Friday, August 24, 2012
I’m sure most of you can recall the following situation from some time in your past.
You’ve just come back from summer vacation. You had a great time! You went out, you had fun with friends or your family, and your good time involved lots of food and lots of drinks maybe. You tried some new desserts that you couldn’t resist, you overindulged in your favorite ice cream flavors and of course you couldn’t say “no” to one or two or more cocktails whenever you were in that beach bar. The past few days you’ve started to feel your clothes becoming a little tight on you and you know you must have gained some weight. “Well, it’s just a couple of pounds,” you think. “I’ll get rid of them in no time.” And you approach your scale to prove that your estimates are right. But once you get on it, your smile disappears and panic sets in. And unfortunately, there’s nothing wrong with the scale…
There are many similar incidents in my adult life timeline. And not only after summer vacation. After Christmas, after Easter, after stressful periods at work. But this summer it was different. I wanted to prove to myself that I had learned my lesson. And I was determined not to relive the above experience especially after having almost reached my goal weight. A little less than three weeks was a long time away from home and I could easily get derailed. So, I made up a strategic plan that could help me enjoy my vacation but at the same time avoid a bad “reunion” with the scale!
First, I created the right mindset. Just before I leave, I joined the “At Goal & Maintaining” team. “You’re a maintainer now,” I said to myself. “You just can’t come back and have to start all over again. What will your new teammates think of you? Is this the motivation you want to share?” I kept the words in my mind and moved on.
Those were my eating strategies:
- I stopped tracking completely. This is not my idea of vacation. After all, I had no internet connection where I was and actually writing down everything would be difficult.
- Healthy breakfast was a must. No matter what had happened at dinner the night before, the day had to have a healthy start. But temptations were all around. My husband and kids would enjoy various things for breakfast, from bacon and eggs to muffins and delicious pies. So, for only two mornings I allowed myself to have a big chocolate-filled croissant. That’s the only thing I craved. No deprivation and damage kept to the minimum.
- At lunch, I followed the quarters’ rule. If my plate was divided in quarters, two of them had to be vegetables, one protein and one carbs. With my father’s organic vegetable garden, that was really easy to follow. Fresh vegetables available all the time!
- Dinner was the hardest part. We ate out with friends many times and their choices were far from healthy. But I always tried to choose the “least unhealthy”. And limit alcohol to a glass of beer or two glasses of wine.
- Snacks were always fruit, as many of them as I wanted. It helped with my sweet tooth cravings and with the occasional boredom bingeing.
- There were a few days when I just couldn’t follow any plan and would eat all the wrong things. It’s ok, it happened. I never allowed myself to do that for a second day in a row. Even if I ended up doing it every other day – which I didn’t – half the days would be healthy eating so my odds of maintaining would be 50-50. Well, better than zero, right?
- I continued tracking. I used the “Cardio Trainer” app on my phone which uses GPS and I could track my hikes in the forest.
- For cardio, I planned to use every opportunity I had. Swimming while I was close to the sea, hiking while I was in the mountains.
- For strength, I knew I wouldn’t have any equipment available. So, before I left home, I created two 45-minute schedules of strength exercises based on body resistance like squats, lunges, pushups, crunches, etc. I hadn’t imagined how difficult they would be at high altitude!
- I grabbed every opportunity I had for exercise. I took my kids horseback riding and I tried it, too. I went on hikes in the forest whenever I could and… I went for my first run (blog coming soon)!!!
Everything worked out as it should have. When I came back, my scale greeted me with the same number I had left it. Post-vacation scale crisis successfully averted!
I shared my strategies with you in order to help anyone who’s going on vacation and is nervous about ruining their weight loss journey. Some tips may work for you and some may not. But they can give you ideas for your own strategies. All these things may sound stressful to some of you, but believe me they weren’t. After having been used to a certain type of healthy living for a period of time, some things just come naturally. You just have to remind yourself all the time of how far you’ve come and of what’s more important to you. And I guess that’s a rule of maintenance in general. Priorities!
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
I was never the summer type. I don’t like heat, I can only stand sweat if it’s the product of a good workout and until recently the word swimsuit sounded like torture to my ears. Summer vacation was something I looked forward to only if it involved visiting new places, doing new things and going sightseeing. “New” was my synonym for summer vacation.
