Monday, December 15, 2008

Starbucks Spinach and Feta Wrap

I'm at Starbucks in Redondo Beach right now. Needed to get my cappuccino that I've missed for the last two weeks. Non-fat grande...93 Calories.

And I ordered a Spinach and Feta Wrap. It's soft, scrambled eggs with feta and spinach (my favorite breakfast foods!), wrapped in a whole grain wrap, and I find it delicious! Their version is 240
calories. But Hungry Girl has a recipe for it, so if Starbuck's does something stupid, like pull this wrap from the menu, you can make it for yourself!

That should hold me before I head for Trader Joe's and do a little shopping. I'm going to make the Green Mountain Sun-dried Tomato Pesto over salmon and their broccoli slaw for dinner tomorrow night.

Today's exercise plans: treadmill, abs and lower body workout.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Back in the fight...

It's nearly 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. I just got back after my 10-day trip to Green Mountain Spa. How am I feeling this morning? Well...conflicted. Not enough sleep last night, headache, and I'm hungry. I'm just a teensy bit disappointed in myself for having capitulated to the charms of Col. Sanders, but I am happy to report that the man just doesn't do it for me like he used to. (I stopped at KFC last night and got a two piece meal with biscuit, mashed potatoes and gravy and a small cole slaw. I got a bottle of water with it. I ate all of it! I was hungry!) I'm going through withdrawl symptoms from having left another great group of women and I'm feeling isolated again.

On the bright side, I'm off to L.A. this morning, to see my dearest friend for a few days. We'll be having a lot of fun together. We'll go to the gym, 24-Hour Fitness in Manhattan Beach. We'll go shopping at Nordstroms. We're going to a taping of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Monday (I ADORE him!). I'll have some time alone to practice mindfulness, which is an individual's effort at being aware in the present moment, an exercise that is truely a feat for those with ADD. But I just found a website that gives some guidance with that... By the time I get back to my house, my soul will be super nourished!

And then I'll get to really hit the fitness trail. My consultation with LynnAnn at Green Mountain went really well. I appreciated being able to troubleshoot some issues and to get a reality check on the what I can actually perform with the knees I've been given. I'm happy to say that I can move forward with the upper body weight training. I had dropped nearly everything involving my arms and shoulders due to my shoulder injury, but after some physical therapy, a lovely cortizone shot, and some healing time, I'm using the 8 lb. and 5 lb. weights to do upper body, three sets of 12.

One of the best classes that I attended at Green Mountain this time was the Abs Clinic. For the first time, I actually felt my abs, all of them, every square inch! For two whole days! In the past, that would have created an inclination to avoid ab work altogether, but now I'm determined to engage those abs on a daily basis. And I can do it from the comfort of my own bed!

Lynn Ann is having me step up the amount of exercise I'm doing throughout the day. I have the time to do that. She thinks I can lose at a rate of two pounds a week with increased intensity and broader variety in my workouts. I'm up for it, I think. I hope.

According to the scale at Green Mountain, I lost 3.5 lbs during my 10-day stay. According to my measurements, I lost 1/2" off my upper arms, 1" off my waist and 1.5 " off my hips. I definitely lost fat and gained muscle!

The trip back to Green Mountain was totally worth the cost for me. I'm refocused and back in the fight with enthusiasm.

And now I'm hungry, and I want bacon!!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Self-assessment at the spa

I have arrived! I'm on the backside of day three, back at Green Mountain Spa at Fox Run in Ludlow, VT. It's gorgeous here! There's snow on the ground, but the skies are blue today, with some light cloud cover, cold but still perfect.

I've been working out for the last couple of days, taking classes or on my own, and eating the delicious and healthy meals that chef John and Lisa have prepared for us. Today, while on the treadmill, I started thinking about how I was feeling in my body last year, and comparing it to how I feel in it now. There's quite a difference.

  • I'm down 45 lbs.
  • When I arrived last time, I was just having to buy size 30 pants. Now my size 26 pants are loose in the seat and thighs.
  • I was quite winded after 45 minutes on the treadmill, on the weight loss program, level 1. Today I breezed through level 3 of the same program.
  • It was a real struggle for me to climb the stairs to my bedroom back then. I can pop right up the stairs now with barely having to catch my breath at the top.
  • Because of my size, I required extra portions of protein with every meal a year ago. I'm doing fine with just an extra portion of protein at lunch now, and the hypoglycemic feeling just before meals is greatly reduced.
  • I can pump a lot more weight during weight training now.
  • I can keep up with a whole Zumba class!
  • I can jog/walk two miles!

Measuring successes is a really valuable tool to keeping focused and motivated with moving forward.

Next week I'm having a personalized training session with Lynn Anne. I'm a little worried that she's going to really raise the bar on my fitness levels, because I know that I don't really like to exercise under uncomfortable conditions. But I'm anxious to have her show me what it is that I can really accomplish. I think I'm ready for the next level.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Okay, did I blow it tonight?

I've been a little down about my lack of weight loss for the last two weeks. I actually added jogging (a big deal for me!), a little, every third day. I've been very busy and haven't eaten much. And I've been stressed, so I haven't slept much every night. Today I weighed in with a four-pound gain. What do I have to do???

The gas was off due to repairs, so I couldn't cook dinner tonight. We ordered pizza. The last time we ordered pizza, I only wanted a couple of slices. That's pretty good for me. But tonight, I ate an entire medium, thin-crust pizza. And I didn't even feel full afterwards! I have no idea what that was about. I was genuinely hungry.

I don't really feel too bad about it. I don't feel guilty. It's something I've never done before. I actually found it somewhat remarkable, to eat that much pizza and not feel over-full. I think I needed it. It was a very thin crust. There were a lot of veggies on it and not too much cheese. My dog ate the crusts. And that's all I ate. And I drank water with it.

I think I'm okay. Still, I don't want to weigh-in tomorrow.

I won't be exercising at all tomorrow. I have a dress to alter for an event I'm going to on Saturday night. The dress is WAY TOO LARGE. It was just a little big when I bought it, but I'm now having to take it in by two inches per side. Pretty cool!

I'm going to be wearing heels. I have experienced pain with heels, but I haven't worn them in some time. I think I'll wear the shoes all day tomorrow just to see if I can get used to them.

I might have time to use the rowing machine after I'm done with my dress. I plan to dance my ass off on Saturday night!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Steps toward optimum health

Yes, two submissions today. I have a lot to share. I'm crabby and crampy; I'm feeling bloated. Either I curl up around a bottle of Advil in bed and watch stupid movies or I do something positive. Or's still early in the day.

I subscribe to GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle newsletter. I'm not necessarily a follower or fan of hers, but I was curious about what she had to say. The other day she sent some information from three notable medical experts who do work in alternative medicine. Basically, they shared about making daily choices that help create optimum health.

Here's an abbreviated list of their points:

  1. Get good sleep, at least 8 hours a day. If it doesn't just happen for you, try taking Valerian, chamomile, tryptophan or magnesium and B6. They work just as well as prescription meds. Good sleep helps the body to heal and rejuvenate, and if you don't get enough time to achieve that...
  2. Eat well. That means eliminate processed foods, especially the white ones. Eat fresh and as organic as possible, with as many raw foods as possible that still maintain all their natural enzymes. Lots of fish (not fried). And drink plenty of pure, clean water.
  3. Exercise often. If you've gotten good sleep for a couple of weeks, and you're been eating clean for a couple more, then your energy levels will be up for adding regular, fun activities. Try adding movement for stress management as well, like yoga.
  4. Back to that rejuvenating sleep thing - the human body needs to fast for 12 hours every day in order to process everything and clean itself out. About eight hours are used to digest your last meal completely and another four are needed to void out toxins. That all happens when you're sleeping. Those late night snacks only cut short or skip some of the processes, and then there's a build-up of toxins. Sleeping is not a waste of time!

The human body, when cared for properly, is self-correcting and self-healing. Don't abuse yourself, don't cave to stresses, learn to wisely wield and manage your emotions. Nourish it with clean air, water and food and it will serve you well and provide for you a wonderful medium for experiencing a full and rich life.

Joslin Diabetes Center dietary guidelines for Type 2 who are obese

I'm thinking about going back to Green Mountain in December, nearly a year since I went the first time. I want to show off my progress, and to have the opportunity to spend a week focused on exercise. I want work closely with one of their fitness experts, someone who will be straight with me about what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, etc. I'm getting to the point now that its taking more to get my heart rate up (which is great!), but I'm still too heavy to get really going. My knees are still holding me back. And I think I'm still holding me back as well...not pushing myself in the right ways.

So while I was on the Green Mountain website, I saw a reference to their connection with the Joslin Center for Diabetes in Boston, MA. Out of curiosity, I went to their website and did some poking around. And while there, I came across their dietary guidelines for those who are Type 2 and overweight or obese.

