Saturday, 31 January 2015

Progress Pics - Holy Crap

It has been a full month now that I have been working out with my personal trainer, Mr. Fitness.  I was pretty sure that things were tightening up (in a good way) and I was noticing things like a bit more definition in my shoulders, so it was with interest that I measured myself this morning.

The results: indeed, things have been happening.

I am down more than 3 inches across my various bits and pieces compared to last month, and I am down more than 56 inches when compared to before I began working out. 

My conclusion: the personal training thing is having the desired result.  Sure, it takes a lot of work, a lot of sweat (both on my own and with Mr. Fitness at our weekly sessions) and no small amount of swearing.  The swearing thing may be optional, but it sure makes me feel better.  I am sure there is science to support that - - someone somewhere must have studied that. 

I have lost 9 pounds since I started working with the trainer, and 135.9 pounds overall in the three years that I have been working out.  Let's see what that looks like, shall we?

I can definitely see things are firming up from the back compared to last month.  Nothing dramatic (after all, it's only been one month), but some progress nonetheless.

The profile view is more striking.  I have definitely lost some of my gut and butt compared to last month.  Please disregard the whimsical slippers, which did nothing to pull together my outfit.

Overall, I am pleased with what has happened to my body since I started working with the trainer, and this only reinforces my determination to keep up those weekly workouts with Mr. Fitness, and also to hold up my end of the bargain by doing my own workouts on days that I am not working out with the trainer (after all, he's good but he's no miracle worker, and I can't expect to see significant results without significant effort on my part - - it can't be all on him).

Because it has only been a month, although there are changes, they are not super dramatic.  Positive changes, yes, but nothing to make me go "holy crap".

Then I looked at a comparison between this morning and what I looked like back in July 2012.  I haven't looked at those photos in a while (OK, years), mostly because I am embarassed about how I looked back then.  When I looked at these old photos today I was taken completely aback - - how had I let myself get into that condition?  Now keep in mind, the July 2012 photos show what I looked like after I had been working out for 6 months and had lost 35.7 pounds:

Now prepare to say "holy crap":
If I ever doubted that my hard work was generating results, this comparison eliminates all doubt.  Suddenly, those 3 years of sweat and toil and forcing myself to work out even when I did not feel like it are worth it - - it is working.  My eating habits are much better now, too, which has been another long term learning process.

We'll see where this old girl is in another month.  For now, I feel re-energized in my efforts to eat better and to continue to push myself in my workouts.   

And yes, holy crap.  I am still shaking my head at the changes.  Thank god I was sitting down when I uploaded the photo, or else I could have been badly hurt.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Another 2.5 pounds down ... again

Whoof!  Mr. Fitness kicked my butt last night.  We did a pull session and worked some muscles I have never felt before.  This morning I could really feel the workout in my back (we were working some bent over rows) and my arms (thank you, shoulder raises). 

But it is all for the good - - this morning when I hopped on the scale I was back down to 198 pounds, which is a loss of 2.5 pounds from my previous reading, and 9 pounds down since I restarted after Christmas. 

Although this is territory I have visited time and time - and time - again, I am gradually developing better habits and my work with Mr. Fitness is paying dividends.  No longer can I simply coast through workouts - - I push myself with high intensity workouts and put myself in the hands of a trainer who legitimately challenges me each week.  And with Mr. Fitness having uploaded my workout plans to Trainerize, I can push myself on my own (almost) as hard as he does.  This makes me happy.

I will measure myself tomorrow and I think I will see some changes to my body, as I am noticing some of my saddlebag action is already trimming down.  I cannot recommend having a personal trainer enough - - he has really helped me to shift gears and get some momentum behind my weight loss.

I am frustrated that this is essentially the third time that I have lost the same weight (this go-round, at least).  I first got here in the summer of 2013, then again when I was starting fresh after beginning my new job and now again, recommitting after a December debauch for the record books. 

Each time it is the eating that gets me - - I fall back into old habits, or start to get complacent and think that "I can have this handful of M&Ms" (trick: it's never just 1 handful), or "I lost weight this week so I can have a bunch of big meals tomorrow" (s sure-fire way to ensure that the loss is immediately wiped out).

My recent US trip has given me hope that I can enjoy restaurant food - - including desserts - - while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  The key for me seems to be to religiously log my food and to stick to the recommended portions, even if it means leaving food on the plate.  I didn't snack during the trip either, which helps immensely.

