Friday, November 20, 2009
I'll take the small victories as they come. I figure, the small victories will slowly add up to bigger victories, but that doesn't mean I have to wait until the big victories to celebrate.
My small victories this week:
I went to the fitness every weekday, and I've resumed my regular strength training. I've had to cut back from where I had been, but I didn't lose as much ground there as I had feared. I'm guessing the regular yoga and what exercise I had been doing helped keep me from back sliding further.
I went over my anticipated calories/minutes on cardio this week--yay! Even though I ended up taking it easy for the last 10 minutes of my cardio today, because my knee started bothering me--not really hurting, but uncomfortable and unstable. Maybe I over reacted, but I really screwed my hip up and my hands because I pushed through when they were just "uncomfortable." I really don't want to do that to my knees as well, so I took it easy. But I still got in 30 minutes on the elliptical.
I even went to the fitness center even though it was unexpectedly closed when I went there the first time--and then had to adapt my routine because I had to wait for the elliptical. I was tired and cranky and irritated by the inconvenience (more by it being closed than the equipment being occupied when I was able to go) but I adapted.
Points of Fail: I had breakfast this morning (good! yay me!) but then couldn't go to the fitness center as planned, so I ended up postponing lunch so that I could go when I normally eat lunch. Unfortunately, I guess I postponed it too far, because I was really dragging by the end of my work out and a little shaky (not to mention irritable. Low blood sugar makes me irritable, and boy was I cranky. Good thing I didn't have to talk to anyone). Then I kept getting phone calls when I got home and didn't end up eating lunch until 4:30. By that point, I was well past the hungry stage into the food doesn't sound good stage, but I made myself eat anyway. It wasn't the cooked, healthy lunch I had planned on (I zapped some Campbell's soup) but hey, it was food. Which is, I suppose, a minor victory in a way.
In general, I have eaten too many calories this week (mostly because we ended up eating out more than we should) but I'm glad that I have the exercise part at least back on track--with the sore muscles to prove it *grin*
I'm working on baby steps. At least they are in the right direction.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
As you can tell from my previous blog posts, the last two months I've been under a lot of stress and struggling more often than not to stay on track with this healthy living lifestyle. I haven't exactly fallen off the wagon--though it's come close a few times--but I'm not exactly sitting comfortably on it, either. I realized this week that part of what I'm struggling with is maintaining motivation.
My reasons for losing weight and getting more fit and more healthy are still the same, still very much relevant and valid. Walking without pain is a pretty big motivator after all--and even though I haven't seen much progress in terms of pounds lost since I started this program, I have seen my hip get significantly better--and when I backed off on working out, my hip started hurting more. I want to live a long, full life, and still be able to be active in clubs and activities that I enjoy when I'm in my 90's, like my grandmother is doing. And on a more immediate basis, I have recently been asked to be a bridesmaid for a friend--and after the initial feeling of happiness for my friend and feeling honored at being asked, panic set in because I don't like getting up in front of people on a good day. Getting up in front of people when I feel like a pudgy, figure-less stick is even less so.
And yet none of that seems to help when it comes to spending the extra 30 minutes fixing a healthy lunch over something fast but unhealthy, or in getting me out the door to the fitness center. It's all very well for Nike to say "just do it" but that doesn't make it any easier the next day, or the day after that.
Maybe I'd feel differently about it if I had more to show for my hard work--because I worked my tail off for 7 months and only lost 10 lbs; the last 2 months I haven't pushed myself as hard, trying to get back into it without over doing it, and my last weigh in I had actually put 1.5 lbs back on--despite the fact I was still consuming less calories than I was burning on average. I know that 1.5 lbs isn't necessarily meaningful--the body can fluctuate 2 lbs in a day just from water retention etc., but it's still pretty discouraging. I've seen improvements in other areas--improved muscle tone, strength, and endurance, my hip hurts less often, and I'm able to do things I couldn't do even a year ago. But weight loss? Not so much. So it's really hard to stay focused, to stay motivated.
Things that I know help me stay motivated--the most helpful has been the support I've gotten from friends and from the communities here on sparks--especially my spark friends (Thank you, all of you!!!). Reading your blogs and your comments on my blogs have been informative, thought provoking, and invariably encouraging.
I also find the sparks articles motivating, at least most of the time. I don't have the time to read them every day, but whenever I can I read them while I'm eating my breakfast and drinking my morning water (I always eat and drink water before working out. That means that I can't roll out of bed and out the door like some people--it takes me awhile to make myself eat and drink even a modest amount of food and water--but I can't work out unless I do so.) I find reading about healthy food suggestions, exercise tips, and motivation ideas helps remind me why I'm doing this.
And I don't know if it's exactly motivational but music is a must for me when working out. I have lots of songs that when I listen to them I want to move, to dance, and I put them into work out mixes. They may not help in getting me started, but they sure make the time go quicker when I'm working out. I wish I could read and work out at the same time, but I've never mastered that trick.
