Two Steps Forward, One Step Back…

At least this leaves me here with a gain of one!

At the beginning of September I began a journey to change my lifestyle to a healthier, more active one. And overall, things are going very well. I am definitely moving in the right direction. But it has also been an incredible learning experience. Mostly, learning about myself.

I would never consider myself an “emotional” eater, but over the past month or so I’ve found that isn’t actually true. I am somewhat of an emotional eater. I don’t binge or go off the deep end with junk food. What I do is get lazy when I am down. I eat maybe one total meal a day. I never eat a complete, balanced meal. And I end up perpetuating feeling like crap.

In October I finally had to say goodbye to Sadie. I thought I was doing OK with it…I mean, I miss her terribly and her passing has definitely left a giant hole in our household, but overall I was holding it together. That is, I thought so until I took a hard look at what was happening. I was going to bed around 8pm; on weekends I was sleeping in until 9am or later; I drank coffee and would maybe have a banana or an apple; for dinner I’d have a salad, or maybe cereal, or cheese and crackers. I only managed about three workouts a week. I felt (still feel) like absolute garbage.

It has been good to learn this about myself, that I fall back into these terrible, low cycles. As a result, I am trying (emphasis on the trying) to use resources available to me to keep me going and try to avoid falling into these pits, or at least to get help climbing back out faster than I have in the past. Yes, I do realize what I am describing are very typical depression symptoms. And no, they aren’t new to me, I’ve just never paid much attention before now. And no, I am not going to go see a doctor (at least not so long as I am still self-sustaining and functional in everyday life). The best part is that in addition to recognizing all of this, I have also had enough time with my new lifestyle choices to see how much they help when I get like this. And now I can also be more aware of things that might trigger the downward spiral.

So, after a month of wallowing in my dark place, I am determined to end the year strong. Getting back on the trail and continuing my journey. There is no real end goal, just to trying to live each day a little better than the one before. Improve myself mentally as well as physically so I can enjoy the prime of my life to the fullest.

I am nearly back to square one with my weight, but I suspect that will be a relatively quick fix as it looks like I’ve kept off the inches, despite my falling back into terrible eating habits. With that, it’s time to say goodbye to November and welcome in a most spectacular December!

A Confession & Wins

I have a confession to make: the day before yesterday is the first time I’ve “voluntarily” worn a bra in years. I’m not even sure why I put it on. I work from home, my yard is secluded…I’m rarely ever in a situation (unless I’m headed out to the store) where I’d been seen. But my reason for not wearing one isn’t the generic “I hate them, they’re uncomfortable”. It’s because I haven’t properly fit in mine after gaining a bunch of weight. So sure, technically it was uncomfortable and I hated it, but what I really hated was that I had gained all that weight and I refused to spend a bunch of money on new ones. (Those suckers are expensive and even more so for us busty gals!) When my bras fit, they are incredibly comfortable and I do like them.

So back to the other day. No idea what prompted me to grab one from the drawer and put it on after my shower, but I’m glad I did. The darn thing fits again!!! In fact, it fits better than it did the day I bought it! Definitely what my friend and coach calls a NSV (non-scale victory).

Speaking of scales, there’s a win there, too. I’m down ten (plus) pounds! The great thing about this journey is that the weight isn’t just falling off. It’s coming off slowly, methodically (though I AM losing inches left and right which is awesome). It is sustainable! I know I’ve said that a lot lately, but this is huge for me. Finally something I can use forever. I don’t have to transition out or learn yet more new eating habits. This is it. Me. My life. My schedule.

I rewarded myself with some new shoes – Puma Cell Riaze Mesh running shoes. I dig the minimal soles on the front of the shoe. I like being able to “feel” the floor when I am doing weights and resistance exercises. I’m not a runner so I cannot speak to how they perform there, but they are perfect for my use. I may need to pick up a second pair.

21 Day Fix: Lessons Learned from a Beginner

I’ve joined a new 21 Day Fix challenge group that starts tomorrow (the “official” 21 days starts on Monday, Oct 5th with four days to prep). If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll connect you with one of the coaches leading the challenge!

