Saturday, May 25, 2013

Week 19 -Back to the Drawing Board. Also, This Week's Habit Raises Genuine Concerns

The happy thought for the day:  The Friday street fair has moved back to 43rdStreet.  I no longer have to deal withall of that temptation right outside my door. 
The less-than-happy-thought: Bad, bad week!  I’m sure it would have been fine if I had kept all indulgence to Mom’s birthday party on Sunday.  Unfortunately, I could not keep my hands off the leftovers.  I should have sent every last bit of pulled pork home with my family in care packages.  I should not have kept some of my brother’s macaroni and cheese for myself no matter how good it was.  

So right now I regained those three pounds again.

Now for the coming week I’m going on vacation.  I’ll be in San Francisco.  Could there be more of a foodie city than SanFrancisco?  I’m going to want to eateverything!  At least my hotel has a gym and San Francisco is a good walking city. I will get my exercise in.  I just have to take it one day (or one meal) at a time.  Make the best choices possible and rememberthe 80% rule.  What more can I ask of myself?
This week’s habit is something near and dear to my heart.For the next two weeks I can only drink calorie-free beverages.  This is a challenge meant to truly take myteam and me out of our comfort zones and do something radical.  It’s also a very wise challenge.  Liquid calories can be a major contributor toweight gain.
I’m pretty well prepared for this challenge in some ways.  I drink water almost exclusively.  I drink it obsessively.  I always have a bottle ofwater on my desk at work.  I have one with me at the gym.  I have one with me at dance class.  I drink water with breakfast, lunch, and dinner when eating meals at home and at work.  Despite all of this, the calorie-free beverage thing is harder than it looks.

I’m not a coffee drinker. I think coffee on its own is a pretty foul substance.  I never wanted to be one of those people who feels dependent on coffee to feel able to handle a normal day, so I never really forced myself to get over the child’s aversion to coffee.  (As I like to say, I don’t have to drink coffee to prove I’m a grownup.)  Coffee can be perfectly lovely when well-diluted with hot milk in a latte or cappuccino or dosed heavily with cream.  It can flavor a dessert deliciously.  If I truly feel  the need to jolt my nervous system after a bad night’s sleep or before a long drive, that coffee is either in latte form or contains enough cream to send a cardiologist running to my side.  So now if I really feel as if I need that jolt, I have some strong black tea.
The lessons this week have focused on how to enjoy calorie-free coffee and tea, whether or not artificially sweetened beverage sare a wise choice, and how much hydration we really need.  At the end of the week they put the focus on the other caloric beverage some people just can’t do without.
I once had this for a Facebook status:
Facebook:  Convincing me all of my friends are alcoholics since 2008.
It was meant in good humor, and of course it received a fewlaughs, but in some ways it isn’t a joke. Every time I am on Facebook, I see some meme posted about drinking.  I see statuses about the bars my friends attend and the drinks consumed, and that glass of wine they absolutely must have to smooth over a rough day. Maybe I shouldn’t worry.  I make posts like this after all and I’m not a heavy drinker.  I may enjoy a buzz, but I don’t like to be out of control of my faculties.  I don’t like drunkenness.  I also have a low tolerance, so that buzz comes easily (sometimes before I even finish one drink).  Due to sleep issues I generally don’t drink on weeknights.  I also don’t drink things other than wine or a few specific cocktails.  I hate beer.  I hate most hard liquors.  (Once again, I never saw a reason to get overmy childhood aversions and acquire a taste. Just like with coffee, I don’t have to drink beer or scotch to prove I’m an adult.) I don’t feel it’s in my best interest to self-medicate. 

It seems that in the past ten years I have seen and read andheard quite a lot of warnings about alcoholism being on the rise amongwomen.  It seems the groups most indanger are younger women attempting to achieve the Sex and the City lifestyle where going out for happy hour cocktails is a nightly event and girls' nights out are booze-filled evenings at clubs.  The other group is women in their 30s and 40s who see their wine as their “Mommy Time Out.”   When I go to big events whether it's a company picnic, a wedding or a birthday party, it's practically considered an insult if alcohol isn't served.  People see alcohol as necessary for a good time.  In any case, what seems harmless can spiral out of control. 

