Body Esteem Struggles

I just read a great article over on jillfit.com about body esteem issues. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Do Only Certain People Have the Right to Body Esteem Struggles?
by Jill Coleman

one thing I was not ready for were the handful of comments telling me to “stop complaining” about my love handles … in the post, I said, “Could I get my love handles down a bit? Sure. But the mental and physical output it would take it just not worth it anymore.” This, part of a long post about how content and happy I was with my body — just to give you context.

Out of the entire post, what several people clung to was the comment about the love handles. Many took is personally, like, how could I, looking like I do, ever even have a single negative thing to say about my body? They felt I wasn’t justified in my assessment, even though the comment was actually not negative at all — in fact it was 100% about body acceptance — and some even lamented that they could never show my post to their children because it sets a bad example

The rest of the article is fantastic. If you are interested in this like I am, I encourage you to click over and read it.

Does Meat Change Your Mood?

I had a strange thing happen to me.stormy clouds by Kristine Paulus

I’ve been feeling deeply stressed. It’s gotten so bad that this morning when I was out walking the dog, there were tears in my eyes. It was a beautiful, gorgeous day and I was out doing something I love. I should have been happy.

Adding to my unhappiness (although certainly not the cause of it) is my weight. I was comfortable with my weight all through the end of last year and up into the New Year. I sailed through Christmas feeling great about where I was. However, at some point after January, things started slipping. I’m working on it. I’ve mentioned that I am getting back to exercising and lifting weights and so forth. I’m not talking about a lot of weight, roughly 7 pounds from where I was, so I decided mid-May to give myself a little challenge: Get back to where I was by the end of June. Seven pounds in 6 weeks seemed doable. Here we are, two weeks into my challenge… and I now I have 10 pounds to lose.

That’s right, I went up 3. It’s not the end of the world, but it is discouraging. I’ve been tweaking my diet, trying to find my groove again. One of the things I’ve been doing is trying to eat for the occasion. The idea is simple – I usually know what my day is going to be like, so I should eat for that. Just like you pick out the right clothes for the right activity, I wanted to try eating for the day. If I was lifting weights, up the protein. If I was going to sit on my butt at work all day and then sit some more at night when I went to the theatre, then eat lighter. Going out with friends? Eat really healthy during the day so I could blow off a little steam at night without terrible consequences. It seemed perfect.

It was terrible.

I don’t know why I doesn’t work for me, but it doesn’t. It seems so logical! But my body hates it. In fact, I didn’t realize quite how much it was backfiring until today.

One of the things I have cut down is my amount of protein. I haven’t cut it out completely, but I’ve been eating less unless I know I am going to work out. On a rest days I’ve been concentrating on counting calories instead. So, I get home from the dog walk, tears in eyes, feeling like I just want to go back to bed. It’s a workday though, so that isn’t an option. I go to make a light breakfast when it suddenly hits me – I want a protein shake. I’m craving it. I make one, no big deal. Along with it I have some meat and some mushrooms.

And almost instantly I feel better.

Twenty minutes after my high protein breakfast I had a wave of energy. I felt wonderful. It wasn’t a slight “lifting of the mood” it was a tsunami of “Let’s DO this!” It was great! And it lasted, I felt better all day. I’m still stressed, but I’m not feeling that upset about it.

A coworker suggested that there are vitamins in the shake that might have helped with mood. I’m also hormonal, so I thought the iron might be helping. Then I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks. I hopped onto My Fitness Pal and looked up my food logs for last November.

Last November I was as slim as I have ever been, I was feeling good, and I wasn’t exercising all that much. (It had gotten cold and I wasn’t doing any outdoor cardio at all.) I have mixed feelings when people say “You know how to lose weight, just go back and do what you were doing,” because I feel that just because something worked when I was 170, doesn’t mean it will work at 140, however, I can’t argue the logic. It’s pain to look at past food logs on your phone (which is usually how I use My Fitness Pal,) but I finally sat down on desktop computer and looked it up.

