Thursday, November 26, 2015

Moving My Body Forward - Phase 2

So I survived my first phase of getting my fitness back and moving my body forward.

The first week felt pretty good.  I started my Piyo workouts and my new habits on a Sunday morning.  The workouts were both easy and difficult at the same time.  The workout consisted of simple moves that I have done all my life, but I haven't done them much in the past year.  My body hasn't moved in certain ways for a long time.  I really had to struggle with some of them.  However, muscle memory began to kick in after two or three workouts and they felt more comfortable.

Midway through the first week, I was tempted to check in.  I wanted to see if I had made any progress at all.  I found myself staring at my scale and tape measure, wondering if I'd see a difference.  Is that crazy or what?  I wanted to see if I had results after 5 days?  After all this time trying to learn that my body is going to change slowly and on its own time, I still want instant results.  I knew that a few days of mild workouts wasn't going to change my body, but I still wanted to believe it could.  I was smart enough to tell myself to wait until the end of the month to check in when I could see more accurate results.

The second week presented some challenges.  There was Thanksgiving of course, as well as a pre-Thanksgiving dinner out with friends.  There was a day I went out to lunch and just didn't feel like eating any vegetables.  Even though I did my best to stick to my habit, I know I was eating too much.

Plenty of times I found myself thinking I should start giving my diet more structure and be more attentive to planning healthful meals, but I realized that part of the strategy for success is sticking to one habit at a time.  I will not overwhelm myself.  I would stick to one habit with each phase.

Week 3 brought a few more challenges with the workouts and a return to saner, post-holiday eating, but I still had some weak moments.  I was almost positive I was backsliding badly.  At the end of the week I reviewed my compliance stats and saw that I had stuck with the habit for over 80% of my meals.  I was doing better than I gave myself credit for.

During the last week I finally felt as if the habit was going in the right direction.  I was noticing the changes in my satiety levels as I ate.  I found myself leaving a few bites at the end of some of my meals.  I now like to think I will be well prepared for my next habit.

In terms of the workout, how do I feel about PiYo?  I have mixed feelings for sure.  I do the workout and I'm covered in sweat and out of breath.  It is intense, but for the first 1-3 weeks, it didn't feel effective.  I worked hard and diligently with each daily scheduled workout, but wondered if it was really doing anything for my body.  By the third week I started to notice more effectiveness.  The program was incorporating harder workouts, but it was more than that.  I think in the early stages I was just going through the motions to learn the moves.  Once I really had the moves imprinted on my body and the muscle memory kicked in, I could concentrate on them harder.  I was beginning to work deeper into my muscles and even had some soreness.  While I don't love the workouts in general, there are some aspects I enjoy.  The workout called "Sweat" has a segment that is all balancing moves and when I do it I feel very flowy and graceful.  The second phase will incorporate only the most difficult and longest workouts, so we'll see if I still feel the program is ineffective.

I haven't suspended my gym membership for the two months I'm doing PiYo because I assumed I would want to pop into the gym now and then for some time on the cardio machines or to take Zumba classes.  I admit this hasn't happened yet.

No it's on to Phase 2.  What is the plan?

Habit: Eat only until satisfied

Sunday: AM Scheduled Piyo workout, PM riding
Monday: AM Scheduled Piyo workout, PM dance class
Tuesday: Scheduled Piyo workout
Wednesday: Scheduled Piyo workout
Thursday: Scheduled Piyo workout
Friday: Scheduled Piyo workout
Saturday: Riding

This month I really should try to get to the gym and hit the cardio machines or at least do a Zumba or dance Kinect program.

The habit will be tricky with Christmas coming.  I have a party on the 19th and then I'm making Christmas dinner.  I need to buy a lot of gum so I don't sample and nibble too much when cooking.

So what are the results of Month 1?

