Monday, June 22, 2009
Apparently this week my sparks action is supposed to focus on meal planning and eating the right foods (I stayed on the first step for a really long time because I joined sparks and then got thrown into moving madness and that just didn't seem like a good time to revamp meals).
I'm not very good at meal planning. We tend to buy only a few days worth of food at a time. Our freezer space is limited, even more at the new place than the old one, so we can't freeze a lot. We tend to shop sales so whether or not we have pork or beef is more likely to be determined by which has the better sale than a prearranged plan. We have been trying for years to keep to the leaner cuts of meat, and because of my husband's food allergies our dinners have relatively few processed foods (my lunches, on the other hand, have been another story.)
Advanced meal planning is complicated by my husband's allergies and the fact that he doesn't always control what he has for lunch, as he has a lot of work related lunches. Tonight, for example, we will probably have marzetti--which is kind of like a baked spaghetti (only with a different kind of noodles). He's allergic to tomatoes, but can sometimes have them raw--but not if he's had pizza or spaghetti for lunch recently. So we tend to play things by ear. So I don't know how well week long meal planning will work for us in the long run.
The advantage of meal planning is that it makes it easier to eat better I guess as a whole. I've been really struggling to get in all the things I'm supposed to (enough fiber, enough fruit and vegetables, enough protein, enough vitamins, especially B12, iron, and calcium) and not too much of other things (especially calories, and most especially calories from carbohydrates and fats. If you work out your meals in advance, you know you can have that protein-heavy breakfast smoothie because you won't be getting much protein for lunch, and know that you have worked in your vegetables and fruits and whole grains. Perhaps you can even make sure you have a good source of at least the key vitamins most of the time. If you can use the Sparks provided meal planner, this is all relatively easy, though even if you can't or don't want to, it's still possible. At least in theory. I haven't found that balance yet and I've been trying for awhile.
I've found that since joining sparks, because I've been trying to eat breakfast (which I rarely did before) and eat more vegetables, fruits, and proteins, I've been generally eating more *calories* as a whole. Breakfast in particular--I typically eat 300-500 calories for breakfast (cereal and something with protein like yogurt or a hard boiled egg) but I'm not eating 300 to 500 calories LESS later in the day. And somehow trying to add vegetables and especially fruit, whole grains, and protein has also been adding over all to my calories per meal.
Worse, if anything, I've been hungrier than normal--today I've already eaten over 900 calories, which gives me just enough for a reasonable dinner, and yet I've been HUNGRY. All afternoon. I had soup--something that, before I started Sparks, was often the only thing I had before dinner. Now I have that and another 500 calories and I'm still hungry. I don't understand it. I shouldn't be hungry. I had a reasonable amount of food--a decent mix of carbohydrates (55% of my max), fat (53% of max) and protein (okay, about 20%, so still a bit light in the protein department, but my dinner have always been protein heavy compared to earlier in the day). I've had meat, vegetables, some dairy, and at least some whole grains. I know I should have eaten more whole grains and fruits and vegetables, but I still don't think I did so bad. I had lunch 5 hours after breakfast and will have dinner probably 4 or 5 hours after lunch. If had a snack, it would push me over my recommended calorie limit, which while making me less hungry (hopefully) defeats the weight loss goal, assuming I also have dinner.
SO WHY AM I STILL HUNGRY?
Better yet, does anyone have any food suggestions of things that are easy to make (um, because I'm not very good at cooking and don't have a lot of patience for it), good for you, and with staying power? I want to experiment with beans and rice for lunch (good, high in protein, AND inexpensive) which I have never made but like. And I've been wanting to try my hand at smoothies, made with yogurt, fruit, and possibly fortified with some kind of protein since I often don't get enough protein.
Maybe I should rethink regularly scheduled snacks; it's just hard enough to plan meals that are in the 300-500 calorie range without adding one or two snacks as well!
Any other suggestions? I can't have bananas in the house and carrots are very difficult, but otherwise I'm fairly flexible as far as breakfast and lunch go, as long as it's easy and not too expensive.
