Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I meant to update several weeks ago after getting my monthly body composition check, but these things never seem to happen according to plan. First off, I had planned on getting myself checked on Wednesday September 24th, but ended up putting it off. Why, you ask? Well, because the day before, the 23rd, was a holiday here in Japan (Shunbun no hi - autumnal equinox) and I went hiking with Jessica up Mt. Takao. You'd think that several hours of walking over hilly terrain would actually be a good thing when it comes to the numbers.. but the extra food and snacks required to keep up our energy levels lead to the mother of all bloat. I woke up Wednesday morning a full kilo heavier than my average the previous week. Understandably, I didn't want that freak bloating to taint my results, so I put off the check. It took me a while to even out from that, but I was back to normal the next week, so I went in on October 1st to get checked instead.
My results were okay. I mean, they were good, but considering the amount of work I had been putting in that entire month, I had been kind of hoping for more than just good.. so I couldn't help being a little deflated after getting them.
I came in at 52.6 kg on the gym scale (was 52 kg even at home before breakfast that day).
Muscle mass: 18.9 kg (up 0.4 kg )
Fat mass: 17.4 kg (down 1.7 kg)
Body fat %: 33% (down 2.4%)
As far as muscle mass, I was disappointed to see that my left leg, which I had been so proud of last check, had apparently lost .14 kg of muscle mass to put it back under the right. This was the only loss in muscle and leads me to suspect that last month may have been a fluke. My right leg remained the same, and I had modest gains in my arms. The real good news was that I gained a remarkable .47 kg of muscle in my core.. going from 14.77 kg all the way up to 15.24 kg. This is very, very good because my core is by far my weakest part.
So taken by themselves, the numbers were good.. very good, even. But I feel that I pushed myself hard enough that they could have been better. It didn't keep me from being happy about the results, but it did dampen my enthusiasm a little.
Anyway, that was last month.. I should have a new set of numbers coming next week, since it's time to have my last check before heading home for 2.5 weeks. Ack.
What else, has been going on?
When I switched to my morning routine and started running several times a week my metabolism must have shot up, or something. I was used being full after about 1300 calories/day and having anything past that be for extra treats.. but suddenly I found myself consistently with 1500-1550 calories of planned meals, and still getting hungry exactly 2 hours before dinner every day. It took me longer to adjust to this mentally than you'd expect.. but I finally recalculated my plan and went from the 1200-1550 range I've been on for the last year and a half up first to 1240 - 1590, and then again to 1290 - 1640. That's where I am currently.
I'm finding it a little hard to balance out the new range with my actual needs day to day, and that (combined with a trip out of town and some visiting friends) has resulted in my weight staying pretty constant for the last several weeks. I feel a lot better, though, and I think there will probably be some compositional changes in there when I next get checked. I won't know for sure until next week, though.
My motivation for strength training has been dwindling. I was really into it for the month leading up to the last check, but lately it's just been drudgery. I've dropped from 5x/week to 4x/week in light of this, and even skipped a few sessions entirely. This week has been the worst.. Monday was a gym holiday, Tuesday I was tired and late and skipped it altogether in favor of swimming, and today I didn't make it to the gym at all because Eric was sick and I couldn't fight the urge to try and take care of him this morning before work.
Cardio is going okay overall, but also slowing down compared to the previous month. I have been increasing my running endurance, and have added swimming (or rather, learning how to swim properly) to my rotation, which is good. I have also drastically increased my walking, which is nice. I average over 10,000 steps almost every day.. with just the odd weekend day coming in at less, and many days going well over that number (yesterday was just over 17,000). Unfortunately, I have been a little less consistent with my cardio at the gym in the last two weeks. I have been having a hard time getting out of the house on time lately, and only made it in to run once each of the last two weeks (as opposed to 2-3 times/week previous to that). I have made it to the pool twice a week consistently, but sometimes not for as long as planned.
I'd like to get cardio back on track, but with only four more gym days before I leave for the states it's just not a good time to do so. I'm hoping that I can get a lot of walking in back at home, and Alexa has mentioned the possibility of bringing me to her gym on a trial pass or something, so I might even get in a couple actual strength routines and some running/swimming time. We'll see!
