Sunday, 31 March 2013

Walking a mile or 6...

This holiday weekend the Nerd asked me if I wanted to go for a walk, given that it was a beautiful day.  My initial impulse was to say no, but on reflection, I thought it would be nice to actually get out and go for a stroll, to take advantage of the day off.

We decided to walk up Yonge Street to Bloor, and then over to Avenue Road by the university, and back home.  Halfway there, the Nerd suggested that instead of turning for home at Avenue Road, we should continue westbound until Spadina, and stop at Greg's Ice Cream. 

For those of you who do not live in Toronto, Greg's is a Toronto institution.  Previously located near the University of Toronto on Bloor Street West at Avenue Road, a few years ago Greg's moved to Bloor and Spadina, in a little hole in the wall by the Jewish Community Centre.  It's still near the university, just near the western edge of it, rather than the central portion.  Greg's serves some of the best ice cream in the city.  There are more than 100 flavours of Greg’s Ice Cream, but there’s one recipe the ice cream maker is particularly known for - -  roasted marshmallow.

At any rate, it was a nice day for a walk, and it was fun to walk the 3 miles over to Greg's.  I was having visions of Greg's roasted marshmallow ice cream (which every sensible person agrees is the best flavour). 

Alas, it was not to be.  Greg's was closed for the holiday.  Too bad, so sad.  So the Nerd and I enjoyed a tea in the sun whilst watching an outdoor salsa dancing class before turning for home. 

It was a very nice walk, and after all was said and done, we did 6.4 miles in about 2 hours.  A nice stroll. 

That evening and the next day my hip flexor on the one side was very sore, which made certain things (like going up stairs, or lifting my leg to get into bed) very uncomfortable.  Fortunately, I didn't notice any problems with the elliptical, so I was able to do my new-usual Saturday workout of 55 minutes on the elliptical without missing a day.

I was pleasantly happy to discover that this morning my leg (including the hip flexor) felt fine - - as good as new.  So no lasting damage was done by our enthusiastic walk.  I felt so good that I walked home from a friend's house this afternoon rather than taking a cab as I usually do, so I got to do another couple of miles today (only 1.5 of which I tracked). 

I love that my increasing fitness levels are allowing me the option of going on these walks, and using my own power to get places.  Toronto is a great walking city, after all, and it's nice to be able to take advantage of it.  I also like the savings that comes with walking, as opposed to cabbing it everywhere - - that adds up quickly!

Friday, 29 March 2013

What a week!

This week was more of the same (in terms of workouts and nutrition), with somewhat more focus on sodium levels and water consumption.  And boy howdy, did the consistent approach pay off again this week: I lost 4.8 pounds this week for a total of 111.3 pounds lost to reach 222.6 pounds.  The weight loss to date represents exactly 1/3 of my starting weight, and 2/3 of my overall weight loss goal.  My BMI is now 32.9, down 16.4 points from the high of 49.3.  44 weeks without a missed workout are paying off!

After this week's loss, I am averaging a loss of 1.8 pounds per week, and I am still on track to reach my goal:
Since this is the end of the month (almost, at any rate), I took my measurements:

I am always surprised at how I continue to lose inches each month.  This month I lost an inch off my bust and waist, a half an inch off my hips, and a quarter of an inch off my thighs.  The three and a quarter inches lost this month add up to more than 45 and a half inches lost total.

I am particularly thrilled with my inches lost this month because it moves me officially into size 18.  I have lost 4 clothing sizes since I have started this little adventure.  My 2 size 20 suits are now getting obviously big, and I get a lot of compliments on my size 18 suits that are now fitting well. 

I mentioned that this week I have started looking at my sodium consumption.  So far the attention to sodium has caused me to make different food choices, but successfully - - each day this week my sodium has been within the 1,500 mg - 2,300 mg recommended range.  And for March month to date, my sodium has averaged 2,135 mg, down from 2,481 mg in February.  I like that trend, which is heading in the right direction.

As for my fasting blood sugar, this also trended in a positive direction this month.  This month to date I had normal readings 24% of the time, down slightly from last month (which were normal 26.9% of the time).  But my average blood sugar reading was 5.7 this month, down from 5.8 last month.  That's what I like to see.

