More Numeric Ruminations

Last week Trystan commented here that despite the number on the scale, I still do a healthy lifestyle better than almost anyone. I am hugely proud to hear that, but also it reminded me that people don’t just come here because I’m specifically keeping off 200 pounds (because I’m not), but for other reasons and living a healthy lifestyle may very well be one of them.

So, today I’m going to ramble about last week’s numbers. Last week I burned 3,780 calories in exercise. That’s well above the 2000/week recommended by a lot of programs – almost double, in fact. All that, and I even took Saturday as a rest day! How did I get there? Well, I could break it down and tell you that represents 305 minutes of activity (a little over 5 hours) that week. That’s an average of 12 calories burned per minute, but I don’t exercise in averages. A majority of my exercise was at a high intensity (running, kickboxing), which using my ballpark calculations I estimate at 14 calories/minute. The rest of it was at moderate or medium intensity (walking, yoga, weightlifting), which I ballpark at 8 calories a minute. These numbers are based on my weight and change when my weight does – when I weigh less I burn less per minute, when I weigh more I burn more. Most days I do 40-60 minutes of exercise.

I also did a great job last week at journaling my food intake (except Saturday which was unusual). I saw a steady downward motion on the scale – started at 224.5 on Monday morning and by Sunday morning I was at 221.5, excellent progress.

Yesterday I went for a long, hard run. I didn’t have anywhere to be, and the usual symphony of bodily complaints was at a mere whisper, so I decided to go for it. Not my longest route, but a portion of it which was 5.5 miles and included a serious hill in the middle. It is a steep, high hill and I don’t attempt it very often because it is HARD. But when I do attempt it I have only a single goal – to not drop into a walk on the way up it. That’s it. That’s the only thing I want to accomplish on that run. On Sunday I powered through and made it up the hill, then back down again. By the end my legs were burning pretty hard – not only a longer run than I have done all year, but a seriously strenuous section in the middle. That run took me about 90 minutes, and burned ~1260 calories. I took a long nap after that run. Yesterday I consumed approximately 1600 calories all day. Pretty good in/out ratio there!

So naturally, as you can imagine, I woke up this morning to the highest weight I have seen in years – 225. That’s right, running  shoots my weight up. Always. Running harder than usual will spike it higher than usual. That’s just how it goes. Maybe not for everyone, but always and without fail for me. At this point I’m just looking at the numbers out of objective, scientific curiosity. “Oh, huh, that’s a surprising number to see after yesterday. Wow. Body, you never fail to confound me.”

I started reading a new book I bought on Rianh’s recommendation last week, The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. I’m about halfway through, so nobody spoil the ending for me (the butler did it, right? It’s always the butler!), but so far it makes a lot of sense and I am hoping there will be a “how to do this” section in the back, because I will probably want to give his ideas a try. What do I have to lose, other than all this fabulous and exciting fat?! I’ll keep you posted as I go.

Math is Hard!

Ha! Just kidding, math isn’t hard. It’s logical and follows basic rules of operation. What is apparently hard is tracking days. I weighed myself Wednesday thinking it had been a week because 5 days back at work feels like a week on vacation I guess! And I found I’d only lost a pound and I railed and moaned because I was hoping for more. But reading back, I didn’t start out by weighing in last Wednesday (how could I? I woke up in an airplane over Cuba), I started weighing in on Friday.

So fine. I weighed in this morning. Down a pound and a half. That’s much better. I credit it to two things: 1) yesterday I finally felt up to my usual 3-mile run again after shaking that cold I had, and 2) Thursday night is my usual “cheat” meal, because I have dinner with some friends on Thursdays and relax my rules a little bit and also have wine. Actually the second one probably has more to do with why I didn’t drop more, but it’s a good mental health activity so I’ve refused to give it up.

This morning’s exercise was Jillian’s HardBody DVD, which is one of the harder workouts I do. I still have the occasional tickle in my throat and coughing fit, but I consider myself well enough to push hard. It’s better for me to work hard, it will clear out the dregs of the sickness better than anything else I know.

Speaking of Biggest Loser trainers (was I?  I guess I was), I’m sure you  heard about Bob Harper having a heart attack while working out. He’s ok, but in general it’s kind of a reminder that all the exercise in the world can’t really overcome genetics. Although, being in top physical shape probably had a lot to do with him actually surviving that rather than just dying on the spot (I am not a doctor so I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about and just made that up with zero evidence or knowledge to support it, just thought it sounded good but seriously this freaks me out that you can do everything right and still almost die if your heart just decides it can’t even).

Have a good weekend everyone. Remember to track your food choices, keep your portions reasonable, and work your body a bit every day.

Grudgingly

I got on the scale today to see how I’m doing getting those 5 vacation pounds off. First it flashed the same exact weight as last week, then it grudgingly flashed its final answer: Down a pound.

Damn. I expected two or three, because that’s what a normal result would be. I drastically changed my eating and cleaned it up – no cheats or treats this week. I drastically increased my exercise (from zero to daily, but not all they way back up to pre-vacation levels due to the cold I also got on vacation). All that for a measly, grudging pound.