Basically, I've been very nearly doing what they say to do.
  • Protein should take up 20% - 30% of daily calories, which is higher than was recommended in the past. I've been eating about 30% because I'm quite tall and need it to help manage hunger. I choose leaner proteins, like fish and poultry, but I do eat a little lean beef and lamb once a week, and I have eggs for breakfast every morning. My cholesterol is exceptional, so I'm not so worried about high cholesterol. I also include a lot of legumes as a source of protein, because they also provide carbohydrates and fiber...more about that in a bit.
  • Keep carbohydrates at 40% of caloric intake per day, but they say to make the bottom limit at around 130 gms. of carbs per day. This is a new low for diabetes guidelines. Out of personal experience, if I go above 150 gms. or carbs per day, I stop losing and start gaining weight, and my blood sugar starts to go up. But they also want us to take in a minimum of 25 - 30 gms. of fiber a day, with 50 gms. per day being closer to what we should shoot for. This means that if I'm restricting my carbohydrates, that I need to add high fiber choices from other food groups, such as legumes, fruits and vegetables. Also, eating that much fiber in a day mean a whistle-clean colon, but it takes time to work up to the 50 gms. per day.
  • 30 - 35% of calories should come from fat, with less that 300 mg/day of saturated fats. This is slightly higher than my daily goal of fat intake, but probably closer to what I'm achieving. I found some really good extra virgin Greek olive oil recently and have been anointing everything with it!

They are recommending a modest rate of weight loss, one pound every week or two. And their exercise recommendation is 2.5 to 3 hours a week at a moderate intensity, using a mix of cardio, stretching and resistance.

So I guess I'm right on track. It's just a matter of not losing focus and not backsliding into old patterns. I have made major changes in how I live, and my body is slowly moving in the right direction. At this rate of weight loss, I'll achieve my goal in a little over two years. I wish I could do this faster, but I am seeing the benefit of losing at a slower rate. My skin is really not hanging off me. The fat is loosening up (some parts of me are quite squishy!), but my skin is still fairly tight, even after 40 lbs. of loss. So I've decided not to worry about my skin shrinking. I'll just stay focused to toning my muscles. By the time all the excess fat is gone, I should have some nice muscles to show off.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's time to reassess

I've officially lost my first 10% of my body weight. Besides having lost 40 lbs., what have I achieved so far:
  1. I am completely controling the type 2 diabetes - My last A1C was at 6.3, down from 6.9. This is great! I'm that much closer to having control over insulin resistance, which should make weight loss that much easier. My goal is to get my A1C under 5.5, which is the top of the normal range for non-diabetics.
  2. My cholesterol levels are also in a much better range - HDL is just over 40 (supposed to be over 50) and LDL is 86. I don't know how much I'll be able to raise my HDL level, but the ratio between the two is pretty damn good! It's supposed to be over .4, and I'm at .465.
  3. I'm exercising regularly, a routine of weight resistance, flexibility and cardio. I exercise four to five times a week, 60 to 90 minutes each time. I'm concentrating more on cardio for fat-burning effect. I'm seeing success in my efforts to build up my quads, in order to preserve my knees more, and my shoulder strengthening therapy is paying off and I'm back on with biceps and triceps, but only with lots of reps and 3lb. weights.
  4. My blood pressure is under control with medication. I have found the medication that is working for me with minimal side-effects. I don't like the side-effects (excess edema around the ankles, and it costs me $80/bottle!), but once I lose enough weight, this will all go away as well.
  5. I am consistently managing depression. I get out often for that hour of direct sunlight every day. I make sure to connect socially, face to face, with people outside of my immediate family, at least twice a week. (Unfortunately, the 'virtual' friendships that I maintain online, as much as I totally enjoy them, don't do as much for me emotionally as the more palpable variety.) The exercise really helps (and I'm beginning to feel a euphoric effect with cardio), and I'm taking SAMe, which might be stirring up my ADD just a little more, but it really helps me be alert and active all day. I'm also seeing some leveling off with mood-swings.

I've been losing weight at a rate of 5 lbs./month. This is healthy and safe, but I'm not satisfied with this rate, of course. I wish I had lost twice as much weight by now. I've been bumping into a series of plateaus, life has been busy, I'm having some personal family issues that I'm dealing with now that are really taxing, and there are moments when I'm dangerously close to giving up.

But I really, really don't want to give up. Giving up is absolutely not an option. By mid-January, I will have been actively working on weight loss and optimum health goals for an entire year. I want to break past the 300 lbs. by then and want to have achieved a 50lb. loss. It's my goal for the next year as well. I need to refocus, do some tweaking and manage my motivation so I don't lose momentum.

What I propose to do first is to really tweak my diet. Here in Kazakhstan, it is my biggest challenge. The range of fresh vegetables is depressing! I have to be creative, and I have to stay on top of it at all times. This last week I found some of the last of the sorrel, zucchini and eggplant, some cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and I'm now seeing lots of winter squash. There's always beets and carrots, parsley and basil. It's going to have to do. At the supermarket, there's frozen brocolli, green beans, yellow wax beans and peas. I have started some bok choy in my AeroGarden (but it's not growing very fast), and I've got brocolli sprouts going. I had been avoiding fruits because of the type 2 diabetes, but I think since my A1C is so much better, I'm going to start eating apples on a daily basis. They are plentiful here.

I was reading about eliminating gluten from the diet. I'm not allergic to it, I don't think, but I just wanted to see if doing this for a short period of time, three weeks, would have any effect on me. It will also help manage some recent urges to binge on bread. I made some really amazing bagels this last week and while they were completely healthy and fat-free, I gained about eight pounds in the last few days!

Another thing I'm considering eliminating from my diet for the next three weeks is all animal products. Again, this is to manage some of the recent binging. Butter has crept into my diet again, so I have to get on top of that. I've been eating a lot of beef, chicken and lamb recently, eggs, cheeses, salami. I tend to use more salt when I'm eating these things. So animal products are banished for now. I'll continue to eat fish, when I can find it, as well as pro-biotic yogurt, which will help with my digestion. I've been having a lot of intestinal stress recently, which seems to affect my rate of weight loss as well.

I'm still taking my SAMe, as well as cinnamon capsuals to manage blood sugar, and a blend of vitamins and minerals that aid with diabetes. It's getting really cold here, so bean soups are a regular meal these days. I'm back to including brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and steel cut oats in my diet. A really good olive oil is the only fat I'll use. And water is a constant. Since I'm trying to eliminate unproductive caffeine as well, I stopped drinking coffee. I'm still taking green tea tablets, however. At night, before I go to bed, I'm drinking a generous cup of chamomile, made with two tea bags, so I can get a start to a good night's sleep every night.

I'm going to take a week or two off from exercising, except for the stretching and low-intensity walking. I just need a mental break from it. I'll reassess my routine after the break, to see what I can do to mix things up.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I love cardio!

Well, not least not at the moment, because I'm really sore! But earlier this evening, I was walking around the indoor track at the gym, and I was using my little mp3 player with Cardio Coach loaded on it. I'm still on level one, but I'm up to four miles of walking now, and tonight, at about mile three, I was so into what the trainer, Sean O'Malley, was saying, and I felt so focused and actually, for the first time, felt really good about doing cardio. That was a milestone for me. A huge one.

By the way, I'm just six pounds away from breaking past 300 lbs. That's my goal for this month, to finally weigh less than 300 lbs. And never again weigh that much, ever. And I am willing to exercise my brains out for it.

I went to the gym tonight with my husband and son. My husband works so much that we hardly have time to be with him. And my son is off school for the next week and I decided he needed to see both his parents exercising and to join us. My husband belongs to an exercise group that does circuit training. He's lost 20 lbs. since July. He's experiencing his first plateau, ever. OMG! It's like no one has ever had a plateau before. All he would ever say to me in the past is something about calories in, calories out. He didn't believe in plateaus. Till now.

I'm really trying not to be snarky about it...

Ok, so, at first I didn't want to go to his group because I thought I would feel intimidated. But today, I made up my mind to go. I can't keep up with them, I know that. But I can do my own thing, something that is just as effective for me, and still be there, exercising. And that's what I did, five minutes of warm-up and stretching with them, then I did some of my own weight training routine, and then I went to the track to walk. When they were done in the gym, they met me at the track and ran some laps, and I continued walking. My son walked with me some, ran with his dad some, and then sat on a bench to watch us. And after I finished my fourth mile, he brought me a glass of water. He's already whining about having to go back on Monday evening, but we're going to do it.

I just realized that I exercised just as long as the circuit training group. Well, maybe someday I'll join in with them. But it looks really boring to me. I'd rather go dancing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What a long, strange trip it's been...

