year.  Not only is my concept of what is an acceptable portion completely skewed by the typical North American restaurant serving, I always ate until I was full.  Which could take some doing.  Since I started working out, and especially since I began logging my food, I have become increasingly aware of portion sizes and what they mean to my nutrition.  I am ever so slowly coming to terms with typical portion sizes so that I can think on my feet when it comes to ordering and consuming food, but I still depend heavily on measuring much of what goes into my mouth, and packing it ahead of time.  I am still eating everything I love, more or less (after all, last weekend was 'cupcakepalooza' at my house), but I am doing so in sensible portions.  Sometimes a portion is 1/2 of something, and that's ok.  Portion control has been one of the biggest contributors to my success so far, without a doubt.

Photo courtesy the Noodleator, licensed CC-BY-NC-ND
Q - Quitting is not an option.  It's hard to get up early in the morning to work out for 40 minutes on the elliptical.  It's harder still to walk up the stairs to do another 25 minutes of free weights.  It's hard to be constantly monitoring what goes into my mouth.  It's tough to walk places when I could just as easily take a streetcar.  But you know what, I don't have the option to quit.  With my family history of diabetes, and with my pre-diabetic state, if I stop working out and watching what I eat, the weight will come back on.  And if that happens, the health consequences do not even bear consideration.  And can I even consider going back to what my life was like before I began working out?  The constant back pain and asthmatic wheezing, the low energy and feelings of despair?  No thank you.  I can't go back to the life I had, now that I have peeked through the door of an active lifestyle.  I can't quit now, just when it's getting good.

Photo courtesy smartmindfuel, licensed CC-BY-SA
R -Routine.  Routine is my salvation.  I don't need to get all creative and funky for now, I just need to stick to my plan.  I pack my lunch and dinner and bring them to work, and I know what I am eating, in what portions.  I exercise every morning, rain or shine, and my workouts have become such a part of my routine that it's been weeks since I have even considered skipping a day.  And this consistency is paying off - - I am losing weight at a steady rate, and I am feeling good while I am doing it.  Some things break up the routine, but because I have the basic structure down, it's easy for me to make small adjustments to keep everything in the sweet spot.  Routine is the base on which I am building my new lifestyle. 

Photo by Stephan Ohlsen, licensed CC-BY-SA-ND
S - Sweat.  I'm a prodigious sweater.  It's true.  When I do my 40 minutes on the elliptical, I am dripping with sweat after only 10 minutes into things, so much so that I keep a washcloth handy to mop up.  Which I have to do every minute or so.  My sweating doesn't really interfere with my workouts, but it does get socially awkward at times if people see me out on one of my walks, because I am not the queen of glamour, all dripping and pink faced.  At least I know that my body is efficiently ridding itself of excess salts.  I have to say that with my propensity to sweat, I love the workout shirts I got from Go Figure, which have that nice moisture wicking fabric that doesn't cling to me like a wet hanky. 

T -Time.  Working out takes time.  Planning and preparing healthy meals takes time.  Getting enough sleep at night takes - you guessed it - time.  I find that my billable work time is getting compressed by all the demands on my time related to my new healthy lifestyle.  There are only so many hours in the day, and I am finding it a challenge to do the things I need to do to be healthy, and still bill a full day, without staying too late at the office.  Over time, I hope that I will be better able to balance things, but for now, the multiple competing demands on my time are very stressful. 

U - Upper arms.  One day I hope to have definition in my upper arms, which presently look like two giant bags of flour.  I hope also to have ankles, rather than cankles, and collarbones that are visible to the naked eye.  So many dreams of definition, it's why I have started doing weights.  No joy yet, but give it time, I just started last week.

Photo by cobalt123, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA
V - Visualize success.  You can't win if you can't visualize what success looks like.  After all, if you can't visualize success, how do you know when you have succeeded?  I have lots of photos from the last time I worked out and made it down to my goal weight of 165 pounds / size 14, and I keep thinking of those when I really need encouragement.  I know what I look like when I am at my goal weight, and I know I can get there again, with plenty of hard work and discipline.  I want to get there, and I will get there, eventually.

W - Weights.  You can't tone without weights.  I knew it last time I worked out, and I know it now, which is why I added free weights into my workout routine last week.  I am now doing 2 sets of 12 reps, with the baby 4 pound dumbbells as a start.  Eventually the reps and weight will increase, and so will the results.  For now, I can feel the impact of the weight routine in my muscles, so I know it's having an impact.  Eventually I will need to invest in still more equipment, but for now, I have a range of weights sufficient to enable me to see some results in the near term.  I have always loved how strong I feel after I work out with weights.

X - Xiphoid process.  This is the bit on the end of the sternum.  I don't have anything particular to say about my xiphoid process, other than to say that I look forward to seeing more of my sternum in general as I lose the subcutaneous fat over time.  For those of you who say "wow, what a lame word", you try and think of a workout related word that begins with the letter "X", I defy you.

Photo by Ged Carroll, licensed CC-BY-SA
Y - Yes I can.  I can do this.  I can change my lifestyle and become the healthy woman I know that I can be.  I can become an active person who is not afraid to do new things.  I can, and I will succeed at this challenge I have set for myself.  I need to consistently keep working my routine, and constantly challenge myself to meet my goals, and I will get to my target weight and size.  Yes. I. Can.

