Week 21: Troubled Times Ahead

Memorial Day weekend is considered the unofficial start of summer. To me, it’s the official start of what I like to call, “Fat Season.” It’s not just that summer is a time of BBQs, beer, and all kinds of outdoor fun, but there’s just a lot going on for me personally that has big potential for derailing my commitment to good health.

This upcoming Thursday, my husband and I will be packing up the car and dog and spending a nice long weekend in Cape Cod. The land of chowda, lobsta rolls, salt water taffy, and for us, pancakes. For some reason the Cape is one of the only places we go out to breakfast and have pancakes. There are just a lot of yummy breakfast places there, it’s become a non-optional tradition. Then, the first weekend in June is my birthday, and the weekend after that is our wedding anniversary. Both occasions come along with drinking, cake, desserts, and restaurants.

In the past, this is usually it for me –  the time of year that all attempts to continue on a healthy path come to screeching halt. On top of the celebrations, it’s just a hard time to stay motivated to exercise. All I want to do is hang out in the nice weather and have a cocktail, go out with friends, or be doing anything else than sweating my butt off running in the heat or working out to a DVD.

I feel as if it’s already started. Last week was tough for me – I lost another pound but I only exercised twice. Twice! That is inexcusable. The summer lazy got to me. I did remain active and worked outside in the yard for a couple of days, and my arms and back are sore from yard work cleanup and weed whacking. I assume that is how I saw good results on the scale, but there is no excuse for skipping my workouts.

I am determined to get through this month and stay the course. I would like to change “Fat Season” into “Active Season.” I don’t want to give up my birthday cake, pancakes or chowda! These are things I enjoy and treats that make life fun. But, if I want to enjoy these things, there needs to be balance, or even better, ways to tip the scale in the right direction and keep losing weight.

For this weekend, I am packing my running shoes. I grew up going to the Cape in the summer, but I have never run there and that fresh beach air will bring joy to my lungs. If I want to eat pancakes, chowda and a lobsta roll, I should run everyday, or do something else active that day. I am also going to try bringing my extremely energetic dog with me on runs. I’ve never run with her and she is not great on a leash, but the open streets and paths in Cape Cod make for a good training ground to give it a whirl. If I can train her to run with me, it will help us both. If I can get her to love going outside for a run, then it will be harder for me to skip it. Her cute face can be very persuasive.

As for my birthday and our wedding anniversary, I just need to stick to my plan and continue to work out, and be healthy on the non-celebratory days. I can’t let these occasions act as a catalyst to derail the rest of the 6 days that week. It’s going to be hard and tempting, but nothing is ever easy. June might not be the biggest month for me in terms of weight loss, but that’s fine. It doesn’t have to take over the rest of my life.

I know it’s always something – after this will be the 4th of July, then my husband’s birthday, or another vacation. But, I feel like if I can get over this June bump in the road then I will be well on my way to a maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the long term. Learning to handle all these “somethings” over the course of the year without falling back into old bad habits is a big part of long term success.

So bring it on Fat Season, I’m ready for the challenge! Give me your best shot.

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Week 20: Reality Check

I had such lofty goals when I embarked on this 40 lbs-in-40-Weeks weight loss journey. I was looking back at my first post on this blog and reflecting on where I started almost 20 weeks ago now, and comparing where I am today. All things considered, I am doing very well and following the program I laid out for myself. But, for the sake of reporting on what I’m actually doing to lose weight from week to week, I thought I’d go back and do a reality check.

My Week 1 Goals:

Do not exceed 1500 calories
Reality: I don’t keep track of my calories. I used to keep track years ago in my previous weight loss attempts, and maybe I did in my first week, but I haven’t been doing it for a long time. I’m pretty sure I eat around this caloric intake everyday based on my past knowledge of portion sizes and how many calories are in the foods I eat. Let’s face it – most people with a yo-yo dieting history such as myself know when we are eating too much, and for now I seem to be keeping it in check. Are there days I probably exceed 1500? I’m sure, but I don’t think about it, as long as I keep exercising, continue to lose weight and don’t feel deprived with my food intake then that is fine with me.

Try to hit all food groups daily
Reality: If I am being honest, I don’t think about this either. If I do think about it, I would say I need to eat more vegetables. I have a veggie with my dinner every night but that’s about it. I have become obsessed with fruit on this program, and I get my grains and protein, but I should work on the vegetables. I do take a multi-vitamin every day though, so that’s something.