I guess my previous goal of losing those vacation pounds in two weeks needs to be revised. It looks like I’ll be lucky to lose them in 5 weeks.

In case you were wondering, this is what a broken metabolism looks like. I have no doubt that my lifetime of dieting, then gaining, then dropping again have completely fucked my metabolism and now dropping anything at all is going to be a grand struggle. But, as always, what other choice do I have but to keep shoving that boulder up this mountain? I guess simultaneously work on loving and accepting my body as it is now. As it has become through all these years of trying to figure out how to keep and maintain it.

I know less now than I ever have. Don’t ask me for weight loss advice, it’s clear I don’t know shit, and what I’ve done not only hasn’t worked long-term, but has screwed things up beyond repair.

Vacation Detox: Phantom Hunger

Continuing to re-acquaint my body with healthy habits. What I mean by “vacation detox” is that my body grew accustomed to certain things – too much food, too little activity – and now I’m having to readjust.

The first thing I noticed is that I’ve had several “hungry days” in a row now. Hungry days are those days where no matter what you eat, or how much, your body won’t stop sending you the hungry signals – phantom hunger. I know they’re false, but they’re still there. I think they happen because my body gets used to me eating much more than I need, more often than I need, and when I revert back to my regular, healthy patterns it takes some time to convince my body I mean it and I’m not going to feed it cookies or pastries (or cocktails, if I’m being honest) just because it claims hunger. I have a couple of tried-and-true methods for dealing with those signals.

-The best one is a hot beverage. Hot tea, usually, will make my stomach settle down and stop sending the hungry pangs for a while. The weird thing about the pangs is I can get them right after I’ve eaten on a really bad day. The messaging gets completely screwed up by too many days of overeating and I know it, so I have to find ways to distract myself or short-circuit the network.

-Another strategy is to eat, but eat something supportive. A piece of fruit, or a hard-boiled egg usually fit the bill, if it’s been a reasonable amount of time since I last ate.

-Exercise can sometimes do it, a hard workout will often suppress my appetite. This one’s tricky, though, as it can also sometimes backfire and leave me MORE hungry. Also hard to do when I’ve been getting through a cold.

-Worst strategy, but often used: Just gut it out. Accept that my body is telling me it’s starving but I know it’s not, and read a book or do something distracting, and drink a lot of water.

Today’s workout was 30 minutes of quiet cardio. A hard workout despite the name, and my weakened state made it seem that much harder. (Bane of my existence: Chair pose. Why, yoga? It looks so simple but it kills me!) My cold has been receding nicely, much less hacking today. I’m optimistic that I will be able to go for a run tomorrow morning. A short one, of course, I don’t want to push it too much but I need to get back in the swing of it.

I’d definitely be open to hearing your tricks for dealing with phantom hunger. Does anybody else have this issue, and how do you suppress it?

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Your daily penguins

 

Take 5! Or more if you like

That’s how many pounds I gained on my vacation. Five. It’s not huge, but it’s not nothing and it needs to be dealt with. While I’m at it, I’m going to look into making some further changes to my lifestyle to maybe drop a few more. The weight I’ve been maintaining over the last year or so is ok, but I’m not happy with what I saw in the photos from this trip, and it’s not five pounds that does that.

But start with five.

I’m still hacking up phlegm regularly, so vigorous exercise this morning wasn’t in the cards. I did 30 minutes of yoga, though, just to get my body moving and back on track (although it was obvious I wasn’t yet at 100% when I was doing it). Yesterday I went to the grocery store and stocked up on healthy food – fruits and veggies, mostly. I was very pleased with two of my purchases, the big and small end of the citrus spectrum:

  • Sumos – Have you seen these guys? Sometimes you have to look for them, but I get them at my local Safeway. My friend Sandy turned me on to them last winter. They’re like giant clementines, sweet, seedless, and easy to peel, but big and filling, too! They’re my favorite form of citrus right now. Normal oranges can kick around in my fruit bowl for weeks not getting eaten, but sumos are the first thing I grab when I’m hungry. So delicious!
  • Kumquats – Not for everyone, but I love them! Sweet then tart, they’re like little candies to me. You roll them between your palms with a little pressure a few times, then pop ’em in your mouth, peel and all. I just found this tutorial for how to make them sweeter when you eat them, and I’m going to try that next. I ate several last night after dinner for dessert.

I’m hoping that I can drop these pesky vacation pounds in two weeks. That seems reasonable, right? It took two weeks to put them on, so two weeks to get them off? Right?!

Just FYI, that logic isn’t actually correct. There’s a hard limit to how much you can lose in a week due to physics, but there’s absolutely no limit to how much weight you can gain in a week. The sky’s the limit there (thanks, Universe)! I still think two weeks to get them off is reasonable though. Will let you know how it goes.

Also I’m gonna keep posting some of my favorite pics from Antarctica. Who doesn’t like penguins??