I've been on a baking kick since mid September, and have been slowly working my way through Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.. plus a few extra recipes. In the last 5.5 weeks I have made:
Carrot Cupcakes w/ cream cheese frosting
Chai Latte Cupcakes
Apricot-glazed Almond Cupcakes
Fatfree & Fabulous Fudgy Brownies
Coconut Brown Rice Krispy Treats
Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
Being me, most of these recipes are modified to be at least somewhat nutritious, whole wheat, low-fat, or low sugar (except the carrot cake), and they have all been under 200 calories.. but I'm sure they have been contributing to my lack of measurable progress. However, I view these as contributing my overall well-being, and thus very, very important. I don't know about the rest of you, but satisfaction and bliss are a very important part of my healthy eating plan. O:D
That's it for now.. more after my next check.
Friday, September 19, 2008
My new routine is going well. And by new routine, I don't mean the new routine I mentioned the last time I wrote about having a new routine. No.. this is a NEW new routine.
As a refresher, I mentioned previously finally coming up with a way to get back to the gym with my work schedule. I worked it out such that I would be able to hit the gym on an evening membership three times a week (MWF) after work. This meant not getting home until after 8 pm on gym days, which was not ideal, but the best I could manage. I managed to keep up going to the gym consistently, but I was often very tired getting to the gym at 5 pm and missed exercising first thing in the morning.
To counteract the tiredness, I started making it a habit to have a small cup of coffee an hour or so before exercising. This was in large part due to a study I happened to read dispelling common coffee myths and mentioning some of the benefits. It worked pretty well for me, but evening exercise was still not as easy as morning exercise, and the fact that I could only make it in 3 days a week meant pretty slow progress. To try and make up for this, I became pretty militant about nutrition and trying to stay as close to the 1200-1300 kcal range per day as possible. Considering the quality of food I was eating, this was not a big problem. :D
So, I was settling okay into my new routine when, about three weeks ago, I was told that my hours were being reduced. My initial reaction was not so good, since finances are pretty tight over here and there were some major financial hurdles coming up for us.. but being me I calmed down relatively quickly, and by the end of the day had formulated a Plan to make the best of the situation. Namely, I submitted and gained approval on a request to change my start time to 12 pm, and then marched over the gym and changed my membership status again. I had missed the deadline for membership changes for the next month (again =P) so I had to go full time in September and put off Morning Only until October rather than being able to switch directly to Morning membership as of the following Monday. But oh well.
My new routine began on Monday, September 1st.
And that's the story of how I came full circle. I am back to my old five times a week routine, essentially. I get up at 6:30 am, make breakfasts for two, eat and have a leisurely morning, walk the 30 minutes to Shinjuku, and arrive at the gym at opening at 8:30 am (sometimes closer to 9 am *cough*). Since I am on full-time membership this month I usually seem to get myself showered and out the gym door by 11:30 (that will have to change next month when I go back to morning membership and have to leave by 11 am), I have my post-gym snack (usually a protein shake.. either chocolate/banana or vanilla/kiwi/banana) while walking to the train station, and arrive at work at 12 pm. Since I now only work five hours a day, I forgo the one hour lunch break and get off work at 5pm instead. This means that even on grocery days I am usually home by 6 or 6:30 pm and have plenty of time to make dinner.
I am happy with this new schedule. Sure I get less money in my paycheck, but I am trying to take on some private lessons to offset that loss. If I can get just two steady students per week I can break even with what I used to make.. any more than that and I am actually in a better financial position than I was before my hours were cut. So far I have only done one trial lesson, but it went well.. and I have another trial coming up next week. Overall I think I am healthier and happier this way that I was before, so I am thankful that it happened.
Anyway. Today marks the end of the third week of this routine. Although movement on the scale has been slow, I feel that I have been making excellent progress now that I am exercising in the morning and back to five days a week (my health concerns are generally focused more on condition, muscle mass, fat percentage, overall energy/mood, flexibility, etc. rather than straight up weight). I feel 100% better than I did even just a couple weeks ago, and think that what I'm doing now is working a lot better for me than even what I was doing last year. I plan on going into more detail about the other changes I've made in the last month, but for now I'll just mention a few in brief:
Running - I have finally gotten over my doubts and fears and started running five weeks ago. I have been slowly building up my strength and endurance and have seen some real changes since I started. My respiration and resting heart rate have improved noticeably, as has my overall physical condition. More on this later.