Photo by Chrisinplymouth, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA
Z - Zero.  As in "zero reasons to quit".  I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by sticking to my current program.  Or everything to lose, depending on whether you consider the glass to be half full or half empty.  Nothing I could say to justify stopping now would overcome the multiplicity of reasons why I should keep going.  And so I will.  Keep going, that is.  Quitting is for suckers. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Time to Step up the Weights

Photo Courtesy Government Press Office, licensed CC-BY-NC-SA
Well, my body did not go into shock last week when I started incorporating free weights into my workout routine.  I did not have an aneurism, and I did not pull a muscle lifting those massive 4 pound dumbbells. 

Now that I can see that I can do it, it is time to step up the effort.  Today I effectively doubled my weight routine by doing 2 sets of 12 reps at 4 pounds.  I did the sets in a circuit, so that my muscles would have time to recover, and it seemed to work well.

I say that it worked well in that I was certainly feeling the second set of exercises whilst I was doing them, and I am more aware of my muscles now, in the afternoon.  I can definitely feel that I did a workout with weights, which I could not really feel last week after doing a single set of each exercise.

So it appears that the first week of working out with weights was doing very little, but I am still very glad to have eased myself into this routine.  I have such a tendency to overdo things, to jump in with both feet and go 110% from the get-go, and then to horribly injure myself.

This time, I am trying to be more methodical and pragmatic about each step of my workout and nutrition plan, to build from a better base than last time.

The last time I worked out and reached my target weight of 165 pounds I could not keep the weight off because I only made it to my target weight by cruel deprivation and ridiculous workouts.  Nothing I was doing was sustainable, and as a result, as soon as I hit my target weight, I stopped working out altogether.  And I started eating normal food again.  In vast quantities.  It's no surprise that I had put on more than 80 pounds a mere two years later, and 168 pounds several years after that.  I had developed no good habits during my path to goal weight - - workouts were a trial to be endured, and food was a treat to be hoarded.  "Nothing in moderation" is a terrible way to live if you plan to keep weight off. 

This time is already different.  I am eating full, balanced meals every day and am not depriving myself.  I am working out 6 days a week, but I am doing things that are, if not enjoyable, per se, then acceptable.   My routine feels sustainable, which I can see by the fact that I haven't missed a workout in more than 20 weeks.  This is already a huge improvement over last time.

And so it goes with the weights.  I am trying a beginner weight program with 9 exercises targeting various muscle groups for a full body workout.  I am starting with free weights for convenience, and for control - - the dumbbells weigh what they weigh, and I can't be tempted to get all crazy and try pyramiding again.  I am keeping the weights, reps and sets low for now, to allow my body a chance to get used to the new demands I am placing on it. 

So far it's going well.  Aside from discovering that the entire left side of my body is much weaker than the right side of my body (despite being left-handed), there have been no bad surprises.  So far. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my 45th birthday.

Yep.  45.  I am knee deep in the 35-49 demographic that marketers don't give a shit about.  I am officially in my mid-40s, and I think this makes me a cougar.  Gack.

The thing is, I don't feel like a 45 year old woman.  45 year old women are old people, and I am young.  In my head I am more like a 36-37 year old than someone in my mid-40s.  Isn't 45 the new 35?  Let's say yes.

Of course, as with every birthday, I have spent a lot of the day reviewing the decisions I have made in my life, and considering where I am now. 

Last spring, I looked like this:

I looked for other photos of myself, and couldn't find a damn one other than the terrible photo on my law firm's website (from August 2011).  Since I have already posted that photo in my blog, I scoured other peoples' Facebook pages in the hopes of finding a candid photo from that time. 

Like many other overweight people, I actively avoided opportunities to have my picture taken.  Need a photographer?  I can do it!  Slightly out of frame?  That's the perfect spot to stand.  Hey, look, is that a giant plant?  I'll go there.  Despite that, it appears that the Nerd's sister captured me at one of the family dinners last spring, for the above photo.  Ah well, I will never be a ninja.

This evening, I look like this.  Please forgive the utter lack of makeup and the out of control hair:

As for where I stand this year, I am generally happy.  Sure, money is tight and work is very stressful, but I am in a solid relationship, and my job is one that I am lucky and privileged to have.  I live in a nice apartment, in a neat part of town. 

And I am taking control of my health and fitness.  I am working out daily, and paying attention to what I eat.  I am fuelling my body with healthy food, and seeking to push myself a little bit more every week.  I am in a much better place emotionally than I was last year at this time.  And with luck, next year will be even better...!

Happy birthday to me!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Money is tight

Money has been a little tight lately.  I have been bearing the brunt of buying groceries for both of us since July 1, which is fine, but increasingly difficult.

Each week before going shopping I am looking at the bank statement to see what juggling I can do to make sure I have enough money to purchase groceries for the week.

I have cut out most of my discretionary spending, which helps.  My increasing levels of fitness help too, because I am walking to work and home from work (instead of taking streetcars or a cab), and saving $20 - $30 a week.

