Sunday, February 28, 2010

Body image part deux

I posted a question on the most recent Two Fit Chicks episode recap. Here it is:

I've been stuck at almost exactly the same weight for almost 2 years. I have bumped up my workouts and I swear that I see a difference on my body and some of my clothes are a little looser, but my weight has not changed. I thought it might be a whole body composition thing, but the body fat scale says I've made a lousy 1% drop in my body fat (from 39% to 38%) in that time. What (if anything) is going on in a situation like this? Is it just wanting to see progress so much that I imagine it?

I was thinking about this question today and realized it boils down to asking, "Is there anything wrong with the fact that I'm feeling better about my body, even though I have no externally-verifiable evidence to prove that I am really getting fitter or thinner?"

I think this need for validation and approval is part of the funhouse mirror syndrome I described in my last post. I feel like I live with two competing and diametrically opposed ideas about myself: "I am pretty great!" and "I am a complete loser." I am always bouncing from one to the other, depending on cues I get from people around me, or inanimate objects like body fat scales. It's exhausting.

The easy answer is, of course, "Don't worry so much about what other people think! Be kind to yourself." Sure, raise your hand if you've been able to do that. Not me. Part of the problem is my weird fear that someone is going to catch me in the act of thinking I'm better-looking, thinner, smarter, more competent, etc., than I really am. Then there will be a terrible, humiliating smackdown. I'm not sure where exactly I learned this, but it's not easy to unlearn.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Life in front of the funhouse mirror

Earlier this month, Greta asked for some advice. People were telling her to stop losing weight, and she knew she still wanted to keep losing. She wanted to know how others respond to this kind of comments. I knew there was something important in this question but I wasn't quite sure what. Then I realized that people in the process of losing weight are especially vulnerable to body comments from others, because we're not always quite sure what we look like. We're always looking for some outside data to help us make sense of who we are and who we are becoming. BlogHer writer Mir posted a great reflection on her own shifting body image, in which she tries to see herself through the less-critical eyes of her daughter.

I know that I walk around with a constantly-shifting image of how I look in my head. It's like walking around in front of a funhouse mirror -- suddenly my thighs feel huge, or conversely, I feel suddenly smaller than I thought I was. I don't know that I really see myself when I look in the mirror. If I did, I can't imagine that my perceptions would be so fluid and bewildering. Sometimes when I am feeling sad, I experience it as a sense of bodily heaviness. On those days I have to follow Geneen Roth's advice to wear a belt just to remind myself that I am not, in fact, expanding in size by the minute.

Sometimes seeing myself in a different mirror in unfamiliar clothes can help me to recalibrate. This is why it sometimes helps for me to go out and try on clothes -- in a dressing-room mirror, I can sometimes really see myself. When I like what I see, I tend to buy the clothes. Hence my jeans purchase the other day.

Public undressing situations, though, always bother me. I hate locker rooms. My swimming practice is about the worst -- there are a lot of people in a small space, and most of them are thinner and fitter than me. I'm already a little claustrophobic, and adding nakedness makes it much, much worse. I just try not to look at anyone. I even hate getting undressed in front of the retirees at the YMCA. I especially get annoyed when someone takes a locker right near mine as I'm getting changed when there are plenty of lockers far away from me. I have tried choosing lockers in different spots, but someone inevitably brings their stuff in and plunks it 3 feet from me as I'm putting on my underwear. Seriously, why? I need a 10-locker clearance on each side, or better yet, a private dressing room. I Maybe on the far side of the moon. When I was about 20 pounds thinner, I don't think I needed quite so much personal space.

The sad thing is, I don't think my body image is especially bad. I think this is the "normal" for most women I know, at least judging by some of the things they say. LBTEPA at "Now the plan is this" might have an incomprehensible blogger name, but she makes a lot of sense in her latest post, "WTF am I thinking?"
foremost in my mind, blotting out all of the hard work and coolness of the last five months with its ludicrously inaccurately inflated proportions, is the fact that I've gained 5kg. Eleven pounds. That is pretty much all I have been thinking about in those 2 a.m. wake-and-fret fests. That one thing is the criteria by which I have been judging myself. That is MESSED UP and I'm NOT STANDING FOR IT.
Her strategy is listing all of her accomplishments as a way of countering this fat-centric attitude. I hope it works for her, but it doesn't work for me. Things that fit in my job-accomplishments box or my talent-and-abilities box or my family-and-friends box don't fit into my body-image box. I need body-specific things to fill my body-image box. Doing something physical helps -- taking a walk or a yoga class. Seeing myself in cute clothes helps, so the worst thing I can do on my bad-body-image days is to put on a schlumpy sweatshirt and baggy jeans. Wearing things that are tailored puts sharp edges onto a body image that threatens to bleed out into the universe at large. The new-mirror trick can help. Getting a pedicure or a massage is great if I have the time and money. Sometimes taking a nap can help, especially if lack of sleep is part of the problem. A weight loss is, of course, the body-image jackpot. The bigger the better. Compliments from family and friends, especially compliments in response to a negative comment from me, really never work. Compliments only register if they are unexpected and come from a disinterested stranger. Otherwise, I just feel like the complimenter is just being nice and trying to make me feel better.

It's funny, because problems with a relationship or problems at work can withdraw from the body-image account, even though they can't deposit. Maybe the body is just where pain and sadness live. Obviously I haven't figured out this weird banking system yet.