Strength - I have divided up my strength training into upper body/core and lower body days, and now strength train five days a week instead of three. My legs were the only part on me that had improved at my last check (*coughrunningcough*) so I have been doing the upper body/core three times (MWF) and lower body twice (TTH) thus far. I have also added several new machines (triceps extensions, bicep curls, hip flexor, glutes extension) and eliminated my hip adductors and abductors for the moment. I also moved back to the roman chair for my back extensions rather than the machine, and have been taking a 15 minute abs class once a week in addition to crunches.
Walking - I am working on getting my walking back to the level it was at before. My last routine made it difficult for me to walk much.. I usually averaged something like 2000-3000 steps per day whereas last year I was averaging 7000-10,000 per day. Walking to the gym in the morning has allowed me to increase to the 7000-9000 range again. I have also initiated the Weekend Grocery Run, which is a walking tour of several food stores I know in Shinjuku that sell certain items for good prices. This allows us to get in a good 12,000 steps while saving money and stocking up on good, nutritious foods for the upcoming week of lunches and dinners.
My goals for the near future are:
Increase my muscle mass - I was down to 18.5 kg at my last check. At 53 kg total that put me back up to 35% body fat. I started off at 37% last June, and reached a low of about 31% last November. I am hell bent on blasting past that and into the 18-28% range this time.
What I've been doing: lots of strength training, increasing my protein intake. I am notoriously bad with protein and have generally been happy just managing to get to my minimum of 60 grams per day. The last several weeks I have really been focusing on getting that up. I have a minimum goal now of 70 grams per day, and reached a high of 103 once last week. To achieve this I have increased my proportion of chicken to vegetarian meals, and started adding protein shakes to my meal plan rather than using them as an emergency "uh oh.. I'm low on protein" fix at the end of the day.
Improve my posture/flexibility - I have some flexibility problems in my legs that really annoy me. I also have a slight anterior pelvic tilt that makes my butt and belly stick out more than they should. I want to do what I can to fix these issues, but they have been giving me a lot of problems and progress is slow.
What I've been doing: Lots of stretches whenever I can get them in.
Incorporate more non-gym activity - I sometimes dislike that my health is so dependent on getting to the gym, so I am trying to find and incorporate more activities into my life that aren't just the same old cardio/strength exercises.
What I've been doing: walking, conspiring with Jessica. Jessica and I both seem to want to do more active things on the weekend, so we are planning on going hiking regularly once it cools down some. She used to hike several times a week back in the states, and misses it, and I miss hikes I used to take with my mom and sister back in the day. We are hoping to get out for the first time this upcoming Tuesday (does your country give you Autumnal Equinox Day off? No? awwww.. O:D), which means I need hiking shoes fast.
I am also going to start swimming at the gym.. which technically doesn't count as non-gym, but is different from my normal routine, so close enough. I had some trauma finding an affordable swimsuit, but a stroke of pure luck fixed that a few days ago. I hope to get to the pool for the first time this weekend. I was worried about not having any formal swimming training since my gym charges for lessons, but by another stroke of luck Jun (who is a long time swimmer and who I was just talking to about finally planning a visit to see) mentioned having a free trial pass to Saturday morning swim lessons at her gym. So I am planning to take her up on her generous offer at the beginning of October, provided nothing comes up to derail my plans.
So.. that is where I am right now. I am planning on having my next physical check on Wednesday of next week... here's hoping for some good numbers...
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I've been having a bit of a bad week as far as consistency. I had a busy four-day weekend, which made it pretty impossible to eat well and stay within calories.. but I generally expect and plan for that so by itself it wouldn't be a big deal. On top of that, however, I managed to destroy my heels with a new pair of shoes on Wednesday and have thus been unable to get to the gym since Monday. =P
When I decided to head home instead of to the gym after work on Wednesday I felt pretty guilty. Like I was using a minor problem as an excuse to be lazy. But even two days later I still have red, raw spots on the sides of both of my heels and have had to wearing open back shoes the last couple of days... which kind of adds credibility to my 'excuse'. =P
I hope they heal over soon, I want to go back to the gym.. and I want to not feel horrible stinging whenever something (the sheets, my skirt, etc) brushes up against them at home. OUCH.