I'm glad I'm not the only noticing and concerned about the level of alcohol consumption among women.  Lean Eating is taking it really seriously this week by making us take a long hard look at our drinking habits. 

Here is an excerpt from the lesson:

Whether it's a glass of wine with dinner or a few beers with friends on a sunny patio after work, alcohol in moderation has a place in a balanced, healthy diet. Problem is, what defines moderation?
Well, here's our guideline:
Can you temporarily go without your regular alcoholic drinks for two weeks without feeling uncomfortable?
If not, then you may not be drinking in moderation. Alcohol may be helping you cope with things.
And it may be time to face that.
How does alcohol fit into a "fit person" lifestyle and when does it become a problem?  There are many ways we "self-medicate" when things aren't going our well.  Alcohol is one of them.  Food is another.  Some of us simply tune out the world with the TV.  Others might over-exercise.  How does any of that help us achieve our goals? 
This week I managed to ruin my compliance for the day when I saw I had a swallow of pinot grigio left in the fridge.  I decided to finish the bottle off just out of habit.  I wasn't even thinking about my goal of not drinking.  If someone like me has thoughtless little incidents like this, how hard is it for someone for whom reaching for a drink is far more ingrained? 
My teammates who say they truly don't feel that they can go two weeks without alcohol to reach out to their coaches for help.  Hopefully they will.  For the rest of us who might straddle the line between it being something doable and it being a true problem, everyone has to remember that alcohol both encourages weight loss and encourages to reshift our focus and find more healthful ways of dealing with stress, celebrating, or having a good time.
I know my compliance won't be perfect this week.  I'm going on a winery tour on Thursday for one thing.  I booked a couple fine dining establishments for dinner and I'll probably allow myself a glass at those.  Can I tolerate just drinking water at casual restaurants?  Yeah.  I can.  And I will.  I don't need alcohol to enjoy what I know is going to be a fantastic vacation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's Okay To Be a Tourist

On my first business trip to London, which was also my first trip to London ever, I had the good fortune to have a decent amount of free time. I had a few hours most days to explore the city at my leisure.

Upon my return I was talking to a friend who hadn't previously known I was going about the trip. She had been there multiple times. "Why didn't you tell me you were going to London?" she asked. "I could have told you all of the cool places to go where the tourists don't go."

I think I surprised her with my response. "But I wanted to go where all of the tourists go."

I spent my free time in London at The National Gallery and The Tate. I strolled through the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. I walked the perimeter of Buckingham Palace and through Piccadilly Circus. I even rode the London Eye (I had been walking for a while that day and i thought it was a creative way to both rest and enjoy a view). I was, with no apologies, a very typical tourist.

If you read any of the hipper types of travel guides or travel websites, you will always see advice to avoid areas that are "touristy". Your experience in a new city will be so much less authentic if you stay on the beaten path and visit the sites that are familiar. You will apparently never truly enjoy your vacation if you visit those places, or stay in those neighborhoods, or eat in those restaurants that are well known. It is almost implied that you are hopelessly square, even gauche, should you choose to take the tourist route. You are certainly a fool about to part with his money since touristy areas are more expensive.

In the middle of all of these suggestions lies the question of why tourists go to these sites in the first place. Tourist sites are not tourist sites simply because a gaggle of clueless out-of-towners suddenly decided to flock to them. They hold significant cultural, historic, or aesthetic value. They are iconic to much of the world. They certainly aren't going to be the only things worth seeing in a given city, but they should be a priority to most visitors. During my London trip I was much more interested in seeing The British Museum than I was in going to some obscure pub known for its intense darts tournaments.

Kevin and I were very typical tourists in Paris as well. We spent the week running all over the city stopping at as many major sites as possible. We stayed in a hotel in the middle of it all just to enjoy the convenience and the pleasure of waking up and seeing Notre Dame out our window every morning. We ate dinner some nights in random Latin Quarter bistros where the owners would entice us in. Our first night we had dinner at Le Sergeant Recreuter - a place packed to the gills with Americans. The food was delicious there despite what the snobs say. We did not spend much time trying to live like Parisians live. We rarely shopped in businesses where they didn't speak English. We used the Batobus for transportation rather than the Metro most of the time. We never talked to a French person we weren't doing business with. You know what? We had a blast. I loved that trip. Did I miss out on living the experience of a true Parisian? Yes I did. No offense meant to actual Parisians.

