Friday, September 30, 2011

Link-Love Friday

I don't have much to say today (and I should be grading papers anyway), so I'm going to emulate the lovely Shauna and do a quick link-fest: 

  • Deb at Shedding My Fatsuit has been blogging from The Biggest Loser Resort in Utah.  I am living vicariously through her posts, since I've always wanted to try a week (or at least a few days) away at a fitness resort or spa. Here's her post on Day 4
  • Laura had a good post recently on turning weaknesses into strengths. It especially hit home for me that without my weight issues, I might have never learned many of the healthy habits I now enjoy.
  • Koren Motekaitis, who has an incredible podcast, also wrote recently about happy as a choice we can make at any time, rather than as a destination we will reach once we __________ (lose weight, get a new job, find the right guy, etc.).
  • I'm still loving the "Inside Out Weight Loss" podcast. Have you checked it out yet? Recent episodes include "Forgive Your Way Slim" and "Release Anxiety Eating."
  • Tina at Faith, Fitness, Fun shows us just how . She looks pretty great now that she is eating real food, I think.
Hope you have a good weekend! I am finally starting to have a more reasonable schedule, but life got pretty crazy for me for a while. Just this week I had an art class, a French class, taught two graduate classes, attended physical therapy three times, did three run workouts (one more to go), dropped my car off at the mechanic, and took the cat to the vet. And I'm volunteering at a race this weekend.  I'm as overscheduled as a suburban teenager whose mother wants to make sure she gets into a good college.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Someone asked for pictures

I don't have any good mirrors in my house, so this is in the bathroom at physical therapy.

Not the most flattering pic, but now you know what a 180-pound, 5 foot 5.75 inch woman looks like.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Perpetual Money Machine

Start with the human tendency to feel inadequate and flawed.

Bolt on highly-engineered food products with limitless variety (Nabisco has 54 products listed on the Oreo website alone!) and availability (they even sell snacks at non-food stores like Home Depot).

Build in an environment of unrealistic images in the media (and increasingly, pornography).

Finally, polish with an incredible variety of contradictory, but always difficult to follow, diets that promise quick results at the expense of sustainable weight loss.

Repeat ad infinitum.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Working out my body image issues

I have been on a good workout streak lately. My swim class started back up last Sunday.  I had some great, creative workouts from Up & Running this week (though I failed to fit one of them in and am going to try to squeeze it in as a fourth workout next week.  I almost skipped my Spinning class on Thursday, but I'm glad I didn't because the instructor made it a great one.  On Friday, I almost skipped my strength class because my mammogram appointment took so long (will tell more in an upcoming post) but decided to go late and again, was glad I made the effort. Today I took a Pilates class with a new instructor, who did a totally different workout than the instructors I was used to, and got to try a bunch of new, challenging moves.

I love working out so much. People often look at me with a puzzled expression when I mention the kind of workouts I do, and I know what they're thinking, "Why are you still fat?" At least that is what I think they're thinking. Maybe it's something else, like, "This is boring. I wonder what I should make for dinner tonight?"

I ask myself the "why are you still fat" question pretty often too. My weight has been fluctuating quite a bit lately, but on its upswings, I fall into the "obese" category.  All of those people muttering about the "obesity epidemic" probably picture people who look like Biggest Loser contestants camped on the couch with a large pizza, but many of the obese probably look more like me -- someone who is still (barely) fitting into "normal" sizes in clothes, make an effort to eat healthy, and even exercise.

The pounds have been more stubborn for me lately. I suspect it may have something to do with my Hashimoto's, and something to do with my diet. It's still hard for me to eat below my target calories.  I have also been doing more strength training, and my body-fat scale suggests that about 4 of the pounds are new lean body mass. I am hoping that if this is accurate, weight loss will start to get easier.

I think though, that thinking of exercising only as a means to weight loss is completely missing the real point. I was at a conference recently, and had to walk a pretty good distance from building to building. I was with a friend, and noticed that she was sweating and breathing hard. I felt totally fine.  I feel so much more ready for a challenge than I used to.  The biggest problem for me now is my closet -- I have been late to a few meetings lately because I couldn't find something that made me want to look the way I want to look.