In November, I was eating high protein breakfasts every. single. day. I had a lighter lunches and a very simple dinners. The goal was to eat a gram of protein for each pound of my weight, and to eat over half of those grams in breakfast. This is what my body loves – and this is the exact opposite of what I have been doing.

I am not saying this would work well for everyone. I think different people have different metabolisms and react to different foods in diverse ways. My body seems to react well to this – not just on the physical side, but on the mental side as well. Fair enough, I am smart enough to take the hint. I’ll take all the help I can get. Guess I’ll be thawing out steaks for breakfast again!

Photo credit: Kristine Paulus via flickr

 

Winter Goals

This dog loves the snow! See how much is on his muzzle?

This dog loves the snow! See how much is on his muzzle? That’s by choice.

I mentioned awhile ago that I might be going through some career changes soon. In fact, I am still happily working at the same company I’ve been at for years, but I’m getting the feeling it is time to start thinking about other things. Currently, I am making a list of priorities and deciding what it is that I really want – and what will further my career goals. I’m going to dream big and figure out what it will take to make that happen.

I’ve decided that one of the first things I will be working on is my weight. I’m still up a little higher than I want to be, and I haven’t been working out like I should. Why concentrate on my weight when I am thinking about my career? Well, when I am working out regularly, lifting weights and eating right, I feel great. I feel strong, confident, resilient, open to new challenges and taking risks. That is exactly the attitude I need to take the world by storm. Instead, I’ve been feeling complacent, lazy and unmotivated – the exact opposite of what I need!

I am not quite as enthusiastic as he is.

I am not quite as enthusiastic as he is, although I was actually smiling in this photo… not that you can tell.

Since I’ve decided to move my one year anniversary to Valentine’s Day, I also decided that for the next couple of weeks I am really going to throw myself into working out. On Sunday I walked Hermes 45 minutes in the morning and another 55 at night – through heavily snow packed sidewalks. I was going to lift Monday morning, but ended up shoveling snow for a half hour instead – which really was some serious weight lifting. (We have so much snow right now that there is nowhere to go with it – each shovelful requires an overhand throw!)

My other goal is to write as much as I can. I’m trying to figure out how much I want to divulge here on the internet, but I also know that this blog is one of the things that helps me focus. So, you’ll probably be hearing a lot about what I am thinking and going through.

For right now my goals are:

  • Get back to 135 – 133 lb. range. That’s where I feel the best.
  • Put together a list of the skills I have – and the ones I wish I had.
  • Do some brainstorming about future careers. What do I really want to be when I grow up?
  • Write regularly, if not every day, then as close to it as I can.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Thought Experiment: Would You Exercise if You Didn’t Have to?

PillsThere is a really cool conversation going on over at Fit and Feminist on her post: If You Could Have Good Health From A Pill Would You Still Exercise? Go check out her post and be sure and read the comments. I have kind of mixed thoughts, (and because it is me, they are also long and wordy) so I thought I would post them here. Here’s a quick excerpt from the thought experiment she posed:

…and so I wondered, if medical researchers were to develop a pill that could provide all the physical health benefits of regular exercise, and that pill had no side effects, and it was as inexpensive as a bottle of aspirin – would I still continue to be as physically active as I am? []

I love the idea behind this, and if a pill as she described could be invented, I’d be all for it. I think it would change the lives of a lot of people. But the question is, would I take such a pill?

I think about this question a lot actually. Quite often I’ll be in the middle of some kind of exercise and think, “if this didn’t help burn calories or my health in any way, would I still do it?” My answer depends on what I am doing. For example:

Kayaking: A definite “HECK YES!” I love kayaking for many reasons; that it’s a great work out for my arms and shoulders is just icing on the cake. I love being outside, on the water, and feeling the freedom that comes with piloting a tiny one person boat.