A lot things sparks recommends I haven't been able to fit into my life yet. I have no one to hold me accountable for what I do in any meaningful way. I'd love to have a workout buddy, because I get bored working out alone, but so far I haven't found anyone interested who lives close enough to me to make it practical. I do take yoga classes, which have been great. I don't have the money to join a gym--and that's hard to justify anyway when I have a small but functional (mostly--a bunch of equipment is broken at the moment, grrr, but I'm told that they are in the process of getting them fixed) fitness center right in the complex that's included in our rent. I wasn't even able to find anyone who could be a regular tennis partner, despite the tennis classes I took this summer. Maybe that will change with time, but for now I'm mostly on my own. My husband is supportive, and sometimes I drag him along with me, but it's mostly me pushing myself.
I did write up the motivations sheet and have looked up some inspirational quotes, but I never put together any kind of a collage. To be honest, I'm not even sure how to go about doing it. What does walking without pain look like, anyway? Would I find pictures of beautiful women in bikinis motivational, even though I know that I will always look more like an eccentric teacher than a fashion model? Especially since even when I was younger and thinner, I never felt comfortable in a bikini? What kind of image says "live a long, healthy life, able to participate in activities that I enjoy" or even "being elderly but independent"? And where do I find these images? I don't have a ton of time to surf the net, and I don't have a lot of relevant digital pictures. Is it really worth the time spent hunting down images, putting them together, and putting them up somewhere?
I guess what I'm asking is, how do the rest of you keep motivated--not necessarily in the big picture sense, but in that day-to-day, resist-that-candy-bar-staring-at-you way? What helps you keep to your healthy diet and to get up and exercise on a regular basis?
Monday, November 16, 2009
So, if my average calorie consumption over the course of the week is within range, does that count at least some? Sigh.
Last week was especially bad. Early in the week, I was working out regularly, but also insatiably hungry--and went way over budget on my calories. Then the second half of the week, I wasn't working out, but I also wasn't hungry, and ended up under budget. And then, this weekend, I worked out again, but also ended up eating out a lot because we were out running errands and went WAY over budget again. Nor has it helped that this week I've been seriously craving chocolate and salty and/or fatty foods--not healthy foods at all. I don't even normally crave salty or especially fatty foods (I do sometimes crave chocolate though; who doesn't?) so I wasn't prepared for it and healthy, moderate alternatives just didn't do the trick.
I have been bad at tracking my food on line this week, so it wasn't until I loaded everything onto my tracker that I realized how wildly off I was--in both directions. You would think that after months of recording my daily food intake, I would at least have a clue. Apparently not. and that wouldn't have been so bad if I had been successful at working out consistently.
I went and looked at my calories for the last couple of months, and while it wasn't as extreme as this week, I am more often outside my calorie range (high or low) than within it. Add to that that my exercise routine is uneven enough that "routine" doesn't really describe it, and no wonder I don't seem to be losing any more weight.
I don't even know why I'm having so much more trouble staying on track the last few months--stress? The weather? Extreme lack of time? All I know is that I was doing really well until September, when I got so sick, and since then I've been really struggling. One week I do really well, the next it falls apart. I may not have fallen off the wagon completely, but I'm clinging to the back of it, bouncing along the road behind.
I'm not going to beat myself up about it; it doesn't do any good. Today I'm going to eat a reasonably healthy lunch (not sure what yet, and it's already 2 pm, so today didn't exactly get off to the best start, but too late to worry about that now) and then go to the gym and at least run on the elliptical for awhile. I think I'd also like to do some light weight training, too--I need to get back into the routine for the strength training because I've lost a lot of ground already. But I wish I knew how to get back to where I was this summer.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I'm reading this book, and the heroine in the book is 5' 9" and weighs only 120 lbs--and she's lean but muscular, strong. She's alternatively described as lean, skinny, slender--generally in a positive sense, not in "need to get more meat on her bones" sense.
Admittedly, this character is not one to take care of herself in any way--she skips meals, routinely short changes herself on sleep, and fuels herself primarily on caffeine and adrenaline, so she's scarcely a roll model for healthy living. But she's portrayed as attractive, sexy, and slender--and has BMI of 17.8. The bottom end of the healthy BMI is 18.5. How can this be our beauty ideal? I know that it is very unlikely that I will ever lose enough weight to get that low of a BMI (my goal weight will put my BMI at 21.8, which is in the middle of the health BMI range) and, really, I shouldn't want to. It's not healthy.
Why can't books, films, etc. portray beautiful women in healthy body weights? Marilyn Monroe was not super skinny, and yet was seen as the epitome of female beauty, and now everywhere we turn we are told we are over weight if we aren't sticks. Are we so programmed now that a woman who is 5'9" isn't considered slim and attractive unless she's under 130 lbs--even though in reality a woman that tall would still be slender and healthy at 130? Even though she could be 150--or heavier--and still be in a healthy body weight range?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
For some reason, when women in my family get together, we usually end up talking about nutrition. I don't mean dieting (as in restricting calories and/or losing weight) but rather foods, food preparation, nutrients, and how to eat a healthier diet. Maybe it's because many members of my family--all living generations--have been conscientiously reading health-nutrition news and trying to eat better for as long as I can remember. You would think by now we'd have it down, but as my grandmother complained this weekend, it's hard to know what's what when every time you turn around it seems the facts keep changing. Eggs are bad for you (high in cholesterol); now eggs are good for you (dietary cholesterol is less relevant to blood cholesterol than saturated fats, and eggs have tons of essential vitamins.) Margarine, butter, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup... It can get really confusing.