So we spent a lot of money, possibly missed eating at better restaurants, and didn't make any local friends. Is there anything really wrong with that? We were never rude. We acted and dressed respectfully. We attempted to speak the language (well he did anyway). We did nothing wrong other than observe the city as outsiders and not totally immerse ourselves in the culture. It wasn't the hippest way to travel, but we still had a great time and didn't cause any international incidents.

New Yorkers are often annoyed by tourists, but I think it's refreshing to see people walking around the city actually enjoying themselves.  I find Time Square to be one of the biggest wastes of fossil fuels on earth, but there are millions of tourists coming to New York all of the time who think it's a wonder of the world.  Who am I to say they are better off exploring some small artsy neighborhood in Brooklyn instead?  So they're eating at Junior's, Carmine's and the Stage Deli.  Not everyone can afford to eat at, or can get a reservation at, a Mario Batali or other high-end restaurant.  Are those place so bad?  At least it's not Applebee's or the Olive Garden.

It's not ordinary tourists who write travel guides.  City natives, adventurous types, travel writers, and seasoned travelers write them.  How many Americans are seasoned travelers?  I have known people who never traveled outside of their own states let alone left the country. Traveling across the U.S., or outside of it, can be a scary thing. Sometimes people need to do what it takes to feel safe and comfortable while traveling.  If you live in a strip-mall-and-cul-de-sac type of middle American suburb and all of your transporation is via car, you might not feel too comfortable navigating the public transportation systems of a major metropolitan area.  It could be worth it to you to book a more expensive hotel that's in the middle of it all.

If you have been to a city multiple times and have seen the major sites and are comfortable moving around, it makes sense to want to explore the more obscure neighborhoods.  Someone visiting a city the first time is likely to want to see the major sites first.  I have been to London enough times now that I'm quite comfortable with The Underground and hope to see some less well-visited sites if I ever go back.  That wasn't how I felt the first time around. 

I had so many suggestions for places to visit and things to do when I was in Paris.  While I took them all into consideration, in the end, I saw really what I most wanted to see.  It was my trip and my experience.  I had to choose my own priorities.  They might have been been the hippest, but I came home very satisfied with everything I saw.

This weekend I leave for San Francisco for the first time.  Kevin and I have a list of places we want to see, and none of them are off the beaten path.  We'll be mostly in the city proper, and when we're leaving the city it's for (*gasp*) guided van tours.  I will willingly admit that I can't wait to see the sea lions in Fisherman's Wharf and take a photo of myself under the Chinatown arch.  I want to see the places San Francisco is most famous for.  Aren't those places that I, and the millions other tourists who visit there, the main reason people vacation there?

Being a tourist still carries responsibilities.  Be reasonable.  Be cautious.  Hold tightly to your belongings.  Don't stand and gawk in places where foot traffic needs to keep moving (a pet peeve of New Yorkers encountering tourists).  Don't be angry with people who can't speak English in a foreign country (do you speak their language?)    Smile and say hello and please and thank you.  Those kinds of rules apply no matter where in the world you go.  Observe customs.  Learn as much about local etiquette as possible before you go. Speak softly.   Don't wear shorts in public outside of the US.  Don't wear a fanny pack no matter where you go (I guess amusement parks are excepted).

Most of all, just enjoy your vacation.  Explore however and wherever you feel comfortable. See the places you always wanted to see.  Eat where you can afford to eat and can get a table.  Stay where you feel it would be most advantageously for you to stay.  Set your own priorities. 

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Realm of Night (Part 2)

My new habit with Lean Eating is centered on sleep, so it really is time for me to finish the other part of my sleep post.

In Part 1 of my sleep post, I wrote about my experiences in the waking world when I was unable to sleep. I found ways to amuse myself over the years when I can't sleep, but the sleeping world is far more amusing.  The places I go when I can't sleep can never compare to what goes on inside my brain when I do sleep.