Like I said, I know that this all sounds crazy but I also know that I'm not alone in playing this losing game. I'm just trying to describe it and explain how some of the rules seem to work. If you've figured out any cheats for this system, I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Better today

Luckily, yesterday's soreness was short-lived. I think the gentle swim was the exact right thing to do. The weather was beautiful here and I decided to take advantage of it, so I did Week 3, Day 2 of Couch to 5K. I had planned to bail on the workout if I had any pain, but I had none. I also had a Pilates class with my favorite instructor. It was a good day all around and I'm feeling much better.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I woke up this morning in serious pain in my left hip, lower back, and leg. I think it was muscle soreness from playing around with my new BOSU. Of course, my first thought was not a calm, rational, "OK, I had better take it easy today." I was angry and frustrated and ready to throw things. "Why does this always happen to me?"

Somewhere after my first cup of coffee, rational thought set in and I decided to go for an easy swim this morning, figuring that some gentle movement would probably help. As I was getting in the pool, I realized how unusual it is for me to do a gentle workout. Most of the time I'm powering through workouts like a maniac. That might, just might, be why this always happens to me. I did a nice half-hour swim and didn't overdo.

I also took some time today for a pedicure. I got a little extra time in the massage chair waiting for my toenails to dry because the technicians were all watching Tiger Woods's press conference. I have a nice set of Big Apple Red toenails and a new respect for Tiger, who seemed sincere in his desire to change and to protect his family from the consequences of his actions.

I don't have any reason to make a public apology myself, though I seem to excel in self-punishment. Luckily the hip and back are feeling much better. I'm going to be taking it easy for a while on the BOSU. There's no need to try every exercise I have seen all at the same time.

In happier news, I'm wearing a cute new pair of jeans from the Juniors department. I know that's a Stacey and Clinton no-no, but they don't realize how hard it is for a short-waisted person to find jeans that fit right. These fit perfectly and cost me about $12. I feel skinnier already.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giving it up for Lent: A late start

I went to Catholic grade school and was even confirmed, but I've never really been a Catholic, other than culturally. My grandparents all were Catholic, but my parents were nonbelievers and I rarely went to church, other than at school. We went to funerals, weddings, and to Christmas Eve Mass with my grandmother.

I remember giving things up for Lent in school, and we had one teacher who, like nic, said that instead of giving things up, we should devote more time to service to others. I understand that sentiment. I am still going to give up something for Lent for purely selfish reasons. I think there are a lot of advantages to giving something up for Lent.

Lent provides a start date and an end date. It's a short enough time that it seems doable, and long enough to give you a chance at forming a new habit. It also gives you a good reason to do or not do something that other people can understand.

I'm giving up nighttime snacking. I am not going to eat anything for two hours before my planned bedtime. I can't just stay up later, either. This is going to be especially tricky on the nights that I teach from 5:30 until 9:30 p.m. I am going to have to eat dinner before class and bring a snack to eat during one of the early breaks. TV snacking, especially, has got to go.

I know there is nothing magical about the time of day when we consume our calories, but for me, nighttime snacks are always extra food. I have already had enough, and I snack out of habit, not hunger. I tell myself I'm hungry, but I'm usually just wanting something. It's never just fruit or vegetables. Usually it's crackers and cheese or popcorn. Besides, late night eating does not agree with me. I always wake up the next day feeling slightly ill if I have more than a very light pre-bedtime nibble. In fact, I was inspired to do this because I woke up this morning feeling crummy. Last night I had crackers, cheese, a few nuts, and a tangerine while watching TV. I had eaten a good dinner, and there was no reason I needed more food. I just wanted it. I'm getting a late start. Yesterday apparently was Fat Wednesday for me.

I even recruited my husband to do this with me.

I'm hoping this will help me sleep better, feel better on waking, and maybe even lose a few pounds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

No BIggest Loser this week

This week, NBC is showing the Olympics in prime time instead of Olympic weight loss efforts. If you are feeling the loss (I am, at least because I have less blogging raw material without my show update), you can tide yourself over with an interview with Filipe and Sione from Season 7 on "The Biggest Loser Fan Podcast." Sione was one of my favorites on TBL, so it was nice to get a little glimpse of how he's doing now.

My biggest surprise in this interview? The contestants only get a $100-a-day stipend while on the show. I am not sure how they cover their bills, especially when a husband-and-wife team goes on the show. If they don't win the money, contestants have to hope to at least be enough of a screen presence that, like Filipe and Sione, they can get some minor endorsement money and draw a lecture audience.

Of course, losing the weight is a pretty major benefit too. For most, that probably helps make up for the lost income.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Exercise Equipment Review: Do you BOSU?

Note: I bought my own BOSU at Target for $99. I'm reviewing it because I like the product and think some of my readers might enjoy it.

I have been trying to get myself motivated to start a strength training program for a while now. Since I don't seem to be able to get myself to the gym for a strength workout, I thought it might be useful to get some home equipment.

I have used the BOSU at gyms and in exercise classes and I think it's a really fun, versatile piece of equipment. I always thought that BOSU stood for "Both Sides Up," but now it has been changed to mean "Both Sides Utilized," according to the product site. The product is an inflated rubber dome attached to a hard plastic base. As the original name suggests, you can use the product with either side up. You can stand on the soft dome and do squats, or you can flip it over and do pushups while holding onto the handles on the hard base. You can use it as a stepper or as a soft bench for upper-body workouts.

The thing that makes the BOSU so great is that it creates a mildly unstable surface for exercise, no matter which side is up. You have to engage your core and lots of smaller muscles to maintain your balance. You also have to pay attention to what you're doing. If you start mentally going over the shopping list while standing on top of the BOSU, you risk falling off.