Years ago, my mom came to the conclusion--and I basically agree with her--that the best bet for a healthy diet is moderation and limiting processed foods. But it's hard sometimes, especially when none of the women in my family are full-time homemakers; all of us are juggling jobs, family (though I don't have kids, not yet) and other commitments. Homemade foods are good but the raw materials add up in cost and cooking takes time. Even though we don't eat as many processed foods as some people--most have MSG, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or even healthy ingredients like carrots that my husband is allergic to--we haven't eliminated them entirely. In an ideal world, we would have, but we have to live in the world that we have, with the time, space, and financial constraints that we have.
So I have been interested in a series of articles/blogs on sparks recently about labeling foods, to make it easier for consumers to find healthier, affordable food options.
Froot Loops Qualify for the new “Smart Choices” Label (?!): www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=fro
Breaking News: 'Smart Choices' Program Halted:
Could Red Light, Green Light be the Next Nutrition Game? : www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=cou
And my personal favorite:
A New System to Help You Identify Affordable Nutrition: www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?post=a_n
ble_nutrition (More information can be found here: www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/16
The smart choices option is clearly flawed if high sugared cereals like Froot Loops qualifies for a "smart choice" health-wise. Even as a child, I knew that sugar cereals weren't healthy. That didn't stop me from preferring them over the healthier choices, like shredded wheat, which I thought flavorless (I still like a bit of sweet in my cereals, I'm afraid, though not as sweet as Froot Loops) but I never deluded myself into thinking that they were actually good for me. It was originally conceived as a way to uniformly label packages to make it easier for consumers to choose healthier options, but was voluntarily discontinued.
The red light/green light option may work better, but it still seems flawed if apple juice is considered a yellow light item (because of the sugar content) without taking into consideration vitamins. It could lead to people thinking that a glass of juice is no better than a glass of a soft drink, and so opt for the soft drinking--ignoring that the soft drink is all empty calories. But one of the strongest weaknesses in the red light/green light plan is that it focuses entirely on processed foods, and not on things like fresh vegetables and cuts of meat. Even if fat, salt, vitamins, etc. are taken into consideration, processed foods have a lot of preservatives and often fillers (heck, even meat from the meat counter now often has stuff added to it--that's one of the reasons why we either organic or at least hormone/antibiotic free meats) and the implications that has on our health is not yet fully understood.
The Affordable Nutrition Index is the most useful from what I can tell, since it not only takes into consideration a wide range of variables, not just fat/carbohydrates/protein, but it also tries to consider cost in order to help families who are tight for money to make healthier choices. While so far it has only been used to analyze about 300 foods--which sounds like a lot but is really only a small percentage of the foods available at the store--it covers both fresh and processed foods.
Some of the findings make sense to me and aren't a surprise. For example, carrots, oranges, and bananas are all relatively inexpensive and undoubted good for you. Some were a surprise--some of Campbell's soups rated well, particularly the healthy choice ones which are low in salt. But some of their suggestions made me wonder what their idea of affordable is--raspberries, for example, or strawberries. Even in season, these aren't cheap; they are treat for us, even now, not something that is part of our routine diet. And while like everyone else it seems we've been tightening our budget as expenses--including food--have gone up while our income has not, I know that we are a lot better off financially than a lot of people, especially in Michigan which has incredibly high unemployment rates right now. So if I find raspberries or strawberries or whatever expensive--I can't imagine how a family trying to make do on half or less of our income would be able to justify spending that much money on so little food, even if that food is high in vitamins and anti-oxidants. Kraft Mac and Cheese may not be healthy, but it can feed family for less than it costs for a pint of berries.
I think that index is useful for people in similar financial situations as I am--solidly middle class, but with tightening budgets as gas prices and food costs are going up faster than incomes. But I strongly doubt it will be helpful to those who are seriously struggling to make ends meet and keep food on the table--families who have lost one or more income and are dealing with unemployment or underemployment in a terrible job market.
I'm unconvinced that an of these guides are useful. A useful guide needs to balance macro nutrients, like fat, as well as micro nutrients like Vit. A and salt. And the consumer needs to be informed enough to know that no one food is going to be the super food that provides it all, and that mixing and matching foods (lentils one day, beans the next, or tuna, or low fat beef) is necessary to make sure you aren't getting too much or too little of any one thing. So it all seems to come back to the same basic thing--that living healthy is a combination of educating yourself as best as possible (replace saturated fats with healthier fats, for example, eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, etc.) and my mom's advice from many years ago--eat moderately, eat a variety, and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Oh, and make sure you read the nutrition labels and ingredient lists before you buy, because they will tell you more about what you are eating than any "smart choice" or "green light" label.
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