I am always fascinated, haunted, and amused by my dreams.  A good dream can put me in a happy mood for hours after waking. A scary dream can make me afraid to go back to sleep.  There are dreams that make me feel sad.  There are dreams that make me feel guilty.  Some dreams are so bizarre I spend the day trying to figure them out. Do everyone's dream affect them the way they affect me?  Why do I care so much?  Why does anybody?

For example, I had a dream recently where I found myself in an animal shelter.  All of the animals were in one big cage in an office.  I opened the cage and a small cat or large kitten wandered out.  It immediately crawled into my lap and began purring.  I felt this overwhelming love for it.  Then a puppy or very small dog came bouncing out.  It had similar coloring to the cat (they were both white with dark patches on them).  It began playfully bouncing around me, climbing on me for attention. I told the shelter worker, "I'll take them both."  Later in the dream I began to realize I might have made a mistake.  I had no idea how old that puppy was and what its level of training and housebreaking was.  I certainly didn't have time to take on that kind of responsibility.  I didn't know how I was going to tell them at the shelter that I couldn't take the animals after all.  I'm the one who always preaches how people should adopt pets after all.

I'm sure anyone reading this will say the meaning of the dream is obvious.  I want a pet.  I also know having a pet isn't practical.  What fascinated me most was not what the dream meant, but the intensity of the emotion I felt even hours after waking.  I could not stop thinking about how I felt when that cat crawled into my lap. I was hopelessly in love with an animal that didn't exist, and equally heartbroken that it couldn't be mine.

What is a dream? It's a random firing of neurons during a period of sleep.  A dream can feel as if hours have passed, but on average lasts only 20 minutes. Dreams take bits and pieces of all of your thoughts and all of your experiences, and then rips them apart and puts them back together.  They remind you of your secret desires.  They expose your deepest fears.  They are made up of every memory you have, but put you in places you know you have never seen before and introduce you to people you have never met. 

I have a fairly regular series of recurring dreams.  I can interpret some of the them, although others leave me wondering exactly what they are supposed to mean and why I have them.

Whenever I have a project or important event coming up, I will often dream I'm getting married and I'm trying to make sense of the wedding.  It's a simple interpretation in this case. I was the girl who always dreamed of having the perfect wedding, so weddings in a dream are a representation of any difficult project I'm facing where I'm concerned about the quality of the outcome.  It rarely ever matters who I am marrying in the dream.  Sometimes it's someone I don't know in real life.  Sometimes it's someone I do know in real life, but I have no romantic attachment to.  If I am dating someone, the current boyfriend is the groom, but an ex can show up as the groom too.

I remember one time in college I had this dream around the time I was stressed about a major presentation I had to give.  My boyfriend played the part of the groom in my dream.  My roommate thought it would be amusing to tell him that.  That made for some awkward moments when he confronted me about it!  Just because I'm married now doesn't mean the dreams have gone away.  I'll just dream that something happened and Kevin and I need a do-over. 

No need to say how bad those dreams were when I was actually getting married!

I have dreams about school, but they aren't the stereotypical dreams of having to take a test in my underwear.  I have one of two dreams.  The first is that I am in high school and need to go to class, but I don't know what time it is.  I'm not sure if I'm late or early or what period it is.  I keep desperately searching for a clock.  I try to peek into classrooms, but somehow the clock is always hidden from view, or else I think I can see it, but another clock contradicts it.  My second school dream usually takes place in college, although sometimes it's high school. I have a particular class that only happens once a week at an odd time in my schedule and I keep forgetting about it.  I even forget the time and the classroom and have to dig up my old schedule to find it (not always successfully).  I have no idea how many classes I missed and am terrified I won't be able to make up the work and will fail the class.

I had another really funny school dream the summer between my junior and senior years of college.  I dreamed that it was discovered I had failed kindergarten and had to go back to summer school for it.  I figured it would be an easy summer since I had come pretty far in my schooling without passing kindergarten in the first place.  I could pass the basics the second time around.  I'm not sure what that dream meant.  Was it an expression of my fears about whether or not I would graduate college or was it simply a desire to go back to the beginning and never have to graduate college?

