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.