Weighty Matters

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Laboring Weekend

I’m about to go soak my weary body in a warm bathtub. Not that I need the justification, but I earned the relaxation and my muscles will appreciate the treatment. I definitely put the labor in Labor Day Weekend today.  It began with Tai Chi class for about 90 minutes this morning. I then made a circuit through town to do errands. Here’s my list:

  • Drive to veterinarian’s office to pick up the heartworm preventive treatment for Nat & Pxyi
  • Get gas and fill car tires with air
  • At little neighborhood hardware store pick up new trash can, new recycling bin, picture hangers and those little felt things you put on the bottom of chair legs
  • Stop at the post office
  • Go to pet store and tote out big bag of food, also for Nat & Pyxi
  • Since it was right next door, run into florist and pick up half a dozen sunflowers just because I wanted them
  • Go to health food store and check out coconut palm sugar (Ever since I found out that most stevia products still have junky stuff in them, I’ve been on a quest for a lower calorie but more natural sweetener for my tea. A friend suggested coconut palm sugar at 10 calories a teaspoon.  Will let you know if I like it after I try it.)
  • Realizing I was hungry, I had lunch at the health food store — a salad of zucchini, beets, carrots and cabbage, spiral cut so that the veggies looked like spaghetti, served with warm quinoa. Delicious and I brought half of it home to eat tomorrow
  • Go to Home Depot’s garden section to get new herbs and flowering plants

That was all by 1 o’clock!  Once I got home and unloaded everything, I got to work on removing the old/straggly/dead plants from my various planters and replacing them with the new items.  I love the instant satisfaction of seeing new, pretty flowers and greenery!

I moved inside to do some work.  The construction work on my dining room and living room is complete! (Except for a few touch-ups that will be completed next week.  I have a short punch list for my contractor.)   I at least got the floors “broom clean” today and can do more tomorrow.   It’s also important that I move some stuff that I was storing in the guest bedroom out of that room because a friend is coming to visit at the end of next week.  So that was more of my labor today.

With that complete, I took a little break during which I debated with myself about whether I’d done enough physical activity with my chores and Tai Chi to qualify as exercise.  Thankfully, my higher minded self won the debate.  I turned on the DVD player and did the entire 30 minute routine that was scheduled for the day and then took Nat & Pyxi for a walk.

But I still wasn’t done!

After dinner (Leftovers from last night. I’d made balsamic glazed brussel sprouts and grilled skirt steak.  The meal was even yummier tonight.) I put together the last two new dining room chairs that I bought.  When that task was complete and the chairs were arranged around the new table, I decided that I’d done enough for one day.   I flopped into my chair and watched the rest of the Phillies game.

I’m whipped, but also feel terrific for having accomplished so much.  I feel even better that I actually can accomplish so much in a single day.  The fact that I’m tired and my muscles feel the effects of the work has nothing to do with obesity.  I think anyone on the planet would feel the same after such a busy, filled day.  More than the tiredness, I feel grateful for the energy and endurance that helped me achieve the day’s chores.

Better yet, I know the same energy and endurance will be with me tomorrow when I finish putting my guest room to rights, clean the swimming pool, and hang some art.  Labor ensues!

How are you spending the three day weekend?



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Portions and Balance

I can’t find the post from more than a year ago, but I remember talking about how much I loathe weighing and measuring my food. In my recent rejuvenated quest, I became willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to break through the stall and start losing weight again. As it happens, I chose a program that requires me to sort of measure what I’m going to eat.

I say sort of because there isn’t a fully written plan that specifies things like, “Eat 4 oz of lean protein, 1 cup of green beans, a quarter cup of whatever.” Instead, the plan came with brightly colored square containers in various sizes. The green container is for vegetable portions; purple for fruit; red for protein; yellow for starches; blue for some nuts and similar things; orange for certain seeds. The program provides a mathematical formula to figure out a target calorie range, depending on current weight. Then, depending on the range, it specifies how many portions of each classification of food one should eat. If you can cram it into the container and still snap on the lid, you can eat it.