So where do I stand with respect to my goals?

I am thrilled with this month's results - - I am less than 20 pounds away from being merely overweight, and less than 60 pounds away from my final goal.  That is fantastic!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

This lifestyle change is full of ups and downs...

Photo courtesy Steveage, licensed CC-BY-SA
It seems like each week I am on a high, or a low with my new lifestyle.  Some weeks it is an effort just getting on the elliptical every day, where my fasting sugars are high, where the weight seems to be coming off only in ounces at a time - - if at all.  These are the weeks that it is difficult to stay motivated and keep working my plan.  After all, what's the point in working so hard if I'm not going to see any results? These are the weeks that I feel like I am constantly walking uphill into a headwind, and making no progress.

Then there are weeks in which everything seems to click.  My sugars are low (or at least decreasing), I have a ton of energy and practically fly on the elliptical, and my mood is positive.  These are the weeks the weight seems to practically melt off me, and my lifestyle doesn't even feel like work.  It's as if I'm not doing anything, and I'm seeing all these good results (even though, in reality, I am working just as hard as ever - - it just doesn't feel like work when it all clicks).  In these weeks, I feel optimistic, like I can do anything, and my goals are all within reach.

It's not as clear cut as all that, of course.  Some weeks my sugars are awesome, and the scale refuses to budge.  And some days I just have more energy than others, regardless of whether the weight is coming off or not. 

Thinking back on it, though, a lot of my my high and low weeks are weight-related.  When I lose weight easily, I feel empowered and motivated, because my effort is delivering immediate results.  By the same token, when the weight sticks around despite my best efforts, it's frustrating, and demoralizing. 

Because I know that I need to see progress for my effort, I track many many different metrics.  Weight, fasting blood sugar, body fat%, measurements, # steps walked in a day, # minutes worked out, calories burned, # workouts, clothing size, inches lost, calories consumed, carbs consumed, and now, sodium consumed.  All of this is important because I know that if one metric is not moving (I'm looking at you, scale!), then something else usually is.  It's these little glimmers of progress that I cling to when the weight is hanging on, as proof that all my hard work is paying back results, even if they are not necessarily the results I prefer.

This week is one of the good weeks.  I upped my free weights last week, and as per the usual pattern, the first week of a new routine was a tough slog - - exhausting, and no huge weight loss.  This week, the weight appears to be dropping (although I won't know for sure until my official weigh in tomorrow morning), and the free weight routine feels more comfortable.

On a related note, this was my first week of really looking at my sodium intake, and the numbers so far have been pretty good:

     Monday = 1,928 mg
     Tuesday = 1,298 mg
     Wednesday = 1,952 mg
     Thursday = 1,434 mg

All of the sodium levels this week have been in the 1,500 - 2,300 mg recommended daily range, and I am happy about that.  I have had to change up some of my eating habits and be aware of serving sizes, but overall, it hasn't been as difficult as I feared to keep my sodium in a good range.  It's still early days yet, but this is certainly promising.

Tomorrow is the official weigh in day, and I will be doing measurements as well, because it's close enough to the end of the month.  Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Step by incremental step...

My body is no temple, not yet anyways. 

But it's ever so slowly becoming more temple-like every month, as I add to my exercise regimen, or improve my eating habits. 

This week I got the shock of my life when I was informed that there is sodium in Diet Pepsi.  And a little bit of digging showed me that in fact, there is sodium in damn near everything.  As a preservative and flavour enhancer, it's almost impossible to completely eliminate sodium from the diet (nor should we, because we need a certain amount of sodium to live).  The thing is that I, along with many other people, consume way too much sodium on a regular basis.

I have never really focused on the sodium in my diet before this week.  Oh, sure, I saw sodium figures reported in my diary, but my calories were generally good, as were my carbs, and I don't have high blood pressure, so why worry about sodium? 

The reason to worry about sodium is the same reason we worry about drinking enough water and eating enough vegetables - - it's part of a healthy lifestyle.  Just because I can consume too much sodium doesn't mean that I should

So this week I have officially started to give a crap about the sodium in my food, and I have to tell you that it has already started to dramatically change my food selection set. 