*edit* Finished the day within my calorie goals--by about 250 calories! Yay! Hopefully tomorrow I'll balance things better so I don't spend my afternoon having trouble focusing because I'm hungry.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Yesterday I'm posting about the importance of keeping a positive outlook and how sometimes that's not so easy to do, and today is the poster child day for days that it's really, really hard to be positive.
My husband woke me up this morning to tell me that our van was stolen some time last night, from in front of our apartment. It was still filled with odds and ends from the last move from the old apartment, so odds and ends--mostly things like empty boxes and cleaning supplies and some shelving hardware and the like. Nothing much of value and mostly replaceable, other than one or two things of personal value.
So instead of working out today, as planned, or even eating a healthy meal plan and getting work done around the apartment, I spent today dealing with the van. I didn't even eat lunch until just now (5 pm) and even then it was utter junk fast food, because I was so hungry and even though we had all this lovely healthy snack foods and the like at home I had forgotten to take it with me when I rushed out the door and I hadn't had time for anything better. Oh, and I grabbed a couple of cookies, some water, and a glass of lemonade while I was waiting at the office because they were unguarded and I was soooooooo hungry. And really, I doubt anyone would have said no.
And you know, I had my share of ranting. I called up a good friend because, really, some things you just have to rant about. It was a long day. I spent a lot of it out in the rain, and I hadn't eaten anything, not even breakfast, and it was definitely a hard day. It's probably healthy to rant about it.
But I'm also trying really hard to be positive, and to move past the ranting. I was reminded today that while ranting definitely has it's place, it's also important to keep things in perspective and to remember--even focus on--the good things when everything seems to be going horribly.
So I tried to focus on the positive things that happened today.
*The van has been recovered already. YAY! This is a BIG positive, and one that I'm extremely grateful for. It will be awhile before we'll get it back, which unfortunately means that my camping plans for this weekend just got nixed, and we'll have to find money to pay the insurance deductible (it's damaged, though fixable) and the like, and money is tight, but we don't have to replace it and do without. And that's a big deal right there, and worth being happy about.
*We recovered most of the stuff from inside the van. It got dumped near by, and so I was able to recover most of the things. Some of it is water damaged because it had been out in the rain for hours, and the car stereo is gone and may not be covered under insurance, but it looks like a lot of things can be salvaged, including the stuff we cared the most about. So another BIG YAY!
*Our apartment complex people were really nice throughout this whole mess, above and beyond what their jobs required of them. I had hoped, at best, for a place to stash our stuff nearby until my husband got home from work and helped me move it (because I didn't feel up to schlepping things like a microwave and tools and shelving materials for a 15 minute walk, minimum, home). Instead, they helped deal with the police and I had three maintenance staff help load my stuff into a couple of vehicles and take it home and into our apartment for me. Maybe part of it was that they don't want me saying what a terrible place this is to live (especially since we'd JUST moved in) but they seemed to honestly care and want to help. And it was really very much appreciated. When we moved in, they stressed the importance of community here, and I really felt that was the case today.
*I'm grateful, too, that my mom is willing and able to come up today and help. A lot of the stuff was in the van originally because it was going into storage, but now it's in the apartment--already over crowded because we're still unpacking--and we don't have a vehicle that can take it there. So she's driving up in her SUV to help us take it to storage so that we can at least move around our apartment again.
So a bad day, no questions about it... but it could also have been a LOT worse.
And tonight, since we're running stuff to my parents' anyway, my husband is planning on going to the fencing practice out that way. He'll get to fence--a good stress reliever for him--and I'll get to hang out with a lot of my good friends. It will do both of us a lot of good.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I read a daily Sparks blog post ( www.dailyspark.com/blog.asp?p
_selfdefeating ) today about whether or not negative user names are motivational or self-defeating. I haven't been on sparks all that long, but I confess that I have wondered why someone on a healthy- and weight-loss-oriented website would pick names like "fatgirl" (to use an example she used.) At the same time, I don't want to judge anyone based on their user name--perhaps there is a story or something beyond seemingly negative names that make the names amusing or heart warming or otherwise encouraging? After all, my user name is kind of ... uninspired in some ways. It's simply my nickname for years, and it's only as positive or negative as *I* am.
