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Q&A with Me, Myself, and I

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A fellow Sparker asked me to help with a school project of hers since I was "inspirational" (I still think I'm normal, since EVERYONE can do this!) -- and since I needed to blog anyway -- here's a quick (haha, I'm always verbose) Q/A session with me, myself, and I.

a. Why did you decide to make the behavior change you did?
I honestly was tired of my life. You can only deny how you aren’t where you wish you would be for so long. I was 25, overweight—and gaining even more, single, never had a boyfriend, and honestly couldn’t see myself ever being truly happy with my life continuing the way it was going.
Also, I’m a cancer researcher – specializing on how diet and lifestyle can dramatically change your cancer risk. Last April I stood in front of a poster of my research and had to tell people that a high fat diet will increase your risk for cancer… while being 250-something pounds and wearing size 20 dress pants from Lane Bryant. Color me a hypocrite. Honestly how could I tell people about how they should change their life while not focusing on my own?
So during that conference I walked a lot, ate less than I normally would, and guess what – I lost weight. After the conference, which just so happened to be in Orlando, my co-worker and I spent two days at Disney. Once again I walked a ton, didn’t buy a lot of food (cause I was cheap~!), and guess what – I lost weight.
When I got back home, I ended up getting sick and going to the doctor. They weighed me at 240-something and they asked what I had been doing. *One of my old weights at student health was 265, so I was down a bit from starting grad school. That gave me the motivation to keep moving and keep feeling better, moving more, and basking in the good attention and positive reinforcements I got from everyone around me.

b. How difficult was it to get started?
I didn’t jump headfirst into a new lifestyle. I started slow. It was difficult at first, but I have always tried to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, but instead I started also cutting out fried foods, fast food, and lunches out with the girls. Instead I started avoiding McDonalds every time I had to drive more than 2 hours (I used to reward myself with McNuggets if I was in a car for over 2 hours—and a coke—and a large fry… and then literally do nothing but sit on my butt). I started packing my lunch and limiting my calories without even realizing it, and the scale started moving down. I didn’t limit any food – nothing is off limits, you just have to set a limit.
I started to drink more water and then started moving more. I made working out a priority, but once again, I started slow. I started doing 50 crunches… then 100… then 250… then 250, three different ways… then 500… then 1000… Then I started adding in new exercises; strength training, working on my core, and just kept building up, never looking back and never beating myself up if I missed a workout.

c. What was the biggest obstacle you faced?
The biggest obstacle is definitely temptation. Its so easy to see a pile of cookies and have one… or two… or a plate. Its easy to get depressed or frustrated and pull the car to the closest fast food joint or the candy isle at Target –I just had to force myself to realize that my emotions didn’t need to be fed. Every time I start a binge (and these do happen), I stop and think – is this chocolate better than feeling amazing, having guys hit on me (datable, normal, good looking guys too!), and hearing from others how they were so happy for me and could barely even recognize me? Honestly that’s probably the thing that’s kept me moving and helps me to fight temptation.
I also stopped baking. I’m known for my cookies and cakes, but if I make it – I’m going to eat it. I just started realizing that by changing that habit – I might also help out my coworkers fight their temptations as well.

d. What was your first success?
My first success would probably be going clothes shopping in a normal store. I’ve always been stylish, but there’s only so much you can do when you can only shop at Torrid and Lane Bryant. Losing enough weight to be able to go shopping with friends, trying on clothes together, in “normal” sizes – aka non-plus sizes was a trip! The day I could no longer wear jeans from Lane Bryant was a shock. Just in April I was barely fitting into my size 18 jeans, not wanting to go have to buy a size 20 pair… Then come September I was searching for new jeans in the mall and after a month of very frustrating shopping I now buy my jeans from the Gap. A year later from my “snap-out-of-it-get-your-butt-moving” moment of realization – I’m wearing size 8 jeans from the Gap. Size 18/20 plus size jeans to size 8 jeans at the Gap in a year!