This evening I was in the kitchen heating up my dinner (peas, corn, half a baked potato and leftover steak - yum!) and I saw the Lipton Cup a Soup packets on the counter.  There were days I would have a couple of these for dinner when pulling an all-nighter at the office.  I can't ever recall reading the nutritionals looking at anything other than the calorie count.  Today I took a peek at the sodium, and almost keeled over - - more than 600 mg of sodium per packet, or 29% of the total daily allowance.  Keep in mind I would have a couple of these.  No longer. 

Those Mini Babybels in my lunches?  They are relatively low in sodium, at "only" 160 mg of sodium (7% of the daily allowance).  But I never had just one of those little guys, it was always 2 or 3.  And that adds up quickly.  Bye-bye little cheeses.

My "lazy girl" lunch of a can of Chunky New England Clam Chowder?  Forget about it - - one can has 769 mg of sodium, or half of the recommended daily allowance of sodium.  I wish I had enjoyed that can of soup more last week, because it's the last one I'll be having for a while. 

I see lots of people in my office and on My Fitness Pal, for example, who are on sodium reduced diets to help manage their blood pressure.  Trying to keep sodium levels below 1,500 mg per day is doable, and that's what I will try and aim for.  That almost entirely eliminates prepared food from my diet, but I'll do it if that's what it takes.  

As with any lifestyle change, I won't be able to make this change all at once.  Step 1 will be to get my sodium levels within the Health Canada guidelines of 1,500 mg - 2,300 mg a day.  Step 2 will be to try and reduce my sodium levels below 1,500 mg a day, consistent with CDC guidelines for persons in risk groups including diabetics (which is not me, but which could be me, left unattended). 

Now when I am planning my lunches, I am going to try and build healthy satisfying meals that tick off the calorie, carb and sodium boxes.  Being aware of the issue is the first step, and now that I know what to look for, I am reading nutrition labels with a fresh eye. 

I will report back at the end of the week.  So far, the first two days of the week have been on track, although I am the first to admit that it is early days yet.

On the good side, many smart people assure me that once my body becomes habituated to the lower levels of sodium in my diet, my food will taste just as flavourful and delicious as it once did.  For now, however, it's just a tiny bit bland. 

Ah well, no one said that the path to total lifestyle change was easy, or else everyone would do it...!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

OMG with the sodium!

CBC had a piece on sodium recently, and it turns out that 77% of respondents in a survey exceeded recommended daily sodium intake.  The average Canadian (and American) sodium intake is 3,400 mg per day, well above the tolerable upper intake level of 2,300 mg recommended by Health Canada.

Excess sodium intake is tied to high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues, as well as edema and kidney problems.

While my blood pressure has generally been normal, I do have an issue with edema in one of my legs/feet, and my family has a history of heart disease.  So it's something that I can't pooh-pooh and say has nothing to do with me - - that would make me willfully blind to the potential health problems associated with high sodium intake.  Given that excess sodium is such a problematic thing, I thought it would be a good idea to look at my actual sodium consumption.

The nice thing about keeping a food diary is that I can go back through my daily records and see exactly how much sodium I have been taking in.  And the results were both surprising and horrifying.

The above chart shows my daily sodium intake since I started logging my food consumption back in July 2012.  I guarantee these numbers are understated as well, because I have seldom, if ever, tracked diet pop (it's zero calories, after all).  This weekend I discovered that my innocent little can of Diet Pepsi has 35 mg of sodium in it!  What the hell?!  Sodium, in pop?!  Grrrr!

The highlighted area in the chart shows the desirable range for sodium intake of 1,500 mg - 2,300 mg (according to Health Canada).  Obviously with sodium, the lower the better.

As you can see, I am not a paragon of good sodium consumption habits.  In fact, I was horrified to discover that my average monthly sodium consumption was well over 2,000 mg per day, and in fact, closer to 3,000 mg per day.   Sure, it's below the Canadian average, but it's also well over the recommended daily maximum of 2,300.

I was stunned to see these numbers because by and large I am eating well - - I don't eat fast food as a rule, and I avoid prepared foods (or I thought I did).  The Nerd cooks most of our meals from scratch, and we consume the recommended daily allowances of fruit and vegetables almost every day.  But sodium is in damn well nearly everything, including surprisingly high numbers in many of our recipes.

