Thursday, August 29, 2013

The hole in the middle of my vision board

This is my 2012 board. Note the huge hole I meant to fill later, and then didn't.Everything here is pretty vague. I didn't make one this year because I didn't know what to put on it.

I don't believe that putting something on a vision board makes it happen, but having a goal makes it easier to achieve. I had a lot of goals back when I started this blog: Finish graduate school, get a job (this is my second), move. I got all those accomplished.  It feels like it's time for some new ones.

As in the picture above, I know I want certain things. I want to travel more, I want to write and paint, I want to be more adventurous and get fitter and healthier.  But I'm still figuring out how all of that fits together and how I can make it all happen. The center of it all still feels blank.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday weigh-in, August 29: Down 2

Sorry for the later-than-usual weigh-in post today. I weighed in early, then went for a swim, then went to visit a family member in the hospital, then ran some errands. I have been finding it hard to get anything done since I got home -- I tried to use my Jawbone UP to take a power nap and somehow just set it to sleep, and spent an hour crashed on the couch.  I know I needed it -- I did not sleep well last night.  Still, I have work I wanted to do today. The nice thing about work (ha) is that it doesn't go away, so I guess I can get it done later.  I thought I'd write this to hopefully get myself in a better state of mind to do something productive.

I was so busy Monday and Tuesday that I'm not surprised that my weight is down --  I didn't have a lot of time for food.  

Today's workout was a nice one. It has finally gotten hot again this summer, so I was eager to get in the pool. Friday is the last day for outdoor laps at the JCC this year, and I'm not sure if I will be able to go, so I took a nice, long, easy swim and made sure to savor every minute of it. It's just not the same swimming indoors. It's so beautiful to swim in the morning quiet, and the water temperature was perfect. I was in the pool for 50 minutes and only left because it was time for the morning swimmers to get kicked out.

Because I was going to the hospital today, I knew I'd want some calm to start my day. For me, one of the big benefits of exercise is the stress reduction. 

I'm hoping to keep the downward scale trend going. I need to reverse my summer slump.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Jawbone UP

This is an uncompensated, unsolicited review.  I bought the UP myself and the opinions and screenshots and photos here are my own. There are a couple of Amazon affiliate links in the post.

As I said in an earlier post, I bought the Jawbone UP -- actually two, one for me and one for my husband -- because with school starting, I wanted to have some extra incentive to keep us both active as school was starting to avoid Death by Sitting Around.

I like the look of the UP -- it's a pretty basic band that wraps around the wrist. It is available in several colors but mine is basic black.  My wrist is about 6" around so I ordered the medium, which fits well with some breathing room. On one end, there is a removable cap that says "Jawbone." On the other is the only input device on the UP itself, a simple button. Various button-pushing patterns are used to switch the UP from active mode into sleep mode and back again, to time activities, and to set the band in "Power Nap" mode.  There is no display on the up other than a small glowing sun and moon.

The UP is designed to interact with an iPhone or Android device -- the cap pops off to reveal a plug that fits into the headphone jack for syncing, recommended at least twice a day. This is also where the device plugs in for charging -- the wristband is supposed to hold a charge for 10 days or so. Jawbone UP users are supposed to wear their devices 24/7, except when charging or doing something like swimming where the band would be immersed in water. The UP is water-resistant and can be worn in the shower, but is not recommended for swimming.

The relatively simple interface allows for some powerful data tracking. I can, for example, use the app to get detailed information on my sleep:

The UP app also, of course, tracks activity, which is its primary function. Besides the step counting function, the UP allows input of other activities: "Walk," "Weights," "Run," "Cross-Train,' "Hike," "Cardio," "Bike," "Yoga," "Stationary [bike]," "Pilates," "Elliptical," "Basketball," "Video Games [like Wii]," "Tennis," "Dance," "Soccer," "Ski," and "Other." 

(Seriously, UP designers, video games and ski make the cut but not swimming? That's a pretty popular activity to just lump into "Other," especially since the band can't track it directly if I'm not allowed to wear it in the water.)

There is a stopwatch function to help facilitate tracking other activities. It is annoyingly difficult, however, to get the button-pushing sequence correct, especially while walking or running. I tried during one of my interval workouts and kept putting the band into sleep mode. That was very frustrating and I finally gave up.

The app also can track mood and food.  I, however, am used to logging my food with Lose It!, and since I have the Premium version, I can connect it directly to the UP app and my calorie information is pulled into the UP app. The UP app, in return, sends activity data back to Lose It! -- once a certain calorie threshold is exceeded, a calorie bonus is added to Lose It!

One thing I really notice, and commented on yesterday, is that using the activity tracker to interface with Lose It! results in much less calorie credit for exercise than tracking the activity in Lose It! directly. I have my baseline activity in Lose It! set to "Sedentary." Yesterday evening, though, this is what I saw in Lose It! even though I had exceeded my 10.000 step goal in UP, "burn 95 more calories for bonus":

For reference, here is my UP app screen: 

That means that to Lose It!, a sedentary activity level is the equivalent of walking more than 5 miles per day -- I wish I had known this sooner! The Lose It! designers might need a "desk job" activity level that is even lower than "Sedentary" to provide accurate tracking for people who don't have a Jawbone UP.

Even though I'm tracking in Lose It! and not in the UP app, all my nutritional data seems to get pulled over to UP just fine.  Instead of tracking individual items, though, it just pulls the four meal categories that Lose It! allows: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  The app displays in a very simple interface how my nutritional breakdown compares to the USDA guidelines for someone of my size and gender. I had a whole egg yesterday and half and half in my coffee, and the app didn't like that.

