Variety is the Spice of Life

Weight Loss Update:

Yes, even these started to look good.

Yes, even these started to look good.

I haven’t written about my weight loss in a while, so I thought I would spend a few moments getting caught up. Overall, things are going very, very well. I started at 171.5 on Jan. 15 and am down around 143 (the actual number fluctuates a bit, but I’m right in there.) I am looking forward to hitting the big 3-0, but I am not in a rush, either. Everything will happen at its own pace.

I say that because things have slowed down a lot. For awhile I could count on pretty consistent losses, but lately I have been fluttering back and forth with the same 2-3 pounds. I won’t lie, it is a little frustrating. My sister suggested that my body is finding its ideal weight, which makes sense to me. I’ve also been fairly rough on myself the last couple of months – a lot of travel, a lot of stress – those don’t help. Here’s the thing – while it would be fun to see what I look like under 140, I love the way I look now. If I don’t ever lose another pound, I am okay with that.

As for what I am doing – none of that has changed. I use My Fitness Pal to track calories. I shoot to hit a bit below the goal they give me, while making sure that it doesn’t yell at me for not eating enough. No food is off-limits, but I do concentrate on eating mostly plants and lean proteins.

Lately though, I have had to deal with cravings. I hear people talk about having cravings all the time, but until recently, they haven’t been a problem for me. Usually if I have a specific craving, I figure my body is telling me something – sometimes it is a needed nutrient, (Craving steak? Maybe I am low on iron.) and sometimes it is a symptom of something emotional. (Craving chocolate? How are the stress levels?) I normally just have a bit of whatever it is and the problem is solved. Typical cravings for me are: olives, chocolate, garlic, wine, steak, potatoes, cheese and sushi. What’s been happening lately is very different. Instead of honing in on something specific, I want, well, everything. My brain goes something like this:

I could go for a burrito right now. No, fried chicken, no… fried fish. Yep, fish. Or maybe a steak, or surf and turf, or you know, I could really just use a brownie. Actually, a latte with lots of caramel would do the trick, or maybe a malt. Ice cream. Or a smoothie, or maybe a hamburger with some French fries. Or chips and cheese. Or sushi. Chocolate chip cookie? Any of those would be good…

It’s like my brain is driving through America’s strip malls and going nuts! At first I blamed it on the travel – walking through an airport is kind of like walking through my mind right now, but it’s been more than a week since I have flown, so that doesn’t feel right. It was like what I was craving was… variety.

And laying in my bed, in the middle of the night, it hit me – that was exactly what was going on. While nothing is off limits, I didn’t have a lot of variety in the house. I cleared out the cupboards pretty good before my first business trip, and then cleaned them out yet again before the second. I’ve been back over a week, but I haven’t done a lot of shopping. I have food in the house, but there isn’t a lot of different foods. I grabbed a pen and a pad of paper and by flashlight, I made a list of all the things I was eating before I started traveling. It was quite a list. For example: I love having prepackaged cheese in the house. It makes a great snack. My favorite is the little Babybel cheeses, and I had a whole Costco sized pack of them, but before, I had Babybels, plus two different kinds of string cheese. I love apples and had some, but before I had oranges, Mineolas, strawberries, and grapefruits, plus lots of veggies like carrots and celery. I finally figured it out – I was just bored!

So, the next day, I went shopping. I stocked my cupboards and fridge with things I love plus I added a few new things to try. Having a whole stock of things to choose from did the trick – cravings are pretty much gone.

…well, I still want a burrito.

 

Photo credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge

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A Whole Bunch of Runs

Runs Six, Seven, Eight, Nine and Ten

I was traveling again last week, (it should be the last of that for a bit,) and I wanted to try to get some runs in before I left. So I ended up running on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before my trip. (April 13-15) That was a mistake.

Presently I do not carry a bag on a stick when I run, but I like the idea of it.

Presently I do not carry a bag on a stick when I run, but I like the idea of it.