I'm sitting next to my suitcases, in preparation to fly back home to Kazakhstan tomorrow. As I think back over the last three months, I see that the activity of life in general has a way of muscling in on my concentrated efforts at achieving optimum health. Well, not so concentrated over the last month. This road wellness takes a lot of effort to stay on track consistently. I've never been one to remain consistent and focused on anything for very long, so I'm breaking an old habit of giving up and re-wiring my brain to stay on course.

Hauling 50 lb. suitcases has done me in this week! My knees are in pain, my shoulder is aching, so much for physical therapy and cortizone shots. I feel old and feeble. I need one of those strapping young men, like a personal porter, to carry my bags for me. Yes, that's it, a strapping young man to do my bidding...oh, the thoughts I'm thinking!

Ok, so I went to my women's retreat. If you're at a crossroads in your significant relationship and are wanting the relationship, and yourself, to grow up and expand, you need to go to the women's retreat put on by the Marriage and Family Health Center of Loveland, Co. This retreat is not for the faint of heart! Be prepared to do some serious emotional work. It's like concentrated therapy, very fast moving and profound. I learned a lot about myself, looked squarely in the face of my life and how I do things, and came out with a new sense of purpose for myself. It was a very enriching experience, plus, I met and befriended a lot of amazing women and have come away from the retreat with a whole new support network. Additionally, if you ever wanted a safe forum to discuss and learn more about sex, this is the one!

By Wednesday morning, I'll be back home and starting a fresh routine of exercise. I've got some planning to do while I'm on the plane. My injuries are going to be limiting my fitness opportunities. I need to stay with walking, but increase it to three hour-long walks a day at an RPE (Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale) between 12-14 (somewhat hard). Once my knee starts feeling better, I'll switch in different activities for the walking, like my Shimmy and Core Rhythms DVDs, and my rowing machine. If I'm really serious about losing weight, I have to be really committed to a higher level of cardio exercise.

For weight training, I've got some modifications to do for my arms (no more than 5 lbs.) and continue with my physical therapy exercises to strengthen my rotator cuff. I've also got to continue with strengthening my quadraceps. The pain I'm experiencing will go away with Aleve over the next few days, and I won't be prone to as many strains with more weight loss, but strengthening those muscles is of utmost importance to avoid further injures to my knees.

My food choices are more limited in Kazakhstan, especially with cooler weather setting in. I'll have to get my spinach started in my Aerogarden, and see if I can find frozen vegetables that will meet my needs. Winter squash will be showing up soon, which is an excellent source of dietary fiber, as are beets and cabbage, which are ubiquitous in Russian cuisine. I also have to stock up on meats for the winter. When it get's icy outside, that's not the time I need to be slipping around at the market parking lot with my bum knee.

I'm still weighing in at 314 lbs. My weight went up (by 10 lbs.!) over the last month, due to a lot of eating out and my exercise tapering off while traveling. But once I cut that off, it dropped back down again. I look forward to breaking 300 lbs. soon, I hope before Christmas. I'm not feeling anxious about that number any more. And once I break it, I will have lost nearly 50 lbs. and 30% of my goal will have been achieved!

Ok, I'll chat with you in a couple of weeks, after I've gotten past the jet lag and gotten the house in order, and more importantly, back into my routine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What the ...?

It's just been five days since I last posted an entry, and I've surprisingly dropped down to 314 lbs! That's an all time low since I began my journey here. I wish I could say it was because I kept to my new limits of 60 gms. of carbohydrates a day and 60 gms. of fat. I wish it was because I actually increased how much cardio I was doing on a daily basis.

The only thing I've changed is that I started taking a pill for my blood pressure, and I started taking capsules of Ceylon cinnamon bark after each meal and a daily vitamin pack for diabetes that includes chromium picolinate. I did drop carb intake down to 100 gms. for most days, but the last couple of days, I've had some serious carb cravings and yesterday, I totally strayed off course while we were out shopping for school supplies and new clothes. I at just over 2100 calories, went over on sodium by 35%, and took in nearly 200 gms. of carbs. And then lost an additional 2.5 lbs. since yesterday. We did walk a lot all over town and went miniature golfing after everything, but I wasn't tired at all by the end of the day so I didn't expect to have burned off that much. In fact, I totally expected to have gained weight this morning.

Today I'm heading back to the supermarket to load up on fiberous vegetables. I'm not going to lose the ground I've gained here!

Pardon me while I head for the elliptical cross trainer again this morning...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I know it's been over a month since I wrote last, but it is the summer, after all. We're not supposed to be online so much. We're supposed to be out enjoying the summer months.

Whatever! It's been smokey here in Northern California and I haven't been able to go out much. And when I have, it's been for not very fun things, like running errands and going for medical appointments or shopping for school supplies.

And speaking of medical appointments, I'm now being tested for PCOS. It may explain why the weight loss has come to yet another standstill. I've not been able to get past 317 lbs. for weeks and weeks now. I'm changing up my diet in order to deal with this. Even less carbs (down to 60 gms.), and really make sure they're all low on the glycemic index, really limit the saturated fats and increase the Omega 3 types of fats. And I need to increase how much cardio I'm doing.

I spoke with Beth the fitness coach on Monday. We talked about caving to cravings, and how important it is for me to keep a tight rein on my indulgences now, and how I'll be able to loosen things up the closer I get to goal weight. It's all perspective, I guess. If I can plan for indulgences wisely, space them out a bit farther for now, then I may keep my forward progress on a more consistent basis. The reward will be breaking this insulin resistance, resolving the diabetes threat, and getting off of blood pressure medication altogether.

I'm up to 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer now, but it really hurts my knees. I'm having to back off on that, doing just 5 minutes at a time over several times a day. If I do 5 minutes every hour over 12 hours, that's 60 minutes a day on that thing! I'm going to attempt that this week and see how strong my quads can get working out like that.

I also went to my orthopedist yesterday, who gave me a shot of cortizon in my right shoulder. I have really strained the rotator cuff, so I'm off of most upper body exercises that involve arms for now. I'm using 2 lbs. weights on rotator cuff exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff for now and will be going to a physical therapist very soon for further work. I've also got to take 2 Advil twice a day to help with the inflamation. Once I get the all-clear, I can get back to my regular upper body and core exercises that involve my arms, probably in a couple of months.

I'm feeling confident that I'll be moving forward with weight loss again in a short period of time. I have to feel confident, because backsliding is OUT OF THE QUESTION!!! I am on a path towards optimum health and wellness, and I'm in command of how good I can feel, inside and out.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Working on the inner woman

With both my feet firmly planted in my mid-life crisis (my sister says I've been in one for the last ten years, but frankly, I'm just a seeker), I'm going to attend a women's retreat in September, one that I've wanted to attend for the last eight years. This is the first opportunity I've had to do so. You can read about it here. It's put on by the Marriage and Family Health Center from Evergreen, Colorado. They do it twice a year, once in Marin County, CA (along the Pacific coast) and once in Loveland, Colorado.

After the life-altering experience at Green Mountain, I am looking forward to sharing with a company of women who are like-minded, wanting to change their perspective on life from the inside out. I'm ready to rekindle my spiritual nature, to move forward with purpose. I have a lot of mental and emotional energy ready to be channeled into something much more meaningful.

I have wanted my exterior view to be more in alignment with my authentic self. I don't think I can achieve that without knowing who that really is. Maybe once my inner being is fully realized I can be at peace with my body image.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Always do your research

I am so steamed right now!!! I did some research over the last two days about elliptical cross trainers, made a decision about a couple of manufactures and models, then drove into town today to a local fitness equipment store to look into what they carried. They're known for selling used and refurbished equipment, as well as new stuff. I was immediately met by a sales person who rapidly tossed out facts about ellipticals, what everyone else buys, how they were having a sale on some really great models from one manufacturer, and despite all my research, I was herded into a sale. At one point, the sales clerk even made a bald-faced lie to me, stating that the unit he was promoting carried 500 lbs. For me, at over 300 lbs, that sounded sturdy enough for me, so I bit.

I paid for everything on my credit card and left, chosing to go back tomorrow to pick up the equipment with a different car. I just got done looking into the elliptical trainer I bought and found out from the manufacturer's website that the unit is only good for users under 300 lbs., and the unit model is not the lateest model, but rather, a couple of years old. It's probably old stock that he's trying to move! I called the store to talk to this sales clerk about everything I had read online but he was already gone for the day. I also discovered he was actually the owner of the store.

Well, I'm going back in the morning and getting this taken care of! I was also going to buy a weight bench and a bar and set of weight from the store, but found the bench I was sold was not a good quality bench either. I don't mind buying used equipment, but I do mind buying inferior equipment. My sons will be using this equipment as well and I don't need them getting hurt in the process of trying to get fit.

