Shoevolution

I’ve been running since 2002, I think. In all that time, I’ve been almost exclusively loyal to Asics running shoes. I think I tried some Brooks back in 2006 once and didn’t like them, and I may have tried one other brand, but I always came back to Asics.

But something happened recently. Last year or so I bought my usual Cumulus model running shoe and it felt…cheap and thin. The padding was thin and it felt like the pavement was punching me in the sole with every stride. I just kept running in them, though, because I’m a very accepting person, and I just thought, “Oh that’s how running is for me now. Ok.”

The next time I was ready to buy running shoes, I read up online reviews, and decided to level up to the Asics Nimbus line, which is touted as having more padding. “Great,” I thought, “more padding sounds good since the last ones didn’t feel much padded at all.” Uh uh. Yes the new shoes had lots of padding, but it was all give and no spring. It felt like the shoes were swallowing up my momentum with every step. Squish. Squish. I powered on though – “Oh that’s how running is now. Ok.” Plus I’d spent over $100 on these shoes so what was I going to do? Wear them out, is what I did.

But this time, just last month, when those momentum-dampening Asics wore out I thought maybe I would try something new. I don’t know what’s going on with Asics, but I’m pretty sure they’ve lost a loyal customer.

So I read up online reviews on running shoes, I visited my local running store (they were “out of shoes” in my size when I went in so that was a waste of time, they’ve lost my business), then I bought online. Based on reviews, I bought a pair of Brooks Ghost 9s. They get good marks for people with my specifics (position, padding, distances), and the Asics – both lines I’d recently worn – no longer do.

I got them in the mail last week, laced them up, took them for a spin with excitement building and…found that there was a persistent ache in the outer edge of my right foot for the first mile or two. I noted the information, then ignored it because everything else about the shoe was perfect – padding and spring were aces! I laced them up again the next day with a hope it was just my feet getting used to the  new shoes.

Nope. Same pain on day two, getting more painful not less. I was distraught. I’d spent $120 on these shoes and they were hurting me! As a last-ditch effort I went to the bricks-and-mortar location of the running store I’d bought them from and asked if there was anything we could do, knowing that I’d already worn them on two runs and wasn’t going to be getting my money back.

They put me through the full fitting experience (walking on a treadmill, standing on a sensor pad, sizing, etc.) and determined that the shoes I had should be the right ones for me. So they made me some custom insoles by heating up insole blanks and having me stand on a special squishy machine on them. I was dubious that such a simple solution would solve my pain problem, but willing to give it a try.

This morning I took my Brooks Ghost 9s out for a spin with my new custom insoles and…no pain. I’m so happy now! Custom insoles can make a huge difference! I had no idea until today.

Commitment for the New Year: Journaling

It’s a brand new year. Are you doing the “new year, new me” thing? I’m not. I’ve got a pretty good lifestyle for supporting a stable weight. I exercise 40-60 minutes 5-6 days a week, and I follow my normal eating templates. One thing that did get a little out of control over the holidays this time was festive eating. I felt a bit out of control sometimes, and as a result my body felt bad. It’s an immediate feedback loop – when I eat too much or too poorly, right away I feel logy, tired, overstuffed, and nauseated.

So I’ve decided to make a change now that the holidays are over. I want to start feeling in control again and stop feeling regrets and bloated. Dropping a few pounds wouldn’t hurt me either. I’m only making one change, but its the most powerful tool I have in my arsenal. If you, too, want to see some changes, tighten up your habits, or drop a few pounds, but you don’t want to drastically overhaul your entire life, I commend it to you as well.  Instead of going on a crash diet, signing up at a gym / exercising furiously for a few weeks, or starving yourself, I have only one recommendation:

Start journaling your food intake.

That’s it. Recordkeeping/journaling is the most powerful way I know to change your habits. The first thing you need if you want to make a change is to know what you’re already doing. What are you eating now? How will you know what to change if you don’t know what you’re doing? The second thing journaling will do is a neat psychological trick – if you have to write down everything you eat, you may adjust what you eat to make your records look better. It’s a little hard to have to write down 600 calories worth of cupcake if you know you’re trying to improve your health.