The Saturday run went pretty well. I am still doing intervals and was super happy to be able to move from 3 min. run/ 2 min. walks up to my first 4 minute run. I was feeling pretty good when I headed out on Sunday… but it didn’t last. It was cold and rainy, windy and dreary and I just couldn’t “get into it.” I chalked it up to a bad day and didn’t worry about the fact I wasn’t able to push myself much. Then I went out on Monday.

Monday was bad. Really bad. I go for roughly 30 – 40 minutes, and it took about 10 of those before I realized what was going on. I was simply tired. There is a reason the fitness gurus tell you to run three times a week or every other day max. when you are starting out. Trying to run every day, as new as I am, was big fat mistake. On top of that – I was stressed because I had to get a bunch done before flying out-of-town. Once I figured out what was happening, I gave up and just power walked the rest. I still got in some exercise and it was a lot less frustrating.

So, I was gone for five days (more on that later) and got back late Friday night. Saturday I headed out again for Run Number Nine and it was… okay. I ran in the neighborhood, which is easy, but not as fun as running at a park. I was able to do a couple more 4 minute intervals, interspersed with 3s and 2s, but still, something wasn’t clicking.

Run Number Ten

Monday night. I admit, I have been a bit discouraged. There has been a lot of stress in my life lately and the weather has been terrible. Normally spring is in full swing this time of year, but things have been pretty dark and cold here in the Midwest, and it certainly hasn’t helped my mood any. However, Monday the weather was lovely. It was perfect running weather – sunny, but clear and crisp. The park was full of people – including a Boy Scout Troop picking up trash for Earth Day. I don’t like to run around people much, but it was too nice to not get out.

Before I left my car, I made a couple of decisions: First, I needed to get out of my head. I have been spending too much of my time up there. I decided to play music. I’ve read a lot of running advice about putting down the technology, and I get that. It’s what I have been trying to do, but I needed a distraction – a good one. I don’t have a lot of uptempo music on my phone, though. (I tend to like singer songwriters, but Leonard Cohen, as much as I love him, was not going to do it this time.) My Choice? Michael Franti and Spearhead. Perfect happy, sunshine, get moving music.

The other decision I made was to do 4 minute intervals – 4 walk/ 4 run.  This may not seem like such a big deal to you if you are a runner, but just 3 weeks ago the furthest I had run in well over a couple of decades was up my driveway with my dog. This was new.

And I did it! Mr. Franti and the band kept me pumping and I felt great. Then something awesome happened. A stranger in the park waved to me and asked. “Are you training for [big, locally well-known marathon]?” I am so far from marathon caliber that it made me laugh a bit, but it also made me feel great. I thanked him and told him that those folks are far better than I. Somehow though, it totally helped – and the last 4 minute interval, instead of doing 4 minutes, I did 8!! Woot!

My weight hasn’t changed much the last few weeks. I put some travel/stress weight on, then took most of it off, but not much more. It is okay though, I feel great, I have energy, and once again, I am looking forward to the next run.

Here’s what I was listening to:

Photo credit: Sam Howzit

Yes, it IS Cold in Here

cold in the office again

This is not me, but I understand your pain Lara604.

Skinny ladies, I apologize.

All those times you complained about being cold, I was one of the ones saying, “It isn’t cold in here!” I was also the one who secretly thought you should just put on a sweater, and behind your back, I said things like “What she really needs to do is eat a sandwich.” I said that a lot. I was wrong. I am so sorry. The truth is:

It really is cold in here.

You look great. The sandwich thing? That was the green eyed monster speaking.

Look, to be fair, when you are carrying extra weight, being hot is terrible. We sweat – and it shows. There is almost no relief when you are hot, especially in an office environment where the windows don’t open. I really was fine, and I really didn’t want the heat turned up.

But now, I know. I understand your pain. I am cold all. the. time. It doesn’t help that the only clothes I have that fit will be incredibly cute for spring, but spring is taking its slow sweet time here in the midwest. I don’t own any sweaters that are in my size, and since I don’t know what size I will be in the fall, I don’t really want to buy any. I have changed the heating vents at my office so the heat blows directly on me, and that helps… when the heat is on. I am wearing layers, but still, I am freezing.

