Monday, August 30, 2010

Lose It! Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Aug 23rd


Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Aug 23rd

for Jen S
Daily Summary
Budget Food Exercise Net +/- Weight (lbs)
8/23/10 1,832 1,749 0 1,749 -82 182.2
8/24/10 1,832 2,454 534 1,920 88 182.2
8/25/10 1,832 3,063 243 2,820 988 182.2
8/26/10 1,832 2,556 281 2,274 443 182.2
8/27/10 1,811 2,849 0 2,849 1,039 179
8/28/10 1,811 2,720 766 1,954 144 179
8/29/10 1,811 3,634 505 3,129 1,318 179
3,937 calories over budget for the week
Lost 3.2 pounds this week
Nutrient Summary % Calories
Fat 770g 36.5%
   Saturated Fat 222g
Cholesterol 1,683mg
Sodium 22,998mg
Carbohydrates 2,325g 49%
   Fiber 226g
Protein 689g 14.5%
Exercise Summary Calories
Home Repair 3 Hours 30 Min 597
Pilates 1 Hour 169
Running 1 Hour 10 Min 802
Circuit Training 35 Min 354
House Cleaning 15 Min 43
Walking 1 Hour 50 Min 364
Total 2329
Report generated by Lose It!. For more information or to sign up for your free Lose It! account, please visit

Virtual weight loss "meeting"

One thing that feels like it's been missing from my weight-loss efforts is some accountability and group support. The thing I miss about Weight Watchers is that feeling of not doing this alone.  I know that this blog allows me to post some things and get feedback, but I tend not to post unless things are going relatively well.

I was thinking about the idea of a virtual weight-loss "meeting" today and wanted to see if anyone was interested.  It would work similarly to those blog memes where you answer a bunch of questions. There would be no tagging, though.  People would choose to participate or not  participate.  To participate, answer the questions here on your own blog, then post a link to the "leader's" blog.  To make things simple, I w

as thinking that the meeting should take place on the same day every week, and since every diet starts on Monday, why not today?  If you choose to respond, post a link to your blog entry in the comments. Try to post an encouraging comment to at least one other blogger in the comments list.  Also, let me know if you would like to be our virtual leader and choose the questions and post the first entry next week. I will select someone randomly from the people who want to lead. This is just an experiment, but I'm curious to see what happens.

  1. What is going well for you right now?  I have been pretty consistent with my exercise and incorporating strength training.
  2. Where do you need to improve? I have been finding myself more and more attracted to snack foods and less interested in cooking.
  3. What new recipe do you want to try this week? This Mixed-Grain Cereal with Chai Spice.
  4. What was your favorite new food find or recipe from last week? Eggplant Caviar.
  5. What is your general weight trend right now?  Unfortunately, there is a slight upward trend that has lasted for the last few weeks.
  6. How do you feel about your weight loss efforts? Frustrated, stuck, and worried.
  7. What is your weight loss goal for next week? Just to lose one solid pound instead of creeping up again.
  8. What two weight-loss behavior goals do you plan to give 100% to this week? Exercising every day and logging everything I eat right away.
  9. What do you fear most about trying to get group support? Unsolicited advice or comparisons, fake-cheerful comments.
  10. What can other people give you that would be truly helpful? A sense that I'm not going it alone.
 I will be curious to see how many people participate. If you want to play along, copy these questions and paste them into a blog post in which you answer them for yourself.  Then come back and post a link to your post in the comments.  If you think you might want to be the leader and pick the questions next week (you can keep any of the ones here or come up with a whole new list), let me know in the comments. Also try to reply to a couple of other people's virtual meeting posts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How it's going

It has been a while since I posted and I thought I'd post an update on several things.  The new semester is starting, with all the busyness  that goes with it, so I may be posting a little less frequently for a while.

My weight is still up in the high 170s. I am working to cultivate mindfulness and be more aware of my choices.  I feel like the weight will take care of itself once I'm not eating for all those other reasons besides hunger. I am still tracking my food with LoseIt to help keep me aware, too.