e. How long did it take you to achieve your goal?
One of my other major goals was to get to One-derland. I hated seeing a 2## on the scale. For some reason in my head, 200 was the magic ticket to being happy with my life. I started in April, and through working out and eating right, I made it to Onderland by the end of the year. Now that I’ve reached the 1##s, I know I can only keep going down and keep my head up through the rest of the journey.

f. How did you feel when you accomplished your goal?
I reached Onederland right before the end of the year. I beat my original goal date, I beat my own expectations, and I honestly couldn’t believe the day that the 199 was stable and was NOT going to go back up. Being safely in the 1##s makes me realize that 200 was just a number – it’s a number I’m not going to cross ever again – but the scale wasn’t the key to success and happiness; it was feeling amazing, being able to work out, walk fast, eating healthy, and having a positive attitude that made me feel accomplished. The fact that I also did it during the holiday season was just icing on the cake (that I did not eat!).

g. How difficult or easy has it been to maintain this change?
Since I make it a priority, it’s not that difficult. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself to be 100% perfect. I’m going to screw up, I might not be able to workout for 30 minutes a day, I’m going to binge a little (snacking 500 calories this time with air popped popcorn instead of like 3000 with a bag of chips or ice cream)… But instead of feeling guilty, getting depressed and annoyed at myself, and then binging again to feel better (it’s a vicious cycle!) – I mentally smack myself in the head and do better the next day. Also limiting temptations by keeping my house filled with healthy options and fresh, clean food forces me to keep myself in check.

h. If you had to do it over again, would you do anything different?
The only thing I wish I would have done would be to start sooner! I wish I could have talked to myself at 20 and kick myself in the butt. Heck even the Sara that started grad school knew that she needed to change. My first year in grad school I lost about 30 pounds, felt great, and then a few family issues took over and I gained it all back. Now I realize that I am a priority and my health is a priority. I wish I could have told myself five years ago that I was worth taking the time and making a change for myself. Realizing that I could be selfish and make time for myself made all the difference. Other than that I have absolutely no regrets about finally taking control of my life and finally being happy with all of the new exciting things coming my way!

I'm trying to get a picture blog ready of my year long journey -- so stay tuned for that.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LASTFIRSTDAY 4/14/2012 7:49AM

    Great blog, I'm training to be a science teacher and one of the modules I'm going to have to teach kids next year is 'Healthy Eating and the Risks of Obesity.' At 200 plus pounds it was the kick I needed to start my journey. I'd be so embarrassed to stand up and preach to them that they need to make healthy choices, when very clearly I have not.

I can't wait to fit into normal sizes too emoticon.

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CLARKA6 4/11/2012 1:25PM

    Awesome blog! Congrats on your continued success:)

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REDDBETSY 4/11/2012 12:14PM

    Yeah-- 2## is just a number, but I will be happy (and shocked) to put it behind me. The part that resonated with me was the realization that putting your health and fitness first is not selfish; it is an acceptable priority (That has been the big issue that I am facing right now).
Two Thumbs Up-- the candidness of your answers is great. Thanks!

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TRAVELISMYGAME 4/11/2012 10:49AM

    Great blog...and yes you are INSPIRATIONAL! What got me was the size 18/20 to an 8 in a year. Could I do that?!

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    Love this!!!

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TALVARADO6 4/11/2012 6:18AM

    You rock! Great answers! Thanks so much!! emoticon

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PEARL-LADY 4/11/2012 5:37AM

    Great blog Sara! all the effort and hard work is worth it, I'm sure many of us also wish we had started sooner but we will get there...
Well done to you!!

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So I was doing it wrong...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I think I've commented on here before how I felt Spark was telling me to eat too much. Then last week my BodyMedia Fit armband arrives, I set up my account there, and there is a 500 calorie difference between the two sites.

Turns out I had Spark set up wrong. I still had my original Spark-set goal of being 176 by 7-1-12. Thing is -- I lost weight more quickly than Spark had it programmed me losing, so to compensate, they upped my calories. This happened again this week -- they upped my calories to 1800-2000 a day and I knew something was wrong. My BodyMedia Fit account had me set at 1375 a day. So then I fiddled around with my goal and tracker on Spark -- changed my goal date of 176 to May 10th -- and viola = my calorie range is 1200-1550 a day now on Spark.