I am packing my lunches and dinners to take to the office, rather than eating out or having food delivered to my office.  That saves me $100 a week, at least.

I cut out the morning Timmy's run and my morning XL coffee when I saw how much it cost me in calories and carbs (2 creams and 4 sugars tops out at 440 calories and 66 g of carbs - - the amount of carbs in an entire meal).  Another side benefit - $10 a week saved.

And let's not even talk about how my alcohol consumption has declined in recent months.  No more long island ice teas for me, thank you.  No more Baileys in my Sunday coffee.  It's tea for me, thanks.  The carbs and calories were too high for this pre-diabetic girl.  I have switched to rye and Diet Pepsi, which I don't have as often, or wine, which is just not the same.  I have probably cut out about $50 - $100 a week out of my booze budget as a result. 

Which is all good, because I am spending about triple what I used to on groceries each week.  Fresh vegetables cost money, and lots of it.  Lean meats and fish are more expensive than cheaper, fattier proteins.  My favourite 0% fat greek yogurt is more expensive than the full fat version.  And we're eating more of this healthy food than ever, at every meal.

I used to be able to live off a $2.50 packet of Uncle Ben's risotto every night.  It was not a balanced meal, or in any way healthy in the long term, but 5 of those would cost me $12.50, a mere fraction of my current budget.

Despite the cost, though, I can't go back to the way things were.  Prepackaged foods are super high in sodium even if they aren't jammed with calories and carbs (as many are).  Eating this food made it much harder for me to lose weight, and I was tired all the time.

Now, I am eating better and feeling better.  I have been so successful in my workout routine and weight loss program in part because I am eating so well now.  And my healthy diet is having effect on my body.  When I donated blood last week my iron levels were on the high end of the scale, which is a sign that I am getting enough protein.  I have more energy than I used to, and although I can't swear that I have a glossier coat and shiny eyes, I feel overall healthier. 

So what am I eating? Yesterday, for example, I had 7 servings of vegetables, 3 servings of grains, 2 servings of dairy, and 2 servings of meat and meat alternatives.  Right on track for what the Canada Food Guide says we should eat each day.  Was it easy?  Nope.  It required a ton of preparation, from planning meals to going shopping to ensure the right food was in the house, to cooking balanced meals and making lunches and dinners to bring to the office.

Was it cheap?  Hell no.  The Nerd makes me amazing meals out of his Jamie Oliver cookbook, but some of those dishes require expensive ingredients.  Tonight, for example, we're trying duck breast for the first time - - at $17 for the two of us (for only the duck alone).  Add all those servings of fruit and vegetables, and the grocery bill creeps up to $200+ in a typical week.  In the dark times, before I started eating well, I would spend a mere $40-$60 each week on groceries (although this would be supplemented by the cost of eating lunch and dinner out, so it may actually have been a wash).

I need to keep up this pattern of healthy eating, because it is so good for me.  I just need to keep focused on getting the biggest bang for my shopping dollar, so that I can manage the expense of healthy living.  Feeding two of us most days is costing more than ever, and I need to be cunning in how I make ends meet. 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Week 38 - Progress Report - a veritable triumph!

Another week is in the books, and it was a fantastic week for weight loss.

This week I lost 3.8 pounds for a total loss of 64.1 pounds to date.  That represents a loss of 19% of my pre-workout body weight, and 38% of my overall weight loss target.  Better yet, my BMI broke 40 for the first time this week, for a value of 39.9, which puts me in Obese Class II (rather than Obese Class III).  In other words, I am now on many BMI charts, where previously, my weight put me far out on the right hand side of the desk somewhere, off the page.
As you know from my prior blog post, I reached my Goal #4 this week by reaching 270 pounds (now a little under) and a BMI of 39.9.  My next short term goal is to reach 265 pounds, which would put me in the heavyweight division of the UFC in MMA.  Just think, me Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar (look them up) are about the same weight.  Sheesh.  How did I let myself get to such a state?

After breaking into the heavyweight division (!), my next official goal is to lose 100 pounds.  I have 35.9 pounds to go to reach this, so perhaps by the end of February I will be there.  I don't think I will be able to reach that mark by the first anniversary of my workouts, around January 31, 2013 - - this would require continued dramatic weight loss, which is not reasonable.

I am still morbidly obese, and yes, I still have 104.8 pounds left to lose, and yes, my fasting blood sugars are still in the pre-diabetic range, but I have come so far.  A loss of 64 pounds is nothing to sniff at - - if I weren't still grotesquely overweight, that kind of weight loss would have diet companies breaking down my door to have me as a spokesperson, right beside the asterisk and "results not typical" disclaimer. 

My weight loss results in recent months have been absolutely amazing, and I credit the combination of healthy eating, lots of water, and exercise every day.  Plus, I keep mixing things up and challenging myself more every few weeks, which I think really helps keep the weight falling off.  I think adding weights this week has also really helped, and eventually I will even get to see things tone up somewhat.  Eventually, not yet.  I probably have to do more than 1 set of 12, or lift more than 4 pounds at a time. Baby steps - - first, I need to get into the routine with the weights, then I add poundage and incremental sets. 