Note to self: ALWAYS go with the larger size when buying new shoes.
In other thoughts, I've made my nutrition tracking more complicated as of this week! I added a few more nutrients to my default set of fiber, calcium, iron & sodium. I am now also attempting to track saturated fat and cholesterol. It's kind of difficult, though, because a lot of foods in the database don't include that information, so it's almost impossible to get an accurate estimate.
The other thing I'm doing now is tracking my weekly calorie totals and averages. I've been meaning to do this for quite a while but never got around to it until this week. Obviously the body doesn't reset every 24 hours, so it's always better to look at the bigger picture than just your daily goals.. and knowing your daily average and weekly totals helps to dissipate guilt and give you an overall picture of how you're doing. Basically, every day I'm adding up the calories for the last 7 day period and averaging out calories and nutrients per day. So far I've decided to include this information as a note at the bottom of my tracker. I figure that as long as my daily average for any given 7-day period is within the recommended calorie range, then I'm doing well.. even if i manage to go over calories several times that week.
I think I should aim to be somewhere between 9,000 and 10,000 kcal/week.. with around 9500 (avg. 1357/day) seeming like a good, balanced amount to aim for and 10,850 kcal (avg. 1550/day) being the top of my recommended range. We'll see if I can keep it up in spite of weekend social opportunities. I am completely confident that I can stay within the 10,850 kcal limit.. but I can't predict how easy it will be to keep under 10,000 kcal without trying it out for a little bit.
So far it has helped me feel better about my 4 day weekend, I may have gone over a lot, but even so it averages out to just just over 1500/day.. so in the grand scheme of things I am still on track and shouldn't feel too bad about it. I'm hoping to bring my average down as I get further from the weekend, though. Also, It's really convenient for planning because if you are in range you know that you can stay in range by eating about as much as the first day in that 7 week period. For example, I averaged 1515 kcal/day yesterday, so I knew before waking up today that in order to stay around that I need to eat less than or equal to what I ate 7 days before.. in this case 1363 kcal. I think I will have a great sense of freedom and accomplishment the day that 1945 kcal Sunday drops off my tracker. As long as I'm in range when it happens I know it'll be pretty difficult to top that! =D
Now if I could only get myself to the gym again... =P
Friday, June 27, 2008
Well, it's been over a year since I started using Spark, and about 10 months since the last time I wrote an entry here. I suppose I'm not all that good at remembering to update things, but then we already knew that.. didn't we? *cough*
So a lot has happened to me in the last year.. A LOT. I won't go into it here, but it was a very, very tough year personally. I had a lot of emotional stress and trauma to deal with, so it was both the worst possible time to try and stick to a routine like the one I was doing, and also the best possible time. The worst because I never knew what was going to happen day to day and how it would affect my emotional state and ability to get myself out of bed and dealing with my life, and the best because it really gave me something to throw myself into and keep me distracted when I needed something. My physical accomplishments also really kept me afloat during the worst of it. There was something I was doing that was good, and it kept me from really giving in to the stress of my situation a lot of the time.
So, with that out of the way, here's something of a report on what actually happened:
At first I threw myself into the idea of becoming healthy 100%. I've always been a relatively healthy eater, and I've never been terribly heavy, so rather than concentrating mostly on the weigh loss aspect, I focused my attention on the health and fitness side of things. I went to the gym 5 days a week before work, walked as much as I could, stretched between classes and during free periods, and planned my meals like someone possessed.
Most days I entered food into the tracker before going to bed the day before, so I knew exactly what I would be eating for breakfast, post-gym snack, lunch, 5pm snack, dinner, and sometimes post-dinner snack or dessert. My main concerns were making sure I ate enough protein and fiber, keeping my carbs at the lower end of the range, and eventually keeping up calcium and iron, and keeping sodium down. I also concentrated heavily on getting in my vegetable and fruit servings, and had a very set water schedule to make sure I drank a minimum of 2.5 or so liters per day before getting home.