Weight: 149.4 lbs
Waist: 32.25
Hips: 41.75
Bust: 39
Arm: 13.75
Thigh: 25.25

I lost 2.4 pounds (two pounds a month is pretty typical for me) and I lost a quarter inch in my hips and my waist stayed the same.  I gained a half an inch in my bust and arm and a quarter inch in my thigh.  Visually I don't look any better.

First I have to post a cute little fuzzy bunny photo so the fat photos don't display when I link this on Facebook.

Now for the photos of me....

I'm not giving up.  I did this before and I can do this again. 

It's Okay To Not To Not Feel The Cheer

I see memes like this all the time around the holidays.  These are usually posted by well-meaning liberals who just want everyone to get along.  I understand the sentiment.  "Stop this War on Christmas crap!  Stop being too sensitive if it's not your holiday.  Can't you just take it when someone wishes you well?"

Here is my take on it.  We can all just get along fine, but being forced to feel the love whenever you receive a holiday greeting is not required to get along.

Every year around this time of year someone passes around this little bit by Ben Stein, Republican speechwriter, character actor, and the Token Jew of the Religious Right.

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees. 

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a crib, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

So the message is, "Everyone stop being so sensitive when someone says, 'Merry Christmas'.  It's just a cheerful greeting.  Take it as a compliment."  We're supposed to listen to Ben Stein.  He's Jewish, remember?  He's a big, rational intellectual type (never mind that he made a ridiculous "documentary" about poor science teachers being persecuted for teaching nonscientific hypotheses in a science classroom).  Gen-Xers love him.  He's the "Anyone...anyone" guy!"

Once upon a time I would have agreed with him.  I agreed with him adamantly.  Who cares what someone says to you as a greeting during the holidays.  You're just wishing someone well.  Are we supposed to say, "Have a rotten day because you don't celebrate Christmas?"

Then one day everything changed.  It changed when I found myself on the other side.  If you don't feel like reading that entire blog post, I'll quickly recap it.  I have never once said to anyone that I was Jewish.  I have never told anyone I know that I celebrate Hanukkah.  I have never once given any indication to anyone that I am Jewish at all.  Yet people will continue to assume I'm Jewish because my name just sounds Jewish to them.  I have been told that I don't "seem Italian" and yet I'm sure if my name were Gina Mantucci, no one would be assuming I'm Jewish instead of a mutt of Italian and Swiss (that's where the name comes from) extraction.  To cut a long story short, due to these assumptions I received a Hanukkah card from people who have known me for years.  I was by no means insulted.  I was flattered that these friends who had never sent me a holiday card today actually put me on their list.  Nonetheless, it felt weird and awkward.  I don't celebrate Hanukkah and almost never have unless it was because I was invited to someone else's home to celebrate.  I remember thinking at that very moment, This must be how a non-Christian must feel when being told "Merry Christmas".  

Years later when Jewish coworker, who didn't know me very well and probably was making assumptions based on the name, wished me Happy New Year on Rosh Hoshanna.  I knew she meant well, but I almost felt bad accepting the greeting and wishing her Happy New Year in return.

Before the Internet was awash in holiday memes and I could easily look up stories and essays, I read an essay by a Jewish man who was dealing with his feelings of being innundated by Christmas cheer this time of year. Unfortunately, since this was pre-Internet, I don't have a copy of the article to repost here.  The one point the article made was how uncomfortable a non-Christian can feel when being wished a Merry Christmas.  Please note I said uncomfortable and not offended.  There is a difference.  The author of the article stated that being wished a Merry Christmas when you are Jewish is like being wished a happy birthday on someone else's birthday. 

Are any of these viewpoints wrong?  No they aren't.  We are all entitled to feel the way we do at this time of year.  The problem now is that we are being made to feel like we don't have a right to our opinion.  If you say that it makes you uncomfortable to be surrounded by the trappings of a holiday you don't celebrate or by being given a holiday greeting, it is treated as if you are taking offense, and that makes others offended.