Our planned trip to Columbus to visit the Nerd's parents has been postponed for a couple of weeks due to logistical reasons beyond my control.  Which means that this weekend can be a nice normal weekend of predictable calories and regular workouts.  How boring am I that I love that predictability?  The routine has been extremely helpful in keeping me on plan in recent months.

I am looking forward to a day off tomorrow, though!  My rest day may be a true rest day this time...!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Goal #4 - CHECK!

Photo courtesy Sergio Panei Pitrau, licensed CC-BY-SA
Today I achieved my GOAL #4 - - I weighed in this morning at 269.7 pounds, breaking the 270 pound mark, for a BMI of 39.9.  My official weigh in for logging and tracking purposes is not until tomorrow and a lot of water can be retained between now and then, but as far as hitting milestones goes, this counts. 

I am thrilled about this for several reasons, not the least of which is that it's nice to keep checking off these little milestones.  Knowing my need for intermittent rewards, I worked 8 different milestones into my plan, starting at a loss of 20 pounds, all the way up to my final goal, to be down to 165 pounds. 

Although I have reached half of my goals (4 of 8 goals), the real heavy lifting (if you'll pardon the expression) is still to come - - I have lost more than 60 pounds right now, but I still have 105 pounds left to lose.  My objectives are back end loaded, which makes sense in a way - - it's always more difficult to start off and begin working out and adopting new, healthy habits.  At this stage in the game, many of those positive habits are becoming deeply ingrained so that my routine of healthy eating and regular exercise feels natural to me.  With luck, and momentum, the last 105 pounds should be just as "easy" to take off as the first 60+.  And by "easy", of course I mean "gruelling", but you get the picture - - I know now that this is an achievable target, with time and (lots of) effort.

Another reason that I am thrilled to break 270 is that I can now register to be a bone marrow donor.  I signed up this morning, and hopefully will be accepted.  And just in time, too - - Canadian Blood Services only accepts bone marrow donors up to the age of 50 years, and I am hitting 45 years old this weekend.  The fact that I'm incredibly immature doesn't count, only calendar age.  Fooey. 

As an observation, I am hitting this milestone somewhat faster than I expected (by a couple of weeks).  Looking back at things, I have noticed a real difference in my weight loss since I have started using the elliptical machine.  Certainly the elliptical machine has a lot of benefits - - it's easy to use, and interesting, in that I am constantly fiddling with the tension, so my workouts pass very quickly (especially compared to the recumbent bike).  I love that.

I have also been taking up the intensity of my workouts every few weeks or so, which is helping me avoid plateaus.  First it was taking up the time on the elliptical to 35 minutes, then it was adding varied tension, then it was taking the time on the elliptical up to 40 minutes, then it was adding incremental walks, and now, this week, I have added free weights to my routine.  Every little change mixes it up a bit, and keeps the weight coming off.  Sure, there's a downside - - my workouts on weight days are pushing an hour, which is time in my life I will never get back.  But overall, the results speak for themselves.  I am enjoying the positive results, and that just motivates me even more to work out and stick to my nutrition plan.

Tomorrow is the official weigh-in - - fingers crossed that I can keep this great result...!

Goal #5 is to lose 100 pounds, i.e. to reach a weight of 233.9 (BMI of 34.5).  This would put me in Obese Class I (as a comparison, I am currently at the high end of Obese Class II).  Only 36 pounds to go...!  Give it 4 months or so, and I should be there.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A mini binge, and weightlifting continues

It's Tuesday, and that means more weightlifting.  And by "weightlifting", I mean "lifting tiny little 4 pound baby weights". 

I don't have a weight bench (or any proper weight lifting equipment, really), so I relocated my efforts to the living room ottoman this morning.  The day bed in the guest room, the site of my first foray into weight lifting, was not properly set up for the chest press, and the standing row was tricky.  This morning was much easier, since the ottoman is padded and almost the right height.  It's a little bit short (in length) for my liking, but it's nice and firm and perfect for almost all of the exercises.

I also adopted a new innovation for the modified push ups - - pillows.  I don't know why everyone doesn't use fluffy pillows, other than the fact that it LOOKS COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS.  I don't care - - it was 6:30 am in my living room, and it was just me, my knee pillows and the dusty, dusty floor, and I didn't really care what it looked like.  I am not the most glamorous creature when I work out after all, what with the bright pink face and dripping sweat.  At any rate, the pillows worked fantastically well, because my knees were mostly comfortable for the modified pushups, and with the ottoman, I could lever myself back up off the floor at the end of the set.  No, it was not graceful, and I am far from being able to "drop and give me 20" with any coordination, but at least I was able to do the full set of 12 modified pushups.  Thank you, knee pillows!

I noticed this morning that the standing calf raises are tougher on one leg than the other - - who knew I was not only left-handed but right-footed? 

On related news, my fasting blood sugar was back down to 5.9 mmol/L this morning, which, although higher than last month, is lower than yesterday and all of last week.  I can stand down from Defcon 4 and return to my normal level of vigilance, and trust that my levels will come down eventually, on their own time.  I will continue to monitor the levels every day, but I am hopefully learning to see that these minor elevations are just that, minor elevations.  (fingers crossed...!)