This year I visited no new places and I saw no new sights I had never seen before. My summer vacation was spent in places I’ve been many times in the past and there were actually no new things to see. Yet, I had one of the most relaxing and enjoyable vacation I’ve had in years. There were many reasons for this. One of them was that my children are no babies anymore and I didn’t have to run around them all the time fearing that they would do something reckless or dangerous and they would hurt themselves. I could do “grown-up things” – that’s what my daughters call them – with my children and that was really fun. We actually spent lots of time lying on the beach, sun tanning, reading our books – at last, we can all read now! – listening to music, playing and having fun!
Another reason was the lack of swimsuit-season-panic! Every year I would dread the time I would have to walk on the beach wearing a swimsuit. I would spend my whole summer thinking “Come September, I have to do something about my weight. I have to stop eating!” And my overwhelming feelings of disappointment would only cause me to eat more and more. This year I just had to maintain and check myself once more on whether I had actually made a lifestyle change. It seems I had! I’ll make sure to write a blog soon about my maintaining strategies.
Our vacation started by the sea. We visited a small seaside village on Evia island and stayed there for four days. What we actually did was staying on the beach all day. We just walked from the hotel room to the beach and back, nothing else! The weather was more than perfect and the Aegean sea was just calm and… perfect.
That’s where we spent our days.
I tried to experiment with my camera attempting to take a picture that would look like oil painting using some settings I had read about. I don’t know if I succeeded but I really like this picture. It’s like summer memories. Colorful and fading at the same time.
That’s the view from our hotel room at dusk.
Full moon! The view of the moonlight on the sea surface was stunning! Unfortunately I didn’t have an appropriate lens for that but I did my best with what I had.
Then we moved up to my favorite place in the world. My mountain village. I have never actually lived there but I spent there all my summers as a kid and a teenager.
We stayed with my parents for two weeks. We met friends, we went hiking in the forest, horse-riding and even river-fishing! – this one was just for fun, we didn’t actually catch anything!
We also visited Meteora again. For the children it was the first time. Meteora is a combination of huge rocks located right in the middle of country land near the town of Kalambaka. On them, there is a big complex of monasteries whose building started in the 14th century. If you ever come to Greece, don’t miss them!
Can you make out the huge net standing on top of the tower? This was used to take monks up and down back then!
Unfortunately, my camera battery deceived me on this day. Even though it looked full, it died when we got in the first monastery. Argh!!!
That’s the view from above.
I wish I could live so close to nature. It was very difficult for me to leave and come back to the city. I would wake up every morning by the sound of birds at my window and the first thing I saw was this:
It’s the view from my bedroom window.
I just didn’t want to leave this and go back to alarm clocks, traffic noises and tall, ugly buildings.
But… all good things come to an end. The good thing is that memories stay in our hearts forever. And they become our safe harbor when things get tough. We just sail into it, let the pictures, the sounds and the smells fill our mind and we make it through everything.
I wish you all have a small, golden treasure chest in your heart filled with this summer’s memories.
Thank you so much for reading.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
"I’m sorry. I don’t think we have anything at your size."
I was at my heaviest. 90 kilograms, 199 pounds. I was at a mall, trying to find a gift for my niece. I went into a store that I would never walk into if I had gone shopping for myself. You know the ones. Where you’re lucky if you can find anything bigger than size 10, and both the customers and the girls who work there look like they have come out of the pages of a fashion magazine? That kind of store. And my niece actually looks exactly as described before.
I was browsing through clothes that I would never dream of wearing, when a very young, very fit, very thin shop assistant came towards me. She wasn’t smiling as they usually do but she had that awkward look on her face which looked like a grin of arrogance and disgust mixed together. She just stood beside me staring at me and just because I felt I had to say something I said: “Is this one size?” “Yes”, she answered. And she added: “I’m sorry. I don’t think we have anything at your size,” completing her comment with a disgusting look at me from top to toes…
I was never the kind of person who would stand up for myself no matter how unfair a behavior was. I would just gulp down my feelings and run away. Only to make them disappear later in the day with lots of chocolate and ice cream but that’s another story. In this case, I did exactly the same thing. I felt the tears filling the lower parts of my eyes and just said “thank you” and left before one of them would escape and run down my face! I was feeling embarrassed, humiliated, insulted, angry and desperate, all at the same time. And I did what I‘ve always done best in my life. I blamed myself.
Her words would sound into my head every time I would go shopping from then on. Her look had haunted me and would come right in front of my eyes every time I dared to enter one of these stores. I felt I had no right to shop there. I was unwanted.