With that, I thought I’d put together some lessons learned and lessons remembered from times past (when I was much more fit) that I would have liked to have known going into my first try with this program:

  • You CAN do this! I am a 110% bonnafied couch potato. Even when I’m fit I’d rather sit and read a book or lounge on the patio with a beer than do pretty much anything. Especially *gasp* workout. That said, I am LOVING this program and actually look forward to my daily sweat sessions. And you will be amazed at how quickly you progress. However, also be patient. You will progress quickly, but it may not be in areas you expect or can see. That’s OK! Progress is progress and you are building the foundation for those visible, tangible changes.
  • Is is absolutely OK to modify! I modified the heck out of the modifications my first go around and still do for some of the moves even five weeks in. However, other moves I can now not only do “properly” but with the heavy weights! (I use 3, 5, and 10 lb weights…I strongly recommend getting a set of 8lb to bridge the 5 to 10 gap if you’re able.)
  • Stay hydrated! And I mean follow the eating plan which includes water intake. It may not seem like it matters, but it does. You’ll see what I mean on those days where it just doesn’t happen that you get in all that water. Also, following the eating plan is NOT a “diet”. It is a new view on balanced meals and portion control using real, unprocessed foods. You can use this “plan” forever. My goal is to eventually find a happy balance of including more cheese and beer in my weeks, but that’s after I see more progress toward my current weight-loss goals. I strongly recommend planning each week out over the weekend (or whenever your non-work/free days are). I only cook for one so it is a little easier to plan on the fly and even with that, I still plan on Saturday and shop on Sunday.

All that said, I’d also like to throw in some “technical” pointers:

  • Don’t grip the weights too tight. While obviously you want a firm grip, of you find yourself in a death-grip on them you will wear yourself out fast and potentially put a lot of unnecessary strain on your hands, wrists, and forearms. I learned this from a past personal trainer and “re-learned” it my first week of the 21DF program. Heh.
  • Do NOT let your knees go past your toes when doing lunges or squats. Autumn will mention this during some of the workouts, but I think it’s important to note this ahead of time. Hyperextending your knees puts undue strain on them and can quickly lead to injury.
  • Keep a tiny bend in your knees and elbows (don’t “lock” your joints). Autumn also mentions this at some point in one or two of the sessions, but I think it is better to know up front. Not only does locking your joints run the risk of injury, you also aren’t fully engaging all the muscles and thus aren’t getting the most of your move. Along this same line, control your moves. Don’t swing or kick out, but make your moves purposeful. This also increases the benefits of the move and reduces injury risk.
  • Above all else, listen to your body! There is “holy moly I’m sore because I haven’t used these muscles in over a decade” and there’s “oh wow that ankle REALLY hurts and looks a little swollen”. If you have former (or current) injuries, take care of them. I currently do the Total Body Fix twice a week, substituting it for the Cardio Fix. I do this because the Cardio Fix simply has too many high plank moves that I can’t do due to a former wrist injury (I also have to do alternate exercises during the push-ups on the Upper Fix day). They key here, though, is to keep moving. Find a move or workout that is (somewhat) similar and keep going! (Some high plank moves I can modify and do from my forearms.)
  • Stretch!!! Sore muscles like to be moved…gently. My advice here (in addition to my friends The Hot Bath, Ice, and Advil) is two-fold: first, use the cooldown moves from the end of each of the big workouts either in the morning or in the evening each day (or both!). Stretching is your friend for keeping things loose and also general limberness. Second, keep moving throughout the day. Try not to sit too long at any given time if at all possible. As an example from a bonnafied couch potato – I’m stuck at a desk on conference calls 8-10 hours per day, so I try to use my speaker phone so I can stand and/or walk around a bit and it makes a world of difference.

There you have it. Everything I would have like to have known or be reminded of prior to starting my first round of 21 Day Fix. My last bit of advice would be to spend a little time to watch the workouts without participating. So much easier than trying to figure out what’s coming next the first time through.

I hope I can get some folks interested. I’ve never been one to join the “trendy” workouts or the newest and latest “diets”, and was incredibly skeptical of this until I heard how successful folks who I know and trust have been with it. I decided to give it a shot and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I truly believe you won’t be sorry if you also give it a whirl!

30 Minutes – Every. Single. Day.

This week marks four straight weeks that I have worked out a minimum of 30 minutes each day.

Let me repeat one more time:  Every. Single. Day. Seven days per week.

I didn’t exercise that often when I was at my fittest. I have NEVER worked out this consistently. And I feel awesome. I seriously feel like Super Woman!

Over the past week I’ve added to the routine – in addition to following the 21DF schedule, Mon/Wed/Fri I added in the 10-min Ab workout that comes with the program. Tues/Thurs/Sat I added 30 minutes of rowing. Sundays are the Yoga workout only (rest day).

Food continues to be a work in progress…mostly going well with some crazy work days that have me back to eating one big meal at the end of the day. (Only twice this week, though!)

