Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some thoughts on "Losing It with Jillian"

I decided not to do recaps of "Losing it with Jillian" the way I did with "The Biggest Loser." Recaps wouldn' t do the episodes justice, because "Losing It" is a more complex show than "The Biggest Loser." Instead of focusing on the gameplay and the massive weight loss, Jillian's new show focuses more on some of the family dynamics that contribute to weight gain.  Still, now that I've watched 5 episodes, I thought I'd pull together some of the common threads that these families seem to share. If you're looking for recaps, there are some good ones on Jillian's site.

The basic premise of the show: Jillian travels the country, spending a week with each family and, besides teaching them the diet and fitness plan she used on "The Biggest Loser," but also trying to untangle some of the problems that are making the family turn to food for comfort.  If you hated "The Biggest Loser" because of the massive weight loss numbers, you are probably not going to like "Losing It" either.  On the most recent episode I watched, two of the family members lost 50 pounds in two months and one lost 30. 

What I like is that Jillian doesn't act like it's "Just calories in, calories out" like so many diet gurus do. I'm getting a little sick of that phrase.  Sure, calories are important, but even more important to address are the beliefs and blocks that are keeping people stuck.  If knowledge was enough, we'd all be thin already, or at least most of us would. Jillian acknowledges that there is a lot more to weight loss than losing weight.  Many of these families have gone through traumatic events -- a child or parent who died, a painful divorce, serious illnesses -- that were so difficult to deal with that they retreated into food as an escape from their problems.

Some of the common problems families seem to share on the show:

Communication Breakdowns: The Mastropietros couldn't talk about their child who died shortly after birth. Debra Jones's preteen daughter couldn't tell her mom that she was carrying too much responsibility for a child her age.  The May family children were afraid to talk to their mother because she was carrying so much bottled-up anger about her divorce and would become hostile and defensive. The wife in the Northern family couldn't talk to her husband about how overwhelmed she felt. The Vivios had adopted a "suck it up" attitude that made it impossible to talk about how they were feeling.

A Sense of Powerlessness and Hopelessness: At some point all members of these families seemed to demonstrate a sense that they were not in control of their lives anymore.  At one point during a workout, Jillian yelled at a woman who was half-heartedly going through the motions, "This isn't happening to you! YOU are happening to it!  Act like it!" That seemed to be a theme, from Elijah who didn't think he could tell his father that he didn't like football, to the father in the Northerns, who seemed to feel like everything good that could ever happen in his life was behind him and retreated from life. 

A Cluttered Environment: Most of these families seemed to hang on to a lot of stuff.  It came out especially with the Mays and the Joneses, but the Vivios had a lot of knick-knacks and junk in their yard.

A Fear of Failure, or of Success: None of these families were risk-takers.  They seemed to be afraid to try new things or reach for ambitious goals.  Often during a workout, they would stop just short of what Jillian was asking of them, and it seemed like a part of them didn't know how to handle new information that they were actually strong and successful people. 

Macho-Man Dads and Low-Self-Esteem Moms: When the dads were around, other family members seemed to tiptoe around them and cater to them.  Even as the wives became overloaded and unhappy, they didn't ask their husbands for help. The wives tended to avoid upsetting their husbands and resisted compliments.

Have you been watching the show? What do you think? Did I miss any important common themes?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brief race report

I did the Iron Goddess Sprint Triathlon (not sure why they decided to use the word "Iron" in the name of a sprint race) at a beautiful park in Michigan today.  Two friends of mine also did the race, but I cropped them out of the photo just in case they didn't want to be famous.

The race was a weird one. I got to the first buoy in the swim and everyone was turning around. At first I thought that we had all somehow gotten off-course, but the course marshal had ordered us all out of the water because someone heard thunder in the distance. The first few waves had gotten to go but we had to get out of the water and wait around to find out what was going on. At first they were going to have us all do a shorter swim. There were also rumors that we might not get to swim at all but might have to do a duathlon (run-bike-run instead of swim-bike-run). After a while, they decided to let us choose what to do, so some of us did the longer swim and some did shorter. The race results are still not up, probably because someone is having to figure out all the different options that we all had.

I did the 800 meter swim as planned and felt pretty good about my swim. Then I got to the bike course and, even with my brand-new bike, had a pretty crummy ride. I just couldn't get up any speed and two people on mountain bikes actually passed me, which really demoralized me because I knew my bike should have made me faster than them.  I did a lot of self-torturing on that ride about why hadn't I trained more, and why hadn't I lost weight, all that.  I got to transition and racked my bike in disgust, then ran out, really tired from that bike ride.

I saw my husband and my two friends (who had been in earlier waves and had long finished by the time I got out on the course) and told them, "It's not going very well."  I felt awful.  My husband said, "You're doing great, it's going very well!" I realized that I was doing this for fun, not for a world-record time, and decided to just finish it the best I could.  My run was fine, nothing major to report, except that I used at the first water stop, and even though it was hard to get them down, I think they helped me a little.  I had never tried them before, but they did seem to give me a little extra energy.  The course was hilly and on trails, and I still finished the 5K faster than the stand-alone 5K I did last week.