I am still doing the You Are Your Own Gym workouts and just began Week 3. I think it's the perfect strength-training routine for a busy life. The last workout I did took 36 minutes. I'm also still running and walking and doing yoga. The biking and the swimming have slipped -- I want to figure out how to work them back in.

Sorry for the boring post, will be back soon with something more fun.

Friday, August 13, 2010

No fear and loathing

Just read a distressing post on a friend's blog about feeling desperate and drastic. I know how she feels. Lately the scale has edged up a bit. I thought at first that it was my sore muscles that were bumping it up -- when your muscles are sore, they are usually holding fluid. It may be monthly fluctuations. It may be because I haven't been logging my food or doing as much to focus on fruits and vegetables and have fallen back in love with pasta.  It is probably a little of each of those things, but mostly the latter.

I have been feeling insecure and a little desperate and drastic myself, but I know that jumping into a strict program won't work for me. I need to edge back into a more normal relationship with food and my body.  I have been listening to "" on my iPhone and she talks about the way that many of us use weight loss as a proxy for all the other things that we don't like in our lives.  She says that instead of trying to deal with those problems by way of weight loss, maybe we could try dealing with them directly instead.  It makes some sense. Her eating guidelines are simple but also surprisingly difficult: Eat when you're hungry. Stop when you've had enough. Eat calmly and without distractions. Eat what your body wants. A lot of her process is being curious about the feelings that drive you toward food instead of punishing yourself for wanting to comfort yourself with food. But she's not saying to follow that urge -- instead, you are supposed to really pay attention to what is going on, and what you really want.

I am working on following the guidelines. I was eating out with some other people today, and I realized about halfway through my meal that I had enough, but I still finished what was there. It's really difficult to break the clean-plate habit.  It's going to take some work to really live this way, but I'm trying to continue the effort because I want a normal, natural relationship with food and not just another diet plan.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Book and workout review: You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren

Note: The author's publicist provided me with a copy of so that I could try the exercises and do a review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions of the book I express here are my own.

As regular readers of my blog will recall, I have known for a long time that the missing link in my exercise program has been strength training. I have been doing long sessions of running, biking, and swimming.  Even with my attempts (admittedly, not always successful) to limit my calories, I haven't been experiencing much weight loss. I knew that strength training would help, and I even bought equipment (a BOSU, resistance bands, kettlebells, videos) to help me do it, but I still couldn't get motivated.  When Mark Lauren's publicist approached me about a book based on all bodyweight exercises, "a total fitness package that requires no gym, no weights, nothing but your own body—the most advanced fitness machine ever created," I thought I'd try it. With no equipment needed and no need to watch instructional videos, I thought I might finally have found something I could stick with.  Besides, Lauren had trained Special Operations officers, some of the fittest of the fit in the U.S. military. I thought he might know a thing or two about fitness.  Besides, just thinking about the lives of military men and women made me want to toughen up and stop making excuses.

I was invited to submit questions for a virtual interview:

1.  Your website shows pictures of incredibly buff people and your blurb talks about military personnel and other super-fit people. I'm your average, middle-aged, middle-American woman who has about twenty pounds to lose. Can your book help someone like me get in shape?

Absolutely! My clients that are the least fit are actually the ones that make that fastest progress. The 125 bodyweight exercises in my book come with many variations that allow you to adjust the difficulty of most of them. A push-up for example, can be made easy enough for anyone by placing the hands against a wall. As an individual progresses the exercise can be made harder by placing the hands on lower surfaces until the hands are eventually on the ground. The feet can then be elevated, pauses can be incorporated, and the hands can be placed on an unstable surface to make the exercise still harder. This entire progression can then be used with a single limb movement or 1-arm Push-up. There is much more variety and freedom with bodyweight exercises than people realize. There is a lot of room for creativity. These movements can be used to develop cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, strength, and power in individuals of all athletics abilities, but most importantly, it's an extremely time effective method of positively affecting body composition.

