Dear Longview Hill…

The Letter, c. 1906, oil on canvas by Pierre Bonnard

The Letter, c. 1906, oil on canvas by Pierre Bonnard

This post is not written for you, dear reader, instead it is a note to my future self. I’m at that point in my weight loss where people are noticing and starting to give me quite a few compliments. It’s wonderfully nice, of course, but it also makes it really real. I did this. After all the years of thinking about it and trying different things – this is it. This is the start of a new me.

But I’ll be really honest, the more real it is, the more scared I am of gaining the weight back on again.

It isn’t a health thing; in December my physician told me that though I was over the weight she’d like me to be at, I was in excellent health. It has a little more to do with the physical looks, but just a little bit. After all, I haven’t gotten rid of all my old clothes yet! Mostly, it has to do with the fact that it is just so darn easy to fall back into old habits. That I know that while I have been at this for a few months now, I am not in a place of permanence yet. So, I thought I would write this post to myself if I ever found myself struggling again. I wanted to write down what has been working for me, so if I ever fell lost, I would know where to turn.

I should say, dear reader, that is not necessarily what you should do. This just my own personal weight loss code.


Dear Long View Hill,

Sounds like you are going through a rough patch. You and I knew this might happen. We’ve known each other all our lives, we know these things can happen. So this is a letter to you – my future me – from your past. If you are ever stuck, or feeling stressed and having a hard time staying on track. Here’s what we know what works for us:

#1. Walk the Dog.

Walking the dog won’t solve all your weight problems, Long View Hill. You had Hermes for over a year and were walking him for up to a couple hours a day there for awhile, and while you lost some weight, it didn’t start really paying off until the rest of the pieces of the puzzle were in place. However, getting outside is good for you. Spending time with your dog is good for you. They are good for your emotions, your sense of calm and your happiness. As a benefit, walking the pooch also burns calories, so if the reason you are gaining weight back has anything to do with stress, this is a good place to start. Hermes will love you for it.

We really should be on a walk right now.

We really should be on a walk right now.

#2. If you bite it, write it.

The moment things started to change for you is when you downloaded the My Fitness Pal app onto your phone. Trying to track calories on a computer doesn’t work for you LVH – we know, we’ve tried that. It is putting the food in your phone as close to having eaten it as possible, (without being super rude while out to dinner with friends,) that makes it work for you. You know you need that immediate feedback. There might come a time where it won’t be as important, but if you are reading this again, it is probably because you fell off the tracking wagon. Time to saddle up and get back on board.

#3. Do Not Go Over the Line

You lost your weight by sticking to the rules. Like tracking, there may be a time where you can be more relaxed with this, but again, if you are reading this, it is time to go back to square one. You know where the base is, My Fitness Pal will tell you where the max is, just stick between those two numbers. You can do it, you’ve done it before! If you get to the end of the evening and see you only have enough calories for green beans for dinner, well, it is time to do Rule #1. A 30 minute walk will buy you enough calories for a bowl of soup and a light salad! Best yet, leave some room – don’t walk the line. Leave some extra calories for the end of the day. Then, if you want a glass of wine or port before bed, you can have them. Remember Long View Hill, if you leave a cushion of unused calories, you won’t go over.

#4. Get Moving – Whatever it Takes

Well, if you are gaining weight, you might not be exercising. Figure out what it is going to take you to get back to it. Bored of running? Join a gym! Take some classes! Do something! Exercising makes you feel better, stronger and more healthier. Don’t forget to slide in a little extra exercise when you can. Keep running up the stairs at home when you do laundry, keep a smile on your face when it is time to shovel snow – and of course, keep walking that pooch!

#5. An Ounce Weighed, is a Pound Saved.

Don’t forget to measure. You don’t need that fancy scale, girl. You can use that $.50 thrift store find you used for the first 3 months of losing weight. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you have to have a fairly good idea of what is really going on. This is why you have three sets of measuring spoons and had to wash them every day. Don’t forget about that.