In my case, I went with the lowest calorie range — 1200-1499 a day — since I know that’s sort of where my doctor wants me to hit and it’s akin to what I was eating, knowing that with exercise I’d net less. Since I don’t really have to look at measuring cups or spoons (except for oils) and I don’t have to weigh any foods, I don’t feel like I’m measuring.

I take my food to work with me in plastic containers anyway. That’s what I’m doing with these colored containers, but with the added benefit of automatic portion-size control. I don’t pack the containers full either, since I can’t handle that much food.

Where this colored-container program has really helped is in the area of seeing balance in my daily food intake. I thought I was balanced, but now can tell that I wasn’t to the degree that I should. For example, we hear a lot about a healthy diet including five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Left to my own devices with that broad a description, I would be happy eating three fruits and two veggies — which means I take in more sugar, even natural sugar, then I probably should. This plan breaks it out into three veggies and two fruits, so by following it, I achieve a better balance.

After weight loss surgery, the emphasis was on many grams of protein a day. Protein was supposed to be the leading role in the program. I did that so well for so long. Somewhere along the line, I started to deviate a little. Instead of a quality, more dense protein snack in the mid-morning, I’d eat nuts, for example. Whatever happened, I realized this week that on most days I don’t eat the amount of protein that I should, or that my body needs. So, this week I made sure that my mid-morning snack included protein. I think this has already fostered some small improvement in my metabolism. Plus it must help my body recover and my muscles work and strengthen with the workouts. I still have trouble getting in four servings of protein, but I’m definitely a solid three every day.

I absolutely know that for a while I was eating too many empty carbs like breads or crackers. I really dropped those this week. I can have two servings, but it’s hard for me to incorporate them if I’m eating the veggies, fruits and proteins. At best I had some for taste but didn’t pack in a full size portion.

Lest you think I’m starving myself, trust me. I’m not. I make up most of the shortfall by spreading out my food intake over six meals. I know that while I’m in losing phase, my doctor’s okay with me eating 1000 calories a day. I find because I’m eating everything in balance, I physically feel really good. Better than I have in a while, and my system isn’t sluggish.

I’m also making a concentrated effort to up my hydration. I’m drinking plenty of water, but a few cups of green tea or a tasty detox tea.

So, this week, the attention I’ve paid to portions and balance, coupled with the 30 minutes of strong exercise every day (plus my daily Tai Chi and dog walks), paid off. As I edited to add in the post this morning, I lost 9 pounds in the week since I started this program. Some of it was flushing out “water weight”, but the rest sure wasn’t. I credit adhering to the program, eating clean, and working out.

It feels terrific and I’m looking forward to continuing next week.

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Booyah is my word of the day. Actually, it’s my word on a lot of days. My assistant at work and I use it a lot to indicate a victory, the completion of a particular accomplishment, or when we’ve had an opportunity to be a little “in-your-face-take-that” in a somewhat metaphorical way to some opponents.

Tonight, I feel all of those things. Tomorrow it will be a full week that I’ve been on this new program. I can already tell that I’ve lost weight. That’s a victory over the stall I’ve experienced and an accomplishment. No matter what, every single one of us should remember that every successful day on a program – whatever that program happens to be – is an accomplishment. I’ve had a string of great days in a row, so Booyah!

Booyah to my eating disorder, too. That’s the “in-your-face” part of my feeling. My eating disorder sometimes acts like an ever-criticizing voice in my head. When I struggle, it says rotten things to me about how I’m screwing up, how I can’t stick to a program, how I’m doomed to regain all of my weight, how I’m weak-willed. Blahblahblahyousuckandshouldadmititblahblahblah. Well, eating disorder, you can take your critical, demeaning attitude and stuff it. I’ve had a great week, despite your effort to sabotage or undermine me so, Booyah!