So another month is shortly to be in the books.  Today is a little bit special because this weekend marks 3 full years since I began this journey to lifestyle change.  3 years, and 135.9 pounds down, I am still learning and still seeing positive changes.   Let's see what 2015 holds in store!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Break from routine - challenge accepted!

The last couple of weeks have been simply crazy for me.  My comfortable routine of workouts, healthy, delicious meals, and quality time with the Nerd were transformed by a series of conferences and business trips.

Last week I had two days of leadership conferences at a hotel north of the city, complete with buffet breakfasts and lunches and a sit down dinner (the first night) and a cocktail party (the second night).  Not to mention the numerous coffee breaks full of pastries, cookies, and full size chocolate bars that they were passing around.  I was able to work out at home each morning, but I was exhausted by the end of each day - - in part because of the full schedule and in part because of the challenge of making sensible food choices and the effort of distracting myself when snack time came around.  (!)

The day after this two day conference I had - you guessed it - another full day conference, this time at a downtown hotel that I could walk to from my apartment.  Another day, another buffet breakfast and lunch, and another gauntlet of cookies at the break to avoid. 

Right after this conference I had to jump on a plane to go to Boston so that I could attend at a couple of our New England production plants.  This trip spanned Thursday night through Monday afternoon, and involved a hotel stay over the weekend, plus two take-out lunches eaten at the plants and one (delightful) dinner out with friends at Legal Seafood. 

The Nerd and I drove back to Toronto from Boston on Monday and survived yet another fast food meal and snack on the way home.

I had one entire day back in the office (largely spent trying desperately to catch up on work) and then today I was back at it, with a class to teach out of town that involved a 2-hour train trip (each way), train food and lunch at an Italian restaurant with the other teachers. 

All in all, these past couple of weeks have been a series of temptations interspersed with stressful work meetings and broken routines.  On the good side, I have learned a few things along the way:

1. Buffet breakfasts can be my friend, especially when they have a good supply of proteins.  I stocked up on eggs, bacon and sausages with fruit and coffee most mornings, and managed to avoid the french toast, waffles, pancakes, hash browns, croissants, muffins, bagels, and danishes on offer.  By focusing on protein (even slightly higher in sodium protein) and avoiding the carbs I felt great all day and didn't crave the cookies and muffins on offer at the breaks.  I was impressed with how many carbs the typical breakfast buffet features, especially when I had to avoid them. 

2. Buffet lunches can be my friend, especially when I focus on filling my plate with vegetables and concentrate on eating only partial pieces of the main course (usually something cheese covered) to ensure that I was only eating one serving.  Added bonus - - the extra vegetables took me a long time to eat so there was no time to linger over dessert.

3. Avoiding desserts and high carb/high sugar snacks when I am by myself is critical.  I could have seriously gone off the rails with all the snacks on offer at each conference, and only my refusing to make eye contact with any of the delicious snacks could I escape break time unscathed.

4. Hotel gyms are a great tool.  There was a time a few years ago, that I would never have dreamed of setting foot in a hotel gym.  On this trip to the US not only did I set foot in the gym, I made it a regular part of my daily routine.  The only days I did not work out at the hotel gym were my travel days.  When I did work out, I took advantage of the facilities to use machines I don't have at home, and to go for swims in the pool.  I was sad to leave when we did, frankly, because I was kind of looking forward to another swim in the pool.

5. I can enjoy decadent foods (like Parmesan fries or desserts) in moderation, which in my case meant sharing them with the Nerd.  Sharing these treats kept me from feeling deprived, but also took what would have been a major calorie hit and turned it into something reasonable.  Win-win, I say.

6. Burger King sells salads.  Who knew?  Frankly, I never even considered having a salad at a burger restaurant, but they are a surprisingly practical choice.  Much lower in calories than the Whopper with Cheese that I would normally have ordered, and if not entirely satisfying per se, it was a good meal on the road. 

7. I can leave food on my plate.  Because we were eating so many meals in hotels and restaurants I could not control the portions of many of my meals.  But I could control the portion of what I ate, and that worked very well.  I made a point of tracking my food and considering reasonable serving sizes so that when the meals arrived, I could decide how much of each part to eat - - for example, all of the vegetables, but only a portion of the wild rice or half of a bun on a chickpea burger etc.  This is kind of new to me - - usually I clean my plate and go back for more, so leaving food to ensure I was eating a normal portion was novel.