#6. Every Day – Weigh

Oh my!I heard the groans across the internet as I write this. We’ve all heard the countless reasons why you should never weigh yourself every day. “You’ll get depressed! You’ll quit! It doesn’t help!” The fact is, there are very few scientific studies to back “what everybody knows.” There was, however, a study with college students that showed those that weighed themselves daily were better able to lose weight and keep it off. But regardless, this is not about other people, this is about you. I’m not saying you have to do this for the rest of your life Long View, but I am saying that prevention is the best way to nip problems in the bud. Like Rule #2 and #3, this is one of those things that might change with time, but you know what works for you. If you think the scale is going up – check. Then start following these rules again.

#7. There Are No “Bad” Foods

One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that we decided not to exclude any food. You have to follow rules #2, #3 and #5, but with that in mind, nothing is off limit. I put this here, because I know us. One thing that could happen is we could get all overly into it and start restricting yourself to a particular way of eating. I can see us trying to make all the daily summary numbers on My Fitness Pal come out absolutely perfect. If we’re doing that, knock it off!  It is only a matter of time before we get all frustrated, mad and rebellious and quit everything. Don’t do that, me! Keep in mind you can eat what you want, and you will never feel like you have to eat to prove some kind of point.

#8. This is the most important one of all – Don’t Listen to Everyone Else.

I saved this one for last because I suspect it is the one that is most likely to go wrong. Already we’ve weathered this. Remember the day that Weight Loss Guru Coworker spent 10 minutes telling you different ways to cheat? Remember how the next week she was upset because at her weigh-in she was far short of her goal?  Remember the person who sent you the article about how calorie counters don’t work because they are not perfect. Remember how much weight you lost using one?* This is the most important rule: Do What Works For You! 

There is no magic pill. Different things work for different people. Some people hate My Fitness Pal, other want specific diets. But don’t listen to them – do your own research. Look gal, I know it is fun to talk about weight loss with people, but how many of them have already given you bad advice? I bet the reason you are back here in your blog archives looking at this letter is because you listened to someone else, just because they said something with a lot of confidence. Ignore weight loss advice that conflicts with your own code. Triply ignore advice that goes against your own code that comes from anyone who is still struggling with their own weight loss.

There are three exceptions to this rule: your sister Em, your friend Cee, and your boyfriend (who shall now be known as) Julian. They love you, they know you. They know what you have been through, your history, your temperament and your struggles. They understand you and want the best for you. If you want advice, go to them. Everyone else – tell them to blow it out their ears.

This also is true for articles, blogs and even things on NPR. No matter what someone is doing, there will always be someone in the background being *helpful* saying, “you aren’t doing it right!” Don’t listen to those people. Turn off the news, only read positive blogs, and trust your gut instinct, Long View Hill.

Eat well, exercise, and be happy, Long View. I am depending on you for it!

Love,

Your Past Self.

 

 

* The article basically said that calorie counters aren’t accurate, sometimes because of the information put into them, sometimes because the manufactures make servings bigger than they claim. I say, that’s why you leave a cushion of calories.

Photo credit: cliff1066

Advertisements

Fitness Miscellany

Run Number Four

The snowdrops are just beginning to open here.

The snowdrops are just beginning to open here.

I ran again this weekend. I am, of course, still doing intervals – warmed up and cooled down with 4 min. walk / 1 runs and did 3 walk / 2 runs for the rest of the time. Total time: 40 minutes. This time I decided to just go ahead and run in the neighborhood. I wanted to go to a park, but time-wise, it just turned out to be easier to head right out of the house. That might end up being a theme – parks on the weekdays, neighborhood on the weekend. We’ll see, after all, I am still figuring this all out!

It was pretty chilly Saturday morning, gray and breezy, but that was rather nice – it meant other than fellow runners, I had the roads to myself. I was out fairly early too, before 9:00 AM. Overall, it went well, and there were even a few minutes that I could relax into it a bit. I did have to laugh though – on my way back, my running pants started sliding down! I was wearing tights, so there wasn’t a possibility of an accidental showing or anything, but still, what is it with my running clothes trying to come off my body?! The last time it was my UnderArmor shirt trying to come up over my head. Do my clothes want me to run in the nude??

