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!

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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.

One last thought about food…for now

Read the Label: This always seems like common sense to me, but I realize that I am not always that good about doing this. If you don’t already read labels on packaged foods you might be surprised at what gets crammed into the most innocuous of items. That can of green beans might not be just beans. Most pre-packaged foods need to be preserved for longer shelf-life. That usually means lots of additives, sometimes chemical, sometimes natural, almost always with insane amounts of salt. And then there is the other random garbage that I struggle to understand why the makers thought it belonged in that particular package. Case in point: take a look at what is in those flavored coffee creamers in the grocer’s cooler (or better yet, at what is in the “original” non-flavored ones). And now you know why I stick to plain old organic half and half to put in my morning caffeine fix. I’d rather intake a little more fat from a natural source than drink all the garbage in those creamers just to cut a few fat calories…and with the added sugar in those creamers, I probably still come out ahead with the half and half. Hmmm…now I am going to have to go test that theory. And if I am realllllllly trying to be good and cut the fat, then I use non-fat organic milk.

Ice cream. That’s another one that sneaks in all kinds of crazy stuff. Whatever happened to just freezing some milk, sugar, cream and flavors? Maybe include eggs of it is custard based. Thank goodness Haagen-Dazs has come out with a line called ‘Five‘ – just five ingredients. You don’t get all the crazy fancy flavors, but it is pretty darn good for store-bought ice cream.

And bread…since when does bread need so many ingredients? Call me old-fashioned, but I love me some basic crusty, yeasty bread.

Juices! Check those labels for sure. Especially anything that indicates it is “flavored”. While I don’t prefer juice that comes from concentrate, I am OK with that. It is the ones that only end up having a small amount of real juice in the beverage and then a ton of other stuff.

At any rate, there are some pretty decent pre-packaged food options out there for people like me who have a life where it isn’t always feasible to keep fresh foods on-hand. You just have to read a lot of labels to find them. My goal with pre-packaged foods is to be able to pronounce the majority of the items on the label and understand (at a very high level) what all the items are.

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.

Another day…

208.6!!

Whew. Less than ten pounds left before I am rid of that nasty “two” at the front of that number. I am pretty stoked!

The garden is growing full speed ahead. I’ve already eaten several home-grown squash and will have my first cucumber tonight! The tomatoes have a billion green ones on them, but I think they also have blight which seems to be killing the new buds/flowers on one of the plants. I am going to go to the garden center tonight and look for some calcium rich something or other to put around them to see if it helps. Also, I’m removing all the affected parts and throwing them away so I don’t spread it. I will be super bummed if it affects the tomato fruit and rots them too (it sometimes causes blossom end rot).

Work is also going full speed ahead. We have made a few offers to folks to fill our open positions and hope to have everyone hired and on-board starting the second week in July. Between now and then is a ton of work to do. The best part, though, is no travel until at least mid-July! Almost four weeks straight at home…I won’t know what to do with myself.

Actually, I do know what to do with myself. I will get myself on a regular weekly gym schedule! I still see my trainer once a week, I even rescheduled this week to meet with her today because I was out-of-town Monday and Tuesday. (Yes, I am very proud of myself!) I plan to do more strength stuff at home and then will make a point of getting to the gym at least three days per week for cardio workouts. I am determined to defeat the elliptical…my nemesis. I am also very fond of the rowing machine and the recumbent bike.

Other than that, nothing new to report. Life is busy. Animals are all healthy (OP has fur balls, but it is that time of year). And I think I am going to pick up some Copper River salmon for dinner tonight. Things are alright.

I feel good!

Sore, but good. I lasted a whole five-and-a-half minutes on the elliptical machine today. What is even more impressive is that I didn’t feel like passing out, falling over from jello legs, or like throwing up when I was done. That’s some serious progress for me.

After that five-plus minutes of hell we moved onto legs, core, and shoulder work.

The garden is growing fast and I’ve already started harvesting some squash and herbs, so that has made preparing dinner more fun (and healthy)! I even got to use my kaffir lime tree leaves in some chicken curry I made the other night (I also used my first zucchini in that dish). Tonight I am trying out a yellow zucchini from my neighbor’s garden. It is not a summer squash, but an actual, yellow zucchini. I’ve never heard of them before so we shall see what it tastes like.

Just two more weeks of travel to finish up my old job responsibilities and then moving on to the new ones. There will be some travel in July and August for training – even so, it will be nice to have a different destination activity for those trips and not the same old thing I’ve done the past seven or so years. In the meantime we have done some marathon interviewing of new candidates for our team and I think have found some strong ones. Fingers crossed that the next level of interviews goes well for them.

My niece turns one on Saturday! I can’t believe it has already been a year and I am really looking forward to seeing her and my nephew in August.

That’s all for now…time to get back to the required online training I have to take now that I am officially a “manager”. *sigh*