Biking: Yep! My bike is my land kayak.

Walking: Mostly yes. I walk for many other reasons than exercise. I walk to clear my head, get fresh air, and to find peace. I also walk because my dog needs regular daily exercise. However, if I had a huge fenced in yard, and I could take the magic pill, I probably would cut down on the time I hit the sidewalks. I most likely would give up my 6:30AM walks, but I would keep my lunch hour strolls when I need to get out of the office. I’d probably still walk in great weather, but I would give up walking in ice storms, thunderstorms and blizzards.

Weight Lifting: Maaaayyyybe. I love the way weight lifting makes me look. I really like what it does for my arms and shoulders, in particular. I’m assuming the magic pill would not build muscle, so if I wanted that look, I’d have to lift. I like lifting, and when I do it, I feel like a total badass. However, it takes time that I would really love to have back. I would be hard pressed (ha!) to keep up with it, I think.

Running: I’d give it up in a New York minute. It has advantages – I love the stamina that I gained by running regularly. And again, I felt like a badass when I ran… and in my goal to become a superhero, running is important, but if it didn’t also burn calories and make me feel like I was improving my health? Nope, no way.

Here’s why I think I would take the pill: I love the way that I feel now that I am roughly 40 pounds lighter, but I am petrified about going back up. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, there are a whole lot of people out there – many of them smarter and with more will power than I have who have lost weight, only to regain it a few years later. If I could take a pill and erase that worry, I would do it in a heartbeat. 

… but I would still exercise too!

 

 

Photo credit: Victor on flickr

 

It’s My Anniversary! (But I Don’t Have Time for it!)

on the scale.jpg.jpgToday is my anniversary. On January 15th of last year I decided to start doing something about my weight. On this day last year I started using MyFitnessPal and began figuring out how to lose some of my extra poundage.

I really wanted today to be special. I wanted to write a long post about where I have been and what I have been through. I’ve been planning it in my head for weeks – but life doesn’t always go as expected. I mentioned that I have a lot going on in my job right now, and frankly, I am still up to my eyeballs in it. I hired a brand new employee who will be starting Friday while at the same time I have to be prepping for a trade show, not to mention new management above me and a whole bunch of other changes – let’s just say that it’s a lot on one little plate!

Since I don’t want to give up the chance to write about my journey this year, I’ve decided to move my anniversary. That’s right, it’s my anniversary and I can move it if I want to! If I can’t have today, I have another date in mind:

The trigger last year was a doctor’s appointment. I’ve had asthma since childhood and this was a routine check-up and prescription refill. Actually, it went really well. I haven’t needed to change anything in years – my meds stay the same. In the course of congratulating me for keeping my asthma under control, the doctor also mentioned that I was the same weight I was seven years prior, when I first started seeing him. He meant it as a compliment, but it got to me. It was the exact moment I realized that if I kept going exactly the way I was, I would stay the way I was, but if I wanted something different, I needed to do something different.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

It hadn’t been, though. On January 15, 2013 I took the first step and downloaded an app to track calories. I also made a commitment to myself to try. This year has been the result.

I have another yearly appointment with that same doctor coming up, on Valentine’s Day, nonetheless. That seems like a perfect anniversary! Over the last year, I’ve found a lot of love for myself I hadn’t had before. So, I am using the next month to clean up my work schedule a bit, even things out a bit, and in a month, I’ll be ready to write that anniversary post.

In the meantime, I might be a little scarce over the next couple of weeks, but I am still here and I have lots and lots to write about!

Just an Update

I’m in part of the Midwest that is getting hit by all this winter weather. It’s cold and when we aren’t getting ice, we’re getting snow (and lots of it.) I’m not really complaining. I know it’s all just part of winter in the north, but I admit, I am starting to look forward to spring.

He looks like a crocheted traffic cone.

He looks a little like a crocheted traffic cone, don’t you think?