The Jawbone UP does seem to be working for me as a behavior-modification device . Last night I came home from teaching class and felt totally wired. I talked Jesse into going for a walk so I could earn a few extra steps. It helped me to calm down and get to sleep. Today, as I'm writing this blog post, I have the Idle Alert set to 15 minutes -- every time the band buzzes I'm supposed to get up and move around.  I am going to tone that down for the workday to 30 minutes.  I also love the Power Nap function -- I used it yesterday. This function sets the band to sleep mode with an alarm that will be between 27 minutes and 45 minutes, depending on how much the user is moving around. Yesterday I slept soundly for about 25 minutes and then was awake when it buzzed.  That little catnap really did help me feel refreshed. I can tell from my sleep tracking that I'm not getting quite enough sleep, and this is something I plan to work on.

What are the downsides to the UP? As I mentioned earlier, the single-button input makes it hard to set to stopwatch mode -- the gesture is just too similar to what I need to do to set it to sleep.  Another common complaint among Jawbone UP users is that the band is not as durable as they had hoped -- at  of around $169 (Amazon affilate link) the band would be expected to last quite a long time, but some users are complaining that their band only lasts a few weeks. I am hoping I won't have that experience -- I would be pretty upset. The most common way the band seems to go bad is by not holding a charge -- mine seems to be doing just fine so far, but my husband's has been needing a charge every day or two instead of the 10-day span, which doesn't bode well. There is a one-year limited warranty on the product, but it is only valid if the band is purchased directly from Jawbone or an authorized reseller. The other complaint I have seen on the Jawbone forums is that it is much too easy to lose the cap. This does seem like a pretty big design flaw.  The manufacturer seems to send out replacements for the first one, but after that the replacements are three for $9 with a shipping cost of $4.95.  The band functions fine without the cap but it would look ugly. I would hope that in a future release the cap will either not detach completely or will have some sort of chain to attach it to the band, or some other workaround for this design flaw.

Have you used the UP or any of the other activity tracking device?  Does it seem to have changed your behavior? Please let me know in the comments -- my idle alert just went off so it's time for me to get moving.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Jawbone UP vs. Lose It!

The "sedentary" calculation on Lose It! must really overestimate calories, or at least have a different definition of the word sedentary than I do. Ever since I plugged in my Jawbone UP, I earn far fewer calories for exercise than I did when I entered workouts manually.

Wearing this has been interesting -- full report coming soon.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The challenges of blogging daily

Yesterday I got up early, went to Pilates Circuit class for a beating from my favorite instructor. After a quick lunch at home and a nap (which I'm glad I took), I went to the German American Festival to watch this event:


This is the steinstossen -- stones-throwing.  That, in case you can't tell from the picture, is a relatively small woman in Bavarian garb (and low-top Chuck Taylors) with a 75-pound rock over her head that she is preparing to throw.  I would really like to try this next year but I want to train for it. There was one woman (who seemed pretty drunk) who was wearing a skirt who tried to do it, fell, and flashed her panties to the entire crowd.  There was also a guy who tried to throw the men's stone (138 pounds) who fell backward and landed flat on his back (I swear I heard his head clunk on the ground but my husband thinks it was just the rock) and then jumped up and tried again, managing to throw the stone a short distance.  The woman pictured here threw the rock more than 9 feet and came in second. The woman who won was taller and wearing leggings and work boots, which seems like a much more practical outfit for this event.

Anyway, I was occupied with this festival all afternoon and evening and forgot all about blogging. This event is a big local drinking festival too -- the daytime events were fun but once everyone started arriving to party I was ready to go. 

My dad's family has some Bavarian heritage (that's where my last name comes from) and I could tell, walking around, that my body frame comes from that side of the family -- I have relatively long arms and legs, and a generally solid build, and so did a lot of the people trying to throw those rocks. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday, Special Friday Edition

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Measurements and gadgets: MyoTape and the Jawbone UP

 Back when Fat2FitRadio was still releasing new podcast, they recommended the  (Amazon affiliate link) for taking measurements. I made a mental note, because I always found doing my own measurements to be difficult and inaccurate. The nice thing about this is that the tape has an end that fits into a slot on the handle, and then when the button on the handle is pressed, it self-tightens.  This would remove a lot of the potential for user error. In the picture above, I'm demonstrating on my calf (15.5").

I picked one up the last time I did an Amazon order and needed something to bump me into the free shipping range.  I have been wanting to track my measurements once a month and now that Lose It! has a place to record them (in the Premium version), I will be doing measurements on the first of the month. There is also a spot for goal measurements, so I looked at a size chart and found the measurements for a size 10. It's nice to have some non-scale goals in addition to my scale ones.

I also recently bought a pair of the  bands (Amazon affiliate link) in a his-and-hers deal on eBay. My husband and I can get very sedentary during the school year -- we are both good about working out regularly, but in between those workouts we spend a lot of time sitting, partly for work but also goofing off on the computer or iPhone, watching TV, etc.  There is a feature on this that reminds the user to get up and move every 15 minutes. It also tracks sleep, activity, mood, food, and integrates with apps like My Fitness Pal and Lose It! I am still learning how to use it and will have a full review soon, but in the meantime you can check out Rebecca Regnier's video review. One thing I will caution -- though she says you can swim with this in the video, the instructions for the UP say you can shower with it but that they do not recommend swimming with it. There is a way to log activity separately and I will probably just do that.

It may turn out to be just a toy, which is why I didn't want to pay full retail. I was deciding between the  (Amazon affiliate link) and this and this just seemed less complicated. I had seen people complaining that the battery on the Flex died at inopportune times with no warning and the little piece that actually counts steps seemed too easy to lose. I like that the UP plugs right into my phone with no extra pieces. I didn't want a clip-on pedometer because I was afraid I would lose it.

Have you found anything new that has helped you work toward your goals?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Weigh-in Wednesday, August 21: As expected

Went out for trivia last night since it was my last chance for a while. Ate a good dinner before but still had a beer and shared nachos. I expected to be up.

I'm going to start tracking measurements again, in the hopes of having more than one way to track progress. 

