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.