Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Even though I am only now officially "adding regular exercise" to my list of 12 in 12 I began going to the gym steadily early in January. I was pumped and proud that I'd made it through the Thanksgiving to New Year season with a small weight loss. I wanted to build on that. I had already selected exercise/fitness as one of my 12 and one of the starting-gate rules for this 12 in 12 project was that I could start doing any of them any time I wanted to. It's just that each habit would get one solid month of concentrated effort. So back to the gym I went, that first week in January.
A bit of back story is appropriate here. In 2005 I took a terrible fall and did some permanent injury to my neck and spine and the nerves that flow into arms and legs. Exercise has been on and off for me ever since. I would realize how flabby and weak I'd become, begin a routine, stress the neck or spine, suffer pain, have to quit, get flabby and begin again. I also have a central nervous system issue that was once triggered by too much exercise on an empty stomach - so even though I know how to foil it, there is a psychological issue - fear - that lurks in the background, taunting me with images of me blacking out in public. With the full understanding that even now this cycle can repeat itself, I decided to go back to my beloved elliptical machine and try this time, to go slow. No. To go S L O W.
At first, of course, I had to get back into the habit of going at all. Leaving the office in the dark, maybe a little stressed, tired, longing to settle into my PJs on the couch with a good book, fire crackling, dogs at my feet .... it was very tempting to brush off going to the gym. When I leave the library I turn right to go home or turn left to go into town ... and to the gym. If I can just make that left turn I'll go to the gym and 100% of the time, if I just go inside the gym - I walk out feeling super. Great. Proud. Energized. It's that left turn that is so important.
I have the world's best staff - fun, creative, reliable - and all of them different too, so each brings special gifts to the table. In January one of them, hearing me whine about "should I go to the gym? Should I go home?" answered with the perfect inspirational comment. "If you have to ask yourself, you should go to the gym" - and that's been my mantra all winter.
I get to the gym at least 3 times a week but aim for 4. M, T, W, and Th are the days that I'm in town and get off work before the gym closes. On the weekends I like to get in other activities that I can do at home and with family members. About 6 weeks ago I decided my core, stomach and back, were just not getting what they needed and I booked a session with the trainer at the gym, giving him the full background of my health issues. He gave me a series of core and balance exercises along with ways to use tools to support my neck and I began doing them 2 or 3 times a week. Last week I knew I was ready for more and have booked a series of 10 sessions with him beginning next week. It will mean leaving way early for work one day a week but it will be worth it.
So there has been a steady improvement all winter in strength, stamina, energy, even weight loss. I'm pleased and I'm proud. (notice ... I've used the word 'proud' three times now ... this is worth a blog post all by itself)
But yesterday there was a stamina breakthrough that caught me by surprise. One of my regular routines is a 30 minute elliptical workout that's programmed into the machine: warm up, speed up, concentrate on pushing, then pulling the arm posts, slow down, go backwards, repeat. I've worked hard keeping good form, not hunching over or slumping, and I've gradually upped the resistance too. Last night, as I came to the end of my programmed routine, I realized I wanted to watch the end of the television show that was beaming in front of me - so I started all over again with a 15 minute version of what I'd just done - and what do you know - I just breezed right through it. Zip. No extra effort required - just a little extra time. Wow! now that is a non-scale victory.
I've always thought that getting in a hour of cardio at a time would really be beyond me but I think I might just lengthen my gym stay from now on.
Friday, April 06, 2012
It floats off of Spark Friends' blogs.
It's peeps at you as you pass a store window and see your reflection.
It sweats out of your skin as you move your body.
It surprises you when you open up and ask for help - and get it.
It whispers to you between one bite and the next - which turns into the last.
It tingles your fingers when the button slips easily through the buttonhole.
It giggles when the zipper glides easily up.
It wraps itself around you when a friend compliments you.
It bolsters you after you've done the hard thing.
It comes from not quitting.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Yesterday was weigh-in at my Weight Watchers meeting. I have made so many really precious friends at that meeting that I hate to miss one - and last week I spent Tuesday in the city helping to choose a nursing home for my mother. Often when I have to do a sad family task I post a weight gain the next week. Happily I did not this week - even though we celebrated my gourmand husband's birthday on Saturday. I'd prepared. I'd stuck with the plan. I even ate a Dairy Queen Double Chocolate Blizzard ... coming in at a whopping 18 points if you know how WW points work and were curious. But it had been carefully planned and accounted for and I had a nice healthy weight loss to show for it.