I’m pretty happy with my running – it’s so early, it’s hard to tell, but I like doing it so far. I am looking forward to a time where I can run continuously for longer distances. I did try pushing my 2 minute runs out a little – after the 2 minute marker I would pick a landmark in the distance and run a little further – to the next tree or to the end of the block. Hopefully I will be at 3 minute runs soon. My next run is tomorrow and, lucky me, it is supposed to rain. (Snow, rain, wind – welcome to spring in the midwest.) I’m not really afraid of running in the rain, as long as it is a moderate. I am out in the rain a lot with the dog, so it doesn’t bother me much. I wish I had better gear for it, but I am sure I can cobble something together with my dog walking rain gear. It may not be pretty, but it will keep me dry… more or less.

Put on those shoes! Let's gooooooooo!

Put on those shoes! Let’s gooooooooo!

Other than running, I’ve been doing a lot of walking. I was dog sitting my sister’s pooch this week and he and Hermes really worked me out. Not only did they get me out of the house a lot, but they also worked my shoulder muscles! Nothing like two very determined dogs on leashes to work the arms and shoulders!

So, the whole week was good from an exercise standpoint. I’ve also ordered some brand new resistance bands. I took some with me on my last trip and they were a great, easy-to-pack way to weight lift while traveling. Unfortunately, my bands were pretty old, and much to my chagrin, they started snapping and breaking. That’s a little scary, to be honest. So, I hopped online and ordered a new set, and those came in at the end of last week. The set I got seems quite nice and I am pretty excited about them.

The other project for the weekend was cleaning and organizing my closet where I keep my workout gear. This closet gets used for a little of everything: hand weights, my yoga mat, rags and products for cleaning, my tool bag, vacuum, mops and brooms, plus board games and extra candles. In other words, kind of a mess. I took everything out, added a small bookshelf for more storage, and put it all back in in a way that makes sense. Now I just need to do that with all the closets in my house!

Photo credit: Spring is Here! (snowdrop) TschiAe

Looking Fit

Healthy Summer Snack by lindaaslundI wrote the other day that I don’t have a set goal for my weight loss. That’s still true, but yesterday, I got a glimpse of of it.

I was at the gas station. There was a gal at the pump across from me who was cleaning out her car while the filling up her tank. She was roughly 10 years younger than me, and obviously was currently, or had been, involved in sports. She was wearing a big college style sweatshirt (though I didn’t notice if there were any logos on it), short running shorts, and running shoes. Her hair was piled up in one of those “I am about to kick some butt at Volleyball” messy buns.

She was very pretty, but that wasn’t what I noticed. The first thing I thought when I saw her was, “That woman is fit.” Fit was the perfect word. She was thin, but you wouldn’t say super skinny. Her legs were really muscled, not perfectly cut or anything, but you could tell this gal had power. Just the way she carried herself was impressive. Her shoulders looked strong, like whatever sport she played used upper body strength too. She wasn’t wearing much makeup, but she had a glow about her. A little bell went off in my head and I thought, “I want that.”

I want to feel good in my body. I want to feel fit, strong, capable. I think a lot of us that are trying to lose weight concentrate on the health aspect of it, which is awesome, but let’s be honest here, there is also a physical component that is important. I not only want to feel healthy, I want to look healthy.

I don’t know what that is going to take. I’m not taking up sports, (I wrote about why awhile ago.) And truthfully, what I am talking about isn’t even looking like an athlete per se’. It is more about not only taking the weight off, but also keeping up with the things I have started – running and weightlifting – to make my body look better. It might mean adding in other new things like taking a class or joining a gym. Honestly, those don’t sound that appealing to me right now, but I am trying to keep my options (and my mind) open.

What I am not doing is letting my asthma, my weight, or my excuses get in the way of that anymore. This is an achievable goal, and someday there is going to me some woman creepily checking me out at the gas station and thinking, “Yeah… that’s the look I want.”

Photo credit: lindaaslund

The Running Continues

Runnin' through the swamp! (This isn't the park, but it looks just like it.)

Runnin’ through the swamp! (This isn’t the park, but it looks just like it.)

The Third Run

Yesterday was my run day. For some reason, I find myself called to running in parks. Maybe it is the scenery. In any case, before I started running I scouted out three parks with walking/running trails that were all fairly close to my office. Monday, I went to the first one, which I will call: Creek Park. (Because there is a creek next to it. How clever am I?) Yesterday I went to: Wetlands Park. (Because the trails go through the wetlands. The cleverness continues.)