I am finishing up some physical therapy for a running-related foot injury and was talking to my therapist about transitioning to a home exercise program. He was really enthusiastic when he heard I had just bought a BOSU. A lot of my exercises in therapy involved standing on the injured foot on a foam block for instability, and those exercises can be done just as easily on the BOSU. I even found an article with special BOSU exercises to address my specific problems on the BOSU resources site. There are a bunch of other articles with special stretches and exercises for back, knee, and hip problems on the resources site. The BOSU also came with a DVD with four basic workouts. I tried two of them the other day: One was a full-body strength workout, and another was a yoga sequence. It seems like the possibilities are only limited by the user's creativity.

Do you BOSU? Have any great BOSU moves to share? What home equipment do you find especially useful in your workouts?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review: Living Oprah

I have to admit it, I have a book-buying problem. Even now that I have my Kindle Reader and a subscription to, I still want the real deal sometimes. So when I walked into Barnes & Noble with my husband to kill time before the movie, I might have pretended to be casually browsing the shelves, but I was really hunting for something fun and maybe a little fluffy to help rest my brain between preparing for classes. When I saw , I thought it fit the bill perfectly. I only rarely catch The Oprah Winfrey Show, but I love O, The Oprah Magazine. It's one of the few magazines I can read without being bombarded by 20-somethings in boy shorts and articles about getting "the perfect butt." I always found the articles to be a nice blend of substance and entertainment. I have found lots of wonderful books by reading a review or excerpt in its pages, including . Still, though sometimes I take some of the advice I read in the magazine to heart, most of the time, I find flipping through the pages to be escapist entertainment, not a how-to manual.

I'm not sure what inspired Robyn Okrant to spend a year "doing everything Oprah says." She does her best to explain it in the pages of this book, but even when I've watched Oprah's show, I've never seen her as "issuing directives" from her couch.

I always got the sense of Oprah as someone who's right in the mess with us. Even though she has fame and money, she still seems to have her struggles like all of us do with the Holy Trinity of womanly insecurities: Weight, Beauty, and Romance. I don't see her as someone who has all the answers, more as someone who is sharing things she finds along her own search for some peace, the way that I tag articles online for my students as I browse the Web, not expecting that they'll read all of them but hoping a few will be helpful. Maybe I just haven't watched enough of the show. I know the magazine has sometimes had little "homework" assignments in it, cards you could fill out about your goals or your plans for reading more books or eating healthier, but I was never very diligent about homework even when I was a student, so I'm certainly not going to be bossed around by a magazine.

I bought the book because just like Robyn, I was curious to see what would happen if someone tried to follow all of this advice. I actually thought that it could be a fun time, if you had enough time and money. I would expect someone who followed all that advice to feel inspired, healthy, maybe even a little more peaceful. I thought the whole thing might be kind of fun in a goofy way.

That's not what happened for Robyn. She defined her assignment thusly:
I decided to turn to the Big Three: The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, The Oprah Magazine, and If Oprah gave a directive of any kind through one of these outlets, I'd follow it. If one of Oprah's guests gave a piece of advice on her show, I'd act upon it only if Oprah personally backed it up. Additionally, if Opra wrote a suggestion to us in her "Here We Go!" letter or her "What I Know for Sure" column in O magazine, I would take heed. In fact, if she made a suggestion anywhere in the public eye or ear, I latched on. I committed to taking all of her suggestions quite literally and would leave as little to interpretation as possible.

She also used as a place to search for specific advice on fashion, romance, event planning, food, etc. She taped all the shows and watched them over and over again, taking notes. She spent almost $5,000 and more than 1200 hours in her year-long project on a graduate student/yoga instructor's budget (luckily she was married, so there was a second income to help with Oprah-related expenses) while living in Chicago.

At least she got a book contract out of the deal, because it doesn't sound like she had a lot of fun. She bought random items, like a panini maker and a firepit, that she had no use for. She felt ridiculous when she wore white jeans and a white denim jacket because they were on Oprah's list of items every woman "must have" in her wardrobe (Seriously, though, did Oprah say to wear them together? Because wearing matching denim is known as a "Canadian Tuxedo" and is generally seen as a fashion faux pas in these parts). She served her guests blueberry bars with pureed spinach in them because the recipe was on She probably was the only person in the United States to get through the whole Oprah-approved Ekhart Tolle "New Earth" class. She found herself paranoid that if she didn't wear the right wardrobe, she'd be the victim of an ambush makeover and get to see her "pancake ass" on national TV. Though, thanks to Dr. Oz and Bob Greene, Robyn said her butt never looked better, even if she did have to choke down whole-grain bread with olive oil for a whole week because Oprah and Dr. Oz said so.

Robyn goes through her tasks systematically, but seems almost determined not to enjoy any of them. She buys the panini maker but doesn't use it for almost a year, instead of taking the opportunity to try some fantastic creation from I mean, if Oprah said the panini maker is "the thing to have," she didn't think anyone would purchase it for the sole purpose of having another useless piece in the Oprah-Says-So Museum. She shops joylessly for clothes she doesn't like and wouldn't choose to wear. She doesn't even allow herself to accept the gift of a Kindle when Oprah catches word of her experiment and tries to save her a few hundred dollars. She returns it with a very earnest note. My guess is that is where Oprah said to herself, "OK, crazy white lady. I tried," and resolved not to pay any further attention to the project.

Robyn doesn't really examine the whole race thing, maybe out of a sense of politeness or some idea that Oprah "transcends race." But one of the most interesting things about the Oprah phenomenon is how diverse Oprah's audience is. I have heard my wealthiest, Whitest cousins quote Oprah, but Oprah also does shows, like the special with Dr. Oz on diabetes, where she pointedly focused on the prevalence of the problem in the Black community. Among the "animated kids' movies, so-called chick flicks, and two-hour dramadies about misbehaving dogs," Oprah has managed to drum up a mainstream audience for worthwhile projects like "Precious." I also think there's something potentially subversive about Oprah's seemingly blander suggestions on fashion and lifestyle: If you're an upwardly-mobile woman of color trying to figure out how to fit in with White upper-middle-class America, Oprah's various media outlets would be a good place to start. I'm not sure that Robyn got that part, though she did say that "Oprah's entire program is political." She just doesn't spell out what those politics are.