I took the plunge and weighed myself this morning and after an entire week of hotels, buffets, fast food, and temptation, I was delighted to see that I weighed exactly the same as I did before all of this excitement.  Score one for disciplined eating habits. 

Among my excitement on this recent trip was the fact that the Nerd and I were in Boston ... the day the Snowpocalypse (aka Winter Storm Juno) hit.   Monday morning I was in our Hartford plant when I learned that the Governor was closing the highways at 9 pm, and the rest of our day was spent racing back to Needham (just outside of Boston) so we could quickly check out of our hotel and drive as fast as we could to try and get home ahead of the storm. 

We agreed that if conditions deteriorated to the point that driving was unsafe that we would pull over and check into a hotel for the night, but the Nerd was able to persevere and push through all the way home, fortified with a couple of peanut butter cookies on the way to Buffalo.  We arrived home at 2 am after a 10-hour drive, and although we were both well and truly thrashed the next day, we were home, which is all that mattered. 

Today was my last day off from my routine, at least for a while.  Tomorrow I will do my normal high intensity elliptical workout in the morning, and then I am working out with Mr. Fitness in the evening.  I predict that my ass will be kicked, as usual.  But it will feel soooo gooood when the workout is over, it is almost worth the discomfort. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Some emotional eating ... and right back on track

The pop factory laid off about 1,800 people over the past two weeks (worldwide), which seemed like an awful lot of people lost their jobs until Target Canada announced last week that they were closing and throwing 18,000 people out onto the street.  Suddenly 1,800 sounded almost reasonable, even though 1,800 is a very high number in and of itself.  Regardless of the scale, restructurings of any kind are scary as hell and very tough - - they are distracting and take focus off the work that needs to get done.  And given that I just started at the pop factory in the spring of 2014, I was feeling especially vulnerable this time.

I found out that I still had a job on Thursday January 8 (!), and for the entire week leading up to that day I had been emotionally eating in a way that was a borderline (if not outright) binge.  I found myself eating candy at the office and I was almost unable to stop.  It was ridiculous, frankly.  Thank god we found out about our department when we did, because another week of that behaviour would have been very tough to recover from. 

Unfortunately, one of my team mates (and close neighbors on the seating plan) lost her job in the restructuring, so our team did not escape Scot-free.  With her obvious (and profound) distress at losing her job I felt no small amount of survivor guilt, but fortunately I was able to deal with that without eating my way into a food coma.  Because the impact was no longer directly on me, I was able to approach it less emotionally than when I thought I might lose my job and chocolate was my crutch.  Once the restructuring happened I could be supportive for my friend but I did not need chocolate to do so.

One good thing about that day (and frankly about the only good thing about that day) was that I had an absolutely brutal high intensity interval conditioning session with Mr. Fitness that evening, and it was the perfect way to work through all my stress and anxiety about what had just happened.  All those times I doubted whether workouts help with stress are now officially put to rest.  After the workout I was shaking with exhaustion, dripping with sweat, aching, and content, if you can believe it. The more I work out with the trainer the more I enjoy it, because he pushes me during every session.  I know I will see results from this work because there is no way that my body can get used to anything - - as soon as I think it is getting easier, Mr. Fitness adds new elements to kick up the program.  Bastard (just kidding - Mr. Fitness is a lovely man and I am pretty sure his parents were married).

Another good thing about that week is that even though my mouth would not stay shut (!), I was working out hard every day.  Even better, the day after the restructuring I was suddenly and completely able to ignore all temptation or desire to snack.  It was as if a switch had flipped in my head.  The firings were over, I still had my job, and it was time to take care of business.  My brain literally got back in gear and I was immediately focused on healthy eating and my workouts.  And I haven't had any overwhelming desire to snack since.  Strange.

The net result: I put on several pounds the week of the restructuring.  After a couple of sessions with my personal trainer and two weeks of consistent hard workouts, I am now back down to a weight that is 2.7 pounds lower than before the restructuring.  I am still about 10 or 11 pounds higher than my lowest recent weight (before Christmas), but I am on a great program right now that is pushing me and I am staying on track much more than I am off plan. 

I find that  being able to track my workouts (both alone and with the personal trainer) on the Trainerize web app is very motivating, and this has especially helped me keep on track over the past couple of challenging weeks.

