Getting Fit – Part 1 – Embracing My *AHA* Moment

photo credit recipes.howstuffworks.com

I’ve read that some don’t believe in *aha* moments. I totally get that. I had made up my mind to get in shape many, many times before and had only the crumpled up gym contracts and way less cash in my bank account to show for it. So, after settling into suburban life, marriage, motherhood, a career and being the same weight for years and accepting it what would make this time different? All I can tell you is something clicked. Something was set on fire inside of me and burned so hot I couldn’t think of anything else.

When we got back from that vacation I was telling you about, I could not read weight loss information fast enough. It was like I had been crawling in the desert for weeks and had just found a fresh stream of water. My appetite for information was insatiable. I was going to do it this time and that was going to be that.

I told anyone who would listen I was going to lose 30 pounds. Some people were like, “oh gosh, you don’t have 30 pounds to lose, are you serious?” (I learned to dress my body very well.) My husband and I were also very “social” and we were known for the amount of beer we could drink and the recipes I could find that included bacon (extra bonus if it included cream cheese and bacon). I got a couple of chuckles from some of our friends. It was one of those, “yeah right, we’ll see how long this lasts” kind of things.

I joined Weight Watchers. I went to one meeting and realized the meeting setting wasn’t for me but I loved tracking my food online. I was holding myself accountable for what I was putting in my body. It was then that I realized I had a major case of portion distortion. I was putting lumber jack portions in my 5’4 frame. (My wedding ring is a size 4 1/2. I seriously have a small frame regardless of how “curvy” I am.) I also realized that I was thinking about seconds before I had even finished my first helping. When something tasted good, I would rush through the first portion just to get to the next one. I didn’t eat to fill some kind of void or to hide from my feelings. I ate because food tasted good!

I began measuring out my food, learned what a real portion looked like, and ate only that. It was very strange at first. I was leaving the dinner table without feeling completely stuffed. It had been a long time since that had happened. I’ll admit I felt a little uncomfortable measuring food in front of my daughters. Having been around eating disorders in my childhood, I didn’t want them seeing anything that might make them associate anything “bad” with food. So, we never said the word *diet* in our house. We didn’t say fat or skinny. We talked about being healthy. We talked about what different foods could do for your body (or to it for that matter). I had to properly educate myself, so I could educate them.

I also willingly (ish) gave up my 2pm vending machine habit. Every single weekday, I had an incredibly crazy strong craving for peanut m&m’s and a diet coke. I succumbed to that craving every day for…well, a really long time. I gave it up cold turkey. Come 2pm, I would just walk around my office thinking about how badly I wanted those damn m&m’s. But how I wanted to meet my goals even more. I made sure I had no access to cash until I was sure this self-sabotaging habit was broken.

I also started walking. I would walk almost every single night. I started walking faster and faster until I thought, “hey, maybe I could try running.” I didn’t play sports in high school (or any other time for that matter). I was never “active”. Honestly, I didn’t even like to sweat. It felt icky. I had tried “running” a few times and I thought my lungs would explode in first 30 seconds. My bra strap would always fall down too and annoy the crap out of me. I didn’t even own a sports bra. But maybe, just maybe I could do this without dying. So I started reading up on running…

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Sellout or Money Making Genius?

If you see your favorite celebrity trainer hocking a new product or pill do you run out to get it or do you wonder, “what the hell are they thinking?” Of course, it obviously depends on the product but I have definitely have had some WTF moments with some of these people.

I think workout DVDs are fantastic! If you respect someone you’ve seen in a magazine or on TV and they are also pretty awesome to look at, I think it’s fantastic if you workout “with them”. Heck, I think anything that gets people moving is fabulous!

I also totally love the books. Yeah, of course I’m a voracious reader so I’ll read just about anything. And a lot of these books don’t necessarily provide any new information, but sometimes it is presented in a new way. Have you ever had that “aha” moment when something finally clicked? It may not have clicked because anything new was said, but in how it was said. So, if you read a book that finally puts something together for you, I’m totally down with that.

Pills. Ugh. The term “magic pill” comes to mind. If these trainers are good enough to have become famous, I have to think they know what they’re doing. That means they obviously know there is no magic pill,  just hard work and smart eating choices. So, why do they do it? Okay, money, I get that. But doesn’t that almost seem like giving up? Are they saying, “okay, these people will never get it, so I’ll sell them this crap to shove down their throats. Best case scenario is that it will have a placebo effect and they’ll finally start eating sensibly and maybe even exercising. And I can buy a beach house.”

