Friday, February 26, 2010

A clean kitchen is a sign of a clean mind

... and a dirty kitchen is a sign of a broken dishwasher?

Well, that's the state of the kitchen in my house right now. Our dishwasher is currently broken down and dishes are piling up on the counter top. The good news is, it happened very shortly before our warranty ran out. The bad news is, it's been broken for a few days and will be for a few more before the repairman arrives.

As the dishes pile up on the counter tops, it's got me realizing how much of a difference it makes to my eating habits when the kitchen is at least moderately clean. The desire to cut up produce and make something to eat isn't as high when one has to clear off space on the counter first. That desire is even harder to muster up when you have to clean dishes in order to do so.

When the kitchen is clean, not only is it easier to work in, but it's more pleasant. You can pull out a cutting board and put a pot on the stove. My kitchen is bright with lots of windows and shiny (fingerprinted) stainless steel appliances that are nice to use and less then a year old. Too bad one of them is broken...

Now, don't get me wrong, I know very well it's possible to wash dishes by hand. In fact, I have done some and intend to do more, but I won't deny how much I've come to rely on my modern appliances. It is so much easier when all you have to do is pop your dishes in the dishwasher in order to get them clean.

Looks like today will be the day of the dishes. Then perhaps we'll use disposable dishes until the dishwasher is fixed on Monday...

(Just kidding, as tempting as it is to use paper plates, I couldn't actually bring myself to do it. Besides my town has a strict limit on how much garbage we can put out each week.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do you need to eat at restaurants?

Last week, the meeting topic was "dining out". The leader stated emphatically that "this is something you have to do. Otherwise you'll get frustrated and quit (weight watchers)."

Don't get me wrong; I don't have anything against eating at restaurants, but I don't think it is something that is necessary for me to do on any kind of a regular basis.

We rarely dine out. The biggest reason is simple. We have 2 small children and not a lot of evening babysitters around. When our first child was young, we still went to restaurants occasionally. Once he reached toddler stage though, we learned why it isn't fun to take a toddler to restaurants. Now, both of our children are toddlers, so the idea of going to a restaurant with them is only slightly more appealing then getting a root canal without anesthetic.

Despite that, in the last few years, I've become less excited about restaurant food. When I was in my early twenties, I ate a lot of it, and I used to think it was pretty good. Now that I have a bit of experience in the kitchen, I've realized that I can make most things from the menu in my own kitchen. Not only that, but I can usually make it better, plus then I know exactly what goes into it.

I've learned some tricks to meal preparation and almost always have at least a few meals in the freezer, so the temptation to order take out fizzles when I realize I have food that can be prepared faster, cheaper, healthier and with just as little effort.

On the rare occasions when I do go out now, I consider it a treat, but we're talking about a couple times a year. Maybe the time will come when my husband and I get more date nights, but then the question is whether it has to always involve food?

Ultimately, I think restaurants have their place. For me, that place is very occasional. I just can't get that excited about a regular restaurant meal. I'll probably be left wishing I had just made it myself.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How much self control do you have?

A new study shows that overestimating your self control may be a way of sabotaging yourself. If you think you have a high level of self control, you're more likely to expose yourself to more tempting situations, increasing the chances you'll succumb to said temptations.

I just read this article on scientific american. I'm not going to repeat everything that's written there, but I'll give a brief summary. I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Basically, they told one group of smokers that they were considered to have high self control and another group that they had low self control. They then let them choose what level of temptation to expose themselves to. A bigger risk resulted in a larger prize. They found that those that were told they had high self control were more likely to expose themselves to a higher risk and therefore more likely to smoke a cigarette.

The result isn't surprising. It is also something that can be transferred to many areas of self control and addiction. This is another aspect of how losing weight involves making permanent changes to your lifestyle instead of temporary ones.

I love to bake. I will fully admit that baking is one of my downfalls and one of the areas where I tempt myself. I frequently will bake some cookies or muffins with my son, intending to only have one. Um, that means one from every batch, right? As the baker, isn't it my responsibility to make sure every batch is cooked perfectly?

Yeah... See what I mean?

So, does this mean that to make a permanent change in my lifestyle, I need to stop baking entirely? Well, in my case, no, I don't believe I do. I am able to still bake occasionally while losing weight and I believe that I will still be able to once the weight is off.

But, this is key: the things I do to control the temptation while I'm losing weight are ones I need to stick with once the weight is off.

I generally bake healthy or somewhat healthy food. I try to bake while my husband is around. (My husband is not an enabler and is very supportive of my weight loss efforts). There are certain foods that I avoid. Anything that is full of chocolate and mint is only likely to be baked for very special occasions and when there's plenty of people to share it.

