Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do You Have A Fitness Resolution? I'd Like To Help. I Really Would.

Many years ago, around this time of the year between Christmas and New Year's Day, I was regularly attending a yoga class at my gym.  Several of the members of the class were complaining about how crowded the gym was going to be in the coming weeks as new members would be signing on for their new year's resolutions.

My teacher piped in, "The gym is going to be filled with obnoxious fat people."  This teacher usually came across as your typical new-agey spiritual yoga guru who encouraged a non-judgmental attitude in class.  She continued with even more ire.  "I just want to tell them, 'Just give up.  Give up. It's not going to work.'"  This yoga teacher would talk the talk, but she couldn't walk the walk.  How different was she from the rest of us?  How many of us long-time gym rats complain about how crowded the gym becomes in January due to the number of people making exercise resolutions they probably won't keep?

I admit the annoyance sometimes, but I also wish I could help.  I want everyone to be fit and healthy.  I want the world the know the benefits of a good exercise program.  I know what it's like to not be happy with my weight.  I would love for people to know that they don't have to be unhappy. If you don't want to judge other people, the rule is "Eyes on your own workout."  Yet when I see someone struggling in the gym, I want to reach out to him or her.  I want to give encouragement.  I want to improve those routines.  I want that person to succeed.

 It is possible to get in shape.  It's just that too many people go into an exercise program too uniformed.  They make two very big mistakes.

1.  The wrong workout
2.  The wrong expectations

I saw the perfect example of this in the gym this morning.  Some folks are already getting a jump on their resolutions as I am seeing some very overweight new members showing up at the gym.  I ignored the "eyes on your own workout" rule and observed them a bit.  A pair of heavy men were in the weight room doing endless abdominal exercises.  They were doing endless ball crunches and whatever silly ab machines they could sit on.  Later on I saw them on the ellipticals, slowly sleepwalking through a cardio workout.

I imagine what will likely happen to these guys over the coming weeks if they don't improve their routines.  They will see some results initially because they were likely inactive in the past.  The body responds pretty well to training so they will lose a few pounds.  Then as time goes by and their bodies adapt to the exercises, the results will be even less.  Since the exercises they are doing are not very functional, they won't really see much improvement in their day-to-day chores.

In a month or two these guys will give up.  They had hoped going to the gym would transform their bodies.  They no longer see anything happening.  Exercise doesn't work.  What's the point?

These two guys weren't the only ones I saw working out ineffectively.  I saw men on the weight machines pumping out a hundred reps on the lowest settings.  I saw women with free weights who used hundreds of small movements with tiny dumbbells.  I wondered how long they had been working at this type of workout.  

What would I tell them if they came to me for advice?  What would I tell you if you came to me for advice?

First I would tell them to ignore the machines.  Imagine yellow police tape wrapped around them.  This goes double for the leg press, the pec deck, and most especially the Smith machine.  Machines encourage unnatural movement along one plane. They have no real-world function.  Besides most machines have you sitting or even lying down.  How much real world activity do you do sitting or lying down?  You need to work out in three-dimensional space.  Machines are fine for rehab if you need to work around an injured muscle, but that type of machine use is best done under the supervision of a physical therapist.

Once the exercisers are off the machines and standing up, I'd tell them to stop doing small movements.  Endless rounds of biceps curls are not necessary.  Triceps kickbacks are a joke.  You don't need to do endless leg lefts.  The key exercises to do are large compound movements.  Start with squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, pullups, and dips (if your shoulders can handle them).  Learn the principles of push-pull.  There are all kinds of variations on these exercises, so you shouldn't ever be bored.  If you can't do pushups, start small with wall puhsups, bench pushups, and knee pushups and work your way up to doing just one from your toes.  (Once you do one pushup from your toes, you will find the sky is the limit for how many you will eventually add.)  It's the same thing for pullups.  Do reverse rows.  Use a jump assist.  Use a pullup assist band.  I still can't do a pullup unassisted, but I work often with reverse rows and assistance bands.  Presses, pull-downs, and rows can work your total arm much better than concentrating on just one muscle group.  By concentrating on doing just a few quality movements, you are out of the gym faster.  You can get a good weight workout in just 30 minutes (not including warm-up and cool down).

I would teach new exercises to stop working out like a girl.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  There is a old wives' tale that never dies that women need to work at high reps with very low weights so they will "tone" instead of "bulk up".  Even though is sometimes seem like this myth is finally dying, some trendy new exercise program will pop up and try to convince audiences that high rep work is the wave of the future.  Working endless reps at high speeds will never be as effective at building the kind of muscle needed to burn fat as lifting heavy.  It's also puts you at higher risk for injury.  The speed puts you at risk for a pull or tear.  The repetition puts you at risk for repetitive stress injury.  The endless small movements could also cause you to die of boredom.  If you're a beginner it's good to work lighter weight at higher reps until you feel comfortable, but when I say higher reps, I mean 15 and not 30.  You need to choose a weight that challenges you.  It's up to you to decide what is a challenge.  Five pounds might be a challenge.  Fifty pounds might be a challenge.  The key is that your last three reps should be difficult.  If you're sailing through your reps, your weight is too light.

Next I would have them stop making cardio the be-all and end-all of working out.  Gym newbies like to concentrate on cardio under the misguided belief that it burns the most calories.  Weight loss and fitness are about so much more than calorie burn.  Cardio is filled with diminishing returns.  The more you do, the more you will need to do to keep with the results, particularly if you are not doing some quality muscle building work.  I would have loved to tell those guys who were phoning in all of that time on the elliptical (a very non-functional piece of cardio equipment) to get off the elliptical and get on the treadmill, rowing machine or bike.  The workout wouldn't be long, slow, and boring.  I would have them go a minute or two at a comfortable pace or resistance level, and then crank up the pace or resistance level for as much as they can handle and as long as they can handle it.  Once they were at their limit, I'd have them recover at a comfortable pace and then go back to going hard once they have recovered.  I pass no judgments as to how hard or how long the intervals should be.  That would be up to the exercisers.  I would also not make these people do this for long periods of time.  I would start them with just 10 or 15 minutes.  I would have them concentrate more on the weight room.

Most importantly, I would encourage these exercise newbies to find something outside of the gym to do.  They should hike in the woods sometime instead of a walk on the treadmill.  They should sign up for a class in something active that interests them.  Instead of Zumba or the gym's "cardio kick" class (which tend to be repetitive and based on a set pattern of movements with no real skill building), the should head to a dojo, a boxing gym, or a dance studio to learn boxing, dance, or martial arts (I had a great time studying capoeria for a couple of years and still love tap and jazz dancing).  They could go to the local rink or frozen pond and skate.  They can hit the beach and ride a boogie board or surfboard, or learn to paddle board or paddle a kayak.  I encourage everyone to take some yoga classes so you can tune into your body and move it in ways you don't often make it go.

We all need to do something that truly takes us out of our comfort zone of movement. We should do our best  to build a skill set.  Work your mind as well as your body.  Understand what real world movement truly is.  Are you embarrassed to try something new because you're not athletic?  Welcome to the human race.  Most of us don't have many natural, innate abilities.  You have to work at at them.  The work is part of the journey and also what makes this type of activity so good for you.

The second part of losing weight is patience.  You can't rush results.  If you're not losing 10 pounds in two weeks, that doesn't mean it's because you're doing something wrong.  Your body will change in its own time and at its own pace.  Sure you can help it along, but often the harder you push yourself, the more likely you are to burn out.  Strike a balance.  Wait for your results.  They will come.

You also need to pay attention to your diet.  Exercise can only take you so far.  I will happily address diet in another post if anyone is interested.

I can't guarantee to any of these exercise newbies that my tips will work.  But if your "plan" is to hit the gym, do some ab work, take a few pilates classes, and spend a lot of time on cardio machines, I don't think you will be all that happy with your results.  I can only tell you that by lifting intelligently, doing smarter cardio, and having some fun non-gym activities in my life, I have lost 18 pounds, 16 inches, and 9% bodyfat this year. 

If you're on the journey, I hope to pay forward what I learned and help you have the kind of success I did on the journey.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The End and The Beginning

I apologize for the lack of progress posts in the past few weeks.  I haven't had much reason to post.  Things are pretty much on an even keel and the program ends this week.

Over the past year many of my friends who have been following this journey have thanked me for my honesty.  That had me doing a lot of thinking about the importance of honesty in a weight loss program.