So that’s my New Year’s program and suggestion: Write down what you eat at the time that you eat it (no “saving up” and writing it all down at the end of the day – that’s cheating and it won’t work), and an approximate calorie count. Every day. After a few days, you’ll have a good idea what you’re eating and where you might substitute some fruits and veggies or other healthier options, but first just start with the journaling. That’s not much to ask, right?

If you aren’t sure on the calories, there are tons of websites where you can look up nutrition info. Use an app, use a pen and paper, whatever works for you, but give it a try. It’s the best tool I know. I’m doing it too, because I know it works.

How To Eat More Vegetables

I know the title of this post seems a bit silly, but it’s not, and I’m going to tell you why.

Humans descended from hunter-gatherers. This means that “eating whatever’s available” is literally encoded in our DNA. That is how humans feed themselves – they eat what they find in their environment, or what is placed in front of them, or whatever seems easiest to acquire. That’s a survival strategy when food is scarce and every calorie requires effort to achieve. It’s not so helpful when food is plentiful and food that is actively bad for humans is easier to get than healthy food.

So if you know you need to eat more veggies, but it’s not something that’s already present in your environment, you might very well wonder…how do I do that? I absolutely sympathize with that – I personally need to eat more veggies than most people both to maintain my weight loss, and because I need the roughage for certain, um, digestive tract reasons. So every day, I need to figure out how to get veggies into my diet, and I have a couple of fallback plans to make it easier.

First things first: Shopping

You can’t eat what you don’t have, obviously. So you need to make sure that veggies are on your grocery list every time you go to the grocery store. Or have them delivered, whatever. But not just any veggies. I will illustrate with an anecdote.

When I first started maintaining my 200 pound loss, I dutifully went to the grocery store and bought 2 heads of broccoli every time, because I needed to have lots of veggies in my diet. Unfortunately, I don’t actually like broccoli enough to eat it twice a week every week for the rest of my life. So several of those heads of broccoli got ignored, and a few of them got eaten grudgingly, which felt like my new maintenance lifestyle was a punishment. That’s counterproductive.

You need to figure out what veggies you like to eat, and you need to figure out the fastest, most convenient way to prepare them, because that’s what you’ll be doing most often. Unless you’re a gourmet cook, which several of my friends are. The rest of us just want to be able to make something quickly and get on with our day.

Figure out what veggies you like, then put them on your grocery list and buy them, so you always have them on hand.

Preparing on Their Own

Over the years I’ve figured out that I like shishito peppers roasted for about 12 minutes in the oven with some cooking spray and salt. I like quick salads I can make in 5 minutes or less. I like microwaving a spaghetti squash for about 9 minutes then pouring tomato-based spaghetti sauce over it. I like baking Yukon Gold potatoes several at a time then having them in the fridge all week to grab and re-heat in the microwave in 90 seconds (Yes! Potatoes are a vegetable, just use with caution). I like roasting a head of cauliflower in the oven for 14 minutes with some cooking spray and seasonings – actually this roasting method works with most types of veggies!

Those are the kinds of veggies I buy every time I go to the grocery store. Things I know I can make in minutes.

I have a stand-by, too. If nothing else sounds good, we’re having salad with dinner. And making a salad is a super-quick proposition, which is why it’s a stand by. Here’s how I make my ration of roughage most nights, and you’ll note this requires absolutely no washing or chopping:

-Throw some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and mustard powder in a large bowl and whisk it together with a fork. (My presonal recipe also calls for soy sauce and a forkful of garlic from a jar of pre-crushed garlic).

-Throw in the greens, which are already washed, chopped, and ready to go. My local store carries these Organic Girl greens and they are perfect for this use – enough greens for 2 or 3 servings of salad.

-Throw in a handful of little tomatoes, no chopping needed.

-Toss on a handful of shredded carrots. No shredding required.

-If I’m feeling it, shake on a little crumbled feta cheese.

-Optional, go hog-wild and slice an avocado in half and cube half of it onto the salad, put the other half in a ziploc for tomorrow night’s salad.

Mix it all together with tongs and be sure to distribute the dressing all around and you have salad. It takes so very little time to make, this is what I eat most nights to be sure I’ve gotten veggies in for the day.

Bulking Up Existing Recipes

Another way to eat more veggies is to add them to your main meal or entree in an existing recipe. If you’re having pasta, it’s super easy to chop up some extra veggies and add them to your sauce, or go primavera and just have a bunch of veggies roasted in oil on top of your spaghetti. Adjust your proportions so you’re actually eating more veggies than pasta and that’s a very healthy and filling meal!

