Sunday, February 23, 2014

Formula X review update, plus what I did this week, February 17-23

I really did not like that taupe-y polish at all. I decided to take advantage of Sephora's generous return policy and switch it out for something brighter. I got "Alive," which is one of the limited-edition spring colors.

This color was a bit streaky, and it took me three tries to get a nice, even application. I like the color even though it is a bit more bubblegum than I thought it would be. I'm also not sure about the wearability of this polish, as the polish I applied yesterday had already chipped when I got to Sephora to ask for an exchange. I don't know if it's faulty application, or if this is just a regular nail polish dressed up with a fancy system. At least I like this color better.  I am definitely going to try subbing in one of my other polishes with the rest of the system and see if I get similar results. I have a couple of nice Essie colors that just never last, so maybe they will with a better topcoat.

The week got off to a bit of a slow start, but I have some pretty decent step counts and solid workouts on the other days to brag about. My father is in the hospital with some complications of diabetes, and visiting him in the maze of the hospital helped get my steps up and I also felt very motivated to go burn off some anxiety and worry (and reassure myself that I won't suffer the same fate).

Monday: Yoga and 5,477 steps
Tuesday: Shoveled snow and 7199 steps
Wednesday: Walked around the neighborhood with Jesse and 8,122 steps
Thursday: Kettlebells and 7,630 steps
Friday: Treadmill run -- 10 minutes with some fast intervals, plus Spin class, 12,876 steps
Saturday: 30 minutes of running with 5 minutes warmup/cooldown walk, 12,072 steps
Sunday: 60 minutes of swim practice plus 9,032 steps (so far)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sephora Formula X System: Review

Note: I purchased the products described myself, and this review is uncompensated. The links provided are not affiliate links, but just for information.

So, first I must confess that No-Buy February should be renamed to Less-Buy February.  I haven't done a great job of emphasizing using foods we already have over buying groceries, so I am spending just as much on marketing. I have also bought a few other things -- a cheap extra charger for my Jawbone UP, a new food scale to replace the one that stopped working, and today, with my husband out of town for the weekend, I decided it would be a good day to have fun with home manicures after reading a great review of the Formula X System on Beautygeeks. The Formula X System retails at Sephora for $32, and includes one color polish.

Unlike the self-styled Beautygeeks, I am not especially proficient in using nail polish, just average, and I thought that my experience would be a little more typical of what regular users can expect. Sephora has been doing more "system" packaging like the one above, where there are several steps pre-packaged, with a window for you to pop in the color of your choice.

I spent a lot of time choosing the color, painting the little plastic sheets supplied for that purpose with different "modern neutrals." I wanted something that would be professional and work-appropriate but also on trend. I have to say, I have a little buyer's remorse over the color I chose, "Brilliant." In the store, it seemed great, but I don't know if I love it on me. It is on trend, as these kinds of taupe-y neutrals seem to be everywhere. The color I really wanted, "Impeccable," seemed streaky.  I'd like to try "Intensity" next, or "Alive." Those clear peachy pinks are really fun for spring and I wish I had picked one.

Ignore the random shoe in this photo. Also, when did my hands start to look like my grandmother's?

The application process was really amazing. As I said, I'm not a phenomenal manicurist. I started by removing my polish with a cheap drugstore acetone remover and washing and drying them well (you can buy Formula X remover, but I noticed that it's also just acetone). I didn't do a lot of other prep work on my nails because I just had a manicure for Valentine's Day (another no-buy violation, maybe), so they still looked okay.

Then I started with the "Cleanse" step (clear blue), which removes oils from the nails to create a good base. There is a base coat (clear pink). I then used one coat of the color polish, which provided great, smooth coverage and dried very quickly with no streaks. Finally, I put on the clear topcoat. It all dried within minutes, unlike the half-hour or more for regular home manis. That alone made "The System" worth the price.

The finish reminds me of Vinylux, which is a sort of compromise between regular nail polish and Shellac.  It seems like it will wear well. And a comment by my hairstylist that the real magic in Vinylux is the topcoat makes me wonder -- could I get similar results using the Formula X system and a regular color nail polish? I have a lot of OPI and drugstore colors I could try that with.  I will report back when I have a chance to try it.

I think I will paint my own nails more often instead of shelling out money for manicures.  I still think that pedicures are worth paying someone else to do, though, unless I can be in a lounge chair by the pool.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Image from Wikimedia Commons
In case you haven't been able to tell from my crabby posts, I have been in the baddest of bad moods lately.  I hated the weather, work, my body, my hair.  Not all the time, of course, but my default setting was stuck on hopeless.

