Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Buying new clothes is a traditional indication that a fitness and diet regimen is working. And thus it is, for me; but not in the way that is meant when the stereotypical dieter announces she bought new clothes.
I hate shopping for clothes, and it's worse when I have to go to the real mall instead of a big box store or a strip mall. I dislike driving into the mall parking lot even when I don't have to shop for clothes. But clothing does not last forever, and worn clothing must periodically be replaced.
This isn't so bad for something like underwear, where I can pick some up with minimal angst at Walmart, paying a price that is clearly marked. But business casual pants and shirts for work don't come from Walmart. Mostly, they require a trip to the mall. In the case of the pants, that also means a trip into a fitting room because my waist has historically fluctuated in size. And, of course, there's the issue of comparison shopping for stuff that isn't totally comparable from one store to another, and digging through the marketing and current sale nonsense to figure out what I'm really spending. Yuck. I hate the whole experience. Thank God I don't need to shop for a business suit right now!
The stereotypical dieter would tell you how pleased she was to be able to get into some size (the number wouldn't mean anything to me), and how she liked the new clothes, and perhaps what a great bargain they were or how much money she saved. This would be a victory celebration for her, because she met her goal or made significant progress toward it. It would be an indication that her program is successful.
I've been on the Spark for a bit over 2 weeks. I'm down about 4 pounds from when I started. That's better than a kick in the pants, but it's not a major success on the scale or a new wardrobe weight change.
I bought the same size belt I have been wearing, because one just wore out. I bought the same size shirts I have been wearing, because I need to replace some that are wearing out. I did buy 34" waist pants instead of the 36" I'm wearing; but this has happened before, without watching what I eat. I can still wear the existing 36" pants, but they're wearing out and it's about time to replace them. The stuff I bought looks okay, perfectly acceptable for business. If someone described what I bought as "cute" or "stunning" or any of the other adjectives women use to describe clothes they like, I'd wonder what was wrong with it.
I did maybe save some money, though it's hard to tell what's a real saving on something I buy seldom, but which is always on sale. The nice cashier found a way to turn a $133 purchase into a $91 purchase, on the same credit card that I'd intended to use anyway. But the financial stuff isn't really a Spark success. I've been managing a budget for years, and watching this type of thing is nothing new.
The Spark success is that I actually went shopping for clothes, got what I needed, and got home without a lot of stress. I picked a weekday after work, and decided I had the energy to deal with an unpleasant but necessary task. (That, and the extra steps for walking through the mall would put me very comfortably above 10K steps today.) Instead of making excuses because I just didn't feel like going anywhere near the mall, I went and got done what I needed to do.
The unpleasant but necessary task of shopping didn't have anything to do with fitness and weight loss; the clothing that I am replacing would have needed to be replaced even if I were still muddling along 4 pounds heavier and less in shape. But getting it done had everything to do with motivation and getting my act together. I run out of things to do for the Spark program, and look around for what else I can do that is productive. Today that turned out to be clothes shopping.
That's a real, if small, success of starting the Spark system.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Today my regularly scheduled blood donation rolled around. I used to do this on Saturdays, but the Red Cross center where I donate kept changing its weekend schedule, and I'd run into it being closed for major holidays. So a couple years ago I switched to Monday afternoons, because it's open every Monday and I can schedule at real 8 week intervals instead of having to hit the shifting 1st and 3rd or 2nd and 4th Saturday.
If I donate 6 times in a year, the Red Cross sends me a cute little pin proclaiming the fact. This is my record of how long I've been doing this. I counted six such pins just now, for 2004 through 2009 excluding 2006. I think I got sick around one donation in 2006, and that resulted in not giving 6 times. Oh, and 2010? The calendar fell just right and I have a nice pin with a 7 on it for 2010. It will be back to 6 in 2011.
The little pins are one of the things the Red Cross does to try to motivate repeat donors. Some of the other things I have from Red Cross motivation efforts include a small blanket, and very nice baseball cap, a red plush "life saving bloodhound" plush toy, and a heart shaped stress ball. Of course, none of this stuff is why I give blood. I give blood because I can, many people cannot, it's a socially responsible thing to do, and there is always need. Today there was a sign up for a blood shortage, with reminders of recent news on local tragedies where much blood was required.
There's also a promotion, give blood in the month of July and get a coupon for 1.5 quart container of Friendly's ice cream.
Today was my first blood donation since starting with SparkPeople. The preliminaries went a lot like other blood donations, very routine. Then there was this coupon. And the post-donation canteen. In the past, I would have had juice and cookies. Today, I took the bottled water and read the nutrition information on the offered snacks. It wasn't a very hard decision to stick with the raisins, easily the healthiest thing offered.
