Thursday, 30 May 2013

Moment of Clarity at the Dentist Today

Photo courtesy Dzzi, licenced CC-BY-SA
I had a dentist appointment today.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it has been 22 years since my last dental appointment.  So you can imagine my nerves going into the dentist's office this morning.  When I last went to the dentist Bush I was President of the United States, Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister of Canada and Good Vibrations from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was the #1 song. ... and now I officially feel old.

Anyhow, it has been more than 2 decades since I last permitted a stranger to root around in my mouth, and I was expecting the worst.  I will skip to the end for just a second to eliminate the suspense - - my new dentist is a very nice man, the tooth I knew had a big hole in it has a big hole in it, and I have two small cavities on my upper and lower left wisdom teeth, but everything else looks great. Everything went better than expected.

The best part of the whole process?  Filling out the new patient intake form.  You know, the one with all the questions like "are you allergic to any medications?" [sulfa] and "do you have a family history of heart disease, cancer or diabetes?" [yes, yes and yes!]  My favourite question?  "have you experienced any changes in your health in the past year?"  My answer: "Yes.  I am much healthier than last year."

And it is true.  I love that!  It made my whole day. 

Friday, 24 May 2013

Another week down, another loss

Tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary since I have missed a planned workout. 

When I stop to think about it, that is a pretty amazing fact.  I have worked out before and lost significant amounts of weight, but I always looked for any excuse to skip a workout.  At first this time around I had a hard time hitting the workouts, too.  I made excuses wherever I could, and used my work schedule as the rationale more often than I should have.  Whenever I skipped a workout, I made a note of it on my tracker, but you just don't get that time back - - those workouts are missed opportunities, gone forever.  I even missed a full week one time, and for the life of me I can't remember why, other than "It's hard, I don't want to do it".  

But then I got serious.  I knew that I would not be able to lose any significant weight if I did not get more consistent in my workouts.  And on May 25, 2012, I took steps to make sure I would remain consistent.  I started using an app to track workouts that would penalize me financially if I missed a workout.  I started using a heart rate monitor tracking app to see where my heart rate was in relation to workout zones.  I kept counting my workouts and kept track of how many weeks I had gone without missing a workout.  And before I knew it, a full year had passed. 

Over the past year working out has become part of my daily routine, and I don't need my little tricks and tools now.  Many days I even do multiple workouts, albeit different kinds of exercises.  It's still hard work (some days harder than others), and I still begrudge the time I spend working out (because it's not time spent napping, or snuggling, or something equally productive).  But I do the workouts.  Every day.  And I love how I feel when I am finished - - I am full of a wave of accomplishment.  If I do nothing else in that day, I have done my workout.  And I like that feeling.  It may be as close to an endorphin as this gal is likely to get.

This week's results are right on track.  I lost another 1.7 pounds this week to bring my total weight loss to 124.5 pounds.  That's 75% of my total weight loss goal, which feels great.  In fact, I am only 2/3 of the woman I once was, as I have lost more than 37% of my starting body weight.  I am feeling pretty good about my progress, which has been very consistent this month.

I remember when I first started tracking my weight using the Withings wireless scale last summer - - my readings in those little charts in the above graphic were all squished on the far ends of each line, because my numbers were basically off the chart.  Just as when my BMI was more than 40 and I never appeared on any BMI graphs, the Withings app couldn't handle all the bodaciousness I was throwing at it.  Now, however, I am not only on the chart, I am quickly moving into the normal ranges in the center of each line.  I can't wait to see that. 

The big leap in the weight loss chart this past week was the brief 5 pound gain I experienced after my all-nighter Monday night.  It's amazing how such a minor deviation can have such an immediate and profound impact.  It's also amazing how quickly things got back on track once I returned to my normal routine on Wednesday morning.  The net result was fine, though, so I won't freak out over a minor deviation from the norm.