I don’t know any of these trainers personally. I haven’t done extensive research on any of their products. I know some even claim to be “all natural” which hopefully at the very least means it can’t hurt you. Of course it probably won’t deliver any results either. If there really were a proven method of weight loss in a pill that wasn’t harmful, wouldn’t it be more widely distributed by medical professionals to fight this obesity epidemic? I’m probably naive, but that’s my opinion.

I love helping people. I love answering questions for people who genuinely want to know the answers. I, however, would not be able to promote any kind of magic pill. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a beach house. Hell, I’d just like to pay off my current house. I’m not greedy. However, I cannot promote something I know for certain doesn’t work.

Do you think these people really believe in the products they’re selling? Do you think they take them? Or do you think they worked for the body they have? Have they convinced themselves they work so they can sleep at night or have they given up and are looking for the money before their celebrity status disappears? Are they sellouts or geniuses?

You're a VegaWHAT Now?

image via salon.com

Recently I noticed I was eating less and less meat. If there were vegetarian options on a menu at a restaurant, any restaurant, I would almost always select it. I loved eating things I didn’t typically make at home. In November of 2011, I decided to give up meat completely. Not for weight loss (duh, donuts are vegetarian). I just did it because meat wasn’t appealing to me. To be honest, I haven’t missed it at all. But to understand why it seems so weird I might be a vegetarian, you have to know more of my background.

I grew up in a very (VERY) small town in southeast Missouri, population 1700. There were less than 100 kids in my graduating class if I remember correctly. The town didn’t even have a stop light (other than a flashing one that no one noticed) until after I graduated high school. We didn’t get off school for spring break; instead we got off for deer season. Yes, you read that right. We got off school for deer season.

In this town, people don’t just hunt for sport (although they do love it). Everything they kill is eaten. In fact, it’s a means of survival for some as jobs aren’t exactly plentiful in this little town tucked away in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest. So, I grew up eating deer and other animals I frankly can’t believe I ate. It was a normal part of our life.

Fast forward to the present where we live in suburbia and the only thing my husband hunts for is a matching pair of socks. I’m eating less and less meat until I finally just take it out of my diet altogether. Now, this totally freaked even me out at first. I got online and started researching it (I know, you’re shocked…whatevs). I thought I was going to have to start eating vegetables I didn’t recognize and couldn’t pronounce. I talked to a vegetarian friend and she said I was making it far too complicated. Boy, was she right.

Turns out, I still eat exactly what my family does. Our typical meal is a meat, vegetable, and a starch. Instead of the meat, I substitute some kind of legume (that’s a fancy word for beans). Sometimes I’ll also throw in a grain or pasta of some sort. I found out that not only is couscous fun to say, it’s delish!

My ten year old daughter fuh-reaked when she discovered I was a vegetarian. She thought I was going to “make” everyone give up meat. She even told me she knew a couple of vegetarians and they never looked happy when they were eating. The funny thing is, it took her almost a week to notice. That’s how little impact it had on my carnivorous family.

So don’t be worried about changing something up just because you’ve always done it a certain way or you’re afraid of some kind of backlash. You never know what you might discover about yourself. (Although I’ll admit my Dad doesn’t know about this.)

And for the record, no, I don’t eat chicken (chicken is meat, by the way). No, I don’t eat fish. I get plenty of protein. I’m not going to try to “convert” you. (What you put in your body is your business.) And I haven’t hugged any trees lately. If I feel like having a burger, I will. I even ate some chili with meat in it the other day. Of course I can count on one hand how many times I’ve eaten meat since November. And the server at our favorite local restaurant has finally gotten used to my new order. Mediterranean Chicken Wrap, hold the chicken please.

The More I Learn, The Less I Know


I’ve said before I have an obsessive personality. When I do something I go “all in”. Making the decision to lose weight was no different. Once I made the decision, I was obsessed with nutrition information. I read articles. I visited blogs. I stalked weight loss message boards like it was my job. The trouble was, the more I read the less I knew. For each article I read, there were ten more to contradict it. For each philosophy, there were a hundred more. Grain was bad. Grain was good. Fat was bad; but not all fat. Carbs were bad (I can’t eat fruit?). You get my drift. I’m sure you’ve experienced this as well. The more I read the more confused I became. It was incredibly frustrating. My solution – eat in moderation and not give up any food. Not a single one. That worked for me. However, it didn’t make me less obsessed. I still researched and looked and asked questions. I still was unsure, even though my results were showing right there on my body! (Obsessed and hard-headed.)