Standard advice includes drinking an extra 4 glasses of water after blood donation. I've never paid much attention to that or tracked how much I drank. But now I have the Spark. No problem, just treat my minimum water for today as 12 glasses instead of 8.
I'm new to the SparkPeople system, but I've been donating blood for quite a while. I know how my body reacts to a blood donation. It was less trouble than I expected to get in 30 fitness minutes and 10K steps on a blood donation day. In fact, I may break 14K steps before I go to bed. It was surprisingly easy to stay on track for both food and exercise while working around the blood donation. The only thing I didn't get in today was strength exercises.
Lesson of the day: I can keep up the plan and keep streaks alive even on blood donation days.
Oh, yeah, that ice cream coupon? I think I'll give it to my daughter. I don't need to eat 1.5 quarts of ice cream.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Today was my church's annual Service in the Park, preceded by Breakfast in the Park. This is a wonderful social event where long term members get together and chat before worship, and have a breakfast featuring scrambled eggs, coffee, orange juice, and of course muffins, cinnamon rolls, and sometimes bagels. There is always plenty of food. People are encouraged to eat as much as they like, and sometimes to take leftovers home.
Social eating is one of my problems. I've known this for quite a while.
I'm new to tracking food, today being my 14th day at it. The safest thing to do about Breakfast in the Park would be to not go--either skip church this morning, or don't arrive till after breakfast. That didn't work, because I had agreed to sing and needed to be there before breakfast to rehearse. So, this year's Breakfast in the Park was a test of my ability to negotiate a social eating situation with no limits on portion size.
I took a guesstimated 2 eggs worth of scrambled eggs, and a guesstimated 2 ounces of ham. I planned on having 2 mini cinnamon rolls, then broke down and ate a third. After the second 12 ounce cup of coffee (virtuously taken black, as opposed to with creamer in prior years), I switched to drinking water. Magically, the glass of water in my hand filled the social need to have something!
After the service, I got the nutrition data for the cinnamon rolls. The breakfast added up to an estimated 519 calories, out of a daily range from 1870 to 2220 suggested by the Spark. If I'd managed to skip that last mini cinnamon roll, it would have been 429, not that much higher than my typical self-prepared breakfast in the 370 to 390 calorie range.
Then I got to thinking. What would I have eaten if I weren't tracking? I would have had multiple helpings of scrambled eggs with ham, and the first helping would have been bigger than what I had today. I wouldn't have counted mini cinnamon rolls. There would have been mild or half & half in the coffee. And there would have been another muffin or two after the service. I wouldn't have come in under 1500 calories, and I might have gone as high as 3000. Of course, I would have been full enough that I wouldn't need to eat lunch . . . but "breakfast" would have been more calories than my breakfast and lunch put together were today. There's a good chance it would have been more than my actual total eating today.
If Breakfast in the Park had been the first Sunday after I started tracking, I might not have been as successful. That second week was important for getting used to tracking everything, and the natural adjustment to being more mindful of what I eat *because* I am going to track it.
And if I don't blog about it now, I might not be as successful the next time I'm in a situation like this. Writing about it helps firm up in my mind what I did that worked, so I have a better chance of repeat success, or even a modest improvement. If I remember this morning well enough, perhaps the next time I'll be able to resist that third mini cinnamon roll in favor of using those calories for a serving of yogurt later in the day.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
A few years ago, I wanted to lose some weight. I was totally unwilling to track what I ate, so I focused on exercise and training. Of course, the groups that I found dedicated to training told me stuff I didn't want to hear, like, "You can't out-train a crappy diet."
Still in denial, I tried to clean up my diet a bit without keeping track. One of the things that I ended up doing to save money was take my lunch to work. It had to be cheap, portable, something I would actually eat, and keep for a half day without refrigeration. The healthy part of my most common lunch was a hard boiled egg, a quarter cup of almonds, and a third of a cup of raisins. (Let's not talk about the pop-tarts, okay?)
Fast forward, and I found SparkPeople. I bought the pictured food scale, which is probably the best $43 I've spent this year. And I weighed my standard almonds that were sitting in baggies waiting to be part of future lunches. They came in at 1.5 or 1.6 ounces. I trimmed them to 1.5 ounces and called it good.
Another week, and I set a weight goal. Implementing that on the site, my recommended calorie range dropped from the maintenance range I was given when I didn't have a goal. So, how to bring the actual consumption down? Well, the standard serving for almonds on the site seems to be 1 ounce. My sister uses a half ounce. How about if I trim my portion size, since I usually end up munching almonds longer than I want to at lunch?