I am still trending right on track to reach my goal by the end of January.  In fact, I may hit it earlier, if my weekly weight loss continues in the current range.  I don't expect to be able to maintain such great weekly losses as I get closer to my final weight, however, so I won't be crushed not to hit my weight by Christmas, for example.

Every week I get a bit closer to my goals.  I am within 5 pounds of reaching light heavy, which is wonderful.  And under 10 pounds to break 200 pounds - wowza!  Those "LBS TO GO" numbers just keep getting smaller and smaller.

I spoke with the Patriarch a couple of nights ago and he is right around my current weight, but the lowest he has reached was 203, which is my next major goal.  203 pounds makes me merely overweight, and I have to confess it would be nice to weigh less than someone I know, even if that person has 3 inches on me, as the Patriarch does.  I will take an advantage anywhere I get it. 

Looking back at my workout records, last year around this time I was doing 20 minutes of cardio 5x/week on the recumbent bike, and 2 minutes on the rowing machine, for a total of 22 minutes of cardio a day. 

Now I do up to 75 minutes on the elliptical 6 days a week, plus added free weights.  My workouts are still challenging for me, but they are starting to feel manageable, if not exactly easy.  It's been a few weeks at this level so I think I will bump up my program to take things up another notch to prevent plateauing.  I will increase the crossramp on the elliptical to 8, and take the free weights from 5 sets of 10 reps at 8 pounds to 4 sets of 15 reps.  That will give me 10 more repetitions overall, and will be easier for me to keep track while doing the exercises - - embarrassingly, I can count to 4 but I often lose track counting to 5.  I don't even wear shoes while doing the weights, so it's not like I don't have enough fingers and toes on which to count.  Stupid non-linear brain. 

I am not doing the heavy lifting that others do, for now.  Sometime soon, though, I can foresee that the time will come when I will want to pick up a bar and some plates.   As it is, I am thinking of picking up a slightly heavier 10-lb pair of dumbbells in anticipation of the next level.  I used to own a full weight machine with a 200 lb weight stack (and I knew how to assemble and disassemble it myself, too!), but I had to give it up when I went back to apartment living - - the weights are just too darn booming when filtered through the typical apartment's concrete floors, and it's inconsiderate to my neighbors (especially at 5:30 in the morning, which is when I do my weights).  Free weights (or a barbell) work well in an apartment, though, and there's a lot I can do with those. 

I would love to see more flexibility in my knees.  I have been able to cross my legs for a while now, which is another pleasure I have not had for years, but it's a far cry from being able to cross my legs to being able to easily get up and down off the floor.  I still resemble a stranded Beluga when trying to do floor exercises, and my lack of flexibility is one of the reasons I haven't dived into my GSP Touchfit workout app.  That man is limber as a monkey, and I swear he must have extra tendons or something, because he can fling himself around on the floor and back up again with something like grace (I understand that this is something he particularly trains for, what with being a professional fighter and all, but still, he could at least make it look a little difficult).  With me, once I get down on the floor (which is not a thing of beauty to watch, let me tell you), it takes a crane to get me back up again, like a downed giraffe.  I keep hoping that in time I will become more flexible and able to work a ground routine into my workouts, but for now it looks like I still need to lose some more weight. 

So, another good week is in the books.  Next week will be the end of the month, so there will be measurements and progress photos.  I can't wait! 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Back on track - - and feeling fine!

Although it felt like I went a little off the rails in the last couple of weeks, overall I managed to keep things on track.  This week I saw more progress, and even a few nice wins.  To belabour the train metaphor, things just kept chugging along this week. 

This week I lost another 1.9 pounds to bring my weight down to 211.1 pounds, for a total loss of 122.8 pounds.   My BMI is now 31.2, down from 49.3.  Yes, I am still obese, but I am creeping ever closer to "overweight". 