I also have my own version of the "actor's nightmare" which is very similar to my school dream.  I don't dream of being on stage and not having anything to perform.  Instead I dream that I have been cast in a play and I keep missing rehearsals. Just like with the school dreams I have no idea how many rehearsals I have missed and if I will ever be able to learn my part. What's worse is when I show up for rehearsal, it goes on without me and no one seems to notice or care that I'm there. Whatever my part is, no one is working on it.

Houses and apartments figure prominently in my dreams.  I'll often dream of a place that seems decrepit or small, only to find that inside it's much larger and often much nicer.  I remember a particular dream of being in a very old, run-down house and the stairs were out and I climbed a ladder to the second floor.  At the top of the ladder was the coolest loft apartment ever.  One time I dreamed of a house that was haunted and initially tried to flee.  Then I had a reason to go back inside and I went to the attic where I found the most gorgeous atrium. Sometimes the building is a place I'm just visiting, but there are times when I am learning that I am about to move into a really gorgeous and spacious new apartment.  So do houses in your dreams represent your life (the standard interpretation for house dreams), or simply your wish for a different place to live (or a bigger one anyway).

The most common dream I have is the vacation dream.  I'll dream that I am in Chincoteague, or some other location with a beach, or even a pool, and my goal is to get there, sit by the poolside or on the beach, go for a swim, and just enjoy the typical summer vacation experience.  It always ends up that something distracts me. I'm constantly being pulled away from enjoying my vacation.  Obstacles are thrown in the path when I simply try to get to my destination.  When I finally arrive at the beach, it has turned into a field, or the water has become muddy and murky, or has frozen over.  Sometimes the beach has moved inside a building and the water has been turned off for the night.  At this point I usually wake up.

That dream has a pretty straightforward interpretation from a Jungian standpoint.  Water is simply representative of subconscious and the dreaming world. Plus it reminds me that as much as I want to go on vacation, I'm not there yet and I might as well face reality.  When the dream begins I get pulled under by a wave - in other words I am falling deeper into sleep.  When I'm about to wake up, the water disappears.  I'm emerging from the dream state.  The funny thing about these dreams is that they are some of the rare times I'm lucid.  I have this dream often enough that I suddenly realize what's happening to me and become determined to make it to the beach before I wake up.  As stubborn as I am about it, I never make it. 

There are dreams though that are quite disturbing and don't run on any themes.  They only happen once, but the stories and images they produced have stuck with me my entire life.  I don't know why I had these dreams or why they have stuck with me so much.  Just to amuse myself (because at this point I don't think anyone is still reading and probably isn't amused anyway) I will enumerate them.

The Most Disturbing Dreams of my Life

1.  As a toddler obsessed with Sesame Street, I had a dream of being in a room with scores of animatronic Muppet-like characters.  They were the human variety and not the monsters.  I didn't know how they were operated.  The moved seemingly without any human intervention.  There was a noise in the room.  I don't know if it was music or simply the sound of motors inside the puppets working.  One puppet with blond braids approached me.  She extended her hand as if offering to shake  I didn't know what to do about it.  I was both frightened and charmed.

2.  When I was six I had a definite fear of authority (if you knew my grandmother, could you blame me?) .  One night I had a dream that I went to buy ice cream at the school cafeteria as I always did and the lunch aide who sold it wasn't there.  Since I figured she just stepped out, I placed my money on the counter, reached into the freezer, and took my ice cream.  Although the rest of the dream was a jumble, I remember much of it was about how it was perceived that I had stolen the ice cream.  I had this never ending dream I was in trouble.  At the end of the dream I was sitting on the front steps of my grandmother's house with my mother and grandmother explaining what had happened.  I remember saying to them, "So I left Mrs. Scirrocco the money and bought the ice cream."  I thought I was forgiven and that I had properly explained everything.  Then a police car pulled up in front of the house.  A cop came out. I remember what he looked like.  He was bald, beefy, and bespectacled.  He marched up the walk very determined, came up to me, and slapped me in the face.