I have always loved tracking my workouts and my progress, and this program combines both of these things together.  Mr. Fitness accesses the interface to check on my progress, and he absolutely knows when I have been following the program and when I have been doing the workouts he set up for me.  I like this because it helps keep me accountable. 

And because the trainer knows when I have done a workout and what I have done, he knows when and how to bump up the next workout.  For example this week in my "push" conditioning session we added dips and incline bench presses.  It turns out I absolutely suck at dips, but next time I try them I will be better.  My squats were better this week than last week, and they will be even better next week.  Progress. 

I am travelling and at offsites most of this coming week, so it will be a very trying week that will challenge my discipline.  Monday will be back to back meetings followed by 2 days in senior leadership meetings with an obligatory evening dinner/event, then a full day planning meeting, then travelling to Boston and Hartford to visit a couple of our production facilities from Friday to the following Tuesday.  On the next day I have to spend the day in London Ontario teaching a class at the law school - - including an obligatory lunch with the other teachers. 

So it looks like a week and a half of hotel food, restaurant food, conference meals, and (hopefully) hotel gyms.  It looks like I will not be able to meet with the personal trainer this week due to the schedule from hell, but at least I can keep up on my program using hotel facilities as much as I can. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Personal trainers work in a variety of ways...

As you know, I have been working with a personal trainer (aka "Mr. Fitness") since shortly before Christmas.  Although Mr. Fitness is a trained homeopath, that's not really my thing and I am working with him solely for the personal training.  This has been good for me on a variety of levels.

First and foremost, Mr. Fitness is kicking my ass.  So far he has set up a "pull" workout and a "push" workout, and he has hinted at an "absolutely killer conditioning workout" for next week [sidebar: I really need to teach Mr. Fitness about foreshadowing].  Each of the workouts have pushed me physically to the point where I feel their effects for a couple of days.  I am using new equipment (like my new kettle bells) and using some of my old equipment (like my balance ball) in new ways. 

He is also teaching me proper technique, something I have been lacking in my solo workouts, and he has introduced me to high intensity interval training, which I had never tried before.  At the very least he has shaken me out of my routine and taught me new skills, which can only benefit me in the long term.

But there's another benefit to hiring a trainer - - accountability.  Mr. Fitness has set up my routines in a convenient app and web interface called Trainerize, and I can not only see what I am doing at a glance, so can Mr. Fitness.  Knowing that Mr. Fitness will know if I have been skipping workouts motivates me to do workouts when I would otherwise be tempted to shirk. 

This is the toughest time - - after I am getting back into things, but with the sodium and bad habit hangovers from the holidays still lingering.  My work routine has been irregular too with the holidays, which doesn't help.  Things are slowly getting back to normal, and by the end of next week I will be back into a more comfortable rhythm.  Hopefully...!

But for now things are still a challenge, and it is a battle of wills not to snack all day every day, and to get my workouts done (especially if I don't do them first thing in the morning).  Having accountability to an external source like Mr. Fitness helps me to be more accountable to myself. 

Today is a classic example.  The Nerd and I got up early thinking that we would have to drive out of town to bring fish from the Market to the Matriarch, who has been unable to come downtown for several weeks.  Because a storm was forecast, we didn't want to linger but rather get a head start, so I did not work out as soon as I got up (which is my usual pattern).  As it happens the Market was closed (d'oh!), so the shopping trip and visit was cancelled.  And there was me with no workout...

What to do, what to do?  Recently it has been simply too easy to let things slide, skip the workout and try and eat below my calorie limit.  There's nothing inherently wrong in that, but it undermines the discipline of the routine that I am trying to re-establish, because the routine involves regular workouts. 

I was still struggling with this moral dilemma when I remembered that Mr. Fitness sees when I check in on the Trainerize interface.  Whups!  Time to get on the elliptical and bang out a HIIT cardio workout.  So I did that, and now I feel great for having worked out.  Moral dilemma resolved.

Week 1 of the new routine is in the books, and I am shedding the water weight from all the sodium I consumed over the holidays. 

Future weeks will not show such dramatic losses, but it's gratifying to get this jump start regardless.

I took my measurements last week when I was starting out, and I also took another set of photos, but since it has only been a week there is really nothing to see in the way of difference yet.  We'll see where things stand after a full month of Mr. Fitness kicking my ass - - what is left of it!