Accidental Run

I ran 5.5 miles yesterday, which is about 2 more than I’ve run in a long time. I’ve really kind of dialed it back on the distance recently, I can’t even remember the last time I ran more than 3.5 miles – definitely more than 6 months ago, maybe longer.

Anyway, I got out there and didn’t actually think I was going to go more than about 3 and then I picked a route that I wasn’t all that familiar with, and there wasn’t a convenient spot to turn, and by the point I realized my error I figured, what the hell, let’s do this.

My legs are a little sore, but not too bad. My sweet husband rubbed them for me this morning all unbidden. It was sweet and wonderful and helped a lot and no, I’m never giving him up and no he doesn’t have a twin brother.

I’m thinking I’d like to get back to longer distances again. For me that means being able to rip off a 6 mile run once or twice a week. Six miles is about the point where I get bored and want to be doing something else, which is why I never did a half or full marathon. I don’t love running THAT much. Just enough to keep me fit and healthy.


Eat This Much (dot com)

I was googling around this afternoon based on a question that John asked (OMG how much do I love getting questions from readers??? THIS MUCH!). He wanted to know if I knew of any apps that allow you to plan what you’re going to eat then check it off, basically, as you go through the day. This is something I’ve always done with a pen and paper, but it really seems like something that would be ripe for an app, you know?

Well, I didn’t find anything exactly like that, but in the process of looking I found – check it out! You put in how many calories you want to eat for the day (based on your height/weight/activity level), in how many meals, and then what general type of food plan you’d like to follow (anything/atkins/paleo/vegetarian/Mediterranean). Hit “Generate” and it generates a recommended menu for your day! How cool is that?!

Also, if you create a free account they allow you to customize the type of food plan you’d like to follow, and also what foods you like/don’t like to have on your menu. I got a decent plan with several of the food plan options – although I wasn’t impressed with the “anything” type plan, others looked pretty reasonable, like vegetarian or the paleo menus. And lots of the variables are editable with a free account.

So…check it out if you’re into that sort of thing!

Getting Back to Exercise After Illness

Another reader question! Nicole says, Hey! I can’t remember if you’ve covered this or not, but any tips for exercise while recovering from illness?

Great question and very topical – if you haven’t had a cold yet this winter, you probably will soon. (Sorry!)

Ok, disclaimer first: I am not a doctor, I am not a trainer, I am not a nutritionist, I am just an enthusiastic amateur, BUT, since I’ve been exercising regularly for 12+ years now, I have recovered from illness to start exercising again many times (and googled this same question myself a few times in my past as well), here’s what I’ve learned…

First things first – make sure you’re over or mostly over your illness. If you had the flu or a cold, make sure that any fever is gone, you don’t have any of the obvious painful symptoms like headache or a nasty cough, and you don’t feel faint or lightheaded when you stand up. Bottom line: Do not attempt to exercise until your fever, fatigue, and body aches are gone!

Most experts online seem to agree that if your symptoms are “above the neck” you’re good to go. If your symptoms are “below the neck” you probably ought to rest up a little longer. So a runny nose, slight sore throat, sneezing, or sniffles shouldn’t stop you.

Once you feel up to it, get on out there but take some precautions:

  • Take it easy. This one is pretty obvious. The first time back from having the flu or a nasty cold, you’ve got to take it down a notch or two. Reduce the intensity and length of your exercise from what you would normally do.
  • Don’t push it! If you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, stop. Let your body be your guide.
  • Drink lots of water/stay hydrated.

Light exercise is good for the immune system, but heavy, vigorous exercise can have the opposite effect and lead to a relapse, so focus on getting moving, not building muscle or increasing your distance your first time or two out after an illness.

And, obviously, this is all variable based on what kind of illness you are getting over. If you have something other than a common cold or the flu, check with your doctor about what is appropriate for your situation.

Any doctors or other professionals want to weigh in down in the comments? I’d welcome your input!

The Scourge of Decision-Making

If you’re looking to manage your weight, to maintain or even lose a few pounds, one of the very effective tools you can use is to reduce the number of decisions you have to make. This is because decisions you make when you are hungry are likely to be bad, and as the decisions you make each day pile up the quality of the decisions you make deteriorates.