Every day I stuck to the food plan and did the scheduled exercise routines. These were not easy. I’ve been sore most of the week which tells me I’ve worked muscles that needed the extra effort. I’ve also kept up with twice daily dog walks and daily Tai Chi. Today’s routine involved Pilates. I have zero experience with Pilates but I did the entire routine. I hope that my abs will thank me when they finish cussing me out. In keeping with my experiment to do some of the routines in the evening, I worked out a while after dinner and the evening dog walk. That’s probably why right now I feel particularly strong.

For so many years my body just felt beaten down, tired, and old beyond my actual age. To feel this strong and capable is more than a physical boost. It’s truly an emotional high. I love it!

I’m taking the positive energy experienced this week and bridging it into the next week of effort. I can build this into real momentum and keep chugging toward my goal.

Say it with me now, friends, “Booyah!”

**********Quick Edit************
I weighed in this morning (Friday) since I started the new program last Friday. I’m down 9 pounds! Yes, I know some is the water weight bloat but that’s still significant. So, again I say Booyah! Have a great day!


Ease of Motion

I signed up for another 5K Walk today. This one is a fundraiser — Making Strides Against Breast Cancer — organized by the American Cancer Society in communities around the country. Co-workers and I are forming a team to walk together.

Right now a friend of mine is battling breast cancer. Another dear friend is a 17 year cancer survivor. I’m walking in their honor.

I absolutely love that the thought of walking five kilometers holds no intimidation and creates no trepidation in me. I’m holding onto that thought even though I spent the day periodically feeling complaints from the muscles in my abs and legs. I’m sticking with my determination to do these daily exercise routines and trying to remember that the soreness means that the muscles are being worked. The effort I put out ultimately will strengthen my body.

So what if every once in a while I need to break down and take an over-the-counter pain reliever to quiet the complaints? This is a far cry from the days when I came home from work and swallowed 800 mgs of Motrin every night because just the daily exertion of living my life resulted in significant pain and throbbing joints.

By comparison, this 5K will really be like a walk in the park.


Incredibly Unflattering Progress Photos

Changing the time when I workout from early morning to after work proved to be a good thing today. For one, I was happy to have an extra half an hour of sleep and still got in a 15 minute walk with Nat and Pyxi. I also got together with the three other co-workers that also practice Tai Chi. We did a set at work at lunchtime.

When I got home from work, I put on my workout clothes and started the DVD with today’s routine which concentrated on the upper body. When I finished, I put together a healthy and tasty meal, using those colored containers for my portions. (Spaghetti squash with crushed fire roasted tomatoes and skim-milk ricotta cheese. Delish!) After taking the dogs out for an evening walk, I settled into the recliner with a cup of hot tea and relaxed. As I hoped, I’ve had no desire to compulsively eat. I know my mindset has something to do with it, but that was greatly assisted by the fact that I’d spent 30 minutes sweating and exerting myself. When one has just done numerous circle crunches and then some crossing twisty crunches, one does not want to pig out and eliminate the benefits gained.

That move wasn’t actually called crossing twisty crunch, but I can’t remember what they were called. They involved lying on my back crunching so that my left elbow went toward my right leg, right elbow to left leg. You get the picture. I will admit that I couldn’t do the full version with required keeping one leg straight in the air with the other out in front, elevated a few inches off of the ground. Still, I worked those abs by trying to make my elbow meet my bent and lifted knee.

Feeling like I accomplished good things for myself while also feeling strong and committed, I decided to go ahead and take some “before” pictures, as urged by the program creator. I’ve taken “before” pictures before, but never while wearing only my workout bra and shorts, leaving upper arms and midriff exposed. Shooting them at arm’s length with my iPhone didn’t help. Warning. These are spectacularly unflattering photographs. I caution you that once viewed, some things cannot be unseen.

Remember — you were warned!

Is it my imagination or is there the beginnings of some ab delineation beneath the remaining  flab?