Accountability is one of the most important pieces of any weight loss program.  Weight Watchers has built an empire on it (although many members suffer a bit of embarrassment at weigh-ins).  In Lean Eating my coach looks at my photos, measurements, weight, and bodyfat percentages and it gets recorded when I finish a daily assignment or say if I did a workout or performed a habit.  I have given myself even more accountability outside the program by telling everyone I know about it and making it a part of this blog.  If I fail, everyone knows about it.

What good would it have done me if I hadn't been honest?  I could have lied on all of my assignments, digitally altered the photos (I could have even digitally altered my "before" shots to look even bigger so my digitally altered final shots would have been even more impressive), and lied about the weights and measurements.  What would have happened then?  Imagine the coaching team coming all the way to my house to deliver the$25,000 prize and they see the same dumpy woman I always was waiting to claim it?  That would have been more embarrassing than being honest about not doing the program.

I did do the program though.  Maybe I didn't do it as well as I should have, but I did it.  I rocked the workouts.  I rarely ever missed one.  I adopted the habits.  It doesn't always seem like my way of eating has changed, but it has in small ways.  Those were enough to make some difference in my body.

When you want to lose fat, the person you have to be the most honest with is yourself.  If you're not seeing results, then you have to take a long look at what you're doing and not doing.  Are you really eating as healthfully as you think you are?  I hate keeping food journals and rarely do it (I have a crazy good memory anyway) but I know they can be helpful for many.  Are you giving your all at the gym?  Could you be making better choices?  Could you be happier with a little less food on your plate?

I promised I would share my results in the end, and so I will.  What you will see is not terribly impressive.  I don't have a super-cut, smokin' hot body.  I still have a belly and some jiggly and squishy bits.  I only managed to go just a little over halfway to my weight goal.  Still, I did something.  I stuck to the program, made something happen, and I never gave up.  I never gained the weight back.  I kept going.  Here I am.

I'll start with the fluffy bunny photo for the Facebook feed.

Here is my Before picture taken January 19, 2013

Weight: 141 Pounds
Waist: 33"
Hips: 42"
Chest: 39"
Thigh: 25"
Arm: 14.5"
Bodyfat*: 29%

And now for the after....

You think I'm going to make it easy on you?

Come on.  Keep scrolling.  I dare you!

I hope I'm not hyping you up for disappointment here.

Okay.  One more scroll and I'll show you...

Weight: 123 Pounds
Waist: 28.5"
Hips: 38"
Chest: 36"
Thigh: 23"
Arm: 13"
Bodyfat*: 20%

Am I happy with this?  Yes and no.  I know I could have done better.  That's why I do hope to keep going with my habits.  I would like to lose another 13 pounds and knock another inch or three off my waist, hips, and thighs. I'd like to go down another bodyfat percentage point.  I would like to keep working on eliminating the squishiness in my midsection (which is still quite evident in the side view photo).

On the other hand, I have spent so many years losing and gaining the same 5-10 pounds and only gaining more weight in the end.  This is the first time in my life I have managed to consistently push my weight down and keep it down.  Part of me says that if I could just maintain this for the rest of my life and never gain the weight back again, I should be happy with that.  All I would have to do is keep doing what I'm doing.  

When I was first considering this program I participated in an open forum with the coaches.  I asked them up front what they thought would make this program any different from all of the others.  I said I had lost weight on other programs and never got very far and ended up gaining it back.  What were they offering me that no one else was?

Do you know what the coaches said?  They said, "You had success on other programs.  Every time you went on a new program you accomplished something.  That's great."

Whenever I look back on other attempts to lose weight, I always see the failures.  I don't look back on the ways in which I did, at least for a short time, succeed.  I hope if anything ever does go wrong and I get off track, I can remember just how capable of success I am.

I am now making my plans for what I'll be doing going forward.  I'm using all of my LE literature to create the kind of butt-kicking workouts I did during the program.  I really do need to make sure I don't slack off in the gym.  I keep a list of nutrition habits on my refrigerator so I know to follow them every day.  I might buy the Precision Nutrition do-it-yourself program.  I also have the possibility of some one-on-one nutrition counseling if my current project is successful (I will address that project in another post to keep this one from being too long).  I'm even thinking that starting in January I will go back and do my nutrition habits every two weeks as if I were doing the program all over again.  I don't have to shell out another 1200 bucks and join the program all over again in order to keep at this.

Would I recommend Lean Eating to everyone?  I would say yes with some conditions.  You do get out of it what you put into it.  The program is designed so you don't feel as if you're putting in too much at once, but the more you pay attention to the habits, the better you will do.  I had imagined Lean Eating to be like a virtual Weight Watchers meeting where a leader and a small number of group members are in constant communication with each other.  I didn't realize there would be over 200 women on my team.  My coach did make herself available and would email every couple weeks to check in on me and give me encouragement, but it lacked a certain intimacy.  I felt that my coach and I never really got to know each other.  I never felt all that much connection with my teammates either.  There were about 10 who were regulars on the boards, but I didn't always have time to sit down at the boards and communicate with everyone.  I had teamed up early in the year with an accountability partner who had a lot in common with me, but she dropped off the face of the earth.  While there were two members of my team who were openly dissatisfied with the program, I don't know how many other teammates were also ceasing to continue.  It's not for everyone.  If you're thinking about it, you just have make the decision to do it.  If it's really not working out for you, they will refund your money. 

The program worked for me.  If it didn't work as well as I had hoped then I think much of it had to do with me.  I was not as consistent with nutrition habits as I could have been.  What I couldn't accomplish on the program is not something I can blame on the program.  The program did its job.  I didn't always do mine.  Going forward I know what I need to do.  I just have to do it.

While I won't be centering this blog around Lean Eating so much anymore, I do hope to continue to talk about nutrition and fitness topics and I do plan to give updates on my own fitness journey now and then.  I have become very passionate on these topics and I want to join that debate.

Onward to 2014.

*Please note these measurements include caliper margin of error.  Rather than have my bodyfat professionally tested, I decided to buy calipers and do it myself and make all of the calculations.  I'm not sure how good I was at doing it.  My thought was as long as I did it consistently each time the final numbers wouldn't matter as long as they're going down and not up.  According to what I measured I started at 29% and ended at around 20.4%.  In more skillful hands, the numbers might be different.  The key is that they went down.  

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Week 47 - Always Learning

Sorry I have missed a week of updates.  Honestly, there isn't much I can say about the past two weeks that can't be consolidated nicely into one post.

The dreaded family celebration of gluttony known as Thanksgiving is over.  I don't want this post to be any sort of confessional about what I ate.  As the coaching team at LE has said, "What happened last week stays in last week."  What I should remember most is how grateful I was that the weather cooperated and that I was able to make it to Chicago to see Kevin's family and what a great time I had with everyone.  If I'm going to remember the food, I'm going to remember how much I enjoyed everything and not obsess over every calorie I ate.

I did make a few observations while I was away though.  My trip was a learning experience in so many ways.

The observation I made is that old habits die hard and I should never automatically assume a new habit is in place.  I have spent a lifetime wolfing down large amounts of food.  Pacing myself, eating slowly, and putting down the fork when I'm just at the level of satisfaction, are definitely becoming a part of me, but they are not totally ingrained in me yet.  I had a few moments where I know I should have stopped, but I kept going because food was there and the food was delicious.  To my credit, I have at least learned how to stop before I'm painfully stuffed.  I can't remember the last time I ate until it hurt. 

That total damage for the week was about four pounds, but it came off easily enough, so let's just move on from that.

The weekend was a nice break from the usual routines in the gym.  I did my normal weight workouts (as best I could with the lame gym provided) but kept my cardio just to swimming.

Swimming, like many other exercises I do, is something I enjoy but am not terribly good at.  I don't have to be good at something to enjoy it.  After all, I have been horseback riding and dancing for years and still pursue those activities with pleasure.  I have always loved being in the water, but swimming as an athlete will never happen. 

I remember the first summer I had to take swim lessons at day camp.   It was a disaster.  Even though I would get in the water, even in the deep end, without any complaint, I spent the entire summer in the lowest beginner group.  I just could not summon the coordination to properly execute a front crawl.  I remember the lifeguard pulling me out of the pool and making me practice the stroke over and over again on land.  If I got the arms, my kick would be critiqued and then it was more work practicing with the kickboard. 

