Friday, October 01, 2010
Today marks one month for me on the Spark. So I thought it would be a good time to look back and see how far I've come and what I've accomplished in that time. As with anything in life, there have been ups and downs, highs and lows, victories and defeats. Overall however, I think I can point to many more positives than negatives. Not every goal was met, not every objective was achieved, but I made a lot of progress towards being a better person, and that counts for more than can be reflected in a number on a scale or your waist measurement.
On the plus side, I have lost twelve pounds in the past month. This is a pretty respectable number any way you look at it. Although when I look at my overall weight loss, I seem to lose in spurts. I'll drop five pounds one week, then lose nothing the next. Like right now I haven't really lost any weight in the past two weeks. I've been basically "maintaining" at 195. I'm not sure if it is my metabolism, or what I eat, or how I exercise, but my pattern of weight loss is just erratic. I think one of my goals for the next month needs to be to look a little bit more closely to my eating and exercise patterns and see if I can make some adjustments to make my weight loss more consistent. A five pound "burst" may sound good, but I'd feel better if I could get into a more stable routine. That said... weight loss is weight loss and if this is the way my body functions, there is nothing for me to gain by trying to fight it. So that's why I need more information.
I think my greatest gains though, have been in terms of lifestyle. Aside from the changes to my body, I have made changes to my life that are far more important than how much weight I lost this week, or what I will weigh by the holidays. I am eating in ways I never would have before. In the past I wouldn't even get three servings of fruits and vegetables in a week, now I typically get that many by dinner time on a given day. I'm eating salads, pretty boring ones so far, but salads none the less. I am experimenting with keeping the dressings low calorie by sticking to vinaigrette or honey mustard. I figure why get "used" to high calorie dressings like ranch or French when that totally defeats the purpose of having a salad in the first place. Right now a salad for me basically consists of greens, dressing, and a protein (meat or nuts) but I need to start adding other vegetables to the mix as well.
I'm also exercising a lot more and making better decisions in terms of my physical health. I make it to the gym at least five times in a typical week, usually six. And on top of that, I go for walks in the park with my wife and son, and I even sometimes make an occasional "extra" stop at the gym when I have the time. Like on Wednesday for instance... my wife had just put our son down for a nap, but she fell asleep with him. So he's asleep, she's asleep, the dishes were done, dinner was already taken care of, I couldn't think of anything to do. In the past I would have just hopped on the computer and found a game to play or something. But instead I put my workout clothes on, and got in a little extra exercise. Now did that directly translate into extra weight loss? No, but it is evidence of the kinds of choices I am making for myself now.
Not everything has been "roses" though. There have been difficulties and setbacks. The biggest one I am dealing with right now is what I'm calling "the seventh day." Now the seventh day doesn't come on the same day every week, but it always seems to happen at least once a week. For six days, I do fabulously with my eating habits. I eat a good breakfast. I have fruit or nuts for snacks. I have veggies with dinner. I stick to my calories. But on that seventh day... all hell breaks loose. I crave fatty, salty, sugary food. I break down and head out to the buffet restaurant, or something else like that and indulge myself... and blow my whole routine completely out of the water. And no matter what I do, or how much I plan ahead, it always happens once a week. All the menu planning and warning myself doesn't seem to make any difference. So this is my major challenge right now. How do I make that "seventh day" the same as the other six? Hopefully I'll find that answer before I get to the end of my second month here.
Monday, September 27, 2010
So today was a pretty grim Monday. On Sunday I was doing great... oatmeal for breakfast, leftover chicken salad for lunch, and shrimp and okra gumbo for dinner. Then I just blew the whole thing late in the evening. My wife and I rented a movie (the new Robin Hood movie, actually pretty good. But anything would be an improvement compared to the Kevin Costner disaster.) So I made some popcorn, which wouldn't be bad in and of itself. But considering I drowned it in butter and sprinkled it with shredded cheese... yeah, not so good. Then on top of that, I decided to indulge in a bag of Reese's Pieces. Oh, and then right before going to bed, I thought a piece of peanut butter and bread would be a good idea. So all in all, I probably ate as many calories in the span of an hour than I ate in the entire day. I was so disgusted with myself, I didn't even log it all in my journal. I put down enough of it to remind me of how bad I blew it and then went to bed.