I was gratified to see that over time my average sodium consumption appears to be trending down, but it is not consistent.  See, for example, the rebound in November and February in the chart above.

But knowledge is power, and the first step is to be aware that there is a problem.  I learned a good many things by reviewing my daily sodium consumption and looking at what was driving the numbers, such as:

1. It is extremely difficult to reduce sodium consumption below 1,500 mg/day with my normal eating habits, given that sodium is in damn near everything, but it is possible to keep under 2,300 mg/day or even 2,000 mg/day, with planning.  I just need to be aware of my sodium figures just as I am with my carbs, and be more attentive to the combinations of foods that I am eating.

2. Sausages are sodium delivery capsules.  Not only street meat, but also gourmet sausage from the market, and by extrapolation, any of our Jamie Oliver recipes that feature sausage (for example, the Kinda Sausage Cassoulet or the Catherine Wheel Sausage) are comparatively high in sodium.  I need to reduce the frequency with which I consume these foods, and/or reduce the serving size.

3. Cheese is also comparatively high in sodium, especially the low fat cheeses that have had such a prominent place in my daily diet.  For example, my little Light Mini Babybel cheese that has only 50 calories has 160 mg of sodium - - that adds up quickly, especially since when was the last time you ate just one of those?  Other cheeses, like the feta in the Jamie Oliver Spinach and Feta Filo Pie, or the Light Pepper Jack Sonoma Jack soft cheese wedges are similarly high.  I need to [sniff] reduce my cheese consumption [sigh].

4. Campbell's soup (and other prepared soups) are ridiculously high in sodium.  In fairness, I am not speaking of the reduced sodium versions, but rather the normal versions.  A can of Chunky Prime Rib stew has 1,404 mg of sodium, a cup of the Trader Joe's Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper soup has 1,125 mg, and my favourite New England Clam Chowder has 1,361 mg.  These have got to go.

5. Smoked food is high in sodium.  Another heartbreaker - - the delicious smoked trout (590 mg), bacon (192 mg per slice), and smoked salmon (up to 1,132 mg) are all comparatively rich in sodium.  Obviously, the salts used in the preserving process gets absorbed into the food.

6. Prepared sandwich meat is surprisingly high in sodium.  I thought that eating a homemade sandwich, especially one made of turkey or chicken, would be good for me.  Not so much - - a normal serving of sandwich meats (actual meat, not processed meat loaf product) runs in excess of 500 mg - 950 mg.

7. Low fat/low calorie/low carb does not equal low sodium.  I was so focused on reducing my daily calories and carbs that I ignored the sodium levels in food.  As my overall food consumption has decreased and my diet has evolved to incorporate less prepared food over time, my sodium consumption has also declined - - but nowhere near as much as my calories or carb levels.  Nutrition needs to hit on multiple levels, as I discovered today.

8. Restaurant food is high in sodium.  Salt = flavour, and on days that I eat out, my sodium figures are consistently higher than days I cook for myself.  Furthermore, it's very difficult to reduce the amount of sodium in restaurant food, although it is possible to try and make healthier choices. 

So what am I going to do to try and reduce my sodium intake?

i) Read the nutrition labels, and try to choose lower sodium options when choosing between products.

ii) Look for foods with sodium levels of 5% or less of the daily recommended allowance - - these are considered to be foods that are "low in sodium".  Similarly, avoid foods that have 15% or more of the daily recommended allowance of sodium - - these are "high in sodium" foods.

iii) Where possible, purchase the "reduced sodium" versions of foods.

iv) Reduce consumption of sandwich meats and sausages - - these are high in sodium.

v) Don't add salt when cooking.  We already do this most of the time, but it's good practice - - we can always add salt at the table if required.  

This will not be something that I can fix all at once, nor is it something that I can deliver on every day - - sometimes I will just have a 4,000 mg day - - but if I am aware of sodium and make choices taking sodium into account, I can work to bring my average consumption down month by month. 

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Where's my training montage, dammit!