I had a difficult night last night.  Before dinner I had an almost irresistible urge to binge.  I wasn't hungry, per se, but I just wanted to stuff my face with food, if that makes any sense.  And my craving was very specific - - binging on spinach just wasn't going to do it - - I wanted salty carbs. 

Fortunately (good thing #1), I have very few salty carbs in the house.  I do have some Tostitos Scoops in the freezer, but I forgot about those, thank god.  All the other carb-laden food (the stuff I could remember about) was unpalatable, like gluten free crackers with some sort of seeds, and crisp breads that taste like metal (I'm not sure if that's a feature or a bug, in all honesty). 

I tracked my eating (good thing #2), thereby giving my brain some time to wrestle control back from whatever gland was pushing me to binge (adrenal? thymus? thyroid? pituitary?).  I don't know what gland was responsible, but my craving came on hard and fast, out of the blue.  I could not figure out what was driving it, only that I reallyreallyreally wanted something salty and starchy.  So I ended up eating about 5 tablespoons of raw sunflower seeds, about a teaspoon at a time.  And after each teaspoon I entered the food into my food diary, so that I could see exactly what was the impact from my eating.  The benefits of binging on sunflower seeds are that it takes almost forever because the seeds are tiny, and the damage is minimal - - 5 tablespoons of sunflower seeds is only about 233 calories. 

So did I win the battle of wills?  Well, I ate more sunflower seeds than I needed to before dinner (about 5 tablespoons more, in fact), which is somewhat binge-like, but I stopped well before the amount became unmanageable.  My historic binges typically result in me eating 2,000 or more calories of something in a single sitting (for example, an entire 270g bag of Ruffles plus half a container of Philadelphia onion dip and 3 Joe Louis cakes (around 2,500 calories), or my favourite: 10c popcorn + 1/2c. butter + 2 cups of shredded cheese (around 3,000 (!!!) calories)).  I'll call yesterday's issue a mini-binge. 

I know there are some people out there who would say "you call that a binge?  That's nothing.  I'll show you a binge", and they would be right.  What I ate last night barely qualifies as a binge either in the nature of the food consumed, or in the quantity of food consumed.

But the behaviour is classic binge.  A sudden, almost irresistible urge to eat when I'm not hungry?  Strong cravings for specific foods? Check and check.  It has been a long time since I had such intense and visceral cravings for food.  Good to see that I haven't lost the touch for self-destructive behaviour (she said sarcastically).

I am wondering if my cravings weren't somehow tied to my passing the 40 BMI mark that morning.  I am a notorious self-saboteur, and if there is a way to add back weight and get back into the old "Obese Class III" comfort zone, a binge will do it.  I am eating well and there is no nutrient deficit that would prompt such intense food cravings, so the issue must be emotional (or hormonal, which amounts to the same thing). 

I wonder when I will master these cravings so that they do not control my actions.  I was almost able to do it last night - - I certainly knew what was going on - - yet I still gave in to the cravings, at least partially. 

Well, no one said this road was going to be an easy one.  I am a foodaholic, and like any addictive personality, will be in "recovery" for the rest of my life.  I will have to keep being vigilant and fight the good fight every single day, because I suspect these things will keep popping up. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

No more Obese Class III, but troubling blood sugars...

First, for the win.  Today when I weighed myself and the scale showed 270.2, which gives me a BMI of 39.9.  This is significant because it moves me from Obese Class III to merely Obese Class II (at least according to the Government of Canada).  In other words, I have gone from an "extremely high" risk of developing health problems, to a "very high" risk of developing health problems.  I don't think anyone has ever been so happy to have a "very high" risk of developing health problems!

This is a wonderful milestone, especially considering that when I started working out, my BMI was a whopping 49.3.  And it only took 8 months of working out 5-7 times per week!  Ha!  It has taken 8 months of diligent effort, but that effort is clearly paying dividends, so there.

I am giddy with excitement.  Hitting 270 pounds is my next weight loss target, and I am within spitting distance of hitting it.  This weigh-in does not officially count, of course, because I only log my Friday weights, but I hope to keep the numbers in this 270 pound range and not lose too much ground by the end of the week.

I am particularly happy because this result came after Thanksgiving meal at my parents' place.  I was diligent about planning ahead and sticking to my food plan, logging everything.  I still had cake (2 birthday cakes) and pie (pumpkin, natch), as well as stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and turkey, but I had much smaller portions than I ever have had in previous years.  And no seconds for me.  For the first time that I can remember, I was the adult with the least food on my plate. 

On the good side, I was not depriving myself, because I got to eat everything that was served.  On the down side, I did feel like I had to exert iron-willed self-discipline, because it turns out that what I was used to eating at Thanksgiving dinner was nowhere near a portion.  More like 3 or 4 portions.  Of everything.  Plus seconds.  Changing that pattern is still work for me, but it appears that I was successful this year, at least.  Yay for that.