End result: Compared to the same race last year, I was a few minutes faster on the swim, slightly slower on the bike (less than a minute), slightly slower on the run (again, less than a minute) and finished almost two minutes faster for the whole race. Not bad.

Also, when I went to take my bike off the rack to leave, I noticed that the brake was stuck. I thought I had done it by racking my bike with the brake levers, but my husband claims that my wheel got knocked out of alignment on the car bike rack and probably meant I was riding with the brakes rubbing the whole way.  If that's true, it would explain my bike course problems. Regardless, I didn't train enough on the bike, and next time I'm going to make sure that I can't say that.

I also am tired of feeling fat.  It's terrible that I should spend as much time and energy feeling bad about the way I look even on a day like today.  I know I need to lose the weight, but I also need to cut it out.  Yes, there were women doing the race in bikinis. Some looked hot but more than a few had bodies just like mine. Most of the women there looked pretty ordinary, just like me. Hopefully they all weren't obsessing about how they looked in their trisuits.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sprint Tri is this weekend

I am doing the Iron Goddess Tri in a beautiful recreational area just north of us in Michigan with one of my friends. We did this same race together last year and had a great time, so we're going back. We're even staying in the same Holiday Inn Express.

I have a bunch of things that I have to do tomorrow morning. Not only packing, but I also finally bought for my bike and have to put those on and get them adjusted, plus it's finally time to add a to my bike frame so I could actually go on a ride longer than an hour.

I wish I would have done more long bike training, but I feel pretty good about my swim and run preparation. Wish me luck!

Also, random public service announcement:

I had to go to nearby Ann Arbor to get my iPhone fixed because I dropped it on pavement and smashed the screen.  As I was leaving, the Genius Bar guy told me to "make sure to put a case on it." I had a case on it when it smashed, but I realized that it was that did not wrap around the front like . I think this might be why it smashed. I liked the lower profile and the sleekness of the new case, but I just ordered another case like my old one in case it could potentially solve future smashing incidents (which cost $200 to fix). Just thought I'd put that out there -- if I can prevent an expensive problem with a $13 piece of rubber, I'm all for it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A brief thyroid update

I got my levels checked after about a month on the new dosage (137). I am feeling more energetic and my levels are now fine.

Had hoped that getting these hormones normalized would result in big (or some) weight loss. No such luck. Guess I have to do it the same way everyone else does.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lose It! Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Jun 14th

Weekly Summary for Week of Mon, Jun 14th

for Jen S

Daily Summary
Budget Food Exercise Net +/- Weight (lbs)
6/14/10 1,696 3,116 789 2,327 631 176.8
6/15/10 1,696 2,286 410 1,876 179 176.8
6/16/10 1,688 2,321 696 1,625 -64 175.6
6/17/10 1,680 2,509 251 2,258 578 174.4
6/18/10 1,680 2,302 621 1,681 1 174.4
6/19/10 1,680 2,091 485 1,607 -73 174.4
6/20/10 1,680 2,673 436 2,237 557 174.4
1,809 calories over budget for the week
Lost 2.4 pounds this week
Nutrient Summary % Calories
Fat 724g 37.7%
Saturated Fat 215g
Protein 627g 14.5%
Carbohydrates 2,059g 47.7%
Fiber 221g
Cholesterol 1,706mg
Sodium 26,644mg
Exercise Summary Calories
Running 2 Hours 5 Min 1328
Bicycling 40 Min 390
Walking 1 Hour 35 Min 304
Pilates 1 Hour 30 Min 253
Gardening 45 Min 187
Swimming 1 Hour 25 Min 851
Yoga 3 Hours 0 Min 374
Total 3688
Report generated by Lose It!. For more information or to sign up for your free Lose It! account, please visit

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An athletic weekend

I did two events this weekend, which is unusual for me.

I recently did the first workout of Week 6 in "Bridge to 10K." That means I ran for a solid hour.  I might not have made it quite a full 10K, but close enough. I hadn't done an actual 10K or even a 5K this summer, so I signed up for one this weekend.  I thought with all this long distance training, I'd be ready to pull out a really fast 5K.

Lesson learned: Training long and slow trains you to... run long and slow(ish).  I did the 5K in 33 minutes instead of the 30 I had hoped for.  I even walked a few short stretches, which I rarely do.  I left myself some room for improvement for the next race.  I think if I want to do a faster race, I need to train with some faster workouts.

Next Sunday is my sprint triathlon, so today I did a practice open-water swim.  The race is at a beautiful recreational area in Michigan, and I enjoyed the swim. I did a mile in 36:38, which is about 9 minutes faster than I did it last year.  I felt great afterward. I really would like more opportunities to do open water in nice conditions like that. Our local tri club trains in a lake that is sometimes shut down because of bacteria from goose droppings. I still might train with them, just to be ready for the 5K, but it's not the nicest place to swim.

One thing I've discovered is that as fun as races are, I really like training better.  Training is a different kind of challenge. When I have a race, I get all wired on adrenaline and it's a big rush during the event and a corresponding crash. When I train, I just do my workout and feel good afterward.  Some people train to race -- I really race to train. Without the events, I might not get out there as much as I do. I still don't get out as much as I should.