Fast forward to last week.
Sales period just started here and having a very limited choice of clothes I decided to go shopping. Nothing fancy, just a couple of T-shirts and maybe some pants or a dress. I hadn’t gone shopping for a long time. Having got rid of almost 40 pounds and being officially in the normal BMI range, this seemed like a promising experience.
Or at least that’s what I thought so.
I soon realized that I felt exactly the same way. I saw a very nice dress at one of those “thin-girls’ stores” but I just couldn’t walk into there and try it on. The words echoed into my ears and the feeling of being unwanted there stopped me from going in. I chose another store that had clothes for women for all sizes. That, I could handle!
I chose some t-shirts and went into the changing room to try them on. When I came out wearing one of them, a very polite, smiling girl came towards me and said “It looks great on you!” I smiled back and she added giving out a sigh “When your body has the right standards, everything looks good on you!”
Is she really talking to me? I looked behind me to make sure there was no one there. Then I looked at her and I realized she had lots of extra pounds but you couldn’t tell at once because she was tall and with a very beautiful face. “So that’s where the sigh came from,” I thought. I went on to explain to her that I didn’t always have the “standards” as she had said but I worked hard for it. I don’t think she believed me, though.
For a moment, I felt like Julia Roberts at that “Pretty woman” scene where she walks into that store and asks “Do you remember me?” I would just like to go back to that store and ask that girl “Do you remember that you said you had nothing at my size? Big mistake, big! Huge!!!” Well, just a thought. I’ve already explained I’m not that kind of person. At all!
Have you had any kind of bad experiences when shopping because of your size? Use them! Promise yourself that you won’t allow anyone ever again to insult you or make you feel bad about yourself. No one has the right to look down on us unless we allow them to. You are much more than an image in the mirror and if you want to change this image, it’s because YOU don’t like it, not because other people don’t. And you CAN do it. Your way.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I was never a couch potato. But the visit to the gym or a quick workout at home was always something I HAD to do not something I WANTED to do. The last time I had a gym membership was some time near my twenties! Ever since then, my exercise would be 20 or 30 minutes on the static bike or the treadmill whenever I felt like it. And of course walking – lots of it as I have no car – and swimming during the summer months.
Sparkpeople helped me “discover” exercise! No, let me rephrase that. Sparkpeople helped me discover the love for exercise I never knew I had! Through articles, coach Nicole’s videos, other members’ blogs, I began learning about new ways of exercise and their benefits to my body and my weight loss efforts. I started slowly, step by step. Tiny step by tiny step actually. At first, I was really disappointed at my fitness levels. I’ll never forget my first attempt to do jumping jacks! After about 4 or 5 of them I was lying flat on the floor thinking “this is it, I can’t catch my breath, I’m going to die right here, right now!” But I never quit. I just took one step back. Ok, I’m not ready to do jumping jacks yet but that doesn’t mean I will never be able to. I’ll do something easier and later on I’ll try again. And that’s how I learned that my body can do almost anything. The fact that we can’t do it today doesn’t mean that we never will. We’re just not ready for it yet.
I tried many things and I’m always on the lookout for more. Three years of experimenting with different types of workouts have led me to the following reviews.
WALKING WORKOUTS: The best way to begin your fitness journey. Even if you’re a couch potato or you use your car as a substitute to your legs, your body is made to walk. No matter how heavy or how old you are, if you have no other reason that limits your body movement, you can start walking now. Whether you decide to walk around the block or to the park or you purchase one of those walking DVDs which give you the chance to start slowly and at your own privacy, it’s your best choice to launch your fitness journey. You’re too slow? At least you’re not on the couch anymore!
YOGA: Mind and body experience. Too difficult at first as it requires good balance and flexibility. It teaches you the art of breathing which is really important in all kinds of exercise. If you stick with it, it does wonders to your body, to your mood and to your stress levels.
PILATES: Even though it’s not one of my favorites, I have to admit that it’s one of the greatest ways to strengthen your core. It looks easy but it isn’t. The moves use body resistance in a brilliant way which really wakes up even your most “dormant” muscles!
ZUMBA: Made for people with a dancing spirit! A great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. The moves can be a little tricky and if you’re a perfectionist like me, you might be disappointed at first or feel that you have two left feet! Great cardio exercise!