Getting back to my routine should help, and doing more meal planning. Going out to dinner is always less tempting when I have already been gone all day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

End-of-summer blues

Tomorrow is my end-of-summer weigh-in. I'm managing expectations now, though, I don't think it will be a great one.  I have been too unfocused -- I have had some good days but a lot of not-so-good ones.  Eating healthy takes planning and thought and I have not wanted to knuckle down and do it, so I can't expect great results on the scale. I'm looking forward to getting back to my routine, and I also have some ideas about how to shake things up a bit that I will talk more about soon.

I have been pretty active, on the positive side. I am definitely seeing some muscle definition, probably because of my swimming.  Here's what I've done the last week and a half:

Monday, August 12: Swimming, 30 minutes in the pool
Tuesday, August 13: Walked 25 minutes, biked 30 minutes, did my last open-water mile swim of the season
Wednesday, August 14: 20 minutes running, 15 minutes walking
Thursday, August 15: Off
Friday, August 16: 20 minutes running, 15 minutes walking
Saturday, August 17: Pilates Circuit class (some kettlebell work in addition to Pilates)
Sunday, August 18: 20 minutes running, 15 minutes walking
Monday, August 19: 20 minutes pool swimming, 45 minutes biking
Tuesday, August 20: Played around with a 15-pound kettlebell for 15 minutes

I did a sort of spa day today. I had a gift card to use and decided to go all out with package that included a massage, facial, mani-pedi, hairstyling. It was nice. I especially liked the massage and wish I could do those more often.

Tomorrow I weigh in and then go off to an all-day meetings day. I am going to eat a good breakfast and bring a snack in case the food is the usual junky stuff -- just something to hold me until I can get something better. Thursday is another long day, and school starts Monday.  I'm hoping I'll feel more optimistic about the new year after I meet our incoming students. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Depression or just low blood sugar

Husband and I were bickering after our bike ride today and generally feeling crabby and downtrodden. Then I remembered that we had only had a light snack before the ride, planning to have dinner after.

Hunger and despair feel surprisingly alike.

We immediately got dressed and went off in search of dinner. Poor planning today...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

No, no it's not!

One of my Facebook friends, who happens to own a gym that has Rebounder classes, posted this graphic suggesting that rebounding for 10 minutes is "as effective" as running for 25-30 minutes.

Though I don't doubt that rebounding has all the benefits listed above, I think most people who read the headline would read "as effective" as "as effective for weight loss."  I'm not sure how bouncing on a surface that actually assists you in bouncing could have a calorie burn similar to running, where you have to fight gravity all by yourself, let alone burn three times as many. It's a misleading graphic.

If something feels easier than running, chances are it's easier, not harder. I don't like rebounding anyway -- I'm afraid of stepping in the wrong place and falling and twisting my ankle. 

A Livestrong article I found suggested that the calories burned for rebounding were similar to running at 4 mph (15-minute miles). Most runners run faster than that. The article calls rebounding "more efficient" than running because it produced "the same biochemical effects of running with less demand on the heart." I'm not sure what that means, but an exercise that puts less demand on the heart is not providing the same cardiovascular conditioning.

I think all of these "which is better" questions are silly, because the best exercise is one you enjoy and will do regularly. But I think there is a lot of misinformation out there and it's important not to let a calorie readout or misleading statistics distract from your body's own wisdom. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013


It's late and I still haven't posted, so I thought that just for fun, I'd just share some of my doodles from the DrawSomething game for the iPad. It's not even a game, really, because it's usually pretty easy to guess the other person's drawing. It's more of a chance to play.  There's a new version but I like this one and I have earned a lot of colors and don't want to start over again with only black and white and primary colors.

I don't always draw such detailed drawings, but I only save the ones I like best.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Podcast report: Talking with Margo about emotional eating

These guys listened in while I talked to Margo. My cats are big emotional eaters. When I'm not home they eat about twice as much  as when I'm there.
I had such a great conversation with Margo yesterday. I think we ran a little over.  You can listen in on BlogTalkRadio. Margo's on vacation, so I thought I'd put up a few of my notes about the links we mentioned to pique your curiousity:
I really do feel, after all my years going to Weight Watchers meetings and listening to podcasts and reading on this subject that a lot of people, women especially, don't give themselves permission to do anything kind for themselves but eat. And a lot of people don't feel empowered to take action in their lives toward any goal besides losing weight.

I still struggle with this issue at times but I have a lot more agency in my own life than I used to. Talking to Margo helped me realize how far I have already come with this.  

Anyway, hope you enjoy the show!  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Podcast alert: Emotional eating

My mother's cat -- not sure what emotion she's feeling here

I will be on Margo's podcast tonight to discuss emotional eating. You can catch it live on BlogTalkRadio at 3:30 PM Pacific Time, which is 6:30 for me. It appears that Margo's website does the time zone conversion automatically, but if not, here is a converter. If you don't get to listen live, it will be recorded and available at the link after the show.

I have been thinking a bit about what I will talk about. I don't consciously do emotional eating -- I don't say to myself, "I had a bad day. Some (food item x) will make me feel better." Instead I will be grading a bad paper and suddenly have an overwhelming urge for a snack. 

I'm getting better at catching myself in the act and changing course.  Naming the feeling behind the urge is my biggest help. And then finding something else to do. I also do my best not to keep talking food in the house. I don't keep ice cream in my freezer. I don't bake often for this very reason. 

We will talk more about it on the podcast, of course, so feel free to share your ideas. What are your emotional eating triggers? How do you handle them?

I'm looking forward to talking to Margo again -- we were roomies at FitBloggin' and she's a lot of fun. Hope you can join us!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday weigh-in, August 14, 2013: Regrouping

The good news: I'm down a pound from last week. The bad news: I have been bouncing around the same few pounds all summer long. Looking at my longer-term trends, I'm seeing that I started the summer at a lower weight that I'm ending it. My famous graph is making a reappearance to illustrate that.