Things are looking up at work, thanks to some juggling of people into different positions. I feel like my work is appreciated.   Yesterday, sitting in a meeting, I could not stop looking out the window because there was a tree budding outside it, even with all the snow on the ground around it.  When I got in my car later in the day, it was so hot inside from the sun that I actually cracked open my sunroof for the first time that I got my car.

I also got my hair fixed. I must have gone too long between appointments, because my color was faded and the shine was gone.  I felt like I looked a hot mess. Now that it's sleek and dark and shiny again, I feel more like my old self.  

I found myself scanning at all the different diet plans out there, feeling desperate for something that would work.  Then I noticed that yesterday, when I got a little extra sleep, I didn't feel so hungry all the time. I went to bed a little earlier than usual last night and woke up feeling rested.  I don't need a magic diet, I need to plan my meals, eat the foods that I know are good for me, get regular exercise, eat when I'm hungry and not when I'm not, and most of all, go to bed instead of mindlessly surfing the web on my phone until 11 pm.

I'm going to have some extra alone time this weekend, so I am going to use it to go through my cookbooks and find some recipes I want to try, stock up the kitchen, and maybe even prep or cook some meals for the next week.  Even though I have been trying to be true to no-buy February, I got myself a cheap little calendar yesterday to use to plan meals and record my workouts. 

None of this is rocket science, I just needed to have enough energy and positive feelings to pull myself out of the tailspin I had been in.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Same view, different day

I took the top picture a few weeks ago, and the bottom picture is this morning.  As you can see, the only change is that the snow piles are getting bigger (the top one was in the twilight, and this is morning light). We are actually running out of places to put the snow. There is a bad patch on our sidewalk that I treated with kitchen salt, because I can't find rock salt in the stores. Luckily, there is a warming trend predicted for later this week.

The view in the mirror and on the scale hasn't been changing either. I haven't been feeling great about that.  I have a cute skirt from Gwynnie Bee that I haven't worn yet because it has been too cold -- instead I have fallen back into wearing jeans and sweatshirts or sweaters every day.   

I will have a better schedule and hopefully better weather in March -- I can't wait. It did feel a little warmer when I was out there shoveling this morning.  I'm hoping that my mood will warm up too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What I did this week: February 10-16

Homemade dark-chocolate-covered berries for Valentine's Day
Hi, I hope you had a good Valentine's Day. We decided to stay in this year and cook at home, so I made the berries pictured above for dessert. I used a Green & Black's dark chocolate and a little (about 3/4 tsp) coconut oil melted in the microwave.  The hardest part was melting the chocolate without burning it. Dipping and drizzling was actually quite fun.

This week has been kind of mixed on the exercise front. My energy level and step counts, see picture below, have been all over the place.  I have also been having some serious mood swings.

Just a sample: In the course of Tuesday, I went from hating my job with a white-hot hate in the morning to feeling very supported and appreciated by the time I taught my class.  It has been that kind of year.  Last night I started to feel really bad and tired and this morning I woke up with a sore throat and a deep desire to crawl back into bed for the day. I skipped my swim -- I didn't have the energy and I wanted to play it safe in case I'm coming down with something.

Monday: Yoga
Tuesday: Did 10 whole minutes of running on the treadmill. I wanted to do more, but I just couldn't make myself. Tuesday was a long day -- I was on campus from 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.  So maybe it was for the best that I didn't try to do more.
Wednesday: Spin class.
Thursday: Ran 30 minutes outdoors. I have only been doing really short runs, so pushing through to 30 minutes was quite an effort.
Friday: Spin class. 
Saturday: Pilates Circuit.
Sunday: No workout. 

I'm really hoping I feel better tomorrow. I am going to plan on going to yoga unless I am really sick and not just tired.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's almost here... February 14!


No, I'm not that excited about Valentine's Day -- it's a nice enough holiday, but we don't have huge plans, just a nice dinner at home.

I'm excited about February 14 because it will mean we have made it halfway through this horrible month.  And there are rumors of a thaw of sorts coming next week -- at this point, any temperature above 20 would be fine with me.  This snow and cold has me feeling very down.