When I have finished losing weight, it isn't a free ticket to start making brownies and cookies every morning.

What are the temptations you have control or avoid?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Losing slowly = letting your mind catch up?

So, my weigh in this week was unexciting. I didn't gain, sending me into a temper tantrum like the previous week. I didn't lose a huge amount either. I lost exactly 1 pound. I must admit that I found it a little disappointing. It's not that I think 1 pound is a bad amount to lose; rather, I just was hoping that I would lose what I had gained last week plus some.

Now, having said that, I'm happy with the loss. It means the scale is moving in the right direction and it means the weight will come off... eventually. I still have at least 55 pounds to lose, so at this rate, it will take just over a year more.

I've lost weight before. The other times I lost weight, I lost it relatively quickly. Last time I dropped 55 pounds in about 5 months. The time before that, I dropped 40 pounds in about 3.5 months.

I started gaining it back shortly after.

Most people have heard that when you lose it quickly, you gain it back quickly and easily. Having regained my weight (and then some) twice before, I'm focused on figuring out why I've gained it back. I can't afford to be in a position of needing to lose 75-80 pounds a few years from now. I need to get my head around the reasons I gained it back and change them. I don't think it's a simple, one answer solution, so it's something I will explore repeatedly. Having said that, I have one theory as to why I've gained it back.

I lost the weight so quickly, my mind never had a chance to catch up with my body.

Losing weight is motivating. It's exciting. You're constantly getting positive reinforcement as you see the numbers on the scale go down. Maintaining your weight can be rather anti-climatic. If you lose your weight quickly, like I did, you never really lost the momentum. When you hit a point of maintenance, you get tired of watching what you eat, tired of avoiding the "bad" foods, and you just want a break.

Now, I'm theorizing here, since I haven't lost the weight slowly yet.

If you lose the weight slowly, you have more time for the habits that got you there to be ingrained. You've likely hit a couple roadblocks or plateaus. It hasn't always been exciting and you've kept it up anyways. When you hit a point of maintenance, it isn't anti-climatic because quite frankly, the weight loss has already been anti-climatic.

Now, I don't know how quickly or slowly the weight will continue to come off. I do know that my journey is far from over. It also doesn't end when I've dropped the last excess pound.

Now, as promised, my first progress picture. Here is me after losing 10 pounds.
And here is my before picture.

If I'm honest, I don't see a big difference yet. Granted, I'm wearing more fitted clothing in the before picture and baggier clothing in the progress picture. I will admit that my clothes feel a bit better. I haven't gone down a size, but the pants that were getting tight and uncomfortable are now fitting me well. Perhaps the difference will become more obvious at 20 pounds.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Shame on you Weight Watchers

So yesterday, at my meeting, I took a moment to look at the food they sell. Now, if you've read my post about what I consider the the Not So Good parts of weight watchers, you've seen me touch on this before. The processed food.

Weight watchers is a program that sells itself as a program that works in the real world. A program on which you can still have your favourite foods. This is all fine and good, but does this mean that weight watchers should endorse foods that have nothing healthy in them?

Right now, I'm talking about the bars that weight watchers sells. I took a moment to read the ingredient list on their mini chocolate caramel bars. I jotted down the first 5 ingredients. They are: glucose-fructose, sugar, fructooli-gosaccharides, maltodextrin, modified palm kernel oil. The rest of the list included plenty of words I couldn't pronounce, but those are the first 5, meaning the ingredients of which there are the most of.

So, in other words: sugar (that's what glucose-fructose is), sugar, sugar substitute (thank you google), sugar substitute (thanks again google), and oil (not even one of the oils that weight watchers lists as healthy oils which you should have a bit of every day.)

They also listed the percentage of your daily value of a few vitamins you get from it: Vit A - 0%, Vit C - 0%, calcium - 0%, and iron - 2%.

Seriously? This is the food that weight watchers not only endorses by putting their name on it, but they actually sell at meetings? Okay, I get that you have to live while you "diet". I get that you still have to have treats. But, could weight watchers not endorse treats that have some iota of nutrtional value? Is there any reason they couldn't do that?

Ah yes, the almighty dollar.

Shame on you weight watchers. Shame on you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Best time of day to work out

In my early 20s, I got a summer membership at a gym close to my work. And almost every workday morning that summer, I headed to the gym bright and early, got a good workout in and headed to work full of energy.

Right now, after at least one of the kids is in bed for the night, I head downstairs to my basement and home gym. I either lift weights or do cardio exercise while enjoying some escapism in the form of tv.

So, what's better? What time of day is the best to workout?