When I decided to also incorporate exercise it was no different. Running is good. Running is bad. Lift heavy weights with low reps. No, no, lift light weights with tons of reps. Cardio “only” is good enough. Weight lifting “only” is good enough. No, you need both. Cardio should be 30 minutes. Cardio should be 10 minutes. RAAAAAWWWWWWRRRR! SO.FREAKING.FRUSTRATING.

Every thing I read was contradicted by the next thing I read. Then the next thing was contradicted by that. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic in our country. No one knows what the hell to do! When I decided to get my personal trainer certification it was purely for ME. It was so I would have some definitive answers. It was so I would know how I should work out and then I could help others. Guess what? No definitive answers. I was so freaking disappointed. I had done so much research on everything that very little new information was presented (other than the way the body works scientifically speaking, which of course I’m not discounting). I had that beautiful certificate but STILL didn’t know if grains were bad or good. I still didn’t know how much cardio a person should have. Not exact numbers.

So I kept researching and looking. I became a perpetual student of fitness and nutrition and of my own body. I finally realized the reason there is so much information out there is because different things work for different people. Maybe milk bloats you like a pregnant person, but doesn’t bother your sister at all. Perhaps your body responds to 10 minutes of cardio but your co-worker needs 30 minutes. You have to find what works for YOU.

I have learned what my body responds to. I’ve become a great listener to my body. Of course I’m not saying I don’t get discouraged. I recently contacted a fantastic personal trainer to inquire about her training me. I felt like I needed something new. Through a very awesome conversation, I came to realize I already know what to do. I was just in a rut.

All of those magazine articles you read about THE way to finally get the body you want…those are just a base. Those things can work. If you do them consistently. And if it’s something your body responds to. Any personal trainer worth their salt will adjust your workouts to fit YOUR body. You may start out with the workout they gave the last 10 people, but they should be doing constant monitoring to see what works. And what doesn’t.

You also don’t need a trainer for this. Tune in to your body. Understand that you have to do something consistently to truly know how your body will respond to it. If you did squats two days this week and don’t notice a difference, it’s not the squats. You just haven’t given your body time to show any results. Keep squatting!

Become a student of your body. Be aware of how foods make you feel. Be aware of the response you get from specific exercises. Journal it. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Soon, you’ll be able to read through all the articles and know what applies to you. Not everything will. Keep learning!

Moderation…in Moderation – What Works For Me Wednesday

A piece of chocolate candy.

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes I eat crap. By crap, I mean cake, cookies, brownies, and donuts. Pizza, chips and dip, and anything with cheese. I have to. No, seriously, I do. If I don’t, my brain and body rebel and I eat the crap anyway except in incredibly ridiculous portions. It’s how I’m wired.

If I feel deprived, then I snuff out those feelings of deprivation with whatever it is I’m being deprived of. And when I say snuff them out, I mean hide out so no one can see just how much it takes to snuff it out. By eating the crap on occasion, and in moderation, my brain and body doesn’t feel deprived. I have a little (okay, sometimes a lot) of whatever it is I’m craving and then move on. Because I know the next time I want it, I can have it. That’s why it’s so important to me that nothing is forbidden.

Food shouldn’t be “bad”. It’s a thing. It’s incapable of being bad. Eating it doesn’t make me bad. It makes me human. Everything in moderation. Including…moderation. That’s what works for me.

Nutri-ligion

Red crosses

Do you ever get the feeling that people are trying to shove something down your throat? Whether it’s their religion or the way they eat, people are passionate about their beliefs. Tiffany (aka Workout Girl) and I have both experienced this. We were discussing it today and both realized we were writing a post about it. We decided to combine our posts for a joint effort. We both think it’s important to understand that people understand they need to find what works for them.

Join us over at 2 Fit Freaks to read what else we had to say about it in our post titled “Nutri-ligion”.

Food Journal – What Works For Me Wednesday

 I hate logging my food. I resist it like a toddler resists sleep. If it were socially acceptable I’d probably lay on the floor and kick and scream about it. Do you know why I hate logging my food? Because who the hell really wants to know how many calories are in the 12 Oreo cookies I just ate? Do you know why logging works? Because it tells me how many calories are in those damn Oreo cookies I just ate. Yeah, it’s like entrapment or something. I’ve fought logging my food. I’ve emailed people whose opinion I greatly admire in the fitness biz (and by biz, I mean other really cool facebook pages) to see if they log. I figured since they were hot, and cut, and fabulous looking they probably didn’t log their food even if they did at one point. Guess what? They log. Not what I wanted to hear. Although I somehow knew that would be the answer.

Here’s the thing – I apparently have food amnesia. If I decide I’m going to give myself a “break” from logging, I end up eating ridiculous portions. Then those ridiculous portions need to be washed down with something sweet. And probably chocolatey. But, since I’m not logging it the calories don’t count, right? ha ha ha ha HA! Tell my tight pants that.