I definitely want to lose the weight that I've picked up and a few pounds too.  I want to be able to fit in smaller clothes, feel more confident, and stop taking an extra half hour to get dressed because I am trying to hide my "flaws." But I also need to appreciate how much my body already does for me. I want to be lithe, strong, fit, confident, healthy.  I have about 3 out of 5 right now, though, and that's not too bad.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Learn about "Hustling for Worthiness"

I just listened to this interview with Brené Brown on Koren Motekaitis's radio show podcast and was totally blown away by it. They discuss the "hustle for worthiness" and the internal worthiness criteria that we all have (hint, they are usually completely impossible to achieve).  Surprise, surprise, for most women, appearance and body image are huge shame triggers.

I was especially interested when they talked about core beliefs.  Koren (who is a former champion swimmer) has a core belief that she's a "loser." Brené (who is an incredibly accomplished scholar) has a core belief that she is "lazy." Because beliefs are not evidence-based, they are difficult to combat.  I'm sure I have quite a few core beliefs, but "ugly" and "not good enough" leap to mind.  When I think about what could ever make me "not ugly" or "good enough," I realize that there is an internal voice that asks "HOW DARE YOU?" every time I contemplate feeling OK with who I am.

Deep stuff for a busy Thursday afternoon.  Had to take a break from my workday to share it with you. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weaning myself away from LSD

LSD in this case is not the illicit drug, but Long, Slow, Distance in the tradition. When I started running, I learned from my boyfriend (now my husband), who was a collegiate runner and a Lydiard disciple. He still is, actually. Lydiard calls for runners to build a big distance "base" before doing much speedwork. The idea is that if you can go long, you will become faster at the shorter distances.

I don't have anything against LSD, but I never managed to make the transition from a slow, injury-prone runner trying to build up my mileage to anything that felt like success, at least for long. I would be going pretty well for a while and then I'd have a running-related injury and my doctor or physical therapist would forbid running until it healed, and then I'd gain weight and lose my fitness and have to start all over again.

I started triathlons because I wanted something as intense as running to do in my off days and decided to try Spinning class. Once I was doing well with that, I thought I might like to add swimming and try a sprint triathlon. I had to learn how to breathe while I swam so I learned from some friends and then joined a master's swim group.

The funny thing is, Spinning class is not long, slow biking. Master's swim workouts are not long, slow swimming. I am much more successful in those two disciplines than I am in running, which I have only really trained long and slow for. So I began to think there had to be a better way, but I really didn't know where to start.

I'm training with Up & RunningI heard a Two Fit Chicks interview with Julia Jones and thought that she sounded pretty cool. Her workouts incorporate skipping, faster intervals, and lots of other exercises to build up running-specific strength. It sounded cool, but I didn't think a beginner 5K program was really for me since I had 20 years of running experience (on and off). When Shauna wrote about the new 10K course, I decided I wanted to try it.

So far the workouts have been a lot of fun. I have been having a problem on and off with the toes on my left foot going numb. I am going to physical therapy for it and among other One of our recent workouts called for skipping, and I could feel that the muscles used in skipping are slightly different than those I had been using on my long, slow runs.  I'm finding that the course pushes me a little outside my comfort zone and is making running feel new again.

Best of all, the workouts are only three days a week so I still have time to get in swimming, Spinning, yoga, strength training, etc.  I still want to train like a triathlete, even if I'm focusing on running a little more right now.