If you’re making soup (either from scratch or a can) adding extra veggies is a great idea. Veggie soup can also be tasty on it’s own with the right spicing, and if you take your immersion blender and smooth it out you’ll be surprised by how tasty and luxurious that can be.

Any kind of casserole, pasta dish, or soup, in my opinion, can be bulked up (as well as reducing the caloric density) by adding vegetables.

Finding New Recipes

Consider making a veggie-based main. I’ve invested in a couple of vegetarian cookbooks, not because I’m vegetarian, but because I need to eat a lot of veggies, and they have great ideas for entrees based on veggies. In fact, I’m happy to forego meat at any meal when I find a tasty veg-based recipe. One of my favorites is stuffed eggplants, which I never would have thought of on my own – I found it in a book on vegetarian dishes of the world. There’s lots of them out there and they have new, interesting recipes you might not have considered before.

In Restaurants

Most restaurants will allow you to substitute some sort of cooked veggies for the starch that normally comes with your meal – mashed potatoes, fries, rice, whatever it is, you can probably get veggies instead. Do that. (Be careful of restaurant salads though – they often come covered in nuts, cheese, croutons, and dried fruits, and may total out calorically higher than things like hamburgers or tacos if you’re not careful!)

Check out vegetarian entree options, too. Often times these can be deep fried or otherwise bathed in cheese, oil, or cream, and might be something you should avoid, but sometimes you find something surprising and delightful. I’ve gotten beautiful towers of perfectly roasted veggies with surprising sauces just by perusing the vegetarian options first.

So those are the ways I can think of to eat more veggies. How do you get more veggies into your diet? Tell me in the comments!

Limiting Damage from Dysfunctional Coping Mechanisms

If you’re like me you might have been indulging in some dysfunctional coping mechanisms that last few weeks. You know what I’m talking about, right? Eating, drinking, impulse buying, avoiding exercise…

Well, those are mine. The bad news is that with the holidays fully upon us the emotional situations that bring on the need to cope are likely to only intensify. Your family is not going to stop arguing about the current US political situation just because it’s December and the Christmas spirit should dominate. They’re going to get worse, and we’re going to want to hide in a cave, eat chocolate candy, and buy sparkly things on Amazon while sipping a fruity cocktail and blasting the new Metallica album in our earbuds.

Or maybe that’s just me.

This post isn’t about changing all that and causing you to suddenly switch to a perfect food and exercise program this week. It’s about limiting the damage, because sometimes that’s the best we can do. So I’m only going to talk about limiting the damage, focusing on the dysfunctional coping mechanisms I myself am familiar with (for example, if smoking is your problem I have no idea how that feels so I wouldn’t even try to offer any suggestions but check out WebMD, maybe something they have is useful).

Eating Too Much

Yep, big one. Mine and everyone else’s. Eating releases dopamine. In short – eating comforts mammals. Evolutionarily, that’s an advantage. Real-world modern today, not so much. My best advice is to swap out the less-supportive foods you might want to binge on, with something that will do less damage. Remember, this article is just about limiting the damage. So, if your go-to is chips, switch to popcorn. Try some Skinny Pop, it’s tasty and only about 40 calories per cup. You can eat a LOT of it without causing too much damage. Or make some popcorn at home, light on the butter and salt.

If sweet is your thing, go to your grocery store and grab a bag or two of grapes, green or red or black, doesn’t matter. Wash those up and eat the whole bag if you want. Same thing with baby carrots. We can all admit that we’re not eating for the gourmet experience right now, we’re shoveling food in because it feels good, so look for foods you can eat in bulk with good texture: Broccoli spears, carrots, grapes, berries, slice up some apples. Honestly, if you just need to be putting something in your mouth, you can eat all the fruits and veggies you want without causing too much damage.

And dump some of the junk. If it’s not around you can’t use it/eat it.

Drinking Too Much

First of all, I’m not going to tell you to stop drinking. I’m not your mom, and this ain’t AA. If drinking a bit too much is what you need to do to get by for a while, let’s just limit the damage and sort out the rest later.