I'm not saying it wouldn't be expensive, though. I was actually shocked that Robyn's required purchases only totaled $5,000, because I tend to skip right over the "O Style" pages because of the crazy prices of the things on them. I don't need to spend $7 each on monogrammed cocktail napkins. I also wouldn't spend $41 on a box of adorable chocolates. Part of the reason that Oprah and her editors think these things "are just great" is because they get them for free. Still, aspirational prices are the price of admission for all magazines. At least the $98 jeans are modeled by a woman who looks like a woman I can relate to instead of on a 6' tall 19-year-old with hips like a 14-year-old boy's.

I liked that Robyn admitted that the reason the project became so oppressive to her was not the fault of Oprah, but because "This project was a magnified version of my existing daily behavior." She, like many of us, doubted herself too often and looked around for some indication that she was "normal" or "authentic." This project helped her realize what she was doing to herself with this kind of behavior, which is a pretty worthwhile lesson (though maybe not worth $5,000). She also didn't stop watching the show. She still taped it on January 1 of 2009, when her project was supposedly over. In fact, she is still watching. My biggest surprise: When I checked out her blog today, I realized that she is still blogging about Oprah! I suppose, though, after she created an audience for "Living Oprah," she didn't have much choice.

The allergy report

I think I mentioned that I was going for an allergy test. This Tuesday was the day. I had never visited an allergist before, so I really didn't have much idea of what to expect. My allergy symptoms were mostly not that bad, though I did have some troublesome dizziness last spring. In the last few months, though, things have gotten worse. I have scabs all over my arms and legs from scratching them in my sleep. I was blowing my nose several dozen times a day. I was tired of feeling tired all the time. Plus, I thought, since my thyroid issue is autoimmune and an allergy is an autoimmune response, I might be able to keep my body from attacking my thyroid if I could get my allergies under control. I thought I'd pass along what I learned in case any of you are considering doing the same.

Before I even got there, I had a huge pile of forms to fill out about my symptoms, medical history, family history, etc. There were a bunch of symptoms listed: Watery eyes, itchy skin, runny nose, headache, etc. I found myself marking many of them and being surprised that some weird things I'd noticed, like itching ears, were allergy symptoms. I was instructed to stop taking any antihistamines for a while before the appointment to make sure that the allergy testing would be accurate.

Before I saw the doctor, the nurse took my stats: Height, weight, blood pressure. I was unhappy to learn that instead of 5'6" like I thought I was, I am actually only 5'4.75" tall. My weight was higher than I see at home, but of course I had clothes on at the doctor's office. The blood pressure must have been in the normal range because the nurse didn't say much about it.

Then I had a histamine check. The nurse poked my arm with a little plastic stick dipped in a histamine solution and marked the spot with an H. Then she did the same with saline solution and marked that one with an S. The histamine mark got appropriately itchy so they knew my histamine response was not suppressed. If it had been, the allergy test wouldn't have worked.

The doctor and a medical student came in and discussed my symptoms with me. The doctor thought the scabs on my arms and legs and my symptoms both indicated allergies of some sort. He told me to keep my fingernails very short because of all the scratching. He asked if anyone smoked in my house. I said no but that both my parents were smokers so I grew up around secondhand smoke for most of my life. He looked disapproving about this. He explained everything he was seeing on me to the medical student, so I felt like I got a lot of information. He then looked into my ears and nose. In my nose, he saw lots of broken blood vessels and small scabs and told me to put KY Jelly into my nostrils with a Q-Tip before bed to help soften up the skin and let them heal. I didn't laugh but the thought of putting a sexual lubricant in my nostrils was pretty funny.

Then the nurse came in and did the scratch test. She gave me a sort of paper vest with an open back and had me change into it. Then she came back and started the test. First, she marked out sort of a grid on my back with numbers. She complemented me on my butterfly tattoo. Then she poked each one of those spots with a little blue plastic stick with a different allergy serum on it. I got tested for allergies to trees, grasses, crops, dust, mold, animals, and foods. I could feel a few of the spots start to itch right away.

I am allergic to three kinds of trees, especially walnut trees. I used to have a walnut tree right in front of my old house. No wonder I felt a little better when I moved here. I am allergic to most kinds of grass. I am allergic to most of the crops grown in this area. I am not allergic to any foods, which surprised me because I am mildly lactose intolerant and I wondered if I might have a gluten allergy because of the thyroid condition. I am, like most people, allergic to dust mites. I don't have a mold allergy. The worst news was that I was allergic to cats, since I have two. I am also allergic to rabbits, not that I care much about that. The funny thing about this was that the doctor then knew I had a pet rabbit at some time in my life, and that I had lived near farms. You can't be allergic to anything you were never exposed to. "Allergies are like tattoos," the doctor said, "they tell us where you've been." I wondered what my butterfly tattoo told him about where I've been, but didn't ask.

Sitting there with only a paper vest on while the doctor poked at the different spots was a little weird, especially when he touched a part of my back that felt squishy. I kind of wished the sort of dishy med student wasn't there to see the doctor poking at my back fat.

What I liked about this doctor was that he was realistic. He asked how old my cats were and whether they were healthy. Since I've had both of them for more than 10 years, he didn't even suggest that I should get rid of them. He suggested keeping them out of my bedroom, and washing my hands after petting them. I told him it would be hard to keep them out of the bedroom. My one cat sleeps next to my head at night. He said I should have my husband clean the litterbox (great idea!) and to make sure we have filters on our furnace to keep the litterbox dust out of the rest of the house.

