Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I've read the complaint that diets are boring. Usually this is cited in an article about why they don't have to be boring, and followed by details that motivate me to stop reading the article before I get to the end.
On SP, I've seen evidence that some people go to a bit of effort to avoid culinary boredom. There are the ubiquitous, intimidating recipes. There are blogs that discuss devising this, that or the other treat that fits into the nutritional goals. My sister has posted status about what she has for breakfast indicating more variation in the past 4 weeks than I've had for breakfast in the past year, excluding breakfast eaten away from home.
I suppose diet boredom must be a real phenomenon, because people put so much effort into avoiding it. I haven't hit it yet, five weeks into SP. Part of that may be because I'm still figuring out what I can fix that fits into the nutrient ranges, but I suspect most of it is because I have a high tolerance for boredom.
My most common breakfast is oatmeal with raisins, a very simple recipe: 1/3 cup quick oats, sprinkle of salt, 1/3 cup raisins, 2/3 cup milk, alternate stirring and short segments of microwave till done. Serve with a glass of milk, no sugar other than the natural sugar in the raisins. I'm content to eat this five days a week. I know, because I have for years. My concession to dieting has been to replace the 1% milk with skim milk.
You may ask, what do I do the other two days? About one day a week, I'll eat grits with cheese and spices, usually the same spices, and drink orange juice. On Saturdays, I'm going to McDonald's for breakfast with my daughter and being creative with food the rest of the day to make the nutrients work. Before breakfasts and McD, I might have skipped breakfast on Saturday, or made myself a breakfast burrito (usually a dinner item now), or had oatmeal with raisins.
Similarly, I pack the same lunch to take to work most work days. Pre-diet, I'd make some burritos to take about one week in 4 or 5; I haven't yet figured out how to make burritos that fit the system well. If I were worried about boredom, figuring out diet-friendly burritos would be a higher priority.
I do have more variety in my evening meal, but I tend to eat the same stuff two or three days in a row. Sometimes this is because I fix something that is two meals' worth, but more often it's because I found something I liked that worked with the nutrients, and I'm going to do it again.
Eventually, I'm going to get tired of what I'm eating now. But I'll figure something out when that happens. When I do, I'll probably end up eating a lot of the same thing, only it will be something different than I'm eating a lot of now.
So . . . maybe diets are boring, and ability to tolerate boredom helps success? Or maybe that's not universally true. In my case, it's more likely that making food *routine* will allow me to define what I eat and spend my non-eating time thinking about other things than food.
Based on my weight history, I think that would be a Good Thing.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Historically, I've had a problem with diets. The problem is, they tell me to eat lots of stuff I don't understand, don't like, is a lot of work to prepare, and/or makes recipes to feed 6 or 8 when I'm a single person.
Certainly most of the recipes I see on SP fit this mold. They typically call for 3 to 6 ingredients that I've never bought and have no use for other than the unlikely chance of my wanting to make that particular recipe, then make enough that I'd better be OK with eating it every day for a week.
But the SP diet doesn't have to be that way. The SP diet is simply, eat whatever I like as long as I come in within the daily ranges for calories, carbs, fat, and protein. Okay, for the first couple of weeks I only watched the calories; but I feel a lot better since I started watching the macronutrients. I take a multivitamin, so I'm not worried about too little of the micronutrients; and it's a great blessing that I'm not particularly sensitive to sodium.
Five weeks into SP, I see changes in what I eat. Some of the changes were fairly predictable, like getting rid of the diet soda. Some were a surprise, like the way concentrating on getting enough water significantly reduced my decaf tea consumption. (Yes, I know decaf tea is a reasonable substitute that some people count the same as water. I thought about that, realized that tea is more of an eating trigger for me than water is, and decided to only count water.)
And some of the changes are really, far-out, unimaginable a month ago. Like, salad. I've never been fond of salad, unless it had lots of stuff like black olives and cheese on it. I've never liked salad dressing. And there's the whole buy fresh produce and go to a lot of work to fix salad for one problem.
Well, my sister showed me pre-made salad from the grocery store. That fixed the prep effort problem. Got through one bag dry, not having lemon juice in the house. For the second bag, I decided to risk buying some light ranch dressing. Serving size is 2 tbsp. I put 1 tbsp on my first salad, and it was more than enough.
Hmm. Reminds me of chips and dip, only it's a lot better for me. This is a keeper.
Then there's the protein. Under the prodding of the macronutrient ranges, I bought low fat cottage cheese and chicken breasts. The cottage cheese is no surprise, I've always liked that. But the chicken breast has opened up new culinary experiences for single servings.
The routine is, buy the smallest package of chicken breasts at Aldi. Bring them home, and bake covered at 375 F for 50 minutes. Let cool enough to chop, and store the chopped chicken breast in plastic containers. Weigh out how much I want or need as I need it.
What can you do with chopped chicken breast? For starters, wraps. I started with a chicken burrito, which took a couple tries to get right. But a BBQ chicken wrap was pretty easy--chopped chicken breast, a tablespoon or less of Bullseye, and a half to 3/4 ounce of shredded cheese on a tortilla, and microwave to melt the cheese. (As someone on another forum said, use cheese as a flavoring rather than as a main ingredient.)
