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.