I particularly like that my body fat % is coming down - - when I first got my Withings scale (last July), I had body fat % values of greater than 50% - - just take a minute and think about the implications of that.  Understanding that the body fat % measurements on an electrical impedance scale are directional only, with a value of more than 50% body fat, my body was still largely fat, directional or not. 

Apparently a healthy body fat % for a woman of my delicate years is between 23% and 33%, so I am well on my way to a good place in terms of body fat.  36.9% is much closer to 33% than 50% after all. 

The 1.9 pound loss this week keeps me well on track to hit my goal weight of 165 pounds around the end of January.  So how are things tracking vis a vis the other goals?

More progress this week.  I am within 6.1 pounds of being light heavy, and 8.1 pounds of being overweight.  That will be a significant milestone.  The 46.1 pounds to my ultimate goal still feels like a long way away yet, but it's closer every week.  Tiny steps closer, to be sure, but closer.  I just wish I weren't so impatient, but that's the curse of a Type A personality for you - - a craving for instant gratification.

As for nice wins this week, I have started wearing some of my size 16 clothes (notably a couple of flannel skirts and a pair of blue jeans) and I am getting a ton of compliments on them.  It's amazing what wearing clothes that fit will do in terms of making it obvious that a person has lost a significant amount of weight.  I am still a bit uncomfortable about not wearing my camouflage - - black suits with many layers in a size or two too large - - but having people tell me how good I look is a nice way to gentle me into wearing more size-appropriate clothing. 

It is also making me want to embrace more colour - - I am wearing a red twin set today, and I am mulling over buying a nice spring dress.  It is such a change from a year ago when literally the only things I wore were black suits, or black sweaters with black skirts.  Johnny Cash and Darth Vader were my style icons.  No longer!

Yesterday I was very excited because I was able to button up the jacket of one of my size 18 suits for the first time ever.  It looked good, and I felt good, which is all that matters.  Every week as I lose more weight I am also losing inches, and it is a constant revelation to see how differently my clothes fit over time.  I remember when I was first able to put on my old size 20 suits from the archive, and how excited I was.  And I vividly remember the end of January when I was able to do up the jacket on the size 20 black and white suit for the first time -- what a great feeling!  It was the same feeling as yesterday when I did up my suit jacket - - I felt beautiful and powerful and motivated and strong and all those good adjectives that come with progress. 

Another win this week has been that my excellent blood sugar values have continued.  This is really a month to date win, as I have only had 2 above-normal readings so far this month.  I am well on my way to experiencing my second consecutive month with normal fasting blood sugar values.  And it's all without medication - - I can only thank weight loss and regular exercise and sensible eating for the decline in my sugars.  This is such a major testament to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. 

It is such a major thing given my family history.  Taking control of my eating habits and working out regularly to lose weight has had so many positive side effects, but this is one of the big ones.  As the Matriarch always says, "you don't ever want to be a diabetic", because the related health issues are significant.  Although I would not entirely agree with the Matriarch that it is easier to avoid being a diabetic than dealing with diabetes once you have it - - I would say my daily routine is plenty difficult, thank you very much - - it's nice to move out of the danger zone.  Prediabetes is really like being a little bit pregnant - - you're in for some major physical changes and nothing will ever really be the same again. 

So it's 68 weeks of workouts in the books, and 51 consecutive weeks without missing a workout - - coming up on a full year.  The last time I missed a workout was on May 25, 2012.  This whole eating well and working out thing is well and truly entrenched as part of my lifestyle now, and I am enjoying the benefits of it. 

I still struggle with food cravings and the occasional binge, but I know that I can work through that, with focus.  Yesterday I managed to pull together another great on-plan day, and my objective for this week will be to try stringing together a full week on track.  I can do it!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

When the going gets tough...

Photo courtesy jules:stonesoup, licenced CC BY SA
... the tough go back to basics.

I have to admit that this has been a difficult week for me.  I have been snacking.  A lot.  And not in a reasonable way, with healthy almonds or apples - - this week I have been snacking on chocolate.  Lots of it. 