Then a logging miracle happens. I discover that a serving of couscous is one cup for 120 calories. Suddenly, I’m full with just that cup. I don’t need to go back for seconds. See? A miracle. Because when I’m not logging, that couscous tastes damn good and nothing but a second helping will do. So I log to keep myself honest. And thin. Logging used to make me feel inferior. Like I’m not smart enough to eat reasonable portions. Well, I AM one smart cookie. I just happen to like cookies. So, I need to know when to stop. Seeing those calories in writing, well, that helps me keep my bad habits in check.

I personally prefer myfitnesspal for logging. It’s what works for me. (No, I’m not paid to endorse them.) Their smart phone app is fantastic and I actually prefer using that over the on-line version. They app has a bar code scanner so if you happen to eat something packaged, you can just scan it, rather than searching for it. Another reason I prefer this one is that it tracks the macro-nutrients too. I don’t eat meat except on the very rare occasion, so I like to make sure I’m getting enough protein. I also like to track my carbs and fat. I look at the ratios and see if I’m particularly heavy in one area or another. (If I’ve had more carbs than normal, did that make me feel tired or sluggish?) It also tracks other nutrients to make sure you’re getting what you need.

There are many choices for logging food if it’s something you think might be helpful to you. Sparkpeople, Livestrong, and Weight Watchers are just a few that come to mind. It isn’t a matter of how you do it; it’s a matter of being aware of exactly what you’re putting in your body and how it affects you. So, for now, I’ll continue to log my food. Every single bite. Because it’s what works for me.

December Is NOT a Free For All

image via hotfrog.co.uk

“I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m just going to gain weight during the holidays.”

Uh, say what? I resisted writing this post for a couple of weeks because it’s so cliché. You can find “holiday survival guides” all over the place right now. Unfortunately, the closer we get to Christmas the more often I’m hearing some variation of this. So, I’m chiming in. You’ve probably heard most or all of these tips. But, I promise you, December does not have to be a free for all. Why undo all the work you’ve done this year? Why start in January?

1. Pick your poison. Chances are you don’t LOVE every food that’s being offered. So, be a food snob. Only put the things you love on your plate. Don’t eat it because that’s what you’ve always eaten at a party. If you take a bite of a pig in a blanket and it isn’t absolutely divine to your palate, STOP EATING IT! This is an opportunity to eat fabulous food that you don’t normally get to eat. Don’t waste the room in your belly on crap.

2. Don’t go hungry. For heaven’s sake, don’t think you are “saving up your calories” for the party. Do you know what will happen? You will be famished when you get there. You will pile your plate with a bunch of junk you won’t even taste because you’re wolfing it down so fast. You will end up eating more calories this way and you won’t even taste them. I promise. Trust me on this.

3. Have water between each adult beverage. This will help you save some calories. It will also keep you from getting buzzed and eating 42 cookies and a whole bowl of dip.

4. Don’t stand around the food. It seems like everyone always gravitates toward the food. And just stands there. That makes it easy to grab a chip when there’s a lull in the conversation. Or when someone else is talking. Or when no one is looking. Prepare your plate and step away from the table.

5. Be active! If the kids are playing Wii, play with them. If there isn’t 10 feet of snow outside, grab some people and go for a walk. This may seem awkward, especially if your family isn’t particularly active. But you might be surprised by who will join you. OR who you inspire to get moving who might not have otherwise. Being active also goes for your workout routine. If your schedule is tight do some lunges, squats, push ups, tricep dips and planks at home. You can do these any time you have a little free time. You CAN squeeze activity into your day.

Don’t let December blow all your hard work. You can enjoy all the festivities without regret, guilt, and feeling like crap. Keep your goals in mind and make this the year you become even MORE awesome in December.

Bad Boys and Chocolate

English: Studio publicity portrait for film Giant.

Image via Wikipedia

Bad boys and chocolate? Say what?

I’m honored to have another post at The Well Written Woman. So what do bad boys and chocolate have in common anyway? Let’s just say you may have to tap into your inner teenage girl to relate.

 

MY Happy Place

*photo courtesy of emilychang

Somewhere between “I’m really going to get serious about getting the weight off this time. No really. Tomorrow.” and “I think I want to be a fitness model” I found my happy place. In that place I work out regularly,but don’t beat myself up if I miss a work out (or two). In that place there are lots of fruits and veggies and the occasional Krispy Kreme or bacon cheeseburger. I learned that I can’t live a life of all or nothing. If my “plan” consists of never eating crap or working out every single day, I will fail my plan. So, my happy place is somewhere in between. Below are some of the ways I got to my happy place. A road map if you will. Your happy place is probably different, so the directions may vary.