Review of Live Big with Ali Vincent: Transforming Jorge Sierra

I just watched the second episode of Live Big with Ali Vincent last night. This episode featured Jorge Sierra, a big man who has already lost more than 100 pounds and is now just under 400. I found Jorge very likable and sympathized with his plight. Ali is also really charismatic and entertaining. So why don't I love this show more? I enjoy watching it but it isn't really grabbing me the way "The Biggest Loser" always did. There are a few problems with the show. The biggest one is that it really doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It would be hard to describe the producers' (and/or Ali's) vision for this show in a few sentences. For "The Biggest Loser," The vision would be something like "Use a boot-camp style format to create dramatic physical and emotional transformations in severely obese contestants." "Live Big" seems to have the theme of "You have to start living big to get smaller," but that's not the show that I saw last night. Jorge and Ali do some workouts together and cook healthy tacos. Ali admonishes Jorge to measure out his sour cream. But I am guessing that a guy like Jorge, who seems intelligent enough, doesn't get to 500 pounds because he never thought to look up healthy recipes online or use measuring spoons. We don't hear anything about how he is currently "living small" and how he wants to "live bigger," except the whole story about the roller coaster that he is too large to ride. Riding a rollercoaster is fun, but it isn't something that makes or breaks your life. What "Big" vision does Jorge have for the life he would like to lead if his body wasn't in his way? I also was annoyed that though the show was fairly short, a lot of it was repetitive. There is that typical reality-show format where the assumption is that you went brain-dead over the 1 minute commercial and need to be reminded of everything that has already happened on the show. We see the same clip of Ali and Bobbi Sue giggling over the roller coaster at least 4 or 5 times. We also saw some of this footage in the intro, which was the same intro we saw in Episode One. I'm not sure if it is because this show was made on the cheap, but by the time you trim out all of the repetitive clutter, there isn't a lot of new tape in this 22-minute show. There are a lot of voiceovers where we might have gotten some useful interaction with Ali and Jorge, too, which feels frustrating. We don't need yet another cute, giggly shot of Ali every five minutes. I think she has a lot more to offer than that. I have another frustration that may just be my own situation: Because this show does not provide episode summaries for DVR recordings, even on the "Record New Episode" setting, I get every single rerun recorded and have no way to distinguish between new shows and old ones, and I have to get through the full intro just to see the show. That makes me want to give up on recording the show and just watch it online instead. Despite my disappointments, I will probably watch the rest of this season because I want to give the show a chance. I do think, though, that people who really want to learn to live big while getting smaller will need to seek out other sources of information and inspiration, because so far this show is falling woefully short.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Weigh-In

This morning my scale said 172.2. It also, however, gave me a body fat reading that indicated that I had not gained fat since last week but had actually lost fat. I did a fast run yesterday and an hour-long swim workout, and my muscles felt like they had been hit with baseball bats. My excuse about the sore muscles retaining fluid... that's the one I'm going with today. I have to admit that having weights consistently in the 180s for the last few weeks is making me a little panicky. I don't know how accurate these body-fat scales are, but mine does seem to indicate a downward trend in body fat and an upward trend in lean body mass. So that's the small sliver of hope that I am clinging to.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Workout plan for next week

I just completed Week 1 of Up & Running today. I'm really liking the variety of workouts. My Master's swim class started today too, so I'm pretty happy to be sitting on the couch planning my workouts for next week instead of doing anything more active. I have decided to focus on running development for the next couple of months (with the goal of a 10K on November 6), so I will not be doing as much biking and swimming. I have the option to do a 5:45 a.m. swim on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I'm going to wait until this run-intensive time is finished to think about that. Monday: Physical therapy (for my toe numbness problem) in the early morning. Otherwise a rest day. Tuesday: Up & Running Week 2 Workout 1 in the morning, Physical therapy in the evening Wednesday: Yoga in the morning Thursday: Physical therapy in the early morning, Spinning class right afterward Friday: Extreme Interval class in the morning, Up & Running Week 2 Workout 2 in the afternoon Saturday: Pilates class in the morning Sunday: Up & Running Week 2 Workout 3 in the morning, Master's Swim in the evening

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Just quit TOPS

Last Monday, I weighed in but didn't stay for the meeting. My weight was up 1/4 pound and the weigher clucked a little under her breath in disapproval. I had a physical therapy appointment but also didn't feel like staying. In my absence, the group decided that each member would be responsible for calling another member once a week.