Then he explained that allergies are cumulative. If you are exposed to a little bit of an allergen, you might not react, but the more stuff you pile on, the worse your symptoms get. He compared this to a bucket -- when it overflowed, you start to have problems. This made sense to me. He gave me a booklet allergy-proofing your bedroom by a company that makes dust mite covers for mattresses and pillows (now I'm wondering why everyone doesn't use them, dust mites seem disgusting) and said I should get some. He suggested using all fragrance- and dye-free soaps and lotions and gave me some samples. I have prescriptions for two different meds, something to stop the scratching habit and Nasonex spray.

I shopped around online and ordered the dust mite covers from a place that had a package deal. We spent the afternoon decluttering and dusting the bedroom. I picked up my prescriptions from the pharmacy and also bought some KY liquid for my nose. The next day, on a friend's advice, I went out and bought an for the bedroom and have been running it with the door closed during the day (with no kitties inside). I also bought a and started using that in the mornings before I take the nasal spray.

I have noticed a slight difference. I'm still catching myself scratching my arms, but I'm breathing a lot better and blowing my nose less. I'm still tired, though. I haven't gotten the dust covers yet but I imagine they will help. I'm doing what I can to keep my bucket from overfilling.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Biggest Loser Week 6: The Olympics and the Single Girl

This week was NBC's reminder to us that they are going to be covering the Olympics. The contestants headed to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. They seem to have caught the center at a time when most of the athletes were training or competing elsewhere, because everything looked pretty empty -- the cafeteria looked like a college cafeteria during summer vacation. The contestants will be competing as singles this week, and there will be a Red Line as well as the Yellow Line. One person with the lowest weight loss will be immediately knocked out, and the next two lowest-losing contestants will go to an elimination. All of this will be complicated by the fact that they are traveling, which means different food than they are used to, and that they are at high altitude. I was in Colorado Springs once and as a flatlander, I felt sick the entire time. The players aren't going to be able to work out as hard as they normally do.

The contestants interacted with a few medal-winning athletes, mostly retired ones. Most of these segments were pretty dull, other than the first segment with a Paralympian who was born with only one functioning leg, but whose mother actively encouraged her to do sports from an early age. She competes in both downhill skiing and cycling because she loves sports so much. Jillian says that as "burgeoning athletes," the contestants can learn a lot from people who have devoted their whole lives to physical activity like this athlete. They, of course, have the required Olympic torch ceremony, which seems to be moving for all of them.

Of course, because there are some Olympic and Paralympic athletes around, the contestants get to work out with them. They are led by an injured skater to do a mini-challenge on slide boards. I remember when these were a passing fad in aerobics classes. I can see why they didn't stay popular, because the contestants slipped and fell hard several times. Sam, Melissa, and Sunshine are the top three, and they are told they will each get an advantage in the main challenge this week.

The main challenge is a biathlon-style challenge at the Garden of the Gods, which is introduced by a Paralympic biathlete. The Garden of the Gods is beautiful, but we don't get to see much of it. Instead of cross-country skiing, the contestants run around a circle and then shoot a laser gun at targets. There are five targets for each player, and players get to shoot at other players' targets to knock them out of the competition. The last player with a target left wins immunity. The shooting part seems to be very easy, as we don't see a single contestant miss. Either they were allowed to do it until they hit or they were at such close range that it was easy for them. The advantage that the three winners from the last challenge got is to start any player out with hits on their targets. This turns out to be a bust: Sunshine gets one hit and she starts Sam off with one target down. Melissa follows suit with her two hits. Sam says that he'll give his three hits back to the players who hit him. So all three of them actually start out at a disadvantage rather than an advantage. In a way, this challenge gives an advantage to the players that the other players believe are the weakest, because everyone tries to eliminate the strongest players first. It comes down to O'Neal and Darryl, two of the less-athletic big guys. O'Neal wins by a whisker and has immunity.

We have a few more workouts with Olympians and the requisite Last-Chance Workout at a 24-Hour Fitness facility, but most of the rest of the show is taken up by individual weigh-ins. The weigh-ins are usually interesting for me but I caught myself dozing. Stephanie, one of my favorite players, looked like she was in trouble early on, but then Sherry, Cheryl, and Darryl fall below her so she's safe.

Melissa weighs in last, and I can see that her belly looks bloated again. It seems very odd that she would water-load on a week like this, but she gains a pound. She has a long speech prepared for the occasion about how the players needed to take care of her husband Lance, so it is quite obvious that for some reason, she made the decision to leave this week. I'm not quite sure why, although it seemed obvious from the beginning that she was there only to get Lance to his diving weight again and put him into competition for the big prize. If she and Lance had been up for elimination as a couple, the other players would have seen Lance as the bigger threat and may have chosen to send him home. Melissa was the smallest player on the show and even without weigh-in shenanigans, wasn't going to be able to keep up with the other players' weight loss. As a single, she may have seen this as an opportunity to get herself out of his way. In her "Where Are They Now" video, we see that she has lost another 24 pounds on her own. Not a bad weight loss for someone who never really seemed to have taken this whole opportunity seriously.

There is another twist for the two players below the Yellow Line. Instead of a vote, they compete in The Dumbest Challenge Ever to see who goes home. The contestants have to stand under a lit torch and have to hold the "torch stem" on the top of their heads against the bottom of torch. It doesn't look like these objects are heavy, but both players have to squat to get under the torches, and this seems especially hard for Darryl, who has bad knees. We don't see who is eliminated, but it looks like Cheryl is fairly comfortable. Neither player has gotten much airtime, so I don't have a clear sense of who to root for here. In past seasons with parent-child teams, the child has usually done much better once the parent is eliminated from the show. For this reason, I'd like to see Cheryl go home, because I think that Daris would be able to be more himself without his mom there. It's obvious that she just came on the show to help her son lose weight. Andrea seems to be doing this show primarily to get her dad healthy, so it would be nice if he could stick around for a while. This show ended before either one of them dropped their torch stem, so we will see what happens next week.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Waving back

Hi there nic. I think I caught your wave.