This week was a difficult week.  Last weekend I had dinner with a friend at my favourite Indian restaurant on Friday, then on Saturday we had more friends over for the fights, and I was incapable of resisting the Boursin garlic and herb cheese ... or the Munchies snack mix ... or the lamp lollipops ... or the Crown Royal ...  Sheesh.  The damage was not too bad on Sunday, but by Monday my weight had gone up, and kept going up. 

 As I was fighting back from the weekend of food debauchery, it occurred to me that I could really use a training montage.  You know, like in the movies, where the plucky hero/ine suffers some adversity and has to fight back and train harder than they've ever trained before, except to a rocking soundtrack and quick edits?  And it all just takes 5 minutes or so - - a training montage would save me so much time...!

Wouldn't that make this whole workout thing a lot easier?  Weeks, months, or even years of gradually improving fitness condensed into a tight 5 minute package with suitably motivating music and a great beat.  "Eye of the Tiger", or the Matrix "Lobby Fight Scene" music, perhaps. 

In the training montage, the only indication of the passage of time is the fact that the plucky hero/ine can do something at the end of the montage that they could not do at the outset, be it running up the steps of the museum, or doing a one-handed pushup, or running a 4 minute mile, or punching through a piece of wood from 2 inches away (all of which are on my bucket list, by the way). 

Sadly, though, we get no training montages in real life.  Weeks, months and years of time passing can be condensed into ... well, weeks, months and years.  There are no short cuts, or quick edits to make this lifestyle change go faster.  Although you can choose a rocking soundtrack for your workouts, you still have to do the workouts.  

So I do the workouts. 

It took me until Thursday of this week - - 4 days of rigorously healthy eating habits, daily exercise, and extra glasses of water each day - - to even get close to last week's weigh in numbers, and by Friday, I was a pitiful 0.1 pounds down - - essentially flat versus the previous week.

So I kept on track on Friday rather than giving in and splurging with a treat day.  I added an extra workout in the evening and kept up the increased water consumption so that this morning I was a further 0.9 pounds down, for a 1 pound loss on the week to 227.4 pounds, for 106.5 down in total.  It was hard fought, I'll tell you, but that almost makes it sweeter.  I didn't give in to my frustration at my ballooning weight, and stuck to my plan like the stubborn so and so that I am, and it paid off.

Not only am I still on track for my goal weight (eventually), but I also reached another milestone this week.

I weigh myself every morning on my digital scale, which also measures (directionally, at least), my body fat percentage.  When I first started working out my body fat percentage was more than 50%.  Distressingly more than 50%.  Considering that a healthy body fat percentage for a woman my age is in the range of 23%-35%, and you can see that my body fat percentage was juuuuusssssttt a little bit high.  "Well marbled" is another way of putting it. 

Well, this week I began to string together consistent body fat readings under 40%.  Sure, 39% is still too much fat, but the number is coming down thanks to the training montage - er - the consistent attention to diet and daily exercise. Yet another metric to check off as improving! 

And it's another week closer to my goals:

I have no plans for any food debauchery this weekend, so hopefully this coming week will not be so difficult to work through.  It will be week 2 of the higher weight (8 lb) free weights, and week 2 of the higher weight (2 lbs each) wrist/ankle weights, but last week's workouts went well, so I think the workouts will go pretty smoothly this week. 

In the meantime, as Rocky said: "... it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward".  I'll keep moving forward.  

Sunday, 17 March 2013

"You turn if you want to; the lady’s not for turning" (with thanks to Margaret Thatcher)

There's something to be said for a certain stubbornness, a refusal to take the easy road when faced with difficulty.  Sometimes a stubborn nature is all that keeps us going.

Take Friday, for example.  In my rush to leave the office Thursday night I left my iPad at the office (again!).  Those of you who are familiar with my routine know that I use the iPad not only as the source of music during my time on the elliptical machine, but I also read during my workout to help pass the time.  No iPad = no distractions during my workout.  And Friday's workout was the usual 60 minutes on the elliptical.  One full hour, with nothing but my mind and the merest sliver of a view from the window to distract me.  I realized that I had left my iPad at the office as soon as I arrived home, but by then it was after midnight, and I was uncomfortable going back to the office at that time - - the sidewalks were full of drunks and panhandlers on the stretch of road between my place and the office (lots of bars and restaurants in my neighborhood), and it only gets worse the later one walks.  No thanks.