Then I got to work this morning. I apologize for implying in another blog comment that I was currently unemployed. That was not my intention. I am having significant employment difficulties, but I do have a job. Suffice to say, I am not at all happy with where I am professionally, and coming in to work every day is more and more of a struggle. I am hesitant to elaborate further because I know there can be consequences for what you post online these days, and my employment situation is tenuous enough that I do not wish to exacerbate the situation with my comments. I do realize however that any job is precious and not to be taken for granted, and so for that reason I try not to complain too much about my situation. But circumstances are pushing me more and more to consider alternatives, regardless of how unpleasant they may appear in the short term.
All in all my week is off to a pretty rough start. And it is kind of ironic because I always tell other people not to let little setbacks like this get you down. It is okay to screw up now and then. We all do it. But now that I am the one who screwed up, I have a much more difficult time being that forgiving to myself, mostly because I just feel silly. Of course it doesn't help when I "over do" it for breakfast and now find myself basically out of calories after dinner time tonight. Yeah it's going to be a long night... lots of water and sugar free chewing gum, and then off to bed early. That's probably the only way I can get through the day without overshooting my budget yet again. And if I do that two days in a row, I'm really going to beat myself up over it.
I don't think this will jeopardize my long term goals. I should still be able to lose 15 more pounds by Thanksgiving. Although I do have a week long road trip coming up. That is really going to challenge my new lifestyle. I won't have access to the gym, and I will be "eating out" basically every day, three meals a day for a week. I've already thought of a few ways I can deal with that. I'm planning to bring my workout clothes, and some of my dumb bells. And I tried to always pick a hotel that has a fitness room. I know most hotel fitness rooms are little more than a treadmill or two and maybe a weight machine, but at least I can't use that as an excuse. Plus I can always do some walking, running, or even swimming to burn some calories in the meantime. In fact, swimming might really be great if I can find the time. That is a form of cardio I can't really do at home, so that could even shake up my workout routine in a good way.
Eating out so much is going to be another challenge, but I've already made some progress on this in the past couple weeks, and my wife had some good suggestions for this as well. We have a LOT of storage space in our truck, and we have two big cool chests. So when we're on the road, we could probably eliminate some of the "eating out" simply by going to the grocery store and stocking up on fruits, veggies, and other healthy non-cooked foods like sandwiches. Making our own sandwiches would be cheaper and healthier even than sticking to places like Subway, and certainly better than McDonalds. We've already picked out some restaurants in the towns we will be visiting and checked out some online menus. There are enough healthy options available that I won't be blown completely out of the water by calorie bombs. So at least we have a plan for that.
Here's to hoping the week improves from this point. Never say it can't get worse, because you will always be surprised!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
My wife signed us up for something called the "Bountiful Basket." Basically for $15 you get a random assortment of fruits and vegetables. Now in some areas, you can get this every week. In our town, we only get it every other week. So far we have gotten three such baskets, and I have to say, it has really helped me develop more ways of dealing with fruits and vegetables. As I continue to try and incorporate more of these things in my diet, this has been a wonderful way of sort of forcing me to do so. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here are some pictures of the last couple baskets.