So I apparently didn't realize I had my tracker set up wrong, which is why my weight loss has slowed recently. So now with the new calorie range, new armband, and a new drive to get down to 176 by my birthday, I'm reenergized to kiss the 180s goodbye~!

I only have two more days left in town before I head out to my parents place. They're watching my dogs while I'm in Chicago at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. Then back to my parents for a mini-vacation until Easter, then back home. So I'm going to be gone, out of my element, away from my treadmill and workout equipment for 10 days! Hopefully I don't get derailed in anyway, and I'm going to be aiming for well over 10,000 steps a day while I'm gone.

Before I go I might whip up a yearly review. I had my reality check last year at this conference. You never really feel like crap about how you look until you see pictures -- so lots of pictures will be in that blog. I was just going through iPhoto the other day and I'm still shocked at what I felt when I saw old pictures. I was very savvy when it came to avoiding cameras, so whole body shots are rare--usually shot by someone else when I wasn't looking -- so yeeeesh! Needless to say I was not happy when I look back on the photos. But then you can really see the progress when you get closer to today. But I'll get that all ready before I leave since I'll probably be MIA from Spark for that chunk of time.

I hope everyone's weeks are going well. The weather is still gorgeous! The students are gone and the campus is peaceful -- so my stress level is at a minimal. I just finished writing up my curriculum vitae (fancy resume for academia) so *fingers crossed* I find a good job or post-doc at the career fair at the conference.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CLARKA6 3/30/2012 9:53PM

    Ahh best of luck at your conference! Schmooze the heck out of those suckers;)

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APHRODITE2GO 3/28/2012 2:06AM

    Planning for out of town trips is essential! Good to see that you are in the works of doing that.

Have a wonderful trip.

By the way, keep up the great work! You are looking fabulous. I'll be on the look out for your next picture blog. emoticon

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PEARL-LADY 3/27/2012 1:25PM

    You are so determined I'm sure you will cope with time away, if all else fails you can walk like you said...Good luck and enjoy!

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DETERMINED_SOUL 3/27/2012 12:57PM

    Woohoo! With SP's trackers it is a good idea to adjust your goals every 15-20 pounds lost.

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KLONG8 3/27/2012 12:39PM

    There's so much to like about what you've just written. First of all, I appreciated your experience with not having updated your tracker. I think I did the same thing without realizing it. Good info to share.

Then I like your plan for "what to do" when you are away from your element. That's a big problem for me...and I normally say "well, I'll just repair the damage when I get back home." Your way is better.

Have a good trip!

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My first few days with my BodyMedia Fit armband

Monday, March 26, 2012

I wanted to get an armband to see how much I am working out, and whether or not I was abusing the Spark fitness calculators... and it turns out I was. My whole reason for this was my slowed down weight loss. I mean I've lost 90 pounds, it was bound to slow to a crawl and plateau eventually... but I'm not going to let it stall out.

The first night I wore the armband I was surprised to see that even though I was "laying down" as the armband calls it for over 8 hours, I barely got 4 hours of "sleep." Now I don't know exactly how that is monitored -- if its only when you're completely still or what -- but I honestly felt like I slept a lot more than that. But oh well -- it was my first night, I thought it would get better. Nope. I'm still hovering at a sleep efficiency of 65% to 75% on a good night.

Part of this might be a side effect of me going off some medication. So bonus to me for getting healthy and not needing medication -- but one of the negative side effects could be insomnia since my body was used to this drug putting me to sleep. I've been slowly weaning myself off (I'm a biochemist after all) but apparently this might take a lot longer than my doctor even imagined. SO I'm trying to use all of my restless, hyper energy at night to work out (and I'm completely off caffeine, so this is really my only option.) I'm going to try and wear myself out -- get out all of the extra energy -- and maybe then by bedtime I'll be unplugged and ready for sleep.

