Weighty Matters

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Measuring Down

A friend is still staying with me for a few days. I asked her if she’d help me do my measurements tonight. I haven’t checked them since January. It’s hard to be accurate when I try to do it myself and I never seem to think of it when friends are visiting for just an evening. It’s been on my mind to do this for a few days and I finally remembered.

Wow. All I can say is wow. I wish I’d taken them a couple of weeks ago and then again tonight to see if there’s been much change since I started riding the bike, but still. The reduction of inches in every part of my body is pretty significant.

To set the scene, here are the measurements, in inches, that were taken of me by a friend in February 2012, a few weeks after my weight loss surgery:
Neck 17.5; Bicep 20; Forearm 14; Chest (Boobs) 58; Waist 57; Hips; 70; Thigh 33.5; Calf 19.

I took them a few times throughout the year, but only logged the numbers again in January 13 on my one year surgiversary. Here are those numbers, after dropping a significant amount of weight and increasing my exercise from a formerly sedentary existence:
Neck 15; Bicep 18; Forearm 10.50; Chest (Boobs) 48; Waist 49; Hips 56.50!!; Thigh 31; Calf 17.50.

Do you SEE that drop in number in my Hips?? I think when I started that measurement was so high because I had so much weight in hips, ass and, also, some lower belly had to be included or at least couldn’t be completely separated.

Now here are the numbers from tonight:
Neck 13.5; Bicep 12.75; Forearm 10; Chest (Boobs) 44; Waist 43; Hips 51.5; Thigh 25.5; Calf 14.75.

Did I say Wow earlier in the post? Because I’m now completely invested in this numbers game, I have to do the math. Here are the calculations for inches lost from February 2012 to tonight:

Neck -4; Bicep -7.25; Forearm -4; Chest (Boobs) -14 (Yet I’ve gone from wearing a D cup to a DD); Waist -14; Hips -18.5; Thigh -8; Calf -4.25.

If I add the total number of inches lost, it comes to 74. 74 inches!

This is nearly mind-boggling. Not only have I lost pounds and pounds of fat, but we know that I’m also building muscle. I know I see it in the mirror, see it in my clothes, feel the loss in the way that I move. Sometimes, however, when I’m frustrated about the other number not moving down the way that I like, it really, really helps to check these numbers. I believe I’m going to set a reminder on my phone so that I take my measurements again in another month. A month from now, my overall system could begin moving again and I’ll have dropped enough pounds to make me happy. If I haven’t, then seeing evidence of loss in my measurements will definitely keep my attitude in the right frame of mind.

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Free Wheeling

Maybe I’m fresh in the honeymoon period with my new bike, but I couldn’t wait to go out for a ride this morning. I slept in a little, then needed to drink my morning protein shake, and then, to be fair to Nat and Pyxi, needed to get them out for a nice walk first. Once those things were accomplished, I strapped on my helmet, grabbed my phone and ID, and pedaled off. (I always take identification, just in case. I probably should also take my health insurance card, also just in case, but that seems like challenging fate or setting myself up for disaster.)

When I shared with some friends about buying a bike, one asked if I’d ridden the Old Seven Mile Bridge yet. Since I only got the bike yesterday I hadn’t yet had the chance, but the idea staying in my mind. That was today’s destination. Before you get totally wowed, no, I was not biking over seven miles of bridge. That would be the “new” Seven Mile Bridge, which was built in the early 1980s. It was built alongside the structure now known as Old Seven. Old Seven is more than 100 years old. It was built by entrepreneur/visionary/business magnate Henry Flagler. His original thought was to connect a railroad down the Keys. There’s a lot of history in that tale. Suffice it to say that the railway did not survive, but his visionary practices opened up the Florida Keys to the rest of the world. (Old Seven was a star of the movie True Lies. That whole chase scene near the movie’s end was filmed on this bridge.)

The old bridge is in a deplorable state of disrepair and everyone is in constant discussion on how to save it, what needs to be done, how many tens of millions of dollars it will cost and, above all, who is going to pay for it. I hope above all that these questions get answered and Old Seven is saved because I think it’s a Florida Keys treasure. It’s great for walking, biking, viewing sunsets and the water with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. For safety’s sake, the Dept. of Transportation closed it to vehicular traffic several years ago. We are concerned that they will close it to bikes and people soon, which will be a horrible shame.

