Monday, January 02, 2012
I spent NYE with dear friends. We spent the night playing Arkham Horror, Talisman, and Settlers of Catan. I was worried about overeating but I did okay. I brought a pile of chopped vegetables (green peppers, red peppers, cucumbers, baby carrots, pints of grape tomatoes) and a home-make baklava. My fiance brought reduced-fat spinach dip and a pumpernickel he made from scratch. Our friends had brought home-made potatoes au gratin and free-range beef and bean chili. So, the food wasn't ideal for a diet, but as you can tell it was thoroughly and deservedly scrumptious.
I was hoping that one of my friends, who is a coach for a national weight loss brand, would be counting calories and keep me honest. But as soon as I heard her say "I don't track on the holidays" I knew I was out. I had skipped lunch and walked three miles that day so I had a fairly big buffer. I knew it was a matter of eating to satiety, not overstuffing myself. I think I did well for the circumstances. I ate but not too much, and it was all conscious eating, not mindless snacking. What helped was eating so many vegetables at first, and drinking seltzer water all night long. I had a cider at dinner, a splash of our friends' wine just to try it, and a shot of a special South African liqueur at midnight. The rest was pints and pints of seltzer.
But I learned something that made me feel intensely uncomfortable. One of my friends had met and married his wife in a few short years and they already have their first child. She is gracious and wonderful and fit with us well, so I didn't feel compelled to inquire about her past.
She is naturally thin, but I've learned a long time ago that skinny doesn't always mean fit, and indeed before she got pregnant she asked me for (and happily received) advice on running. I'm not saying that running speed and endurance is the only indicator of fitness, but I AM saying that I am fiercely proud of my ability to run three miles in less than thirty minutes any day of the week. I bet I could do four in forty, too.
Anyway, I couldn't help but feel white-hot pangs of jealousy to find out that she was a model right up to her wedding day. How can someone who has never counted calories or exercised hard a day in her life be employed for her perfect body? It's just not fair!!
I'm not saying I ever wanted to be a model, but my other model friends are all achingly consumed by their work, always primping and dieting and fussing about their bodies. I thought that it was a fair trade-off, to have to obsess over their appearance to be paid for their appearance. The fact that my friend who is so casual and un-self-conscious was a model too makes me feel so very fat and ugly. Why does a body that everyone wants to look at come easy to some, while I obsess and work a body that only my fiance appreciates?
Saturday, December 24, 2011
So, yesterday began my new SparkDiet, but it failed miserably. But today was better!
I must mention that the night before then my fiance's family and I went to a Portuguese restaurant and I was extremely proud of myself for ordering grilled shrimp instead of one of a dozen very fatty foods. So there's a compliment before a criticism.
Yesterday we had friends over that we haven't seen in months, and I was doing so well - really! I had been very light on the snacky appetizer of pita chips and cheese and we cooked a nutritious dinner of roast chicken with sweet potatoes and green beans. Then we started playing a board game (Carcassone - so much fun!) and the chips and cheese came back on the table. You guessed it - no thanks, well if you insist, I'll just have one, I'll just have another, oh my where did all the chips go?!
If I had been able to pull myself out right then and there I would have come out okay, but I was in a diet nosedive. We had a coffee cake (because I thought I didn't like coffee cake) and our guests had brought a pie. So here comes dessert and not only am I trying the coffee cake and finding that I like it, but I'm saying yes to a big piece of pie too, AND agreeing to a mug of hot chocolate! 700 calories - wham! Part of me knew that I was making awful choices, but morbid curiosity compelled me to say yes just so I'd see how bad the damage was later when I entered the foods.
Yikes! After putting it all in, I said in a stereotypical repair mechanic's voice, "Well, there's yer problem!" Nothing like starting a diet with a calorie surplus. Sigh.
But tomorrow's always a new day, so I made sure today was much better. While I'd like to - in fact I need to - make running regular, I decided that no amount of wind or cold was going to prevent me from running three miles today. And I did! 3 miles in approximately 31:30. For fun I switched up my playlist and I was very happy to find that most of Flogging Molly's "Float" provides an appropriate running beat.
I think that I should match overeating one day with increasing exercise the next. I know that for some people, including my younger self, it would be punishment. But now my tendency is to say, "I messed up yesterday, so who cares about today?" So adding (or ensuring) exercise is me definitively saying "NO!" to my one error. Keep a mistake a mistake, don't make it into a landslide!
Speaking of which, I really need to figure out my workout schedule. I think that I would like to run three times a week and strength train three times as well, and fit in Zumba and other fitness classes where I can.
I have morning ambulance duty on Mondays and Thursdays and I think it would be productive to work out at the gym near the station instead of sitting around waiting for a call at home. I'll do just strength training then so that I won't be very sweaty or out of breath. So Mondays and Thursdays, the "middle" day is Saturday - it would be nice to start the weekend with an uninterrupted hour in the gym. I believe they open at 7, I'll have to check.
Now, I have an internship all day on Tuesdays, so that makes it difficult to work around. I can do Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays for a run. 3 miles is easy for me, but I want to get to 10K soon, so I need to research how best to prepare for longer distance events. I presume that running 6 miles three times a week is not as effective as, say, 6 miles slow + 4.5 miles regular + 3 miles fast. But this schedule is the short of thing that gets obliterated in the face of commitments, and I'd really like to have a full-time job! So I'll have to think about how best to schedule my time in a sustainable manner.