At first I relied heavily on prepackaged health snacks (1 or 2 per day) in addition to home-cooked lunches, breakfasts and dinner.. but after the first 2 or 3 months, I got more ambitious and decided to try and go as all natural as possible.. eating only home-made snacks like protein bars and muffins instead of store-bought ones.
Cooking-wise, I had a lot of fun with new foods, particularly whole wheat-low/nonfat-sugar free-vegan baking. That was fun. Things like brownies made from tofu or prunes, and such. I did a LOT of experimenting to make things more healthy, and came up with a lot of successfully delicious healthy, low calorie, high fiber desserts and snacks.
As far as the gym, I concentrated on building muscle with strength training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, getting in a minimum of 30-45 minutes of cardio per day, and doing 10 minutes of stretches before, and 20 minutes after each session.
All in all I felt really, really great. I slowed down and started putting a little less into it as fall started up, though. I missed a few days at the gym from time to time, or got there so late that I couldn't really do as much as I wanted. The nutrition aspect stayed on track most days, but I found myself going out a lot more when a good friend moved back to Tokyo. I really needed the company she provided, and she's also a health-minded macrobiotic loving former vegetarian, so it wasn't terrible, but even eating healthy stuff it's easy to go over calories going out. Things got worse in November when the holidays came around, and with it visitors and concerts to go to. During those times I couldn't really cook for myself, and had a hard time finding healthy alternatives all the time.
Despite the setbacks, I still managed to make progress. I apparently have a really hard time building muscle, but I kept it level or increasing most of the time, and I felt awesome physically. Lots of energy despite sleep deprivation, not getting winded sprinting up and down the overpass for the train in the morning, things like that. I made it down to about 49.8 kg by Christmas time, all together. At that weight I was still a little unhappy with the the overall tone of my lower body undressed, but clothed I was pretty pleased with myself in the mirror and got a huge burst of confidence from not only looking good and being able to dress myself well, but from feeling relatively healthy.
Of course, my life still sucked in many other aspects, and the routine I had was not permanent. In mid November my job got unbearable, and I decided it was time to leave. My last day was fixed at December 13th, and the month before that I barely went to the gym at all, since I needed my mornings to job hunt and go to interviews. I eventually lined up a new, better part-time position starting December 25th.. giving me 2 weeks off between jobs. I switched my gym plan to full time to take advantage of that 2 weeks, but managed to get really, really sick instead.. and spent the whole two weeks laid up at home.
Christmas was where things got off track. That's when the 6 months of non-stop house guests, vacations, very important concerts and socialization started, and my regular routine completely ended.
I don't think I had a weekend to myself between the end of December and early May.. several of those weeks in there being taken up by family and friends visiting from oversees and either taking me on vacation out of Tokyo, or else taking up my time and attention IN Tokyo. I stopped tracking food because it got to be too hard and confusing, and having been out of the routine of going to the gym for a good month and a half and starting a new job with different hours, I let myself just stop exercising regularly. I still ate mostly okay, but it was really very inconsistent.
Compounding that was the fact that I was mostly staying level at around 51-something kg despite my lack of diligence. And 51 kg was, if not exactly where I wanted to be, a very comfortable place. Around February 51 kg turned into 52 kg.. but again, not enough to really scare me. I missed my gym routine a lot, but there was so much going on that I couldn't see how I would work it in.
I stayed steady until another friend came visiting in late March, and after one weekend out with him I managed to hit 53.5 kg. That's when I got scared. The next week I rearranged my schedule at work and headed back to the gym. It felt good.. I was happy to be back and I kept it up for about a month and a half. Then, my hours increased at work, and my gym time disappeared again. This coincided with a holiday period in japan, and my initial drive to figure out a way to rework things and make a new gym schedule waned with the holidays, and certain other Very Important Life Decisions that happened to come up at that time.
So that brings me here.. 2 or so months later. I'm somewhere in the ballpark of 53.5-54 kg and not so happy about it. It could be a lot worse, but I miss the energy and confidence of being a relatively fit 51 kg and knowing that I'm eating well balanced meals. So I've started tracking again, and figured out my gym situation such that I can start going back on July 1st... or the Monday before, if I pay a little extra.