I'm angry that I allowed myself to get caught up with a sales pitch. I'm going in armed with documentation next time!

PS) Well, I went back to the store the next day, ready to cancel my order, but upon further discussion with the store owner, I decided to stay with the elliptical trainer I originally bought. He told me that the manufacturer's website rated their equipment for a lower weight for personal liability, but the store was actually carrying the warranty, and the owner said they personally tested the equipment before setting the new higher weight rating. Normally, they have a 30-day no-questions-asked return policy, but the owner gave me an extended 60 days to test the trainer. Also, when I decided I didn't want the flimsy bench I had chosen before and found a better, sturdier weight bench, he gave me the upgrade at the lower price of original bench, along with the longer, required weight bar.

So, my son and I put the trainer together this morning (easy to do!), and got it set up in the living room. I've already been on it. It's comfortable to use, and got my heart rate up pretty quickly. I watched my son use it, and where ever there was a weld, the unit was solid and sturdy. At this time, the unit is on the livingroom carpet, so when he was screwing around a little, the unit was torquing left-to-right, but when I told him to stop messing around, again, the unit appeared solid. When we change our floors to bamboo planks next summer, it should be much more stable.

I'm not comfortable with publically naming the unit yet. If it performs well (and I'll be putting it through it's paces), then I'll share the make and model number.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Managing body fat distribution

Yesterday I was reading articles on the Burn the Fat Inner Circle website that I belong to and came across an interesting article regarding body fat shifting. This is something I had suspected of going on in my body, but I had no information on the subject nor ever heard of it before. What I have experienced is that during my weightloss, some parts of my body have been slimming down faster than others, and my clothes have been getting looser overall, but some areas of my body, namely my midsection and inner thighs, at times, seem to have fat redistributed into them. My jeans are appreciably looser in the seat and outer thighs, but the inner thighs and midsection just aren't as loose. I've gone from a size 32 to a 26 overall, but body measurements in some areas haven't reduced much at all.

So then I was reading this article yesterday and there's some new research out about this. Basically, the process of losing fat is a matter of fat cells being released into the bloodstream to be converted into energy in the pancreas to be used for fuel. Keeping your carb intake to under 30% facilitates this more. So all that energy is floating around, ready to be used. But your body doesn't necessarily anticipate all your needs, so lets say you don't use all that accessed energy. Your body's got to put it back into storage. And that's where the redistribution comes in. The fat that was accessed may have been where, genetically speaking, fat comes off the easiest for your body. For me, it's my face and forearms. And breasts (damn it!). When it get's re-stored, it doesn't get back to where it was before. It goes to where your body is genetically more predisposed to store it now at this stage of life. And for perimenopausal women like me, that's the mid-section and legs.

Well, that just sucks!!! But it's another arguement for me to ramp up that cardio effort. In Tom Venuto's Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, he states that if he were overweight, that he'd choose to do cardio workouts twice a day in order to burn it off. Combining that with the information I've read in Lyle McDondald's Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, to keep my carb intake 25% to 30% of my calories in order to convince fat cells more readily to be converted into energy, I need to use up that released energy as much as possible.

I think this is what my new routine while I'm in the US is going to have to look like in order to keep burning that fat:
  • Seven days of complete body stretching to improve my range of motion.
  • On six days during the week, in the mornings, alternate between upper body and lower body weight training, in a circuit training fashion, with five sets of three exercises that are comprised of weights and core exercises, starting with 10 minutes on the treadmill for warm up, three sets of five minutes on the elliptical cross trainer or bicycle/medicine ball combination, and end up with a ten minute cool down on the treadmill.
  • In the afternoons, work up to 45 minutes on the elliptical cross trainer. I know this will take some time to work up to, but it's a good goal.

I've been more than a little fearful of my body turning into the shape of a bottle of Drambuie, with excessively large hips and thighs in relation to my upper body. If I don't use up the released energy everyday, that's exactly what I'll look like! How's that for motivation?

Tomorrow I'm going into town to a shop with used and refurbished exercise equipment. I'm buying a commercial grade ellitical cross trainer, an adjustable weight bench, and I'm getting more dumbbells for my weight set - 8, 10 and 12 lbs. Perhaps a weight bar. And some medicine balls and an exercise ball. I'm turning my living room and back patio into a home gym. Jeez, I might need to get a job delivering newspapers for the summer! I wonder if I could be a mail carrier for a couple of months, just to walk all over town and deliver the mail.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ramping up the efforts

I've taken a personal day today, to recover from travel and regroup. And do laundry. Lots and lots of laundry! I'm happy to report that my knees did beautifully while on our trip, so I'm thinking it's time to really start to push myself regarding exercise. I want to see some real results!

I want to be able to keep up with more people when I'm hiking or walking. I have this's all about being a big woman but not to feel penalized over it. I want to be able to keep up with others, even really fit people. In fact, I want to surprise them with how strong I really am, to blow their assumptions about fat people out of the water. I want to have just as much endurance as the next person, or more. It's a subtile, below-the-surface sort of competition on my part. Unrealistic, I'm sure, but it's still there. So I'm setting some new goals for myself regarding my cardio fitness.

I don't know how to quantify that goal just yet. Here's my problem...I HATE CARDIO!!! I enjoy walking, nice leisurely strolls through town, even up hills. I love a nice hike, not too strenuous, through the redwoods in the Pacific Northwest. I like a recreational bike ride on a bike with a really comfortable seat. I like the idea of canoeing. I love dancing.

However, I don't like doing anything that makes my lungs burn, even a little. I won't run or jog. I won't ride a bike for 20 miles. I won't hike for more than an hour, especially wearing a backpack. I loathe aerobic classes of any sort. Being on the treadmill for more than 15 minutes at a time...that's pushing it!

I am going to have to get over myself in order to increase that cardio effect. I managed to do it with weight training. After two weeks of weight training at Green Mountain, I really developed a love for it, and I rarely miss my workouts. I love how I feel after a good workout. I like taking my time, making sure I have really great form, and happily perform three sets of 15 repetitions with the most weight I can use. I don't mind feeling any soreness afterwards, and after several months of weight training, experience very little muscle soreness any more. I like how strong I'm becoming. I like feeling my muscles. My shoulders are beginning to show a little definition, even through the fat, and when I flex my triceps and I feel around for them through my floppy kimono arms, they are rock hard and amazing!

I am about to really set up my workouts to improve strength in my lats and throughout my core, and I'm so excited about it! I wish I could feel the same about cardio, because I know that a good cardio routine will ramp up the fat burning machine in me. And when that excess fat layer is gone, the beautiful muscles will already be there!

I'm just about down to the weight I need to be in order to use the elliptical cross trainer at my gym. It's an older machine, rated for a maximum of 300 lbs. I haven't used it yet because my knees haven't been up to it, but I think I'm over that now. If I want to get on one fast, I think I may need to invest in one. That way, the gym workouts can be more about weight training in circuit with the treadmill (5 to 10 minutes at a time, a total of six times), and I can use the elliptical cross trainer at home, while watching TV, for an afternoon workout. I found one that will hold me now, rated for 375 lbs., and it's got some good reviews. I think I'm going to get rid of my old sofa and replace it with the elliptical cross trainer.

If I cut back my days at the gym to three days a week and do my full body circuit training workouts on those days, and then follow up with a half an hour on the elliptical at home in the afternoons, I'll be happy with that. On the other three days per week, I can perform core exercises and the elliptical at home.

Developing a core routine is also something I want to work on. I don't do dedicated core exercises. I'll toss in some Supermans, crunches and other similar moves during my circuit, just so I can get the core engaged. I was using a cardio dance DVD for a little, but don't have the space for it in my townhouse. That's one reason the sofa has to go! But I don't believe the DVD is enough for me. I want to really work on my back muscles, glutes and abs all around. My midsection is just one huge floppy mess! I'm really hoping that the core work will help combat that.

So, there's a rough idea of where I'm going for the remainder of the summer. Later this week I'll write out a specific routine and post it here and let you know how I do with it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Managing health on the road

Last week we decided it was time for some summer fun, and that usually means an extended roadtrip for us. We threw some clothes and toiletries in out bags and headed west and north, up California's and Oregon's coastline. Marvelous scenery! Cooler climate! No making beds or keeping house! After six days of sun, sand and surf, I miss my bed and my own cooking. But we sure had fun. We'll get home tonight...yeah!

Before leaving home, I touched base with Beth the Wellness Coach. We set some goals for me: walk for an hour every day, two days of complete body resistance exercise with the Spri Tube (I'm so glad I bought that thing!), keep my daily fat intake under 50 gms, and my daily fiber intake over 25 gms. The walking part was easy to accomplish. We hiked quite a bit, along the beaches, into the forests on trails, even walked the mall in Eureka one day. The resistance exercises were easy to accomplish as well. I'll even get a third workout in today. I'm happy to report that all my quad exercises are paying off and my knees are no longer giving me trouble. I climbed a lot of hills this last week and I haven't had a bit of pain. And the new shoes are still awesome! No shin splints either!