I'm slowing things down a bit this coming week. My main goal for the week is to do at least one workout of the three legs of the tri (swim, bike, run) in my new trisuit. I also have a checklist of some little things to take care of to get ready for the race. Oh, and a few work meetings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cooking with pomegranate juice (with pictures!)

An embarrassingly long time ago, I was contacted by the POM blogger to see if I'd like to try cooking with pomegranate juice.  I said "Sure!" because I love the stuff, but for months, the closest to using these in a recipe I got was to mix up a batch of POMtinis  for my sister's bachelorette party. My sister is a bartender, so I was a little intimidated by the idea of mixing drinks for her and her friends, but they loved these.  To make a pitcher, just substitute "cup" for "ounce" in the recipe.  Then you have enough for 8 drinks (or less, if you have big glasses).

Some of the other little bottles in my case just became post-run recovery drinks or got mixed with seltzer when I wanted something bubbly. Finally, I was down to two little bottles and decided I'd better cook something before they were all gone.

There are a whole bunch of recipes on the POM Wonderful site, but I just did a search for "pomegranate juice" and "chicken" and found a great one for Chicken in Pomegranate Juice (I did not try the penne pasta variation and don't think I would like it).  I did my best to document the recipe steps with photos. I ended up making a few minor changes.

The original recipe called for chicken thighs, but I had four mixed pieces so I decided to just be careful and use a probe thermometer to check the temperature on the breast pieces.  Other ingredients: Olive oil, onion, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, and of course, pomegranate juice.  The recipe called for 2 cups, and I thought that sounded like a lot so I only used one at first.

As directed, I heated the olive oil in the pan first, then seasoned the chicken on both sides with the salt, pepper, and cumin and then put it in the pan to brown.

While it was browning I roughly chopped the onion (no fancy knifework required) and set it aside for later.  I made sure to brown the chicken nicely on all sides.  The recipe suggested moving the chicken to a plate and then covering it with foil, but I thought it would be easier to just put it in a covered roasting pan.  It was easier to work with a lid than mess around with foil when I was holding hot chicken.

Then I poured off all but about a teaspoon of the oil and chicken fat in the pan (I left the skin on to cook, though I removed it when I was eating the chicken) and added the onions and garlic.  The recipe said to cook them until they were translucent, but they didn't seem to want to get that way.

Once they were soft I added the pomegranate juice.

Then I also added the chicken back to the pan and covered.  The recipe said to cook on low for 10 minutes or until the juices ran clear.  I turned the pieces over at the 5 minute mark and set the timer for another 5 minutes.

I tested the temperature and the chicken wasn't done yet, so that roasting pan came in handy. I put the chicken into it, lidded it up, then put it into a 350 degree oven while I worked on the pomegranate sauce.  It had turned a sort of brownish color so I added in the second 8-ounce bottle of juice to give it more color and flavor. It took quite a while to reduce the sauce by half, so the chicken had plenty of time to finish in the oven.

The final product was pretty and the sauce tasted very good spooned over the chicken. It reminded me a little bit of barbecue sauce, which wasn't what I was expecting but was tasty. We had the chicken with some sweet corn and a salad.  I love crisp chicken skin, but this recipe did not make the skin crisp, so I took it off my chicken and dipping the meat in the sauce.

I would definitely make this recipe again, though I'm not sure I would do it in the summer. It got hot standing there and stirring the sauce so it wouldn't burn, and since I had to turn the oven on, the whole kitchen heated up.  I wondered if I might be able to make something similar by browning the chicken and then putting it in the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What we can do about the oil spill

The New York Times had explaining why the "Boycott BP" campaign won't hurt the company's bottom line.  In a nutshell, BP doesn't own most of the service stations that bear its logo, and the money they get from these stations is "a rounding error in terms of overall revenues or profits."  Because oil is something everyone needs, BP can sell the oil it drills to all the other stations.

I still haven't pulled into a BP station since the spill. I'm trying to limit my driving, since the only thing that is really going to help in the long run is decreasing demand for oil. In the short run, we can donate to groups that are helping to clean up the spill. Or we can support The Sierra Club, which lobbies for legislation to protect the environment and sues organizations that are involved in disasters like this one.

In the meantime, here is a list I have compiled of ideas on small things each of us can do to lower that demand for oil, which will make risky ventures like deepsea drilling less attractive and will also help slow the rate of global climate change. I have done many of these and am working on the others:

  1. Drive less, walk, bike, carpool, use public transit, skip a trip.  This is obviously the biggest thing we can all do.  This article explains how a 9% change in everyone's gasoline usage could make a huge difference. It's probably also one of the more challenging ones, since many of us live in places that are unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists and don't have practical mass transit options. There are other ways to make smaller differences: If you have a choice between two vehicles for a trip, choose the more fuel-efficient one. Try to combine small trips. Remember that speeding increases your fuel use.
  2. Keep your car in good running order.  Keep tires properly inflated, get regular oil changes, investigate problems when they're small.  If your car is not running right, chances are, it will use more gas.
  3. Don't keep your car idling when stopped.  I saw a sign outside a Jackson, Wyoming grocery that said, "Please do not idle your car. Running the engine for 10 seconds wastes more gasoline than starting it."  A lot of this idling is to warm up the car in the wintertime or cool it off in the summer.  If everyone in the U.S. reduced their idling time by 5 minutes, we could save 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline and keep 13 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  So try to do what we did in the '70s and open your windows a few minutes before you get in the car when it's hot, and wear gloves and a hat when it's cold.
  4. Consider a more fuel-efficient car for your next vehicle. When I was on vacation, the car rental agency gave us a Prius.  I had never driven one before, but the display that showed how much fuel/battery power we were using was fascinating.  My '99 Honda Accord is still getting decent gas mileage, but when I retire it, I will definitely consider a Prius or another hybrid model, especially since the tax incentives can make up for some of the extra initial cost.
  1. Cut back on your consumption of meat and animal products.  Mark Bittman recommends trying to cut back by 10% to make a big impact on the environment. Consider Meatless Mondays as one way to do this. Think of the energy needed to grow and transport all the grain (including petrochemicals to kill weeds, fertilize, etc.), transport animals to market, and then drive the products to the store.  This is the easiest time of year to enjoy more fruit, vegetables, and cut way back on meat. 
  2. Check out local farms and farmer's markets in your area. has listings.  I just checked and there are a lot more options than the last time I looked.  If this feels like too much extra trouble, find out what grocery stores stock foods from local farms and try to buy them first. It will taste a lot better, be more nutritious, and save fuel for transportation.
  3. Ditch disposables where you can. Get to take with you to Starbucks and get a 10-cent discount.  I like this one because it looks like one of the coffee shop cups. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store (plastic bags are made out of oil), and you may get a discount there too. The best side effect of this last one is that you won't have 10,000 plastic bags stuffed into your cupboards anymore. Get a and you can save money on bottled water and avoid creating more plastic trash.
  4. Eat less processed foods. Corn instead of corn chips.  Fruit instead of Froot Loops.  Water instead of soda. All that processing, packaging, and even some of the flavors and colors involve oil and/or petrochemicals. It will be better for you and the environment to cut back on these kinds of foods. (This is one of the ones where I have lots of room for improvement).
  1. Air-dry your hair.  I can't stand pointing a heat gun at my head in the summertime, so this is a big one for me.  I wrap my hair in a after I wash it, then eat my breakfast and either comb it out or finish it with a blow-dryer.
  2.  Remember what your mother said. Turn off the light when you leave a room. Turn off the TV when you're not watching it.  Don't run the faucet when you're brushing your teeth. Don't stand there with the refrigerator door open.  Turn down the thermostat in the winter and wear a sweater. Turn up the thermostat in summer or skip the air conditioning and open windows.  Every time I'm tempted to turn the air conditioner on, I think of all those tar-soaked animals.
  3. Fix leaks around the house.  Leaky faucets and toilets that constantly run mean wasted water, which also means wasted energy.
  4. Unplug chargers when you're not using them.  This one can be kind of a pain, but all those mobile phone and computer chargers use energy even when there's nothing plugged in to them.  This one can be a little confusing so I found .
This list is getting long, but if you want more, here's a link for 100 ways to save the earth. Right now I'm going to do my final suggestion: Turn off (and unplug) the laptop and go play outside!

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Today's weigh-in, plus a bonus weigh-in and an article critique

    This morning, I weighed in at 176.8. Yesterday, it was 175.6.  So you can choose the one you like.

    I got a sunburn yesterday when I was hanging out by the pool, so my guess is that is what explains the difference. Or it could be any of the million other reasons for weight fluctuations.  I maintained my weight over vacation without tracking food or calories, or I'm slightly up. Either way, I'm going to focus on tracking my food and staying under my calorie allowance and keep up the exercise.  Things should level out.

    Speaking of weight, I started reading an interesting article in MORE magazine the other day but didn't get to finish it, so I tracked it down on their website. The author and her mother and sister visited the Biggest Loser Resort and Spa at Fitness Ridge. From their slideshow, they all look healthy and fit, so I think the whole idea of them going was ridiculous in the first place. The author seemed to have some really good insights in the middle of the article:

    If we were a normal family, we would have been at a spa, not a boot camp. We would have long ago accepted the shapes that God gave us, and now we’d be getting massages or having a lovely meal. This was not fun. Or normal. Or a good venue for a family reunion. We barely talked here, and when we did, it was about the merits of soba over whole wheat, or elliptical over treading. The fact was, we were at the Biggest Loser at Fitness Ridge because our family hobby was so stupid—trying to attain figures we do not have.
     Of course, the article can't end there. She has an epiphany, finds her inner boot camp goddess, and feels great about the whole thing:

    Our final hike was the same one we’d taken on our first day; the goal was to improve our time to the halfway point, the mountain’s apex. At the start line, I told my mother to go ahead at her own speed. I was ready to climb a mountain by myself. She’d taught me how. Because we are not a spa family. We are boot camp people, I realized in the sleet. We live through pain, we overcome it. And boot camp people don’t hold one another back. My mother beat her first time by six minutes. My sister beat her time by eight minutes, and I beat mine by four. And we all earned our Biggest Loser T-shirts.
     I felt that it was a bit of a cheat to see a glimmer of sanity in the middle of the article, but read at the end that the author called her trainer to find out why she had lost so little weight.  I also wondered why a normal-weight person (or three of them) would check into a weight-loss camp that was obviously designed for people like those featured on "The Biggest Loser."  One of the other campers, "Big Jim," was understandably annoyed with her for being there and for calling the hike that he found challenging "appealingly slow." 