My job and routine are not as ideal a combination as they used to be. I don't know if I'll be able to go in more than 3 times a week and that kind of scares me (I've never aimed for less than 5 days per week). And sitting at a desk is a lot less conducive to health and fitness than teaching active young kids. But my life is a lot more settled, and my job is less stressful than 8 months ago.. so I suppose I should be pretty happy about that.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I feel the need to share a little bit about something I've (very) recently discovered. See, my work hours are usually something like 12 pm - 7 pm during the week, which means that dinner often doesn't get made and eaten until around 8:30/9 pm.. which is quite a long time after my usual lunch time of 12:30/1 pm. In my quest to keep myself happy and well fed during this void at work, I've been sampling just about every healthy looking pre-packaged snack food I can get my hands on. Surprisingly, I've found a decent little variety of very portable low-calorie snacks that fit my fiber/protein rules on snack foods.. those plus yogurt and/or fruit are generally enough to get me through the day.
But this entry isn't about healthy snack foods.. it's about ice cream.
One of the companies that makes two of my favorite healthy snack discoveries, Glico, has a calorie control ice cream out on the market. I discovered them at the conbini a while back. I was instantly drawn by the big, bold 80 kcals!! printed on the front of the individual size cup in the ice cream freezer. I had the green tea flavor and thought it was quite good for being so low calorie. I mean, 80 calories for a 110 ml (~1/2 cup) serving of good tasting ice cream.. what's not to love? Of course, it's still ice cream so I didn't run out and buy a ton of them after discovering that I liked it.
Earlier in the week, on my way home from work I decided to pop back into the conbini and pick up a couple. The motivation behind it was a desire to bake an apple crisp and the realization that, while I could find a way to make the crisp itself relatively healthy, I would be completely undone by heaping vanilla ice cream on top. I figured that the best way to deal with that would be to buy individual 80 kcal cups of vanilla ice cream and use one of those with the crisp rather than taking it out of the usual tub of regular ice cream.
Of course, I never got around to baking... but that's okay.
So yesterday I came in really low in my calorie range, and I decided to splurge and allow myself a cup of strawberry ice cream. It was also tasty, though I liked the green tea better. After finishing it (and the movie we were watching while having ice cream-- Napoleon Dynamite, for the curious). I opened up my nutrition tracker to add in the nutrition information from the ice cream (last time I just chose a random ice cream and adjusted the amount to match the caloric content), and boy was I in for a SHOCK.
Protein: 1.9 g
Total Fat: 3.5 g
Total Carbs: 12.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.4 g
.... 6.4 grams of fiber? In my little 80 calorie cup of ICE CREAM of all things? How had I missed this while looking all over for ways to up my fiber content for the last several weeks? Hell, that's second only to the very the best of my healthy on-the-go snacks (Glico Biscuit Cereal Bran, which has 7.6 grams in 160 calories). I actually had to get a second opinion to make sure I was reading the kanji for fiber correctly... but yeah.. there it was. I was confused, how is it possible that ice cream could have a nutritional value? Isn't that too good to be true?
It turns out that it's NOT a mistake.. Glico actually boasts about this on their website. They are also soy based, which I would not have guessed after the blind tasting, but which makes complete sense. And, get this.. strawberry is actually the LEAST nutritionally dense flavor of the five. The best is /chocolate/ of all things.. which comes in at 7 grams of fiber and over 3 grams of protein. O.o;; I have yet to see chocolate available, but I plan on hunting it down to sample sometime soon.
Now, being as untrusting as I am, I fully expect that these little cups are about as unnatural and processed as you can get.. which goes against my usual philosophy of trying to keep things as simple, natural, and homemade as possible when you have a choice. Sadly, I can't read the japanese in the ingredients.. or maybe that's a GOOD thing.. I do see polydextrose listed there.. which makes me wary, but I don't know enough about it to really make an unbiased judgement on my own.
Still.. 80 calories and 6.4-7 grams of fiber.. not to mention the satisfaction of being able to eat ice cream with a purpose.. it might just be worth the artificial ingredients for that alone...
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