The dietary goals were much tougher to maintain. I tend to eat on the fatty side, so I try to track my fat intake throughout the day. I can then make wiser choices as the day goes along. But while on vacation I wasn't online at every meal, tracking my nutrients. And restaurants tend to cook with more fats than I normally do. I did make choices to skip dressings on vegetables and salads, but there were plenty of times when I just caved and made poorer choices, usually at the end of the day when I was more tired and my resolve was at an end. Still, I averaged only a 50 calorie increase per day over the whole trip. So, I ate a lower amount of food, but the calories were higher due to fats.

And even with eating as many veggies and fruits as I could get my hands on, my fiber intake was low an average of 5 gms per day. I tried to avoid breads, pasta, etc, but there weren't many whole grain choices on the road.

Well, I see that the car has been loaded up and the family is ready to go. So I'm signing off until after I get all the laundry done at home.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Skinny crusts?

Living outside the US means I don't usually have access to the same products/services that most of you all get to use. Last night we ordered pizza from Round Table and I was thrilled to find their Skinny Crust Pizza! I could eat my pizza and enjoy it without feeling like I overindulged. My portion was somewhat smaller than a personal pan pizza size, which was still around 400 calories, but coupled with a nice salad, I was really satisfied.

Since I did a full body workout yesterday, I just went for a 40 minute walk over hilly terrain this morning. I must be getting healthier, because the hills are easier to climb, and it's taking more effort to get my heart rate up. And my new walking shoes are totally awesome! No more shin splints, no matter how fast I walk! If you've got a high instep, the Asics Gel-Nimbus 9 is a great shoe. I get good support, and it's a running shoe, so it's built to put your foot in the correct toe-off position. It comes in larger sizes and wider widths as well.

I should be walking everyday, but when I get up in the morning, that's one of the last things I feel like doing. Motivation to walk doesn't come naturally to me, so I try to get others to get me engaged in the activity. My husband has been helping me here, but once he has to go back to Kazakhstan, I'm going to be struggling. I'm trying to get our sons to join us on our walks, but it takes A LOT of coersion to get them out the door, and there's always a lot of resistance and attitude that seems to join us on our walks. My ten-year-old plods along really slowly (because he's mad at me) and I'll never get my heart rate up at that pace. I may just have to be the tough one and not worry about his "feelings" on the subject.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Back on track

After a nearly two week break, this morning I went for a 40 minute walk with my husband (up some lovely hills, so I wasn't moving that fast), and then stopped at my gym for a full body weight training workout. I did some circuit training, working several sets of weights and then walking on the treadmill for 5 minutes in between sets.

Before I left the house, I made myself an energy shake with some almond milk, just so my body would have something to use while I was exercising. After I got home, I sauteed some mushrooms and spinach and then poached a couple of eggs for breakfast.

I still want to eat, but I'm not sure if I'm hungry. I want to be genuinely hungry for lunch, so I'm going to ignor this feeling. It's been an hour since I ate breakfast, and I ate nearly 400 calories over the course of the morning, so I don't believe I should be hungry. Maybe I'm just thirsty. However, since the weight training, I'm feeling very sleepy. From what I've read, if that's happening, then I didn't have enough protein since working out. So I'm going to have to find a source of really low fat protein.

I'm glad I'm back on track. I needed a break from the intense focus, and I'll make sure to give myself a rest from the training every three months, but I can make it for a shorter period of time, and I can allow for an occasional splurge with my family.

Ok, I've let some time lapse while I'm writing here (and watching
The Incredible Hulk on SciFi Channel) and the hunger has passed, finally. One more hour and I can have lunch!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Am I hungry?

I was chatting with my wellness coach Beth yesterday and she gave me a really great tip I just had to share with all of you. If you're not sure if you're hungry, ask yourself if you could really go for a crisp green apple. If the answer is yes, go eat something. If you're not really liking the idea, then you're not hungry. Because if you're genuinely hungry, you're not so picky.

The fruits of my slug week (no exercise, no accounting the food) were a whopping eight-pound gain! I freaked out yesterday morning. How could I gain that much in a week? Beth and I worked it out. I wasn't really overeating, but my food choices had changed. A few more sweets and higher fat food choices here and there, less fiber, a lot less water, eating later into the evening. It all added up. Beth pointed out that since I was feeling so bloated and a bit stopped-up that I should not think that all of the weight gain was fat. Once I get back to drinking all my water and get the fiber up again, then I should lose the extra pounds pretty quickly.

This was my first major back-sliding event. I had told myself that back-sliding was not allowed, but Beth thinks I'm being too rigid. I still want to break 300 lbs. before I have to go back to Kazakhstan. I'm not sure how I can find a way lighten-up on myself and still stay on track. I have to find a creative way to regularly reward myself that doesn't require just checking out on my weight loss efforts.

This last week was a very full week. Dealing with jet lag, remodeling our bathroom in a week, keeping the kids active, plus all the regular household duties. I let my husband's driven nature keep me from factoring in some fun. I also suspended taking all the vitamin supplements I had been taking (I left them in Kazakhstan and hadn't bought fresh ones yet). I just let the transitional week take control over my life. It ends here and now, and I'm back in the driver's seat.

So, I'm off to get my sweats and new walking shoes on. And while a Lemon Zest Luna Bar sounds really good right now, a green apple doesn't, so I'm not really hungry. I gotta get out of the house!

Friday, June 6, 2008

The power of suggestion

At home in Kazakhstan, when we sit down to dinner, our dog loves to come over to the dinner table and bat his eyelashes at us, pout a little, sit really close to me and drop his chin into my lap, in hopes that I'll give him a tasty treat from my plate. I really love my dog, but I don't give him treats from the table. Eventually, he goes over to his food bowl and eats his own dinner. He always eats when we eat. I don't know if he's hungry, but always eats when we eat.

The last couple of days, I've really been trying to stay mindful with the state of my actual hunger levels, but when everyone in the family is hungry, or has a case of the munchies, it's so hard to determine if I'm hungry or if I'm being coerced into believing I'm hungry. I'm probably not, because I've gained three pounds in the last two days!

I'm not sure what to do to address this, other than to scrutinze my motivations even more. Why am I eating when I'm not really hungry? Why am I thinking myself into being hungry? Why am I still overeating when I'm eating in the company of others?

I think that one of the reasons I eat when my family is eating is because I want to feel some sort of connection with them. It's another form of emotional eating. I'm a good cook, they like what I cook, we eat together, they show me how much they love my cooking, we're all enjoying it together, we're bonding. Can I eat less and still get the same experience? Yes.

I need to slow the eating down, way down, and to remember to put my fork down and take a sip of water in between bites. I'm still a shoveler, especially if my blood sugar has dropped too much before mealtimes. I can still eat the same foods as everyone else. I'm already cooking lower fat foods and including lots of fresh vegetables and lean meats at every meal. I can control my portions by using a smaller plate.

So, that covers mealtime. What about between-meal snacking. It's not something I'm compelled to do any more, but my family can't seem to stop eating throughout the day. I can be cooking dinner and my husband will come into the kitchen, knowing that dinner is going to be on the table in 20 minutes, and still get a snack. And because I've made a lighter meal, he's got to get dessert or a bowl of cereal afterwards. And our sons follow suit. If we've had breakfast together at 7:30 a.m. then by 11:30, people are foraging in my fridge. I've put fruit out, but no one goes near that stuff. My 16-year-old makes himself a pre-lunch sandwich. My 10-year-old and his dad go for the leftover whole-wheat pancakes with peanut butter. And I'm in the process of cooking Garlic Shrimp Provencal with whole wheat linguini! And so I get a little steamed and eat extra portions at lunch because they're not eating everything that I cooked. Again, managing emotions with food.

I do still forage for muchies in the afternoons, which has always been my peak snacking hours. I think it's because that's when I really want to take a little nap but I have too much to do to take the time to indulge in the nap. So instead, a handful of raw almonds, a Luna bar and a glass of almond milk, a bowl of Fiber One cereal, fruit, or if I'm really sleepy, I just head for slices of toasted sourdough bread with butter. When I'm really sleepy, my resolve seems to go out the door. Perhaps I should just go for the naps and screw the chores.

I'm going to see a therapist in the next couple of weeks about the emotional management. I need to find some new methods that will really work.

Oh, did you want my recipe?