I didn't log food for the last two days. You know why I have the urge not to track? Because I want to eat stuff I don' t want uglying up my log. Like a huge handful of SunChips and 3 chocolate-chip cookies. I'm not fooling even myself when I am just "too busy."

I'm not going to go back and catch it up, but I'm back on the tracking wagon again.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Favorite iPhone/iPod Touch apps

I have dozens of apps on my iPhone and am always looking for cool new ones. I realized, though, that I use the same ones over and over, while other apps that sounded super-cool (even ones I paid for) sit unused and unloved. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites. I'd love to hear what apps others have found that they really love.

Fitness Related:

LoseIt! actually makes calorie counting, if not fun, at least doable. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows I've been using it for a while now to track calorie intake and activity, and to track my weight. It is simple, has an attractive interface, and it's free. The addition of the website interface adds some really interesting reports. It also predicts when you will reach your goal weight based on your progress so far. Right now I'm on track to be at goal by June 3, just in time for swimsuit season. Room for Improvement: An easier way to post progress reports to your blog or website would be nice, or at least the ability to create a public profile. The ability to track body fat readings would also be useful for me.

C25K Because of my recent running-related injury, I have been out of the running game for several weeks. I decided to get back into it gradually. At first I was going to use the 5K plan by Julia Jones posted on the Two Fit Chicks website, but I thought it would be hard to keep track of the workouts while I was running. I found this app, which uses the popular Couch to 5K plan. What I like about this app is that it keeps track of the run/walk intervals for me. You import your own music from your iTunes library into the app and while it's playing the music, it will ring a bell and say "run" or "walk." It's very easy to use. There is even twitter and facebook integration if you want to brag about your progress online.
Room for Improvement: I wish the summary screen for each workout gave a total workout time. I'm not good at adding lists of times given both in seconds and minutes together in my head. I would also like it if it had separate playlists for warmup, cooldown, and the main workout. I want fast music when I'm working hard and slower tunes when I'm cooling down. If you are really meticulous in making your playlist you could probably engineer this yourself but I'm not. Some people have complained about the bell alert and the voice for the "run" and "walk" alerts, but at least it is different enough to be easily distinguishable from your music.

The Weather Channel This may not seem like a fitness-related app, but it helps me decide what to wear for my workouts and also lets me know when I should just go to the gym instead of braving the elements. I like that it tells me not only the real temperature but what it "feels like" outside, and it gives hour-by-hour predictions with wind speed and direction. It also gives sunrise and sunset times. The best thing is that I will never ever have to watch The Weather Channel on television again.
Room for Improvement: I seem to press the wrong button a lot more than on other apps -- something about their placement seems a little off.

BigOven Not long ago, Jennette of PastaQueen posted a query to her readers. She had bok choy and fresh ginger root and didn't know what to do with either one. I put the ingredients into BigOven and quickly found a chicken stir-fry recipe that used both. She ended up making something else, but I was intrigued enough that I tried bok choy for the first time and loved it. I have dozens of cookbooks, but this app gives me a quick answer to that whole "what to do with the ingredients I have here?" question. Or, from the grocery store, you can quickly decide if there's anything you really would want to make using celeriac before you buy it.
Room for Improvement: Would love it if there was a way to see nutritional information for the recipes. It seems like there should be an easy way to tie the recipe software into a nutritional calculator.

A Few Other Favorite Apps:

Showtimes I love to go to the movies, and this is the easiest way to know what is playing near me and at what times. You can watch trailers and read Rotten Tomatoes reviews right from the app.

Lexulous I play this game a lot on facebook and it's nice to be able to play on the go. The interface is pretty slick. You can do everything in the app that you can do on the regular facebook game. Unfortunately this one is not free.

I wish the books for this were less expensive, but this app is a good way to read books on the go or spare your already-overloaded bookshelves. Because it's backlit, it is a good way to read in bed, too.

IMDb I don't use this one a lot, but it's great for those conversations where you're trying to remember who was in that movie you liked, or to find other movies by the same actor or director to rent.

ShopSavvy This free app uses the iPhone's camera (sorry iPod Touch users) to scan the barcode on an item and compare prices for it on the web and near your location. I had some trouble getting a good scan when the barcode was on a curved surface.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A smiling runner

To recap: I have been in physical therapy for the last four weeks for foot pain that started when I was training for my half marathon this summer. The pain started at the base of my toes and radiated out into two of them. At its worst, I didn't want to walk for a while after running because I was in so much pain. Then it started to bother me when I walked. Then it started to bother me when I just stood around on hard floors. I saw a podiatrist, who gave me anti-inflammatories and referred me to the physical therapist.

I'm not sure how many of you have been in physical therapy, but at the place I'm going now, there is one therapist and two or three assistants. After an initial consult with the therapist, I spend most of my time in therapy working through an exercise program with help from the assistants, and the therapist checks in with me for a while at each visit. The therapist has three or four patients at a time and has to spend some time with each of us and have us do various exercises or treatments. I get an ultrasound treatment at each visit and then the therapist manipulates my foot to see how it's progressing.