There are several really good things about Wetlands Park. The first is that it is right on my drive home from work. It is just three or four blocks off the main route I drive each day. So, if I want to run after work, it is the perfect location. It’s a pretty park, located as mentioned, in the wetlands. When I visited back in March, I was a little concerned that the trial might be too secluded, but I need not have worried – there were tons of people using the park (almost too many – more on that later) and in order for anyone to be laying in wait for a newbie runner to come around the corner, they would have had to been waist deep in mud and cattails!

The park has a loop that it is a little over a mile long. Three quarters of it is a boardwalk winding through wetlands, the last quater is an asphalt trail through fields and woods. I have a special place in my heart for this park – until I was 5 years old, my family lived within walking distance of it. My mom and I used to come down quite frequently so I could play on the playground there. My mother was a teacher at a nearby school at the time, and I remember her going down to the park to cut pussy willow stems for her classroom. On my run, I passed a big pussy willow which just made me smile.

The boardwalk is really nice, but it has obviously gone through a rough patch this winter and hasn’t been repaired quite yet. There were a couple of spots where a boards were missing. It is also set right down into the water, so there are places where the water and mud came up over it. Usually there were boards across at these spots, so it wasn’t bad. Actually, they made it kind of fun – my ultimate goal is to trail run, so it was fun to leap over mud puddles and missing boards, a little like a mini obstacle course.

There were a few downsides, however. One was gnats! Swarms and swarms of gnats! I am running intervals right now, (4 min. walk/1 run and 3 min. walk/2 run) and when I was running these weren’t really a problem, you’d go through them quick. When I hit them while walking, however, they were a real pain. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it – I’m on a boardwalk, there was nowhere to go, and honestly, I am the one in their habitat.

The other slight problem was the people. On one hand it was really nice seeing the variety of folks using the park. There were people running, there were lots of people walking dogs, lots of couples strolling together and several families. (My favorite was passing a mom and two boys, one of whom was singing “nature.. nature…”) The problem is that the loop just isn’t very long, so you end up seeing the same people over and over. It is a little awkward. And of course, someone felt they had to comment. A guy walking with his dog said, “You are dressed for running, but you aren’t running.” I told him I’d been running 2 minutes ago and I would start again in another minute! It really wasn’t a big deal, but it makes me wonder how many people are going to be out there this summer when the weather is really nice… and how many bugs!

The run itself was very pleasant. I started with 4 walk/1 run intervals, and after a few tries, got it up to 3 walk/2 run. I was pretty darn proud of myself for that! The next run will be this weekend. I haven’t yet decided whether I will go to a park, or do some neighborhood running. It will depend a lot on my schedule.

I do like running so far. It’s a little hard to tell, I feel like right now I am concentrating so hard on what I am doing – trying to keep good form, listen to my body, watch what I am doing – that I haven’t yet experienced just a pure moment yet. That will come! As a calorie counter, I love how many calories are burned. Even though I am still so slow that My Fitness Pal doesn’t have a running category for it (so I put it under Brisk pace, Walking) I still burned twice what I do on an average dog walk. That made me very happy!

Do you run? If so, where do you like to run and why?

 

Photo credit: andyarthur

Anticlimactic?

Scales by KJGarbuttWeight Update:

Things have been going quite well! I am now down 23 lbs. (I started losing weight on January 15th.) I am still using My Fitness Pal to track my calories and I’m adding in a lot more exercise. As I wrote yesterday, I have started running a little and I’ve also started weightlifting at home.

Two of the questions I keep getting asked are “So, what is your goal?” and “Are you going to keep losing?” The answer to both is the same: I don’t know. For the first time in a couple of decades I am actually in the Healthy section of the BMI chart. I have dropped from a size 16 pant to a 10. Life is good. But I guess I don’t feel like I am “there” yet. I don’t even know where “there” is. I’m kind of playing it by ear. This might sound weird, but I never thought I could achieve what I have now this quickly. I hit my “pie in the sky” maybe-reach-it-in-a-year goal last week. I don’t have a next plan!