Benefits of Exercise That Aren’t Weight Loss

This morning as I prepared to head out for my run I started thinking about how every few months friends of mine discover exercise and put on a large show of posting every day about how hard they’re exercising and how far they have to go to their goal – be it weight loss, a certain distance run or biked or rowed, or something else. They charge hard for a few weeks or months and then I never hear about it again, until the next time they rediscover exercise.

Meanwhile I’ve been back here quietly exercising every day all along. There’s not much excitement or glory in it so I almost never post on social media about my workouts. How boring would that be? “Did my workout again today, just like yesterday and the day before and the day before.” And yet what I’m doing is what I hear people say they’d like to emulate – getting regular exercise. Why is it so hard to maintain year after year?

One of my theories is that people focus too hard on the weight-loss benefits of exercise, and that is not sustainable. There are basically two ways it can go when your only reason for exercising is weight loss:

  1. You reach your goal, and stop exercising. Not right away, of course, but over time skipping workouts seems fine because, hey, I reached my goal I should get to relax now! And that’s a slippery slope that leads to getting out of the habit and one day realizing you don’t exercise anymore and haven’t in months or years.
  2. Exercising doesn’t result in weight loss, so you give it up. If you started exercising, but didn’t change your diet, this is a very likely scenario. Losing weight is about 80% intake and maybe 20% exercise. If all you did was start running on the elliptical 20 minutes a day, but only lost 5 pounds before it stopped coming off, you’d probably stop bothering because it wasn’t giving you the results you were looking for.

In order to keep at it over time, one needs to come to an appreciation of the benefits of exercise apart from weight loss. That’s how I get my body out of bed on a Sunday and run 4 miles even when I don’t particularly want to. I’m long past exercising to lose weight – at my age I’m exercising to keep my weight stable and for the other benefits, such as:

My own personal top reason is pain management – my body hurts less when I exercise regularly. I consider exercise to be my regular talisman against the aches and pains of aging. Like brushing my teeth morning and night, it’s just something I need to get done so I can get on with my day. The other benefits are a nice bonus. What are your reasons for exercising?

Brain Games

I’ve noticed something interesting going on in my brain. It has to do with the scale. You guys know I have a fraught relationship with the scale. I try to get on it as little as possible. In fact, I haven’t been on it since November. I am trying to learn to maintain and manage my weight by eating healthy and exercising. I don’t want to spend my whole life on a perpetual cycle of weight gain followed by fast loss through a program. I want to eat naturally, not shakes and pre-packaged foods I buy from a weight-loss system.

What’s weird is that I’ve been doing this since 2003, and I still feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I still feel like I have no idea how to lose weight. I have lots of friends who know exactly what you should do to lose weight and will happily expound at length on The Answer for Weight Loss. It is, of course, whatever worked for them. The further I get with this whole thing the less I know for sure.

Anyway, the brain thing.

I try not to weigh myself too often, usually because I just can’t bear it. I don’t want to be on the constant merry-go-round of hope, fear, disappointment, elation…it’s too much. Just too much. I just want to live a quiet, maintained life with my weight. So I do my exercise – 40-60 minutes of vigorous, breathing-hard, sweating, red-faced, hard exercise 5-6 days a week. And I watch my intake – lots of fruits and veggies, portions that aren’t too big, the occasional indulgence (but not too much). And I don’t get on the scale until my brain freaks out.

That’s what happens. I go for a few months and then my brain freaks out and convinces me that I’m DOING IT ALL WRONG and I’m clearly enjoying food too much, my eating is out of control, I must have gained tons of weight enjoying myself and I AM A FAILURE. My brain completely freaks out. I get depressed because I suck at this and I’m gaining weight and failing and all my exercise is for nothing because I must have gained 10 pounds since the last time I got on the scale.

And my brain starts making me notice things I hadn’t before, which are a sure sign that I’ve gained a ton of weight. Suddenly my hips are present to me in a way they weren’t before. My belly looks bloated. My legs feel sluggish and large. Clearly I’ve failed and am gaining weight and I need to get control of all this before I’m back up to my highest weight ever. I moan about how bad I’ve been and  how much weight I must have gained and, always, my husband says, “You look the same to me. Are you sure you’ve gained weight, or are you just guessing?”

Darling. I’m just guessing. I can’t face the scale so I don’t, I just guess that things are bad because my brain is telling me I’m a failure.

So after a few days or weeks of this I decide it’s time to Take Things In Hand. I need to get on the scale, get a handle on just how bad things have become, and start working on losing whatever huge amount of weight I’ve gained since I’ve been enjoying food and out of control. So this morning, after weeks of my brain convincing me I’d gained 10-20 pounds over the holidays I gave up and got on the scale so I could quantify the problem in order to begin working on it.

Up a half pound since the last time I weighed in November. That’s within regular fluctuation range. I am maintaining, my weight is extremely stable. Everything is going fine, I haven’t gained anything over the holidays, my system is working. It’s my brain that’s disordered.

I need a better system for brain management.