People had been saying it was going to be a bad winter all last fall. I didn’t really believe it, or rather, I just figured it would be the same as last year – no snow until Christmas, a wintery January and then right back into a dreary spring. That’s certainly not the case this year!

One of my coworkers knitted Hermes a sweater. I am usually anti-clothes for my dog, but as I write this it is -4 degrees with a -20 degree wind chills. So, a sweater it is. My coworker knows I am always concerned about visibility so she made it Hunter Orange. I’m not sure he is much more visible at night, but he certainly won’t be mistaken for a deer.

He doesn’t mind the weather at all. Honestly, he doesn’t mind much at all. All he really cares about is: food, walks, and fireworks. The first two he loves, the last one he hates. If a sweater means food and a walk (he gets a treat for putting it on nicely,) then he’s all for it.

Seriously, he loves this weather. Moments after this was taken he dove head first into a snowbank.

Seriously, he loves this weather. Moments after this was taken he dove head first into a snowbank.

Me? I’m having a little bit of a harder time. There is so much snow on the sidewalks that parts are almost impossible to pass through. A walk that usually takes 15 minutes took me over 40 the other night. Then, just as I am ready to call it quits, figuring it’s not weather fit for man nor beast, some runner comes striding past me …in tennis shoes and running clothes, nonetheless. (I bundle up like I am heading out on a North Pole expedition just to get the mail.)

I won’t lie, I’ve thought of pelting them with snow balls.

…it’s too cold though, the snow doesn’t stick together.

Me? I’m not working out, (other than snow slogging with the dog and snow shoveling,) and my weight is up a bit. Ironically, I made it through Christmas just fine, it was the days following the holiday that did me in. Ah well, every day I wake up and think, “Okay, today is the day I will do this. I will refocus.”

One of these days it will be.

 

Does My Face Cause Regrets?

compliment or-nsultOccasionally I write about the odd “compliments” I’ve gotten since losing weight. Please understand that I know most of these are said with good intentions, and I do appreciate that. I just smile and say thank you when they are given. (I only rant here in the privacy of the internet with you, dear reader.) And one final disclaimer – I am not “anti-compliment” or anything. I really do appreciate when people take the time to say something nice or encouraging to me, it’s just that sometimes, when you dig into what has really been said, it isn’t really a compliment.

The most recent one came when I changed my profile photo on Facebook. (It’s the same photo of me that I put up on this post.) I don’t post a lot of of photos of myself, so a lot of people commented on it and said very nice things… but there was one that got under my skin. It was from an ex. He’s a good guy and we dated back in my 20s. The relationship was never going to “go anywhere” but we had a lot of fun. Even though we had our issues, I was honestly surprised when he dumped me for his crackpot, creepy boss. This is the compliment he left:

I don’t have many regrets in life, but this photo gives me an additional one.

Now, I know it’s supposed to be nice, but… it isn’t. Not really. Let’s break it down:

If he just had said, “I don’t have many regrets in my life, but you are one of them.” (and not on a photo of me,) that could have been sweet. Without being on a photo, the comment could be because I am an awesome human being and an all-around badass, and he regrets dumping me for his weird, needy and possessive boss lady. Fair enough.

If he had said, “Daaaaaaannnnnnng woman, you loooooooook goooooood. I haven’t dated anything that fine since 1993!” I would have laughed my head off. (And it would have probably been true!)

However, when we unpack what he did say, this is what I get: “You look good, now. I regret breaking up with you, now.” Honestly, that just ticks me off. I may have lost a little weight and gotten a makeover, but I am still the same dang person! The photo gives you an additional regret? You think I look attractive (now) and so you wish you hadn’t been a jerk in the 90s? What if I wasn’t attractive? Would you still regret it? Because let’s be honest, I’m still basically the same person I was a year ago. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but this comment of his makes all my feminist hackles rise.