Ultimately, I think the best time of day to workout is whenever you will stick to it. What I think you need to do is pick a time of day that is fits into your routine and is easy to make into a habit. For some people, that's going to be first thing in the morning, others it will be after work, before heading home to supper. Perhaps you're like me and you can't reliably get to it until the day is winding down.

Now, having said that, all else being equal, I actually do think there is a superior time of the day for me to work out. I think it's first thing in the morning. When I get to workout early in the day, it sets the tone for the day. I feel great after the workout, I stay on track with my eating, and I have more energy. When I work out in the evening, like I usually do, I still feel good, but that rush sometimes keeps me awake and then is worn off by the morning.

So, why don't I always get up and work out in the morning? Well, quite frankly, at this point in my life, it just doesn't work with my routine. My children are poor sleepers and I frequently wake up through the night. If I planned to workout in the morning, I know I would be hitting the snooze button and grabbing whatever extra sleep I could. By working out in the evenings, I'm able to do it when my husband is home and I can be off duty. Occasionally, I'm still called upon, but I'd say 19 out of 20 workouts go uninterrupted. (thanks to my fabulous husband!)

Despite that, I crave the feeling I used to have for most of the day after a morning workout. When sleep regulates in my house, I will start getting up early and breaking a sweat.

So, what is the best time of day for you to workout? And is that the time that you get to do it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Listening to your body

So, I've started a new strength training program (I'll talk specifics about it once I'm further into it.) Anyways, the day after my last workout, I was sore. I did my cardio anyways. It helps to get the blood flowing and can actually help ease soreness.

Then the second day after, yesterday, I was really sore. I went for a walk with my family in the afternoon and the muscles in my leg felt so tight I couldn't even run with my son. I quickly realized I wouldn't be continuing my strength training that evening. I soon realized that I wouldn't even be able to do my usual cardio. (For the record, I don't count family walks as cardio unless I get to go at a faster rate then toddlers usually walk).

The temptation to tough it out and do it anyways was high. For one, I think making exercise a habit and a routine is key in continuing to do it long term. I don't take specific days off. I feel that the intensity I work out at is one that I can do on a daily basis. For another, I feel like I make progress every time I do it and I don't want to stop.

But, there comes a time when you have to listen to your body. If your body is saying, "no, I won't move in this way; If you do that, it's going to hurt", then it means something. Sometimes your body needs rest every bit as much as it needs to work, and if you don't give it that rest, you'll end up injuring yourself.

Yesterday, my body was telling me that I wasn't going to get a workout in. Those muscles were tight in a way that went beyond regular soreness. It wasn't a case of just loosening them up. It was a case of giving them a break. It wasn't the kind of pain that was injury pain, but I feel like it could have become an injury if I had pushed it.

So, I didn't work out.

And you know what? Nothing bad happened. I don't feel like a habit has been broken. I don't feel like it's stopped my momentum. I just took a break and life continues on as normal.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gaining perspective

So last night I had a little temper tantrum. This morning I'm feeling a little more balanced and am reacting with my logical side rather then just my emotional side. Remember this post? Cut the Drama I think it's appropriate in this situation.

So, I gained a pound. 1.2 pounds. What is that really? Not a heck of a lot in the long run. When you gain weight, I think you should look at your habits and consider whether there is a reason for it. Looking at my habits, I truly don't think there is. I have been on track, but fact of the matter is, I can only control me. I can't control what happens to the numbers on the scale.

There's lots of reasons for the numbers on the scale to go up, regardless of how you eat or exercise. Water retention is a big one. It can be caused by excess sodium, hormonal fluctuations, or recovering from working out. Building muscle is a bit of a possibility. It's not actually as easy to put muscle on as sometimes said. Bodybuilders celebrate every pound of muscle gained and work very hard for it. Still, working out with weights causes water retention as your muscles recover.

Sometimes your body just doesn't follow the "science" of a 3500 calorie deficit equaling a 1 pound loss. To be honest, I'm not really convinced it's the same number of calories for everyone. I'm not even convinced it's the same number of calories for the same person at different times.

Heck, even your choice of clothing, what you eat immediately before and whether you've used the bathroom before stepping on the scale make a difference. These things are the most superficial reasons, but in the short term, they effect those numbers.

Really, when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter. Because this is life. What matters is how you measure success. If you only measure based on the numbers on the scale, you're going to be disappointed on a regular basis. When I look at my successes over the last month, I see that I am making better choices; I am getting stronger and have more endurance; I am starting to like myself more.

Those things mean far more then the piddly little numbers on the scale.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Well F***.

Tomorrow I'll write some "inspirational" post about how I'll get past this. Tonight I'm just going to vent.