Is it my imagination or is there the beginnings of some ab delineation beneath the remaining flab?

So why, I hear you ask, would I publicly post ick photos of myself? I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m comfortable sharing all of this stuff — good and bad — with you. It’s part of my process and my recovery.

When I look at the pictures, I realize they aren’t quite as horrible as I make them out to be. Yep, I’m showing some flab, some stretch marks, some baggy upper arms, but so what? Overall, my body shows a heck of a lot of improvement since this photo:

Me at pretty  much my heaviest weight.

Me at pretty much my heaviest weight.

That photo was taken about nine months before my weight loss surgery when I weighed about 386 pounds.

All things considered and compared, I’ll look with pride and happiness at the pictures I took today – including the flaws — and celebrate what I’ve accomplished.

A few weeks from now, I’ll shoot another set of pictures and we can assess my progress together.

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Routine Change

I’m four days into the new program. So far it’s going pretty well. I’ve dropped some of the weight I gained. I’m doing the exercise routines. No lie, some of the exercises challenge me. In each routine, there is a woman doing the modified version of each exercise so that you can still benefit even if you aren’t quite up to the peppy, totally toned, I’m-an-absolute-fitness-beast level. Today, my body really felt the effort, particularly in my abs. Since I had to stop Zumba to protect my knee, I haven’t been crunching those abs and they made their discomfort known.

I do the full version of each exercise that I can handle. There are some, like jumping jacks or frog jacks, that I can’t do right now. So I do the modified version with good results. In today’s routine, I finally hit an exercise that I can’t do at all, even when modified. Called a Surrender, it requires quickly kneeling and getting up. I just can’t manage that motion smoothly enough to derive any benefit, even if I force myself to struggle through and do a quarter of the reps. It really bummed me out but I tried to put it out of my mind and substituted squats instead. Squats probably work a different set of muscles but at least they kept me moving.

On the set of the workout routine hangs a chalkboard sign that reminds us every effort is one day at a time, one pound at a time. Love it in all its 12 Stepness. Back at the beginning of the journey, thinking of having to lose more than 200 pounds overwhelmed me. Breaking it down to one pound at a time really helped.

The leader of the program said something today that also resonated. As we sweat together through the different exercises (I might not do them all great but I give them my all, moving up my heart rate and working up a real sweat.), she reminded us that the exercise is just part of the program. We have to follow the good, nutritional eating plan. In a nutshell, the message was to not put in all the hard, physical work and then blow it in the kitchen.

That thought stayed with me throughout the day. A short time ago, I had a thought on how I can offer the best protection to my own efforts and set myself up for the greatest success. I’m going to try changing my routine.

Right now, the most challenging time for me food-wise is at night. I eat a healthy dinner, drink a cup of tea and should be done for a couple of hours until it’s time for my final fruit as a snack. Should be done, but instead I’m frequently beset by the compulsive desire to eat something else or something more. I’m not hungry. I don’t need more to eat. These are false needs fueled by the eating disorder. Yet, I frequently fall into the trap. Maybe it’s only a few pistachios or a tablespoon of peanut butter, but the quantities don’t matter as much as giving into the behavior.

I do my workouts in the morning. After 30 minutes of pushing my body to go harder, stronger and faster, followed by a 15 minute or so dog walk, all I want to do is drink my protein drink and get ready for work. I have no desire to pick up anything else.

So, I wonder if working out at night will make a difference to my eating desires. If I spend 30 minutes working my muscles and elevating my heart rate so that sweat pours down my face and soaks through my clothes, will the energy and great feeling of accomplish counteract the compulsion to eat off of my food plan? Will it be easier to battle the urges?

I don’t know, but I’m prepared to find out, starting tomorrow. I’ll let you know if changing my routine helps.

