No Secret Solution

I talked to my primary care doctor last night, I wanted to check and make sure there wasn’t some super secret doctor trick she knew for when you’ve wrecked your metabolism like I have. Here are the things she knows about which we discussed:

  • Weight loss pills. We both agreed they would be totally pointless. You take those pills, you maybe lose a few pounds, then you stop taking them and it comes right back. I’m not looking for a short term fix, I’m looking for a long-term way to live in my body.
  • Surgery. I’m not looking for a short-term fix, and most people who have the surgery lose weight then gain it back after some time (just like most people who use any other method). The surgery won’t fix anything you don’t change in your lifestyle, so in the end it’s simply an aid (for some) to kickstart a healthier lifestyle. I’m already kicking ass on a healthier lifestyle. Pointless.
  • Classes. Going to a “healthier lifestyle” class is pointless for me. I could teach the class. I should be teaching the class. Some 24-year old recent nutrition program graduate who lost 20 pounds and discovered the gospel of eating right and exercising last year isn’t going to have anything to teach me and might make me homicidal.
  • Life coaching. Ha. I’m already doing the things they’d coach me to do.

My doctor is great, but there’s really not much out there for people in my position. And there aren’t many of us, so it’s not like there are a lot of studies or literature on cracking this nut. I have exhausted the available science on the matter.

What to do? I don’t know. I guess I have to just keep moving forward and see where I land when my body stops adjusting up. Journaling, exercising, eating healthy. Yesterday I did 40 minutes of yoga/pilates. The day before I ran 3 miles. The day before that I did 35 minutes of kickboxing. The day before that I ran 3 miles. Whoopee. Go me. Today I’m thinking I’ll go for a walk in the sunshine later, we’re having very nice weather here right now.

Wednesday my husband and I tried out a new restaurant in our neighborhood – Mongolian Hot Pot. A++would healthily eat again. A pot of boiling broth, and meat and veggies you cook in it. It’s almost impossible to NOT eat healthy there. Lean meat (you can get scallops, shrimps, chicken…or red meat too) plus piles of veggies sounds pretty damned healthy to me. And tasty too. They have locations all over California, and a few other states. If it sounds good to you I’d totally recommend it for a healthy restaurant meal.

The Vacation Detox – This Time Take 10!

I’ve been following my program for eating right since I got back from Antarctica. I don’t really have a name for how I eat, it’s just, “I eat these things and don’t eat those things and my body feels good.” I don’t have a fancy term for it like, “clean eating” or “paleo” or “the zone” or “gluten free” or whatever the fad diet of the day is. I just eat the right amount of food, lots of fruits and veggies.

Did you all see the news that came out this week? It says that we should all be aiming for 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day, not five like previously recommended. I’m so down with this! When I’m eating right I’m usually averaging 7 or 8 servings of fruits and veggies per day, but I love having a stretch goal! Having an additive goal is even better (vs a subtractive goal like, “Don’t eat X” which can be demoralizing and counterproductive) so I’m going to aim for 10 fruits and veggies per day now. Of course, the online comments are infuriating. I actually saw some jackass comment on one of the articles that “If I ate that much fructose I’d feel horrible.” Listen, dickface, you can eat all your ten servings as veggies, it ain’t that hard to figure out. Willful ignorance drives me up a wall.

Considering how small the portions are for servings in this recommendation, I don’t think anybody should have trouble getting closer to ten servings if they make even a small effort. So…I’m going to make a small effort. This mainly means replacing anything not made of fruits or veggies or protein in my diet with fruits and veggies, or supplementing/boosting existing recipes with more veggies. Easy.

This morning I did a light workout. A “light” workout is not something I really have much experience with, because I tend to go all-out when I exercise, but I’m still reeling from the stupid cold I brought home from my trip. So I did some gentle yoga tailored for back pain. I don’t currently have back pain, but it’s something I’ve struggled with off and on my whole life so combining that with my light workout made sense. I still finished it thinking, “I could have worked harder.” But, that’s the point – I don’t want to overdo it while I’m still recovering. This morning my urge to fall into fits of coughing is noticeably reduced so I’m taking that as a good sign that the end of this cold may be in sight. It’s been a full week now, which seems entirely too long for a cold to linger.

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Southern elephant seals – continuing my Antarctica pictures!

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?

Results: I don’t even know what week now

I’ve lost track on this current push to lose 20 pounds. There were two weeks that I was on vacation that I’m not counting because I wasn’t tracking, then I think I’ve been back three or four weeks? The day after I got back I was up 3.2 pounds, the next week after that trip I was down 5, then the next week I was up 2.8, then this week I was down 3.4 pounds.

As I mentioned last week, things are kind of up in the air right now with big changes happening in my life, and last week was an absolute emotional roller coaster that still hasn’t coasted to a stop. I spent most of last week and the week before with a giant knot of stress and worry in my belly. I was not in the least surprised to be up 2.8 pounds last Monday due to the anxiety hormones my body was producing. I’ve heard anecdotally that stress makes the body hang onto water, or something. Plus my birthday was that week and I had some champagne and a cupcake.

Anyway, I think maybe I should stop tracking weeks and weekly change and just track total against my goal. So far I’m down 13.2 pounds – loss continues! My loss rate is slowing as I approach my goal, but also I’m not killing myself with calorie restriction and over-exercising, so I’m not expecting a fast loss. I now have 6.8 pounds to go to my goal. I don’t think I look any different, however my clothes fit again and that is win enough for me – that’s honestly the major thing I wanted out of this!