I had already been feeling like the group wasn't for me but this was the last straw. The member who called me is both impressive and a little intimidating. She kept calling and not leaving a message (I almost never answer my phone if I don't recognize the number) until I finally answered. The conversation was uncomfortable -- I hate telephone chats anyway, but especially about my weight loss failures. I got off as fast as I could. She has called and not left messages a few times since then.

I feel bad because she just called again and I called back and told her I was quitting the group and probably not very kindly. She had called to ask if I drink diet soda. I don't want someone treating. Me like a problem to be solved. I told her I hate talking on the phone and the idea of having to do it stressed me out when I was already too busy. I was pretty short and now I'm regretting the way I talked to her. I had been stressing out over how to leave the group gracefully but I failed big time on that. I wanted to try to call her house when no one would be home and leave a message but couldn't figure out when that would be.

I feel bad because I know I probably hurt her feelings but I was angry. She doesn't know me and I didn't ask for this kind of help. I thought TOPS would be a low-key, low-cost version of Weight Watchers. I guess it just wasn't right for me.

The phone, in my mind, is a business tool. I use it as little as possible. Even with my own friends and family, I avoid the phone. I like email and texting. I think in this case, the generation gap is too big.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In defense of excuses

I have written a couple of posts about excuses, "Top 10 excuses for staying fat and unhealthy," and "Top 10 excuses for weight gain." Though I took a snarky tone with these posts, I didn't mean that none of the excuses were ever true.  It's true, for example, that after lifting weights your sore muscles are probably retaining fluid. It's also true that having young children can make it hard for parents to fit in time for exercise and healthy meal planning.

I think excuses are actually useful at times.  Weight gains, for example, can sometimes be mysterious things. Though a lot of people take a mechanistic "Calories in, Calories out" approach to weight loss, there can be plenty of mysterious fluctuations along the path to healthy weight loss. Also, though this mechanistic approach has its appeal, your body is not actually a machine.  A car, for example, can't become more fuel efficient if there is less gas in the tank and less efficient if you have just filled up. Your body can. I think that excuses for weight gain like the ones I posted can be useful if you are eating healthfully and exercising but the scale is doing weird things. Better to console yourself with an excuse than with cookies.

The excuses for staying fat and unhealthy might come in handy if you have a pushy friend or relative who thinks that your weight is his or her business when it isn't.  I find, though, that explaining yourself with a reason just invites further debate.  I think the best thing to say in this situation might be to try to change the subject or tell the person outright that you don't want to discuss it with them.

But if you find you are making excuses to yourself, and you really do want to make a change, then you can use your excuses as a guide to the roadblocks that you need to find a way around.  As Holly L. said in a comment on that post, the truest answer for a lot of us might be "Maybe I'm flailing around because I'm just not ready for the effort required to lose this weight." In my mind, there is nothing wrong with admitting that. Maybe telling ourselves the truth is the real pathway to long-term success. I have been thinking a lot about the mysteries of body fat and scale weight because I got another unexpected compliment yesterday. This time it was a friend I haven't seen in a while who said, "You look great! How much have you lost?" The truth, according to my records, is that I haven't lost any weight and my body fat percentage is about the same. I have been training harder lately and I do feel like my body is changing, but it still isn't showing up on my Tanita scale as weight or fat loss. I'm not sure what is going on. I'm just going to stick to the program and hope for a Whoosh, I think.

Friday, September 09, 2011

A stroll through the blog archives

I accidentally clicked on one of the archive links on my blog sidebar, and I got a kick out of reading through some old posts and comments.  Remember when Vickie was obsessed with her belly? And now she's a wonder woman. Remember when there was a little blogging community that posted lots of comments on everyone's blogs, before we all got feed readers? It's funny to look at posts where I was working on my dissertation or stressed about trying to find a job.  I am a little jealous of former-me, who seems to have been much thinner than current-me and much more on track with food and exercise. That version of me was worried about the "new" Weight Watchers program, which I think was Momentum, and it seemed to be working well.  Also, that me had an at-work meeting, which I always liked better than the ones at Centers.

