Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tweeting what I'm eating

Ever since I downloaded and read Rebecca Regnier's My Twitter Diet, I have been playing around with different ways to use to aid in my weight loss efforts.  I have been participating in the online chats (8 p.m. on Sundays and Thursdays) and following fellow tweeting dieters.  I have been tweeting about my small victories and concerns, and replying to others' similar tweets with support.  If all of this sounds like a foreign language to you, be sure to get the  ebook, which explains how to use twitter and gives some ideas on how it can be a good way to find a helpful community.

This week my weight has an upswing. I have been wanting desperately to get back into the 170s again on the scale but have been having ups and downs. I have been having a hard time forcing me to use LoseIt to record my food and to watch my calorie intake, and the days I don't log tend to be the days where things go off the rails.  I thought that it might push me to follow my intentions more closely if I followed a "tweet before I eat" philosophy. For many of the meals and snacks, I have even been including photos.

It does really help, because I have to imagine how my choices will look to others.  At the same time, I don't want to project a fake image of perfection and  pretend that I am a person who lives on celery and never eats sweets. I have even been posting calorie counts for my meals and I get caught up in wondering if someone will criticize me for having a 500-calorie breakfast, as I did today.  At the same time, my rational, sensible mind tells me that if I put myself into Diet Jail, I am going to bust out. I have seen plenty of people try to live that perfect life, succeed for a while, and then dive headlong into the HoHos. I have seen myself do it too many times. I also find that there is a big difference between taking four Girl Scout cookies, putting them on a plate, and enjoying them with a cup of tea and mowing through an entire sleeve of Thin Mints while I'm standing in the kitchen with the pantry door open.

According to the Fat2Fit BMR calculator, someone with my current stats should be able to lose weight at a calorie range between 1736 (sedentary) and 2496 (very active).  Before the most recent episode of their podcast, I was trying to set my calories at the lowest end of that range and add in calories for exercise.  I found I had the same problem their correspondent had, that on my no-exercise days, I was too hungry and couldn't stay within range, and on my high-activity days, I was eating just because I had calories in my "bank." Since I listened to that show, I have been trying to stay between 1800 and 2200, depending on my hunger levels. I'm also trying to steer myself toward 3 meals and 1-2 snacks, instead of all-day grazing, which was my former habit.  Hunger isn't an emergency.  But because I find myself ravenous at night if I cut my calories too low, I try to use more of my calories earlier in the day, when I am more active.

I'm posting the truth, and will be curious to see if people react with negativity, criticism, or support. Mostly they haven't said much. A list of someone else's food choices may just be too dull for comment.  Or people may be silently criticizing but too nice to say anything. That's totally fine. Yesterday I had to take my father to the emergency room (it turned out to be no big deal) and he wanted to stop on the way to eat in case he was admitted.  He hates hospital food. I didn't get anything but a bottle of water, but he offered me some of his french fries and I ate a few, then threw the rest away. I realized they didn't taste good and I was just stress eating.  I tweeted about the fries but of course worried what my followers would think about someone supposedly on a diet eating fries from a fast-food place. It's not my normal habit, but I personally think anything can be included in a reasonable diet IF you can keep the portions small.

I decided to post this discussion about my food philosophy in case anyone had any questions about why I'm doing things the way I am.  I realize I post similar discussions quite often, and it makes me realize how defensive I feel about food.  I have always been self-conscious of having an appetite and afraid I would seem gluttonous or unfeminine if I admit that I like food.  I know myself, though, and I can't live happily in Diet Jail. I know I will never be as thin as I could be if I was more restrictive of my eating, but at the same time,

I want to find a "happy weight" where I can be in balance -- both happy about the way I look and happy about how I eat.   I can find ways to make healthy food pleasurable, but I can't convince myself that I don't need to enjoy my food.

That out of the way, I plan to continue tweeting what I eat for the rest of the week, at least.  Feel free to , if you're interested.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Allergy relief

Note: This post might be kind of dull unless you are suffering with spring allergies and want some ideas on how to deal with them.