So I gritted it out.  I knew before I started that it was going to be tough to push through 60 minutes on the elliptical without any distractions.  I would have to try and keep my stride rate in the 130-140 zone without the benefit of a good beat, and I would have to check off the full 60 minutes without anything to make the time pass faster.  The only thing keeping me going was pure cussedness - - I was damned if I was going to miss a workout for the first time in 44 weeks because I forgot one of my electronic crutches at the office.  No sir.

As it happens, I actually had one of my better workouts - - the time passed as it inevitably does (the rotation of the earth around the sun working its magic), but I actually found that my natural stride rate was more in the range of 138 - 145 than 130 - 140, so I ended up burning more calories and having more steps than normal for my Friday workout.

Let that be a lesson to you, kids - - being stubborn is a blessing.  It keeps us on track when the easy thing to do would be to stay in bed.

So it being Friday and all, another week is officially in the books.  Another week, and another 1.8 pounds down, to 228.4 pounds for a total loss of 105.5 pounds.  I was really pleased with that.  It looks like the faster stride rate and addition of the wrist/ankle weights is working, so I will keep it going.

This week I am adding another pound to each wrist/ankle weight, for a total of 2 pounds per wrist or ankle (depending on the day), or 4 pounds total.  I am also upping my free weights to the 8 pound weights, and doing 4 sets of 10 reps.  I am taking the reps down from 12 to give my arms a chance to get used to the higher weight.  Other than that, I am not mixing up my routine, as it seems to be working really well.  I will keep doing the 55 minutes on the elliptical on free weights days, and do 60 minutes on the elliptical on non-weights days.  I will likely keep this program and the 8 pound weights for another month or so, depending on how I feel.

So far, so good, as far as keeping on goal goes.  Ever since I started using the elliptical and keeping a food diary last July, I haven't really had any plateaus to speak of.  Whether it's a factor of being conscious of what I am eating and drinking, or having a more efficient cardio program, I don't know, but whatever is driving it, I am still on track to (eventually) hit 165 pounds.

This week was full of win as far as positive comments from my workmates.  I have officially made the leap and incorporated my size 18 suits into my wardrobe.  As a result, people have suddenly noticed that I have lost a significant amount of weight in part because these suits fit and do not look baggy, and in part because these suits are not black and camouflagey.  It's tough to hide your light under a bushel in a lilac coloured suit - - it's all there for people to see.  Anyways, that was all super motivating and very positive, and a great incentive to stick to my program to see where I can take this whole weight loss thing.

For now, here's where things stand in relation to my short term, near term, and long term goals:

Only 23 and a half pounds to go to make light heavyweight - - that's totally doable.  And only 25 and a half pounds away from overweight - - it's so close I can almost taste it.  It's funny that for many people being overweight would be a terrible thing, and for me, it would be something I achieved only after a year and a half of grueling effort.  I suppose it depends on where you're coming from.

In honour of another week on track, I leave you with a photo of me in my Misfits shirt taken this weekend.  The shirt is now too big for me, but the bones glow in the dark so I am reluctant to donate it.  Besides, wearing this shirt is, for now, the only way that I can have visible clavicles [grin].

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Finally starting to see some progress...!

It was a good week, workout wise.  To avoid plateauing, I took up the intensity again this week, adding wrist/ankle weights (1 lb per arm/leg) to my elliptical routine, and adding some 140 bpm songs to my 130 bpm playlist to increase my stride rate and calories burned.  Otherwise, I left my free weight routine the same (8 exercises for 4 sets of 12 reps at 6 pounds), and left the time the same on the elliptical (55 minutes on weights days, and 60 minutes on non-weights days).

And it worked great!  I saw my calories burned increase from last week's numbers, and I felt fine after my workouts - - challenged, sure, but not completely blown.  I was really pleased with how I felt - - strong and energized.  I may have even experienced an endorphin, but I don't like to rush to judgment on these things - - I will wait and see if I can repeat the feeling. 