I found this list of resolutions for 2007 and thought I'd see how many of them I achieved since then:

  • Get back to my goal weight in the next couple of months so I can stop paying for Weight Watchers meetings (NO: Did not get to goal weight but am not currently paying for or going to WW meetings)
  • Defend my dissertation in May for an August graduation (YES: Well, I defended in October and graduated in December that year, but at least I graduated)
  • Find a tenure-track faculty job (YES: I have a full-time faculty job and don't really care that our school doesn't have tenure)
  • Find a home where neither my husband or I has more than a 15-minute commute to work (CLOSE: My commute is about 7 minutes and my husband's is closer to 20. But it averages to less than 15 minutes per person)
  • Become more centered and at peace with myself (IN PROGRESS)

How do people skip breakfast?

I'm fasting for some bloodwork today and I scheduled the earliest possible time so I could eat sooner. The worst is -- no coffee!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Top ten excuses for weight gain (in no particular order)

When I was working on my post about my current weight ups and downs, I started to write about why I thought they had been happening. Just like my previous excuses post, this post provides no pesky advice or solutions, just great excuses that you can adapt to your own situation.
  1. I ate a lot of salt last night.
  2. I'm premenstrual/mentsrual/postmenstrual/menopausal (choose one).
  3. My hair has grown really fast lately.
  4. I weighed later/earlier in the day/week than usual.
  5. The scale is unreliable.
  6. I exercised yesterday, so I'm probably gaining muscle. (I also like "retaining fluid in sore muscles")
  7. I think I'm catching a cold.
  8. I'm constipated.
  9. I think this is just my body adjusting before its next big loss.
  10. I think our bodies just change as we get older and there's not much we can do.

No going back

My weight was up a little on Monday, but was back down on Wednesday. Overall, I'm just holding steady. I had a couple of good food days in a row and just need to keep up that and the exercise. I need to avoid the temptation to keep switching plans and just stick to one thing.

The only reason the Weight Watchers offer seemed tempting at all is that it gave me the illusion that there is some magic that could make the weight come off faster and get me to goal ASAP. Realistically, any plan that would work would be hard work and would require patience and planning, just like what I'm doing now.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

My ex is trying to get me back

"It will be different this time," she says.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Live Big with Ali Vincent Review: Episode 1

I follow Ali Vincent (the first woman to win "The Biggest Loser") on  and was really excited to see that she has a new show on the Live Well network, and also to find out that our local cable channel carries it.  It seems to be a relatively new network and doesn't have a lot of shows -- Ali's "Live Big with Ali Vincent" is the headliner.  Since I don't like the direction "The Biggest Loser" seems to be going with its new lineup of trainers, I'm hoping that "Live Big" can take its place.

The first episode was promising, though it was more like a promo than a normal first episode of a TV show. There was a big setup explaining Ali's story. The main premise of the show is that she got big because she stopped living big.  She found herself stuck in a rut and stopped dreaming new dreams for herself. I find that premise compelling and more accurate than the typical view that people get fat because they are lazy.  If you missed the first episode, it seems to be being rerun several times a day on the Live Well network (if you go to the website you can find out if it is playing in your area). The full episode is also available online.

This season will follow three different people:

  • Jorge, a man who had gotten to 500 pounds in his twenties. He has lost 100 pounds on his own but wants Ali's help to lose the rest of it.
  • Leslie, a young woman who is overweight and worried about her family history of diabetes.
  • Rose, an older woman who has lost 80 pounds on her own but is feeling stuck.
I think their stories seem compelling and I'm looking forward to learning more about them. This week, we just got a basic introduction.  The focus was more on Ali herself this time.

Ali looks good. She's not as ripped as she was on the finale of "The Biggest Loser," but she looks great even if she is a little softer.  I thought she had gained a lot when I watched her on my television, but it was because the episode was not shot in HD even though it was broadcast that way, which makes everyone look a little wider.  