Later, on a day when I needed protein but not carbs, I got the idea of just putting some chicken on a plate, adding a half ounce of cheese, and sprinkling with red pepper and chili powder. Microwave just enough to melt the cheese, and it's pretty tasty. Kind of the same idea I used to do with corn chips, only less cheese, less fat, more protein, an more flavor.
I'm contemplating eventually figuring out how to make chicken soup, with lentils, rice, pasta or some combination of these for the carbs. No, I'm not going to look for a recipe; I'll figure out something that works to make soup for one.
I'm still not buying a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables, like all the diet gurus tell you to do. But that's okay. I don't need to do that. I can eat my salad, and my baby carrots, and custom design my solo dinner to round out whatever macronutrients I need to fill out the day.
I can do this. I don't think I could follow a diet that demanded X servings of vegetables and Y servings of fruit each day, but I can follow a diet that gives me a calorie range and ranges of how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein I need. It may not look like a traditional weight loss diet, but so far it's working pretty well for me.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I was a weakling for my first 49 years of life. I took up weight lifting shortly after my 49th birthday, and started out with weights that were comically light. Six month later, I'd conditioned to the point where I thought I could try deadlifts. I started at 125 pounds.
Some time during that year, it occurred to me that it would be cool to be able to say I could lift my own weight, and the deadlift was the obvious measurement. While gradually lifting more, but still substantially less than my weight, I thought about standards. I decided that, for me, that meant lifting my weight for reps - 3 sets of 8 reps, being able to put the bar down under control.
I got up to lifting about 180, and I could see it coming. I weighed about 190 then, and it was only a couple of ticks away. (Cue the heroic laughter from offstage.)
I continued to get stronger, but my weight was a moving target. When I was lifting 190, I weighed 195. When I was lifting 195, I weighed 200. I finally caught up at 205, having gained about 15 pounds from where I first got the idea.
At that point, I wasn't tracking what I ate. I figured I was working hard, and if I was hungry I'd eat. Yeah, right. In hindsight, I think I got enough protein at the cost of getting too many calories.
Fast forward three more years. I've been on and off the fitness wagon, and in 2011 I climb back on. This time, I reluctantly admit that I need to track what I eat. SparkPeople makes this possible for me. I'm no longer tracking historical weight lifting in detail, because those detailed records made me too self-competitive. I'd want to never lift less than I did last week, when sometimes I needed to lift less to avoid injury. Better to lift what feels right and not to think about what I did last week.
Well, SP got me motivated to go back into the gym. I'd taken close to a year off, and knew I'd lost some strength. So the first time I did deadlifts, I felt around for the right weight. That turned out to be 185, when I weighed 195 in my gym clothes. Lifted a few times, tracked what I ate, lost a few pounds.
This evening I weighed 190 in my gym clothes. I walked into the weight room, did my warmups, and deadlifted 195, for three sets of eight reps. That's about a two week development period, as opposed to the two and a half years it took me to build up to lifting my weight the first time.
Okay, I'm still lifting less than I did at my peak strength. But it's a nice psychological boost to walk out of that gym knowing that I could pick up an iron bar that weighed a bit more than I did, and lift it off the ground.
I hear someone is donating a piano to my church, and that it needs to be moved from its current location to a truck and from the truck to the church. I bet I'll be able to hold up my end when I'm asked to help move it.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
I lie to myself. That shouldn't be terribly surprising, as most people lie to themselves.
Part of learning to manage my weight has been to identify lies I tell myself and to first, stop believing them; then, stop telling them. There are a lot of lies like this.
"I don't need to keep track of what I eat." Yes, I do. Been the route of not tracking, and it leads to fat.
"I'll work it off." No way, for most of the stuff I say this about. Once I start looking, I see that it's pretty easy to add a gratuitous thousand calories to my diet. Enough exercise to burn a thousand calories takes an awful lot of time.
"Yeah, I'm over the BMI limit; but it's okay because I have a lot of muscle mass." The mirror aids and abets this lie. But the camera tells me the truth. There's a bunch of fat there.
"I'll burn more calories because I have more muscle mass. So I can eat more." On a weight lifting forum, the resident guru did some calculations to confirm some numbers commonly tossed around. She concluded that the muscle gains for a typical serious amateur weight lifter would amount to burning an additional 50 calories per day while resting. I don't have to tell folks on SP how little food 50 calories is.
Incidentally, the same guru argues that the reason stronger people burn more calories isn't because muscles burn more than fat while at rest, but because they actually *do more work* with those stronger muscles, but don't notice the effort because of how strong they are. The physics argument is that lifting 50 pounds by 2 feet is the same amount of work whether it's done by someone who has to strain and sweat to accomplish it, or by someone who does it without noticing. (Note that this only addresses calories burned, not cardiovascular conditioning.)
The preceding examples are all lies I've told myself in the past, but which I no longer believe or tell myself. Today I noticed that I told myself a series of lies and it worked out well.