I spent years working on it on my own, supplemented with instructions in middle school gym class.  I thought by the time I was in college and had to take swimming lessons again (I attended what was probably the only college in the US that not only required four credits of gym, but also required one of those credits be swimming) I was doing fine.  I ended up with a B- in that class.  In that class I had to learn to execute four strokes perfectly.  The coach said everyone in the class had an A in elementary backstroke and side stroke and at least a B in the breast stroke, so you can imagine what my grade in the front crawl must have been!

I still work on my lame front crawl when I have a chance.  On a Florida vacation several years ago I made friends with one of the hotel employees who ran the recreational programs and who had spent most of her life as a swim instructor.  She noted I tend to drag my right arm when I swim, so she gave me that to work on.  I play around a bit with arm, body, and head positions as well as timing my strokes (breathe every stroke or breath every other stroke). 

I had a really fun time playing with my strokes in Chicago this year.  I used the pool for my interval cardio.  I would do two lengths at a vigorous crawl (and sometimes not such a vigorous crawl) and two lengths at a more restful stroke like the breast stroke or elementary backstroke.  When working on my resting stroke I would sometimes play with paying strict attention to form, making each muscle movement count.  I would pretend I was in dance class and work on full leg extensions and keeping my toes pointed.  I treated frog kicks as if they were develope`s .   It was a great workout.  I wish I could swim more.  Unfortunately my gym doesn't have a pool.  In the summer I have my mother's pool when I can get to it or else I just have to wait until I'm in Chincoteague, in which case, swimming means spending hours with my boogie board.  That's a great workout, but not quite the same as playing with pool laps.

Then there came the moment of truth.  How do I look in a bathing suit now? 

I would definitely say there is an improvement.  My favorite suit from last summer fit me much better that Thanksgiving weekend.  It's not such a struggle to get into it.  I saw more definition in my waist.  I was still disappointed by the amount of armpit chub around the straps and bust area.  I saw the most improvement in my legs.  I always hated the way my legs looked so tree-trunk-like in a bathing suit.  The tree trunks are gone.  The 2" I lost in my thighs have made all the difference.  I can even see a bit of muscle defintion.

I'm still not ready for a bikini yet.  I doubt I ever will be. 

This week, post Thanksgiving, I still had some "Old Habits Die Hard" moments.  My body may be learning how much food I need to eat, but my brain and appetite are still learning.  Twice this week I had to deal with intense post-lunch food cravings.  On Monday I had a reasonable amount of leftover chili for lunch.  I was afraid it wasn't enough lunch and that I would be hungry later.  I became convinced of it.  I ate my lunch slowly and mindfully and when I was finished, I felt perfectly satisfied.  I was still convinced I needed more food.  I was sure I would be hungry again at any moment.  I was on the brink of going out and buying a snack and I was pretty sure that snack would not be something nutritious.

I really had to work to talk myself off the ledge.  I reminded myself over and over again that I wasn't truly hungry at that moment.  I did my best to distract myself from the intense desire to eat.  I promised myself that if I really felt hungry later on, I could get a snack.  There was no reason to eat if I wasn't actually hungry just as there would have been no reason not to eat if I did feel hungry.  I felt the same way two days later.  I used the previous situation as a reminder that I could get past the craving and carry on.

I can't believe there are only 3 weeks left in the program.  I want to get to the 20 pound mark.  That would be 2.8 pounds right now.  Can I do it even though I have a party to attend tonight and I know the food there will be plentiful and delicious?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rant: I Don't Care What Greeting You Use (Irksome FB Post of the Week)

I have been seeing this one all too often now that Christmas is approaching.

My original reaction to this was to post a "Happy Holidays" status every time I saw one of these memes.  I decided to do something slightly more mature and make a somewhat rational blog post about it.

I'll start by asking a simple question.  Why do you feel a need to say this?

It's Merry Christmas to you.  Let me repeat that.  It's Merry Christmas to you.

To you.

That's just fine with me.  You can say whatever you want to say.  If Christmas is your holiday and it's the only holiday you want to celebrate, there is nothing wrong with you celebrating it.

My question is why do you feel the need to enforce your holiday on everyone else?

I have made posts in the pasts about why it can be uncomfortable and not always feel like a greeting of good cheer when someone gives you a greeting about a holiday you don't celebrate.   It sometimes seems to be that some Christians want to be deliberately provocative.  They want to offend.  This constant in-your-face enforcement of Christmas almost seems like a form of bullying.  You're screaming it from the soapbox.  "Look at me!  I only say Merry Christmas and you had better do the same."

Why do you care so much?  No one is taking away your right to celebrate Christmas whenever they say Happy Holidays to you.  The truth is that when you start making it about Christmas and only about Christmas, it makes it seems as if you are the ones trying to enforce Christmas on others whether they want it or not.  You think your religion is better than anyone else's - and it's perfectly fine if you feel that way- but you need to accept that not everyone agrees with you.  It is really funny that you believe that everyone else should never be offended if you say "Merry Christmas", but you have every right to be offended if someone says "Happy Holidays".

I have to wonder what the whole point is of making a big deal over saying, "Merry Christmas."  Do you think it makes you a better Christian?  Do you think it makes you a better person?

Sometimes I see these "I only say Merry Christmas" posts and what I read into it is, "Look at me!  I say 'Merry Christmas'.  I'm such a good Christian.  I am so much better than you are.  I am awesome.  I am superior.  I am amazing because I don't cave to political correctness.  I am amazing because I'm standing up for my beliefs.  Woo hoo!  Look at me.  I'm holy.  I'M BETTER THAN YOU."

Sorry.  It doesn't work that way.  Posting Christmas memes doesn't make you a better person, a better Christian, or somehow intellectually superior because you're not caving to political correctness  It just makes you a braggart about something that really is no one's business but your own.

It seems to me that this constant bragging about saying "Merry Christmas" goes against everything Jesus taught about love, respect, and humility.  Christmas is, after all, just a Christianizing of pagan solstice celebrations by giving Jesus a fake birthday.  The Jesus of the Bible probably wouldn't be all that keen on the whole celebration.

I really do wonder if fear is a part of the whole equation.  I suppose in a world where diversity is becoming more common and an increasing number of Americans are claiming no religious affiliation, it must feel scary to be a Christian.  You are afraid your religion is going to disappear.  You don't want to be surrounded by people who don't agree with you religiously.  Besides, Christians have not always been kind to non-Christians.  What would happen if Christianity becomes a minority religion?  Perhaps it' time to stop worrying about others' religion and worry about your own faith. Most non-Christians whether they are "Nones" or simply a different religion, would just like to be left alone and not feel pressured to celebrate the Christmas spirit, or be ridiculed for celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday.

Is part of this crazy hoopla have to do with conversion?  Do Christians believe that by enforcing a Merry Christmas standard that it will somehow draw more people to the faith?  I say to anyone who thinks that will happen, that nothing turns off "Nones" and non-Christians more than stuff like this. 

 Let me say this one more time.  (I know I pulled this off a previous blog post) 

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not doing so because they hate you.

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not deliberately disrespecting your religion.

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not telling you that you personally can't celebrate Christmas.

When others wish you "Happy Holidays", they are not trying to outlaw your religion.

Chances are saying, "Happy Holidays" is just their way of showing respect.  If they don't know someone's religious observances, they aren't going to assume what those beliefs are and thus give you a generic wish of good will. 

If a business hangs a "Happy Holidays" sign in the window, it's likely because the owners want to be inclusive and make money off of all customers.  It's also more cost effective to hang a single sign that says, "Happy Holidays" than it is to hang a sign that says, "Happy Thanksgiving," a sign that says, "Merry Christmas," a sign that says, "Happy Hanukkah," and a sign that says, "Happy New Year." 

Why is this so hard to understand?  "Happy Holidays" isn't hate speech.  It's a way to be inclusive. 

Now please if your religion truly means that much to you, please stop following the gospel of Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, and Rush Limbaugh and actually follow the gospel of Jesus.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Week 45 - Photo Shoots and Thanksgiving Prep

I did my Lean Eating photo shoot this week.  Thank goodness I managed to push down a couple extra pounds and even three more inches.  I also did my final bodyfat test.  I'm just a little over 20% fat right now.  Too bad so much of that fat seems to reside in my lower belly.

The program ends December 27.  I will likely have Kevin take a few more progress shots then when I have the final weight and measurement tallies.  Those will be the ones I will post here.  My official "after" shots were taken this weekend though.
I did my photo shoot as directed.  All went fairly well.  I had some good fitness shots.  As long as I had a tank top on, I didn't look heavy at all.  I just wish I looked a tad leaner and more defined.