The best way to ensure you don’t make bad decisions is to have a plan for the day. It’s easy to make a plan and it doesn’t take long. If you practice it a few times you’ll find it can improve your day, not just in what you eat but in fewer distractions.

For example, I just went downstairs for my mid-morning snack. If I hadn’t made a plan I would have opened the fridge, perused the food I had available, looked through all the cabinets to see what I had, and either made or just grabbed something at random, likely the thing that seemed tastiest (but possibly not the healthiest or supportive choice).

Since I had a plan I went downstairs, grabbed a pear from the fruit bowl, and ate it. Then back to work. Saved me both time and calories.

So make a plan. First, take a sheet of paper (or open an excel spreadsheet), and create a row for each time you normally eat during the day. For example, I eat every couple of hours, so mine looks like:

  • Breakfast
  • Snack
  • Lunch
  • Snack
  • Dinner
  • Snack

Of course, yours may look different, there’s growing evidence that eating small meals more often is not necessary for weight loss. It’s all about what works for you, so if you prefer 3 larger meals, that’s fine.

Then, next to each entry write down what you intend to eat for each meal. The great thing here is you can even count up your calories (or whatever counts for you – protein, carbs, etc) in advance to know you’ve made a good plan! Knowing what you have on hand and where you’ll be for each meal will help. This also gives you a chance to think about what your options are if you are out of the house – are you going to be eating at a restaurant? Will you be in transit? Do you need to take something along with you to meet your goals and reduce temptations?

If you’re going to be eating at a restaurant or in transit, it’s a great time to look up the menu online and see what the options are for healthier choices. Heck – sometimes I stalk a menu beforehand and decide hours or days before I get there what I will order. It’s easier to make the healthier choice when you’re not hungry!

This can take mere minutes, and gives you a blueprint for success all day long. Give it a try, and let me know how it went! If you find that it helped you stay on track, consider adopting a couple of templates that you can use every day. I have a couple standard plans for weekdays (which are usually pretty much the same) and a couple of different ones for weekends depending on my plans.

The Hot New Thing in Weight Management

What’s the hottest new trend in weight management? It’s finding something that works for you and sticking to it, day in and day out.

I realized this morning that I may have recently started writing articles that I’ve written before in the past, and I’m starting to sound like a broken record with my weight management tips. Ok, I’m going to give it to you straight: there’s nothing new in weight loss/weight management. Truly. There’s no pill, gadget, or program that’s going to work until you internalize that eating right and exercising regularly are going to have to be your new lifestyle.

Whatever framework helps you to get there is awesome, and is definitely the Hot Thing you should be doing.

I used to be an evangelist for HMR. I’d tried dozens of other methods to lose weight and HMR totally worked for me. And then, over the course of several years (during which I practiced the behaviors and skills I learned there and continued to maintain) I watched several of my friends sign up to HMR programs and have some initial success, and then gain it all back. Or not have much success. Because it was the silver bullet FOR ME. Not for them.

Over the years I’ve known people who have successfully used the growth hormone (HGH) diet to lose weight and keep it off. I know people who had gastric bypass surgery and kept it off, I know people who’ve done Atkins and are still at goal weight, people who lost on Weight Watchers and are still slim, people doing Paleo who are rocking it.

But I also know people who’ve failed at each of those methods (me included, for some of them). In fact, I probably know more people who’ve failed at each of these methods than have had success. Because it’s SO personal, what works for you is awesome, but before you wind yourself up to tell everyone you know that they HAVE to try your new regimen, remember that what works for you is what works for you. They’re all just different ways to achieve the same goal – eating healthier and exercising more. That’s pretty much the only thing in weight management that matters.

If you haven’t found that silver bullet yet, don’t despair. It’s out there. Don’t be afraid to try anything/everything til you find your Hot You Thing. Also, don’t be afraid to love yourself as you are – remember that’s always an option available to you. Possibly the best one.