Okay, that’s enough of the history, on to the bike ride. I live about a mile and a three quarters from Old Seven and there’s a bike/pedestrian path along the Overseas Highway. This is a good thing because people, mostly tourists, drive crazy in the Keys. I wouldn’t want to be on the actual road. I’m happy to say that already this morning, I’m a little steadier as my bike riding skills return. (Check the update note I tacked on to yesterday’s post about my close encounter with a hedge last night.) I felt more in control of my steering. That said, when I approach another cyclist moving in either direction, I’m quite happy to be the one to yield.

Once I reached the bridge, I knew I had approximately 2.2 miles to reach Pigeon Key, which is as far as one can go from this side. I haven’t done this ride in 20 years. I so enjoyed the warm stretching of my legs as I pedaled and the kiss of breeze on my skin. It was mostly overcast this morning, so I didn’t have the sun beating down on me, but it was warm and I worked up a sweat. Feeling strong and confident, I decided I’d go the distance, and go it I did!

When I reached the end, I stopped and chugged some water before turning around. That’s when the ride became more challenging. It requires significantly more effort to bike ride into the wind, which was blowing about 10 knots per hour in my face. There was a time when I would have internally whined about this, but this morning, I absolutely relished having to work harder, knowing that my body was up for the challenge. I’m pretty sure I broke out in a smile a time or two when I felt my cardio rate rise and my muscles respond!

When I made it back to the parking lot at the bridge’s beginning, I all but cried out, “Wheeeee!” as I allowed myself to coast for a dozen yards. In the grand scheme of biking, this success wasn’t exactly like finishing a segment of the Tour de France, but I was darned happy!

On the way home, I stopped at a little convenience store to pick up some milk and ran into a couple of serious cyclists. I could tell by their bikes and the way they were outfitted that they were putting in some mileage. It kind of surprised me when the man looked at me and said, “Nice bike.” “Thanks. It’s brand new,” I replied. “You picked a good one. I used to sell them,” he continued and then asked if his wife could take a picture of him posed with the bike that he could send his friends. I agreed and asked if they’d take a picture of me in return. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out that they were biking down to Key West (another 47 miles from where we were stopped) and that their journey had begun in Jacksonville! Holy wow. It takes me eight hours to drive to J’ville! I told you they were serious. I congratulated them on being so close to their destination and then sort of laughed. “It isn’t much in comparison, but this weekend is the first I’ve ridden a bike in about 20 years,” I told them and then explained about my weight loss and how getting a bike is another step in reclaiming my physical health and fitness.

The guy then said something really terrific. “Just keep riding and you’ll get there. You don’t have to go fast, you just have to keep pedaling.” I love hearing that. I don’t have to do this fast, I just have to keep doing it. That’s my new bike riding mantra.

Here’s the picture that the couple snapped of me. The shirt’s about two sizes too big, but loose and comfy felt good on the ride.

Bike

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Emotional Eating

I’m having an emotional day. Nothing specifically happened to cause it, but I’m a little moody and reacting less reasonably to somewhat minor things. Most people would shrug it off and go on. It’s a little more challenging for those who are emotional eaters.

Does that sound as much like whining as I think it does? I typed it, re-read it and all I hear in my head is “Wah wah wah, nanny nanny boo hoo.” Okay, that might just be more evidence of me being moody and out of sorts. Anyway, the thing is that when I’m emotionally off-kilter, I instinctively want to eat. It has nothing to do with physical hunger. Instead, I’m trying to feed another need. It’s like I know that I’m being irrational so I want to squelch it and the reflex behavior for me when I need to squelch is to smother the feelings with food.

I have peanuts in the house and I was just going back to the cabinet for another snack-sized serving when I realized that the action doesn’t really stop the feelings. Instead, it merely gives me something else to do in that moment. I engage in another activity rather than interact with my own emotions. That could sound a little twisted, but what resembles pretzel logic to some makes perfect sense on some level to me.