I'm also teaching two four-hour evening classes a week through the end of the month, and it is really wearing me out.  That ends in March.  I can't wait. I have made no progress on my goals this month -- it is just hard with never being able to be at home, and being cold and tired all the time.  I'm struggling just to maintain at this point.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Tough swim workout tonight

Our coach had us do a lot of sets of sprints tonight:

125 free warmup
2 x 75 stroke
3 x 25 sprint on :40
4 x 50 FAST
5 x 25 sprint  on :40 (we only did 4 so we would be on the side of the pool where all our stuff was)
6 x 50 pull, breathe on 3/5 by 50s
7 x 25 sprint on :40 (we did all of these)
6 x 50 double-turn
9 x 25 sprint on :40 (we only got in 6 before it was time to cool down)
... (the workout went on but we didn't have time for it)
100 choice cool down

I'm tired, but a good tired. Afterward, as we were getting changed in the locker room, somehow people started talking about body image. A couple people mentioned that they were in the best shape they had ever been, and as happy as they have ever been with their bodies.

That's why I need to lose the weight -- so I can say that and it can be true.

I feel pretty good, but not "I'm in the best shape of my life" good. Oddly, I don't have a lot of pictures of me at goal, but here's one:

I want to feel like that again.

What I did this week: February 3-9

This was another week where I felt really tired -- I think it is just the weather.  Teaching two nights a week (and trying to meet with my independent study students regularly) is a drag sometimes, and makes it hard to get enough sleep when I'm getting up with my husband every morning at 6. If I don't do that, I feel like we never see each other.

Monday: Yoga class. This is always a nice way to start off the week, and it's challenging for me, lots of arm work. Also shoveled snow.
Tuesday: Ran 20 minutes outside. It has been really cold so a short run is really all I can stand.
Wednesday: Went for a walk. Shoveled a lot of snow.
Thursday: No official workout, had an early-morning meeting that interfered with my Spin class.
Friday: Ditto.
Saturday: Pilates Circuit, plus ran a lot of errands.

I just finished shoveling snow today and have my swim class tonight.

I need to find time later in the day to do a workout when my morning workout gets stomped on by a meeting.  I seem to be having a lot of those lately.

My mood has not been great lately. I have three more weeks of classes and then the following week, I will be going to Washington, DC. That is something to look forward to -- the weather will probably be a little warmer and I love the conference I am attending -- this will be my 6th year.  It will be nice to have something to break up the monotony of teach, shovel snow, meetings, teach, more snow, more meetings...

Friday, February 07, 2014

The ugly business of "The Biggest Loser" blogging

I'm not very happy with my Biggest Loser finale post. I think it is so easy to forget when watching this show that the people we're commenting on are real people with feelings. So I feel bad about my snarky comments about David, and my commentary on Rachel.

I loved this group of contestants as I watched the show, and Rachel especially. I don't want to hurt anyone. Who can blame David for wanting to say that no matter who won, they had all been brave to try to make a change in their lives? Especially since all season he had been pigeonholed as the guy whose wife had died, no matter how much he tried to say that he was more than his sad story.

I hadn't realized that the "Rachel is TOO THIN!" hysteria had gotten so bad when I posted. I hadn't really read other commentaries before I wrote my own.  The difference between Rachel's weight and a healthy BMI is only 5 pounds.

Just how far did this go? I have pretty light blog traffic most days, and my page views suddenly spiked after the finale with people searching for "Rachel Biggest Loser height" and similar searches. It, of course, went right back down again.

My concern was more that she had worked so hard to become an athlete again, and that losing so much lean mass (when she was leaving the ranch, Dr. H had said she was only 4-5 pounds away from an "athletic" body composition) would hurt her in the future, since it is so hard to rebuild. But a lot of the shocking thinness comes from the fact that like fitness models and runway stars, these contestants purposely dehydrate themselves to look as lean as possible.  Maybe she looked fine the next day after she had some water and a normal breakfast.

If Rachel has really developed an eating disorder, as so many people have speculated, she would deserve sympathy and our best wishes for recovery, not vilification.

I do think that the show needs to learn from this and set a bottom limit for the contestants on their visits with Dr. H as they leave the ranch, based on their personal body composition. Those would have to be confidential, of course, so no contestant could use them to have an advantage, but it would be a way to keep things from going too far.

Or maybe the show has run its course and we don't need it anymore. The one thing this show has done in its 10 years on the air is to give people hope that it is possible to lose large amounts of weight without surgery.  But there are other outlets, like Half Size Me, that do that without the circus atmosphere of reality television. There is still the potential for The Biggest Loser to be something good, if the producers are willing to give up the sideshow elements and really let us see the contestants for the whole human beings that they are, and not a one-or-two note caricature.

If the show continues, and if I continue to blog about it, I am going to push myself to be better and more sensitive to the real people whose lives I'm chronicling, and I hope the show will do the same.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Biggest Loser Season 15: FINALE

Unfortunately, the Biggest Loser finales have gotten a bit dull. In the early days, there used to be some footage of the contestants at home, struggling, trying to find a balance with their weight loss goals and their real lives.