There's no doubt I have made progress in other areas. I feel stronger and fitter after all my summer training. I look better in pictures than I did at the beginning of the summer. Still, I'm feeling a definite need to regroup and make some changes.

It's hard to focus on multiple goals at the same time. My races have been my focus this summer. I did a lot of swimming, especially. Last night was my last open-water swim of the summer. Though I love swimming and the open-water swimming definitely builds muscle, it's not as good for weight loss as Spinning, and I took a hiatus from my Spin classes to focus on outdoor exercise. As much as I love outdoor workouts, I miss the community aspect of the gym. Now that the school year is getting ready to start, Spin classes will get back on the schedule. I registered for my old standby Thursday morning class and will have the option of doing other classes (the YMCA/JCC uses a buy-one, get all option for Core classe). I have two YMCA/JCC centers nearby so I am going to get both of their schedules and plan my fall exercise routine.

I also will have a little more structure starting the 26th -- both of us will be back in school. I will miss our lazy summer days but it is much easier to get on a regular workout and eating schedule when we are both working, believe it or not. I need to do a better job of planning meals and my eating during the day. One great thing -- Lose It! upgraded their Premium meal-planning feature so that I can plan future meals or exercise any time during the day. It used to only work for future days.  I tried it out last night and it's great.

The temptation has been to relax, enjoy the summer... and I don't regret that. My husband and I are both so busy during the school year that I'm glad I enjoyed our time together. The only problem is that we don't have the income to spend the summer traveling and seeing the world, even though we have the time for it. So we did the fun things available in our area, like baseball games and visits to local restaurants.  I am going to miss our time together even though I am a creature of habit and thrive on my routine. A long-term goal of mine is to see if I can find a position that allows me a little more balance all year long, instead of intense activity and long, boring breaks.  Preferably a better-paying one.

I also don't regret focusing more on racing than on weight loss -- I'd rather be an athlete than a dieter, and now I have some new goals to reach for. For the fall, now that my injury has settled down, I will focus more on biking/Spinning and running.  I also plan to either find a strength-training class or choose a couple of days to be my strength-training days at the gym. I want to work up to being able to do an Olympic-distance triathlon (1500 m swim, 40K bike, 10K run) on my own and not as part of a relay. To do that, I need to get and stay injury-free.

I was feeling very discouraged yesterday, but now that I have some perspective and a plan I feel more hopeful. I am still close to the lowest weight I have been in years. The difference in weight is about 5 pounds, nothing to get too worked up about. It was a moment of catching my breath before diving in again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Childhood obesity hysteria has jumped the shark

There is some evidence that sensible steps, like changes to WIC that make fruits and vegetables more available, are helping reduce weight problems in young children. Making sure that kids have safe places to play could help. Looking at ways to revamp food assistance to help families make better choices could too. I'm all for smart steps like this, but let's ditch the hysteria, fat-shaming, and perfectionism. It isn't helping.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Living in the body I have now

One of the highlights of my summer was swimming at Oleander with Team Toledo. Mile swims around a man-made, kind of stinky lake might not seem like an obvious choice for a peak experience, but it made me feel strong and powerful and part of a group.  Tomorrow is the last open-water swim and I am really going to miss it. There will be other training activities, and I plan to find one or two that I like and continue with those.  The last time I was an active member, I made the mistake (encouraged by my sometimes too-gung-ho husband) of thinking that I had to do everything. I was living in Bowling Green at the time and it was exhausting driving to Toledo to do all these different activities after work.  I burnt out. And then I gained weight and used it as an excuse to quit. I didn't want to go until I looked like I belonged. I thought I'd get fit and start going again. That hiatus lasted about 5 years. Last year I joined but didn't actually do anything. This year, even though I'm still not the super-fit girl I want to be, I started back and have really enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong, there are still times that I feel self-conscious -- I'm in a swimsuit, after all. But I just do it anyway. Sure, there probably are people who think negative things about me, but there probably always will be.

This is what I thought about when I read a couple of blog posts and comments that seemed to suggest that people who have weight to lose shouldn't bother to buy nice clothes, wear makeup, or otherwise take care of themselves in any way except trying to lose weight. I can't understand how that would help us accomplish our weight goals, and in the meantime (and because weight loss takes a long time, there is a long meantime) what message does that send to us and the people around us? What if I never get "there" (because, considering that most fashion models and actresses wear a size 0-4, and I have never been smaller than an 8 as an adult), does that mean I shouldn't even bother?

Believe me, I definitely have "why bother" thoughts, so I know the place they are coming from all too well. But I don't think they are productive. I have always had more success sticking to a my food and exercise plan when I'm taking good care of myself in other ways. It all comes from the same belief that I'm worth the trouble and the time it takes. That belief doesn't come from just telling myself that -- it comes from acting as if. Trying to wait until the negative thoughts go away to give myself permission to live doesn't seem like a great plan. That's why I always loved -- she gave women permission to dress for the body they had.

Last time I got to my weight goal, I bought clothes I liked in the size I was as I was going down the scale. It was expensive and it also meant I spent a lot of time cleaning out my closet and taking stuff to Goodwill, on the way down and on the way back up, which is why I think Gwynnie Bee is such a genius concept. I have been stuck for a long time at the same weight and I think part of the problem is that I was waiting to get new clothes until I lost the weight, and I was feeling frumpy and ugly (my most "comfortable" outfit would make Stacy faint, and I was wearing it all too often), which kept me stuck there. 

My grandmother, who always had a great sense of style, used to ask us, "Do you think you look good?" Sometimes it was a pointed question, if we were wearing jeans and t-shirts, but usually, it meant that if you thought you looked good, that was all that matters. I don't always think I look good, but I'm trying. I think Grandma would approve.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week in review and Sylvania Triathlon race report

What I did this week:

Monday: Walked for 35 minutes
Tuesday: Morning workout was 15 minutes running and 20 minutes of walking, evening open-water swim
Wednesday: Off -- had done a hard swim and woke up achy
Thursday: Run/walk workout, same as Tuesday morning
Friday: Off
Saturday: Helped with the SuperKids race, pretty active all morning
Sunday: Swim relay leg of the Sylvania Triathlon

My doctor is dealing with breast cancer and is in between chemo and radiation. She had signed up to do this race solo (the duathlon) but decided she wasn't up to it and asked if I would like to do a relay. I had done the swim leg of a relay before so I did that again.  My husband did the run. Here is 2/3 of the relay team after the race -- since I didn't ask M's permission I'm not posting her photo.