What really makes perfect sense is substituting some other behavior than eating. By the way, it doesn’t matter if I only took a snack-sized portion. It’s the behavior, the action of choosing to eat compulsively, that causes the problems. There are at least a dozen other things I could do at any given time rather than reach for food. Here’s a preliminary list of alternative behaviors the next time I’m tempted to compulsively eat over my emotions:

Pet a dog (I have two. One is always within reach.)
Do a Tai Chi move, or series of moves, or entire set depending on the strength of the compulsion at the time
Do a few squats, leg lifts, triceps dip or bicep curls
Sing out loud to whatever song is on the radio
Play air drums or air guitar to whatever song is on the radio (Mary trivia: I once broke a finger playing air guitar.)
Walk outside onto the porch and look at the stars (Night time.)
Walk outside and look at the water, count how many different birds I see (Day time.)
Drink a glass of water
Write haiku
Phone a friend
File something (My nails, something from the mountains of unfiled papers in my office, anything!)
Pamper myself in some way – apply cuticle oil, rub scented lotion into my hands
Take a hot bath with a good book

Looking back on the last hour or so, I’m sorry I didn’t think of this list sooner. On the other hand, at least I’ve made it up now so I can call on it if I get another urge between now and bedtime. In fact, after I hit Publish, I’m going to do some Tai Chi and then take a bath. That will put an end to any more emotional eating tonight!

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Checking Out Recipes

I love the Internet for many reasons, not the least of which is the easy, nearly immediate, access to information. while chatting on the phone tonight with my friend, Janet, I talked about my kale-rutabaga-cannellini bean soup that I invented. This reminded her of watching Andrew Weil cook a super curried cauliflower soup on the Doctor Oz show. She read the recipe to me but I didn’t have time to write it down, but that didn’t matter. A few clicks on my keyboard and I had the recipe.

While I was on the website, my interest was immediately caught by another recipe for a purple power smoothie. Seriously! I love smoothies and purple is my favorite color. Of course I had to immediately check out this recipe too. Strawberries, blueberries and bananas — Yum! One thing it calls for, that I’ve never tried, is firm tofu. That sounds like a good protein boost. Yep, I printed out this recipe too and will pick up the ingredients this weekend.

I made a smoothie this week with strawberries, pineapple and dragon fruit. Isn’t this a lovely morning drink?

dragonfruitsmoothie

I like getting excited about healthy foods and nutritious recipes. This journey isn’t about eating crappy stuff that doesn’t taste good. It’s about nourishing my body with good food, taking time to select and prepare quality ingredients, and sticking to my food plan. There is a greater likelihood that I will, indeed, stick to that plan if I enjoy the things I’m eating and drinking. The trick is just not to eat and drink too much.

Got any nutritious recipes that you really enjoy? I’d love to check them out!

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Taking Nothing for Granted

I haven’t been to a Zumba class in to weeks because of meetings, renovations to the place where classes are held and then my vacation. I looked forward to tonight’s class ever since I got home from my trip. After work, I took the dogs for a walk, fed them and then went to the bedroom to change into workout clothes. When I balanced on one foot at a time to pull on my exercise shorts, I flashed back to two years ago.

Getting dressed was a challenge. In order to pull on underwear or a pair of pants or shorts, I either had to sit down or I had to hold onto a bed post or table for steadiness. Even with that support, I still need to bend down as far as I could to drag the clothes on over my foot. Putting on sneakers was even more difficult. The easiest way was for me to sit on the bed, bend my leg at the knee and prop it on the bed too so that I could reach my foot. The other option was to again sit in a chair, bend over and sort of contort myself to get my sneaker on. I can remember a time when I had to pause and suck in a breath so I could finish tying the laces.

***** Before I forget, I need to digress a minute. Someone asked me why I share these memories of the way that I used to be when I was at my heaviest, most awkward self. I do it because it’s important that I remember what it was like. It also matters to me in case there’s someone reading who is struggling with morbid obesity. It helps to know that someone has lived what you’re experiencing and understands. I hope it also helps to know that things can be better. *****

Okay, back to the topic. Tonight I changed clothes with balance and ease. Putting on my sneaks was a simple as crossing one leg over the other, slipping on the shoes and tying in a few seconds. No stress or strain, no struggle or shortness of breath. In that moment I thought, “As long as I live, I will never take this for granted.”