I keep a candy machine full of peanut butter M&Ms on my desk, and on special chocolate occasions like Easter, Valentine's Day or Halloween I also put out a candy dish with special chocolates and candy.  Mini eggs at Easter, mini chocolate bars at Halloween, chocolate caramel hearts at Valentine's day - - the people in my office love 'em. 

I am generally a woman of stone when it comes to eating the chocolates.  I typically just don't do it.  I know that chocolate is one of my trigger foods, so I tend not to eat it, because if I eat one piece, I want to go back and eat 10 more pieces.  The peanut butter M&Ms do not tempt me at all - - they never have - - but I have to be on my guard with the other chocolates. 

In the last few weeks I have been sorely tempted by the candy dish, to the point where I finally crossed the line and started to eat the sweets myself.  Most days I would be diligent and track what I ate, but a couple of days I went completely and utterly off the reservation and ate chocolate after chocolate after chocolate.  Mini peanut butter cups?  Sure thing.  Hershey's Kisses?  Absolutely.  Mini Peppermint Patties?  Bring 'em on.  And on.  And on.  After a few minutes it was easy to lose track of how many little chocolates I had actually eaten.  Enough to have lost count, which is too many, when you think about it. 

Once I began the rationalization process involved with having the first little chocolate (so tiny, so few calories, I'm still way under on my calories, I worked out today), eating the next 10 or 15 chocolates was easy.  Except for looking at myself and owning up to what I just did - - that was difficult. 

I knew that this week I was in danger of sliding completely off the rails.  So I did what I should have done last week, and went back to basics. 

Yesterday I tried to make it through just one day without illicit snacking.  No little chocolates.  No mini caramels.  No shredded cheese.  No bread with margarine.  Just three balanced nutritious meals with proper sensible snacks.  If I could make it through one day, I thought, I would be able to begin taking back control over my eating.

I made it.  Every time I felt tempted to pop a chocolate into my mouth, I took a new piece of gum, or a took a sip of water.  Anything to deal with the oral fixation I have been feeding with sweets.  And when I got home, I went straight to bed and didn't hang out in the kitchen, looking for snacking ideas.

This morning I felt great.  Full of energy for my weights + elliptical day, and a million pounds lighter - - mentally, at least.  I had beaten down my impulsive eating and had stuck to my plan, for one day at least.  But that one day was a complete win, and I feel great for having that win under my belt.  It showed me that I could do it - - I could be in control again.

Today is a new day, of course, and another day to try and hit the plan.  Having mastered my impulsive eating once, though, now I know that if I take it just a day at a time and if I keep my focus on the fundamentals I can push past this and return to my healthy eating habits. Today already feels easier than yesterday - - it is requiring less of a physical act of will to resist the siren call of the chocolates. 

Tomorrow when the chocolates run out the jar will go away until Back to School season.  This little habit is too expensive - - in many ways.  Aside from the money I spend subsidizing my co-workers' snacking habits (which is not insignificant - - these guys can put 'em away!), I have fought too hard to develop healthy eating habits to piss them all away on a handful of candy now.  I work too hard every day, sweating it out on that damn elliptical, to give it up now with stupid mindless emotional eating. 

I am better than this.  I can be better than this.  One day at a time.  

Sunday, 12 May 2013

If you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got

The title of this post cuts both ways - - before I began working out regularly and eating healthily, I was overweight and miserable about it.  And by doing nothing to change things, nothing changed.

But the opposite is also true.  Now, I have a consistent routine in which every day I try and do something good for my body, be it drinking lots of water, working out, or eating nutritious foods.  For the last year and a quarter I have continually worked to become healthier, step by step.  And by doing this every day (and by extrapolation, every week and every month), I have consistently generated positive results.

Case in point: this week I lost more weight - - down 0.8 pounds to 213 pounds.  That's 120.9 pounds lost overall, which is, as people seem to delight in telling me, "a whole person!". 