    It's an interesting article because it gives a peek at the resort, which I was curious about. But every time the author gets a glimmer of self-awareness, she seems to brush it away like an annoying mosquito. My guess is that this is the perspective required for an author to get published in a women's magazine. God forbid we get any ideas about a bigger picture or what is really important.

    Anyway, enough dawdling. Time to get to my run.

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    I got back from my vacation late on Friday, but I've been giving myself a little extra time to unwind.  It was a beautiful trip. We visited The Grand Tetons National Park.  I have been itching to explore more parks since seeing a few episodes of this winter.  I think these parks are one of the best things about this country. There are too many for most people to visit all of them, including a lot of historical sites, but we're hoping to hit most of the big ones.

    This first photo is from our scenic float trip down the Snake River. The guide does all of the work getting the boat down the river, so the rest of us were free to take as many pictures as we wanted of the dramatic scenery.

    I found that all the training I have been doing this summer came in handy for a trip like this. We did two hikes, each right around 2 hours, that were labeled as easy or intermediate in the guidebook.  They seemed challenging at times to me, with lots of steep paths and pebbly footing, but there were people of all ages doing these hikes.  That made me realize what this fitness stuff is really all about -- being fit to do the things you want to do.  We had some great views from Inspiration Point, and ventured past the crowds, who mostly turned around there, to see a little more of Cascade Canyon.  I actually slipped in snow up there.  In June.
    It was hard to turn around -- I wanted to keep going and see what else we could see -- but we didn't want to miss the ferry back to our car and be late for dinner. Priorities!

    On the way back, we had a tight connection in Salt Lake City, but our plane out of Jackson Hole was delayed and delayed.  We got off the plane when it was officially time for our next flight to stop boarding, but we decided to run from gate B1 to C7.  My husband is much more of a runner than me, and even though he has had some injury problems and was dragging a rolling bag, I just barely kept up with him. I got on the plane coughing a little but we made our flight.

    I ate some pretty fabulous meals while I was away, so I am curious to see from the scale whether my activity balanced out the calories.  I peeked at the scale today and it looks like I stayed about the same, but I'm waiting to post an official weight tomorrow.  Mostly I'm feeling relaxed and happy and not quite as uptight about the scale as I did before I left. I feel like I have the fitness for what really counts, no matter what the scale says.

    Sunday, June 06, 2010


    Down 3.3 in 5 days, not bad! Earlier this week I was under 175, but I had two restaurant meals yesterday (still stayed pretty close to my calorie goal).

    Of course, I will have to see how this all works in the long term.

    To be clear here, I am not really "eating more and weighing less." I'm shooting for a more realistic target and hitting it more consistently instead of going over and then deciding to start over again on another day.

    Consistent achievement of a realistic goal wins out over perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. It's also a more pleasant way to live.

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    Saturday, June 05, 2010

    Some thoughts on Weight Watchers

    I love it when I discover a good podcast that has been around for a while so I can download a whole bunch of back episodes from the feed (for podcasts that aren't stingy with their back episodes, at least) and listen to them while I am working out, gardening, or doing the laundry. That's how I got hooked on Jillian's podcasts.

    If I've been talking about Fat2Fit Radio a lot lately, it's because I just discovered the podcast and have been listening to it on a continuous feed when I'm by myself and doing something monotonous.  Their whole "eat more weigh less" philosophy really resonates with me. The basic idea is that you eat at the level that someone at your goal weight would need to eat (or maybe 200-300 calories less as long as you don't go below your BMR) so that you get used to eating the number of calories needed to maintain the weight you want to achieve. Do this, and as long as the goal weight is realistic, you will get there. Strength training and other exercise are an important part of the program, because you want to maintain your lean body mass and get your weight reduction to be fat reduction.  They also stress eating healthy, whole foods and having smaller and more frequent meals for the same reason.

    In 2002 I achieved Weight Watchers Lifetime status in about 18 weeks.  I was really proud of myself until I started gaining it back almost immediately.  For the last 8 years, I have been feeling like a failure because I could never fully commit to the program again. I'd do pretty well for a while, then I'd have a big meal, blow all my Weekly Points plus some, and give up for the rest of the week, which turned into two weeks... I always thought the problem was with me, though, not the program. It seems to work so well for so many people.  Why not me?
    Russ and Jeff say you should never eat below your basal metabolic rate, the number of calories you would need if you were in a coma.  My BMR according to their calculator is 1401, and according to the Weight Watchers formula, that's right around the maximum number of points I was supposed to have per day following the system and eating perfectly.  Since I'm not actually in a coma (thank God), that's hard to do.  I'm not sure I completely believe in the "starvation mode" that is so widely discussed in diet forums and blogs, but I do believe that it's extremely hard to stay at that level for the long term. When I got too hungry, I might not have gone into starvation mode, but I did go into "F- it mode," in which I really didn't care.  I could only stave it off for so long with carrot sticks. I did a lot of exercise to earn some activity points to get more food, but it seemed to just increase my appetite even more.