Garlic Shrimp Provencal - serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-1/3 cups red peppers, diced
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and stir around until just soft. Turn up the heat a little and then add the shrimp and saute until they turn pink, but are not cooked through - about a minute. Remove the shrimp from the skillet and set aside. Add the bell peppers, fennel seeds, and thyme. Cook until the peppers soften, about 5 minutes. Then stir in white wine amd tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, and simmer until they are cooked and turn opaque, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, and season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. You can serve it over whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Slug Day

I think I need to take a personal day, or week, just to be a slug. Jet lag really takes it out of me. I wish I were one of those people who could just bounce back into a workout and proper nutrition, but I'm not one of them. I'm really sleepy, and even though my eyes are open, I can only bring myself to sit in my comfortable chair and watch TV. I'm not even getting up for the remote, so now I'm stuck watching Force Ten From Navarone. Mmmm, Harrison Ford...

I did make lunch for my family, tuna salad sandwiches, with lots of finely minced veggies, on lettuce green and whole grain bread, with some really delicious seedless baby watermelon.

For tonight's dinner, I'm planning it in? Send someone to the store? Make the boys cook? Let everyone fend for themselves?

...mmmm, Harrison Ford.

Husband is back from the hardware store...must try to look busy...refold the laundry on the sofa...No! He's given me "The Look"...He's on to me!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Cutting back on calories

I've achieved a milestone in my weightloss, I have dropped 10% of my body weight. I'm starting to feel more energy, it's much easier to get up the stairs and my knees are happier. My blood pressure has dropped a little. But the weight is definitely coming off more slowly. Sometimes, it's so laborious to work out so much and not even lose a pound some weeks. I think it's time to cut back my caloric intake.

I've been examining how much I eat. Granted, I'm a tall woman, nearly 6', so I get to eat more than most women. But my body is an efficient machine and doesn't like to give up anything without a fight. Exercising more really isn't going to make that much of a difference at this point. But cutting calories will. And I can afford it, with all the 'stored energy' to burn. I have been keeping my intake between 1850 and 2000 calories per day. I think I'd like to drop it back to 1600 calories. I've noticed that there are still occasions when I eat because it's what everyone around me is doing and has nothing to do with feeling hungry. Now that I'm back in California (as of last Thursday), I don't have to go to any cocktail parties or other food-oriented events. I can listen to my body and not worry about anyone questioning or watching me.

This morning I held off on eating breakfast until after 8 a.m. I just wasn't hungry yet. My kids wanted to go to the local outdoor cafe we like to go to for breakfast on occasion, so I agreed to go if everyone was willing to walk there. By the time we arrived, I was definitely feeling empty. I drank a cup of coffee with a shot of cream. That actually helped me because I was feeling more hypoglycemic than hungry, and I was in danger of ordering the entire menu. That little bit of cream got me in touch with my brain again. I ordered a 2 egg omelet. It came with toast and hash browns, but I didn't eat that stuff. I didn't even finish the omelet. I was actually full, even a little over-full. But I didn't beat myself up over that.

After breakfast, we walked home, and I set about getting household chores done. I didn't feel hungry again for five hours! I thought that this time, for lunch, I'd tap into what I really wanted to eat instead of chosing what I had planned on making. I wanted Greek egg-lemon soup with some shredded chicken breast and brown rice in it. It took me 40 minutes before it was ready to eat, but I concentrated on making lunch for the family (sandwiches) and then got to settle in to have my lunch. It was really satisfying!

So now it's been three hours since I had my lunch. The kids want pizza for dinner tonight, but I don't. I think perhaps I don't actually like pizza. I think there are elements of pizza that I like. I like the melted cheese, which is like heroin for me. So I'm not going there! I like sausage and pepperoni, which actually makes me feel bloated and gives me a headache from the preservatives in it. I like the crispy, thin crusts that have garlic in them. Garlic good...white flour bad for the blood sugar. Even with all the marks against pizza, when there's one in front of me, I can't stop at four slices. Actually, I can stop at two, but then I spend the rest of the night wishing I could have more and feeling sorry for myself. It's easier for me to just not partake.

My alternative: let the family go get their pizza and eat it there while I stay at home and eat my planned meal, a nice salad (which sounds so good to me). I don't want the salad bar at the restaurant. It's totally lacks the fresh factor that I want, they don't have olive oil and lemon juice, and all I can smell is pizza. I want the full experience of my crunchy, fresh salad with my own favorite dressing. The boys can eat their pizza and sit around and be boys in all their smelly glory and I can stay at home and pretend to be dainty and watch a girl movie all by myself! I'm comfortable with that choice.

At one point in my dieting history I attended the Weigh-Down Workshop, which is a faith-based weightloss method. They support choosing to eat exactly what you want to eat, when you are truely hungry, and stopping when you are satisfied. I lost 45 lbs. while I attended the workshops, and learned a lot about my eating behaviors. I was able to work through a substantial amount of my angst over eating during that time. While I don't agree with their religious ideas (eating when you're not hungry is a sin that comes between you and God), it did help me put a lot into perspective. I think that I am going to revisit some of the methods I put into practice back in those days to help me reduce the amount of food I'm eating.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Well, that was wierd!

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a Kazakh home. The couple who own the home were not at home. I actually went with a friend to see their maid, who does sewing for people. My friend was having a smaller jacket made out of a gorgeous coat with traditional embroidered trim from Turkmenistan.

Anyway, a lot of energy seemed to be involvec with trying to explain to this little woman what needed to be done for the jacket (and I was invited to go along because I'm an experienced seamstress too), between three different languages flying through the air, and a phone call to her boss who was in the US to aid in translation, we got it all figured out. There was a lot of laughing going on, and this woman seemed to be happy to work on the project. She was actually a very knowledgable seamstress.

So, what I'm getting to is that in one fun moment of multicultural camraderie, this little woman felt the need to come over and grab my obvious belly with both hands and give it a good shake. I don't know why, and there was no way to ask her why in that moment, but it seemed to give her some gratification for some strange reason. I was at a complete loss of how to respond, so I resorted to my passive aggressive nature and stepped out of the conversation and backed out of the room. And I decided I wasn't ever coming back while her employer wasn't there.

Eventually, though not quickly enough for me, we left the little maid to her own devices and headed home. My friend was a bit embarrased for me, and felt the need to try to explain what was going on, but didn't really have any good explanations for least none that made me feel better about this little woman. I chalked the experience up to another multicultural moment, where cultures didn't understand boundaries and behaviors. It wasn't my first experience with it.

I went to a corporate function today. There was a presentation given about possible international employment opportunities. A light refreshment was provided, most of which was fried and greasy-looking. I chose to skip the snacks and just had a bottle of water. I sat at the back of the room and just took in what was being said. At the end of the presentation, I made my way to the front of the room, towards the speaker, in order to thank him for his presentation. I was stopped by one of my neighbors midway, who felt the need to share with me that she saw that I hadn't gone over to eat any of the snacks. Was that an attempt at a conversation? I just smiled and offered that the food didn't look too appetizing to me. And she smiled back and continued on out of the room. No, it wasn't a conversation. It was someone telling me she was watching me. (And it wasn't her first time, either.)

I've been trying to process those two events today. I guess the behavior of those two people was more about them than it was about me. Perhaps I've already spent more time thinking about their actions/comments than they did.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The woman in the mirror

I've lost another five pounds since coming home to Kazakhstan. I think it helped that I had bronchitis for a week and didn't feel like eating! I drank a lot of green tea with lemon, along with extra water, and the tea habit seems to be something I enjoy now, so I'm staying with it.

In my bedroom, there's an oval, standing mirror. It's positioned so that when I wake up and sit up in bed, the first thing I see is a vision of myself. I didn't put it there on purpose, and I'm seriously thinking about moving it.

Mirrors remind me how big I am. They tell me that no matter how much I can dead lift, no matter how many miles I've walked, no matter how many pounds of fat I've lost, I'm still a big, fleshy, jiggly woman of middle age. And when I look in the mirror, I don't believe I see the real me.

Every once in a while, my younger son wants me to flex and feel my biceps and triceps. They're actually getting quite hard. But the muscles are way deep in there, under the fat and loose flesh. My son is impressed with my muscles. My husband is not.

I found a website on developing a positive body image at any size. I haven't read what they have to say yet. That's my assignment for today. I hope it helps, because what I'm working towards is matching up how I feel about myself on the inside with what I see on the outside. On the inside, I feel like Zena, Warrior Princess! I want to kick ass, with style! On the outside, I feel like an amorphous lump. With hair. I do have nice hair.

Not trying to sound self-deprecating here, just trying to problem solve. It's my method. Address the issue, research, discuss and apply findings. I'll let you know what I learn.