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Too Fat to Fail – A Man’s Effort to Fund Weight Loss Surgery

This morning’s Miami Herald has an article about a Key West man named Chad Newman who has launched a fundraising effort to help him afford bariatric surgery and save his life. He weighs 420 pounds. Unfortunately, like I learned a few years ago, not all health insurance plans cover weight loss surgery. Mine didn’t, but I was fortunate in that I had other means to cover the costs. Click here to read the Herald article.

I’ve never met Chad in person, but we’ve worked together via email on some video projects when the Keys News Bureau pushed out stories from where I work at Dolphin Research Center. I read this morning’s article and was inspired and touched. It sounds trite, but as you all know from reading this blog, I can really relate to a number of his experiences, issues and struggles with food and weight loss. I sent him an email and wanted to share his story here as a way of support.

Yes, I also donated. Here’s my momentary soapbox moment. I know it’s personal but I believe that weight loss surgery should be covered by all insurance plans. Even if it’s only covered in part, there should be some coverage. In the long run, this surgery saves lives AND saves money. I think it’s discriminatory that insurance companies don’t include it in their plans. Period. End of rant.

I’m going to follow Chad’s journey at his website and blog: Too Fat to Fail. I want to see him raise the money, have the surgery, and succeed. I know he can do it and will be cheering him on as he progresses on his journey.

Keep some good thoughts for him, please. Positive energy can only help! Thanks.

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The Fridge in Another House

As you know, I was all ramped up to start the new program. (21 Day Fix.) I went out Thursday night and stocked up on fresh veggies, fruit and healthy protein sources. In addition to eating the right balance and portions of food, I want to eat as clean and fresh/unprocessed as possible.

I woke up at 6 a.m. on Friday and did the scheduled 30-minute cardio workout. (I really like that in the group of exercisers, they have an older, less in shape woman who demonstrates how to modify some of the moves. I would hurt my knee if I tried to do frog jumping jacks.) I drank a healthy protein mixture for breakfast and then carefully portioned out my lunch and two snacks for the day. I already knew what I’d have for dinner too. Full of energy and enthusiasm, I drove off to work.

Three and a half hours later I got a call from the friend who is remodeling my rooms. My refrigerator wasn’t working. Crapola!, I thought and immediately called the repair folks who are, thankfully, located just a couple of blocks away. The service tech made it to the house before I could get there from work and was already back at the shop to see if they had a replacement fan motor. Unfortunately, they didn’t and had to order the park. It should be in on Monday, they said. That was a relief, but we also know that things in the Keys don’t always happen when they should.

Whatever the case, I was going to have to deal without my full sized fridge through the weekend. Luckily, I have a dorm-sized fridge that I bought eight years ago when we first remodeled my kitchen. It could hold a few essentials. Adding to my luck is the fact that the house to my left is a vacation home. The family, friends of mine forever, is rarely here but they keep the electricity on. One call and I had permission to store my other things in their fridge and freezer.

While not having a working full-size fridge in the house would be inconvenient for a long stretch of time, I’ve discovered that it’s an asset when sticking to a balanced/portioned food plan. It’s hard to go back for seconds, or pick on something yummy when it isn’t in the same house. There are two doors, a side yard, and a porch between me and temptation.

I’d have to seriously lose my “stay on track” motivation and add in an overwhelming dose of “I want _____” to get up, put on shoes, grab the neighbor’s house key and walk all the way over there to eat compulsively.

I could be onto something with this whole “put the fridge in another house” technique for successful dieting.

What do you think?

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There’s Always Another New Day

Until the day we die, or maybe the day after, we always have a new day in which to restart our efforts and recommit to our goals. The only thing that drives an irreparable stake through the heart of our dreams is giving up.

I need to remember this.