Vickie's post on her equilibrium problem reminded me of just how bad I was feeling last spring. I have both seasonal (pollen, mostly) and year-round (cats and dust mites) allergies.  One of my symptoms was that my ears would get completely plugged, resulting in terrible equilibrium problems. When I got up from the floor in yoga, my head would spin.  I have had some variant of this almost every spring.  I am trying to get in the habit of using , but the drops are oily and it's a bit unpleasant.

My other symptoms include the usual runny nose, plugged head.  My eyes were very red and itchy this winter.  To be honest, until I realized this was allergies, I thought I just got sick a lot. My general practitioners never suggested allergies and I finally decided to check with an allergist on my own because I had been scratching myself in my sleep and my arms and legs had a lot of tiny scabs.

The first thing I was told to do was get mattress encasements. I got a complete set to cover my pillows, duvet, and box springs.  I'm kind of a missionary about these. I don't know why every mattress and pillow sold isn't covered in this kind of fabric since it can protect against dust mites, pet dander, and even bed bugs. Using the encasements and washing my bedding often in hot water was probably the best thing I did to keep my allergies under control.

I was finally convinced to do immunotherapy this year. I have been getting three allergy shots a week to get me up to the maintenance level.  I have to sit in the doctor's office for half an hour after each shot, so with travel time, I have been devoting three hours a week to this.  I was wondering if it was worth it when I remembered how much the allergies knock me out when they start up each spring.  I thought allergy season hadn't started yet until I saw everyone's facebook posts about their misery.

In addition to the shots I use prescription eyedrops, antihistimine tablets at night, and a nasal spray every morning. The allergist recommended that I use the  system about half an hour before the spray.  I find it a lot easier and quicker to use than the  I bought last year, which seemed to require that I become a contortionist.  The squeeze bottle that comes with the NeilMed system is so much simpler and just takes a few minutes.

I don't remember having allergies when I was a kid but I did get a lot of headaches and runny noses. Maybe I just didn't realize I had them?  I am guessing that they are a lot more common than people realize.

I am really hoping that when I am up to the maintenance level on my shots, I can scale back on the antihistimines, which have been linked to weight gain.

Life Well Lived: Eyebrow Maintenance

This post is part of the Life Well Lived editorial program from BlogHer and P&G.
As a part of the Life Well Lived Blogger panel, I was asked to answer the following question: "What are your favorite tips and tricks for framing and showing off your beautiful face?"   This question is being discussed on's Life Well Lived page.

To be honest, I really didn't understand the question until I read the main post.  Did they want me to talk about haircuts, hats?  The guest poster talked about shaping eyebrows, and had very elaborate instructions for creating the perfect brow.  

I am lucky, because I have fairly dark and thick brows. My only issue with them is keeping them from getting too bushy or merging into the dreaded Unibrow.  I keep a pair of tweezers right next to my bathroom mirror and before I put in my contact lenses, I lean into the bathroom mirror and scan for stray hairs with my Extreme Close-Up vision. Tweezing a few hairs every morning works better for me than a marathon tweezing session -- it keeps things in check and is a lot less painful. 

If you want more professional advice, please be sure to check out the main Life Well Lived post and see how a real expert shapes eyebrows.  You can chime in here or there with your own tips.  You should also go enter the Life Well Lived Sweepstakes for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Changing my DNA

I heard a snippet of this Science Friday program about how exercise can change your DNA and I had to go download the podcast.  I listened to it two or three times because it went by so quickly that I wanted to make sure I understood it.

The gist, in non-scientific terms: Our DNA can become littered with tags that change the way it is read by our cells.  Scientists found that unexercised muscle cells had tags that kept them from metabolizing fat and sugar.  After strenuous exercise (35 minutes at 80% of maximum effort), the research subjects' muscles showed that these tags had been removed, which would improve fat and sugar metabolism. Exercise at lower intensities did not seem to have the same effect.  Interestingly, the tags are even more pronounced in people with insulin resistance associated with Type II diabetes, which would suggest that regular strenuous exercise might blunt some of the disease's effects. You can read the whole research paper if you like, but the Science Friday segment summed it up nicely.