Now, most of the clips are the same clips that we have seen over and over. David's story about his first wife's death. Rachel saying she is tired of being sad and alone.  There have to be so many other clips that they can use, but the producers choose to recycle the same ones again and again. I can understand this at the finale, where some people might be tuning in for the first time, but the way the clips are recycled for all the other episodes makes me think that they believe we get amnesia every week and forget everything we know about the contestants. This is probably my biggest pet peeve about the show.

There were some fun clips this time that we hadn't seen before: Jillian challenging Tumi to do 20 flights of stairs, and Tumi doing 32 instead.  Some Dr. H clips of the contestants getting their final health check-ins. I enjoyed these and would like to see more of that kind of thing throughout the season.

There were a lot of little attempts to inject some variety into the show as the contestants were brought on in groups of threes to weigh in.  Most contestants only got about one sentence in each.  Holley invited Bob to join her at the Olympics.  Ruben sang a song.  Jennifer's daughter got one last public commentary on her weight -- not cool. The kids from the last season stood up and waved from the audience, too, and will have to deal with public speculation on how much they may have regained. I'm just going to say that I think it would be better if kids were not a part of this show in the future, given the potential for harm.

Clothes: I thought that Allie's white dress was gorgeous and very slimming.  Jillian's leather dress was fun and much more flattering than some of her other finale wear. Dolvett looked handsome, as always (Yes, he has a strange personality, but he is a gorgeous man. Let's give him that). Bob looked like he was trying to look as strange as possible -- a hipster in a biker jacket.  Jillian had said in one of her podcasts that she thought Bob went out of his way to annoy the producers with his appearance, and this was probably a winning combo in that respect.

Most of the at-home contestants' clothes were nice.  I loved Jennifer's sequined purple dress.  Fernanda looked HOT in her pink dress.  Holley wore a normal lipstick color, and had shaved Olympic rings into the side of her hair, which I thought was clever. I was glad to see Marie's hair looking cute and chic and not styled into her swoopy makeover style. She fell down the stairs but wasn't hurt -- those stairs are a known hazard, so they had people there to catch anyone who gets a heel caught.

I'm sure a lot of people will say that Ruben and Holley didn't lose enough weight. But they have lost enough to make a difference in their lives, and they had their own goals. Ruben's size is part of his trademark, and Holley has to be careful to maintain her strength as she loses.  Even Hap, who hadn't lost much by Biggest Loser standards, lost more than 1/5 of his body weight. I hope he will continue to work at it on his own. He still qualifies as morbidly obese on the BMI scale.

Instead of giving the weigh-ins in the order that they weighed in on the show, I have them sorted here by percentage lost. The final three are highlighted. As you can see, Tumi would have been in second place if she had been in the finale, and the prize for second place is... ZERO! So she was much better off going home.  The top three at-home contestants were all on Jillian's team. As always, I appreciate the Biggest Loser wikipedia entry as a great source of this info:

Contestant Age Height Starting BMI Current BMI Start Most Recent % Lost Finale % Lost
Rachel 24 5'4" 44.6 18 260 150 42.31% 105 59.62%
Tumi 41 5'8" 48.5 21.9 319 221 30.72% 144 54.86%
David 43 6'2" 52.5 24 409 243 40.59% 187 54.28%
Bobby 28 6'3" 44.7 21.2 358 231 35.47% 170 52.51%
Marie 30 5'6" 40.2 22.3 249 150 39.76% 138 44.58%
Craig 30 6'1" 50.8 29.4 385 307 20.26% 223 42.08%
Chelsea 28 5'6" 38.9 23.6 241 157 34.85% 146 39.42%
Jennifer 42 5'7" 41.7 25.4 266 182 31.58% 162 39.10%
Jay 38 5'10" 42.6 26.3 297 193 35.02% 183 38.38%
Matt 38 6'3" 45.7 27.9 356 263 26.12% 223 37.36%
Fernanda 32 5'7" 39.2 25.5 250 208 16.80% 163 34.80%
Tanya 40 5'7" 41 27.4 262 174 33.59% 175 33.21%
Holley 24 5'8" 53.4 37.7 351 277 21.08% 255 27.35%
Ruben 35 6'3" 57.7 42.9 462 377 18.40% 343 25.76%
Hap 26 6'5" 47.8 38.2 403 316 21.59% 322 20.10%

Of the final three, I thought David had no chance of winning. Oddly, he lost more than Bobby, but it didn't look that way, maybe because of the loose skin he might still have after such a big loss.  I didn't like his shiny suit or his stubble -- he looked like a TV preacher to me, or a used-car salesman.  They let him weigh-in last so he could have his moment.  He gave a little rambling speech that got cut off because they were running out of time. I loved that Bobby wore a tuxedo, and his transformation was the best, in my opinion. I loved his joke that with his obsessive thinking about her, "Rachel's going to make me straight." It was perfect.