It seems that if you aren't all smiles and happiness and Christmas cheer, even the well-meaning liberals are grabbing you by the lapels and screaming, "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST TAKE THE COMPLIMENT?  WE'RE WISHING YOU WELL.  CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND?  STOP BEING SO OFFENDED.  YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.  YOU MUST ACCEPT MY HOLIDAY GREETING."

While I agree that it's silly to take offense (it isn't about you, or offending you), I'm tired of this idea that everyone has to like it.  I'm tired of seeing people who don't celebrate Christmas being told they don't have a right to feel uncomfortable.  Why do we have to invalidate the feelings of someone who feels uncomfortable?  We should all be allowed to feel the way we feel as long as acting on our feeling doesn't hurt anyone.  Unfortunately, if someone were to politely respond to a "Merry Christmas" with, "Thank you, but I don't celebrate Christmas," it would be considered a personal affront and the height of rudeness.  Yet really it's not more rude than saying, "Thank you for wishing me a happy birthday, but my birthday was two months ago." 

Why do we take it so personally, why are we offended, when someone doesn't want to participate in the holiday cheer we are trying to spread?  Just as we may not mean to personally offend someone when we wish him a "Merry Christmas," no one means to offend us back when hearing that greeting makes her uncomfortable.  Nonetheless, having someone not reflect our well wishes has us flying into a rage.

I suppose in the end it's all about power.  Once upon a time, this country was firmly in the grip of Christianity.  Sure there were people practicing other religions, but with Christianity as the majority religion there was an assumption out there that everyone had to either publicly celebrate Christmas, or take their celebrations underground.  It wasn't just a majority religion, but a dominant culture.  Now that secularism is on the rise and non-Christian religions are asking for more recognition and the right to reject Christian culture, it feels like a loss of power.  The "War on Christmas" fear isn't about no longer being able to celebrate Christmas in public.  It's about seeing the culture you were raised in lose its influence in the broader society.  No one's right to celebrate Christmas is being compromised.  However, the right to not celebrate Christmas is being legitimized and that scares some people.  If they lose power in the religious space, where else will they lose their power and influence?

I hope that this season no one ever be made to feel their feelings are invalid or wrong.  We have a right to not participate in holiday cheer.  There is a difference between feeling offended and feeling uncomfortable.  I only ask that if any person dislikes holiday cheer and holiday greetings, he should not be a jerk about it.  One can be gracious and still express his feelings. 

I generally avoid the entire trap by not saying anything to anyone in general.  I don't go around giving people holiday greetings, especially if I don't know if they celebrate a holiday or not and which holiday they celebrate.  If it's not Christmas day, I won't say "Merry Christmas" to someone who hasn't said it to me first. I certainly would never say it to someone whose religion I didn't know or who wasn't directly celebrating Christmas with me.  If you give me a greeting first, I will give you a greeting in return, but in my daily life I don't share holiday greetings with strangers or short acquaintances.

Quite frankly, it seems to me that the War on Christmas brigade are the ones who are the most obnoxious.  It's not the non-Christians who are going around insisting the world bend to some "politically correct" (how I hate that term) standard.  It's the self-righteous Christmas people who demand the world wish them "Merry Christmas" and obnoxiously state that they won't ever say anything else - others' feelings are not important.  I would rather someone not give me a holiday greeting at all than give me a greeting with attitude.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Getting My Fitness Back - Begin Phase 1

I almost titled this post, "Getting My Body Back," but I realized it's not a good post title.

I didn't lose my body.  The body I have spent the last (number deleted) years living in is still here, where it has always been.  I can't even say I want a previous version of my body back.  That is not quite right.  My body is always changing.  I may not be able to make it look the way it did two years ago.  That time is passed.  My body will be what it's going to be.  As I have learned so painfully in the past year, there are going to be times when I have limited control over how I look and feel.