This was the basket from two weeks ago. The head of romaine was made into a fairly conventional salad. Now for most people, this wouldn't be too impressive. But for me, to be happily eating salad, even that is a milestone. The corn I roasted and made into a sort of creamed corn. I cut it off the cob, put it in a pot with some low-fat milk, butter, and tarragon, and then pureed it smooth. The zucchini my wife baked into a sweet zucchini bread. I should have eaten some, but I didn't. Sometimes I get on this "anti-carb" thing and wasn't really interested in bread. The tomatoes I made into a very good tomato soup. I saw the recipe on a Food Network show and made a few changes to it for my purposes. Next time I make it, I'll make sure and share. The asparagus I combined with some beef sirloin and made stir fry. I really like hoisin sauce, and so I chopped up the beef and asparagus, set them sit in a mixture of hoisin, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and garlic, and then fried it in a bit of sesame oil. Very yummy.
The rest of it I left to my wife. Mushrooms are just not on my agenda. I figure even with eating more fruits and veggies, there are some things that I am still allowed not to like. Ditto the plums. Although I am going to give peaches a try this week. The apples and bananas I just ate day to day at work. I pretty much eat one of each every day.
Here was today's basket. The romaine again, was salad fodder. Although I think this one was even better. I roasted some chicken breasts, chopped them up, tossed it with the lettuce and added some walnuts and the concord grapes you see there. The dressing was a very simple red wine vinegarette; just extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, a bit of granulated onion, and some honey for sweetness. I'm afraid I like my vinegarettes sweet. I went back for seconds of a salad, a salad! Go me! The okra is a new frontier for me. I have never cooked with it, or even eaten it before. So I did a bit of hunting around and discovered a creole style stew that is based on shrimp and okra. The recipe will also allow me to use the celery and onions that you see there. Hopefully this will work out well. No way to find out till you try!
The apples and bananas will just get eaten as usual. The peaches we are going to make into a cobbler with a raspberry topping. Raspberries were on sale at the grocery store, so we're going to throw those in. The little guys in the "wrappers" there are Asian pears. I honestly have no clue what to do with those either. I'll have to do some more hunting around online for some ideas. The green plums are totally up to my wife. I think she's just planning to straight up eat them, which is fine with me. The two acorn squash there we are thinking of making into a soup. I am not the biggest fan of squash in any form really. But I'm thinking bake 'em, scoop 'em out, toss it in a pot with some other veggies, say some carrot, celery, onion, garlic, tomato, puree it all down. It should make something edible. I need to find a way to eat squash anyway since up to now, I have yet to find a method of preparing them that I find very edible.
So if you like fresh fruits and veggies, or if you're looking to push your boundaries in new directions like I am, maybe look into whether they have "Bountiful Baskets" in your community, or some kind of similar service. It really has helped me in my quest to eat healthier and maybe it can do the same for you.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Wow what a week. I had planned to blog about what I had cooked last week and throw in some recipes and pictures for you, but it just turned out to be a much busier week than I had thought. My mother-in-law was visiting for the weekend, which I had already planned on, but it just took a lot more out of me to prepare for that than I had hoped. So... I wanted to start off with a little apology for anyone who was waiting for a recipe or some mouth watering pictures. I'll get something tasty up later this week, promise. :)
As far as my new lifestyle goes, things are pretty much still on track, and I'm feeling pretty good about where I am. In fact, after a weekend of good eating (and eating out) I was still able to lose weight, even though I exceeded my calories somewhat. This past Saturday, we went out to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. Now, if you are familiar with this restaurant, you know their menu (while HUGE) is a veritable mine field of caloric "bombs" destined to blow up your diet. So what did I do? I ordered perhaps the healthiest meal I have EVER ordered at a sit-down restaurant in my life. I got a half turkey sandwich, house salad (dressing on the side,) and a bowl of soup. I pulled the turkey off the sandwich (white bread, eww) and only ate about half the bowl of soup (cream of chicken, delicious but rich) along with the salad. Overall I "escaped" for under 500 calories. I was so proud of myself.