My good friend Cee and I have been talking about all this, and I have mentioned that I have a hard time seeing the changes in myself. I know that seems wacky, but it is true.  Okay, I can see it from the shoulders up. Not so much on my arms, maybe, but that’s because I can’t say I have ever paid much attention to them. But I can see the changes across my chest, definitely on my neck, jawline and cheekbones. I can’t really tell in my legs. I know I have lost there, I’m fitting into skinny jeans for the first time ever, but I can’t really see it. Does that make sense? They are the same shape as always, and they’ve always been pretty thin, (compared to the rest of me, anyway.) I will say that I can feel the difference in my legs. They are firmer and I can see the muscles from all the walking I do. My midsection, though, looks the same as always to me. I know it is different, but again, the shape hasn’t really changed all that much, so it just doesn’t look that different to me.

There might be several things going on here: 1) I think I am starting to look like what I always looked like in my head. I think when I pictured myself I have always had a thinner version in my mind’s eye. Now I am starting to match that, which is wonderful, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel all new and sparkly. It’s not a “Wow!” moment as much as “Yep, knew it all along” moment – and honestly, it’s not as crazy fun as I wish it was. 2) This is has really happened quite quickly. Like I said, I never thought I would lose this much in just 3.5 months. I think it will take some time to get used to. At the same time, 23 lbs isn’t all that much. I see folks that have lost far, far more than that. Now they look different! 3) I don’t have a lot to compare to. I wish I could stand the old me and the new me side by side in the mirror. I also kind of wish I had more photos. I haven’t liked photos of myself for a long time, so I don’t have that many, but I am really wishing I took a few of those terrible Before shots you see people post.

This is what I do know: I’m going to keep doing what is working for me. I’m going to keep running and dog walking. I’m going to keep lifting those weights and doing the plank. I’m going to keep tracking calories. In the end, I will just see where all that lands me.

 

Photo credit: KJGarbutt

.5 Run, First Run and Second Run

My new shoes!

My new shoes!

Hey all – I have a little confession to make, I was out of town all last week. I didn’t say anything because don’t like announcing that I am leaving my house all empty and abandoned out here on the interwebs.  So, while I was traveling I wrote some simple posts on things I had been thinking about for awhile and kept things short and light. Now that I am back at my keyboard, I’ve got all sorts of things to write about!  The first is: running.

The week before last, I finally got all the basic gear I needed to start: shoes, sports bra, light weight running clothes, and a light jacket. My plan was to get everything together so that when I got back from my sales trip, I was ready to go. I ended up actually starting a little earlier than that! Here’s the scoop:

.5 Run

What the heck is a half a run? Well, they are ones that aren’t exactly planned. Last Saturday I was packing up for the trip and I wanted to pick up some road snacks from our local organic market. As I was getting ready to go, I looked at my pretty, new running shoes sitting there waiting to be worn. Here’s the thing with me – I am a saver. I like to eat the best bite last, as a kid I could make Halloween chocolate last almost to Christmas, I’ve been known to buy bath products and store them for a rainy day so long that I have moved and no longer have a bathtub. See, that is the problem with saving – I always think I am getting a bonus later, but sometimes I wait so long that the thing isn’t any good anymore – or worse yet, I forget about it! Part of me wanted to save my shoes for that “perfect first run” that magic moment. The rest of me knew that that was silly and I would be smarter just putting them on and breaking them in. For once, that is exactly what I did.

And did I, on the way to the market, break into occasional short runs? You bet I did.

Later that day, (still in my new shoes,) I took Hermes for a walk. Then I did what I will call Doggie Lead Intervals. Usually when my hound dog catches a scent and tries to pull, I try to work on his leash manners. This time? I went with it. When he pulled, I ran alongside him. When we got to the source of the smell, we stopped and walked a bit. I would say I was running roughly a half minute to a minute and then walking for five or six minutes. It went better than I ever could have expected. Maybe I can train him to run with me after all!

I am so ready for this!

We will run, run like the wind! We will chase the sunset… and squirrels!