Ladies, I seriously didn’t know what you were going through. I’ve always rather liked the cold. Winter would be my favorite season, if it weren’t for icy roads and snow shoveling. Being cold always felt manageable, like there was something you could do about it, whereas being hot was always terrible for me. I also have always loved bulky sweaters and big wool blazers. I never felt the cold.

Until now. As I type this my fingers are freezing. I have my coat draped over my shoulders. I feel like Bob Cratchit wishing Ebenezer would be a little more liberal with the coal, dang it. I have a cup of hot tea that I keep on my desk primarily for warming my hands. I now understand.

So I promise – no matter what happens with my own weight, I will never again imply that if you are cold, you should eat more. I also promise that I will never suggest you just add a sweater, and if maintenance asks about turning up the heat, I will stand with you!

Photo credit: Lara604

Dining with a Dieter

Foods that sound delicious right now.

All of these things sound good. Yes, even the salad afterthought.

Okay, I know a few of you that read this blog are also on your own weight loss journeys. I have a question for you: do you ever feel guilty about eating around other people?

Here’s an example: a few weeks back I had lunch with my Mom. She was asking me about what I am doing and how I chose what to eat. I mentioned that one of the things I’ve done was go to a few more large chain restaurants. Normally I love my local food scene, but when Julian was on hard core low carb and I was on low calorie, finding a dining choice was tough for us. Most of the big chains have their nutritional information online, so we would spend a little time before our date looking up the menu on our phones and making sure it met our requirements.

In fact, I told her, the reason I suggested we go to Chili’s that day was because I knew she liked it, and I knew I could look up my lunch choices before we met, so I knew what to order. Sadly, she looked down at her plate and said, “I probably shouldn’t have ordered this.”

I immediately felt like I had said something wrong. I don’t want anyone to feel bad about their lunch. The truth was, what she had ordered was actually pretty good for the most part, and I told her so. But, I hated that moment of feeling like somehow I had made her feel bad about herself.

More recently she and I went out to brunch. I knew it would be a calorie laden day so I planned appropriately. It was at 2:00, so I made sure to eat something ahead of time – but kept the calories light. Again, there was an awkwardness when we went to order. I felt like she was watching what I had. I found myself deliberately picking a high calorie dessert (it was a set three course menu) to prove… something to her. I’m not even sure what. That you can eat high cal food and still lose? That it isn’t all carrots and celery? That she should order whatever she wanted?? I don’t know.

It happened again the other day with different family members. I was at an open house for some family, and of course, there was tons of food. My uncle discretely inquired how much weight I had lost. He patted my shoulder with approval and went off to pile up a plate with spaghetti. Good man – that was perfect. On the other hand, I felt like my aunt was watching every thing I ate. She didn’t say anything, but I saw her noticing that I took all fruit and stayed away from the pasta and Alfredo sauce. I felt awkward, like she thought I was going to judge her if she ate it. Honestly, I couldn’t care less!

Have any of you experienced this? Any thoughts for managing it?

Photo credit: Alex Barth

This is Your Brain on Love

hearts on a nail from flickrJulian, my brilliant boyfriend, is going back to school right now. One of the things I love about people I know going back to school is that I frequently get to reap the benefits of their education. I love learning new things and I love when people share things they have learned with me. Speaking of love – check out what Julian learned recently:

When you are in love your brain releases two types of chemicals: dopamine and norepinephrine. It turns out, there is another time when your brain releases these types of chemicals… when you are involved in task based goals. When Julian said that, I immediately shouted out “I am in love with losing weight!”

Obviously, everyone has their own idea of what works for them, but we cannot underestimate the power of being able to check off boxes or cross things off lists. For me, the apps I use (My Fitness Pal and Run Keeper) have been the biggest keys to my success. I’ve thought before that using them feels like a video game to me – they make me happy. Of course, what are my favorite kinds of video games? The kind based around task based goals. I love Find the Hidden Object games and Time Management and Strategy games. Likewise when I get to the end of the day and click the “Complete This Entry” for my daily dairy on My Fitness Pal, I feel like I just won a round of the game.