In the meantime, today I'm going back to the gym, after a week off due to illness. Five minutes of warm-up on the treadmill, some stretching, upper body weight training, core exercises, and 45 minutes on the track. I'm dressed...let's go!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Back in the saddle again

OMG!!! It's been a month since I last blogged! Thank you to my friends who sent me gentle, loving reminders to get back to writing. I am back home now, in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, and have overcome the jet lag. So, life goes on...

I allowed myself a few days of real rest to recuperate from travel. As I age, it gets harder and harder to overcome the effects of jet lag. But I do have a few tricks that help me through that week.
  1. Get back to a regular sleep routine - It's best to establish a wake up time as soon as possible. It seems that's the key factor in getting back to a regular sleep cycle. I did, at first, go to bed at a normal time and then wake up around 3 to 4 a.m. for a few days. I kept the lights down low until morning, and after about three days, I could sleep through till 6 a.m. I got really sleepy about 3 p.m., and am still experiencing that after a week and a half. I try to keep myself to a 20 minute nap, if I do choose to lay down.
  2. Don't let anyone know you're back - I needed a few days to deal with cultural re-entry shock, and I was not prepared to be inundated with phone calls and emails from neighbors, who seemed to be hovering in anticipation of my return. Really, I'm not all that popular around here, but there seem to be some people who felt the need to get me up to speed on the goings-on in the community, the latest gossip, and to interrogate me about my family and my trip. It was fun to go in with a plan; saying, "I really don't want to talk about that right now," was really quite gratifying!
  3. After extended absences from home, allow for the fact that some things might have changed around the house - my husband and maid have hidden all my stuff! It took me three days to find nearly everything, and now I'm having to rearrange the kitchen and the pantry. I may have to label cabinets in Russian before I leave again next month for the summer. I wonder if they sell Russian labelers around here...

I will write more later this week, specifically about my road to good health. Right now, I have to go make my own Mother's Day breakfast.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I forgot to tell you about my mother's bathroom scale...

You know how in "Sleeping Beauty" the Evil Step-Mother had that mirror for self-validation? My (evil) mother has a scale, which she uses to heap her crap on whomever visits her and makes the mistake of stepping on it. Ok, who puts a bathroom scale in the guest bathroom?

"Scale, scale, on the floor, who's ass can't fit through the door?" OMG!!! It's still me!

I swear, that scale weighs me 10lbs. heavier than what my bathroom scale, my doctor's scale, and the gym's scale all say...and by the way, they all concur within two pounds.

I'm never getting on that thing again!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Planning for fitness success while on the road

I'm currently away from my townhouse, making my way south to L.A. for my best friend's wedding. I am the Matron! This week, I've stopped off at my parents' house in Central California to make my dress. (My mom is helping me with the fittings...we're both seamstresses.) I have accepted that I'm not going to reach my goal of 300 lbs. by the wedding (now less than three weeks away). That's just stupid. But that doesn't mean I'm giving up on achieving what I can by that event, so I'm continuing with the healthy, balanced eating and the exercise. And I'm now convinced that to gain success in the weight loss arena, planning and execution are everything!

When I packed up the car yesterday, I remembered to include fitness DVDs. No matter where I am, I can toss one of those in my laptop's DVD slot and get in some fat-burning activity. This morning, I did my Gaiam A.M. Stretch DVD, followed by the full workout of my Core Rhythms DVD. That was hours ago, and my abs are still fussing at me! This is good. Still, it was strange to have my son and my mother hovering in the kitchen, watching me exercise. In the past, I would have given up out of embarrasment. I just don't like being watched when I'm exercising at home. But this time, it just didn't seem to bother me as much. I guess I'm really on this path towards losing the excess weight, and nothing is going to get in my way!

Tomorrow I have to leave the house early to take my son on a field trip to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but afterwards, it is my plan to go for a long walk around a nearby park, and then spend an hour with my Spri-tube in a good upper-body resistance workout back at my parents' house. I can also do some lunges and squats and other lower body stuff to strengthen my knee support. I found a cool site for that here.

Since I only have osteoarthritis (and nothing worse, thank God!), I can do exercises (as long as no deep squats are involved) to strengthen my quadriceps, hamstrings and hip abductors and adductors. I started taking SamE as well as a joint health supplement that includes glucosamine/chondroitin. After just a few weeks, I'm already feeling better, and recovery is much faster after exercise. As long as I move my joints throughout the day (and avoid sitting for long periods of time), I feel pretty good about moving around.

We head for Los Angeles on Friday. My girlfriend is a member of 23-Hour Fitness. I got on their website and they will let me come in to try out their facility for free for a week. There are other gyms in the area that offer similar deals, so while I'm in L.A., I have no excuses for avoiding going to a gym to get in some quality time with the weights. And by the day of the wedding, I may still have to take in the seams of my matron-of-honor dress!

I'm hoping to have a good picture of myself in that dress to post on this blog. It's a Vogue Pattern #2607 by Guy Laroche. I'm making it of a periwinkle Thai dupioni silk. I bought a really cute pair of champagne-colored strappy sandals and a blue/cream mother-of-pearl handbag to go with it. I'll be wearing my new diamond bracelet with it. I just need an amazing pair of pave CZ earrings to complete the outfit.

One thing I learned from my 3-hour drive to my parents' house on Monday, that I really need to prepare for meals as well fitness. I didn't eat a really good breakfast that morning. (I indulged with my son...homemade biscuits and gravy - something I make once a year.) Then we left just before lunchtime and I thought I could make it without stopping, but during a brief bathroom break at a gas station I was distracted by a really creamy-looking egg salad sandwich in the deli case. I caved, and later looked up the calories online. 700 Calories!!! I'm so glad I skipped the soda! So, on Friday, when we head south, I'm going to be prepared! I'm packing homemade tuna-salad sandwiches, made with water-packed tuna, lots of chopped celery, olives, parsley and spring onions, a little mayonnaise, and some non-fat yogurt. On whole wheat bread. We'll also have apples, carrots and a couple of individual-sized bags of Sun Chips, and my trusty Luna Bar and unsweetened Almond Breeze for snack. Plus, lots of water and homemade iced herbal tea. And when we stop to eat lunch and snack, we can do some walking and stretching to keep the joints from stiffening up.

Saturday will be the bridal shower. It's an afternoon tea, which no doubt means tea sandwiches, cakes and other illicit delicacies. Perhaps we'll spend the morning walking around Hermosa Beach before heading for the shower. And I'll make sure to practice being mindful as I'm popping finger sandwiches. Maybe I can play with my food some, slowly peeling off the layers of the sandwiches, making patterns in the frosting of the cake, and I'll drink lots of tea, which will cause me to visit the little matron's room a lot more frequently.

I'll try to keep in touch over the next three weeks to let you know how I'm progressing. My girlfriend has no Internet access at her place! OMG!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Fitting fitness goals into family life

I have really been struggling the last four days. I find myself losing my resolve to stay on track with the healthy eating, stealthy saboteurs have left illicit snack contraband all around my house, and I have blown off my exercise schedule completely so that I can be more accomodating for my family's needs. Getting back together with my family is not working for me!

It started with a couple of poor meal choices while traveling. Calorically, I stayed under my limit that sustains my body for the day, but I still ate more than I normally do (I try to maintain a 300 to 500 calorie daily deficit). I chose foods with higher fat contents that I usually do, as well as a higher sodium content. I didn't get all my water in for about four days running, and I'm seriously retaining fluids now. So, even though I broke the 320 lbs. mark on Thursday morning, I popped back up by six pounds as of today. And today, even though we're not traveling now and we're back in our vacation home, I stupidly prepared corned beef for dinner. At 11 p.m., I feel like a puffer fish!

I exercised today, and while we were traveling I tried to walk as much as possible every day. I walked outside, in hilly places, but just not very fast or very far. In order to get back into my exercise routine today, I had to ditch the family for a couple of hours. When they returned from their errands, they brought back roasted and salted pistachios, sesame candies and sweet potato chips fried in olive oil from the health food stored. My young son kept saying, "Look Mom! They're healthy! From the health food store!" And I was urged to take a taste of everything. I am so glad I wasn't at all hungry, or I would have eaten through that whole bag of chips. They were delicious! I only ate three chips...and two pistacios...and a couple of sesame candies (they're my favorites). I wasn't happy that I caved to the treats. Not beating myself up, just not healthy.

After dinner, I ate a bowl of Fiber One cereal for dessert. I wasn't hungry at the time, but I was afraid that if I got hungry I'd be tempted to head for something off the menu. The cereal is staying with me, so I'm good to go to bed now. After I drink more water. I hope I pee my brains out by morning!