2. I know I need to do strength training, and I have bought other strength training books and I find it hard to actually use them.  I love to run, bike, swim, do yoga, but strength training is not fun for me. How can I get motivated?

Studies have proven that short intense workouts are far superior to steady state training or "cardio" in developing all aspects of fitness including, ironically, cardiovascular endurance. The forum on my website shows two such studies. The workouts in my program require that you train only 16-40 minutes 4-5 days per week. Plus, these workouts can be done absolutely anywhere. I maintain my fitness with less time than most people spend driving to and from the gym. What makes these workouts so incredibly effective is that they allow you develop muscle, which is essential in developing a fast youthful metabolism, and these workouts have a lasting impact on your metabolism causing you to burn many more calories for up to 36 hours after the completion of the training.

High intensity interval and strength training is not comfortable, but neither is anything else that is truly effective. Change will not occur without a strong enough demand, and because of this fact, it is necessary for us to occasionally set aside our comfort for the sake of our goals. This method of training is the most time efficient and effective method of developing all around fitness, and it requires only a very small sacrifice of your time. What motivates me is that I know my goals are more important to me than my comfort.

3. What are the advantages of body-weight training over using weights?

Many exercises requiring weights or machines isolate one or two muscle groups while having the user sitting or lying down. Nowhere in day to day living will you find yourself straining only or two muscle groups while sitting or lying down. At least not while you're alone. Bodyweight exercises engage many muscles at once, are more demanding of balance and flexibility, and they can safely be done anywhere. There are functional exercises requiring weights but these are complex movements that are often done with poor form. Our fitness should not be dependent on trainers, gadgets, or gyms.

4. Are there specific exercises you would recommend for runners who are trying to stave off injuries? What about swimmers? Are your programs customizable for different sports or activities?

I would recommend the programs in my book as they are, since they were originally developed for Special Operations trainees that were required to run and swim. These programs build general all around fitness or general physical preparedness. In my book You Are Your Own Gym I explain the science behind the structure of my program so that people can create their own programs or customize what I've created for them. I encourage people to tailor these programs to their needs after they've become familiar enough with bodyweight training, since we are all individuals with varying needs, goals, and situations.

5. I know this is a bad question to ask, but how soon can someone doing your program expect to see results? 

I often get feedback that people feel a positive change after only two weeks of using my program. Initially, the user will experience the feeling of having a stronger core and the development of a physique that is a cohesive whole rather than one that is made of many separate parts. I advocate an approach that does not neglect long-term success. This program isn't about dropping x amount of weight in x amount of time only to gain it all back when you inevitably fall of the horse. Many diets and programs are all about the short-term and completely neglect the long-term, because it's smart marketing. The only way to true lasting fitness and well being is to take the long approach. The tortoise wins this race! Understand and embrace the fitness and nutrition principles that are outlined in my book. That is the first step. After that it's simply
a matter of applying them and being consistent, not for weeks or months but years.
 I read the book and was impressed by Lauren's no-nonsense approach.  "We have a choice: To take care of ourselves or to simply let time make us worse. Most people in this world choose to lose. They drag themselves through a second-rate life, overweight and under-energetic." The book provides a brief overview of Lauren's philosophy, but more than half of the pages are exercises with clear, easy-to-follow photographs that show each step of the exercise. There are training plans that go from Basic to Master Class.

Though the cover says "Work out less, eat more," I think that most people would find themselves eating both a lot less food and a radically different diet on the plan that Lauren outlines here. The diet plan is sort of a combination of the Paleo Diet plan and Body for Life.  He gives a sample day's diet that shows three meals of whole grains, vegetables, one fruit serving, and lean meat and fish.  There are two snacks of protein shakes.  I haven't tried it, but it sounds pretty spartan.  I am sure it would result in rapid weight loss for anyone who could manage to follow it.  I am working on incorporating some of his ideas into my own plan but am not ready to commit to something this strict yet.  I don't think there's anything wrong with the diet plan, just the "eat more" claim.