Photo courtesy Graham Colm, licensed CC-BY-SA
On the troubling side, my fasting blood sugar numbers have been running higher this past week than they were last month, to the point where this morning's test had a result of 6.7 mmol/L (where normal is 5.5 and diabetic is 7.0).  (With the exception of Thanksgiving), I am not doing anything from a consumption point of view that is different than before, so I am at a loss to explain why the numbers have been creeping up last week.

I am particularly concerned because the risk of pre-diabetes progressing to full-blown diabetes is supposed to be significantly reduced if you lose 15% of your body weight, which for me is right around 270 pounds, i.e., where I am today. 

I think that today's higher blood sugar readings can perhaps be explained by the astonishing number of carbs consumed yesterday, what with the 2 cakes, 1 pie, and all the other high carb and high sugar foods I was consuming yesterday.  Looking back at my food diary for yesterday I can see that my carbs were 225g, which is about 25g - 40g higher than usual, so today's reading is likely predictable. 

But the Nerd and I have been eating healthy foods this month, as we have been doing for months, and I am not indulging in cakes and pies on a daily basis. 

I am probably just being alarmist, and this is a minor uptick in an overall downward trend line.  With my food consumption and exercise habits, the weight is continuing to come off pretty consistently, and over time, the risk for diabetes will similarly decline.  But it's still something that I will keep watching, because knowledge is power, and you can't address a problem of which you are unaware.

Review: Jamie Oliver's Super Quick Hash (from the Meals in Minutes Cookbook)

Photo from Jaime Oliver, Meals in Minutes
Recipe available at the following link:


It is well known that the Nerd spoils me with his cooking.  Since he first watched Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes television program, the Nerd has been besotted with cooking healthy, the Jamie Oliver way.  And I have been the happy beneficiary of his efforts.  Jamie Oliver makes many delicious meals, and healthy ones, at that.  Not only are they generally balanced meals, they are good in terms of calories and carbs too, which makes sticking to a healthy eating plan simple to do. 

Far and away the Nerd's favourite cookbook in recent months has been Jamie Oliver's Meals in Minutes, the book that complements the Meals in Minutes television show.  Those of you who know what I eat will know that 80% of my prepared meals come from this cookbook. And I'm ok with this.

Why?  Because the food is delicious, that's why.  Tonight's meal was a case in point.  This evening the Nerd prepared Jamie Oliver's Super Quick Beef Hash with Baked Potatoes, Butter Beans & Bacon, and Goddess Salad.  I give this meal 5 full bellies out of 5, and 2 enthusiastic thumbs up.

The nice thing about the concept behind Oliver's Meals in Minutes is that each set of recipes presents an entire meal.  No longer do you have to hunt and peck for a main, a vegetable and a starch to make a meal.  With Meals in Minutes, all of the work to create a tasty and healthy meal is done for you.  Even better, the cooking instructions (in the book) are staged so that you can prep the meal in the natural order in which things need to happen - - no more guessing when to put on the potatoes and when to start the beef cooking.

Some people have complained that the cookbook is an over-promise - - Oliver says that the meals can be prepared from start to finish in 30 minutes.  Those who cannot replicate this stunningly low prep time complain that the book is inherently flawed.  I choose to look at the 30 minute promise as mere puffery, where "30 minutes" = "a comparatively short amount of time" in the real world.  The Nerd has made many of the meals out of the Meals in Minutes book, and while he has never managed to make a single one in 30 minutes, none of the meals have taken an hour, and most can be made in 40 - 45 minutes or so.  To me, that's still mighty fast, considering that this represents the total time from beginning of prep to food on the table, and considering the fact that the Nerd is no professional chef.

Tonight's meal delightfully satisfying.  The Goddess Salad was fresh and light, and the dressing with the lettuce and avocado made a wonderful pairing - creamy and delicious.  We cheated here, and ate the entire salad between the two of us (rather than saving any for leftovers).  Our excuse was that the avocado would go brown, but really, we just didn't want to stop eating it.  No matter, it was low in calories but high in deliciousness, so we regret nothing.  The baked potatoes were, well, baked potatoes.  As such, they were filling and satisfying.  The Butter Beans and Bacon were rich and almost irresistible.  The bacon added a subtle smoky richness that complemented the butter beans in a wonderful way.  Finally, the Beef Hash had an intriguing sweetness from the Worcestershire sauce.  The hash had a delightful layered flavour that went well with the other dishes and also stood on its own.  We both plowed through this meal with gusto, and I would happily have this meal again, any time.

Yes, it is a common feature of Oliver's meals that they are dish-intensive, and the Nerd once again used almost every pot and pan in the house, but it was well worth it.  Besides, we rationalized the massive stack of washing up as an acceptable trade off for 4 dishes, especially when each dish was so satisfying.

Both the Nerd and I were full after this meal, and so we had no temptation to eat more than a single serving as sometimes happens.  Tonight we were very satisfied with the portions, and quite content to put the remaining portions into storage containers for leftovers.  And given that the ingredients were all fairly inexpensive, the value for money for this meal was excellent.

In terms of ease of prep, this was apparently a nice straightforward meal to prepare, requiring no advanced techniques.  It was so easy to make that I could probably have made it, if the Nerd would ever let me into my own kitchen. 

