New Year, New Me (for real though)

My fitness journey has been interesting. Today I am officially 10 pounds down from my highest weight. In the grand scheme of things, and my ultimate goal, that’s not a whole lot. You can’t see it yet. But I can feel it, and given that this has been my struggle for a long time I feel that I should celebrate my progress.

Some background: My parents weren’t the best fitness role models. My dad has had a potbelly as long as I can remember, although it has shrunk a bit since he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago and started watching what he eats. My mom, on the other hand, is naturally slim. Her house is full of cookies and candy and she makes a pie every other weekend. But she can indulge her sweet tooth with abandon because her metabolism is super high. She’s had three kids and had a flat stomach up until her 50s (she’s 66 now and still doesn’t protrude, it’s just soft). And yet she HAS never lifted a dumbbell or done a crunch in her entire life. Guess whose genes I inherited? *eye roll* I’m figuring out what works for me, though.

  • You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it (#noNike). Turns out it’s a lot harder to half-ass something than to fully commit. Consistency wins the day. It’s not sexy, and it’s not fast but it gets results.
  • We have no idea what a serving size is. And it’s not our fault. The nutrition labels lie. According to my dietitian, a single serving of carbs is just 20 grams, which is about a half cup of anything (cereal, rice, beans, corn, etc.). I went back & reread some labels and basically, we’re screwed. We don’t know what a meat serving size is either (4oz of skin on poultry or fatty meat, 6oz of lean meat or seafood). A typical burger is 6 ounces of fatty beef but a typical salad (which costs 2x as much as the burger) comes with just 2 ounces of skinless chicken breast. It’s a recipe for failure.
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A true balanced breakfast.

  • Healthy people spend a lot of time cooking. Now of course some folks are okay with eating nothing but protein shakes, hard boiled eggs and the standard meal of chicken breast/tilapia, broccoli/green beans and brown rice/sweet potato for the rest of their lives. For those of us who require more variety in our meals…put on your favorite show and get in the kitchen. You’re gonna be in there a while. I actually enjoy cooking but I can’t cook ahead as much as I want because our fridge isn’t big enough. When we get a house I need the double wide one and a deep freezer.
  • You’ve got to move it, move it. Some people have just always loved being active. They played a sport for every season of the year, they run 3+ miles a day or else they “just can’t function”. It ain’t me. Yes, the exercise high is real but your mileage may vary. I haven’t yet had one that came anywhere close to the one I get from fresh baked brownies or some adult time with Tex (*wink*) though. I’m kinda jealous of those folks who o.rga.sm when they work out. If it was that good to me it would make getting off the couch a lot easier! My victory is that I no longer dread breaking a sweat. Most of the time.
  • Drink some water. Then drink some more. When you’re eating half the portion sizes you used to, cutting liquid calories is essential for you to not feel hungry. I try to empty a 24 oz water bottle 3 times a day at least. It feels easier than pouring a glass at a time. Is it boring? OH MY GOD YES. I’ve subbed out green tea (with a single teaspoon of honey) for my coffee, but I don’t always want a hot drink. So now I love Topo Chico sparkling water.

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Adventures in Dieting

A few months back I wrote about becoming more comfortable with my body and getting into fitness. And I’m proud to say that there have been only a few weeks this year where I haven’t worked out at all. But I haven’t met my weight loss goal. I’ve been losing and gaining the same few pounds all year. A lot of that was due to my eating habits, but stress and lack of sleep didn’t help either. The latter two are anathema to any kind of lifestyle change–you simply don’t have the willpower or energy to do better. Even after quitting my job, I didn’t get it together the way I told myself I would. My workouts got more frequent, and I ate a few more meals at home, but I didn’t make any drastic changes to my eating habits.

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Well, I promised myself that if I didn’t do it on my own I’d have to get a personal trainer or something. I really thought exercise would be the hard part for me, but now I realize why it wasn’t. Exercising means that you only have to make the right choice once a day, at most. Provided you’re doing at least moderate intensity workouts for the recommended number of hours a week, you can get results exercising 4 days a week or all 7. But you have to eat, multiple times a day. And you’re supposed to eat meals and snacks from multiple food groups. So that means your burden to get it right, and opportunity to get it wrong, multiply exponentially!