I work out every night. Seriously, I think I've missed about 3 days since the beginning of January. I do an average of about 60 minutes of cardio plus strength training 3 times a week. I count everything that enters my mouth and concentrate on eating unprocessed healthy foods. I stay within my points range.

And this week I was up 1.2 pounds bringing down my total lost to 9 pounds even.

Like I said: F***. (It's my blog, I can swear if I want to.)

I'm angry. I'm frustrated. I'm disappointed. I just want to punch something.

I missed taking my 10 pounds lost progress picture last week. I guess it doesn't matter, because I can take it when I hit 10 pounds again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seeing a difference

Tonight I did a lunge.

This evening I was watching the Biggest Loser while pedaling away on my recumbent bike. Before one of the commercial breaks, they showed you how to do lunges and told you to do them for the whole commercial break. Now, I'm not going to follow their workout suggestions out of guilt. After all, I'm not sitting on the couch while watching this show. I'm working up a sweat. But I thought, "what the heck".

I got off of my bike and I did a lunge. Then I did another one. And four more. Then I tried a squat. I did two squats.

It doesn't seem like much. I used to do lunges and squats all the time with significant weight on my back. That was about 7 years ago.

About 4 years ago, I started to feel serious pain in my knees when I hiked up steep inclines. Then, I started feeling occasional pain even climbing stairs. My knees are what scares me the most about the extra weight I'm carrying and it's what scares me the most about exercises like lunges and squats.

Before tonight, the last time I tried to do a lunge was about 1 month ago. As I went down, my knees screamed at me to stop. Not the kind of pain where you know you're working it, but the kind of pain where something feels wrong. I dropped down and didn't push it.

Tonight, as I tentatively did a lunge, I didn't feel that pain. It just felt... normal. Yeah, it works the muscles, but that's the kind of feeling I'm starting to embrace. As I did more, I felt it in my legs, but my knees were going strong. Even in the squats, which are what has caused me more difficulty, my knees didn't hurt me.

I felt like I could have done more, but I'm not going to push it yet. I still have to be aware of my body and know it's limits. But, if a month of regular workouts and 10 pounds lost can make this much of a change, I can't wait to see what a year of regular workouts and 65 pounds lost will do!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strength Training - Doing it at home

So, early in January, when I discussed my plan, I committed to reconsidering strength training on February 1. Well, it's now February 8, but I held true to my commitment; I'm just blogging about it now.

If I were to picture an ideal physique that I'd like to have, I would be slender, curvy and muscular. My genetics have given me curves (even while thin), weight loss will give me the slender part, and it's up to me to work on the muscular part. For that, I'm turning to weight lifting.

Cardio is great. It contributes to burning calories and is good for your heart. But, when you are looking to reshape your body, strength training is key. Muscles not only look good, but a pound of muscle is smaller then a pound of fat and burns more calories. Forget the fear of bulking up as a woman. Most experts are now saying that is basically impossible for the average woman unless she is taking steroids.

I don't have a gym membership, but I do have a fair bit of equipment in my house, so I will be working out at home. I'm going to talk about what I think you need to do it at home. I am not a personal trainer, so I won't be talking about technique, but rather equipment and general guidelines. In my opinion, I think you need: knowledge, equipment, and awareness.

1. Knowledge is key. In an ideal world, I would have a personal trainer that would always be there to check my form for me and teach me new exercises. In a real world, I have a background working out with trainers (back when I had gym memberships) and a couple good books. I'm not going to recommend the main book I'm using. I think the pictures and information on technique and form are great. I'm not as fond of the rest of the information in the book, such as the recommendation to work out on an empty stomach in the morning.

In choosing literature to help you, make sure the technique is explained fully and there are clear pictures so you can see what the proper form is.

2. You need some equipment. I'm lucky because back in our "double income, no kids" days, my husband and I made the decision to stop buying gym memberships and purchase home equipment.

At a minimum, I think you need dumbbells in progressively heavier weights. I have some fixed weight dumbbells that were given to me as well as a couple adjustable dumbbells with plate weights. Being able to grab the fixed weight dumbbells is handy because it's quick and I don't have to fiddle with changing the plate weights. If they weren't given to me though, I'd probably make do with the plate weights. I also can use them on a barbell, so they do double duty. If money were no object, I'd go for something like powerblocks. They give you the range of weights without taking up the space of fixed weight dumbbells and without taking up the time of plate weight dumbbells. Having said that, since I already have the other 2, I'd spend the money on other things before buying powerblocks anyways.