Adding intensity worked well in another direction, too - - I lost another 2.4 pounds this week, down to 230.2 pounds, which is an overall loss of 103.7 pounds.  People keep asking me how to lose 100 pounds, and I tell them they need to start off by having to lose 168 pounds, then it's easy. 

I love seeing my BMI at 34 - - well down from Obese Class II land, and well on my way to being merely overweight.  I have less than 30 pounds to go to hit that milestone, and I know if I keep consistently working my plan of trying to eat well every day and exercise every day, it will happen.  I am almost letting myself think of my end goal, as well - I only have 65 pounds left to lose, overall, to reach my final goal.  Every pound I lose chips away at that total.  It's only a matter of time.

For a while back last summer and fall I would take progress photos of me each week, from the front and side (and later, from the back as well).  I eventually stopped taking these photos because I just couldn't see a difference.  I know that I have lost a lot of weight and many, many inches, but I just couldn't see it on the photos.

Last week I decided that it being the end of the month and all, I might as well take another progress photo, and this time I was surprised to see that I have made progress.  Yay! 

Looking at these pictures, I am struck by a couple of things.  First, I can definitely see progress - - my butt is shrinking, as is my belly, my back fat, and, alas, my boobs.  The second thing I notice is that I look taller - - no photoshop trickery here - - I am carrying myself taller and more confidently in the second photos.  That is amazing to me, especially considering that in the first set of photos I had already lost 62 pounds, and I was feeling good about my progress, and proud to have accomplished so much to that point.  Little was I to know that it was merely the beginning.

I do wish that I would get some ankles out of this whole arduous process, rather than the cankles that I have.  I would especially love to get a better looking foot out of this, rather than something that is so eerily reminiscent of the Monty Python Flying Circus opening credits:

However, we have to focus on fighting the fights we can win, right?  Ankles will have to wait.  My clavicles are still playing hide and seek but they can't stay hidden forever, and it will be a huge win when those suckers come out of their protective fat cocoon. I can't wait.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

I have a plan to fight back against this whole "lower calories burned when you're lighter" thing...

It has been about a month or so since I stepped up my workouts, and now that my routine is feeling comfortable, and given the hit that my workout calories have taken with my new, streamlined weight, it's time to kick things up a notch.  After all, if you don't push yourself, you miss half the fun, right? (and by 'fun', I apparently mean 'sweat', judging by this morning's results).

My most recent workout routine was 3 days x 55 minutes of elliptical at a crossramp of 6 and tension of 5 (or 25%) and a stride rate of 130, plus 8 free weight exercises using 6 pound weights at 4 sets of 12 reps each.  On alternate days the routine is 60 minutes of elliptical at the same settings, without the weights.  I can never decide which is my 'easier' day.  Usually it's whatever day is not the current day.  On Saturdays, my rest day, I have been doing only 30 minutes of elliptical, just to keep things limber.

Over time I have been seeing a constant decrease in the calories burned from my workouts with my declining weight, and that is frustrating to me.  I feel ripped off - - if I am sweating that much (and man, do I ever sweat!), I want to get credit for it.

So I am incorporating a couple of changes to my workouts this week to try and make things a little more challenging, and hopefully kick up the calories a bit.

First, I have purchased a set of wrist/ankle weights.  The set I am getting will be up to 5 pounds per wrist/ankle, with weight able to be added in 1 pound increments.  I intend to start off using the weights on my wrists, and I will likely start light, only 1 pound per arm, just to see how it goes.  By effectively adding weight back, I am increasing the effort required during my workout, and thereby increasing the calories burned.

The second change is to add some faster tempo songs into my workout playlist.  Recently my stride rate has been around 130 strides per minute.  This weekend I added some 140 bpm songs, that will hopefully be sprinkled through the workouts (god forbid they all come one after the other!), and this will kick things up periodically through the elliptical workout.

I do not think I am yet fit enough to do a full 60 minutes at 140 bpm, and to be honest, I just don't have enough songs at that tempo to make up a full playlist.  But I have a few 140 bpm songs, and they should help me to make my elliptical workouts a bit more intense.