Estimated nutritionals:                          Calories  Carbs   Fat   Protein
Butter Beans and Bacon, 1 serving        129          16g      3g        8g
Baked Potatoes, 1 potato        178          38g      1g        5g
Super Fast Beef Hash, 1 serving        247          11g    12g      25g
Goddess Salad, 2 servings        185          13g    15g        4g
TOTAL MEAL:                                      739          78g    31g      42g

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Finally taking the next step - - adding weights!

I have been working out for a little over 8 months now (actually 37 weeks), and I am very pleased with my consistency - - I haven't missed a planned workout for 19 weeks running (although there have been a couple of close calls in there!).  And after throwing in an extra workout on a rest day, it looks like working out has become an ingrained part of my daily routine, which is fantastic.

Thus far, my workout routine has been all cardio, all the time.  First with the recumbent exercise bike and rowing machine, then with the elliptical, and now with added purposeful walks as well.

That's all very well and good, but I remember from the last time that I worked out that the way to tone is to do weights, as well as cardio.  A well rounded fitness plan requires a bit of both. 

I don't belong to a gym (no way am I ready for the general public to see me in workout gear!), but I do have some tiny little free weights, perfect for someone starting out like me. 

Back in the day (when I was last working out), I had a full universal weight machine in my basement.  This made it easy to do a range of exercises targeting specific muscle groups.  I always found weight lifting more fun than cardio, likely because my cardio at that time was the recumbent bike (which is boring as all heck), and because I was actually pretty strong.  Even for a girl with feeble Tyrannosaurus Rex arms like me. 

Now, however, I am like an invalid who has been bedridden for years, learning how to walk again.  My muscles need to be trained how to lift weights again, and I need to be very cautious about overdoing it. 

The first time I ever tried to lift weights I worked out of one of Arnold Schwartzenegger's books for hard core weightlifters.  I did a "pyramiding" program on my arms to failure, and I felt amazing - - until the next morning when I discovered that I had blown out both my shoulders and could not lift my arms above my waist without pain.  It turns out that the program I had tried to do was completely inappropriate for my level of fitness and my workout objectives and body form, and I had no business even trying it in the first place. 

Painful lesson learned.  My old weight machine is long gone, sold 5 apartments ago due to lack of space, but I have a small set of free weights to get me started.  This time I am sticking with the baby weights (I am starting with a pair of pitiful 4 pound dumbbells), and only 1 set of 12 reps - - for now.  I think it is important to get my muscles used to the idea of lifting weights again, and I need to make sure I am using proper technique before I get to far along in any weight program. 

Because I am a gadget ho, I am trying out a new app, iFitness, to help me with the weight training.   The app provides instructions for hundreds of different exercises (an absolute must for someone like me, i.e. a rank tyro), and has a number of pre-set routines designed for different needs, like a golf training routine, a weight loss routine, and a business travel routine.  The app also lets you design your own custom routines, which I love, because I don't have access to machines any more, and must focus on dumbbell exercises only. 

I created my own routine, consisting of 9 different exercises targeting shoulders, arms, chest, back, and legs.  For now the routine consists of the following:
     - Shoulder press;
     - One arm row;
     - Seated reverse fly;
     - Modified pushups;
     - Dumbbell bench press;
     - Concentration bicep curl;
     - Seated triceps extension;
     - Beginner squat; and
     - Single-leg standing calf raise. 

It took me about 15 minutes this morning to get through 1 set of 12 reps of each of these exercises after my usual elliptical workout, and I am so unused to working these muscles that I am feeling the workout, minimal though it was. 

My next workout is not until Tuesday.  Over time, I anticipate that I will be able to add more weight and reps to my little routine, but for now, 4 lbs x 1 set of 12 reps is a good way for me to work into this weight lifting thing. 

I have changed my weekly photo documentation to accomodate the new weight lifting, by adding a back photo and flexing (such as I can) to show (my utter lack of) definition in my arms.  Over time, it will be motivating to see some tone start to appear in my arms and legs. 

I am glad I have started to incorporate weights into my workout routine.  It's about time. 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Something is happening to my brain...

I had the strangest thing happen to me today - - I got up this morning and thought to myself: "Even though it's technically my day off, I feel like doing a short workout.  I'll just do 15 minutes on the elliptical before going shopping with my mom". 

What the hell...??

In my entire life I have NEVER thought to myself "I want to work out" when I did not absolutely have to do it.  Working out has always been a means to an end for me, rather than something I do for fun. 

Naps.  Those are fun things.  Snuggles.  Reading a good book.  Working out?  That's for suckers.  I work out in the morning to get it over with because it's not typically something that I enjoy.  Rather, it is a chore that must be endured.

In fact, my habit of working out for 40 minutes on the elliptical 6 days a week is so well known that many of my friends on MyFitnessPal asked if I was feeling OK, because a workout of only 15 minutes is out of character for me - - it was such a short workout that something must be wrong.  I was genuinely touched by my friends' concern, and surprised that they noticed. The thing was, this workout did not need to happen at all - - I had met my objective of 6 x 40 minute workouts this week, and today was my day off from exercising. 