On Thursday my husband the saboteur leaves to fly home and I'll just be left with my youngest son at home with me. He's my partner in the weight battle. He's got 40 lbs. to lose, and he was joining me today while I was stretching and doing my Core Rhythms DVD workout. He thought it was fun! We're partnering up to get him ready for the Presidential Fitness test coming up soon for him. We did some math together and figured that he could be down to his fighting weight by the time he starts fith grade. He's all for conciously making healthy choices everyday, and I promised him he could have good ice cream one night on the weekend, if he really wanted it. I can set the daily routine when it's just the two of us.

I realized this week how much my husband doesn't eat consciously, and how much his attitudes about food affect my self-image. He's one of those people that is constantly on the move to accomplish things daily and then will stop to eat when he remembers to. (And he makes really poor choices at that time.) He's annoyed with me for having to stop to eat more frequently. He doesn't understand why I can't just eat once and then keep up with him. I've tried to explain about the hypoglycemia, and how eating much smaller meals more frequently, while inefficient if you're only concerned with production on a daily basis (OMG!!! He's such an engineer!), is best for maintaining a faster metabolism in a human body. He theory.

I am just going to have to assert my needs more. If he needs a thinner wife before he can love her effectively, then he has to support the behaviors that will get him the thinner wife. I have not been very good at standing up for myself around him. Doing so now is a change for me, and it's causing some amount of emotional stress in our marriage. And I don't know how to deal with it now that I'm not eating through it!

Actually, I do know how to deal with it. I can sit with my fears and deliberately feel them. I can roll around in the emotions for a bit, and then I can calm myself enough to see past the initial panic and find the solution. I usually land on my feet...and for now, if I land on my ass, well, there's a lot of cushion back there! I do have the opportunity to practice managing the fears. Lots and lots of opportunities. Eventually, I may even get annoyed with the fearfulness and eliminate it from my life altogether. Like my favorite author Mark Twain once said, "I've seen many troubles in my time, only half of which ever came true."

I'm actually happy to see how upset I get about losing ground with the weight loss, and I'm happy that I don't like my exercise routine interrupted. It means that I am owning that part of my efforts now. Gaining ground towards good health, losing weight and taking the time to exercise are my rewards!

Ok, I feel better now. But I see I'm up way too late tonight. I'm losing valuable calorie-burning sleep time!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Be The Change

I've almost achieved my first 10% loss. I'm hoping to break the 35 lbs. in the next two weeks. As I'm approaching that first big milestone, I've decided that I will not be waiting until I lose all the weight before I go in for a complete makeover. Instead I will be making changes as I go along my journey, and I will be rewarding my efforts by doing things or adding things to me that would be something I anticipate being/doing when I lose all of the 175 lbs.

The first thing that changed was the hair. I got my hair cut and styled in a way I really like. It's cut short and assymetrically, and I get a lot of compliments! Even my husband, who has been fixated on my having long hair (and I have for the past three years) admitted that this new haircut totally suits me. Additionally, I got my hair colored, back to it's original color, a warm, dark brown. It makes me look younger, and I like that. I don't feel 47. I am not at all accepting that I'll be 50 in a very short period of time, and I am embracing that if 40 is the new 20, then I'm only 23!

Next, I have been going a little nuts with the shoes and handbags. Now my feet, well...historically speaking, 11D isn't a shoe size that says, "Hot damn!" On top of that, I'm a tall woman, and heavy, so heels have been absent from my wardrobe for some time. Plus, there were a few years there that I couldn't effectively chase toddlers in heels! The time for that has changed. I indulged myself and bought pairs of heeled shoes and a pair of heeled boots over the last two weeks. This last weekend was the first opportunity I had to wear them. I walked more slowly, with confidence, and really had fun owning those heels! And I paired those new shoes with some fun, colorful handbags that I found at and

To put it all together, I bought some new cosmetics and I have been using that (and caring for my skin) every day. I now have a skin care routine. This is all a part of what the thin me will be doing. I'm not waiting until then to achieve it. I am going to be the change now!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Aunt Flo's impending visit

Gosh darn it! I forgot that Aunt Flo is coming for a visit soon! She always seems to be my undoing. I seem to go backwards in my progress during that week, but I am determined to take that bitch down this time!

(Pardon my language...hmmmm, I seem to have been cursing all day. Another function of Aunt Flo? And I am giving you fair warning, I can speak rather frankly about all sorts of subjects, so if you get offended by indelicate topics, it's time to move along. I'm just saying...)

I have been so careful with my eating this past week. I'm having to document my food intake for a new wellness coach I hired (Hi, Beth!). But despite my tight management of the diet, I gained weight since yesterday morning. Now, I know this is water retention, so I'm not fussing over the four pounds. But the cravings that are popping up, I'm worried about those. I've never been one to manage cravings well, especially when they're paired with emotions. Early this morning, I was feeling very edgy, after not being able to sleep, and I really wanted a big plate of my late Aunt Georgia's penne with burnt butter and parmesan. And a T-bone steak. (That was her signature dish when we went to her house for a visit on Sundays.) Now, I haven't eaten this in many, many, many years. And I haven't craved it in about as long. And yet, there it was early this morning, about 3 a.m.

Thank God I was cold and lazy! I didn't feel like going downstairs to cook at that hour. I did, instead, go down for a glass of water and a cube of feta cheese. Mmmm, instant Greek love! After that, I went back upstairs and decided to clean out my closet and dresser of clothes that no longer fit or are stained and I'm tired of wearing them. Three tall kitchen garbage bags later and now there's tons of room for the new things I bought recently. And like an anal Imelda Marcos, I lined up all my new cute shoes and handbags on top of my dresser. As soon as I get my new flash for my new camera, I'm taking pictures and posting them all so you can see! I also dusted and cleaned all the furniture, tossed out the trash, and organized my toiletries in the bathroom. Just another Manic Monday!

So, during the two hours I was cleaning, I paused to shoot an email to Beth-the-Coach asking what to do about premenstrual edginess and cravings. Later in the morning, she responded with advice which included the idea that I needed to look deeper into what emotions might be triggering the cravings.

I have put some thought into this throughout the morning, and I really think I need sex! OMG!!! No wonder ALL the men in my little town were looking so good lately! (And only retired people and rednecks live here!) I also need some real companionship. Chatting online is great, as is talking to people on the phone, but I really don't know a lot of people where I am at the moment, and I've been experiencing some loneliness. The day that one of my Green Mountain friends (Hi Chris!) came to visit was so wonderful. When I spent a week with my dearest friend Molly last month in L.A., we had absolutely the best time together. When I spent a weekend with my son Quinn at boarding school, what a mother-son love fest (in a very healthy way). I need more of that!

As writer and web designer, I have tended to keep to myself in the past. As a member of a very small expatriate community (I live overseas), where everything that occurs or is said becomes food for gossip, I have managed the invasive nature of the situation by keeping to myself as much as possible. (I have not shared my blog with anyone there...OMG!!! What a mistake that would be!) I don't share a lot of my life with my mother, who seems to need to make negative comments on every aspect of my life I share with her. So, my habit is to protect my privacy as it applies to actual, live human beings. When I spent time at Green Mountain, the real, playful, diva in me came out more. And even then, that was managed.

My husband is afraid of the real me. But he's a straight, white, middle-aged mechanical engineer. He's afraid of all strong women.

I am myself most fully when I'm with my sons or my friend Molly and her son, and a very few choice friends in my expatriate community. And being myself seems to be really important to me while making choices with friendships. Living at my vacation home for brief periods of time doesn't make for building local relationships that feel safe to me. I guess I have difficulty making and maintaining friendships on a lighter level. And I'm seriously uncomfortable with having to maintain small-talk. So I guess I need to find a way to interact with people so that I gain some value, some emotional nurturing and companionship, in a safe manner.

Now, I love going down to the quilt shop and the kitchen shop and chatting up the ladies there about shared passions, textiles and cooking. And everyone at Safeway is so nice. I actually find myself talking to other customers as I'm walking around. I even help people find stuff, read ingredients when they haven't got their glasses, reach for stuff from the top shelves for them, and entertain babies while moms empty carts. And I love flirting with men at the supermarket. I become this big, gushy, giggling girl! One day I got a 78-year-old man telling me how difficult it was to be the sex symbol in his retirement community. He was priceless!

Maybe I should go down to the hardware store to flirt with handymen named Earl in khaki uniforms. And Indian men always like me, so I could go get some gas for my car at the independant gas station downtown. I'll go inside the station and buy a bottle of water and slowly peel a Slim Jim in front of the little man behind the cash register.

Perhaps I should find a local service organization I can join on an infrequent basis so I can do something for the community and get to know people. I think that maybe the key is to find a wide variety of friends based on common interests. And just like working out, I'm going to have to make myself do this on a regular basis.

Three days until my husband and my other son, Rhyan, arrive. I hope I can manage Aunt Flo enough so I can break past 320 lbs. That's still my goal for Thursday morning. I will not be denied!!!