The other quibble I have with the book is the subtitle of Chapter 4, Strength Training, which is "Why Cardio is a Waste of Your Time." I do follow his points (and I am living proof) that it is difficult to lose weight by doing only steady-state aerobic exercise, because it doesn't burn a lot of calories, tends to increase your appetite, and may actually result in muscle loss if it is not accompanied by strength training. But I have a hard time wrapping my head around the notion that it would be a good idea to be sedentary other than 16-45 minutes of strength training 4-5 days a week. The Spec Ops guys that Lauren uses as his illustration of ideal fitness have an occupation that requires them to be constantly active. Since many civilians have desk jobs, I think we have to consciously add activity to our lives to make up for the many hours we spend sitting, and since we can't do pushups all day, cardio is going to have to be part of the picture.  I have cut back a bit on my cardio activities but am still running, biking, swimming, etc.

Other than these two minor points, though, I was impressed with the book and anxious to get started.  My husband had agreed to try the program out with me so that we could have two guinea pigs for the experiment instead of just one.

Though the book says that the only equipment you need to be fit is your own body, the two core "pull" exercises in the basic program, and require something to pull against.  Lauren suggests doorknobs and broomsticks, but we live in an old house and I was afraid that we might pull the doorknobs off with the Let Me Ins and break our broom (which has a plastic handle) with the Let Me Ups, so we went to a playground to do the first upper-body workout.  There were no kids using the equipment, so we were able to use a post for the Let Me Ins and a rope ladder for the Let Me Ups. The equipment wasn't ideal, and it's not always easy to find a playground without kids using it, so I am still looking for better alternatives.  A picnic table worked well for the modified pushups and dips.  These exercises are simple, but not easy. The first two weeks of the Basic program have you doing 7-minute "Ladders." You start with 1 rep of the exercise, then 2, then 3, etc., resting as long between each set as it took you to do the exercises. That means you get a short rest with a 1-rep set and a longer rest with a 4-rep set.  You would think that 7 minutes isn't a long time, but try doing this workout! It was a real challenge for both of us. Both of us had been running and biking all summer, but neither had done much strength training, so we were starting from scratch.

We came home from the park exhausted. I felt like I had bowling balls tied to my elbows. I had a hard time washing my hair in the shower because I had to force myself to raise my arms over my head -- they didn't want to go. I thought I might lose weight because my arms were too tired to lift a fork.   Even after eating I had very little energy and didn't want to do anything. I went to a Pilates Reformer class the day after and was really limited in what I could do. For about two days after we did this first workout, both of us felt miserable.  Everything hurt.  The second day was lower-body exercises, which we could do in our living room because they required no equipment at all. This workout was less difficult for us but definitely not easy. We took two rest days between the lower-body day and the next upper-body day to give our sore muscles time to recover.  We also cheated a little and cut the upper-body sets to 5 minutes instead of 7. The next workout was hard but we didn't feel so knocked out afterward. Two days ago we did the third upper-body workout, and I think we might be ready to do the full 7-minute sets next time. You have to commit to push through those first tough days if you are going to do a program like this, but it does get easier.

I really like the simplicity of these workouts and also the feeling that we are doing something hardcore.  I think it's something that we can stick with, especially if we solve our equipment challenges for the upper-body set. I don't see any results yet (and wouldn't expect to after just a little more than a week) but feel stronger already.

I would recommend to people with a moderate level of fitness and up who are ready to challenge themselves, especially people who want a blunt, no-nonsense approach to workouts.  You can find out more about the author at his website,, or on his book's , where you can see photos of some of his exercises. If you decide to try it, let me know how you like it, once your arms recover enough for you to type.