3.  As a teen I worked as a day camp counselor.  One summer I had a dream that the camp had a special family weekend outing at some country campground.  The camp part of it wasn't the disturbing part.  In one part of the dream I took a walk into the nearby town with some of the mothers of the kids.  The town had a charming little chocolate store.  I went in and started feeling tempted by everything.  I selected some chocolates in a glass case.  Then I saw on a shelf a bunch of small chocolate animals.  I found them so endearing I asked for one of each kind of animal.  When I saw them in the shelf they were small - like those little ceramic figurines you used to get in a box of tea bags.  To my horror I found that I had filled an entire shopping cart to the brim with chocolates.  The chocolate animals had grown to more than triple their size.  I remember at the top of the cart was a chocolate horse that had become the size of a Breyer model.  I felt like such a glutton and yet I couldn't have them put back since I had just asked for them and they were in my cart.  I couldn't bring myself to say I didn't want them anymore.

I woke up really embarrassed by my gluttony and desire to have so much chocolate.  The dream really brought out the twin demons of shame and desire.  I, the ultimate chocolate lover, could not eat chocolate for a week.  I remember walking into a real chocolate store a few weeks later and saw shelves full of beautiful chocolate sculptures.  One of them was a Breyer-sized chocolate horse.  It made me sick to my stomach.

4.  I once had a dream where I ate my cat.  I don't know why. I was hungry and decided the cat was a readily available source of protein.  I picked him up and put him on the counter and he instantly became cat chunks in gravy.  The remorse kicked in right after eating him.  I realized what I had just done.  I had destroyed my beloved pet in the name of my own gluttony.  Didn't we have other food in the house?  I was convinced that what I had just eaten couldn't possibly be my cat.  I set out on a quest to find my cat whom I was sure was just hiding somewhere.  I eventually ran into a little boy who had a cat that looked just like mine.  I told him he had my cat.  He insisted it was his cat.  I attempted to take the cat from him and the cat bit me.  I knew it wasn't my cat then since my cat was sweet and docile.   Then I woke up.

5.  In 2004 I had a dream that I was trying to seduce G.W. Bush.  I said I would have sex with him if he promised he would not seek re-election.

6.  I once had a dream where I was working with a troublesome horse.   I decided the horse needed to be punished.  I made a fist and took a huge swing at it.  There was a wall behind me blocking the backward motion of the punch, so the blow had little momentum and the horse really didn't feel anything.  The more this happened, the more determined I was to punish the horse.  I began trying over and over again to hit this horse.  At some point logic kicked in and reminded me that since my punish didn't come swiftly after the misbehavior, the horse would no longer understand why he was being punished.  I still was determined to show this horse who was boss.  The horse was gray/white, but it wasn't Baby.  It was bigger and more like an Arab (Nicky?).  I really felt terrible after waking up from that one.

7.  In one dream I befriended a new neighbor who was this lonely loser guy.  I found myself unable to say no to him when he wanted to become intimate.  I felt so sorry for him that I never had the heart to tell him I was married.  Then he asked me to marry him and even gave me a ring.  I was now horrified that this guy thought I had sincere feelings for him and I pitied him even more.  Later on his best friend came to visit him and it turned out to be my ex boyfriend.  The last thing I wanted my ex to know was that I was engaged to his friend that was an even bigger loser than he was.  I was more than happy to let my "fiance" and his friend know I was married to someone else, although I never had a chance to before waking up.

So many of my strangest dreams center on guilt, impulsive choices, gluttony, and abuse of animals.  The realms inside my brain are as disturbing as they are fascinating.  Are such things better left unexplored, or should I bring them to light and decide how to best deal with them?

Week 18 - Exercise Impovements (but you won't get a picture)

After last week’s three pound gain I was definitely in a bit of a panic.  My coach had to talk me off the ledge a bit saying it was probably just water weight.  She was mostly right.  I have lost two of the three pounds I gained last week.  I really hope to lose more this week even though I'm holding a big birthday party for my mother tomorrow and the food will be an all-out fat and carb fest.