I know these paragraphs have nothing to do with the main subject of this post.  I wanted to say it anyway, because I realize I'm not the only woman who has referred to a change in diet and exercise, hoping to slim down, as "Getting my body back."  In other words, women often feel the body they currently inhabit is somehow not the correct one.  We feel we can and should revert to some earlier version of our bodies - ones that never had an injury, or experienced a pregnancy, or suffered from an eating disorder, or even went through puberty.  We can't do this.  We can only move our bodies forward.  We take care of them the best we can and we concentrate on what we can do to make them stronger and healthier (not necessarily thinner) in the future.  From here on out, I will not talk about getting my body back, but getting my fitness back, and moving my body forward both figuratively and literally.

As many of my previous posts have stated, I never thought it would take this long to recover from everything that happened last year.  I imagined I would be back to the weight room, and back to the barn, and back to the dance and Zumba studios by spring.  I couldn't imagine gaining more than 10 pounds.

That's not how life works.  My body decided how long it was going to take to heal from both the hip surgery and the elbow tendinitis.  At least I can say I am old enough and wise enough to allow that to happen instead of rushing things along and causing further injury.  I used to wonder what it was going to be like on the other side of recovery.  Now I know.  It's not pretty.  It's not close to where I want to be.  I still have to deal with it and do the best I can with what I have.

I also can't blame injury and my body's slowness to heal entirely for the shape I'm in today.  I let myself go.  I had strong eating habits two years ago.  I have become lax in my food choices since then.  I have eaten too much food and made too many unhealthful choices.  Although I rarely admitted it, I saw my period of convalescence as a vacation from good food choices.  I think I believed I could just fix everything once I was able to work out regularly again.  When I first had surgery, my appetite had decreased somewhat because I think my body was wise enough to know it didn't need as much food to function anymore.  I let my love of good food and the desire to keep eating it override that sense of physical satiation.

Although it has been a year since my surgery, I still have twinges in my hip.  I also can't seem to turn that last corner with my elbow.  Still, as I know I am on the mend, I really want to start with more serious exercise and better nutrition habits.  The question was what method I would use to become as strong as I used to be.  What nutrition program did I want to adopt?

My first thought was that I should do another year of Lean Eating.  I was so sure I should do that again, I put myself on the presale list for 2016.  I started to rethink that decision.  My reasoning was that by January I was sure to feel better, so I might as well start my fitness program in the new year.  Then I wondered what would happen if I felt better prior to January.  If I were pain-free in December, would I continue with poor habits in  December, believing I could "fix" it in January?  I had a strong feeling I would do just that.

Also, while LE worked well for me, there were aspects I didn't enjoy.  The program is very self-promotional.  They don't want those professional photo shoots to make you feel better about yourself.  They want slick photos to use for their marketing. They also make it sound as if your coaching group is a small team.  Your coach is working with another 200 women.  It's not as personalized as it seems (although I will give my coach credit for the effort she made).    Let us not forget that main drawback of LE  It's expensive.  Did I want to shell out another $1500?  Getting it back in prize money would be quite a long shot.  They don't issue prizes just for sticking to the program.  They choose finalists who have extraordinary results.  I don't lose weight easily.  I will never have extraordinary results.

I know what Lean Eating entails.  It requires several phases of weight training ranging from 4-6 weeks along with new nutritional habits every two weeks.  I know what the main habits are.  They still hang on my refrigerator.  Many of the same habits are part of The Habit Project, which I did earlier this year.

As for finding the right exercise program, I first considered dusting off my copy of The New Rules of Lifting For Women.  It is a seven-phase weight training program.  I was using it post-LE to make sure I maintained a good training program.  I made it to Phase 6 before I had my surgery.

Unfortunately my elbow, while better, is slow to heal entirely. I wasn't sure is I would be able to grip and lift significant weight.  What if I started now with a light program while my elbow recovers, and then switch to NROLFW when I truly felt able to lift heavy again?   Then I could combine the nutrition habits of the former programs in conjunction with the the new weight programs?