There is a dark side to this, however. Just like in love, that euphoric feeling of completing the same goals over and over can wear off in time. That doesn’t mean that love dies, instead, hopefully, it goes from the giddy first rush of passion to a stable, loving, long term relationship. That is what I have to do when I move from loving the rush of losing weight to trying to maintain my weight loss: find stable and healthy routines and habits to keep it going through the years.

 

If you find this kind of thing as interesting as I do, here’s a couple of links to check out:

What Your Heart and Brain are Doing When You’re In Love (cnn.com)

Happiness, Hope and Optimism by Patricia A. Dunavold

This is Your Brain on Love (A great podcast from Radiolab)

Photo credit: PV KS

 

 

Running on a Rainy Day

Rushing water on a rainy day of running

The water running high at Creek Park. Looks delicious, no?

Run Number Five

I went for my fifth run on Tuesday. (Well, “run” might be too strong of a word, since I am still doing intervals, but just consider it shorthand for “gradually increasingly running in an attempt to get up to doing full runs.”) There were thunderstorms on and off all day – big ones, where the sky turns black and the rain comes down in buckets. In between the storms the sky would lighten a bit and my heart would lift. Then it would get dark again and my spirits would sink.

Finally I went and talked to Amateur Meteorologist coworker. AM, as we’ll call him, loves to watch the weather. He has all sorts of websites at his fingertips with radar images and whatnot. He also far more accurate at reading them then most of the places where I get my news. The office closes at 6:00, so around 5:00 I walked over to his desk and explained my dilemma. To run or not to run?

He studied some graphes. He looked a couple of maps. He made “Mmmmm” noises, and then asked me, “When are you going?”

“Right after work. At 6:00.”

He scratched his chin. “Too early to tell. Ask me again in an hour. The good news is that I can say there most likely won’t be lightening.”

(sigh)

Around 6:00 he called me back over to his desk. “How long do you run?”

I told him less than an hour.

He nodded, “Okay, you might get a little wet, but you should be fine. In two hours though, we are getting another big storm.”

That was good enough for me! Here’s my transcription of what followed:

Closed up inner office, set alarm, AM wishes me good luck.

Go to ladies restroom, hear AM leave. Take off coat, hang on door.

Remove fancy dress boots.

Think I hear someone enter building. Slightly panic.

Realize that I am being ridiculous.

Dig in running bag for fancy running socks.

Stop to listen if anyone is in vestibule. No noise.

Can’t find socks, pull everything out of running bag. Pile it on purse.

Remove one sock, standing like an awkward flamingo, put running sock on. (ew! ew! Don’t let bare feet hit the floor!)

Repeat with other foot.

Realize that I meant to wear tights for warmth. Dig through pile of clothes for tights.

Remove pants. Fold, and put in now empty running bag.

Remove fancy running sock while keeping foot in air. Still keeping one foot off the floor, pull one leg of tights on. (The floor is hot lava! …hot lava and germs! Hot lava germs!) Repeat.

Feel proud that maneuver did not cause my chin to slam into the sink.

Put fancy running socks on over tights.

Start to remove blouse. Stop, remove glasses. Realize that glasses case is under all running gear piled on top of purse. Set glasses on counter, start “Do not forget your glasses” mantra.

Remove blouse. (Do not forget your glasses….) Fold nicely to minimize wrinkles. Notice small spot on blouse.

Curse.

Fold so spot is on top for stain treatment later.

Remove tank top and bra, shove in running bag.

Do the crazy, arm flailing, wiggle move required to put on sports bra.

Put on running pants.

Put on first running shirt.

Put on rain gear water resistant pants. Realize that they are huge and fit my size 16 waist, not my size 10 one. Yank on drawstring to secure. Realize this makes them pooch out crazily. Decide not to care.

Put on second running shirt.

(Do not forget your glasses….)

Put on fancy new running belt that holds iPhone. Admire new belt.