KICK-BOXING: My number one favorite! I never believed punches and kicks could bring up that heart rate so fast! It helps you throw away all your bad energy through every kick and every punch. Every second of a kickboxing workout makes you feel stronger and stronger. Ok, you got the idea. It’s my absolute favorite!
STRENGTH TRAINING: The absolute MUST! If you really want to feel and see a difference in your body start strength training now! Yesterday would be ideal! You can use whatever type of resistance suits you best. Free weights, resistance bands, gym equipment, your own body resistance, whatever you like. If you haven’t tried it before, chances are that soreness will hit you hard during the first workouts. Don’t get disappointed. Get some good rest between workouts, give your muscles time to recover and NEVER, EVER skip the stretching part.
BOOTCAMPS: Usually high-intensity programs you can find at gyms or on DVDs. They require an advanced level of fitness, unless otherwise advised by the creator. They usually incorporate different kinds of workouts – like strength training, kick boxing, some martial arts, dancing cardio – and they are programmed to last for a certain period of time. They’re usually really fun and super motivating!
CIRCUIT TRAINING AND INTERVAL TRAINING: These are also ways to put different types of workouts together. Circuit training is a combination of strength training and cardio exercise. Each circuit usually targets a certain group of muscles on the body and there are cardio intervals between circuits. Interval training on the other hand is mainly a kind of cardiovascular exercise which consists of intervals of high intensity and low intensity exercise. Both ways are used by athletes and they are said to be coaches’ favorites. They are definitely an excellent way to take your fitness to the next level but they require an already acquired level! So, don’t rush!
RUNNING: Well, this one I haven’t tried yet. I tried once but I had the same luck I had with the jumping jacks… It was probably too early. But I can tell you what I have realized from all my runners friends here on Spark. Running is not just another type of exercise. It’s a way of life. You either love it or you hate it. You either start and you don’t like it and you never want to try it again or you begin with a C25K and already dream of running a marathon one day. I really don’t know which side I’m at. But I really want to try it again. I want to feel the freedom they’re feeling. That’s how I see it. As freedom of the body and the soul. Like when a small bird manages to spread its wings and fly for the first time. Fly in the open horizon, alone with itself, feeling the endless boundaries of its own existence. Am I right runners?
After having tried all these kinds of workouts, after having gone through ups and downs during my fitness journey, I’ve come to one simple conclusion. There is one type of exercise that it’s the best for all of us.
It’s the one we like.
Because simply we will stick to it! We’ll have fun and we’ll want to do it again. It will become part of our everyday ritual and not our everyday torture.
So, try any exercise that you think you could love. But if you don’t like it, don’t push yourself into doing it just because you’ve heard it works. Try something else. You’ll find something that works for you.
Make exercise a synonym for fun. And enjoy it.
Monday, July 09, 2012
Day by day.
Step by step.
Choice by choice.
That’s how you’ll reach your fitness goals. But the first day, the first step, the first choice will be your guide to all the following days, steps and choices. You have to decide HOW you want to lose weight.
There are two ways to lose weight: the fast and the permanent. You might be thinking that the categorization I’m doing is not right as the first describes the time required and the second describes the time it will last. But believe me, thousands of stories of weight loss from people all over the world can easily prove one thing: when it comes to weight loss, fast can’t be permanent and permanent can’t be fast.
That brings you at a crossroad just at the beginning of your journey. What is more important to you? To get rid of this weight fast, as soon as possible and be able to see a certain number on the scale even for a little while? Well, you can find hundreds of crash diets and promising diet pills and supplements out there that can help you reach your goal. If, on the other hand, your main interest is losing the weight and keeping it off forever, no matter how long it will take you, then you should vote for what we call a “lifestyle change”.
I’ve previously shared with you my experience of both dieting and lifestyle change. This is the blog link in case you want to have an idea.
Choosing to change the way you live won’t be easy. It’s actually the hard way. It’s the road less traveled. And it’s a bumpy road. Quitting on the diet mentality that most of us have been used to for years can be very difficult. Getting rid of everyday habits of your life up to now, whether you’re 20 years old or at the first stages of retirement, is a big deal. And that’s where motivation comes to do the trick.
Picture it. What do you want to look like in a year from now? How do you want to feel like? Which ugly habits do you wish to have got rid of? Make a visual of yourself and keep it in the front window of your mind. Whenever things get tough – because they will – close your eyes and stop by your mind’s window. Your image is still there. And it’s up to you to make it real.
Just believe it.
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