I then grabbed my water bottle and hand bag and bopped out the door. Millions of people do this every day without giving the ability a thought. It’s just normal for them. Now it’s normal for me too, but I will never forget the days and decades when it wasn’t.

Zumba kicked my ass tonight. Even though I’ve been doing Tai Chi, brisk walking and that 7 Minute Workout, I could feel a reduction in my ability and endurance. I pushed on through to get the most benefit from the exercise, ignoring the internal whimpering. When we finished the cool down and stretching period, I picked up my water bottle and towel, said goodbye and made my way to the car. For a second I slumped in the seat and just felt the gratitude sweep through me. I thought again, “I will never take this for granted.”

I need to appreciate every day, every pound lost, every time I walk or dance or move with control and balance through the 108 moves in the Tai Chi set. I want to remember the times that I say no to eating the wrong thing and yes to healthy choices. It’s all hard work and I’m grateful for the willingness to put in the time, energy, effort and determination.

Recovery is precious. It also isn’t automatically permanent. I have to keep nurturing my progress, reinforcing the healthier practices, and maintaining my determination. I don’t want to lose what I’ve fought so hard to achieve so I can never, ever, take it for granted.

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Reducing Self-Criticism

I’m going to post a really crappy photo.  That’s not a judgment of me.  The quality of the photo is crappy because I took it of a mirror image of myself in low light with my phone.  Here goes:

Mirror picture

Sorry for the lousy quality of the shot, but I didn’t think of this blog post topic until after I was already home from the community function I attended this evening. If I’d thought of it sooner, I would have had someone else take a decent shot. Anyway, onto the reason.

I bought this dress and found the hot pink shrug when I went to Ross some weeks back. I loved the colors and the fit and thought it would be great in my wardrobe. Plus it was on sale for a ridiculously low price which fit with the overall plan to not spend a lot of money on clothes while I’m still losing. When I tried on the outfit in the store, I almost didn’t buy it because the sleeves on the shrug are sort of short and my upper arms are really showing their flab and wrinkly, saggy skin. I do not wear sleeveless tops. Most of the time, if I’m around other people when wearing a bathing suit, I also wear a sun protection shirt or rash shirt. Some of that is to guard against excess sun, but mostly it’s because I don’t like how my upper arms look.

Even though I was unhappy with showing too much upper arm, I still bought the dress. Ever since I’ve looked for a pink shrug with longer sleeves, but I haven’t been successful with that quest.

Tonight when dressing for the event, I almost selected a different outfit, but the colors and pattern on this dress made me smile and I really really wanted to wear it tonight. I put it on and drew on the shrug. Honestly, it was like all I could see were my arms and I wasn’t happy. I looked straight on, then to the side. I even went to a couple of different mirrors. It felt like my upper arms flashed a message that said, “Look at us! Look at us! We’re hideous. Look at us!”

I was thisclose to taking off the dress and putting on my second choice, but all of a sudden I got really pissed off at myself. I see plenty of women down here wearing tank tops, bathing suits, or sleeveless outfits with upper arms that are much larger than mine. Trust me. Their arms aren’t the first thing I notice, and when I do it’s never with the thought of, “Holy crap. That woman has arms like a ham. She’s brave to go sleeveless.”

Nah. I only direct that sort of thinking at myself.

Before I could change my mind and my outfit, I said the hell with it and walked out of the bedroom. I was going to the event in this outfit, short shrug and arms be damned.

From the time I picked up my boss/friend to the moment we left, saying goodbye to people we knew at the event’s end, I didn’t hear one negative comment or see anyone recoil in horror. All I heard were compliments on how pretty I looked, how great I looked, how much someone loved the outfit — all 100% positive. If anyone noticed the part of my upper arms that showed beneath the shrug sleeves, they didn’t mention it. I’m pretty sure that nobody cared. If they gave it any thought it all, it might have been, “Wow, she’s lost so much weight, she’s a little saggy in some places.” Honestly, I think the only person it was an issue for was me.

I didn’t worry about it at the event. I certainly didn’t obsess. Instead I just enjoyed myself, hugged a lot of friends, spoke with several acquaintances — you know, all that regular interactive stuff people do at such events. It was a fun evening.