Tomorrow I’m starting a new diet and fitness program. I’ll share the name, but only with the disclaimer that this is not a recommendation or endorsement. It’s called the 21 Day Fix. I’m not a big fan of the name. I’m not a lamp or a car to be fixed. I’m a person who needs some help and support to continue down my path to my weight loss and fitness goals. Even though the program is liberally advertised via infommercials on television, I heard about it via a country music artist named Jo Dee Messina who decided to do the program and started a challenge with her fans on her Facebook page. (You might remember that she was one of the artists on the Country Music Cruise that I went on last January.) Anyway, I heard about it on her page and then, in a strange synchronicity, saw the infommercial while channel surfing. I watched the show — is there anything that Montel Williams won’t hire on to help sell? — and that interested me enough to read more about the program on the web.

I like that the program includes a series of workouts that provide great variety in at-home exercise and each is only 30 minutes long. It also has a sensible eating plan that focuses on eating clean, quality foods in portion controlled balance. The portions and the balance are assisted by a series of colorful containers in different sizes.

Okay, enough about the program itself. Here’s what I find really interesting as I sit here tonight. My mindset and motivation are ramped up like I flicked a switch into the On position.

***** We interrupt this blog post for a commercial distraction. Have you seen the Kohl’s campaign for Find Your Yes? I just saw one filmed from the perspective of an elementary school kid trying to climb up a rope in gym class. It’s enough to give me heart palpitations and flashback to being the fat girl in gym class who couldn’t even pull herself up one foot off of the ground. Thank goodness the Kohl’s ad is a feel-good spot and the kid makes it all of the way up to ring the bell. *****

Now, back to my blog. So, I’ve been struggling for awhile and it all comes back to the mindset. I can do anything if I keep my head in the game and don’t mind-screw myself. I thought about this program for a while before ordering because I worried about whether I was falling into a diet mentality. I finally decided that I could benefit from the structure and the assistance of balance between proteins, carbs, fruits, veggies, and fats. For example, I noticed that it differentiates between fruits and veggies instead of combining them into a single category. It splits up different types of nuts and seeds.

I also like that it shows me how to treat myself a couple of times a week if I really want a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. By following the instructions, I can substitute and not screw up the plan. It’s a food plan that I can live with and not feel like I’m on a restrictive diet. That is another asset for my mindset.

Earlier tonight, I went to the supermarket and purchased a variety of food items to fit the food plan. I’m going to put together my lunch and snack items before I go to bed so that I’m all prepared. My alarm is set for 6:00 a.m. so that I can do the 30 minute exercise routine before work.

All told, I’m excited about getting started tomorrow. I’m putting behind me the upset and negative thoughts I have about having gained some weight. I had a setback and now I’m setting it aside. Tomorrow is another new day.

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Eating on Vacation

We’ve been eating wonderful meals while on vacation. It’s a large group of people gathered here in the property we rent on the Cape. Last night, 29 people sat down to dinner. We cook and eat as a community. Someone takes responsibility for the main part of the meal and other people pick up utensils to chop, mix or plate as needed. Our sous chef skills are put to work.

I confess that I’ve had more fresh bread in the recent days than I usually eat in a month, but it’s delicious. A friend who works for a natural food distributor also brought down many pounds of Amish butter. If you ever have Amish butter, you will never want to go back to store bought again. It’s that great.

There’s an organic farm across the road so each meal includes fresh, amazing produce. We’ve had kale salads, tomatoes that were picked a few hours before consumption, and corn of the most delicate sweetness.

I made my famous brownies yesterday for dessert. When I flew up I smuggled a few dozen key limes in my suitcase and a couple of days ago treated the crowd to key lime pies.

I refuse to think of how much weight I’ll gain in the course of the week. The food is too good and the company too grand. There is a wonderful sense of community to preparing, eating and enjoying the time together.

In our defense, we take walks every day. Yesterday, I also went paddle boarding again. So, while we do spend a lot of time sitting, eating and talking, we still get ourselves in motion.

Vacation is not the time to obsess about being perfect on a food plan. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I will recommit when I return and go back to being restrictive on my carb and dessert intake.

Today is for celebrating, breaking bread together and enjoying vacation meals together.

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