I did not lose as much weight as I would have liked this week.  Perhaps I have been spoiled by my weeks of larger losses, or perhaps I have gotten a bit complacent.  More likely, however, it's the result of a confluence of events.  First, it was shark week this week, which always plays havoc with my endocrine system and often has an impact on weight loss (and usually not in the direction I would like, either). 

Second, I really stepped up my workout this week.  I don't know what came into me, but this week I added more weight to my elliptical routine so that during the main workout I am carrying weight to add up to 230 pounds, up from the 227 pounds I was carrying last week (through a combination of wrist weights and ankle weights).  It is a little easier now, as I am carrying the extra weight in a backpack, but it is still a heavy load to carry on the elliptical.  I also took the tension back up to 6 (30%) from 5. 

I have also added an extra 15 minute "cool down" routine on the elliptical, where I don't carry any extra weight and where I keep the incline and tension at the lowest settings.  After the increased tension and added weight on my main workout, this little short spin on the elliptical feels like flying. One added benefit of this additional time on the elliptical is that it is really increasing my daily average step count, which I like.  After all, it is increasing my daily time on the elliptical by around 25%, which is a significant increase, even if I am not pushing extra weight or high tension. 

I have to admit that this made for a difficult week.  I really felt the added weight and tension in my legs this week after every workout, which I suppose is a good thing because I haven't felt a burn in my legs like this in a while - - it's good to push things a little bit once in a while (within reason).  Every workout this week was challenging, and although my streak of consecutive workouts remains intact, almost every day I fantasized with quitting early.  Not that I ever did - - but it made for a nice fantasy. 

I have to say that I felt amazing after pushing through and finishing the workouts every morning.   Stepping up to the increased challenge really felt good.  Especially when I stopped. 

I don't usually see fabulous weight loss results the first week that I step up my workouts for some reason.  Perhaps my body is trying to figure out what the hell I am doing to it.  But the second week after stepping things up is generally pretty good - - I am hoping to return to a 1.5 pound+ loss this coming week, although if working out for 16 months has taught me anything, it's that I am not the boss of my body - - I'll frankly take what I can get. 

My weight loss goals are closer this week than ever:

Only 10 pounds to overweight - - I can almost taste it!  The 48 pounds to go until my final target still feels a bit remote right now, but 200 pounds is looking increasingly accessible.  I am mere weeks away from being at my lowest weight in more than a decade.

In other motivating news, I think I have officially seen the first of my collarbone!  Hidden under its protective mantle of fat for years, my shy little clavicles are finally coming out to play.  About damn time, I say.  I can't balance an egg on the little guys yet, but it's really gratifying to see them. 

We'll see what this week brings!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

120 Pounds Down! (with pics)

I know I keep harping on this point, but there sure as hell is something to be said for consistency.  I keep working out every day and striving to eat well every day, and the weight keeps coming off.  Huh.  It would be nice if there were a magic pill that would transform me overnight into a sylph-like goddess, but failing that, my brute force method and donkey like stubbornness appears to be working just fine.  Not quite "overnight" results, but nothing too shabby, either.

Last week I lost weight, right on track, but this week I lost still more and finally passed the 120 pounds lost mark with my loss of 1.4 pounds.  I am now down 120.1 pounds, or 71% of my target, representing 36% of my starting weight.  71% of the way there - - that makes achieving my goal sound almost close  (while simultaneously still being at least 3/4 of a year away, like a cruel optical illusion).

You know me and charts and graphs - - let's bring on the numbers...!


 I lost 7.5 pounds overall in April, which still keeps me in losing 1.8 pounds each week on average since I first began working out 66 weeks ago.  Speaking of workouts, I haven't missed a workout in 49 weeks - - almost a full year of working out at least 5 days a week (and since last August, 6 days a week).  That is the real key to my success - - regular workouts.  I love food too damn much to be able to lose weight by eating sensibly alone.  So far I am still on track to hit my 165 pound weight goal around the end of January, but I would love to hit that milestone sooner, if I could. 