I don’t mean to make mountains out of molehills, and hey, I like the way I look too. I just don’t have any illusions that it makes me any different (better or worse) than I was before. I’m me, for all that that means: good and bad. If you regret being a jerk because you were a jerk, fine. If you think I am pretty, fine. But if you regret being a jerk because I am pretty, you’re still a jerk.

 

Food and Happiness

"A Dinner Table at Night"  by John Singer Sargent, 1884

“A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent, 1884

“The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook”
– Julia Child (1912 – 2004)

I’ve been changing how I eat. It’s happened slowly, more by intuition than by anything else. When I started losing weight, I did it with the MyFitnessPal app. At the time, I made a simple vow – eat whatever I want, just make sure to stay under the calorie goal. I did that and it worked. In fact, it worked beautifully. Several friends have not had the same success with the app, but people’s bodies work in different ways. For me, it was perfect.

As I went, I realized that grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.) were really high in calories for the size of the serving. For example, I figured out that I could eat twice as many of my favorite homemade chicken tacos if I used romaine or cabbage as a shell over tortilla. Plus, because they are stuffed with chicken and avocado (and I was eating twice as many,) I felt full longer. Same thing with rice. I love white rice. For many, many years my breakfast of choice was white rice with butter and salt. However, once I started figuring the calories, the servings just didn’t make it worth it. Little by little, I gave them up, not as a conscious choice, exactly, but as a way of getting bigger and better meals.

I weigh myself daily and I’m pretty tuned in to how my body is feeling. I also discovered that my body takes a long time to metabolize meat. I did a little research on it and started figuring out things about how foods are used in the body, and slowly began another change – I began making breakfast my biggest meal of the day. I ate a lot of protein in the morning, a lighter lunch and a mostly vegetarian dinner. I found that I felt fuller longer throughout the day, but I wasn’t sluggish at night. My body seemed to really like the whole “Eat like a King at breakfast, a Queen at lunch and a pauper at dinner” scenario.

Then I ran across gokaleo.com. I’ll be honest, she rubbed me the wrong way at first. (I suspect based on some of the reactions she gets, I’m not alone.) Yet, many of the fitness writers I admire kept referencing her site. Eventually I added it to my log of daily reading. Slowly, her message started seeping in. It wasn’t that I disagreed with it, in fact, in many ways I was already doing what she was suggesting – working on incremental changes, getting a variety of exercise on a daily basis, and adding strength training as a key part of the mix. One of her other suggestions took a little longer: eating a gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight.

I decided to try it. I love experiments, and this was something I was kind of already working towards, although I was far below the daily goal. So, roughly 3 or 4 weeks ago, I started trying to do it regularly. 2 weeks or so ago, I started tracking it on the Lift app.

Honestly? I love it. I feel great. Here’s another interesting thing – for a very brief while I was trying to get an even amount of carbs, fats and proteins: 33/33/33. It was a nightmare. It was like when I had a container garden and I always ended up with too many plants and not enough dirt and pots, or extra pots and no dirt. Whatever I did, I could never get the ratios right. Trying to do that with food was much, much worse.

Then I saw on a forum that someone said they worked towards the protein goal and didn’t worry about the rest, that it somehow always worked out. Sure enough, it almost always does. Oh, for some of the day one part of the pie chart will be larger than others, but by the end of the day, it all evens out. It seems fairly easy to get carbs and fats into the diet!!

Here’s the important part – after I lost the weight, but before concentrating on getting the high protein, my weight was doing these odd little yo-yos. Nothing big, but weird: 2-3 pounds up in a night, 1 pound down the next day. Wilder swings that I would have imagined, considering the circumstances. Once I started eating the protein, the curves leveled off. Oh, I still have ups and downs, but they are more waves than cliffs – and I know why they are there. My weight now has settled down to where I love it, and doesn’t move all that much. It’s fantastic.