Realize that fancy new belt cinching in waist – over second running shirt – over poochy rain pants – makes me look like I am pregnant with a weird lumpy alien baby. Decide not to care.

Put in headphones, adjust iPhone.

Add rain jacket. Zip it up. Notice that it smooths out the alien baby a bit.

Locate baseball hat. Notice that it is kind of gross and really warn. Decide not to care.

Try hood of rain gear jacket over baseball hat. Realize that I look like a mutant penguin.

Decide not to care.

Lower hood.

Remember to put glasses in glasses case now that purse is free. Give self a mental high five.

Put on running shoes.

Use inhaler.

Grab bags and start to head out the door.

Go back, grab coat. Stop, find car keys. Find second set of keys to finish locking up office.

Make sure there is no one in the vestibule.

Lock up office.

Pile bags in car. Try not to notice how dark the sky is.

Turn on headlights. (sigh)

Turn on windshield wipers. (sighhhh)

Drive to park.

Do not let anxious guy in pickup truck that is tailgating cut me off. Find a spot to park.

Smile when I notice I have the park to myself.

Start warm up walk. Try not to notice mallard ducks that are happily swimming in huge puddles in the middle of the park. Add gloves.

Notice raindrops, pull up hood.

Finish first interval. Notice drops have stopped, lower hood.

Remove gloves.

Do my first three minute interval!  (Whoo hooo!!)

Decide I need another hit of the inhaler. On walking portion of interval walk to car, unlock, use inhaler.

Notice cars pulling into parking lot. Lots of cars.

Decide to avoid people from cars, use a cut through.

Realize cut through has a giant puddle in the center.

Sigh.

Notice with chagrin that people from cars are the kind of people that always have a smart aleck comment and will probably say something about running and the weather. (Middle-to-late aged white men wearing windbreakers, with hands in pockets.)

Find a second cut through to avoid them! (Score!)

Do second three minute interval. (YES!)

Notice that due to rain, stream now looks like a giant rushing river of frappachino.

Crave coffee.

Do two minute intervals. Try not to notice darkening sky. (Look at the muskrat instead!)

Notice more cars pulling into parking lot, see they are having a meeting in the weird clubhouse building. Ignore them. Use cut through.

Do another two minute interval. During walking portion, put Run Keeper on pause, stop on bridge to take photo of frappachino river for blog.

Finish interval.

Weigh pros and cons of doing one more lap. Decide the rain is too iffy, call it a day. Head back to car.

Feel proud for getting 32 minutes in.

Drive to boyfriend’s house. Pick up dog.

Go home, walk dog in rain storm.

Get home, towel off dog.

Towel off self.

Feed dog.

Feed self.

Get ready for bed.

Repack running bag.

Go to bed.

Dream of running.

A Compliment I Hate

Intentions by findingtheobviousGetting compliments about my weight loss is fun. I’ve written about some of my favorites before. However, there is one compliment that I kind of hate. I’ve heard it twice in the last couple of days:

You’d better watch it! You are wasting away to nothing!

Ugh. Seriously, I hate this. Look, I understand that the folks who say this don’t mean any harm. I know they are trying to be nice… which is why my answer is polite instead of a punch to the jaw. But let’s break it down a bit, shall we? Let’s talk about what I actually hear when someone says this. (Hint: It isn’t, “You look very nice.”)

You’d better watch it! What is this supposed to mean? It seems to imply that I don’t work for this, that instead I took some magic pill and oooohh noooo if I don’t get the antidote in time I will disappear completely! I mean, talk about condescending. The subtext I get here is that if they had the option, they would have stopped my weight loss a few pounds back, but I am obviously the type to run wildly with scissors, golf in thunderstorms, and lose too much weight. Gack.

You are wasting away to nothing! Okay, what in the world am I supposed to say to this? My instinct is to say something like, “oh no, there is plenty of me to lose!” Yuck. I can’t believe that actually came out of my mouth the last time. I sound simultaneously like one of those people who can’t take a compliment and like I am obsessed with my weight. Plus this is one of those negative compliments. I know it is supposed to be humorous, but instead it sounds like I am now less of person now that I have less weight. That’s ridiculous.