I was channel surfing while on the bike at the gym when I came across this infomercial

PiYo uses no weights (so I don't have to deal with pain from gripping or pulling), is low impact (easy on my bad knee), and is geared toward women (so everything is light with no serious upper body work).  It would also be a major change from what I have been doing for the past 10 months and I think my body needs to be shaken up a bit.  My hope was that by the time I finished the 60 day program, my elbow will be pain free and I will be ready for some serious weight lifting.

I almost want to make fun of myself for for doing something associated with Pilates.  I generally make fun of Pilates as a useless exercise unless you're a true beginner with weight work.  My muscles are probably in the beginner stage right now, so maybe it's not so useless.  Besides, there is no longer a patent on the term Pilates.  Anyone can call anything Pilates these days.  PiYo didn't look like your typical, boring, lie-on-your-back-and-circle-your-legs-in-the-air-and-consider-it-magical kind of Pilates class.

I had a good plan together, but I realized that it lacks the one thing the LE (and Weight Watchers and every other pay-to-lose diet program) offers - accountability.  When I was on LE, I had to give weekly weights and measurements, quarterly bodyfat checks, daily habit and workout check-ins, and monthly photos.  I had someone to answer to.  If I failed to keep up, my coach would check in with me.  Paying the money for the program, knowing that I wouldn't receive a refund just for deciding I didn't want to do it anymore, gave me the motivation as well.  I didn't want to throw money out the window (plus I had the chance to win prize money).

In the end, I decided I still don't want to pay.  I will do this on my own.  I have spent enough years trying to get in better shape that I have the tools to do what needs to be done.  I just need to do it.

So my plan is that I will be accountable to this blog.  I will record stats here.  I will trust that there are some people out there reading it.  If I don't keep up with my program, anyone who reads this blog will know I failed  I want people to cheer me on, not be let down (or experience schadenfreude at my failure).  If I believe I'm being watched, I'll be motivated to keep up.

The PiYo program is 60 days long.  I will report in at the end of the first 30 days.  I will do a nutrition habit for 30 days.  Once I finish that workout I will move on to The NROLFW (if I am able).  It is split into 7 phases that are 4-6 weeks long.  For each phase, I will do one or two nutrition habits.  For example, the first phase is 6 weeks, so I will do one nutrition habit the first 3 weeks and the second for the next 3 weeks.  For a 4-week habit, I will do a nutrition habit for 2 weeks, unless I feel it needs more attention, so I will do that habit for the full 4 weeks.

My check in will consist of weight, measurements and photos that I will post on the blog.  Weekly is too much blogging and too much measuring. I will periodically dust off the calipers and take bodyfat measurements (as long as I can find the mind-bending and  baroque calculation methodology)  I want this to be about how well I do the work, not just about the numbers.  On a daily basis I will track for myself if I did the habit.  I will post my success percentage on the blog post as well.

Here is my plan going forward.  With the extra weeks in this phase I am giving more time to what Lean Eating calls "anchor habits".  These are the ones that help you focus in on how you eat rather than what you eat.  They are what creates built-in portion control.

Phase 1

Nutrition habit 1 (first 30 days) - Eat slowly

Exercise Plan:  Piyo workouts according to the programs calendar.  The Piyo schedule has your starting on a Monday and makes Friday a day off.   I will be starting on a Sunday and making Saturday my day off (I will still be riding that day).  My rotation of workouts will be exactly what is prescribed on the PiYo calendar.  I will still be riding on Sunday as well as Saturday and dancing on Monday.  I will be taking these next two months off from working at the gym, but I will get some workout variety in from riding and dance.

So here comes the part that's toughest to record - the stats.  Where am I starting?  What do I look like?

Weight: 151.8 (YIKES!  I've never been this heavy before)
Waist: 32.25
Hips: 42
Thigh: 25
Arm: 13.25
Bust: 38.5
Bodyfat:65% *

How do I look?  Not too good at the moment.  Let's see how I look a month from now.

See you in a month!

*Accounting for caliper margin of error.  I may be was overestimating or underestimating skinfolds and readings, but the point is to see if I can make this number go down.