And yet this morning I woke up and even though I did not need to, I decided to do an easy 15 minutes on the elliptical, "just for fun".  Wow.  Something is changing in my brain that affects the way I look at exercise.

Is it the endorphins?  Do I even get them?  I'm not sure.  This morning was a revelation to me.  This was the first time - - ever - - that I exercised for fun, and I enjoyed it.

Maybe I am actually experiencing a lifestyle change, where my habits and patterns of behaviour are starting to be positive things that reinforce other good behaviours.  If so, that's fantastic.  Even if it's not, I am going to see if this sudden urge to do incremental exercise ever repeats itself - perhaps there's a way to replicate this experience. 

Because you know what?  I actually *did* enjoy the workout.  Shhhhh - don't tell anyone!

Finally, the ring comes off!

I had a major win the other day - - I was finally able to take off my school ring!

I don't wear a lot of jewelry, typically, but the one ring that I do wear is my (undergrad) school ring.  It's for the university I'm most sentimental about, because without my undergrad, I would not have been able to do my MBA or go to law school. Plus, the university was in my hometown (Edmonton, AB), and I am very sentimental about that, even though I now live clear across the country.

So I love the ring, and I wear it all the time.  I have never had it sized, so as my weight has fluctuated, the ring has migrated from finger to finger, like a wandering minstrel. 

During the first year of law school the ring was on the middle finger of my left hand, but eventually I gained so much weight (even in my fingers) that the ring had to move over to the ring finger on my right hand.  And there it stayed.  Eventually I gained so much weight that the ring simply wouldn't come off at all - it was stuck - and by this time last year I had put on so much weight that the ring was starting to dig into my finger at times. 

As I have been losing weight, however, I have been losing weight everywhere, including in my fat little sausage fingers.  The ring started getting loose, and over time became very loose - - so much so that it drove me crazy when I was on the elliptical in the mornings, because it kept spinning around my finger. 

With all of my weight loss (more than 60 pounds to date, yay!) I figured that the ring was eventually going to come off, and I kept trying it week by week.  And week by week, my knuckle would get in the way.  Until this week, when I was able to pry the ring off my finger.  Sure, it took a little muscle power and some hand cream (OK, a lot of hand cream), and I made some unladylike noises, but the ring came off! 

This is significant because the ring hasn't come off my finger in literally years.  In fact, the ring has been jammed on that finger so long that it has actually left a divot in my finger, as shown in the photo at right. 

Now I have the same worries most women do - - wondering where I put my ring, or worrying that the ring will fall off.  And that is kind of cool.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Week 37 - Progress

Well, it's another week down, and another week of positive results.  This week I lost 1.5 pounds, to weigh 273.6 pounds total for an overall loss of 60.3 pounds.  I suppose this goes to show that if I stick to my workout plan and continue to track what I eat (and make smart choices where I can), the results will happen.  I just need to be patient.

60 pounds down is a fantastic result, and I am extremely happy to be here.  But I can't help but look at the flip side of that number, namely, that I still have more than 108 pounds to lose.  Put another way, that's an entire gymnast's worth of weight that still needs to go.  The thought of that is depressing, so I am instead going to focus on the 60 pounds that is gone, which is the weight of a small child. 

To reframe the focus on the good results, let's look at a graph showing my weight lost since I started this journey:
It's not all smooth, and I don't lose every week, but the overall trend is definitely down.  And my weight is significantly down from where I was.  I have lost 18% of my starting body weight, and 36% of my overall weight loss target. 

I am generally feeling pretty good, physically.  My left knee is still dodgy when I am walking, but mostly only when I am thinking about the mechanics of walking, so if I can just stop thinking about my knee possibly giving out, I will likely have a better time with it.  My back is almost entirely back to normal, thank god.  I do not do well with back pain, and having a sore back for a mere week and a half was a reminder of how physically compromised I was before I started working out. 

My fasting blood sugars were high all this week, which was disappointing.  Not super high, like they were before, but consistently in the 6.3-6.4 mmol/L range.  Since I haven't changed my diet at all this week, I am not sure what it triggering this.  Perhaps there is something in the Rogan Josh curry that I have been eating all week that is setting me off?  Not sure, but it's something we'll have to watch for next week. 

I donated blood this morning, and it was a fun experience - - all the staff at the clinic are very nice, and I left with a feeling of goodwill (and just a little tipsiness).  I did not bleed as quickly as I have in the past, but that is perhaps due to the fact that I have a much lower resting heart rate - - at 60 bpm there are simply fewer beats to push out the blood.  I have to accept that it is not a competition, and leave it at that.  There is no prize for being the fastest bleeder, and in fact, holding on to my blood is probably a good survival skill if I ever get cut or stabbed, if you think about it. 

So, the objectives for this week are to keep doing what I am doing, and stick to my workout and eating plan as much as possible.  This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada, so there will be the obligatory turkey dinner at my parents' house this Sunday.  It is also my nieceling's 8th birthday, and there will be 2 - count them - 2 different cakes to avoid.  My mother does birthdays to excess, but it's fun, so we run with it. 

I will have to try not to get discouraged if I do not lose weight this week, what with all the turkey, gravy and cake around.