In one of my first weeks there, the therapist was working with another patient and chatting. In the course of their conversation, I overheard the patient say, "If I ever saw a smiling runner, I might take up running." I think he was talking about passing a runner on his drive over there. He wasn't talking to me and the comment wasn't directed at me, but the therapist said, "Jennifer's a runner. What do you think of that? Do you smile when you run?" I said that I would feel kind of silly smiling as I ran, especially if there were cars around, but that I did enjoy running in nice surroundings. (In reality, I always tend to breathe both through my mouth and nose when running so smiling is sort of impractical.)

Seriously, I know where the patient was coming from. Some runners are super-serious and almost grimly self-righteous about the whole running thing, and they tend to make an impression. But overall, most runners are pretty laid-back and don't tend to take themselves too seriously or judge people for not running. I think the patient was just trying to be funny -- I've heard similar comments before. I tend to just laugh stuff like that off. If you haven't tried it, it probably doesn't look like much fun. But I joked to my husband later that you shouldn't make a remark like that if you aren't prepared to back it up with action. If this patient saw a runner smile at him as he drove by, would that really make him go out and buy a pair of running shoes?

If he didn't mean it, it's a good thing he didn't drive by me today. I was given the go-ahead by both the therapist and the podiatrist to try running again. I downloaded the C25K app for my iPhone, which provides cues for when to walk or run using popular Couch to 5K running program as you're listening to your own music. I did the Day One workout today and the combination of hearing U2's "A Beautiful Day" during a run interval and the relatively nice weather for January, made me so happy that I was almost giddy, and I was smiling and singing along to the music, probably not sounding all that great. No one was around.

Sometimes when you do walk-run intervals, the run intervals feel really long. For me it was the other way around. I just wanted to be running forever. Still, I'm following the program because it's a good way to rein myself in. I did all of 8 60-second run intervals interspersed with 90-minute walk intervals. The program only requires a 5-minute cooldown, but I did 25 more minutes while listening to part of the new 2 Fit Chicks podcast, for a 55-minute total workout. I felt really good after I was finished.

I had a tiny bit of toe tingling after the run but it didn't stick around for long. I will be seeing the physical therapist tomorrow to give him the full report. I'm still feeling fine and I haven't even taken my anti-inflammatory yet today.

The Biggest Loser Week 5: Breakthroughs

I turned on "The Biggest Loser" at the normal time, and started seeing scenes I had seen before. At first I thought they were recapping some things just so we'd know what was going on, but then I checked the listings and realized that they were re-running last week at 8:00, with the new episode on at a "special time." I think they didn't want to go up against the first episode of "Lost." I hope this is not going to be the new time for TBL, because I am not used to staying up until 11:00 and I'm tired this morning. It was a good show, though, and a breakthrough week for a lot of the contestants.

The show opened with a recap of the elimination. We see Miggy return to her room very sad about her daughter being sent home. Then there is an emergency call in the middle of the night and Miggy is rushed to the hospital for severe abdominal pain on the right side of her body. When the contestants are told that she has been taken away in an ambulance, I swear that we see Michelle smirking, as if she thinks that Miggy was faking illness or just being dramatic. I wondered what happened too. I thought maybe Miggy got upset and binged and made herself sick, or that she was suffering such extreme stress that she had made herself sick. When she comes back, we learn that she had appendicitis, and a cyst and a mass in her abdomen that were all removed. It seems like she had trouble brewing for a long time, though the initial medical exam for the show apparently wasn't able to catch it. I wonder if the stress of the elimination pushed her over the edge somehow. Miggy is told that she can walk but can't do any other exercise. She tells Dr. H. that she walked 13 miles on the day after her surgery and feels better than she had in a very long time. Dr. H. warns her that because of the I.V.s and inflammation, she probably will be at a disadvantage in the weigh-in. She takes it in stride, and looks a lot happier in this episode than she has so far in the show. We also learn from this incident that Michael and Miggy are close friends, countering my earlier impression that Miggy and Migdalia were isolated from the rest of the contestants.

The other big news, that we knew but the other contestants didn't, was that at the one-month mark, the Blue Team and the Yellow Team were coming back to compete for a chance to be on the show. You could see that they all were intimidated when they saw the limos pull up and realized that there was a new twist to the game. This was especially true when Allison revealed that the new team was going to have immunity for the first week and was also going to be the only vote at the elimination.

My husband really was rooting for Yellow Team because of how broken up O'Neal was when he realized that he had cost his daughter the chance to be on the show. But Blue Team had pretty much the same dynamic. As I said before, I would have liked to see both teams come on and kick off Red. I liked Blue Team too. It was an odd coincidence that both teams competing for a chance to come back were Black families (they were the two last-place teams in the bike ride challenge at the beginning of the episode). There has not yet been a Black Biggest Loser, not because the Black contestants don't do well (think of Pete from Season 2), but because they tend to be voted off early in the game. I don't think that it is necessarily conscious, but when alliances are formed, it seems that the Black contestants are often left out. This season, I think that NBC has made a real effort to have a more diverse slate of contestants, maybe for that reason. We see both teams getting put through a "Last Chance Workout" by Jillian and Bob, and then weighed in. Looking at the two teams, I thought Yellow Team looked like they had lost more, but Blue Team had an impressive 63-pound weight loss in their month at home -- more than 1 pound each per day -- not far off the average weight loss on the ranch, and probably right on the average loss for women on the show. Then the Yellow Team weighs in and has a 75-pound loss (and a slightly higher percentage). Blue Team is disappointed, but they have obviously proven that they can do just fine on their own with the at-home plan from the show. (By the way, fellow blogger Mal is doing this program, and it sounds like she's doing well with it.)