Eat a healthy breakfast and lunch (meaning no processed foods).
Reality: I eat breakfast and lunch every day. Is it always unprocessed? No.

My usual breakfast is either oatmeal (not packaged but real oats, no sugar) with blueberries and cinnamon, or a bowl of corn flakes with strawberries and skim milk. Plus a travel mug of coffee, and I use sugar and coffee-mate creamer in my coffee. I have been working on a substitute for the coffee-mate because I know it’s so artificial, but half & half went bad in the fridge too quickly, and drinking it black or with milk just made me unhappy.

For lunch, it’s usually either leftovers from dinner, or a Boca Chik’n patty (made of soy/veggies, not chicken) on a small whole wheat roll (130 calories) with a slice of cheddar cheese (45 calories), lettuce and probably a tsp of low fat mayo. It’s quick to make and tasty, and I know it’s not ‘unprocessed’ but it’s better to eat something than nothing at all. Also, I will usually have a Chobani Greek yogurt with lunch. On weeks I’m feeling super into my strict rules of unprocessed lunches, I will prep all my lunches for the week in advance and those consist of 3 ounces of baked chicken, a good portion of mixed veggies, and a 1/2 cup of plain basmati rice. But, I have probably only prepared these lunches for about 3 weeks out of the last 19 weeks.

Eat a reasonably healthy dinner
Reality: I have stuck to this goal. I make dinner 6 nights a week, one night a week we order take-out sushi. Entrees on a typical week can include fish, chicken, steak, pork tenderloin, turkey burgers, or homemade crab cakes, with quinoa, rice, mashed potatoes (packaged to be honest), baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, and vegetable side dishes. I probably make pasta twice a month, but I measure it out and it’s never the main part of the dish (for example, it’s served along with chicken and broccoli).

Healthy snacks are OK during the day, as long as I can fit them into my calorie plan
Reality: As I mentioned, I haven’t been counting my calories. I eat healthy snacks when I’m hungry. Usually fruit (strawberries, banana, grapes, kiwi), a cheese stick or a slice of cheese. But for the sake of honesty, once and a while on a weekend, I might enjoy some baked tostitos and salsa, or pita chips and hummus.

Portion control
Reality: I am pretty strict with portion control. I still weigh my proteins out for dinner (4-5oz) and I eyeball my starches so I am taking about 1/2 cup of rice, potatoes, etc. I buy small potatoes for baking. As I mentioned, at this point in life and my many weight loss attempts, I am well aware of how much I should be eating and I know when I’m overindulging.

Beverages: Drink water throughout the day (shoot for 2 liters)
Reality: I do drink water throughout the day but I rarely make it to 2 liters. I probably drink 1 liter on average.

Drink alcohol only at social occasions or celebrations, and in moderation (2 drinks max).
Reality: My alcohol intake has been DRASTICALLY reduced, and I’m really proud of it and feel I have found a balance where I can enjoy wine/beer/cocktails but still be healthy and keep it in check. But to come clean, my husband and I have a bottle of wine every Sunday night, and a 1 beer each on Saturdays. I do make an exception and allow myself to drink on social occasions and celebrations, and on average it’s probably 3 drinks max on these occasions.

When eating out, I will get what I want
Reality: I’d be lying if I said when I’m out at a restaurant that I am not thinking about sticking with healthier options. Recently, we went to a seafood restaurant with great clam chowder. Did I want to order it? Absolutely! Did I? Nope. I really wanted it, and I watched with jealousy as my husband enjoyed his mug of steaming chowda, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get it. I also really wanted the fried seafood but I ordered grilled. I’m a New Englander, and I know this summer I will  imbibe on some fried clams and chowda – but this wasn’t the time or place. I pick my moments.

Workout 5-6 times a week
Reality: I struggle with exercise everyday, but I’m doing it. Sure, there are weeks that I might only work out 3 or 4 times, but I continue to shoot for 5 or 6 days.  I still hate it and I truly believe this will be my downfall if I don’t find exercise I enjoy and want to do long term. I think about that all the time. At least I realize this is a life long commitment and not optional, but I would really like to not dread doing it everyday. I have not found an answer to this problem.