She also had to talk me off the ledge about my San Francisco trip, which is coming up next week.  My hotel has a gym, so I hope to have all of my weight workouts in the week.  As for the other days, time will tell.  San Francisco is a good walking city and those hills should give me a good workout.  We are going on a couple of day-long bus tours though.   Both tours will feature some boots-on-the-ground time in both Muir Woods and Yosemite, but I will also be on my butt in a van a lot and I don’t know how much control I will have over my food choices.  Since San Francisco is a big foodie city, the foodie in me really wants to try some of the better restaurants.  In some ways I was lucky that places like Quince and Nopa were booked solid for weeks at a time.  I did manage to book two other high-end restaurants.  Coach reminds me to just follow the 80% rule and try to make the best choices possible. 
I finished Phase 4 of the workout this week.  I really liked this phase.  There were plenty of challenging moves and I felt very powerful doing them.  I’m excited to see what challenges the next phase will bring.  This month I saw some strength improvements.  I still grunt a bit when I do the diagonal lifts with the 25 pound plate, but the first few reps feel much better.  Initially I could not comfortably hoist a barbell against my arms for the front squat and had to use a body bar.  My legs are strong enough to support the weight, but my arms couldn’t handle it for the first two weeks.  At the end of last week I was able to get in the cage and use an actual barbell (no plates) and do the front squat comfortably.  The unweighted barbell is still almost twice as heavy as the heaviest body bar, so I think that’s tremendous.
I have definitely been letting my cardio slack off since I started the program.  I don’t believe cardio should be the be-all and end-all to a fat loss program, but some good interval work can certainly help.  On Lean Eating we are told to do one “active recovery” workout along with two interval workouts each week.  I consider dance class to be my active recovery and my other two workouts are Zumba and the prescribed intervals (20-30 seconds at moderate effort and 30 seconds at full effort) on a stationary bike (treadmill is really hard on my knees and ankles).   Riding is just a bonus. 
Wednesday night my train home ran late and I missed Zumba. At first I thought I would just head to the gym and do some work on the hamster wheels or pop in a DVD at home or play with my neglected Kinect.  Intead  I decided to improvise an outdoor interval workout.  I went to Harbor Island and started walking.  Then I sprinted as hard as I could until I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Then I walked until I caught my breath.  I did another walk/sprint combo and then did things like suicide sprints using two trees as markers, burpees with pushups, and that exercise where you put your hands behind you on the floor and alternately kick your legs in the air.  I did this around the perimeter of the harbor and back. 
I was totally winded from this workout.  It’s true that if you always do the same cardio your body adapts and the workouts are less effective.  I can get through Zumba class and barely feel winded.  I thought I would lose a lung when I was doing those sprint intervals.  Once dance class ends for the season in the beginning of June I hope to start doing this workout once a week (with Zumba as my active rest).   I look forward to seeing improvements like longer sprints and shorter walks and increased number of suicides (I make myself do 5 right now, but I’m feeling dead at 4).  

Since we finished another workout phase, I had to take photos.  I'm not posting them here yet.  I think next month when I hit the 6 month mark in the program and end Phase 5 of the workout, I will post my photo on the blog.  I seem to have a following on this blog for the Lean Eating posts, so I might as well share progress with you.  I feel like I owe my "fans" that much.  

I have one big challenge this week, which is Mom's birthday party.  I don't think between my brother and me that we are making anything nutritious or low calorie.  I'll have to remember the 80% rule and be extra careful all week.  Maybe I'll lose something by Saturday - then I leave for San Francisco the next day.  Yikes!

I decided to try a different protein powder for my morning smoothies.  I am trying hemp now.  Oh the potential for jokes here is endless!  The problem with protein powder is that I really want to keep things natural and protein powder is not the most natural product.   I was using plain, unsweetened, unflavored whey, but I started thinking about how much  processing goes on between the cow and the jar with whey.  I'm not going to use pea protein (yuck).  Brown rice protein powder isn't all that high in protein.  Soy protein is heavily processed and I don't eat soy anyway.  Hemp is about 50% protein, is a sustainable crop, and doesn't seem as heavily processed as some powders.  We'll see how it tastes in my shakes.  It's perishable.  I have to keep it refrigerated.  That does make it seem like it's a bit more like a fresh product than a processed one.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Random Thoughts for the Week

Are people who use their middle fingers to push elevator buttons just being passive-aggressive?

Speaking of elevators, I hate sharing the elevator with someone coming back from a smoke break!

When someone is France is acting in a way that others find obnoxious and self-aggrandizing, do the French exclaim "Quelle Shower!"

I still don't get Girl Scout Cookies.  Mint Milanos taste a thousand times better than Thin Mints, are available year-round, and are made with better quality ingredients.  Yet people still think Thin Mints are some kind of divine gift.