Long story short, I signed up with a virtual nutrition coach a couple weeks ago. I get personalized meal plans via Dropbox, twice weekly meetings over the phone or via Skype, and workout suggestions as well. Since I know exactly how many servings of each food group I need each day, it makes meal planning much easier. I no longer have to agonize over whether I’m supposed to have something or not. And the plan is structured in such a way that I don’t have to count calories.

Just by comparing what I normally eat to the sample menu, I saw that I was eating way too many starches, somewhat overdoing the fruits, and not eating enough protein or veggies. They put me on a 3 day cleanse (which was actually really reasonable and involved all solid foods). But the one stickler was no starches! I could add one serving of a healthy starch for each hour of exercise. Y’all, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Bread is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Bread is bae. Bread is life (ask Jesus!). I mean, “give us this day, our daily bread” comes BEFORE “forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s prayer.

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And truthfully, on the first day I was hurt. Looking yearningly at the husband’s breakfast bagels in the pantry. Nibbling sadly on (literal!) nuts and berries, thinking:

got-carbs

And of course there was no sugar either. I was limited to 3 fruits (and not the candy tasting ones like pineapples and mangoes) and 3 TEASPOONS of honey per day. Y’all. That is ONE cup of green tea. I started to have an orange midafternoon and then told myself, “Better save that for dessert.” DESSERT, Y’ALL! On the second day, I went searching through Pinterest to see how I could make grapefruit more appetizing. I cheated (slightly) because sniffing a bag of dried semi-sweet coconut turned into eating one glorious, 1/2-inch piece of sugary goodness. But I got myself together and had an oven broiled grapefruit topped with cinnamon and a precious 1.5 teaspoons of honey (I just sucked it up and had some dry ass green tea). It wasn’t cake or cookies or anything like it. But I gutted that thang! The third and final day was much better, and I realized that my sweets craving is much more emotional than anything else. I don’t need it, and surprisingly, the fruit satisfied me enough that I didn’t go looking for more sweets. I got tired of tea and wanted some coffee, but that usually involves significant amounts of cream and sugar. So I went to Starbucks and got a skinny french vanilla latte instead (it’s made with skim milk and sugar free syrup). The last time I had one, I was disgusted. This time though? It. was. hitting! And for under 150 calories too.

This is what my life has come to. *weeps silently, yearning for a biscuit*

January Goals Report

STATS:

24 workouts,

+ 2.5lbs

222,293 steps/97.34 miles walked

Average ~40 oz of water per day

This month was a success overall. I definitely committed to moving my body more and it while it isn’t second nature, it doesn’t feel like such an ordeal either. I realized  that I don’t necessarily need 64 oz of water a day to feel hydrated. I don’t sweat a whole lot in general, and very little right now outside of workouts since it’s still winter. On most of the days where I drank that much water, I felt like I was literally sloshing around inside and had to get up in the middle of the night to pee.

As you can see, I actually gained a little bit of weight this month. I was feeling bad but had to adjust my thinking. I’ve been tracking my calories and while I was not a paragon of healthy eating, my intake wasn’t noticeably different than it has been the past couple of months. The actual numbers don’t support that weight gain from eating, so I was forced to conclude that I had actually gained muscle weight. I’ve been doing a lot of strength training this month, especially weighted lunges, squats and leg presses. My measurements haven’t changed yet (it has only been 4 weeks after all), but my pants are fitting a little better and my tush is looking a little higher. This month I plan to incorporate a diet-based goal so I’m sure that will make a difference in my results.

Still, I’m trying to focus on the journey and not the end goal. I’m sleeping better and feeling stronger. I’m proving to myself day by day that I can be a fit, athletic person. I’m working my life around exercise instead of vice versa. Slow and steady wins the race!