We had to really improvise when it came to rigging up a backdrop and trying to do these photos in a small space. 

I did a bunch of outdoor ones at the barn, most of which are on my Facebook page. 

These photos remind me of how far I have come, but also of how far I have to go.  I have 13 more pounds I want to lose.  It took me a year to lose 18.  Let's hope at this time next year I'm making a post about reaching my weight goal!

Thanksgiving is upon us.  I'll be spending it with Kevin's family in Illinois this year.  That is a mixed bag diet wise.  On one hand, we eat out, so I don't have a big Thanksgiving dinner in front of me where I can take second and third helpings of turkey and stuffing.  On the other hand, my brother-in-law doesn't skimp on the types of restaurants we go to.  I'll be eating out often and eating well.  I guess it all comes down to the choices I make and also the willingness to stop eating at 80%.  My hotel has a gym and a pool.  There is no excuse not to exercise.

I am a little scared and a little excited to swim.  I haven't worn a bathing suit for a few months now.  How will my suits fit me and how will they look?  I admit I look forward to finding out.  Do I need a new suit for Costa Rica?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week 44 - What Am I Striving For and Why?

I can't believe my time at Lean Eating is winding down. I'm trying not to panic.  Just because I still have 15 pounds, 10 inches, and another percentage or two point of bodyfat to lose doesn't mean the end of the world.  I don't need to be on this program indefinitely to lose it.  My progress is still ridiculously stalled though.  My weight is just barely nudged down.  My measurements only slightly more so.

This weeks good news is that I went online last week and ordered a ridiculous amount of new clothing.  I had to.  So much of my stuff if just too big now.  I couldn't wear any of my pants.  One of my favorite dresses looked like a bathrobe.  I wasn't even sure what size to order.  I don't know what my size is anymore.  It's tough to shop online, but I have to since the online stores have more petite options and I don't have much time to go to brick-and-mortar stores anyway.  Everything I bought fit me.  I took three bags of clothing to the donation box.  I hope I never need to wear those sizes again.

I have even more good news.  I might be getting another year of Lean Eating (or at least some professional coaching) for free.  Well, not free.  I have to do some work for it, but it's very meaningful work for me. I will address my new project in another post.

Next week is my Lean Eating photo shoot.  This is a required project.  Team members are supposed to put some effort into hair, clothing, and makeup  and then put some creativity to work with a photographer, preferably a professional one.  The idea is to visually celebrate your progress.

I had booked some time with a photographer friend, but while we agreed on a date for the shoot, we couldn't agree on a time. Rather than constantly push back the date for a time we were both available, I have decided to let Kevin do the shoot.  He is a talented hobbyist photographer and should do a decent job.  He has taken good photos of me in the past.  My original intention for the shoot was to just do studio shots.  Kevin is more of a  wildlife and outdoor photographer.  I still plan  do some "studio" shots in workout gear.  I don't know how we'll manage it because there isn't a lot of space in our apartment to hang a backdrop nor do we have good lighting, but we'll improvise something.  The rest of the shots I'll have him do at the barn. I'm thinking of doing some outdoorsy "Town & Country" style shots with me in a dress and scarf and boots walking through the fields and hanging with the horses.  I'll have him do some shots in riding gear too.

This week I have to prepare.  I'll be doing my nails and eyebrows during the week and Saturday morning I'm having my hair done.  I  want a blowout, but I don't want my hair totally straight.  I want it done in waves or big soft curls.  I'll do my own makeup.  I'm pretty good with that.  I am not going to tan.  I know tanning emphasizes muscles, but I just don't think a tanning aesthetic is something I want to promote.  It's not even about whether or not I have a real tan.  If I wanted to go that route, I'd get a spray tan and not go to a bed, but still, I think we need to erase this idea from society that tanning=more attractive.  It encourages unhealthy behavior.

Time for the serious part of the post...

One reason I haven't been losing much weight in the past few weeks is I have been rethinking my eating habits a bit and having a few more indulgences.  I'm trying to make my eating habits more "real world".  I know I'm not going to be able to hold off sweets and starches my entire life. I'm trying to teach myself how to integrate them into an otherwise nutritious diet and still keep myself at a healthy weight.  So far it has certainly kept me maintaining a certain weight, but not losing much.

I have been spending a lot of time lately questioning everything when it comes to eating. There is a rebellion going on in the fitness blogger and nutrition blogger world.  Often in pursuit of a societally acceptable standard of health and fitness in our bodies, we eat in ways that might not be beneficial to our minds.  Trying to maintain a certain body type and a certain dietary standard can veer into orthorexia.  How many of us are walking the line between eating healthfully and flat-out disordered eating?  There are some excellent viewpoints on the topic.

Our society loves to put how we eat into boxes.  We compartmentalize ways of eating, declaring each one to be the one that will bring us optimum health while the others are all bad.  Some are looked upon more favorably than others by the greater society.

For example, veganism is the gold standard of healthful eating in our society.  I think your average American probably sees veganism as something we should aspire to, or at least wish we could do.  There are piles of books out there by diet gurus and celebrities claiming veganism saved their health.  The human race would all be better off if we removed every animal product from our diets. But then writers like Lierre Keith and John Nichols claim just the opposite. Veganism ruined their health. A little research into the topic and you'll find fairly high rates of recidivism due to health reasons in the vegan world.

It's not just veganism though.  Go to the books and websites associated with any diet.  Paleo diets seem to be able to cure every disease known to man if you listen to Robb Wolf or Loren Cordrain and their followers.  Paleo diets (along with their exercise partner, Crossfit)  have an almost cult-like following.  Again, if you do a little research, you will find the internet is filled with former paleo dieters who considered that lifestyle unsustainable and not all that healthful for them.

Do you know people who swore by the weight they lost on the Atkins diet and then a year or two later declared it wasn't for them?  Remember the Zone?  How about the South Beach diet?  Fifteen years ago no one could get enough of those diets and now they have faded into obscurity.

There is no one perfect way of eating.  There is no magic prescription of food that is guaranteed to work better than any other.  Our bodies all respond differently to different foods.  I know for example my biggest advantage is my biggest downfall.  I can eat anything.  I have never noticed any real difference in my body whether or not I eat grains, legumes, dairy, or meats.  I have an iron stomach.  That can work against me.  If I needed to eliminate a food or two, I might eat less.  On the good side, my body would do well in times of famine.  I have a good survivor's body.  I should be proud of that.  I do feel pretty awful physically if I overeat a lot of low quality food, but I can just skip the next meal and feel fine the next day.

One thing I have noticed is that my body needs fat.  I have spent my life joking about a love of greasy foods, but it's no joke.  Without a decent amount of fat in my diet I'm cranky, tired, and hungry all the time.  I probably could go vegan easily as long as I had a steady supply of coconut oil, almond butter, and avocados.  (I wouldn't do it though because even if I could give up the pleasure of a steak or a hunk of nice cheese, desserts are useless without eggs, cream, or butter.) I have friends who are totally turned off by fat and eat as little as possible and do just fine.

The truth is still out there.  No matter how many fads there are, it always circles back to the same concept.  Calories count.

On the other hand, what type of rabbit hole do we fall into when we count calories?  Is it any more mentally healthy to be constantly writing down and weighing  and measuring everything we eat and looking at "points" values and obsessing over your daily inputs in FitDay or MyFitnessPal?  How sustainable is it?  Weight Watchers has just as many people off the wagon as Paleo diets.

I have found only one answer.  We need to perform two major actions to make a change in our bodies. The first is to prioritize fresh food.  I'm not saying, "Eat 100% clean."  I'm saying make fresh foods like vegetables, fruits, and meats, the first foods you eat.  They are the foundation of your diet.  Next you need to eat slowly, mindfully, and intuitively.  Listen to your hunger signals.  Understand what hunger truly is.  Then learn what satiety really is.  How much food do you really need to eat?  Tune in.  Feel your hunger or lack of it.  Pay attention when you eat.  How much food will make you feel as if you have eaten enough to sustain your daily activity?  Remember that it can change from day to day.

Eating this way is a skill you need to develop.  It doesn't come overnight.  You can't just say, "I'm going to eat intuitively now and I'll just honor whatever my body wants."   It takes a while to really understand what your body wants without your brain and all of its noise and desires being in the way.  Weight loss will come slowly this way.  It will be too slow for many.  If you're used to signing up for Jenny Craig and losing 30 pounds in three months, or losing10 pounds in a week after reading the latest diet book, this is going to feel frustrating.  You might go weeks without losing anything at all, which means you're going to have to dig deeper inside yourself and figure out what you need to be doing differently.