One way I managed to incorporate such a calorie laden indulgence into actual weight loss was to borrow from my Spark Pal Bookworm27S www.sparkpeople.com/mypage.asp?id=BO
She is experimenting with foods she used to find irresistible. She takes something, calculates it's food value and calorie content, then breaks it into manageable and unshameful portions. She tastes the portion and evaluates her reaction to decide if she likes it, hates it, resents it, whatever happens. Often she surprises herself with how disappointed she is.
Well. I will never be disappointed by ice cream though I may be overwhelmed with the portion I have before me. That's what happened with the Blizzard. I ate each bite as long as it tasted good. Once it felt like too much I didn't finish.
So - now on to my own surprise. It's Easter and you know how much candy is out there in the stores. I like candy though I'm not a candy freak. I can pass on most of it because it's not hard to avoid the aisles with candy on them. BUT
I also know that only at this time of the year will I find one of my favorite candies!
Yes. The chocolate covered peep. I made myself a promise that if I could lose 3 weeks in a row I would buy myself one of these treats and, just as I savored the birthday ice cream, eat it s l o w l y - savoring every bite. So after my WW meeting yesterday I strolled confidently into the store and plunked down my money. I drove to a pretty outlook in town, with a view of the creek and the river beyond. I opened my chocolatey chicken, sniffed it's sugary goodness, and took one bite.
Oh the SURPRISE! Oh the disappointment. Oh the sadness. Oh durn. The chocolate was ... stale. It was nothing like I had anticipated. It was nothing like I remembed. I confess. I took a second bite just to be sure it wasn't any good. (People are so silly, aren't we?) Nope. Grainy chocolate that just did not make that perfect blend of silky sweet chocolate fluffiness in my mouth. Rats.
I threw the rest of it away.
Now - a chocolate covered peep equals 3 WW points or about 150 calories, most of which are carbohydrates. Just in case you wondered. This was not an evil extravagant indulgence. It was a manageable one. But in this case - it was no indulgence at all.
What a surprise. What do you want to bet that next Easter I'll see those chocolate covered peeps and think ... "Eh. No thanks".
Happy Hump Day to you all, my friends. May your surprises be educational!
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
It's a new month and time to pick another good habit to add to my daily routine. In January I added food tracking, with the goal of looking like Helen Miren on my 60th birthday too - well - maybe not in the bikini. Don't really like bikinis. Nor do I hope for the dangle-less neck skin, since I can't afford the surgery I'd need, to get that jawline. But you get the picture. I'm aiming at my version of hot at 60.
So far I've done pretty well - clawing my way down to within 10 lbs of my old Weight Watcher's triumphant goal. There have been some ups too but at least I knew what caused them and several times, knowing how much I'd already eaten in a day has proved to be the stop sign I needed to keep me from crashing into excess. Also - with the exception of one week when family duty really kiboshed my efforts, I've tracked everything I've eaten for 3 months.
February I knew I needed something different. February was a fractious cranky month. In February I chose to add prayer to my daily routine. I have my own highly personal way of praying. Well. I suppose everyone does. Mine combines meditation and searching with really making the effort to open up so as to actually see that I'm getting answers to those prayers. I love it and it has certainly helped me as I navigated a tough winter. Now and then it's skimmed me over rough ground very lightly. It has been harder for me to squeeze time for prayer into my days than I'd thought it would be - I have not been as consistent as I'd like to have been - but for sure I have taken the time for this quiet introspective conversation with the divine a lot more frequently than I would have had I not decided to make the effort. And ... these are things I want to add to my life forever, so I have the next couple of decades to get better at it.
March, knowing things were only going to get even tougher, I decided to go easy on myself and add only the habit of drinking enough water every day. Like prayer - I have not been quite as perfect as I'd have liked to be - but there has been progress. The big deal is weekends ... I really can forget to drink water on the weekends. So now when I make coffee in the morning, I fill a big 20 oz glass with water and leave it out on the kitchen counter. Two of those, downed, get me close to the goal.
And now it is April and though all the astrologers promise me the second half of the month will be much more fun - I still have to slog through the first two weeks. I shan't go into detail about this. Just know that right now is an inordinately demanding time for me. I am prone to wake up dreading the day rather than leaping into it and there's nothing I can do but slog my way forward. There *is* another side and I *will* get there. But I'm not putting any unnecessary pressure on my psyche, my spirit or my brain. What I will do is choose to add to my life something I know will help me both now, during these hard days, and later, when things slide into easypeasy land. For April I choose #2 on my original list.
2. Wear a pedometer and get those 10K steps
10K steps, 4 activity points, whatever you want to call it - the goal is to build into my life more movement - I move - but not enough.