Light beer. Ugh, I know, it’s not as awesome as Guinness or local craft brews. But let’s be honest, are you really drinking for the nuanced flavor profile and deep complexity, or are you drinking because things look shitty and you need a little fuzziness around the edges to cope? If you’re drinking to cope, make it something less damaging. If beer is your thing, pick up some light beer, just to get through for a while.

Wine. It’s gonna be a better option than sugary cocktails, hands down. Dryer varieties have fewer calories, so skip the dessert wines (again, we’re not drinking for the flavor, let’s all admit it).

On the Rocks. Get right down to business. A shot of vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, or whatever your spirit may be, is going to have about 65 calories per serving (shot). If taking the edge off is what’s important, have a straight up shot or two and call it good.

Mixers. Stick to low-cal mixers like diet soda or diet tonic, light cranberry juice, light juices in general (they exist, you just have to know to look for them), lemon or lime juice, or club soda.

Dilute. I’ve been adding water to my wine to reduce the caloric load and also slow myself down. It’s perfectly legitimate to dilute your drink with sparkling water or club soda. It’s also helped me avoid several headaches.

Water round. Drink non-alcoholic beverages every other time. Get yourself some flavored sparkling waters so you can feel fancy while you’re doing it. This will also help you to avoid hangovers so that you can continue to be a productive member of what’s left of society.

Shopping/Impulse Buying

I’ve been buying too much stuff – it’s so easy when you can stay home in your sweats and bring the world to your doorstep. Again – I’m suggesting ways to limit the damage.

Coupons. Check out Honey, a browser extension that scours the internet, then automatically applies the best coupon code at checkout wherever you are shopping. It’s not going to stop you from shopping, but it will apply discounts to limit the damage to your bank account.

Try Pinterest. The thing about Pinterest is that you can curate your own little world of things you like without actually purchasing them. You still have them, there, in your virtual world, if you want to look at them. I’m not sure how useful this would be, but it’s worth a shot.

Return policies. Most companies allow you to return stuff once you’ve received it. If you find yourself drowning in things you’ve bought recently and maybe shouldn’t have, it’s not too late once you’ve received it, although you may take a hit on the postage.

Donate. You can set the amount (make it something you can afford), and you still get the high of shopping for something and purchasing it.

Delay. I’ve got tons of shopping carts floating out there on the internet with things I put in and then waited a day to see if I really wanted them. I like putting stuff in online shopping carts. It feels like buying! It’s fun! Look at all this pretty stuff! And then I wait a day to see if I really, really want the thing more than I want money. Usually not.

Not Exercising

It’s weird that not exercising is a coping mechanism, but it can feel really pointless to expend the energy to improve our bodies when it seems like everything is going to hell in a handbasket. And of course, that’s when it will often do the most good. I personally have been having trouble mustering the energy to do the kinds of workouts I know I should be doing right now – HIIT, strength training, metabolic conditioning. Those are hard workouts that seem like so much effort.  So what I’ve been doing is pulling up my favorite trainer’s YouTube channel and just browsing until something that seems doable comes up. Right now punching things seems good, so I’ve been doing kickboxing workouts almost exclusively the last week. Punching feels good right now, especially when I envision certain faces in front of my fist. Cathartic.

Maybe what you need right now is some yoga, to center yourself and focus on breathing for a bit.

Maybe what you need is to go for a walk and get some sunshine. Maybe you don’t have any equipment but moving your body sounds like a good idea. Maybe burning really hard is how you need to clear your head.

And hey – feel free to zombie-walk your way through a workout. Nothing says you can’t just do the parts you like. Nothing says you have to be enthusiastic. Sometimes I start a video thinking, “Eh, I’m not feeling it, but I’ll humor her and if it gets too much I’ll just half-ass it.” And I do. But sometimes I start to enjoy the feeling of moving and I build some enthusiasm as I go.

In Conclusion…

You don’t have to start a diet and exercise program right now, dear lord no you don’t! But you can limit the damage of some of the dysfunctional coping mechanisms you may be indulging in, until you’re ready to take more drastic measures. So here I am, in the same boat, doing my best to limit the damage along with you. I don’t think anything here is rocket science, I think that sometimes it helps to have a list of things presented, though, so you can pick one or two to focus on. Feel free to just pick one or two. It’s enough.