I’m not saying this is for everyone, I am just pointing out that this is what works for me, and works really well. This morning I had an amazing breakfast (New York Strip, anyone?) and I have a delicious lunch planned. As far as food goes, I am eating really well. And, I still haven’t cut anything out completely. I mostly stay away from processed grains at my house (except for the odd bit of granola or oats in an apple crisp) but will have them when I am out and being social. I watch my sugar, but I don’t regulate it too much. I drink wine (and beer), eat cheese, meat and vegetables with abandon.

Most importantly? I feel great and I’m happy.

Photo credit: “A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent, posted by HumanSeeHumanDo on flickr

Long Term Weight Loss

Well, this is depressing as [fill in the blank.]Lost: Weight

From Why Do Dieters Regain Weight?

An Australian research team studied people who had lost weight in an effort to understand some of these changes. A year after their initial weight loss:

  • A hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism – Leptin – was still lower than normal
  • Ghrelin, nicknamed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher
  • Peptide YY, a hormone associated with hunger suppression was abnormally low
  • Participants reported being much more hungry and preoccupied with food then they had prior to losing weight

A year after losing weight these people’s bodies were still biologically different than they had been prior to the weight loss attempt, desperately working to regain the weight – and participants had already regained about 30% of the weight they had lost.  One of the study’s authors characterized it as “A coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight.”

You can read the rest of the article here. Thanks (sort of) to Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty for pointing it out. You can read their commentary here: Weight Lost and Gained.

Okay, so I am down roughly 40 pounds. I bounce around a little, naturally. In fact, have you ever noticed how people talk about weight naturally going up and down (due to water weight, stress, what have you,) when they are losing weight, but once they hit goal they are supposed to stay at that weight forever and ever, amen? As if once you hit that magic number, the scale is never supposed to move up or down from that. Well, guess what? It does.

My goal weight is between 131 and 135. I usually hover between 132 and 135, but I’ve been up and down and all around. However, I don’t care what all these articles say,

I AM NOT GOING BACK.

Do you hear me? I have cut up my Lane Bryant credit card! I donated, sold and gave away my entire wardrobe. I don’t care what it takes, I will not regain that weight back.

Now, I might gain muscle. I’m having a whole lot of fun weight training and building up my strength, and if the size of my shoulders and the number on the scale go up together, I’m all for it. But, that is not regaining my old weight – that’s putting on bad-assery. I’m all about being more of a bad ass.

I’m not saying it is going to be easy. I’ve been in “maintenance mode” since June or so, and I’ve had some ups and downs. Nonetheless, I don’t care what it takes – if I have to constantly up my game, so be it. I’ll do it.

Let me point out that my feelings have nothing to do with anyone else’s weight. There are many, many women out there who are heavier than me who are happy, tough, strong, fit, content, glorious and more. I celebrate them and their awesomeness. This is about me, and I know how different I feel today than I did a year ago. I have more energy, I’m stronger, I have more confidence and I am happier. I’m holding on to that, no matter what the scientists say.

 

Photo credit: jaqian on flickr

 

Do’s and Don’ts

I ran across this somewhere on the web and tucked it away as a good reminder:Dos_and_Donts

What I love about it is that it has some good points without being focused on one particular fitness path. For example, while there are several points about eating, the phrase Eat Clean doesn’t appear. (I wrote about why that phrase gets makes me clench my teeth awhile back.) I have heard some conflicting advice about drinking that much water, but considering it is August and high summer in the U.S., if you’re going to be working out outside, it seems like a good plan to me.

I really like the don’s side – especially #1) don’t skip rest days and #4) don’t forget to reward yourself. I think those get forgotten a lot. Since I try to alternate weight training and running, it is really easy for me to skip rest days. (That’s why I don’t get too down on myself when I have a busy week. I just figure they are unplanned rest days.) As for rewards, so far, the results have been their own reward. Then again, taking the time to sit for a while by the river after a long run is an awfully good reward.

Sitting at the river's edge after my run.

Sitting at the river’s edge after my run.