The reward is that a slow weight loss like this is much more sustainable.  That time you lost 30 pounds Jenny Craig - how long did it take you to gain it back?  Your goal is to develop sustainable, lifelong habits.  It may be frustrating to me that I'm not losing as much weight as I had hoped, but I haven't gained the weight back either.

This is bringing me to the final point I want to make this week.  Why am I doing this?  I say I am not gaining.  I say I have reached a sustainable point in my diet.  Why do I say I want to lose another 15 pounds?  I have been thinking a lot about this because many of the writers who are questioning whether or not it's mentally healthy to obsess over eating cleanly or according to a set list of foods also question our pursuit of a certain body type.

I dream of looking a certain way.  I dream of visible abs (not a 6-pack, but some real definition), cut arms and lets, and rippling back muscles.  On the other hand, I do wonder if such a body would be worth losing my curves.  Why do I want this body?  What purpose would it serve me?

I can say it's about health.  I do have legitimate health concerns.  There is diabetes and hypertension in my family - particularly on the side of the family I most take after.  I want to avoid these types of health problems and have a reasonably uncomplicated old age.  I also would like to be light enough to do whatever I want with Riddle.  Four years ago Tara balked at letting me ride her at all because she thought I was too heavy.  I am still very reluctant to jump her as much as I want to because I don't want her to be lugging my considerable bulk around a course.  I want to lose weight for her health and comfort.

Is it just about those points though?

A healthy BMI for a woman of my height is between 85 and 123 pounds.  That's a pretty large range.  It means if I say that I want to lose another 15 pounds and dream of ultimately losing another 25, people should stop dropping their jaws and telling me they're worried I'll have an eating disorder.  On the other hand, I'm almost in the range right now.  I can drop just a pound or two and not have to worry about being scolded by the doctor at my next check up.  At my last measurement, I was 21.8% bodyfat*, which is awfully good.  If it's just about health, I'm healthy. I'm not just healthy because I'm the right weight.  I'm fit.  I do heaps of varied and difficult physical activity.  I love physical activity.  I love moving and using my body.  It all seems to work well too.  I see no major signs of malfunction other than some knee pain when I do too much high-impact activity.

So what is my reasoning for wanting to lose 15 more pounds and have more muscle definition?

The truth is I'm brainwashed by society and the media.  I want to look a certain way because all my life I have been trained to believe that's the way I should look.  I am trying to live up to someone else's aesthetic.  I believe the fitspo.  It's true.  Other than wanting to drop a few pounds for my pony's sake, I have no one who needs me to be a certain size and shape.  I could say that I want to be more attractive to my husband, but how true is that?  He generally doesn't find overweight women attractive, but he's not an extremist.  He was still attracted to me when I was at my heaviest, so I could have never gone on this program and he would have been just as attracted to me (although he must be happy I can fit into my leather skirt again).  My family doesn't care.  My friends don't care.  Most of my girlfriends enjoy eating as much as I do.  I am not a model or fitness model.  My career doesn't depend on me looking a certain way.

There is no reason for it.  To pursue the kind of body is just proof I'm a sellout.  I'm rejecting the principles of feminism I so passionately believe in.  We are supposed to love our bodies. As long as we properly care for them, there is no reason to chase a certain look.  The people who love us will love us at any size.

In the end, as much as it doesn't make sense, I still want to see if I can do it.

*I do my own caliper measurements, so there is probably a wide margin of error here.  Let's just say I started this program at 29% bodyfat by my own calculations, so I lost 8% nonetheless.  Not too shabby.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week 43 - A Rant Against New York Sports Club

What's my progress this week?  Nil as per usual!  I am really getting a bit frustrated that my weight refuses to budge.  I just can't get that scale or that tape measure to move.  I can't pretend that it's not my fault.  I have let my eating habits fall away a bit.  My eating habits are great maintenance habits, but currently they're not great loss habits.  I have my photo shoot in two weeks.  I accepted a long time ago that I wouldn't be triumphantly posing in a sports bra showing off my exquisitely sculpted body, but I hoped I wouldn't still look dumpy either.

Relax.  Refocus.  Don't give up.  I just want to lose another six pounds before this year is up.  That's not impossible, but it does mean I need to step it up.

Anyway, I don't want to sit around with another boring post about my weight and eating habits.  Today I have my hackles up and I need to get it off my chest.

My gym, like most gyms, is not exactly a bastion of body love, self acceptance, female equality.  I have complained before about their clearly sexist decor.  Gyms acquire customers by playing on insecurities.  You are weak.  We can make you strong.  You are fat.  We can make you thin.  You hate yourself.  We can make you self-confident.  Gyms promise much, but deliver little.  I believe strongly in the need for a good exercise program as a protocol for everyone's health and fitness.  I can also speak from experience that an exercise program, even a vigorous one, is not going to magically make over your body or your mind.  If exercise along were the key to a hot body, I wouldn't be spending hundreds of dollars on a nutrition coach.  I have been a dedicated gym rat for twenty years and it only took me so far.  It kept me from outright obesity, but didn't stop me from being twenty pounds overweight.

When New York Sport Clubs advertises for new members, it uses all kinds of clever campaigns that are often associated with health, but just as often associated with self esteem and body issues.  They put up signs like,  "If you think monsters are scary, wait until you look in the mirror after eating Halloween candy."  They are sometimes a little less body-image focused and say things like, "Exercise decreases the risk of cancer."  Either way, the advertising plays upon our fears, whether it's the fear of being sick or the fear of becoming fat.  They also set up some very unrealistic expectations about what a gym membership can do.  I don't blame them for using these campaigns.  They are a business - and one that is constantly losing customers and has a strong need to always be attracting new ones.  They have to do what works to draw in new members.  Most members quit after six months, and the ones who stay try to lock into the same rates year after year.  They have competition from two other gyms in the area.  They need to keep membership growing.  They do what it takes.

After saying that, I have to say that the current ads are beyond irresponsible.  They are really just plain dumb.

The ads suggest that you have only two options to avoid holiday weight gain.

1.  Don't eat.
2.  Join

That's very responsible and accurate, isn't it?

First I hate the way it plays on everyone's fear of gaining weight.  It tells us in no uncertain terms that you will gain weight over the holidays.

Second I hate the way it gives you an all-or-nothing approach.  Don't eat?  Are you assuming that anyone and everyone doesn't know how to eat responsibly over the holidays?  Is it impossible for anyone and everyone to practice moderation?  Even if everyone does go overboard and eats too much on Thanksgiving or Christmas, does that mean we're all eating like that every day, and that it's an automatic assumption of weight gain.  There is no middle ground.  You will eat it all or you will have to starve yourself.

Lastly, I hate the simplistic solution.  The only way to avoid holiday weight gain is to join the gym.  It doesn't say that once you join the gym you will have to actually go.  If exercise were the solution to holiday weight gain, one could do any number of activities that wouldn't include joining New York Sports Club.  But even if you're a die-hard exerciser, exercise alone can't undo the damage of overeating.  A good exercise program is a great tool to have in your box when you are trying to lose weight or avoid gaining, but I know from many years of experience it's not the only tool.  Appetite, hunger, and satiety awareness as well as a willingness to prioritize healthful foods over less healthful ones (not eliminate the poorer choices, but simply prioritize better choices) are more important than exercise. 

I would love to dump New York Sports Club altogether, but it's hard to dump a gym that is just a block and a half away from your home and all other gyms in the area would require driving.  It's not as if they will ever listen to my complaints.  There is no point in saying they are wrong.  The truth is that most of their customers and potential customers believe it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Week 42 - Life, The Universe & Everything

I closed out October 3 pounds heavier than I wanted to be.  I think I'm looking okay.  I am not as close to where I wanted to be by now, but I look so much better than I did 10 months ago.

I was hoping to have lost at least 20 pounds for my photo shoot in three weeks.  I'm thinking I'll probably by down about 17 pounds by then.  I lose pounds, inches, and bodyfat slowly.  That's something I have to accept.  It means I will have to work diligently on my own after this program is over to get to goal.  I accept that now.  I was hoping to be showing off my abs in a sports bra for this photo shoot.  I think I'll wear a nice arm-muscle-bearing tank top.