    Russ and Jeff's response to "Robert from Ohio" really struck a chord with me. They told him that he only seemed to know two ways to live: Completely on a diet and completely off one.  That sounded a lot like me to me. I didn't binge quite like Robert did (it sounded like several thousand calories) but I did start having a lot of the things I had been denying myself because the points were too high.

    Another thing that I did to sabotage myself for the last 2-3 years is that I've been doing little to no strength training and focusing completely on cardio.  That means that instead of maintaining or building my lean body mass, I've been tearing it down, which explains why I'm not very good friends with my body fat scale.

    It has only been a few days, but having my target a couple hundred calories higher and making sure to have smaller meals of "clean" foods has really helped me manage my hunger. I even went out for Chinese food last night and still ended the day under my maximum calories. I set LoseIt to make 1633 (the calorie level for a sedentary 145-pound person) my target, because it credits me for the exercise I do.  On the days that I was the most active, I was hitting the level for someone working out "Very Hard" at that weight.  It seems like a lot of calories, but I cheated and peeked at the scale this morning. I'm down a few pounds already. Besides, I feel a whole lot better living this way than I did as a dieter or an overeater.

    I remember talking to a woman in my Weight Watchers meeting about using up all my daily points plus my 35 Weekly Points that week and she said, "I couldn't eat that many points, I'd gain weight." So I asked her how many points she ate. "I don't really track them."  It's easy to guess that you eat a lot less than you do if you're not tracking. So maybe the number of calories we think of as normal is completely skewed.

    There are some things I really miss about doing Weight Watchers, but what I don't miss is the feeling that I could never get it right.  I think the people who do well with the program must have a way to make it work for them, but in 6-7 years, I wasn't able to make it work for me like it did the first time. I hated weighing in each week and feeling disappointed in myself.  It's a lot more fun living the fit, healthy, thin person I want to become than being on a diet, even one that is supposed to be a lifestyle. 

    Friday, June 04, 2010

    More thoughts on "Losing It"

    I have been thinking about this show a lot lately, and I think I've finally figured out what is bothering me. As I said in my last post about the show, there was a little bit of backstory provided on the Mastropietros, but mostly I got a sense of "They were fat but they got thinner and now they're happy. The End!"

    I didn't like all the emphasis on the beautiful wedding because it seems to reinforce the idea that if you could somehow just become magically transformed to a thinner person, everyone will love looking at you and your life will be one big gorgeous lovefest.  Sure, the daughter went through some misery, but now she's all better! Who cares what's going on with the brother -- he's still fat!  Let's focus on the pretty blonde girl!  Jillian coming in yelling and kicking everyone's lazy butts off the couch was all it took to fix everything, right? Sure, there was some happy talk about dealing with their problems, but which left a stronger impression -- the idea that people have to stop hiding from their problems or the screaming?

    In reality, none of the people in the family were bad or stupid or lazy.  They probably had some sense that eating huge meals soaked in oil and butter was not good for them. They knew on some level that exercise was probably important.  But mostly, like everyone else, they believed that the fat itself was the problem. Fix the fat, and they'd all be better.

    Let's imagine for a second that Jillian really was a weight-loss fairy, and she came in dressed like the Good Witch Glenda, waved a magic wand, and they were all transformed, neck pillows and all, into the thin, fit people they wanted to be. Woo hoo! Now they're all skinny and they don't have to go through all that horrible diet and exercise stuff to get there!  Let's even pretend that she could keep them from ever getting fat again, no matter how many tubs of store-bought mashed potatoes they ate.  Wow! That would be super cool! Hot fudge sundaes for everyone!

    Would they be happy? My sources say no.  They'd find some other problem to focus on, like Michelle did with her "droopy arms." Besides that, if they went on living their same lives, slouching on the couch with their neck pillows and eating in front of the TV, how could they be happy? They still wouldn't be communicating effectively and would be looking for ways to avoid thinking about their problems instead of solving them.  My guess is that they wouldn't be any happier. For a while, they'd all enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror and getting compliments, but they would get used to them eventually and be back to the same place.

    What if, and this is a radical idea to say out loud in America, it isn't the weight loss itself but the stuff it takes you to really get and stay there that makes you happier and healthier? 

    It could be that living a more active life, eating better-quality food, and developing a sense of achievement and personal empowerment is what makes people happy when they lose weight.

    This came home to me when I was listening to some more back episodes of Fat2Fit Radio while gardening.  There was a show about the "10 Fitness Gifts to Avoid" and they were all magical-thinking items: Supposed ab exercisers, detox kits, electrical stimulation devices that supposedly exercised your abs while you sat on the couch, etc.  All of these things are designed to get you to that end goal of a gorgeous body without any work -- but what if it is the work it takes that is actually the part that makes you feel good?