Lose It! Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Aug 2nd


Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Aug 2nd

for Jen S
Daily Summary
Budget Food Exercise Net +/- Weight (lbs)
8/2/10 1,798 2,184 253 1,931 134 177
8/3/10 1,798 2,408 451 1,957 160 177
8/4/10 1,801 2,298 634 1,663 -138 177.6
8/5/10 1,801 2,835 634 2,200 399 177.6
8/6/10 1,801 2,365 546 1,820 18 177.6
8/7/10 1,801 3,306 1,720 1,586 -215 177.6
8/8/10 1,801 0 0 0 -1,801 177.6
357 calories over budget for the week
Gained 0.6 pounds this week
Nutrient Summary % Calories
Fat 711g 41.4%
   Saturated Fat 228g
Cholesterol 1,332mg
Sodium 16,022mg
Carbohydrates 1,710g 44.3%
   Fiber 209g
Protein 553g 14.3%
Exercise Summary Calories
Gardening 2 Hours 30 Min 634
Bicycling 2 Hours 1523
Swimming 20 Min 169
Yoga 1 Hour 30 Min 190
Running 45 Min 508
House Cleaning 30 Min 85
Circuit Training 1 Hour 10 Min 690
Walking 2 Hours 20 Min 441
Total 4238
Report generated by Lose It!. For more information or to sign up for your free Lose It! account, please visit

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Summer's last hurrah

Podcasting geniuses (genii?) Shauna and Carla have been at it again with another great episode called "Hooray for Summer." I listened to it today while doing a bunch of yardwork that I'd been putting off. I mostly have the summers off as a college faculty member, so it's easy to get caught up in a haze of "I'll do that later," until you start getting the back-to-school emails and realize that you haven't accomplished half the things you said you would.

It's easy to lament the things I haven't done.  The living room is still not repainted, my extra 20 or so pounds of fat are still hanging around, my research projects are coming along but at a slow pace, and my lawn still looks scraggly. 

I did take the watercolor painting class this summer, and am working on my second picture after doing a pretty satisfactory job with the first one. I got my allergies under control and seem to have settled into a new normal with my thyroid meds. I have started a new strength-training program in the hopes of buffing myself up and finally losing the love handles. I expect to blog about that very soon.  I did lots of running, some biking on my new bike, and some swimming. I decided not to try to swim a 5K after all, but I did do a sprint triathlon.  I have a pretty nice tan from all the time I spent outside this summer. Even though I wasn't officially working, I checked in on campus quite a bit and prepared for my classes, as well as participating in new-student interviews.

Mostly, though, I'm happy to feel rested and even a little antsy to get started with the new school year.  Best of all, there are still a couple of weeks to enjoy.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Weekly Summary for Week of Monday, July 26th


Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Jul 26th

for Jen S
Daily Summary

Budget Food Exercise Net +/- Weight (lbs)
7/26/10 1,799 2,572 276 2,295 496 177.2
7/27/10 1,799 2,395 901 1,494 -305 177.2
7/28/10 1,795 2,416 301 2,116 321 176.6
7/29/10 1,795 2,527 1,093 1,434 -361 176.6
7/30/10 1,798 2,950 383 2,567 769 177
7/31/10 1,798 2,858 476 2,381 584 177
1,504 calories over budget for the week
Lost 0.2 pounds this week
Nutrient Summary % Calories
Fat 654g 37.8%
   Saturated Fat 162g
Protein 564g 14.5%
Carbohydrates 1,853g 47.7%
   Fiber 190g
Cholesterol 1,300mg
Sodium 18,796mg
Exercise Summary Calories
Bicycling 1 Hour 20 Min 1009
Swimming 30 Min 252
Yoga 2 Hours 30 Min 316
Pilates 1 Hour 169
Running 40 Min 450
Circuit Training 1 Hour 573
Walking 3 Hours 10 Min 640
Stretching 10 Min 21
Total 3431
Report generated by Lose It!. For more information or to sign up for your free Lose It! account, please visit
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07