Also, a Facebook break does wonders for the mind. Give it some thought. A day or a few days can really help with the sense of helplessness and catastrophe some of us are feeling.

That Inking Feeling, Part 2: Completed

MariaSince I’m posting again (I guess?), I went back to review my last few posts and realized I left you all hanging. I never posted a pic of the thigh piece I was getting this summer/fall. I mentioned it in my post about my difficult relationship with my thighs, and how much the ink helped me to mend that, in early August, but now that it’s done I thought I’d share the final product.

I do still intend to get the other one done, but I haven’t thought of a compelling idea, theme, or image yet. Having art that I love there helps a lot to counteract some of my negative feelings toward a part of my body that feels like it’s always been at war with me.

Anyway, her name is Maria.

Aging Skin Does Weird Stuff

I feel like I start every other post with, “Gosh it’s been a long time since my last post.” Sorry, I’ve been battling mental rebellions over this whole “needing to be vigilant every day” thing that my life is.

Since my last post I’ve done the thing I said I was doing – eating sensibly, not starving myself, exercising for about an hour 5-6 days a week, not getting on the scale. But then a couple of weeks ago something happened that really rattled me. I noticed a new angry red stretch mark on my belly just above my belt lipectomy scar. Then a few days after that I noticed a bunch more on my abdomen above and to the left of my belly button (I have some old white ones there already from when I was ~400 pounds). Then a couple of days ago I noticed some on the other side that mirrored those ones above my belly button.

I freaked out. I worried that my negligence of the scale meant that my weight had somehow ballooned up without me realizing it into previously unknown highs, so high I was getting new stretch marks. That didn’t even make any sense! I’ve been 400 pounds in my life, when I had the belt lipectomy they didn’t take any skin in a vertical direction, only horizontal, so there should be plenty of space there. I couldn’t have gained THAT much! I’m certainly not getting any taller!

I told my husband about the situation, and he said, quietly and meekly (because he knows what a minefield this topic can be for everyone), “You look the same to me, I don’t think you’ve gained a bunch of weight, sweetie.” And then he said even more quietly, “Maybe all those twisting, stretching core workouts you do are causing them, maybe you need more room for all of the badass ab moves you are doing?”

There was nothing for it but to get on the scale this morning. I braced myself for the worst, but I did not find that the worst had happened. I weigh exactly what I always do when I am not starving myself or otherwise trying to lose weight to attain the mystical goal weight in my brain. I weigh the normal, maintenance, enjoying-my-life-while-still-being-careful weight I always revert to between diet programs. The weight I should probably just get used to and accept. That weight.

So what the hell, body?

The only thing I can guess is it’s a combination of what my brilliant husband said, and my aging skin. It’s been drier than usual lately, noticeably so. And I do really work my core with my workouts – many of them incorporate Pilates and yoga moves that twist, stretch, and otherwise pull at my midsection. That’s the best I can guess. Pass the cocoa butter, please?

Summer Maintaining Update

I’ve been maintaining since early July, that was when I stopped going to HMR Phase 2 classes (I’d bought a series of 12 for a skills tune-up), and things are going really well. I’ve gone back to my old system where I don’t weigh myself every day because it messes with my head, and instead I focus on doing the things I know I need to do, which are:

Feelin' fly on Saturday night!

Feelin’ fly on Saturday night!

  • Exercise for about an hour, 5-6 days a week.
  • Eat in a maintenance mode pattern every day/as much as humanly possible.
  • Allow occasional indulgences and enjoy them.

So far it’s working very well. Bullet point 2 above is really the key – I eat a very predictable pattern of foods which is easy for me to fall back upon just about every day. If I indulge myself some evening at a party or restaurant, I’m back on track the next morning because I have an easy, repeatable pattern for food that is simpler to follow than not.

I know that I’m maintaining because my measurements haven’t changed, and my clothes still fit the same. I went out for a friend’s birthday dinner Saturday night and felt pretty damned good about myself and my body for a few hours, then realized that those moments are becoming more of the norm than the exception. If what I’m doing is causing me to finally find some body love and quiet the berating voices in my head, I call that success.

I’ve spent the summer in an unsettled state regarding my job, but clarity is coming soon and I should have that settled within the next few days. That will be a relief and potentially a whole new set of challenges and pressure in my life. But in a good way.