    I was gardening while doing this and not running... maybe that helped me feel so positive about exercise, but still, even without a whole lot of weight loss success, I have been feeling good about the workouts I do. I enjoy 90% of them. There is the occasional one that I just have to get through, but most are fun.  I would really like to have the fit body as a trophy for my efforts, I'm not going to lie to you, but I wouldn't go back to doing nothing if I could be guaranteed to lose 5 pounds while sitting on the couch.

    We all get so much validation for getting wrapped up in the weight loss/gain drama.  All this "Obesity Epidemic" talk suggests that someone's going to lock us all up in containment wards so we don't contaminate the few remaining skinny people.  It's easy to believe the lie that someone will come along and hand you your "Deserves to be Happy" plaque when you've lost the right amount of weight.

    What if you were deserving right now? How would you live your life?

    Because you are. Now what do you want to do about it?

    So far, so good

    I'm halfway through my week and only 94 calories over my budget. I'm feeling really good and hope to continue my success.

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010

    Losing It with Jillian Michaels: The Mastropietros

    I had heard a little about this series, just enough to know that Jillian would be dropping in with families boot-camp style to help them make changes in a short amount of time. Where the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" might be with the trainers for weeks or even months, Jillian has a few days to change the direction a family is going and then stops by in six weeks for the big reveal.

    It's no wonder they decided to make the Mastropietros the first episode to air in the series.  There was drama to spare in this situation: A domineering father, Jimbo, who had already been through gastric bypass surgery but was back up to almost 300 pounds.  A mother, Agnes, who doesn't feel like she can speak up about what's bothering her and buries her emotions in food.  Interestingly, after seeing her husband's failure with gastric bypass, she had still scheduled her own surgery. Their son Michael is a big guy and at 20, looks ready to follow in the family pattern of massive weight gain. Much of the show focuses on the daughter, Michelle, who has also had gastric bypass and is looking great and planning her wedding, but is still caught up in punishing negative thoughts about herself and her body.

    The family is close, almost claustrophobic, but it doesn't take long to see that they aren't really able to talk to each other when something is bothering them.  They all are afraid of rocking the boat, and even though we don't see it, we're told that everyone tiptoes around Jimbo and his temper.  In what we see of the family, he just seems like a cartoonish character, who always has a neck pillow on even when he's standing up.

    The show starts with a TBL-style workout, but this family obviously wasn't ready for it.  There is a lot of yelling.  At one point I was worried that the title was not about weight, but was a description of how Jillian was going to act all episode, like she was totally losing it.  Agnes really doesn't try very hard before she decides she wants to quit, and Jimbo does the same. The kids are obviously distraught -- this was their big chance to save their family, and their parents are ruining it.  They make their parents chase Jillian down and promise not to give up. I'm not sure I like the "OK, I'm going home" drama that Jillian creates here, but it did seem to get their attention.

    After the workout, we see them cook and eat dinner, and even though they're an Italian family, the food is mostly Americanized garbage -- no vegetables, just chicken breaded and fried in a whole bottle of oil, and fake mashed potatoes with tons of fat that they add another stick of butter to.  The food revolves around Jimbo's tastes. He jokingly says when Jillian asks why there isn't a green vegetable in sight, that he wants "nothing green, unless it's from mold." They all have to know that this food is the reason that the gastric bypass didn't work for Jimbo.  Jillian asks how much he eats, and his wife says he eats all day.  "That's not true," he says, and then tries to refute it but has to admit that eventually he goes to bed and he doesn't eat then.  Jillian isn't impressed. "So that's when you don't eat, when you're unconscious?"

    We find out that the family's problems really began 22 years ago when the parents lost their first child, a premature son, after he spent one month and a day on the respirator and died in his mother's arms.  Jim wouldn't talk about it with his wife, and Agnes was feeling terrible that they had never even gotten their baby a headstone. I really felt for them and saw how wrapped up they had gotten in this pain and in trying to hide from it.  I felt sorry for the two surviving children, whose parents weren't able to be there for them because they were still so caught up in this grief.  I do think that the conversations that Jillian helped to start here will make a big difference in the family's ability to communicate instead of burying their feelings in food. Besides the main storyline of the family's loss and grief, I also felt like the whole family had an attitude of learned helplessness -- they had no idea how to take on the problems they had, so they hoped for some magic intervention -- whether gastric bypass or Jillian Michaels -- to come fix everything for them, because they didn't feel equipped to do anything for themselves. The very fact that two members of the family had already done weight loss surgery and a third one was planning it was major evidence of this -- after seeing Jimbo's failure with the surgery, mother and daughter couldn't think of any better option than to hope it would work better for them, even though they were in the same environment as him?

    I'm not sure I love this show yet -- I think the work that Jillian did with the families was great, and they obviously did a great job of casting and of finding the story, but we didn't get to know the family as well as I wanted to know them.  Why did we never get an explanation for the neck pillow? Why didn't we learn much of anything about Michael? Why were we expected to take Jillian's assessment of the parents' relationship instead of seeing them interact? It felt like the producers had cut a lot of that information out and left us with "They were fat but they got thinner and now they're happy. The End!"