It's funny.  I had a dream last night that Kevin was taking my progress pictures, as we do every month, and I was totally happy with the picture.  I looked as good as I thought I could look.  I was satisfied.  That picture was in my head when I woke up.  I remembered that dream and thought, "I really can do this."  Of course I'm not much of a visual thinker (as Dad has pointed out to me my entire life) so the picture left my head pretty quickly.  I know in the dream I didn't look like a fitness model.  I simply looked like a smaller, tighter, version of me.

My habits these days are so much more esoteric than they used to be.  In some ways Lean Eating is becoming more difficult because no one is giving me rules about what to eat or how to eat anymore.  No one is telling me "eat only unprocessed foods or you won't get your check mark for the day."  Instead we're being told to "choose your own adventure" or "be your own coach" and "pick your own habits".  It's much harder this way.  At this stage of the game I am supposed to know what to do and what to eat.  Either I'm going to eat correctly or I'm not.  Then again, that is perpetually true isn't it?  I know how I should eat, so why not just eat that way?  Did I need to pay a coach to tell me what to do?  Obviously I did and now my coach is trying to show me how to live beyond the program.  Sadly I'm not paying all that much attention to my past habits, which is probably why my weight and measurement loss is so disappointing lately.  I haven't been gaining though.  I'm down 15 pounds.  Once my weight goes does down, it seems to stay down within a pound or two.

Even though I'm losing really slowly, I like that I have become more permissive with myself these days.  I do allow myself foods I might have considered forbidden earlier in the year because my relationship with them has changed.  I prioritize protein and vegetables, but if I want sweets or starches, I feel much more able to control myself around them.  I can have a few bites, take notice of physical satiety, and decide if I want to keep going.  Most of the time I am able to stop at a reasonable level.  The world is full of unhealthful foods.  I am not likely to spend my entire life ignoring them, but I can handle how I eat them and how I react to them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Week 41 - Some Good News and Some Thoughts on Change (Including Thoughts on Maria Kang)

I'll start with my good news.

Several years ago Land's End had a custom jeans service.  When you have a body shaped like mine, services like this are a dream come true.  When you have a fairly high waist-to-hip ratio, a poochy belly, and fairly thick thighs, all in addition to not only being short, but being shorter than your average petite inseam, you have a hard time finding clothes that fit.  It was nice to be able to order jeans cut to my measurements.

Measurements is a key word here.  I really wasn't honest with mine when I ordered those jeans.  They were more about what I thought they were, or should be, rather than what they actually were.  When I received my new jeans, they were rather snug.  They weren't impossible to put on, but they weren't all that comfortable.  I kept them partially because they were non-refundable, and partially because I thought they would inspire me to lose weight.  They could be my measure of progress. I wore them regardless of fit, knowing they would pinch me all day and leave angry red welts in my skin by the day's end.

At the beginning of this year I was still trying to squeeze into them.  It was ridiculous.  I was a good 6 pounds heavier and probably another inch or three bigger than I was when I first bought them.  I looked as if I was poured into them and I always had to wear a shirt that was long enough to not ever reveal my sizeable muffin top (a muffin top despite the fact that the jeans were not particularly low-waisted).

I finally decided to stop wearing them.  They remained snug for much of the winter and spring.  When hot weather came, I put them away for the season.

I have been slowly unpacking my winter clothes these past two weeks.  I found the jeans.  I put them on.

They fit!  They didn't just fit.  They had room in the waist.  My thighs didn't bulge out of them.  They weren't my tight jeans anymore.  They were my normal-fitting jeans.  (What used to be my normal-fitting jeans are now my way-too-big jeans.)  I was walking around the house whooping it up and saying over and over that my jeans fit.  They fit me for the first time.  In other words, I am not just thinner than I was at the beginning of the year.  I'm thinner than I have been since the time I bought the jeans and even long before that - probably a good 15 years. 

So what if they're Mom Jeans?

Anyway, on to the more serious part of this post.

Anyone with an internet connection has likely seen this meme.


Chances are if you have seen this brainless piece of fitspo, then you probably have read all of the backlash and the backlash against the backlash.  Maria Kang is lapping up the publicity as well as the contorvery.

I feel the same way about this photo as I feel about all fitspo.  First it doesn't tell the whole story.  Maria Kang will tell you that she has a full time job and no nannies (so who takes care of the kids when she's in the gym?) and she's just like the rest of us.  What she doesn't tell us is that her full time job is as a trainer and fitness model.  It's her job to look like that.  We also don't know what she is eating, or if she looks like that when she's not preparing for a photo shoot.

The second issue I have with the photo is the assumption that there is one ideal way to look, and if you don't look that way, you are not doing anything to better yourself.  Kang suggests you are making "excuses".  It insult those of us who regularly stay active, who find some time to exercise every day, and who do their best to eat as much fresh, nutritious food as possible but still don't look like that.  Would I like to look like Maria Kang?  Yes, I would.  I also know that I would not like to subject myself to that kind of lifestyle.  I have read enough stories about the routines and eating habits of fitness models preparing for a shoot or competition.  It's not sustainable and it's not healthy in the long terms.  I don't prioritize how I look over how I feel.  Would you consider that "making excuses"? 

One very important lesson I have learned from this program is my body is my body and I can't predict how training and eating will affect it.  My body doesn't like to let go of fat.  It likes its fat.  I make strength and fat loss gains very slowly.  One of the reasons why I have given up on program after program is that I always make such slow progress and after a while it stops feeling like it's worth it.  Lean Eating is getting me over that, but I still feel frustrated.   My jeans may fit, but I lost nothing in terms of pounds or inches this month.  Maria Kang may have taken a few months to get the body she has.  It would likely take me two years even if I ate a fitness model diet and exercised with a fitness model regimen. 

I said in my previous post that I am learning my body is going to change in its own way in its own time.  Over the months the changes I have seen have happened in different places and in different areas.  In the beginning my waist shrank pretty quickly, but has held steady for months.  My thighs and hips have been steadily decreasing in very tiny increments.  I was frustrated to the point of despair for many months over the size of my arms.  They refused to shrink and continued to look like slabs of meat.  In the past month or two they have finally begun firming up and become smaller.  In terms of actual pounds on the scale, I can go a month without losing anything and then lose a decent amount in the next two months. 

I can't predict where I will be by the time this program ends.  I can't predict how long it will take before I actually reach my goals.  I'm sure it will take another year to get to that point.  I don't need Maria Kang or anyone else shaming me into saying I'm making excuses.  I'll get to where I'm going in my own way and in my own time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week 40 - More Deep Thoughts

Wow.  Forty weeks seems like a really long time doesn't it? Yet this year and this program keep flying by.  

With my weight and measurements still stuck in the same place this week, I'm still feeling a bit discouraged.  I had a weight goal for the month that I probably will not meet.  I thought I ate well this week despite last weekend's high school reunion-related meals.  It just goes to show you that there is no magic formula.  You can do everything "right" and still your body is going to respond to it in its own way and it's own time.

So I am thinking a lot about how I plan to push forward into the future.  I really have to continue to adjust my expectations, my mindset, and my plan.  

I was reading my Lean Eating lesson earlier this week that talks about establishing a "fit identity".  We all have an internal struggle inside of us.  There is the fit person who will do what it takes to take charge of her health and wellness and an unfit person who cares more about living for the pleasure of the moment without giving thought to consequences.  What do we need to do to "feed" the fit person?  How do we make the fit person triumph over the fat person?  How do we nurture and develop that part of ourselves.  We were asked to name five characteristics of a fit person.  I started filling in the blanks. A fit person makes the best nutritional choices most of the time. A fit person exercises almost every day. At first it was hard to make the list, but as the days went by I found myself coming up with more markers of a fit identity.  

In Lean Eating we refer to challenges as difficult-easy or difficult-difficult.  A difficult-easy challenge might be something that is outside of our daily routine, but doesn't feel like much of a struggle.  An example of that might be the supplement habits.  A difficult-difficult habit is one that truly takes you out of your comfort zone.  Probably the most difficult-difficult habits for me are eating only "smart" carbohydrates (because I love sweets, pasta, and sandwiches) and eating to 80% full (because if I'm eating something delicious, I don't want to stop).  