I liked a lot of the takeaways of this show, which had a much more nurturing feel than "The Biggest Loser" and focused more on self-care than in shocking people with horrible statistics about obesity or getting in their faces.  I think her style is definitely more that of a cheerleader than a drill sergeant, which is going to be refreshing after 11 seasons of TBL.  She emphasized that people need to take time for themselves and to find a support group, which I thought was a great place to start.

My only complaint about the show is that it presented a series of random tips but nothing that could really be considered a plan.  We see Ali making spaghetti squash and doing lunges in the grocery store as she shops. The closest thing I saw to a plan was her filling her grocery cart with veggies and fruit and then going home to cut everything up right away so that the healthy food would be ready and easy to grab.  Because the show has its own website, I had hoped that there would be more comprehensive information there for someone who watched this first episode and was really ready to get with Ali's program, but there's nothing there but video clips from the show.  At this point, viewers who feel motivated by this episode have nothing new to try, which is a shame and a missed opportunity.  

I'm someone who would never do lunges in the grocery store (it looked pretty ridiculous) but would happily go to a gym and do them there.  The severely obese viewers this show seems to be targeting probably already get more attention in the grocery store than they want and probably shouldn't start out right away with lunges until they lose a little weight and take some strain off their knees.  I'm hoping future episodes will have more useful exercise and fitness information, and more comprehensive information about nutrition, too.

The promo accomplished what it set out to do, though. I'm ready for more.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Loosening ego's grip (a little)

I had a couple of experiences lately that reminded me of just how much ego can get in my way if I let it. Luckily, I'm learning to let go (a little) more than I used to.

A couple of weeks ago, my regular yoga teacher could not make our class and she had a sub teach in her place. My regular yoga class is pretty gentle and beginner-friendly. The substitute instructor is a very fit guy that I know casually. He is that combination of strong, lean, and flexible that tends to end up in the pages of Yoga Journal.  He did a class that was super-challenging, with lots of upper-body work and strength-intensive poses.  I felt myself getting frustrated and upset, and then I realized that I was being silly. No one but me cared if I couldn't keep up with everything he was doing. No one in the group could completely keep up with him.  I felt suddenly free when I realized that I could just do what I could and let go of my fear that anyone would judge me.  In the end, I actually enjoyed the class and felt proud of what I was able to do instead of focusing on what I couldn't.

I am also doing a strength class called "Extreme Interval" at my gym. It is sort of a circuit workout, again lots of strength and upper-body, plenty of pushups.  The instructor of this class is fit even by fitness instructor standards.  Yesterday, only two of us showed up so she could focus all of her attention on us. I was a little embarrassed because I was so sweaty and red-faced (I always look like this when I work out, whether the workout is hard for me or easy). I also was having some trouble keeping up. It was my first time back in this class after a summer where I hadn't done a lot of strength work.  For once, I gave myself a break, even though I felt a little funny because the other woman in the class was so much thinner than I am. The instructor, unlike some other instructors, looked past the sweat and actually gave me extra weight in some of the sets.  On my way out, I said something to the other woman about knowing that I will be able to do more next time even though I couldn't do it all this time. She said, "If you can't do it all, I know I can't." Here I had been feeling like she must have thought I was totally out of shape because I was resting in some of the sets.

I want to challenge myself, and that means not always being able to do every part of a workout. I would tell anyone else to just do what they could and know that they will get better, but I'm finally starting to tell that to myself, too.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Unexpected compliment

Today when I was leaving Spin class (I was the only one left in the room), my instructor told me I looked great and asked how much weight I had lost.  Looking over the last few months, the most honest answer is "none," and my body fat scale shows a loss of about 2 pounds of fat.  Nothing dramatic.

I do know what she means, though. I am definitely fitter than I was earlier in the summer, and I have more muscle definition.  I feel like I look different, though there is no objective data to back that up.  I just have the feeling that something has shifted.

I just thanked her for the compliment and said I had been working out outdoors more this summer, which is the truth.  I'm sure she didn't want a big analysis. It does feel good to have some confirmation that someone else is seeing the changes, too.
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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