On the way home I took a few moments to bask in the afterglow of the compliments. That’s when I thought of using the experience as a blog post and decided to take a photo when I got home so you could all observe and give feedback.

My takeaway message from all of this is that even now, I am my own harshest critic and when I think negative thoughts, it’s a good indication that I’m not being objective. I can do better. Moreover, I owe it to myself to keep working on reducing this form of self-criticism. It serves no healthy purpose. I can foster much more positive reactions to my changing, evolving body and build on them for the future.

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Recipe Calculations

As I anticipated, I woke up this morning with too much chest congestion to go to Zumba class.  😦  I slept in a little, had breakfast, caught up on a few things and, eventually, went out to do a few errands.  Since Monday, when I was disappointed by the Portugese kale soup I had up on Cape Cod, I’ve had the proverbial bee in my bonnet to make kale soup on my own.  I’ve had some potential ingredients rolling around in my head so I decided not to search for recipes on line.  Instead, I decided to wing it and see if I could invent something tasty and nutritious all on my own.

I already had the kale that I bought at the farm market yesterday and a couple of containers of low sodium vegetable broth here at home.  At the supermarket I picked up a large onion, a large rutabaga, some fresh thyme and some chorizo.  I partially cooked the cubed rutabaga and then added it to the pot in which I was lightly sautéing the chopped onions. I sliced the chorizo into half circles and then let it cook in with the veggies which gave everything more flavor and some color.  After rinsing and patting dry the kale, I tore the leafy goodness off of the ribs and gave it a rough chop before adding it to the pot along with the broth and a couple of cans of drained/rinsed cannellini beans.  I tied up two bundles of thyme, stirred them in along with some black pepper and brought the whole concoction up to a full boil.  After a good stirring, I reduced the soup to simmer for 90 minutes while I went out and cleaned the pool.

When I came back in, the house smelled terrific.  There is something special about a house infused with warmth and the aroma of a pot of deliciousness simmering on a stove.  I am delighted to say that I guessed right on the ingredients.  The slight smoky heat of the chorizo married well with the slight sweetness of the onions and rutabaga.  The thyme provided another layer of flavor that sparked up the kale and beans.  All in all, I give the flavor of my creation two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Taste is one thing, but I wondered about the nutritional value of my new soup.  I went online and found a site that calculates the nutritional numbers for recipes if you enter the ingredients.  According to that site, here’s the breakdown for my Kale & Rutabaga Concoction, based on a one cup serving size.  (Although I rarely eat an entire cup.):

Calories-210; Total fat-4.7g; Saturated fat-1.7g; Cholesterol-9.4mg; Sodium 631.1 mg; Potassium 83.9 mg; Total carbs 31.6g; Dietary fiber 7.4g; Sugars-4.5g; Protein 11.6g.

In the grand scheme of things, this soup fit in great with my total daily numbers.  Although I’d love to reduce the sodium even more, I don’t get much sodium in other foods, so I’m okay for the day.  The fiber from the beans helps to reduce the impact of the carbs and I’m really happy about the protein grams.

Isn’t it cool that there are ways to calculate the values of recipes that we create?  The internet is such a terrific resource for helpful information.  I’m half tempted to revisit the site and type in the ingredients for my famous brownies.  Then again, maybe I don’t really want to know the truth about those particular treats. 😉  For right now, I’ll be happy to have the number for my soup.  I’ve already entered it as a food in MyFitnessPal so that I can call it up easily any time I serve some up.  The overall recipe made a lot.  I have a container in the fridge that will feed me at least three more times as well as three additional containers in the freezer for coming months.

In other news, as the day went on I felt better and less congested.  I started getting antsy from lack of exercise.  Even though cleaning the pool took some energy, after drying off a bit and testing the soup, I figured I’d give that 7 Minute Workout a try.  I love the app I found for my phone.  It not only provides the timing for the 30 second exercise periods and 10 second rest intervals, but it also gives the user a head’s up on which exercise comes up next.