When we had the "little more, little better" habit this past summer, I challenged myself to pick three habits each day to follow to the letter. Sometimes they were the difficult-easy habits.  
This week I challenged myself to truly do what a fit person does.  I am challenging myself to do as many difficult-difficult habits each day. Those are the nutrition habits like the 80% rule (I seem to fill up more readily these days and it's hard to walk away from something delicious), 5 vegetables, smart carbs, and calorie-free beverages. I am also trying to get outside more because I really haven't been going outside when I'm not riding.

What defines a habit? It's doing something without thinking about it. By definition a habit isn't something you have to think about or make yourself do.  A habit means you automatically make a choice or perform an action. A fit person automatically performs the correct actions. This is something I really have to keep practicing. There is moving forward in the future if my habits are not truly habits.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 38 - What I Fear

I'm holding steady with both weights and measurements this week.  Slowly I'm making my way down.  I can still say I'm at my lowest weight ever in 13 years.

Since the fitness media fast ended I am back to reading fitness blogs again.  I suppose I shouldn't.  I read posts by healthy, smart, sassy, feminist personal trainers who talk about what it means to be healthy, fit, and strong, who say that we shouldn't pay attention to the numbers on the scale, but what we are capable of doing, who do occasionally mention their weight.  It's always a bit discouraging.  I read, "I'm 5'5" and I'm 127 pounds, or I'm 5'9 and 136 pounds" and it just makes me feel that much worse about my own accomplishments.  I feel fat.  I realize I have such a long way to go.  It drives home the point just how overweight for my height I was, and how overweight I still am, even though I have lost several pounds.  It amazes me how most smart fitness bloggers know better than to mention their weight and generally avoid doing so, but the one time they do, I seem to reading the blog that day.

What is ultimately going to be the right weight for me?  Even at my heaviest people told me I wasn't fat when I wore normal clothes.  Friends, family, and even semi-strangers at the gym have noticed and commented on my weight loss saying how great I look.  I'm still so much heavier than fit, short counterparts, and around the same weight as fit and average height counterparts.  I feel overwhelmed at times.  I feel this sense that I must, with no exceptions, lose at least another 15 pounds and another 2 inches off my waist and hips and another 3 inches off my thighs.  I also must get down below 20% bodyfat.

Now I see the reason why we had this fitness media fast last month.  Even the best, kindest, most body-positive, feministic fitness media can inadvertently make you feel bad.

Even though it doesn't always seem as if I have lost dramatic amounts of body mass, I am definitely seeing a change in my clothes.  Almost everything I own is too big now.  I have to wear a belt with almost all of my jeans.  My dresses gap and sag in the shoulders.  My skirts hang low on the hips.  I was very happy to report to Kevin that the leather skirt he bought me when we were dating that I put away for years because it had become way too tight, fits me again.  Most of my workout pants don't fit me anymore.  I only have one pair of workout pants, one pair of capris, and one pair of bike shorts that I don't worry about falling down in the gym. (Sadly all my sports bras fit me just fine.  I just can't seem to shrink that area.)

I need to buy new clothes.  I obviously can't walk around with my pants on the ground.  My problem is money is tight right now.  I just don't have the funds.  It seems that from August through October of this year I have had to deal with some big expenses and they just keep coming.  I just can't seem to save much discretionary cash.  This month I have to deal with Kevin's birthday and my niece's birthday.  I bookmark outfit after outfit on my Pinterest board (link provided in case anyone needs ideas for Christmas - ha ha).  I haven't bought a thing.  Right now most of my cold weather clothes are in a pile on the spare room floor. awaiting being moved into the closet for the season and the summer clothes wait to be moved into storage.  I don't know how much I should throw out and how much I should keep.

But let's face it.  Money is not the only reason I am not buying clothes.  Even if I had the money I think I might hesitate. What if I revamp my wardrobe, buy everything I want in a small size, and then find that this time next year I need my fat girl clothes back?

Even though I still believe that I can get to my goal weight, I still can't shake the fear that I won't keep it off.  Maybe by spring of next year I'll be at goal.  By fall of next year, I'll be ten pounds heavier.  By spring of the following year, I'll be right where I started.  I'll reminisce about those few precious months where I was thin.  I'll be buying all new clothes again.

I'm going to my 25th high school reunion tonight.  I'm thinner now than I was for the 20th one.  Tonight I will be content with that.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Plea To My Conservative Republican Friends

Please stop buying into the Tea Party politics.

Please stop believing the Tea Party is going to save the country.

Please stop voting for Tea Party-identified candidates.

The Tea Party is not on your side.  The Tea Party doesn't want to help you better yourself.  The Tea Party isn't a grassroots organization existing to make sure middle class people have to pay the smallest amount of taxes possible  The Tea Party is an organization the Koch Brothers started hatching years ago.  This isn't just something that spontaneously came about in 2009 due to the election of Obama. This is a carefully orchestrated movement by very powerful people that was meant to keep you outraged and ignorant.  The Tea Party is not your friend.  ALEC is not your friend.  The Cato Institute is not your friend. These organizations don't exist to advance you or to help you live the American dream.  They exist to keep you in your place.

The Tea Party puppet masters are not job creators.  They aren't stimulating the economy in any way.  They don't want to create jobs.  They want to hire as few workers as possible, for the least amount of pay and the fewest benefits they can legally get away with.

Did you read The Grapes of Wrath in high school?  Remember how the prosperous California farms sent five thousand flyers into Oklahoma to fill three hundred fruit picking jobs?  They knew with the enormous flood of desperate "Okies" coming into the area they could use the job scarcity to pay those workers next to nothing and get their orchards picked in record time.

The Koch Brothers and their ilk are no different.  They also are using job scarcity as a way to milk heavy volumes of work from few workers for little pay.  As workers receive less money and fewer benefits, they will end up needing government assistance to feed their families.  Wealthy billionaires don't want to pay their workers' food and healthcare, so they are passing their savings on to you.  You will pay the tax burden of keeping low-paid workers subsidized and those Tea Party puppet masters will tell you its the Democrats' fault and tell you to hate the "takers". 

But the Tea Party supports my moral values!  No.  It doesn't.  They don't care at all about your moral values.  They simply put your moral values in the party platform, because it brings you to the voting booth and wins elections at the local level.  How many of your Tea Party candidates have actually enacted moral legislation on a national level?  I'd say that number is pretty close to zero.  These politicians know on a national level they won't be re-elected if they try to enact legislation that supports a religious agenda.  The Tea Party cares about being elected, and then in about protecting the interests of its donors.  Your moral values mean nothing to them once they're in office.  Keep your moral values.  Cherish them and understand that they are your own and no one can take them from you.  Just realize that your politicians aren't going to do anything about the rights or existence of gay people even if they know their constituents are against them. That's not what keeps them in office.

But the Tea Party is the only party that will advocate for my gun rights!  Wrong again.  You have the NRA.  You have moderate Republicans.  You have gun-owning Democrats.  There are plenty of groups standing up for gun rights in the country.  In fact, Tea Party donors probably care less about your gun rights than many other groups.  If I were one of the Tea Party founders, I would be terrified of the masses having guns because I wouldn't want them to have the means to rise up against me should they ever be on to my scheme.  The Tea Party leaders don't want you able to rebel against them in any way.  They do not want you informed (so now only a handful of large corporations own the major news media outlets).  They do not want you educated (why do you think they are constantly advocating to defund public schools).  They certainly do not want you armed.

I'm not saying you and I have to see eye to eye on everything politically.  I know you think I'm wrong about everything.  I know you think I'm a socialist and my liberal ideas are UnAmerican and  that if I had my way I'd destroy the country.  We don't have to agree on any political topic.  I'm only asking you to think long and hard before you vote for a candidate who says he's a member of the Tea Party.  When you vote for a Tea Party candidate, you are not voting for the little guy, Mr. Average American.  You are not voting for lower taxes for the middle class.  You are not voting for small government.  You are ultimately not even voting against giving "handouts" to the undeserving.

What you are voting for when you vote Tea Party is the extension of political power for the country's largest corporations.  You are voting for their success and their wealth, which is never, ever going to "trickle down" to you.  Your are handing over government power, which is an extension of your power and the power of the American people, over to a small oligarchy.  Is that what you want democracy to be about?

I know quoting Bernie Sanders will not give me any cred with you, but here is his take on what's happening with the government shutdown and why reasonable Republicans won't cave

What's happening now, as I understand it, is when moderate Republicans are saying that, or thinking about standing up to Boehner, the extreme right wing is coming around saying you do that, let me tell you what's going to happen. We have the Koch brothers behind us. We have hundreds of millions of dollars behind us, and if you dare to support a Continuing Resolution, a clean CR. We're gonna primary you. We have unbelievable sums of money to defeat you.