The players compete in a weird challenge with football blocking pads. The winner will get immunity, and the loser will have a 2-pound disadvantage. They have to push one side of the pad, and then the other as it swings back and forth by the force of their pushing. The first player to 1000 pushes wins. Each team chooses one player to compete, unless there is only one player on the team, and then that person has to do it. It is weird to see that Pink Team chooses Sherry, the mom, instead of daughter Ashley, who is larger and probably stronger. I have never used this kind of apparatus before but it basically works like a sideways see-saw -- the harder they push, the harder and faster the thing comes back at them. This looks like another challenge where Red and Gray will duke it out and everyone else will compete not to be last. It turns out, though, that height is a significant advantage here, and Michael, who is by far the tallest person on the show (a tall Italian, who knew?), has a significant advantage. Sam from the Gray Team is shorter and has to shuffle two steps to get from side to side to push the pads as they swing towards him, then attacks them like he was blocking in football (he obviously has done this before). Michael from the White Team can just lean from side to side, and he is strong enough to just push them with his arms, "like he was pushing a kid on a swing," Melissa says, and he looks relaxed and comfortable. He looks shocked to find out he is competing with Gray to win it, and seems to find a new part of himself when he wins. He starts to see himself, it seems, as a winner.

A day or so after their weigh-in (I'm sure it's not the same day as their Last Chance Workout, though the show's editing doesn't make that clear), Yellow Team gets to go through a regular workout with Bob and Jillian. We get to see Stephanie from the Purple Team acting as a mentor to Sunshine and the other contestants. She hasn't gotten a lot of screen time so far, but I think she's one to watch. She shows a lot of confidence and initiative. We watch Bob push Melissa on the leg press to the point where she is begging and crying for mercy. I think he is getting a little revenge for her weigh-in shenanigans, but also trying to make her see that this is serious business. We also see Daris's moment in the spotlight, when he realizes that he hasn't been working as hard as some of the other big guys because he can't imagine himself as a thin person. It's an important workout for Ashley of the Pink Team (who has a 2-pound disadvantage), who is just sort of phoning it in on the treadmill when Jillian calls her out. She reveals her mixed feelings over her father's death: He had always said cruel things to her about her weight, so when he fell ill and she was called home, she waited a few days because she "couldn't deal with it." When she finally got home, he was unconscious, so she never had a chance to let him know how she felt and she also feels guilty for not saying goodbye. It is obvious that she has a lot of pain to work through.

The weigh-in is also dramatic. Michael is on track to beat Rudy's record from last season of the fastest player to a 100-pound loss. Red Team has only a 9-pound weight loss -- Melissa loses 5 to make it under the 200-pound mark, but Lance has a disappointing 4-pound loss. He doesn't say anything, he just keeps his head down and looks upset. I don't know if Melissa convinced him to water-load because she is under so much scrutiny, but if she did, it almost backfires. She looks panicky as team after team beats them. Pink Team and Green Team easily beat their numbers, and it comes down to the last person, John from Brown Team, before someone takes their spot below the yellow line. Because John is on his own, there is no elimination vote.

John was able to learn to run and do a lot of other things he wasn't able to do before he was sent home, and even though he's disappointed, he has his twin James at home for support. He also has an adorable toddler at home, and when we see his "where are they now" video, we find out that he and his wife are expecting a second child. He is 104 pounds lighter and seems happy with the way things turned out. He has also found a new love for the martial arts to keep him on track with exercise.

Lose It! Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Jan 25th

Looks like weekly summaries are working again. Hooray! It's not as pretty as my screenshot, but it will be a lot more convenient to post these if the mailer continues to work. Have I said how much I love this program?

If you decide to get LoseIt for the iPhone/iPod Touch, and want to "friend" me, I'm toledolefty AT gmail DOT com. I have one "friend" so far and I don't see her food lists, but I see her exercise and how much she is under her calorie goals, plus her weight loss/gain (though not her weight). It's a cool feature.

Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Jan 25th

for Jen S

Daily Summary

Budget Food Exercise Net +/- Weight (lbs)
1/25/10 1,694 1,814 0 1,814 120 173
1/26/10 1,694 2,596 87 2,509 815 173
1/27/10 1,690 2,214 288 1,925 235 172.4
1/28/10 1,690 2,493 122 2,372 681 172.4
1/29/10 1,690 2,335 657 1,678 -12 172.4
1/30/10 1,690 2,330 104 2,226 535 172.4
1/31/10 1,690 3,093 739 2,354 663 172.4

3,038 calories over budget for the week

Lost 0.6 pounds this week
Nutrient Summary % Calories
Fat 712g 37.4%
Saturated Fat 225g
Protein 670g 15.7%
Carbohydrates 2,006g 46.9%
Fiber 203g
Cholesterol 1,305mg
Sodium 18,910mg
Exercise Summary Calories
Weight Lifting 10 Min 27
Stretching 1 Hour 0 Min 120
House Cleaning 2 Hours 30 Min 411
Walking 20 Min 63
Swimming 1 Hour 35 Min 1027
Yoga 2 Hours 50 Min 349
Total 1997
Report generated by Lose It!. For more information or to sign up for your free Lose It! account, please visit

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Weekly Summary for the week of January 25, 2010

For some reason, the LoseIt! weekly reports are not mailing. I have contacted tech support but so far they haven't done much in the way of troubleshooting with me. Since LoseIt! is one of the most popular apps available for the iPhone, I'm suspecting they are feeling a bit overwhelmed by their success. So instead of a nice-looking report, I have another so-so screenshot. You can click on it to view it larger.

I'm doing OK with exercise but am still working on trying to get the calories down. I would have expected to lose about half a pound with the calorie count I managed, and that's about what I did. Losing slowly is better than not losing at all.

Tonight is Biggest Loser night. I think tonight is when the Yellow and Blue Teams come back to weigh in for a spot on the show. I wish they could both come on the show and kick off Red.
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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