I actually love activity and fitness and only drift away from it because it's easy to drift away from anything. I've also been pretty good about getting in some exercise each week. I'm going to make this month the one I totally concentrate on fitness and strength and to start off right, I've scheduled a 10 sessions with the personal trainer at my gym. First one was yesterday and it left me feeling great!
So. I leave you with my Virgo Horoscope from Rick Levine:
"You can feel the winds of change blowing through your life, but you're not able to catch the right breeze just yet. It's as if the wind tries to pull you off course instead of pushing you toward your desired destination. However, trying to resist can wear you down quickly. Don't try to fight against the prevailing currents. Follow them until they settle down and then you'll be able to correct your course more easily. "
Ta now - may the new moon come quickly.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Ack! I can't believe it's the last third of March already - heck - the last fourth - and I haven't posted since forever. I promise you - it's because life has been so full of Other Stuff. Time for reflection and writing had to be traded for budget hearings, technology upgrades, public functions, parental duty, face to face friend time, family visits - in short - life has just been too full of action to be contemplative. Or perhaps I should say - too full to write about my contemplative life, which is the most important part of my life and actually my favorite.
I remember one year asking a cousin I hadn't seen in a few months how she was.
"Oh. I'm busier than I've ever been." she cried.
"Really? What has been happening?" I asked her.
"Nothing important but you see, I gave myself a diary for Christmas this year and now I have to do something every day so I can write about it."
After I'd shoved my shocked and dropped jaw back up I gasped in reply ... "I've kept diaries for years and all I ever write about is my feelings!"
Two good southern girls who couldn't be more different. After all the doing comes the thinking and only after that am I likely to write about it. But I did want to share something that has happened recently - something that may have been the sharp tool I was looking for to puncture the balloon of a weight loss plateau.
For months now I've been playing with about 4 pounds - you all know the way it goes - two weeks of serious tracking and you drop those lbs and then a weekend jaunt away and then a sudden call to duty that keeps you in a car, driving home late after missing dinner when only the fast food places are open. then clawing back down from the 3 lb weight gain. Averaged out over 3 months it comes to a plateau. But a few weeks ago I stumbled upon Bookworm27S' blog www.sparkpeople.com/mypage.asp?id=BO
OKWORM27S where she has been chronicling ( and photographing ) her experiments with foods she was afraid to eat. She's lost a substantial amount of weight but now she was afraid of sweet deserts so she decided to really examine what these foods tasted like by portioning them into 50 calorie chunks, selecting only one piece and concentrating on what she was experiencing as she ate it.
The idea is both clever and wise. It is clever because it tricks her fearful emotions just long enough to find out if there really is something to be afraid of and it is wise because, from the safe zone of portion control, she can take the time to discover if she even likes this forbidden food. Mostly she has found that she doesn't really care for highly processed, sugar laden food - good for her and a great example for us all.
But it was those photographs of small bites that triggered a switch-flicking moment inside me. Portion control is my bugbear. Often I eat beyond the point where something tastes good because I'm talking or I'm in a hurry or because there's still some left. Even a dyed in the wool ENFP like me gets some joy out of completion - especially when I can put my plate directly in the dishwasher without having to store leftovers first.
Yet - the logical part of my little Virgo soul asks "Why eat what you don't want? Why eat what doesn't even taste interesting?"
I decided to cut up my food like I would for a toddler. Not just deserts, but all food is given the bite-sized treatment. Hamburgers on bread flats are quartered. Cookies are broken into 2 or 3 pieces. Each bite is given my undivided attention. Utensils are downed between 'servings'. And the moment the food is no longer interesting - I just stop. I'm going slowly enough that I don't careen into the Whole Thing before I realize that it no longer tastes good. Of course, if that last bite is still as much fun to eat as the first was I go ahead and eat it, but like Bookworm27S - more often than not I don't eat that last bite. I'm just not interested.
A triumphant moment happened Thursday night when I was dining with friends in a restaurant where I did not cut up all my food right away. I ordered a beef patty ("chopped steak" it's called around here) It was delicious - that first bite swam with flavor. The next two bites were pretty good too. But as I put a bite into my mouth, my brain suddenly said "Hon - that just has no more flavor". It didn't taste bad. It just had no more flavor. My taste buds were done for the night. I didn't eat any more.
What a liberating moment. I wondered if that is how all those 'naturally slim' people eat - paying attention to what the food tastes like and only eating the good tasting stuff. Well. Maybe not - but I like to think that's how it's done - and I like to think that's how I'll do it from now on.
so. Thanks, Bookworm27S. What would we do without our sparkfriends?
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