The relay racers started with the collegiate triathletes and the Clydesdales (men 200+ pounds). There weren't a lot of relays. I tried to swim hard since I wasn't going to be doing the whole race.  I was trying for a time to beat my former record on this course of 32:32.  The 30-and-up men started about a minute after us.  Usually at a race, they try to put the faster swimmers first (like the collegiates) but this was not the case this time. I was pretty quickly ahead of everyone I could beat in my wave and way behind the rest, and was swimming all alone until I got rammed into by a couple of the fast men in the next wave.  I am used to swimming with other people but not used to taking the full force of a guy in his prime swimming as hard as he can. It was a little intimidating, but I tried not to let it slow me down. To be fair, I also felt my foot make contact with the ribs of a guy in a wetsuit while I was doing the breaststroke to sight. This is not a sport for the timid!

The course had changed a bit since the last time I did it and there was a much longer run from the beach to transition. I think I got even more tired running than swimming -- I didn't want to let anyone pass me on the run in.  My husband had pointedly suggested that I wear my trisuit and Enell for this race -- I had thought about just wearing a swimsuit like I did last time, but he said he noticed last time that I should be wearing a bra. I'm very glad I took his suggestion, especially with the longer run. I am not used to sprinting so I was wheezing a little by the time I got to the place where we were supposed to change chips.

After our biker left, I sat down in a corner for a while and drank a bottle of Skratch.  I was more tired than I remember being in a while. It's 11 hours later and I'm still tired! Because our biker had at least an hour and a half out on the course, I had time to shower and change out of my trisuit. That's why I look so clean in this photo.

It was a little disappointing to see that my time was not what I wanted, but I bet I spent at least 3 minutes running across the beach and up to transition, where the timing mat was. I wish I had a water-only time, but I don't.  I was the fifth swimmer in the mixed relays (team name is Doctor's Orders). Our biker did better than she expected and also placed fifth in the mixed relays. And Jesse did better than he thought he would and placed -- guess what -- fifth also. So at least I don't have to worry that my time slowed us down at all, since we ended up placing fifth as a team. I haven't seen the overall results yet. And I'm a little scared of the email that will come in a few days about the race photos -- I know I won't look good in those.

I did this race once by myself, back in 2003. I am not quite sure how I did it. I remember that I was very miserable at the end of the run. I did pretty well, considering, keeping pace with our times as a relay team except for the transitions and a much slower run. I thought I had heatstroke at the end and went to the medical tent then. 

Sometime I would really like to do this race by myself again, but I would want to be much more ready for it. I don't care if my times are better, but I would want to have a better time doing it. The problem is that I'm going to have to beat the clock -- I'm 42 now, I was 32 then. 

Until then, the relay is fun. And sprint races are definitely challenging enough, too.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Paying it forward: Volunteering

I volunteered forl the Sylvania Superkids Triathlon today. I have helped out with this event before, and it's always fun to see the kids competing. I got to help direct the kids coming out of the water toward transition, and then got to help out at the finish line taking the timing chips off the kids' ankles.  So I did get quite a bit of standing around and some bending -- sort of an active rest day.

The littlest kids swam 100 yards and the bigger ones swam 200. Tomorrow I will be doing the perimeter of this lake (pond, whatever), which is about 1500 meters.

It's definitely a different perspective when you volunteer. I was standing near the bike dismount line and realized how many people try to ride right through it, so now I know why the volunteers were screaming. I was impressed with how many kids could swing their leg over the bike and get off while it was still moving, something I have never learned (or even tried) to do in all my years doing triathlon. It's also just a warm fuzzy feeling to be helping out, as long as I am given a clear assignment and know what to do. I have volunteered before when no one seemed to know what I was supposed to be doing, or when I was given an assignment but not any instruction on how to do it right, and that is no fun.  I don't mind being bossed around, I just don't want to stand around.

Hopefully helping out will bring me good karma tomorrow. I will be starting with the Collegiate racers, the Clydesdales (men over 200/women over 150) and the other relay swimmers. So most of the people swimming in my wave will be bigger or faster than me.

I think I can hold my own, though. I have already swum this course about 10 times this summer.

Shooting for a time under 31 minutes. Wish me luck!

Missed posting yesterday

Spent most of the day in the car, headed to/from my nephew's preschool graduation.

On the way home I stopped to look at clearance bathing suits at Dillard's. I bought a suit with a skirt, in case you were in the "When will Jen officially become an old lady?" Pool.

Seriously, though, I thought it looked better than any of the other dozen I tried on. It has (I hope) kind of a retro pinup vibe.

Or I am now 100. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Staying afloat

(Picture is one of my DrawSomething drawings)

I have been feeling the pressure to make the most of my time with the beginning of the school year just a few weeks away. There is a lot of uncertainty around campus -- lots of changes have already happened and more are probably coming.

I'm doing my best not to get dragged into any trouble that isn't in my power to control. Instead I have been doing what I can for me -- making my syllabus for each class and getting things out early, submitting an article for possible publication, working on my promotion portfolio. Just keep swimming!

I have also been doing some literal swimming. Sunday I will be doing a mile swim for a triathlon relay and I did another practice Tuesday. I really pushed myself and was right behind one of the faster swimmers. I woke up a bit sore the next day.

