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. 

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