Then for dinner we went to a locally owned seafood restaurant, which was spectacular. My wife and I had eaten there a couple times before and we wanted to take her mother there. We were not disappointed as the food was outstanding. Unfortunately, I didn't make as good a choice here as I did at lunch, but it was well worth the little "splurge." I got baked clams for an appetizer, which were packed with parmesan cheese and bacon. Absolutely delicious, but probably more calories than I needed. For the entree I got a cashew crusted Mahi-Mahi filet. It came with sweet potato "chips," rice, and sauteed spinach. I ate the chips and the spinach, skipped the rice (white rice, empty carbs.) And then I splurged on dessert and got a creme brule. Dessert I probably should have done without, but in the end, the "damage" was minor. I maintained my weight for the week.
Then this morning I got some more good news as the scale took a dip down to 195. Since joining Sparkpeople and shaking up my exercise routine, I have lost 12 pounds in three weeks. I know I cannot expect such rapid results every week, but after being stuck on a plateau for nearly a month, the progress is very encouraging to me. Getting to 180 by Christmas should be easily within reach, and my "bonus goal" of hitting it by Thanksgiving is certainly now possible. I just can't get overexcited and raise my expectations too much. I can't expect to keep losing four pounds a week, every week. The pace is going to slow as I near my target weight. I need to just focus on living my new life and not being a slave to the numbers on the scale. As I said at the beginning, this is about my long term health, not just getting to a certain number.
My next question is, what do I do if I hit my target weight by Thanksgiving? 180 is still borderline overweight for my height, strictly according to BMI. But I really don't want to be "skinny," I want to be healthy. So I think once much of this excess weight is gone, I need to shift my eating/exercise routines into something more focused on building strength and general well being rather than shedding pounds. Right now I am still so out of shape that it is hard to focus on building those things, but with the "extra" bulk gone and better overall health, I should be able to continue to build my strength. But at that point, I need to accept that gaining some weight back is possible, and even likely. Adding muscle is going to add weight. But if I am healthy, that is weight I can live with.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Well this week I hit another milestone in my journey towards a better life. Since I was already down to 207 pounds when I joined Sparkpeople, it may seem that I haven't really come that far. But if you've read my other blogs, you know that this journey actually began several months ago, and that 230 pounds was the high point from which I began. Well this week I stepped on the scale and was pleased to see the number 200 staring back at me. That felt really good to me, not only because of the overall progress it represents, but since I was stuck between 210 and 205 for so long, even this number was beginning to feel out of reach. But I got there, and I feel more motivated than ever to keep moving in the right direction. Even just seeing that tick down to 199 is going to feel even better, because I can't tell you the last time I was under 200 pounds. Certainly not since I get married, and maybe not even since I graduated from college. And that was nine years ago.
I've also decided how I am going to "reward" myself when I reach my goal weight of 180 pounds. My wife had a bit of fun trying to guess what I was looking for, and most of her guesses were pretty good. At an earlier point in my life, she would have been right on with most of them. I intend to buy myself a "kitchen makeover." Now we still live in apartments, so I'm not talking about marble counter tops or dual convection ovens. I'm talking new knives, cutting boards, pots and pans, etc. The more cooking I do, the more I find it to be true that the end result can only be as good as your ingredients and your tools. Trying to chop herbs on a paper plate with a steak knife isn't going to get the job done very well. If I had my way, all my cookware would be copper bottomed, cast iron, or heavy ceramic like a dutch oven. But since that would cost nearly as much as marble counter tops and convection ovens, I'll have to make due with a bit less.
Now I know that weight loss is supposed to be gradual, and I'm not doing anything to put my health at risk, but I told myself I'd "treat" myself to a little bonus if I hit my goal weight by Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. That would be 20 pounds in 11 weeks, which isn't outside the realm of "healthy" weight loss. But we all know that weight loss isn't the consistent slope that we all want it to be. There will be peaks and valleys, and I will have to find new ways to mix up my diet and exercise routines. So while Christmas is still my goal, and I will not be upset if that is how long it takes me, I don't feel bad for "bribing" myself with a little something extra if I can get there ahead of time.
Next time, another recipe. This time with pictures! :)
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