So what you are looking at now is what Citizens United is all about. And that is giving a handful of billionaires, the Koch brothers and others, incredible power to tell members of Congress what they can and can not do, very dangerous.

If there is a primary in your district in 2014 and you see the incumbent is being challenged by a Tea Party-backed candidate, I beg you, go to the polls and vote.  Please don't let the challenger win.  When you let a Tea Partier win, you take just a little bit more power away from yourself.  Don't let that happen.  Let's please stop the Tea Party before it's too late.  We are the United States of America - not the United States of Koch.  The country needs you, it needs democracy, far more than it needs The Tea Party.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Week 37 - Why I Blog and Other Random Thoughts

If you're a close follower of this blog, you may have noticed that weeks 35 and 36 are missing.  I promise I was not being lazy and I wasn't trying to hide anything.  I was practicing a new habit. For two weeks I had to do a "fitness media fast".  This meant I was not allowed to read or watch any diet or fitness related media such as blogs, magazines, TV shows, informercials (is anyone as addicted to informercials for workout programs and dumb exercise gear as I am?), websites (include the Precision Nutrition website articles) message boards (we were allowed limited time on our team message board), or even write in my own blog.

During those two weeks, I broke the rules once.  I saw that my idol Krista Scott-Dixon (AKA Mistress Krista) had written a new rant on her Stumptuous website Thoughts on 40.  I have always idolized Krista in part because she had such an amazing fit body but also because she always seemed to have it together.  She has always gone after what she wants in life and never seemed to worry about money or what other people will think of her.  She also seems so comfortable with her body.  She seemed to have no issues about her appearance or her fitness level.  She knew she was doing the best she could do and was okay with that.

So what were Krista's thoughts on turning 40.  (Why 40?  Does starting a new decade automatically bring you wisdom and perspective?  There is a whole other blog post in that.)  She made some statements that really made me think about why I do this.

Talking about your workouts, your body fat, your weight, and/or your food intake is very, very boring. Put the fucking iPhone away and have an actual unmediated experience with a meal. Nobody gives a shit if you’ve gained 3 lbs, what your Fran time is, whether you knocked a few minutes off your 5K, or whether you’re currently off grains. Mention it only if it’s crucial — like, if you have a peanut you’ll die, or explaining to your physiotherapist how you busted up your knee — and shut the fuck up about it otherwise. I apologize to all my friends for 2007-2010, during which I was deep in crazy exercise-compulsive/food-obsessive town and considered my diet/body fat/general neuroses an acceptable conversation topic for about 3 years straight. 

Also this:

Also, the world does not need more articles by bourgeois educated white women whining about they’ve “come to terms with” their thighs. Jesus Christ people, there are bigger fucking problems in the world. Pull your head out of your privileged arse, toss your skinny jeans, and go help someone who actually has problems. Part of your social privilege blinders is thinking that everyone needs your public display of self-loathing narcissism. (And yeah, I can take this just as much as I dish it out. As Part of The Problem and the One Percent, I vow to never produce such an article. Every time I even think of writing that article, I will go and volunteer at a soup kitchen.) 

Why have I turned Shipwrecked & Comatose, a blog normally dedicated to my strange humor, my political passions, my day-to-day activities, and my nonsensical observations, into a part-time health and fitness blog, dedicated to the narcissistic pursuit of telling the world how much I lost or gained and how upset I am about it?  I said my main goal was to be accountable to everyone I know.  If anyone who read this blog knows that I'm trying to transform my body, I will be more embarrassed if I fall off the wagon.  

I'm not really sure how many people care about my fat loss journey.  The people who really do care would know about it regardless of whether or not I wrote about it.   They should be the only people who count.  I don't know who really reads these blogs.  I post links to it on FB every time I make a new post (every time I make a Lean Eating post anyway).  I do get occasional "likes" on the posts.  I also receive emails and Facebook PMs about certain posts from friends that I had no idea were following this.  What do they hope to take away from this blog when they read it?  Are they reading it as sympathetic friends who want to cheer me on?  Are they willing to make me accountable to them?  Are they secretly hoping to see me fail?  

I started to think long and hard about the kinds of inspiration I do hope people take away from this blog.  Perhaps I should be clearer about it in the future, but I do like to think that these messages are being conveyed in some small way as this blog has progressed during the year.

First I hope that anyone reading this who is also looking to transform his or her body will come to understand that it's a slow process and far from linear.  There will be weeks when you feel you are doing everything right and yet no signs of progress are evident.  There will be weeks when you eat everything you know you're not supposed to (vacations are notorious for that) and gain a few pounds and an inch or three of bloat.   That's life and life is about so much more than trying to make over what your body looks like.  If you keep going, and keep going consistently (not perfectly, just consistently), you will make progress.  The more you put into changing your nutrition and exercise habits, the more you will get out of them, but if you do too much, you may not be able to stick with it. Be willing to accept that sustainable change doesn't happy quickly.  If you think you're too impatient and that you are not willing to lose only two or three pounds a month, think back to the time you joined Weight Watchers/Jenny Craig/Skinny Bitch/Fad Diet Du Jour and lost 20 pounds in 3 months.  Did you keep it off?  Could you sustain the lifestyle?  

I hope that readers understand that body image issues are a part of all of us (or most of us normal folks).  I may never get over my body image issues.  I could get down to my "dream weight" of 100 pounds (Hey, I'm under 5' tall.  That is not an unhealthy weight for my size) and have a fitness model figure and I'm sure I would find something to complain about.  Look I'm 43, even if I have great weight and muscle definition, my body will still show the effects of aging.  I am very proud that my butt is still firm and rides high.  I'm not sure how much longer that is going to last.  I am very frustrated that I am not really losing any volume in my boobs.  The key here is I don't let my body image get in the way of life. Even if I know I may never like how I look, I am not going to let that stop me from trying to eat well and exercise regularly.  

That brings me to my next point.  Exercise is a huge body image booster.  Learn to focus on how well your body performs and what it is capable of doing.   Do you think you're unathletic  or a klutz and that there is no way you are capable of impressing yourself with your abilities?  Congratulations.  You're a regular member of the human race.  Just as you need to make slow, steady, non-linear progress in eating habits, you will need to do the same thing with exercise.  Be willing to fall down, screw up, and make a fool of yourself, and struggle to do just one rep.  If you stick with it, you will be so proud when you make just a bit of progress.  I still can't do a pullup unassisted, but I work on that goal a little all of the time with assist bands and boxes.  One day I know I will do one, just one, unassisted and while it may not look impressive to the meatheads at the gym, I know I will have accomplished something.  I was not born able to tap dance.  I have spent 15 years working on that skill and it's still not all that impressive.  It's better than it was 15 years ago though, and I had fun working on it.  Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.

Lastly, I hope readers understand there is no perfect diet.  I get a little twitchy when someone announces her new eating program, particularly if the diet in question is meant to eliminate something (meat, grains, fruit, etc.).  We need to focus more on what we do eat than what we don't.  Are you eating fresh, whole, unprocessed foods?  Do the foods have labels?  Does much of your food come in bags, boxes or cans?  If it does, then maybe it's time to consider adding more fresh food to your diet.  The other half of eating well is listen to your body.  Don't just assume certain foods will have a negative effect on your body.  Pay attention and see if that's really the case.  How do you feel after eating wheat or beans or bananas or milk?  Then there is the issue of quantity.  Stop obsessing about calorie counts and weighing and measuring everything.  Instead pay attention to your body's hunger cues,  Eat slowly.   Put your fork down between bites and chew thoroughly.  You can start by making your portion sizes around the size of your palm for protein, your fist for vegetables, and as many fruits or grains that can fit in your cupped hand.  If you eat slowly and pay attention to your hunger cues, your body will tell you if that's too much or not enough.  How much you need may very well depend on your activity level and your body's specific nutritional needs.  

Narcissistic as it is, I will keep these posts going until the end of the program.  In the end I don't know if anyone gets anything out of it, or if they care that much what my progress is, but I enjoy doing it, so I will.

Speaking of narcissism, I am down a bit again.   I can say again that I am the lightest I have been since I started this program.  I am halfway to goal pound wise.  Sadly I am only down a fraction of a perfect in bodyfat.  My current measurement is 21.8% down from 22%.  I need to really re-evaluation some things in these last three months.