Maybe I haven’t been sticking to my own rules 100% but I think I’m doing OK. I’m not perfect but I’m trying and finding balance. I’ve lost 22 lbs in 19 weeks, and yesterday I finished a 5K in under 35 minutes. I immediately signed up for another 5K next month and looking to improve on that time. I’m a work in progress but I’m light years ahead of where I was almost 20 weeks ago. I am continuing to make adjustments and improvements so that I can live this way for the rest of my life, not just for 40 weeks.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the second half of this program, and I hope to make my goal of 40 pounds in 40 weeks. But for the ultimate reality check, I know that 40 weeks is a completely arbitrary number, I’m in this for the life long haul.

Week 18 & 19: Glass Half Empty or Full?

I’m back in the saddle after my mini-vacation to the wellness spa in Arizona last week. Before I left, I did my weigh-in and lost that pesky pound that I was hoping to be rid of before my trip, and by some miracle I lost another pound at my official Sunday weigh-in day yesterday. That being said, I’m up to 21 pounds lost in 18 weeks! I’m more than halfway to my goal. Commence happy dance.

I’m feeling pretty good about it, and about life in general. Three days of relaxation did the body and mind good. It also doesn’t hurt that since we flew back to Boston after our trip the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. Sunshine does a lot of improve my mood.

I’m going to try to hold onto this feeling for as long as possible, and not let the negativity take over my thoughts. I know myself, and I’m a very “half glass empty” type of person. I’ve already started thinking about the next 20 pounds and how much harder I  need to work to keep up this weight loss pace and finish this 40 week program successfully.

Plus, last week I didn’t work out at all – aside from a 3 mile hike at the wellness spa on Monday. When I got home, I let the vacation lazy spill over into the rest of the week, and made ridiculous excuses for skipping my workouts. Yet, I still lost a pound! Instead of being happy, I was angry. Doesn’t seem fair to struggle week to week to lose 1 pound, and then lose it for no reason? I thought I deserved to be punished.

Aside from these minor negative thoughts, I am feeling overall positive about the next 20 pounds. I can’t wait to reach  my goal, I’m really excited to get there. For now, I am sticking with my current program of doing 2 runs a week and Jillian Michaels Shred 3 days a week.  I have a 5K race coming up this Sunday, and while I won’t be winning any awards for my speed, I am doing it and feeling accomplished to be getting back into running.

My experience at the wellness spa taught me that I find relaxation through movement. I tried the meditation sessions they offered a few times, and it didn’t work for me at all. I was sitting there and my mind was racing. I kept thinking, “Am I doing this right?” or opening my eyes and watching everyone else. I was discussing this problem with a massage therapist during a Thai massage that I received, and he suggested that I should find activities that are relaxing but involvement movement, such as walking, yoga, or golf. You don’t have to sit still to meditate, and for some people that just doesn’t work. We were talking about how I enjoy running because it’s a form of therapy for me, and he thought that was a good indication that I need to move around to relax.

It was very enlightening when he said this to me. As much as I would like to be one of those people that can sit down and envision colors to clear my head while someone plays a gong in the background, everyone is different and needs to find what works for them. I felt much more relaxed after sitting by the pool and people watching, reading, or walking around enjoying the scenery of the resort and mountains. By focusing my mind on a singular task that I enjoy, I can filter out the rest and get that same sense of calmness that comes from meditation.

Another lesson I learned on my trip is how important it is to treat yourself every now and then! It had been many years since I splurged on a fun trip like that and life is short. I came home and told my husband that we need to find time to treat ourselves more often. Taking time out for a massage every now and then is more than worth it. Or even a long weekend trip somewhere – we can treat ourselves without spending a lot of money.

I also have a new interest in Eastern therapies. I received this treatment called Craniosacral Therapy, which sounds scary but it’s basically acupressure. I went into the treatment really skeptical but I was surprised how relaxed I felt after it was over, I felt drained. My birthday is coming up and I asked my husband and friends if they would try acupuncture as my birthday activity – so we are all getting acupuncture in a few weeks! I’m really excited to give it a try.

So to sum up, I’m still full speed ahead on my weight loss journey, and trying to look at things more “glass half full” these days, while making the time to work on my mind and soul.

Going for the full package here.