Loving Fruit is Hard in Winter

Winter is a hard time for fruit lovers. Seems like it’s apples, bananas, and oranges for the next few months. It’s hard to be excited with such a limited palette, the same thing over and over every day starts to feel like drudgery.

Well…sort of. There is a little more variety out there if you look. Also, oranges are only a small portion of citrus fruits. Don’t forget:

  • Grapefruits
  • Clementines
  • Tangerines
  • Satsumas
  • Pomelos
  • Blood oranges
  • Lemons/limes

I love citrus because it comes in a handy, durable carrying case that you just peel off when you’re ready to eat. (downside: you have to wash your hands when you’re done. NBD) Although, for some reason, I can’t eat a grapefruit in any way except with a spoon after slicing it in half. It’s just not satisfying any other way for me! Also try out a pomelo sometime, it’s rumored to be like a grapefruit only sweeter and milder.

Apples have to be chosen carefully, but there are SO many varieties. Avoid the mushy nasty ones, like red or yellow delicious. Also the bitter ones like granny smith. I recommend honey crisp, fuji, or opal varieties. Jazz or pink lady can occasionally be nice too.

Pears have such a similarity to apples for me (round-ish, smooth, sweet, fruity!) that they hardly seem much different during the long winter months. However, you can do cool stuff with pears like making pear and parsnip soup! Pears come in a wide variety as well – here are 10 types of pears, maybe pick up a different variety every week and do a taste test.

Grapes are also supposed to be in season, and red, green and black varieties all have their own flavor. I avoid anything not specifically labelled as seedless – ain’t nobody got time for seeds! I like to grab a handful of grapes and munch them while I’m working.

And then there are the exotic fruits – pomegranates, kiwis, passion fruit, cranberries, persimmons (early winter only, sadly). Personally, kiwis taste like heaven to me. I will happily eat kiwis all year round – I slice them in half and eat each half with a spoon. Two or three in a row. Yum!

You may have to go out of your way and check out the 99 Ranch (if you’re in CA) or other specialist grocery, but winter is a good time for seeking out variety – what else you gonna do if you love fruit?

Get Baked! or – Reducing the Damage of Baked Goods

I’ve been pretty clear here that counting calories is how I manage my weight. I understand that many, many people have success with low-carb, paleo, and other non-counting methods. There are lots of blogs for those interests. This blog is about managing a large weight loss long-term and how I do it. So I’m not going to talk about things I don’t know and practice. I also know that many people are gluten free, or avoid flour, rice, potatoes, etc. I don’t. I also am aware that many people believe that artificial sweeteners are evil. I’ve weighed the evidence for and against them, and determined that obesity is a far greater immediate risk to my health than any of the potential nebulous risks of the various artificial sweeteners.

I put this caveat here because I want to get those out of the way before I talk about ways to make foods you may love a little easier on your waistline. Because eating fruits, veggies, and lean proteins is awesome, but sometimes at the end of the day you want a little treat, and dammit, you should be able to have one. When I’m craving something sweet, and it’s in the caloric budget for the day, I make the following substitutions:

  • 1 to 1 replacement of oil with apple sauce. This is great for baked goods. If you’re making something like waffles that requires up to a cup of vegetable oil, you can substitute applesauce and completely ameliorate the caloric hit you would have otherwise taken if you used oil.
  • 2 Egg whites for 1 whole egg. Yes, yes, egg yolks are full of excellent nutrients. But…also a lot of calories (about 70-90). Whereas egg whites are a huge hit of protein with virtually no calories (about 11). You can substitute 2 egg whites for a single egg in a recipe. Frequently if I am making a 3-egg omelette I’ll do one whole egg and 4 egg whites, dropping the calories by a third, but not missing out on those nutrients in the yolk.
  • Splenda for sugar. For baking or for coffee, I’d rather use the no-cal option. Splenda bakes just fine.

I use these techniques for all sorts of baked goods. You can see how a recipe that uses all of these things (cookies, maybe? or a cake) would have the caloric hit drastically reduced if you used all three options. True, you’re probably not going to win the county fair with these baked goods, but if you are simply looking for a little treat for yourself without breaking the bank, these are techniques that are worth a try.