All in all, I am ecstatic at how this is going. It is doable. Enjoyable. I’m seeing (and feeling) fantastic results. I have more energy. I feel happier. Even the insanity at work, while it makes me nuts during the day, isn’t stressing me out. I’m able to leave it “at work” when I shut down at 5pm. I have cheekbones again! I still have a bit of a double chin, but in a few weeks that will be gone too.

I am starting to feel like ME again! I don’t want to be a swimsuit model or look like some super bodybuilder. I just want to get back the energy and drive I had a decade ago. I want to be able to walk into Target and grab some pants or shorts or shirts or dresses right off the rack and have something fit that doesn’t look like my grandmother’s old curtains (sorry grandma) and that I didn’t have to desperately search for on that one rack tucked I into the far back of the department next to the maternity clothes.

I am well on my way with this journey and the timing couldn’t be better…this weekend I will be tearing carpet out of most of my house, painting, packing unnecessary stuff, and hauling things to Goodwill. Getting so close to having this place on the market. And then the Big Move! Market and weather permitting, I hope to be back in the Pac NW by the new year. As this past month has proven to me – ANYTHING is possible!

21 Day Fix: Round 1 (-3.9 pounds, -7 inches)

The program suggests writing down your reasons for wanting to make a lifestyle/health/fitness change. My reason, aside from my overall health (which to date doesn’t seem to be much of a motivator, just something that bounces around in my head), are my nieces and nephew. I need the energy and fitness to keep up with them. I need my health so I am around to witness all their amazing life milestones. And I want to be another good example for them (I’m the ONLY unfit, overweight person in our family).

Back in August I picked up the 21 Day Fix program after hearing great things about it from several friends I trust. I dove right into the eating plan (portion control and “real” foods are the primary focus), but I never really got going with the workouts. Then a friend put together a “challenge” group on Facebook. It’s all about support, encouragement, and the real biggy….accountability. I did it! Successfully even. So here are my thoughts and lessons learned.

First, the program as a whole:

The premise is that it takes 21 days to learn a new habit (better fitness/better eating). I love it. The eating plan isn’t a “diet”. It focuses solely on portion control and types of foods and also helps show you how to spread it out over the course of a day. The idea being that these foods and this plan isn’t something to wean off of or change at the end of the program…it is a lifestyle change to stick with forever. For me, the types of food were easy. I already eat healthful, real foods. It was the balance and portion control I needed to work on (less cheese and spread it out through the day, not all at dinner time).

The workouts are tough, but scalable. 30 minutes, every day (seven days per week). Me being a 110% couch potato could muddle my way through each one, adjusting and modifying as I needed to to accommodate my ability level and some old injuries I need to take care around. And as I got (and continue to get) stronger, I can increase the intensity. Hand weights or resistance bands are the only required equipment. Even I can find 30 minutes in a day, and I’m the Queen of Excuses!

My Round One Results:

Back in August I weighed in at 215.4 lbs and just following the eating plan (which, by the way was MORE food than I had been eating) I lost five pounds. I’d also like to note that while that weight makes me sick to look at, it isn’t the heaviest I’ve been, but seems to be about where I’ve stabilized at for many years now.

The official results for the full 21 day challenge program (starting Aug 31): -3.9 pounds and -7 inches!!!

210.4 to 206.5 lbs, -2 inches in my chest, -4 inches in my waist!!, -1 inch across my hips, and -0.5 inches from my thighs. No measurable change in my arms, but I can SEE and feel the muscles building there.

Lessons Learned:

  • I am stronger than I think I am. Both physically and mentally.
  • I am grateful for my genes and my inherited flexibility…even though I’ve got more to go, I started from a lucky place.
  • I really do need to be careful of a couple old injuries (wrist and ankle), and it is OK if I can’t do all the moves (full planks and push-ups, or moves based from that position, probably won’t ever work for me)…it is OK to find other moves that work!
  • I love rowing – I will be forever grateful to the trainer I went to many years ago who introduced me to rowing.
  • I am worth the effort!
  • I miss cheese and beer…after more progress is made, these will be worked back in in greater quantities! Life is too short to completely give up indulgences you love…within reason.

I feel amazing!!! I still have a long way to go…50 pounds (give or take – I’m not set on an actual “goal” number, but set one as a general target to give me something specific to aim for). I owe a lot of my success to the fabulous women in the challenge group. No judgment. We all had our struggles. And we are all successes.