I'll be taking it easy for a couple of days leading up to the race to be able to do my best. And I need to remember to enjoy this time too, since I will be very busy when the semester starts. Sometimes it's okay to float.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Wordless Wednesday weigh-in, August 7: Yeah, I'm struggling

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

If I were the new Weight Watchers CEO

David Kirchhoff has resigned as Weight Watchers CEO.  You can read about it here, , and here. The new CEO, James Chambers, has some interesting experience, considering his new role as Weight Watchers CEO:
He was the President of the U.S. Snacks and Confectionary business unit and General Manager of the Immediate Consumption Channel of from January 2010 to July 2011. Chambers also served from September 2005 to January 2010 in various roles in the North America business unit of Cadbury plc, most recently as the President and Chief Executive Officer. Chambers began his career at Nabisco, Inc. and also held various executive positions with Remy Cointreau USA, Paxonix Inc.,, Inc. and Information Resources, Inc.
So the new CEO is a traditionally-educated businesss guy (Princeton, Wharton School of Business) who sold the kind of foods ("immediate consumption channel"=snacks and Remy Cointreau=booze and Cadbury=chocolate) that helped members put on the weight in the first place. I am guessing he will not be as visible as David Kirchhoff was. (As of now, there is, interestingly, nothing about this on the press releases site.) Rather, he will be expected to use his expertise to bring Weight Watchers out of the slump that it has been in -- meeting attendance is down and the brand is having trouble competing with free apps.

I thought I'd offer some free advice, since I am exactly the kind of member that Weight Watchers is going to try to win back -- people who feel some affection for the brand but who have decided to use a free app instead.  If I were the CEO of Weight Watchers, I would make some changes and keep the things that are working.

  1. Simplify the Points Plus formula. A lot of members miss the simplicity of the old Points formula, where it was pretty easy to eyeball a food label and get a sense of how many Points it would have. Members shouldn't need a computer to know what to eat. Put the scientist you just hired on this right away.
  2. Take better care of Lifetime Members. I know a lot of Lifetimers felt disappointed that once they reached goal, there was not a lot of attention paid to them. Add some incentives for 1 year, 5 years, etc. at goal weight. Put together exciting regional Lifetime meetings or conventions.  Spotlight them -- they are what you are selling! I know that Weight Watchers offers to employ successful members, but a chance at a low-paying part-time job doesn't seem like enough incentive to keep maintainers engaged.  
  3. Make the meetings more empowering. The current model leaves a lot of room for improvement.  To be fair, I haven't been to a meeting in about 2 years, but I am guessing that things haven't changed that much since then. I think there has to be a way to break away from the teacher-student model to something a little less infantalizing for members. No more poems. Losing weight is difficult, serious business. To be able to do it successfully, members have to learn to fight for their time and priorities like a tiger. Sitting in a classroom keeping quiet might not be the best way to build those skills.
  4. Get rid of the junk. Any obesity expert (probably even the one you just hired) will tell you that the Fruities, the bars, the shakes, the snacks, etc. are not the ticket to healthy weight loss. While you're at it, require the company selling the Weight Watchers brand foods to improve their nutritional profile or remove your name from their products.
  5. Acknowledge the struggle and provide better support. I enjoyed Weight Watchers when I was having success, but when I was struggling, I never felt like meetings helped that much. The leaders didn't have many tools to offer other than, "Just keep trying." This may be one thing that improved with the 360 plan, but I am guessing this is going to always be an area where there is room for growth.
To be fair, I feel like I need to acknowledge the things that Weight Watchers has been doing right and should continue to do:
  1. Continue the focus on group support. This is the one thing that Weight Watchers can offer that all the free apps can't.  
  2. Continue to embrace Weight Watchers bloggers and social media stars. I had some fear, back when I was writing under the name "Yet Another Weight Watchers Blog," that I would get slapped with a "Cease and Desist" letter. But Weight Watchers has seemed to understand that people like Heather and Roni and Sheryl Yvette bring them business even if they don't toe the corporate line 100%.
  3. Continue to evolve with the science. I like that Weight Watchers does updates when the scientific understanding of weight changes. I'm glad they are not still pushing liver and fish or Fat and Fiber.  
  4. Continue to be inclusive. Weight Watchers has managed to serve so many different kinds of people, from grandmothers to college students. That has probably been a challenge for them, but it also is what makes them the big name in weight loss.
  5. Continue to focus on healthy habits. Weight Watchers has always provided members with a good education about healthy eating habits, and recently, they have been emphasizing exercise more and more. They don't lean too heavily on gimmicks, they keep the emphasis on portion sizes, healthy food, and activity. Even though some of the recipes passed around in meetings are junk, I have always loved the Weight Watchers cookbooks, which use real ingredients and focus on fresh vegetables.
It is definitely going to be difficult to compete with free apps. To do it, Weight Watchers will need to find a way to really generate some excitement about the brand. I hope they manage to do it -- even though I haven't been back in a while, it's nice to know that they are there if I need them.

Monday, August 05, 2013

"Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind"

Or, what is apparently the full quote:
“It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.
I actually like the corrected quote better, especially the part about speaking affectionately and beneficially.

I am realizing how much I speak or write what is essentially "fat talk" (I am also guilty of "old talk," to a lesser extent), not realizing how it might be hurtful to others because I'm wrapped up in my own concerns.  I realized after a visit with a friend that I had mentioned my weight in a negative context several times, even though she is also struggling with her weight -- it didn't occur to me until later that she might take these comments as directed at her, even though I am sensitive to the same kind of talk from others.

I recently edited a post in the middle of the night because it struck me how my obsession about how certain clothes fit and/or did or didn't flatter me would strike other people as insensitive (the problem is that feed readers hang on to the first published draft, so I need to do this kind of thinking ahead of time). I get stuck inside my own head and forget to consider how other people might read what I say.

Even when I am just speaking to myself, I probably need to do a better job of doing it affectionately, beneficially, and "with a mind of good-will." I can be true and kind.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

I liked this dress a little...