Another month down, another set of measurements:
This past month I lost another 5" on various bits and bobs of me, for a total of more than 50" lost altogether.  That's more than 4 feet of person, gone.

I am officially a size 18 based on my measurements (my hips and waist still have a couple of inches to go to properly fit into a size 16), and my size 18 suits that I took out of the clothing archive are looking great.

The Nerd and I are cleaning out some closets and rearranging some things, and I finally went through some old duffel bags I had stored away.  I thought one of them, at least, was full of lingerie, but apparently my memory is not so good - - they were full of jeans from sizes 12 to 24W, as well as shorts, chino skirts, and a couple of sweaters my mom knit for me back when I was 18 and 19 (the sweaters totally fit, by the way!!!).

Just for shits and giggles I tried on the size 16 jeans I found in the bags.  I could totally put them both on!  It is not the most elegant look, and I am definitely embracing the muffin top in those jeans, but I have at least 2 pairs of jeans that I will be able to fit into soon - - likely within this month.  I haven't been a 16 in forever, so you can imagine my excitement.  I kept running into the Nerd's office to show off how I looked in size 18 chino shorts, size 16 jeans, and my mom's sweaters.  He made all the right appreciative noises, because his mother didn't raise no dummy.

Seeing as I was in the spirit of reviewing my clothing on hand, I took the opportunity to clean out some of the old 3X and 2X clothes that were taking up room in my closet.  They were more a security blanket than anything else, and I have to admit that I definitely look frumpy in those baggy clothes - - there is such a difference between the size 20 suits that are now dangerously loose, and the size 16 suit I found in the archive (which totally fits and is going into the rotation next week!).  I still found it hard to donate those clothes, because they were my camouflage for so long.

I was thrilled to have found this portable jean archive, because it was not only full of those size 16 jeans, but it was also full of 3 pairs of size 14 jeans and even some size 12 chino skirts.  I had been dreading the thought of having to go out and try on some jeans when my 18s got too laughably loose, and now I don't have to!  Even better, the Nerd and I are travelling down to South Carolina for his family reunion this July, and now I will have shorts that fit, as I found 3 pairs of 18s in the archive (and shorts can be worn even a size big, if necessary).  All in all a good day for clothes.

The Nerd brought 2 large bags of clothes to the donation bin this afternoon, and with the new things I have just pulled out of the closet, he has two more than can go.  Hopefully someone will get some use out of the clothes - - some of them are in amazing condition, barely worn.

The changes from last July are amazing:

This is what weights and cardio will do for a person.  That, and cutting out the long island iced teas.  I love how I stand more vertically now that I don't have the same amount of ballast dragging me down in front - - it's like I suddenly discovered posture after a year and a quarter of working out.   I am loving the changes, and the Matriarch was positively thrilled with these pictures.

I am still a work in progress, but every week and every month brings me that much closer to my goal.  Here are the current numbers:

It's a little amazing to think that I will have lost more than half my starting body weight when I hit my final goal - - I am horrified to think that when I started working out, I weighed more than twice as much as I should.  Not a figure of speech - - literally twice as much.  Gack!

Right now my eye is on the 11 or so pounds I need to lose to become overweight.  I am so close, I really want to get there within the next two months.  Fingers crossed!

With this objective in mind, I stepped up my workout again.  I have added weights to a backpack for my elliptical sessions to bring me back up to 230 pounds to increase my calories burned, and I increased the resistance up to 6 (out of 20).  I kept the stride rate the same as before, because my workout this morning was quite challenging enough, thank you very much!  We'll see how it feels to get into this new workout - - I have a huge sense of accomplishment for having done it, but I recall that during the workout I was having lots of second thoughts.