The next challenge group starts Oct 5th and you can bet I’ll be participating! It’s time to step it up a notch. I’ll be adding 30min of rowing three days a week and three days will include the 10min Abs workout that comes with the 21DF program. I will be working these changes in between now and the 5th…no losing momentum and undoing progress now! I’ll be checking back in toward the end of October with (hopefully) more good results.

I grabbed my foot!!!

For the first time ever I was able to grab my foot with both hands while doing standing quad stretches. Pull your foot up towards your butt to stretch out the quad – typically grabbing it with the hand on the same side. Once your foot is up near your tush try reaching behind you and grabbing it with your other hand as well. And I was able to do it on both sides without any problems!

Until today I couldn’t even touch my foot with my other hand let alone grab ahold of it. I am pretty excited. I also did fairly awesome planks (on my elbows and toes) for 30 seconds at a time.

I also totally rocked the rowing machine. It was a good morning and I know I am going to feel it tomorrow.

Food Stuff

Recently I have seen lots of random postings and articles about food, eating, dieting…you name it. I overhear conversations about diets folks are on. My trainer even gives me random tid-bits of advice about nutrition. All of it has made me once again take a look at my views on food and nutrition. My journey is an adventure to get healthy. In the process I expect to lose some weight (a lot of weight, actually) and get much, much more fit than I am. But neither of those things is my end goal. My end goal is to feel good and some crazy diet isn’t going to do that for me. So here’s my take on food:

Buy Local: I don’t take this to any extremes, but I do have a small garden. I shop at the local farmer’s market, and I try to buy foods that come from my state/region if not from right down the road. Does this mean I never buy exotic fruits or veggies that don’t grow around here? Heck no! Some of that stuff is mighty, mighty tasty and I want it.

Organic: Let me be clear – I do not think organic foods are more nutritious than traditionally grown foods (this seems to be the basis for many arguments around organic foods which makes absolutely no sense to me). That being said, I try to buy organic foods when possible to avoid ingesting any more chemicals than I already do. With meats and eggs I try to buy free range and grass-fed. This is where the local farmer’s market comes into play – you can talk to the people who raise the food. Find out what their practices are. Just because they are not certified organic does not mean that they don’t have the same or higher standards. Getting certified is expensive and a general pain and many smaller farms simply can’t or don’t want to go through the process.

Eat Real Food: I have heard variations on this in “diet” form that go to some extremes (paleo diets, eating “clean”, biblical diets, etc.). The gist of all of them, though, is to eat real, whole foods and remove processed “fake” foods. The second part to this is don’t kill your food cooking it. Overcooked food loses nutritional value not to mention it just tastes yucky. I try to avoid fried foods. Again, am I always very good at it? I live in the South…eating fried foods is nearly unavoidable, but I try to keep it to a very bare minimum. (I mean seriously, have you ever had a deep-fried Twinkie??? Nutritional value: zero. Taste value: off the charts!)

General Nutrition: I eat red meat. And I don’t just eat it, I love it! But I also eat a lot of fish and chicken and occasionally pork. With all my meats I try to eat lean cuts and trim almost all the excess fat from them. A note about fish (specifically salmon): I will only eat wild-caught Alaskan/pacific salmon. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list’s best choice items are a good, easy way to find sustainable fish and seafood with healthy populations. I also eat a lot of vegetables. I am even growing some of my own this year (squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, several herbs, and I am trying a watermelon and a cantaloupe). I need to cut back on the amount of butter I use. I drink regular old cow milk (organic, but if I could get it, I would drink raw milk without a doubt!). I try to avoid refined sugars and flours. I eat cheese. I drink boat-loads of water.

Moderation: This is key. Every diet on the face of the planet (and I mean “diet” as in the crazy plans people come up with to shed pounds) relies on cutting calories. If you’re already eating real foods and not fast foods or pre-packaged processed stuff, etc. then it all comes down to portion size. Limit your fats and sugars, up your quantities of veggies, and make sure you get enough protein.

Exercise: Food alone will not make you healthy. You’ve gotta move. And I don’t mean any sort of hard-core regimen. Just move. Walk the dogs. Mow the lawn with a push mower. Go play in the park with the kids. Take your significant other out on a hike. But be and stay active.

So there you have it. I don’t have any goals to win body-building championships or medals for finishing first in a marathon. I don’t need (or want) to look like a runway model or some Hollywood superstar. I don’t want to eat just protein shakes or cabbage soup or some other limiting, boring and unsustainable diet only to gain all the pounds back as soon as I return to eating normally. I just want to be healthy and feel good and maybe live a year or two longer because I worked at it a bit.