I mentioned this dress on my last post but I hadn't had time to take pictures yet. I'm doing BlogHer's August NaBloPoMo so it's not a bad thing to get two posts out of one topic.

This is my favorite item from Gwynnie Bee (referral link) so far. I love everything about it -- the color, the style, the material. Almost everything --- it is a little bit long. But that's not terrible.

I have always liked wrap dresses because the fit is customized -- with my body shape, if I don't define my waist, I look much bigger than I really am.  I own a blue wrap dress that I have worn about a dozen times already. Besides the great fit, the wrap dress is as comfortable as a bathrobe, which has to be what inspired Diane von Furstenberg to create it.

I would consider buying this dress too, but since Gwynnie Bee has this style in several different colors as well as several other true wrap dresses and faux wrap dresses, I'd rather closet a bunch of them and be able to have something different.

We ended up going to the Maumee Bay Brewing Company for dinner, which was definitely a jeans-and-t-shirt place, but I didn't care. The food was amazing and they had free popcorn.  It was a fun, relaxed night. I'm keeping the dress for a while, so maybe I'll find a more suitable place to wear it.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Halfway through my trial month: More on Gwynnie Bee

FTC Disclosure: I am currently in a free trial month with Gwynnie Bee, but once that is over, I will cover the costs of my subscription. This post contains my referral link. Like all members, I can earn a free month if other people decide to become paying members through my referral. Other than that, this review is uncompensated.


I already wrote about my experiences with Gwynnie Bee when I first started the service, but I thought I'd give some additional information now that I'm about halfway through my free trial month, which ends August 16.

I have included some screenshots showing my closet history. I have had 6 garments so far (the one in the far left in the second screenshot is on its way to me) and unfortunately, three of them were returned without ever being worn.  So far my favorite items were both wrap dresses -- one that I am going to wear out soon, and one that I tried on but had to send back because it was too big. I also liked the orange tank, but I sent it back because I thought it was a little too distinctive to wear again soon.I am still learning the brands and what sizes work for me.

There are a lot of cute items That wouldn't work for me, but there is enough variety in brands that there should be something that fits everyone. It's helpful that most of these brands have their size charts linked right from the item so I can get a sense of what will work.

Even more helpful to me than the size charts are the customer reviews of each item, especially when the customers give a sense of their shape and usual size and what size they tried in the item, and whether they would recommend sizing up or down. I pay even more attention to these reviews than to the size charts. I make sure to leave the kind of feedback for other customers that I find most helpful. Though I can send something right back that doesn't work, the mailing time means that it will be a while before a replacement item arrives. I have been trying to keep no more than 2 items at a time so I always have something new on the way.  It's nice that I can see what is being sent in my closet so I know what's next.  I love getting the mail and opening my latest package. I make sure to indicate when I have sent something back so that Gwynnie Bee can get my next shipment ready.

I have been enjoying getting to try new brands. I have shopped at Coldwater Creek a few times but never really loved the brand. Now that I have loved a couple of their items though, I am going to have to give them a second look, especially because of their fit. I had never heard of Cherry Velvet, but there are three of their dresses in my closet and I'm hoping that I get to try one of them soon.  They have cute retro prints and get rave reviews from everyone who wears them. In anticipation, I bought a steamer that Margo recommended because the reviewers said the fabric tends to wrinkle. 

I am definitely planning to continue. The cost of the service might seem a little high at first but not when I think about the number of items I have worn in a the last few weeks, and how much it would cost me to buy them. I tend to avoid dry-clean-only clothes when shopping (which may explain why I continually wear the same boring t-shirts and jeans) but Gwynnie Bee takes care of cleaning for me so I don't have the hassle or expense.  Considering all that, plus the cost of shipping and inspecting all the items, the price seems very reasonable. 

One downside is that with all these cute clothes, I want to go out more to get a chance to wear them. That will subside a bit when school starts, though.

Intrigued? Try it for yourself (at least if you wear size 10-32).

Update: As of October 1, 2014, Gwynnie Bee is no longer offering free trials. 

Friday, August 02, 2013

Throwback Thursday, Special Friday Edition: If I was in a late-80s hair band, this would be the album cover

Gotta admit, I would kill to have that body again, but maybe not the hair.  This is what my eyebrows looked like when I didn't pluck them...

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Cookbook Reviews: The Feed Zone and Feed Zone Portables by Skratch Labs

(FTC disclosure: These cookbooks were purchased by me with my own money. The reviews are unsolicited, uncompensated, and completely my own opinion.  There are a couple of Amazon affiliate links at the end of the post, which are clearly marked, but most of the links go directly to the Skratch Labs website and are not affiliate links)

Grilled Chicken with Summer Orzo, plated with a small side salad

I found Skratch Labs through some online sleuthing when searching for a sports drink that wouldn't make me sick during my triathlon. I'm happy to report that their Sports Hydration was a big success.

I also ordered their two cookbooks, The Feed Zone Cookbook and Feed Zone Portables. I was curious to see what foods would be recommended for pre-race and recovery for endurance athletes. I was won over by their real-food approach. Most of the endurance sports "food" market is a glut of weird astronaut nutrition: Gummy shot blocks, candy-colored recovery drinks, packets of goo, bars that look and taste like cardboard mixed with twigs.  I can't stomach most of that stuff.  I don't think it is healthy either.

Summer Orzo in the mixing bowl
Most of the time, I do shorter workouts and events and might not need to specifically think about sports nutrition. But I want to start working up to longer distances again, and my husband is also a long-distance runner and coach of a cross-country team. I thought that the book might be a good resource for both of us. Plus, when I ordered, each cookbook came with some extra sports hydration mix, something I was going to want anyway.

On the surface, people who want to lose weight might not seem to have much in common with the professional cyclists who inspired this book. For one thing, cyclists in training might require three times as much food as the average person.