In the interest of honest disclosure, I cannot perfectly do all of the exercises on this workout.  I sort of suck right now at jumping jacks.  I need to do the slightly easier versions of the pushups and planking.  Frankly, I can’t correctly do the side plank either.  However, I gave everything my best shot for the full 30 seconds and I improvised on the exercises that gave me trouble and made them as challenging as I could.  When I was done the 7 minutes, believe me, my heart rate was up and my body knew that it had worked.  I think it provided a good pop of intensity and exercise to the day.

Coincidentally, I had the Dr. Oz show on this afternoon.  One of his guests was Chris Powell, the trainer from Extreme Weight Loss.  They were tackling the problem of people who are doing their best to diet but who aren’t seeing the results.  Chris pointed out how many people think that they’re eating less than they are in reality.  He provided the basic calculation for the basal metabolism rate.  (Your current weight X 12 = Number of calories you burn just in living every day.)  He also offered great suggestions on how to cut back, how to use your hand to estimate the right serving sizes of protein, veggies, carbs and fat, and explained something to the audience that I blogged about a while back.  Keep the snacks at 100 calories and measure them out into small bags or containers so that you plan, have what you need available, and know that you’re not eating too much.

He and Dr. Oz also demonstrated a five minute exercise boost that mixed low intensity with high intensity in 30 second intervals.  Basic steps that you can do anywhere.  I can’t see that the five minutes burn too many calories, but it was further evidence that it can be helpful to incorporate these short periods of exercise into our busy days.   They add up!

All in all, I’m feeling good about getting myself back on track.   There are roughly 19 weeks left in the year.  My goal is to be down another 20 pounds by the end of 2013.

Putting everything into the mix, I’m confident that I can do this, based on my calculations.

Anyone else have a goal they’d like to share?

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I Need a New Scale

I don’t want to complain (much) but these last 60 pounds are kicking my ass.  The weight came off soooo much more quickly and easily in the first months after weight loss surgery.  Now I feel like it’s all stop/start, lose a little then plateau, lose a little, flatten out.  At least I know from the changes in my clothing that I’m still losing inches and building muscle, but really.  It just plain sucks.  I want it gone and I want it gone now

For the next two weeks, I’m going to try to shake up my metabolism a bit by consuming more of a “full liquids” diet with less bulk solid food in meals.  Protein drinks, smoothies, no fat Greek yogurt, soups, sugar free gelatin — that kind of stuff which will still deliver the protein that I need without lots of carbs, sugar or fat.   This starts on Monday.  I’d start today but I’m involved in two days of business related functions away from home this weekend and I can’t control my food choices to this degree until I get back.

Before I start, I also need to break down and buy a new scale.  Mine is driving my nuts because it can vary two to six pounds depending on where I place my feet or if my weight is accurately centered.  I end up weighing myself three times in the morning and then taking whatever is the heaviest weight.   I bought the scale several years ago from a company that specialized in all sorts of products for obese and super obese people.  They had everything from airplane and car seat belt extenders to foot stools and beach chairs that bore more than 400 pounds without buckling to tools that assisted with maintaining good personal hygiene and dozens of other products that you probably don’t even think of needing unless you’re really, really overweight.

There are many scales on the market.  Many of them are not at all accurate if the person weighs more than 200 pounds.

I have many more options now and I think I can find a new scale at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  So I’m going to take a little shopping trip after my official activities are over.  This is the Florida Keys.  We have very few big box chain stores.  There isn’t even a BB&B in Key West where they at least have a Ross, Sears, Champs, and Pier One.  I have to go to Florida City, about 90 minutes away to find the BB&B, but that’s okay.  They also have a Petco so I can pick up some special stuff for the pups.  I might even stop into Kohl’s and entertain myself by seeing if there are clothes in their that I can fit into.  I’ve never shopped at Kohl’s before.

Saturday night is my graduation party from a seven month business-related program.  I have a sassy little black dress to wear that hits slightly above my knee and has a belt at the waist.  I’m psyched.  I bought the panty hose that I need to mask my “shrinkles” (Love that term, courtesy of Pink Pelican.)  I’m not even dressed in the outfit yet, but I feel excited and terrific.

Onward and upward, my friends!  I might be stalled in my efforts right now, but I am nowhere near defeated.  I will be victorious against these last 60 pounds.  On this I am determined!

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