1. Portions. This was the first and most powerful change I made. First you should know I love food. I didn’t eat because I was trying to fill some void in my life. I ate because food is tasty! The tastier the food, the more I ate. I’m talking huge, man size portions. It was pretty ridiculous. Instead of giving up this food group or that food group I ate exactly the same way I always had, just reasonable portions.

2. Speaking of food, eat breakfast. I used to say, “oh, I don’t eat breakfast because it just makes me hungrier if I do. I’m starving by 10 am if I eat breakfast, but if I skip it I can make it to lunch.” DUH! Do you know WHY you feel hungrier when you eat breakfast? Because it speeds up your metabolism. This means your body is burning calories and it’s hungry. It takes work to burn calories. Feed the fire! It’s a good thing.

3. Don’t drink your calories unless they give you a buzz. Look, I’m a realistic girl. I can’t realistically live in a world that cuts out something completely if I enjoy it. I don’t drink a lot, but if I feel like throwing down on a Saturday night with a couple (or so) beers, I’m going to do it. Period. However, I don’t drink sodas. They’re a waste of my calories. I drink diet soda ( I know, bad fake sweeteners, blah blah – this is my map), water, and coffee with Splenda. If I want to blow 200 calories, I’m going to EAT them. Probably in the form of chocolate. I’m just sayin.

4. Move your booty! Let me be very clear about my fitness level when I started. I never played sports in school. I hated sweating. I didn’t like to be outside or in a gym. Or lift weights. Or you know, get my heart rate up. I was so out of shape I would literally be winded from a flight of stairs. I started walking. Slow. That gave me a lot of time to think. And what I thought was, “I’m freaking 32 years old. I should be able to do something besides just walk.” So, I walked faster. Think “my favorite store is giving away shoes at the other end of the mall and I have 5 minutes to get there” faster. It made me sweat, but it also made me feel good, so I realized it really wasn’t that bad. The more I walked, the more I realized maybe I could do more. So I started the Couch to 5K program (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it and do it. You can thank me later).Once I “graduated” the C25K program, I became a regular runner. I also had the courage to try other things. Crap, if I could run 3.1 miles, I could do ANYTHING!

5. Speaking of running – I called myself a runner. Even when I was running really slow and taking walk breaks. I rejected the term jogger. That brought to mind something slower and weaker. I was fast and strong (not really) but I felt like it. Claiming myself as a runner, made me feel like a runner. It made me feel powerful and athletic. Turns out, this girly girl likes to feel powerful and athletic. Who knew?

6. You can NOT do this for anyone but yourself. First of all, changing years’ long (or even life long) habits is tough for anyone. It’s mental warfare with yourself. Be prepared. So if you aren’t doing it for you, the fight is going to be a hell of a lot harder. If you’re doing this for your significant other, they will inevitably piss you off. Know what happens then? You’re going to “show them” by giving up and not meeting your goals. Instead you need to tell yourself you are worth it.

7. I stopped letting the scale determine my happiness. If I had an off week, I didn’t let it get me down. It was one week of my life and I have a WHOLE lot more to go. In the big scheme of things, one week didn’t make that big of a difference. It was all about staying focused on my goal.

8. I counted calories. I hated it to be quite honest. But since I was eating like a man and restaurants serve enormous portions, my brain had to be retrained on what a real portion looked like. I felt like a real jack ass pulling out the measuring cups at dinner time to make sure I only had half a cup of corn, but after a while, I could totally eye ball it. After getting good at that, I stopped counting calories. Of course every once in a while the scale would start moving upward and I’d start counting again just to reign myself back in. I still count calories sometimes. Just to keep it real.

9. I bought cool work out clothes, but I only wore them to work out. There was definitely a time or two the ONLY reason I went to the gym or for a run was so I could wear my cute new clothes. I totally didn’t feel like working out.

10. I got real about salad. All salads are not created equal. If my salad is 1500 calories, I’d really rather have a cheeseburger. I decided what I HAD to have on there and what I could give up. I had to have eggs, avocado, and a little cheese. I gave up bacon, croutons, and (gasp) ranch dressing. It took a while, but now I don’t even miss it. No for real, I don’t.

This is not a complete list of what I did to get me started, but it is a lot of it. Whatever changes you are making, have to be do-able. They can’t be temporary, otherwise you’ll be right back where you started when you stop with the good habits and go back to the old ones. Experiment. Find YOUR happy place.

*photo by emilychang