Oh and one complaint I have, is my armband apparently doesn't read me for all the time that I'm laying down. 2 out of the 4 days I've worn it to bed, there's 30min-45 minute missing chunks where it didn't register. This again I blame on my arms... *sigh* my annoying, annoying arms. But I did find some of my cardigans where you can't really tell I'm wearing the armband, so I'm definitely taking those to the conference. I think on a good day I'll get in way over 10,000 steps and might even broach 20,000! But we'll see... that's coming up next Saturday - Wednesday.

Other than that I've noticed what I would register on the Spark website as "working outside" didn't even register as medium MET activity on my armband. So even though my thighs are killing me from all of the squats I did pulling weeds and clearing brush on Saturday, the only time I had MET activity was the seven minutes of weed whacking I did... seriously? Out of an hour and a half I only had SEVEN minutes of moderate MET activity? So in some cases I was abusing the Spark trackers and registering workouts that apparently weren't much of a workout?!?!

That sort of depressed me, not going to lie. I had a bit of a chocolate binge on Saturday. And I was so sick at myself for doing that I rebounded with an hour and fifteen minute workout. 40 on the bike, 30 on the treadmill, and some stretching and core workouts. According to the armband I burned 2600 calories on Saturday, so even with my binge I was under for the day -- just barely.

Sunday I spent with my family. My dad fixed a bunch of stuff around my house while my mom and sisters went antiquing (which my dad and I both hate with a passion) -- then we met up at a winery in Hermann, MO that my brother-in-law works at for dinner. I had a steak... with blue cheese... and a glass of red wine... and it was delicious. How did I feel afterward? Bloated with a headache! Seriously I felt like crap. So much so that when I got home, I crawled into my workout clothes and forced myself to do a bunch of stretches, core exercises, and weight lifting for about an hour. According to my armband none of what I did registered at MET activity, but from what my muscles are telling me today -- it was worth it.

But having such a strong reaction to cheese yesterday made it preeeetty clear that going dairy free is the right option for me. I also saw that my allergies this year are getting better. Apparently if you have seasonal allergies (or just crazy ridiculous allergies like I do) -- if you go dairy free, your other allergies can get better. I'm also going to cut down on gluten -- I'm not strong enough for gluten free -- but going reduced gluten is supposed to help your allergies as well. Given the fact that I'm allergic to cats (own 2), dogs (own 2), tons of trees, and a lot of flowers -- Spring is hell normally. But maybe coupling the 2 years of allergy shots with going dairy free -- hopefully this spring will be better.

This week I'm going to focus on getting ready for my conference, making smart food choices, stay positive, learn how to best get the armband to work for me, and on not get discouraged in myself if my weight loss progress slows.

Happy Monday everyone! I'm just excited this week because my boss is gone ALL WEEK, and it's spring break so the campus is empty and the town is ours again!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

PEARL-LADY 3/26/2012 3:13PM

    sounds like you are getting your head around the gadget well done you! keep up the good work you will be where you want to be before you know it!!

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Watching Mr. Mass Spec all day... and hating on my pillsbury arms.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The past few days have been busy, busy, busy... Apparently that's my life for the next few weeks so I need to plan in the future so I don't come home and binge or run out to grab a quick/unhealthy lunch somewhere.

I just got my BodyMedia Fit armband yesterday in the mail. I'm wearing it now. I got a little annoyed though when I went to put it on. I have always had large arms. Its my one genetic flaw that I wish I could literally cut off and pay a doctor to fix. (I only need $3-8k depending on what website you look at though. only...) SO until I can get the loose skin on my arms fixed I just have to deal with large upper arms. On the bonus side, I have an hour glass shape with a defined waist -- so I didn't lose the genetic lottery. But anyway, I can barely wear the armband that comes with the device in the box. I mean I can go on the website and order a larger strap, but that did deflate my ego a bit. [I've avoided the poor me, look at my loose skin blog for awhile -- and I'm not going to go down that rabbit hole of self loathing -- 'cause honestly I would rather have a ton of loose skin than tight skin full of fat!]