This would suggest that if you are struggling with weight loss, you might want to decrease the duration of exercise and really ratchet up the intensity.  This may explain why strength training is so effective for weight loss even if it doesn't burn a lot of calories -- it might be more effective in making the changes to DNA expression if it is strenuous enough. It might also explain why once you reach a certain level of fitness it seems easier to get even fitter -- you are more able to reach the level of exertion necessary to make DNA changes. It also explains why I didn't have so much luck losing weight when I was training for a half marathon -- I couldn't run at a high enough effort level to increase fat and sugar metabolism.  Spin class is an especially effective exercise mode for me, because I can really crank out the effort on the bike and work myself hard for 45 minutes.

It's actually time for me to get changed for Spin class. I have DNA to change.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back home

I got back on Friday afternoon from a three-night trip to Washington, DC. I was struck while I was there by how much thinner most people there are than the ones I see in my day-to-day life in Toledo, Ohio.  I have been half-seriously joking that the best way for me to lose the 20-30 stubborn pounds I have been fighting for the last several years is just to move to a bigger city.

First, of course, people who live in cities are a lot younger.  I am guessing that people move out to the 'burbs about the same time as middle-aged spread starts to set in. Also, they walk and take public transit.  I know I walked a lot while I was there, and carrying suitcases up and down the escalators, even when they were working, is more work than it would seem. My arms are still sore. Finally, the culture is just different.  I went to this cute little salad shop called Chop't, and when I ordered my salad as a wrap, the man behind the counter said, "Oh!" with a little surprise and even dismay in his voice. Turns out, the wrap added about 200 calories to my order.  I found myself eating differently while I was there -- ordering lighter and leaving more food behind. I felt a lot lighter when I got back but it didn't show up on the scale. Still, if I can continue to develop different habits, I should eventually see some progress.

Another thing I have done is to continue to add pieces to my wardrobe that make me feel cute. As I wrote before, I know it goes against conventional wisdom, but I realized as I was packing for this conference that I have bought very few things in the last several years that were actually things I wanted and not just things I found on sale that would work.  New purchases this week: A pair of dark, slim-cut Calvin Klein jeans. I bought them full-price because I really needed them and they looked great on.  A tangerine cardigan from J. Crew -- I had been wanting a bright orange cardigan and this one fits really great and the buttons don't pull. When I saw a similar sweater at H&M for only $20, I was tempted to return the J. Crew one, but then I realized that the color, fit, buttons, and overall look were so much better in the more expensive cardigan that it was worth the price.  I also got three pieces of Prana yoga gear at my studio 50% off -- a tank, a pair of capris, and a little dress with built-in support.  All three pieces were less than $30 each, so these were very high-quality clothes at discount store prices.

All of this continues the "as if" trend -- living as if I were already at my goal weight. If I get too small for the clothes, I will give them away.  In the meantime, as I am living my life, I want to look and feel great.

Speaking of feeling great, I have my new orthotics and they seem to be working out. I ran on the treadmill at the gym for a total of 20 minutes (interval training) and my toes didn't bother me. Today I am going to do the first Ease into 5K workout outdoors and see how it goes.  I also plan to go to swim tonight for the first time in a few weeks.  It's good to be feeling healthy again.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Life Well Lived: How do you teach the children in your life happiness?

As a part of the Life Well Lived Blogger panel, I was asked to answer the following question: "How do you teach the children in your life happiness?"  This question is being discussed on's Life Well Lived page.

I don't have children of my own, but I love spending time with my nephews and nieces.  I'm not sure that I teach them as much about happiness as they teach me. Spending time around them lets me see things for the first time all over again through their eyes. Because the littlest ones haven't learned how to hide how they feel yet, every feeling is expressed in pure form on their faces. I have a picture of one of my nephews from when he was on a carousel for the first time. He has his head thrown back and a huge, open smile on his face.  I keep it on my dresser mirror so I can see it every day.

More recently, holding my sister's baby when he was just a few hours old was an incredible joy.  I was so relieved that he and his mom were fine that I didn't have room for anything but happiness in my heart.

Do you have a tip for helping kids learn how to be happy? Please share your best tools and tips in the comments. Then go to the Life Well Lived Sweepstakes page and enter to win a Kindle Fire.
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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