I tried the new playlist this morning and noticed that my calories burned had increased, along with my stride count.  I am reluctant to add much more time to my workout, because I do need to work sometime, and it's tough enough to fit an hour to an hour and half of workout into my schedule every workday as it is.

Hopefully the combination of wrist weights and faster pace will allow me to stretch out this routine for another few weeks before it starts getting comfortable again.  I definitely felt challenged this morning, so we'll see how it plays out this week.  Could be a long week...!

Friday, 1 March 2013

February 2013 - I love it when a plan comes together

Another month is in the books.  This makes a full 13 months of working out for me, or 57 weeks.  Once again I am a boring ol' consistency monster doing all of my workouts this month (40 weeks now without missing one!). 

And the results...some wins, some reverses, but mostly more wins.  All in all, my routine appears to be working, and the bullheaded consistency with which I am approaching this healthy lifestyle thing appears to be paying off. 

You know I love numbers and pretty charts.  And graphs.  OK, I'll admit it, I love quantifying the various changes to my body, because it permits me to see progress on many different metrics.  After all, the more you track, the more possibility there is that at least something will show improvement.  There is a method to my madness. Plus, how do you know you've won if you don't know what the goal looks like? 

As you can see, this month had rather more up and down than I like, driven by: i) a charming Italian man visiting and cooking; and ii) scale recalibration issues.  Essentially the week I gained was like 2 weeks lost, one for the part where I went up, and one for the part where I got back down to the place I had been.  But no one said this weight loss thing was going to be easy (well, no one who is not a complete charlatan, anyways).  Still, I consider it a moral victory if nothing else, because even when I went up I stuck to my plan.  Perhaps with a few more expletives thrown in there, but on plan nonetheless. 

And you can see from the year to date graph that this gain was just a small blip on the road, so I am not fussing about it too much:

... and overall, I am still on track to hit my weight goal on the original timing (early 2014):

For the month I ended up 6.3 pounds down, which is a little lower than I would have wished, but as it is still a loss, is a completely fine number.

Speaking of completely fine numbers, my body is doing some ridiculous changes this month:

Big inches lost everywhere except my puny Tyrannosaurus Rex arms this month, for more than 6 inches lost, or more than 42 inches lost overall.  I suspect it averages out over time, because last month I had only a small loss of inches.  But still - - 10 and a half inches gone off my bust?  That explains why my lingerie is fitting so differently. 

What's very nice about these numbers is the fact that they put me well in normal-size 20 territory, and halfway into size 18.  My lilac suit jacket that was tight last month now fits, so it's only a matter of time before all of my size 18 suits are back in rotation. 

The other nice thing about these numbers is that the smaller waist measurement leads to reduced health risks, now that it is under 38".  Sure, I am still in an elevated risk category with this result, but not the "condition critical" risk that I had been. 

This month also had the big milestone of weight goal #5 being met, as I broke the 100 pounds lost barrier.  Whoo hoo!  Better yet, it wasn't a one time fluke, as I was able to improve on the loss for the usual end of the week "official" weigh in - I am now down 101.3 pounds.  My weight of 232.6 pounds puts me in the 85th percentile, down from the 95th.  Just another way of tracking improvement. 

But not everything is unicorns and sprinkles this month.  For some reason my fasting blood sugars were higher than usual, and I had only 7 normal readings (26.9% of total readings) as compared to 9 normal readings (35.5% of readings) last month.  With the fewer normal readings, my average fasting blood sugar reading went up to 5.8 mmol/L compared to 5.6 mmol/L last month.  I have no idea why the numbers were so high this month, comparatively speaking.  With the exception of the week that our Italian visitor was here, my diet was pretty much the same as usual.  It's a puzzler, that's for sure.  But I finished the month strong, with 3 normal readings in a row, so hopefully March will be a better month, blood sugar wise.

I am not going to be too down on myself, because even though these numbers are slightly worse than January's figures, they are still way, way better than last July's numbers when I first started tracking.  I averaged around 6.3 mmol/L back then, with zero normal readings.  For me, every normal reading is a triumph.  As I continue to lose weight, these figures will, I hope, continue to improve. 

So all in all, it was a good month.  I have a whole bunch of new workout gear, just ready for my next session with the elliptical. 
"Bring it on!"