But that got me thinking... am I positive? In the blog, Jen Mueller makes the observation that people with negative attitudes tend not to stick around Sparks because it's a very upbeat site, and I definitely want to be one of those people in for the long haul. I'm stubborn, which helps--even if I screw up on a day or even for a week, or even if I'm doing everything right and things are still not going well, I don't give up easily. Even if I fail utterly a dozen times, that's just giving me experience so I'm more likely to get it right next time, right? Learn from my mistakes?
But at the sometimes it can be frustrating. It's frustrating trying to understand what I need to do when giving apparently conflicting information--is 10 minute intervals helpful, or do I need, as at least one study suggests, to exercise at least an hour a day? Do I have to work out EVERY DAY for it to be productive, or if I end up missing a day here and there because, face it, life doesn't always cooperate with even the best intentions, does it still help that I'm doing the best I can? I mean, I've been meeting my work out goals something like 85 or 90% of the time--that counts for something, right? And the diet thing... I'm not so bad in terms of calories and fat intake, though I know I eat more sugar than recommended and not enough protein, but I'm not doing at all well in getting my daily allowance of vitamins in. I'm trying to do better, but so far I've had discouragingly little progress (though at least I still have ideas left to try! Not giving up yet--see, stubborn).
And it's frustrating to try to figure out how to deal with daunting hurdles when constantly bombarded with messages of "just do it" and "easy ways to better health." The former feels like it belittles hurdles that are real enough for me, while the later can be discouraging because many of them are either not options or I'm already doing. And I suppose that should actually be a sign that I'm doing something right, rather than discouraging that there aren't more things I can do to make things better, but sometimes it's hard to feel positive, especially when there's very little sign of any kind of progress.
And sometimes it's hard to balance being positive and trying to be honest, at least to myself about my struggles--because if I don't admit that I'm struggling with something, it's hard to constructively do something about it. But at the same time, "woe is me this is hard" is really not that helpful. It certainly doesn't suit the positive atmosphere or help motivate me to get to the gym or spend the extra time preparing meals and snacks.
So I've been trying to determine specific problems--two big ones being lack of time and having to cook and shop creatively because of my husband's food allergies--and try to come up with specific strategies to help over come both of those. Often, when I say "I'm struggling with balancing this," I've gotten advice on how to handle it, often things I never would have thought on my own. So I hope that I'm striking a good balance between a realistic assessment of the barriers I'm dealing with while keeping a positive and supportive attitude in general.
And, heh, in the meantime I still have fresh strawberries!
Monday, June 15, 2009
A friend of mine introduced me to a store which is kind of like a cross between a nursery and a grocery store. You can buy tons of different plants and planting supplies there--we wandered around looking at the various herbs and flowers and admiring different ones, though neither of us bought any. The grocery store is mainly fruit and produce and dairy products with a small selection of other products, such as bottled drinks, crackers, and a smallish selection of meats and fish. There's also a small backery that seems to focus on whole grain breads that smelled positively heavenly. The fruit, dairy, and vegetable selections were really pretty impressive.
Walking through the fruit area, it smelled so good! I got strawberries--lots of Michigan-grown strawberries. One of the things that frustrates me is that even when strawberries in Michigan are in season, grocery stores only carry out of state berries. It's great being able to buy out-of-state fruit when it's not available locally, but it doesn't make sense when it's in season locally. The local berries always taste better, probably because they haven't been transported so far, and so are much fresher.
You can get the Michigan berries from farmer's markets and roadside stands, but living in the suburbs I never did find a local farmer's market, so I had to get my "local" strawberries from out of town. Now I have a source that's reasonably close by. Plus they carry a lot of other local farmer produce, when it's in season, I'm told. This means that the produce is more environmentally friendly, as it won't be transported as far, that I'm supporting local farmers whenever possible (being Michigan, we buy out of state produce for 3/4ths of the year anyway) , and the food is fresher. It's a bit of a drive for me for regular grocery shopping, but it's still good to know it's there.