But back to what annoyed me -- I'm wearing the armband, but its so obvious that I'm wearing the armband. Think about a roll of like pillsbury dough for biscuits or something -- then imagine a band squeezing that dough in the middle = basically what my upper arm looks like right now. I have a cardigan over my tank top today, and you can clearly see through that that my upper arm has got something wrong with it. *sigh* I'm just trying to ignore it because I'd like to get an actual real account of what my calories burned are. Especially when I kill an hour on the treadmill. The Spark numbers you can enter on the tracker might be a little low -- or not -- that's why I can't wait to try this armband thing out.

One interesting thing I saw was my sleep habits. I know I wake up and toss and turn a lot (and I don't think I have sleep apnea, I've always been like this) -- but I usually spend at least 8 to 9 hours in bed every day, no exceptions. According to my armband, last night even though I was physically in bed for over 8 hours, I only slept 6.5 hours. So there goes my whole theory about sleeping through the night. We'll see if it was just a one night thing, or if that's always how I sleep.

On the positive side, I'm learning a new scientific technique. I've been staring at a mass spectrometer for the past two weeks. Which I know little to nothing about. I did a lot of chemistry in my undergrad and some mass spec 4 years ago... but its all a little fuzzy. Plus what I'm trying to analyze is being stubborn and hiding which is making for some very slow annoying progress. This whole day has been A) run sample, B) get no results, C) change something = and repeat! So hopefully I can get this worked out or I'll just be a trained lab monkey for the next few weeks until I get it figured out.

But tonight I get to see The Hunger Games! Only one of my other friends wanted to go, so its a lot more low key than the last two Harry Potter films. We're going to the 6:15 show to sort of beat the rush of the evening... or not... who knows. And then I might head out on the town later tonight. So I need to avoid movie theatre everything! Pat of me wants to hit up the gas station before the movie like I used to -- do the horrible thing of buying like 2 candy bars, some twizzlers, and a soda. I honestly can't believe the fact that I would eat 1,000 calories of sugar -- and maybe another 1,000 of popcorn just because I was watching a movie. I once was tempted to get an order of nachos... no thanks, I'll save 1300 calories and 45 grams of fat!

Knowing me right now I'll just take half a honeydew or something in there with me. I've seriously become obsessed with that fruit. I bought 4 on Sunday.... I've eaten 3.5 of them! I'm even getting less annoyed at cutting up the fruit. I've also cut up 2 pineapples this week. So I'm subsisting on fruit, eggs, lunch meat, and skinny pop popcorn.

Oh well, I'm going to ignore this armband thing and try and focus on the fact that I'm going to be geeking out and watching the Hunger Games in 3 hours!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CLARKA6 3/25/2012 4:20PM

    Ugh, I always HATE that. I have big arms too and once had to literally snip through the sleeves on one of my shirts because they were so tight! The rest of the shirt fit fine, it was even pretty loose, but for some reason the sleeves were ridiculous. Sorry for the ego deflation, but it happens to me too:(

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LASTFIRSTDAY 3/24/2012 8:50PM

    MASS SPEC!!! for the win lol If it helps you, I used a useful site for revision (it's like a UK A-level revision site, which I think is equivalent to SAT's in America??). It has a nice section on mass spec. (
s/masspecmenu.html#top) I can't promise it will make your samples go any faster though.

I'm so jealous I want to see The Hunger Games so bad too, but I'm stuck revising for Easter finals :( Organic Chemistry...KILL ME! I know what you mean about going to the cinema though, the snacks are sooo tempting. I tend to now try and sneak in my own healthy snacks so I still get the same experience, just far less calories.

That sucks about the excess skin situation, it's one of the things I always worry about so much with losing weight. It's unavoidable, but as you say it is far far better than having them filled with fat. I'm genetically hampered with large arms too, so I feel your pain! emoticon

I never though too much about tracking my sleep habits, so you've given me an idea because I too usually need to sleep 8-9 hours. So it will be interesting to see how much of that time I actually spend sleeping!

Anyways Hope the film was great and good luck with the armband.

Comment edited on: 3/24/2012 8:51:47 PM

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SWEETZMIX 3/23/2012 7:45PM

    The armband sounds interesting and have fun at the movies!

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KASMITH80 3/23/2012 4:06PM

  Keep up the good work!

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