At the same time, though, cyclists do have to be careful to stay lean. They also need to maximize the nutrition they get from their meals.  Instead of accomplishing this through some kind of sports chemistry experiment, sports physiologist Allen Lim and Chef Biju Thomas fell back to the food they grew up with. Lim writes in his introduction that all his years of studying physiology were not helping him make practical meals the athletes would like, so, "like any good scientist, I called my mom." As a result, Lim writes, the cookbook features "recipes from India, where Biju is from, or from China and the Philippines, where my family is from." But both grew up in the United States, and were living in Europe, so there are plenty of other influences here too. There are tacos and burritos, frittatas and panini, a sandwich that looks like a Croque Madame, as well as waffles, pancakes, and hot breakfast grain dishes.

Biryani, one of my favorites so far
Because these recipes were designed for the needs of endurance athletes, they lean heavily on carbohydrates for energy, and there are definitely a few with calorie counts too high for the average weekend warrior. But the calories and other nutritional information are provided so that readers can adjust to fit their dietary needs. The après (after) recipes are designed for after a long workout, so some serving sizes might need to be cut in half to fit into a casual rider's diet. There are also hints on how cyclists make their own adjustments to fit their calorie needs: "At races, I normally recommend the riders eat their fruits and vegetables after they eat the main dish so that we fill them up first on the essential carbohydrates they'll need for the next day. In training, however, we often do the opposite so that the riders can watch their calories and maintain an ideal body weight.

The Feed Zone Cookbook has a lot to offer for active people. Most of the recipes are designed to be built from precooked parts -- rice and other grains can be prepared ahead, and so can much of the meat in the recipes. There are handy instructions in the back of the book for how to prep meats, pasta, and veggies ahead of time. Because many of these recipes were designed for cyclists, there are lots of options that are portable for eating on the go. The recipes are also highly nutritious. There are plenty of vegetables, minimal sugar, and not a lot of fat. None of the food is fake -- no engineered sugar substitutes or fat-free products. As I said, the authors give some suggestions on how to "build your plate" to make the recipes work for people with different energy needs.

Because the authors designed these recipes while feeding a team, most of them are designed for crowd appeal -- nothing seems too "out there." There aren't many difficult-to-find ingredients and the spice levels recommended make the food flavorful but not excessively spicy.  I think they could appeal to whole families. Because most of the recipes are quick to make, they can take the place of takeout on busy nights, and I guarantee that even the heavier après recipes are lighter than the average pizza or delivery option.

Roasted beet salad -- not exactly the way it's pictured in the book
Personally, these cookbooks are very appealing to me.  I love the big, full-color pictures for each recipe. I love the diverse influences and the fact that this food seems rooted in tradition -- the plates look like food from a great little sidewalk café, not from a lab. I love that this cookbook is helping me find ways for CSA produce like beets. Their roasted beet salad recipe reminded me that I actually liked roasted beets in salad, though I took the liberty of jazzing it up with balsamic reduction and some blueberries and goat cheese.  Everything I have made so far has been delicious and satisfying. The Biryani was so good that we have already made it twice, and it was enough for two meals each time. Because I'm not a professional cyclist, I have been trying to go a little lighter on carbs and more veggie-heavy on my other meals on the days that I sampled one of these recipes.

French Toast Cakes
The Feed Zone Portables book is more specialized and, for that reason, might not appeal to people who aren't trying to figure out foods they could eat on a bike or run.  I made a couple of the recipes -- both were variations on bread pudding. They helped me use up a loaf of crumbly millet bread that I had been given free at the health-food store. The French Toast Cakes are not super-sweet and would make a good packable breakfast. They are, as the name suggests, french toast baked in muffin tins.  They are good cold or warmed up.

Chocolate Cakes
The Chocolate Cakes were amazing. They were rich and, again, not super-sweet. Even though they don't look like it, they are another variation on bread pudding. I baked mine in mini muffin tins and treated them like a dessert item. I actually forgot to put the sugar in the recipe when I baked them, and sprinkled sugar on top instead. Since there were only 2 tablespoons of sugar in the whole recipe, this was probably fairly equivalent. I also added a pecan half on the top of each one since they reminded me of those two-bite brownies.  This would be a great treat to take to a potluck or make for a brunch.

Many of the other items, like mini-quiches and muffin-tin pies, would be good to bring to a party. They'd also be a lot better snacks to bring for kids' games and team practices than the typical cookies and chips. Jesse wanted this book to see if there were things he could make for cross-country team events, and I think a lot of these would work. The portables are really designed to be eaten during training, so as long as you have water available they could be slipped into a jacket pocket or into a bike bag to fuel a long training session.

I know some people who read this blog follow paleo-inspired plans. There probably isn't enough in these cookbooks that would work within their boundaries, though there are a few that use sweet potatoes as the base instead of grains or bread. Because different kinds of milks and bread can be used in most of the recipes, there are plenty that would work with a gluten-free or dairy-free diet. A pretty high percentage of the recipes contain eggs, so vegans might not find these books worth the money.  Obviously anyone who wants to avoid or strictly limit carbohydrates would want to look elsewhere.

(Amazon affiliate link)
(Amazon affiliate link)
I think that active people who are looking to fuel their training are the intended audience, especially those who are looking for an alternative to the highly-engineered "sports nutrition" products I mentioned earlier.  But I don't think you need to be a pro cyclist or a marathon runner to make these recipes work for you. You just have to use your head and your hunger to help you build your plate in the way that is best for your needs. The Feed Zone Cookbook is also designed to help people with minimal cooking skills learn to feed themselves better. They need to have mastered a few basics first, but someone who only knows how to boil rice or an egg and cook chicken on the grill could use the tips here to expand their repertoire.
The packaging on my books -- love the artwork!

There are a few recipes on the Skratch Labs blog to give you a preview, if you are interested. You can purchase both cookbooks through the Skratch Labs website, like I did. The books came nicely packaged and included some promotional items -- see the website for details and current offers.

You can also, of course, get and  through (affiliate links).

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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