I do need to get back to strength training, though. I love the endorphin of cardio, but it really benefits me to lift weights as it's fairly easy for me to gain muscle. There's no limit to the benefits of having more muscle, particularly as an EMS person (those stretchers don't lift themselves!).
I took some before photos today. Eee. I was going to share, but I couldn't bring myself to until I had some after photos up next to them. The strange thing is that I don't look much worse than my after photos from a few months ago. I really, really, really hope that not trying to lose weight for several months reset my set point. If I lost 15% of my body weight like I did last time I'd be several pounds beyond my goal. Even 10% would be happily accepted.
And if I could get to 20% I would be less than I've ever weighed as an adult. I've always been comfortable with the idea that I'm stronger and thus heavier than other people my age, sex, and height; but whenever I begin a new diet program I always wonder, is this the start of me losing more weight than I absolutely "have" to? (I currently inhabit the "overweight" BMI and my goal weight is at the upper limit of "healthy".) What would happen if I became a single-digit dress size? Would I be miserable and hungry? Or would I realize how much weight I had put on my joints and be a much more efficient running machine? Would I be able to wear short skirts and high heels?
It's always a push and pull with one's body type and what on earth an "ideal" weight is. I'm certain this time around, though, that my old fear of never being thin enough is unfounded. Looking at my after photos proves that I am happy at whatever weight I am when I act healthfully!
Another thing I am sure about now is that every day of the rest of my life is a move towards or away from health. Not every cookie or glass of wine is a "mark" of course, but there's no way around making a choice every single day. If that means I'm always going to be the person bringing a fresh vegetable platter to parties, or going to bed early so I can make my morning run, so be it. I'm going to be a person no matter what, so why not be a healthy one?
Friday, December 23, 2011
Here I am again. I was devoted to SparkPeople for more than a year but I began getting obsessed with it: seeing calories, not food; obsessing over SparkPoints; taking every chance I could to add another tenth of a mile to the tracker. So I weaned myself off of it, up to the point of deleting my account entirely (goodbye, 16,000 points!).
For a few months I rolled along just fine. I exercised at least an hour every day and I rarely ate junk food so I was able to maintain with little effort. Then the stress of unemployment and a very difficult semester crept up, and there went my commitment to fitness and my ability to eat healthfully. Before long, a few extra pounds became a dozen, and all my pants have gotten snug.
It's been really hard to come back here. Just admitting that I need help, again, was probably the hardest part. But I can either pretend that I don't notice how terrible it feels to be dehydrated, not eating well, and not exercising; or I can say NO! and come back to the community that I know has the power to keep me on the right path. I'm not familiar with Overeaters Anonymous but SparkPeople seems to be similar in that a key aspect of the "program" is that it is for LIFE. So here I am at another weekly meeting: "Hi everyone, my name is An, and I have difficulty making good choices for my health."
The good news is that I still know the fundamentals of what keeps me healthy. The bad news is that I know now how easy it is for these notions, which seem straightforward enough, to fall apart under stress and time crunches. I am unemployed but somewhat busy with EMS duties and an internship, so I hope that I can use this time now to set up a program that is sustainable through full-time employment and/or graduate school. (I have an MA but I hope to continue with a PhD program this fall; I should know by April.) Here's some of what got me through last time, any suggestions or constructive criticism is welcome:
- Record Everything! Every day! Even if I am at a party or away from the computer - knowing that I will have to guesstimate and record every single thing that passes my lips keeps me honest and healthy. Nothing leads faster to a binge than my decision to "not record today".
- Drink water! And then some more! The more water I drink the more water I want to drink, even if it's just refrigerated tap water. And calorie-free options like herbal teas and seltzers make it fun.
- A lot of exercise is good - but - any exercise is best! Don't give up if you can't do what you planned to do. I LOVE running, dancing, and other intense activity, but if the gym cancels Zumba I want to sulk instead of doing something else. I must remember, a walk around the block is always better than nothing!
- Change the quantity, not the quality, of food! A tiny amount of butter or a small slice of fresh mozzarella may be the same calories as gobs of margarine or a handful of nonfat cheese, but they will always taste better and not feel like a diet. Similarly:
- Make your indulgences count! If you fall for any bit of junk food - vending machine candy! donuts wrapped in plastic! - then you'll always feel awful "breaking" your diet. But if you stay away from everyday temptations, then very special foods like Aunt Elke's once-a-year Christmas cookies or Uncle Bob's special shrimp salad become a fun and satisfying treat.
- Don't be afraid to talk! Our society is very shy about people talking about diet and exercise, because it makes others feel guilty or uncomfortable. But perhaps it's uncomfortable because no one talks about it! You don't have to (and really shouldn't) discuss calories, of course, but just talking about how much you love exercise or a nutritious meal can begin a lifelong conversation about health!
So, my wedding is on September 22 of the coming year. I dearly hope to have lost the majority of weight before fittings begin in July. I don't want to limit what I can do, but I really don't see myself being able to lose more than 22 pounds between now and then, particularly as I really want to increase my exercise. My kinsman wants to run a 5K, then 10K, then half-marathon. I've done several 5Ks before and I believe that I could run a 10K too, but a half-marathon is - whoa! That'll keep me busy for sure.
My fiancee measured me for the baseline numbers and I hope to take "before" pictures tomorrow or the next day. So I hope to be successful - and long-term - with this attempt. And most of all, to be an 11-stone (154-pound) bride!
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