I also got green peppers, cucumbers, and snap peas because I've been wanting more healthy snacks and more vegetables in general. Everything looked so good I was tempted to get more, but I can only eat so many vegetables before they turn bad!
Monday, June 08, 2009
I've never gone to a gym before, so the fitness center at our new apartment is very new to me. We looked into gyms about a year or two ago, but simply couldn't afford the rates, but one of the reasons we chose our new apartment complex is that they had the fitness center. Today was not the first time I've used it, but it's the first time I've used it with other people present.
I discovered that I'm really self conscious working out in front of others, especially when the others are younger and in much better shape than I am. I know, intellectually, that it's not a competition of who can use the elliptical longer or lift the heaviest weights. I know, intellectually, that I've been deliberately taking things very slowly and cautiously (and even then apparently pushing myself too hard at times) because I'm recovering from a number of chronic problems with my hip, hands/wrists/forearms. But I'm still embarrassed to be seen lifting my little 5 lb weights and so forth, even telling myself that no one else is going to judge me--and even if they did, what do I, really, care what strangers think? But still, I found myself uncomfortably self-conscious, and it's something I'm going to have to overcome somehow because I want to be comfortable using the fitness center and I imagine it'll be relative rare to get it to myself, especially during the winter.
I have to admit two things today really disappointed me, however. The first is that one of the men using the fitness center when I arrived didn't put away his weights when he left. I ended up putting them away, because I didn't like leaving them out and I wanted to use the bench he'd been using, but they were 40 lb weights--significantly heavier than what I use. I can move them--I'm not that weak!--but they were heavy enough to be awkward to put back on the rack. But more than the annoyance of putting them away myself, I was disappointed that he didn't pick up after himself. I don't know much about gym etiquette, but I would have thought that picking up after yourself was a basic, common courtesy.
The second thing bothered me even more. There is a TV in the room. It was off when I arrived, and I prefer to work out to my headphones so I left it off. One of the guys who arrived later turned it on to a music station--which would have been okay except that he turned it up so loud that it was drowning out my headphones, even after I bumped them up as loud as I can tolerate. Is there some kind of etiquette for asking people if they mind before turning on the TV, or at least to keep the volume down at a comfortable level? Because it was uncomfortably loud for me even without the headphones issue (and boy do I sound like my mother here, twitch) but I felt uncomfortable asking him to turn it down. So instead I just tried to tune it out as best as I could while I wrapped up what I was doing.
Other than those two pet peeves, though, today was a really good work out--the best I've had, in a lot of ways. It was the first time that I can remember where I did weight training and found it relaxing, rather than feeling impatient to get to the end of the repetitions. Usually "Oh God please let this end soon" is a more accurate summary of my feeling working out than finding it soothing.
This may be an indication that I wasn't pushing myself hard enough, but I suspect that SAASHA17 was right that I had been pushing myself too hard--despite the fact that I was trying to take things slow and build up cautiously. But, if so, it also means that I'm starting to finally get some muscle tone, and that's definitely a good thing!
I did learn that I really need to remember to take my inhaler with me to the fitness center. I have pretty mild asthma and it's pretty well controlled, but my allergies are acting up pretty bad at the moment and it would have been wise to have it with me just in case. Especially since exercise can aggravate my asthma even on good days.
Also, I tried the heart monitor on the elliptical and found that my heart rate is a lot lower than it's supposed to be. I went as fast--and at as high a level--as I can safely maintain for more than a few minutes, but my heart rate was stuck right around 100 even though my breathing was hard enough that I couldn't talk. From what I've calculated, I'm supposed to push my heart rate up to between 112 and 150. Perhaps that's a result of me being overweight? Or maybe it's because my asthma is acting up, even if only mildly, so that my lungs can't keep up with my heart rate? Or are those monitors not very accurate (it's a Vision Fitness machine)?
Still, it was mostly a good day. I feel like I worked out without feeling like I got my butt kicked and handed to my on a platter by the routine.
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