Thursday I adjusted all my baggies of almonds down to one ounce. Friday the first one ounce bag of almonds went to work in my lunch. Munching the almonds seemed to take a more appropriate length of time, and I didn't even notice the difference in hunger level. Wow.
Let's do the math. A half ounce of almonds (pictured above) is 81.9 calories. 20 work days in a month, times 12 months a year, times 81.9 calories is 19,656 calories. At 3500 calories per pound of fat, that's about 5.6 pounds.
That's more than half the weight I gained from June 30, 2010 to June 30, 2011.
I also noticed that the site says there are 24 whole kernals per ounce of almonds. I'm seeing more like 27 or 28; I guess the almonds I buy are a little smaller than the ones used to compute the average. Did I mention that the food scale was the best $43 I've spent this year?
A half ounce. Not enough almonds to notice on the hunger scale. But enough to make a difference, over the course of a year.
Measure. Everything. You. Eat. Absent measurement, you can't make intelligent adjustments, and some of those adjustments are going to be really important.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Two weeks ago, I was on vacation. I spent some time outdoors in the summer, and the time I spent in air conditioning was in places that only cooled to 80 or 78 degrees. I got used to it.
This week, I felt COLD at work. It wasn't really any colder in the office, I'd just acclimatized to a warmer temperature. The last couple of days, I ended up taking breaks to walk around the block so I could warm up.
No so coincidentally, my vacation coincided with starting on the SparkPeople site and starting to track, in detail, what I eat. I was so not looking forward to this; but it's hard to argue with my sister's results, as compared to the erratic results I'd had just trying to get more exercise and not eat totally stupidly.
The first few days, there was no calorie limit. IIRC, the first day I tracked on the Spark I ate over 3900 calories. Big day eating out. The next two days I came in close to the top of my maintenance range, on the road eating fast food. After that, it was eating at home where I have more control . . . but did not have the best pantry for eating well.
Then a few days ago I actually set a weight loss goal. Bit the bullet, and blew away what I'd tracked so the goal would work with the Spark. Of course, my target calorie range went down by a couple hundred calories per day. But a funny thing happened; it wasn't all that hard to adjust to the new calorie range.
I had acclimatized to eating less, under the discipline of recording everything. Of course, this discipline also changed what I ate; I became more conscious of "expensive" foods and picked what I thought might be filling enough on the calories I had left in the day.
Yesterday, it changed a bit more. I had to go to the store for more skim milk anyway. (Who'd have thought that I'd be able to acclimatize to skim milk in a week?) I'd been having trouble getting my protein grams into the recommended range, so I wanted to look at low fat cottage cheese and chicken breasts. Aldi had decent prices on both, so I bought some. I hadn't bought cottage cheese in maybe three years, and I hadn't bought chicken in longer than that. And I only had one meal left in the day, anyway. But I did it. Bought the cottage cheese, bought the chicken, and dutifully recorded the nutrition data in my favorites. Had a bit of cottage cheese to make my protein numbers yesterday, and baked the chicken breasts yesterday evening.
Today I used the first part of that chicken. I built an experimental chicken burrito out of a flour tortilla, 40 grams of chicken, a half ounce of shredded cheese, and a tablespoon of Taco Bell hot sauce. I had chopped up 75 grams of chicken as a serving, but 40 grams was what looked right on the tortilla. You guessed it; I've acclimatized to weighing and measuring my food. I don't know whether I could have started this before I became an empty nester; but I can certainly do it NOW. (No, it wasn't the best chicken burrito in the world; but it's a starting point for learning to build a better one.)
The tools are ever so much better than they were in the late 1980s, the last time I tried to monitor food intake and follow a plan. The internet didn't exist then, everything was paper and pencil, and portion sizes were a mixture of guess and mystery. Now, I have a lot of nutritional data on SparkPeople, plus the ability to enter my own; a web program that automatically calculates the numbers for servings that don't match the standard size; and an electronic food scale that measures to the tenth of an ounce or in grams, whichever I need. Absent these tools, I would not be ready to track stuff. The fancy tools don't make easy; they make it *possible*.
I'm not yet acclimatized to the idea of buying fresh fruits and veggies. In my old world, they were a terrible idea because I wouldn't use them before they went bad. But I did buy some baby carrots today. I understand them, and I will use them. The time for fresh fruits and veggies is not yet, but the idea has move from the realm of "That Will Never Happen" to the realm of "I Need to Figure a Few Things Out First." I've got some ideas on how I could make some selected fruits and veggies work for me, but the ideas still need some development.
In the past two weeks, I've also acclimatized to more exercise per week than I had for the first half of the year; but that part was easy. I've been there, and I understand exercise. Controlling the diet is totally new, and acclimatization there is the surprise.
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