The other key piece of equipment you need is a mirror. I have a full length mirror in my workout area. It is really important to be able to check your form, and if you don't have a mirror, you can't do that. In an ideal world, I'd have more then one mirror, so that I could see myself from multiple angles, but I can make do with one.

Other equipment I have includes a weight bench, a barbell (with plate weights), an exercise ball, and squat racks. I don't think any of these are absolutely necessary, but they are very nice to have - particularly the weight bench.

It would be nice to have a cable system as well, but then I'm getting out of the realm of what equipment I want to have taking up room in my home.

3. Finally you need to have awareness when you are lifting free weights. As I said, I'm not qualified to give advice on how to lift, but I can say this: It is very important to lift with proper form. For this reason, I think it's a good idea to start with lighter weights until you are sure your form is correct. Constantly check yourself in your mirror(s) and make sure you're aware of what muscle you should be working. If you're feeling it somewhere else, it may mean that you need to adjust your technique.

So, for now, the strength training aspect of my workout plan includes weight lifting 3 times a week. Once I shed the layers of fat on my arms, I want to see the muscle definition that lies beneath.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Four weeks, Ten pounds, keeping focused

Tonight I went to my fifth weigh in. Once again, I lost over 2 pounds. 2.4 to be exact, giving me a total weight loss of 10.2 pounds.

In some ways, this has been the easy part. The beginning of a weight loss program is when you're likely to see the pounds come off the fastest, so it keeps you motivated. You're pumped up and excited to be doing something good for yourself. You're enjoying new foods and making discoveries about healthy foods that you actually really enjoy.

So, how do you keep focused when it's not new anymore?

I think the biggest thing you have to remember is why you are doing this and what you really want. If I lose 10 pounds now, and gain it back, in a year, none of this will have mattered. But, if I take that 10 pounds and make it 20, 40 or 60, I can change my life.

Seven years ago was the last time I hit my goal weight. That summer, I went on a 80 km hike carrying a starting weight of about 55 pounds - ironically the amount I had lost to reach my goal at that time. I was fit and happy. I climbed over trees, forded streams, and hiked up mountains.

THAT is what I want back. I want that feeling of being able to accomplish whatever I put my mind to. I want the ability to do the things I love without being limited by my body.

So, today, my weight is down 10 pounds. Next month, it will be down more. Because reminding myself of where I am going and what I will do is what is keeping me on track.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Setting priorities and putting yourself first

There is something to be said for helping other people and doing things for other people. There is also something to be said for doing things for yourself, and I think this is often underrated. Sometimes you have to make the decision to put yourself first.

Today I made a big decision. I made the choice to keep my etsy store closed until further notice.

A year and a half ago, I started it up - making hand made hair clippies and other hair accessories for girls. It was something for me. It was a way for me to have time for myself and feel like I was doing something. I am first and foremost a stay at home mother, but I needed more. A year and a half ago, it was exactly what I needed. And I was good at it. Not only did I make a good product, but I marketed it well and sold a lot. It filled a void that I was trying to fill and helped me to feel good about myself.

I liked making the clippies, but I was getting tired of the trips to the post office, and what seemed like endless packing. Even making the clippies was tiring because I didn't get to choose when to make them and often had to put clippie making above time with my husband and kids and definitely above time for myself to workout or relax. I enjoyed the craft fairs and mom to mom sales, but I felt like everything else was an unwanted imposition.

After the Christmas rush, I temporarily closed my shop for the holidays. Then I didn't reopen. Whenever I thought about reopening, I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach. That little ball of stress. Why was I doing this to myself? It wasn't for the money. I've always considered it half hobby, half business. I make a bit off of it, but I'd make more for the same time working in a retail job.

I realized it was time to make myself a priority. It was time to make the decision to spend spare time on myself rather then on a hobby I wasn't enjoying anymore. My children don't sleep through the night, so I'm chronically sleep deprived and don't get up any earlier then I have to. The kids' naps are few and far between and rarely at the same time. Even bedtime tends to be a bit of a battle. There are only a couple hours left in the evening and one of those hours is now for me. I get to go watch my escapist reality television while I pedal or row on the exercise machines. When there's extra time left, I spend it with my husband.

It was hard for me to make the decision to keep my store closed because I felt like I would be disappointing people. Okay, reality check here: my family is important and my friends are important. While my customers are important, they are strangers to me, and certainly don't rate higher then my needs.

Why do we put everyone else ahead of ourselves? Only now am I starting to realize that I do deserve to put myself ahead of other people. In my world and my life, my family is number 1, I'm a very close second, and I value my close friends. Everybody else will get a piece of me only when there are pieces left over.

So what about you? Do you put everyone else before yourself? Is it time to make a change?