If someone says, "It's totes cool," are they trying to say it's as cool as my umbrella?

I often say I don't need to drink beer or coffee to prove I'm an adult.  The corollary to that is I don't need a tattoo to prove I'm still youthful.

Harney and Sons raspberry tea is kind of gross.  It's too bad since I bought it to help curb post-lunch sweet cravings.

How to be Dumb:  On the train today I noticed some brochures were left on the seats regarding commemorative items you can purchase in honor of the Grand Central Station centennial.  When I sat down, I neglected to actually pick it off the seat.  I promptly forgot about it.  

I was wearing a skirt, and with the naive optimism that a day in the middle of May wouldn't be cold, I was bare-legged.  When the train arrived at my station and I stood up to disembark, something felt weird.  My skirt kept brushing up against something. I felt something sticking out.

The forgotten brochure was sticking to my bare leg.  I had fun trying to peel it off in front of all of the other passengers. 

Sometimes I swear it's more dangerous to cross the sidewalk in NYC than it is to cross the street. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Week 17 - Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole

Last week I talked about compliance and complaints.  My compliance was at an all time low this week, so I have no right to complain that I gained three (YES THREE!) pounds this week.  I haven't done my measurements yet.  If I'm not significantly bigger, I can feel a bit comforted.

I don't know what got into me.  I suppose Aunt Flo was playing havoc with my appetite this week.  I just gave in to nearly every craving I had.  You know what's funny?  Half the time the stuff didn't taste nearly as good as I hoped it would or else it just made me feel like crap physically.  My digestive system gets a little freaked out now when I head to the Dominican shop for lunch.  Who would have thought? 

What's worse is that this spring the weekly Friday street fair that normally takes place on 43rd Street has moved to my street.  I walk out of my office to be greeted by the smell of roasting gyros and sausage.  Even the stuff that's not all that bad for me is surrounded by stuff that is.  I could have some chicken shish kebob, but you can't get it without rice or pita and it's not offered with many vegetables  (just iceberg lettuce and underripe tomatoes).  I am particularly tempted by the Latin truck that serves roasted pork, chiccharones, empanadas, arepas, fried chicken and these large fried balls that look so good I don't dare ask what they are.  Oddly enough I am not even thinking about Lean Eating when I talk myself out of ordering any of it.  I just think about how my stomach will feel after such a lunch.

So I have gone a bit backwards and am now fewer than ten pounds away from where I started.  This feels like an old pattern to me.  I am really concerned about my upcoming San Francisco trip.  How can I keep on plan in such a foodie city?  I'm looking forward to the Chinese food.  I have booked two fancy restaurants for dinner.  When I'm out on day tours I will have very little control over what I am served for lunch.  I know it's a good walking city and my hotel has a gym and I intend to do my Lean Eating workouts while I'm there.  My life is walking proof exercise alone does diddly-squat to change your body.

There are a lot of books out there these days about how food manufacturers are creating foods that touch your brain in such a way that overrides your normal satiety levels and causes you to want more.  I am beginning to feel and understand that more and more.  Earlier this week I was on the train to work and the woman sitting next to me was eating a buttered roll for her breakfast.  Here she was eating a lump of white starch with a lump of pure fat on top of it.  Something like this shouldn't be appealing, but it was.  I could smell that roll.  I knew exactly what its taste was like.  I could mentally feel the texture of spongy bread and greasy butter in my mouth.  At that moment I wanted one too.

The word that entered my head was "primal".  It's funny because these days when someone says "primal" in regards to eating, they are referring to a paleo or caveman diet.  A buttered roll, likely purchased from the train station food truck, is about as opposite of that kind of diet as one can go.  This wasn't a home baked roll made from einkorn flour and spread with grass-fed butter.  It's heavily processed white flour smeared with the cheapest butter available.  Still that roll touched the most reptilian part of my brain.  It struck some deep unknown need inside me.

It is truly amazing how food can be manufactured to make you want it.  You want it not because you're hungry, but because it manages to mess with your brain chemistry in just the right away.  It all makes me want to go live on an island somewhere and just eat coconuts and never be tempted again.