"Today's Sunday. It's a day of rest. I should just rest." That was a doozy. But I only had 2500 steps in at 1 PM, and I've got a streak of 10K step days to maintain.
"It's raining. I don't want to walk in the rain." But I have a little-used golf umbrella, and it wasn't raining very hard.
"I have to leave the e-book at home, because I need one hand for the umbrella and the other for my water bottle." I was actually about a tenth of a mile into the walk before I realized I intended to be out less than half an hour, and I could have left the water bottle. Oh, well. Not going back at that point.
"I'm still sore from the Romainian Deadlifts last Thursday, so I don't want to walk for exercise. Maybe I'll just take the short walk around the block." Got to the first corner to turn and go the short way. Kept walking.
"I won't work very hard. Probably won't work up a sweat and then I won't need to shower or change clothes." Got to the normal corner, and turned at the usual place. Got to the next two places to turn for a shorter walk, and kept going. By this time, my pace had picked up to close to my normal walking pace. It was feeling pretty good.
"My normal walk around the neighborhood is only good for about 4000 steps. That puts me at 6500, and I don't think I'll make up the other 3500 at home." I'm not sure that one was a lie. Anyway, when I got to the next place to turn on the 2 mile walk, I turned the wrong way, deliberately. I added a chunk to the walk, not knowing how long it would be.
By now, I'm really enjoying the walk. The rain has become harder, but nothing the umbrella can't handle. There is no traffic in the residential area, and the weather is keeping the barking dogs inside. It's really quite pleasant. But I had one last lie to tell myself.
"If I'm lucky, I'll be to 7500 or 8000 steps. Then maybe I'll have a chance of making it to 10K around the house - after I take a nap." Got home, and the pedometer had 8800 steps. The total route turned out to be 3.2 miles, and I average a 15 minute mile. (How did that happen? I was moving pretty slow at first.) I also felt more like puttering around and doing stuff than like taking a nap. I felt even better after cooling down, showering, and changing to some clean clothes.
It's still a small house, and there isn't that far to walk while puttering around. As I write this, the pedometer reads a bit over 9900 steps. I'll get my 10K in today, but probably won't get 11K. But that's okay; after all, Sunday is a day of rest.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Yesterday I went to the gym. That makes two weeks in a row that I've gone to the gym twice. Twice a week lifting weights is good for me. My body complains if I try to lift on alternate days, but it's fine with a three day lag. Seven day weeks being what they are, that means the best I can expect is a Monday-Thursday, Monday-Friday, or Tuesday-Friday lifting schedule. Yesterday's agenda was Romanian deadlifts, lat pulls (because I'm too weak for pullups), dumbbell incline chest presses, and walking lunges.
The owner recognizes me, but there are many new faces in the weight room. I see a few old regulars that I recognize, and a lot of unfamiliar people who have well defined bodies and look like they know what they're doing. Of course, I still see the usual plates left on bars and bars left at abandoned stations, a mute testimony to the fact that clueless n00bs have been here.
Between sets, I sometimes peek at what other people are doing. Yes, most of them know what they're doing. Some of the young guys with well defined bodies are working on explosive moves that I could not do safely. Most of the ones doing traditional lifts are using good form. Sometimes I see a lift that I haven't done, and I think about incorporating it into my rotation. Right now I'm thinking about dropping the weight on my military press, and instead doing a hang clean and press. I like compound moves that use several major muscles; they're time efficient for me.
Yesterday while I was doing my warmups (Turkish getup/windmill combos followed by a few kettlebell snatches), I heard a couple of young, well defined body types talking. One was describing a diet theory that cut carbs to almost nothing while overloading on protein and working hard. Apparently that's part of the cutting phase to prepare for a modeling show or body building competition, designed to force the body to burn fat while rebuilding the muscle that the diet also loses. I kept a straight face and didn't say anything. I suspect that kind of diet can't be good for health, and that you need to be young to tolerate it in cycles for that kind of vanity. But if that's what those guys want to do, well, I'm not their trainer.
A bit later, an odd thing happened. I had finished one set of something and was walking toward the drinking fountain. Another guy and I dodged around each other in a perfectly normal maneuver for a crowded gym floor, and he mumbled "excuse me" in a tone that seemed to indicate he was deferring to me. A while after that, I figured it out. Saw the same guy, a younger fellow, doing DB chest presses. He was using 20 pound dumbbells, which isn't very much for a young healthy male to press. The light dawned.
This guy is a newbie, and he identified me as a regular! Now, there are two major types of newbies. One is the clueless n00b who is going to wash out and is oblivious. The other is the serious newbie who wants to make this work, and is trying to learn without getting in the way of people he sees as more experienced and knowledgeable than he is. This guy was the second kind. I used to be that guy, except I was a lot older when I was at that stage.
That was a minor ego boost. I don't see myself as a regular at the gym yet. Haven't been doing this consistently long enough. Don't have the well defined body saying I've done this consistently. But to a new lifter, I look like a regular who knows what he's doing.
Must be those Turkish getups. They do look impressive to people who have never done them.
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