First Run

So, I left town on Monday and returned late Friday night. Saturday morning I slept in a bit, and then… I felt the pull. Hermes was still staying with my Aunt, so I had the house to myself – which meant I could run by myself. Almost before I knew what I was doing, I laced up the sneakers and was out the door. It was cold (low 30s) but sunny, and really quite nice. The sports shop where I took my running form class suggested intervals of 4 minutes of walking, followed by 1 minute of running for beginning runners. That seemed good to me, so that’s what I went with.

It’s kind of awkward to run in my neighborhood, I am still super self conscious. I feel like people (especially those in cars) really judge joggers and runners. I also know a lot of people where I live, and I admit, it makes me a bit uncomfortable. It didn’t stop me though. I picked a route where there was a bit less traffic and out I went. Everything went great. Honestly, I think the cold was in my favor – there weren’t all that many people out either. I know this is just something I will have to face and deal with eventually, but I will get there, step by step. Until then, I’ll pick the quieter streets!

Second Run

Okay, it wasn't this cold. It just felt that way.

Okay, it wasn’t this cold. It just felt that way.

Okay, so this is the big one – the one I have been waiting for. Really, this is the run I have been working on since I first started thinking about this whole thing. I’ve had this whole thing planned out for about a month – doing test drives to local parks, checking out areas for running, planning my schedule, the whole thing. Of course, it was cold that day (spring is coming a bit late to the Midwest.) All day long I watched out my office window. At times the sun would peak out and I would start getting excited. Then, the sky would turn dark and it would start to snow and my heart would sink. By the time I left the office it was gray and windy, with some snow flurries.

I drove to the park. It was pretty darn chilly, but I decided to go ahead. How do I explain this? I think if I had backed out, I would have a harder time starting the next time. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because it was so easy not to. I locked up the car and started off.

The park is very pretty. It has two good sized ponds at one end and an open field/picnic area at the other. There is a large oval walking path that wraps around it. The path has a few splits through the middle, so you can make laps of varying length. There is a stream running nearby and quite a lot of wildlife. In just the time I was there, there were mallard ducks, Canada geese, robins and even a muskrat. There were also a few other people using the park – a couple of people walking dogs, someone else walking laps, and a father and son riding bikes. (The son was in a snow suit and looked like he was having the time of his life, the dad was in a sweatshirt and looked miserable. I give him credit for keeping with it though – that’s a good dad right there.)

When Well Laid Plans Begin to Go Astray

The first thing I figured out was that I needed my inhaler. I’m an asthmatic, and the cold was really hurting my lungs. Fortunately, I packed one… unfortunately it only had one puff in it before it died! Good thing I always keep a spare one in my purse. Okay, so that taken care of, I hit the trail again. This time, my UnderArmor shirt starts riding up! It has never done that before, but suddenly its heading north like it wants to fling itself over my head. It’s my base layer, and I have another shirt and a jacket on top of it, so it isn’t like I can just pull it down. Not only was it weirdly uncomfortable, but my middrift started getting seriously cold. No matter! Onwards!

Did I mention that I didn’t bring gloves? Yeah, gloves. I definitely need to pack gloves next time.

Again I am doing intervals – 4 minutes walking, 1 minute running. Everything is going fine until minute 13. I’m walking along and walking and walking… and then all the sudden it is minute 15! I figure I spaced on 14 and just start running. And running. And running. And running… I fumble in my pocket for my phone. Sure enough, RunKeeper says I am on minute 18. That’s three minutes of running, a lot for me! I pause it the app and try to figure out what is wrong. Obviously it isn’t giving me all the audio cues. Everything looks okay, so I save it and start over. I figure I will do 12 minutes to finish up a half hour.

I end up doing 20. It turns out that when I thought I was charging my phone, the charger wasn’t all the way plugged in. So when I started, it kept track, but didn’t have enough power to give me all the time notifications. Ah well!

So, it didn’t turn out to be the perfect “first run” I imagined! I had a few equipment failures and it was a lot colder than I thought it would be for the first week in April, but that is okay. I can laugh about it, and it will just make me better prepared for next time, (when something completely different goes wrong!) A coworker of mine uses the phrase “progress, not perfection” for times like these, and I think it fits. The important part is that I did it! Now I’ve I actually started – I feel great about it, and I’m excited for the next one!