Looking back through my posts, I started the current push on March 25th, so it’s basically been three months or twelve weeks. That’s a pretty slow rate of loss, but who cares? For something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life, it’s more important that I find and establish a routine that I can stick to and that is adaptable to different situations – travel, weekends, holidays, regular ol’ workdays. When I set up a system that is flexible enough to stick with despite big changes and many different types of days, then all I need to do is live and my body will do what it is supposed to do, and be where I want it to be.

Yesterday I needed a quick workout because I didn’t have much time, and I found this Cardio Bootcamp Boogie workout from my favorite YouTube trainer – 25 minutes, can be done in very little space, and intense enough that my clothes were soaked through by the end. Check it out if you need a quick travel workout (or just some inspiration at home)!

Exercise Challenge Speedbump

I set myself a challenge to reach 5000 calories burned in exercise this week. Actually, the class I attend had a challenge for everyone to push themselves at physical activity. Since I’ve been hitting 4000 the last couple of weeks, I figured a stretch would be to aim for 5000. Then I did something that could have derailed me.

Tuesday morning I did the Straight Up Strength workout, because strong muscles are important. If you watch this video the deadlifts start about 16:20 and they’re paired with some rows using the heavier set of weights. I used 15 lbs. I hadn’t done deadlifts recently, and certainly not with 15s, but of course I did the full sets because I’m not a shirker! You maybe see my error. I woke up Wednesday morning and the back half of my legs were in agony. So sore! Much DOMS. Oh my glutes and hammies were shrieking. They settled down a bit as I got moving, but not a lot.

I was determined to get the run in that I’d planned for Wednesday though, since I googled about running when sore and it said it’s fine if you don’t plan to push distance or speed, and it doesn’t hurt more after the first mile. So I plotted a 3.5 mile distance instead of the 4.5 I’d hoped for and went anyway. I can’t say that was my best call, or that it felt nice, but it didn’t hurt more after the first mile. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about soreness, it’s that there’s virtually nothing I can do to make it run its course any faster than it will so I should get on with things despite it. But, I didn’t get the long run that I’d hoped to add to my numbers for my challenge this week.

Thursday morning I woke up just as sore as Wednesday if not more so (you know it’s bad when the sitting motion hurts so much you’d rather stand, and when  you do sit it hurts because you’re sitting on those muscles!), I went out for a walk to try to loosen things up, instead of the usual intense workout session I do in the mornings. It was ok, but yesterday was more sore than I’d like to be. I called it a rest day and my morning walk was all I did for physical activity. I even took a nap in the afternoon after work.

This morning I finally got my longer run, and it felt so good! There’s something about a rest day that really works. Everything felt good. Sometimes when you run it’s a slog and you spend the whole time looking forward to the end. And some days everything lines up and your body is ok with the running and you feel like you could keep on going forever. Today was one of those good days. I’m still a little sore in my legs from Tuesday, but only very mildly so.

Right now I’m up to 4050 calories burned this so far week (Monday through Sunday). I have 950 to go, which is easily doable as long as I stick to my usual habits this weekend. I’m on track to meet my goal!

 

Motivation and Willpower: Similar Problems

In class this week we talked about motivation, and how you find it, nurture it, and boost it. These are all great things, because often when people fall off the wagon it’s because motivation has waned, and considering that we’re all going to be doing this for the rest of our lives…there’s a long, long road ahead to stay motivated.

But I put motivation in the same category as willpower, by and large. It’s a variable emotional state that can come and go at random. The problem is, you have to be able to execute whether or not you’re feeling particularly motivated every day. Just like you have to be able to execute your plan whether or not your willpower is feeling strong.

The thing to do, then, is to set up structures – routines, habits, and environments – that will make it easier to default to “getting it done” than not. That’s when you really need the motivation – use motivation to set up the on-going situation that you’ll need to make success the default action.

Environmental control is one of the biggest factors in this quest. If you’ve set up your environment for success, then failing takes extra work (you’d have to be motivated to self-sabotage! Don’t do that!). If there’s nothing in my kitchen but supportive foods, I would have to make a special trip to the store or a restaurant to go off course. I’d have to stop and think about whether I really wanted to screw up all my hard work badly enough to make a special trip to do it. I never do, because I am essentially lazy.

Same thing with pre-packing supportive foods to go to an event like last weekend. All my food was right there, and I would have had to make a special effort – such as asking somebody else (who knows I’m on a diet!) for some of their food – to get off track.

This is also why my current exercise regimen is so perfect for me. It takes almost zero effort for me to go downstairs and do a DVD or YouTube workout at the time I have allotted in my calendar for my workout. I don’t have to leave the house, I just have to put on a sports bra, shorts, and shoes. If I wanted to NOT do it I’d have to sit there staring at my calendar reminder and think up reasons for not doing it. Then I’d have to justify if those pathetically lame excuses are really worth screwing up my hard work so far. Almost never do they meet that bar. And since there’s such a wide variety of options out there on the web, if I’m feeling low-energy, I can always just pick something that matches my mood, while still getting in my exercise.

Pretty much none of this auto-pilot stuff requires motivation on my part. What it requires, mostly, is an understanding of how my own brain works, and how to use that to catch myself in a web of good habits and practices. Once those are set up, it practically runs itself.

I’m not saying you should set up a routine just like mine, I’m saying a good routine for you should do the thing for you that mine does – makes it easy to succeed.