    I especially didn't like the part of the show where they went shopping for wedding clothes -- predictably, the larger members of the family didn't like the way anything looked on them, and the thin one looked great -- no real surprise.  The only insight this provided on the family was that the daughter, as good as she looked, was still focused on imaginary flaws. 

    Jillian has some one-on-one time with Michelle. In a workout situation, Michelle is obviously not trying as hard as she could, and Jillian asks, "Why would you choose failure when success is a possibility?" and suggests that Michelle hasn't even allowed herself to hope for happiness because she's afraid something bad will happen to disappoint her. It's a scary thought to imagine someone getting married in that state of mind.

    The big finale is a huge, elaborate wedding financed by NBC -- much more than we would have expected the Mastropietros to have been able to do on their own after seeing their very average lives and home.  It looked like the kind of wedding that would be featured in People as the celebrity wedding of the year. Everyone, of course, was feeling trim and fit and happy.

    I am going to keep watching because I love the premise and I love Jillian, but I hope future episodes give us a little more insight on the real process they're going through to help the contestants.  Otherwise, it's just a super-compressed Biggest Loser season.

    How I celebrated National Running Day

    I only found out about National Running Day yesterday when it appeared on the . I had been planning to do a run today anyway and check off the Week 5, Day 2 workout in my Bridge to 10K program, but it seemed fun to think I would be celebrating something.

    This morning I got up and got a little bit of a slow start, but was ready to leave at 9 a.m. to go run. There were storms predicted all day today, but I hoped I could get done before it started.  I planned to run at the park, which seemed a little safer than running out by the quarry in the open.  Lightning strikes the tallest thing, after all.

    When I pulled into the park I heard a rumble in the distance. I pulled out my iPhone and saw a big red line of storms headed our way.  "I can get at least some running in before it starts," I thought.  And I did, about 3 minutes, enough to get caught in a heavy downpour and be one of dozens of soaking wet people sprinting for their cars.  I got home and closed my windows because it was raining in.  Just as I changed into non-running clothes, I realized that the rain had stopped and the birds were singing outside.  I changed into dry running clothes and shoes (luckily I have multiple pairs) and got to the quarry (as I didn't feel like driving all the way back to the park).  Well, my headphones were not working right on my iPhone and I hadn't brought a watch with me. I was also worried that the phone might be damaged from my run in the rain earlier.  I didn't have a watch so I couldn't time my run.  I walked a brief loop around the quarry (about 20 minutes) and then headed home yet again. I changed and got ready for a meeting on campus.  I fiddled around with my iPhone and figured out that I had somehow turned the volume all the way down on the headphones (probably while clutching the phone in terror while sprinting for the car). I thought that I had tried turning up the volume, but apparently not. 

    I got home from my meeting and asked my husband whether he had a chance to run yet.  He hadn't, so we both decided to go out.  I did a very hot but triumphant Week 5, Day 2 Bridge to 10K workout.  Today was two 25-minute runs with a 1-minute walk break in between, plus the usual 5 minute warmup and cooldown.  Third time was the charm today, I guess.

    I was wondering after the whole iPhone fiasco whether a better case to carry the phone would help avoid similar problems. I'm also concerned about the thing getting wet and not working if I get caught out in another downpour. I have an armband and I don't love it.  I was trying to think of how else to carry it. Most of my summer running clothes don't have pockets. I would die before wearing a fanny pack -- besides the whole dork factor, there is the fear that it would create unflattering bulges and draw attention to my not-so-sleek physique.  Any great cases you've found?

    Tuesday, June 01, 2010

    10 in 10 Starting Weight: 177.6

    Yikes! My weight is up a bit, and I want to catch it before it drifts up any further. Now that I've been measured at the doctor's office and know that I'm actually 5'5" (ok, 5'4.75", but I'm rounding up to the nearest inch), it looks like I should shoot for 145 rather than 150 as my ultimate goal weight, but I can always revise that as I get closer.  I scared myself and put in 55 inches (instead of 65) for my height in the BMR calculator and suddenly thought my BMI made me obese.  That was a sobering thought. I'm happy to find out I'm actually just overweight (though getting close to that line).

    I will be leaving for vacation early in the morning next Monday, so I may do a weigh-in on Sunday morning, just to check in. I am shooting for 1 pound lost per week, so that would make my weight goal for next week 176.6 to stay on track.  Usually vacations are an active and happy time for me, so I'm hopeful that I can continue to lose while I'm away. 

    I am on track right now. I had a healthy breakfast, lunch, and two snacks and have a reasonable number of calories left for dinner. I had to stay home and wait for a repairman, and spent my time waiting straightening up the house and then decided to wash down the inside walls and floor of my front porch.  It took about 2 hours but it looks great.  The whole time I listened to Fat2Fit podcasts and got inspired to give their strategy a try.

    Wish me luck -- I'm probably going to need all the help I can get.
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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