Some thoughts on healthy living, pt. 1: getting started

Big Girl in a Skinny World

Fat prejudice is real. I’m not one to play Oppression Olympics, but it can’t be denied that making fun of fat people is okay in a way that making fun of people because of race, physical disability or mental illness is not. And that’s weird to me. Sure you can “control” your weight, but only up to a point (which is why I put that in quotes). It’s so much more than calories out > calories in. Many factors influence, what, how much and how often we eat. They range from the obvious- cooking ability, income, access to grocery stores, to the subtle- our mood, and whether or not we pass our favorite fast food joint on the way home from work. Fashion caters to the slimmest among us, and fatness is always treated as a temporary stop on the way back to Skinnytown. At the same time, weight loss is almost never presented in a loving way, i.e., exercise and proper nutrition are important in and of themselves regardless of whether you lose weight. Negative feedback is never effective for lasting change and that’s true with weight loss too–fat shaming actually causes people to overeat more.

Working Out is Actually Work

When you first start exercising, it’s usually not fun. If you’re going from a completely sedentary lifestyle to trying to work out 7 days a week, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be sore and stiff and feel like quitting on day three. You’ve got to ease yourself into it, and take rest days. The popular knowledge is “no pain, no gain” and “listen to your body” but how does one reconcile the two? How do you know the limits of those if you’ve never been athletic and active? I’ve gotten into my groove through trial and error. I do a mix of cardio, toning and circuit routines on YouTube at home because the gym just isn’t me. It doesn’t offer enough variety to keep me coming back day after day. And even though I have started looking forward to my workouts–they stabilize my mood, give me a sense of accomplishment and make me feel strong–it’s a tossup as to whether I actually enjoy it on any given day.

To see results you have to push yourself and get uncomfortable. You don’t get that exercise high from 20 minutes of casual walking. You’ve got to be out of breath, muscles burning, eking out those last few reps…and then the endorphins kick in on the other side. Of course, for the first month you may be collapsing on the floor or staggering off for a water break before you get to that point, just because you’re not used to pushing yourself. Very few people are brutally honest about how much it takes to condition yourself, and for those like me who have more than 15 but less than 50lbs to lose and are still somewhat active (you do an easy workout a couple times a week) it’s even harder. You fluctuate within the same 5-10lb range. You eat well enough to keep from steadily gaining, but not well enough to change your body. When you’re very overweight with poor eating habits, you could potentially lose 5lbs in one week just from cutting out soda and juices, or eating out only twice a day instead of for all three meals. In that in between zone, it gets really difficult. You’ve got to be much more vigilant and it’s hard to keep going because sometimes you just get tired of thinking about it. Still, you will see results…even if they’re not the ones you want. Which brings me to the last part of this post.

Your Ideal Body

Everyone has a natural body type and body shape. I have an apple shape and hold weight in my stomach and upper body. I don’t have the skinny legs characteristic of an apple shape, but in terms of fat distribution when I gain 10lbs, only 2-3 of them go to my legs and hips. In addition, I gain muscle more easily than I lose fat. I’ve been doing a lot of arm, back and shoulder exercises to tone up for my strapless wedding gown. The result? Sure I have some muscle tone, but I actually gained an inch of muscle around my back, so I had to size up a corset that fit perfectly a mere six weeks ago. *sigh* On the other hand, I added about 2 inches to my butt from doing lower body exercises 😉 I lose fat on a low starch diet, but it’s extremely hard because a) I love bread and b) grains are the biggest part of the food pyramid and the most convenient thing to eat. Salad just doesn’t travel as well as crackers.  Nevertheless, I’m working on reducing my portions of rice, bread and cereal and doing more protein, fruits and veggies.

A couple of things to wrap up. You can change your body shape (an apple can get a six pack; a pear can get lean legs & hips) but you’ll have to make drastic changes that may not be viable for you in the long term. I’m definitely an advocate of health, and body acceptance. I know that I can’t get below a certain size without limiting myself to one or two cheat meals a week, very small portions (we’re talking 1400-1500 calories a day) and/or doing a lot of high impact exercise like running. But I love chocolate chip cookies and Chinese food, and hate running (I have a tendency to roll my ankles because I overpronate, not to mention my DDs cannot be contained) so I will remain thick. But I can definitely lose a noticeable amount of weight without going to those extremes. The key is to find the happy middle ground between being health conscious, satisfying your vanity and learning to love yourself.

 

Links/Resources

Video: How To Lose Weight According to Body Shape

Blogs: http://blackgirlsguidetoweightloss.com/

http://fitbottomedgirls.com/

Food Trackers: www.sparkpeople.com  and www.myfitnesspal.com