And finally, the word “wasting” makes me uncomfortable. We’ve known people who have lost a lot weight due to horrible sickness, that is wasting. It is sad and awful. That is not what is happening here. Implying it bothers me; it cheapens the pain of others.

Again, I know that the two people that said this to me mean well. They would be shocked and mortified if they knew how this made me feel since none of that was their intention. Who knows? I might have even used this phrase myself back in the old days, it sounds like something I might have said. I know this though, I will never say it again. Instead, if someone is looking well, I think I will start with, “Hey, you look great.”

 

Photo credit: findingtheobvious

Watching My Thoughts

Watchdog Statue by fireflythegreatJulian and I were talking recently about a moment that happened this weekend, I thought I would share it here as well:

I stopped at my local organic grocery store on my way home from work. It is located on a fairly busy road that cuts through town. As I am waiting for traffic to clear, I notice a woman jogging. She is not a small girl. She is definitely bigger than I am now, and probably bigger than I was when before I started losing. I can tell because she is wearing the tight spandex running gear. And my first thought when I see her is an enthusiastic “You GO girl!!”

But then I felt a little conflicted. I took a moment and checked in with myself on why, exactly, I was cheering her on. Was it because I thought she needed to lose weight? Was I being judgmental? I’ve been a plus size all my life, who am I to judge how someone chooses to live their life?

I thought about how I felt when I saw her and I realized that wasn’t it though. Now that I am newly learning to run, I notice runners all the time. This gal looked like she knew what she was doing, and not only that, she was out there doing it on this busy street. My feelings were nothing but admiration – she had a lot more guts than I ever had, and my mental shout out was just in pure appreciation.

Why does it matter what I think in the quiet and solitude of my own head? Because attitudes matter. We’ve all met those people who have recently stopped smoking or drinking and now feel it necessary to tell everyone else they are doing it wrong. Those sanctimonious know-it-alls that have found something that is working for them and now feel they need to tell the world – whether or not the world wants to hear it. I don’t even want to open the door to those kinds of attitudes.

I believe that people have a right to chose what is right for their own body. Just because I have lost weight, doesn’t mean I think it is right for everyone. There are so many issues around weight loss. Not just the physical act of losing weight, though there are tons of issues there too, but the emotional issues. None of us know what the other person is going through. I want to maintain my neutrality.

Of course, if someone asks, I am happy to share with them what works for me. But I am also trying to be cognizant of body language – stopping when I see the glazed eyes or the slumped shoulders of bordom. Yes, they just asked what I have been doing, but realizing when it was formulaic, a common verbal convention, like asking how long someone has had a pet or how old their child is. They don’t necessarily care, but it seems like the thing to do. Unlike pet ownership or child age, which are fairly cut and dried, this one has a lot of sensitivity built into it.

So yeah, I am keep a watchdog on my thoughts. There are enough trolls and negative Nellies out there, I don’t need to add my name to that list.

And for those of you on a path that feels right and is working for you, “You GO!”

 

EDIT: Just after I wrote this post, I saw a couple out running that solidified this for me. They were running with their dog, a miniature pincher who was going for all he was worth. He was also the only one that looked happy. The guy looked like he had run before, but not in a long time. He was wearing jeans, brown loafer style shoes and a couple of sweatshirts. His body language said “resigned but determined” to me. The gal, who was a larger gal, looked miserable. She was wearing old sneakers, sweats, a sweatshirt plus a winter jacket and two hats – a knit one tied over the top of a baseball hat. She was hunched over, shoulders pulled in tight, with her back arched in a question mark. My first though, “Oh goodness! I hope she doesn’t hurt herself!” My next thought was that she was going to overheat – it wasn’t that cold out. I wasn’t happy for her – I was scared for her. It clicked for me then – I love seeing people joyously getting healthy, I fear for those who are pushing themselves to do something they hate.

Photo credit: fireflythegreat