Of course, all the talk is about Rachel's drastic weight loss.  I was alarmed at how thin she had gotten. She looked fit and healthy (and was at a healthy BMI) when she left the ranch. I'm afraid she may have sacrificed her health to lose as much as possible for the finale, and she now classifies as underweight.  Her face looked gaunt and all the muscle she worked so hard to build seemed to have vanished.  Jillian and Bob had looks of shock and concern when she walked out.  Her outfit was strange to me -- with the little wingy sleeves and the silver sparkles, she looked like a  space angel. 

I feel bad piling on with all the negative attention she has gotten.  I'm hoping that she will find some kind of balance for her real life. She may have really wanted that $250,000 and been afraid not to do as much as she could to win it, and Rachel doesn't seem like someone who does things halfway.  Just winning alone might have been incentive enough, even without the money, because she likes to win.  I don't think she should have a goal of maintaining at 105 for good, and it sounds like she doesn't plan to do so.

I have to wonder if Dolvett gave her bad advice as she was prepping for the finale. He might not have had enough experience to tell her what she should shoot for.  She could have stayed as high as 117 and beaten David, and stayed in a healthy weight range.  Of course, she didn't know how much David or Bobby would lose. In the long run, of course, I wish her all the best. She won my heart with her toughness, and I don't want to lose sight of all the good just because she went a little too far to win the prize. 

The Biggest Loser, ultimately, isn't about health or fitness. It is a television show, and a game show at that. There are all kinds of incentives to do crazy things to win.  So many of the winners can't maintain long term (Eric, Ryan, Matt).  I don't know if the good things about the show could be kept while getting rid of the bad ones, but it would be nice if it were possible.  I hope that these contestants, at least, can make the most out of their "Second Chance" and go on to lead happy lives. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

A weird feeling

Gwynnie Bee (affiliate link, if this is your first time reading my blog and you don't know what GB is, you can read my earlier posts here) encourages subscribers to post pictures of themselves in their clothes, which I have done when I had an outfit I like. I posted the above picture and it got picked up this week in the "Members as Models" section of the blog and on Facebook.  I tagged myself in the Facebook picture, and suddenly dozens of my family and friends were "liking" my photo or commenting on it.

It's a little bit of a weird feeling. I still have a hard time getting over the "don't call attention to yourself" rule. Also, I know that some people will think I'm a loony to use a subscription for my clothes instead of just buying them like a normal person.

It's a weird feeling, but I will get used to it.

Monday, February 03, 2014

What I did last week: January 27-February 2

This weather has been terrible for my step counts.  I don't go outside and walk or run because it's so cold -- even when I had to go from one side of campus to another, I drove. It's just miserable. Even inside my house, I want to be snuggled up on the couch or in bed.  I have to make myself move more this week. There are rumors of another storm coming, but I'm going to choose to believe that it will miss us until I see evidence otherwise. 

The whole groundhog thing aside, at least we will see the increase in the amount of sunlight every day accelerate, since we are now past Midwinter. That should make me feel more cheerful.

Monday: Treadmill walk/run workout, with fast intervals. That's the only way I can make myself run on the treadmill.
Tuesday: Snowpocolypse. Snow shoveling.
Wednesday:  More of the same.
Thursday: RAN OUTSIDE!!!!!! It was really cold (15 degrees) but I was excited to get out.
Friday: Spin workout
Saturday: Pilates Circuit
Sunday: Swam. Loved the workout. We did a lot of kick sets (my favorite) and we also did some underwater swimming. We did one pull buoy set (which I hate) and ran out of time (darn) and had to cool down.

I need to find some way to keep better track of my workouts in UP since so many of them can't be tracked there. Maybe I'll use the comments field.  

Thank you for the strength training suggestions. The problem is not that I don't know what to do, it's that I can't make myself want to do it.  Also, pushups are hard for me because of my shoulder issues and squats hurt because of my knees.  I have all kinds of resources for strength training workouts available and I just hate doing them. My Pilates Circuit class is great for that because there is someone making me do the work and I have friends in the class.  Yoga works on Mondays as a body-weight strength workout. So if I just do my kettlebell set in the middle somewhere, that should be better than nothing.

I used to like throwing around heavy weights in my old gym.  Again, I had friends to do it with and I liked the atmosphere. The JCC's weight room is pretty dismal.

This morning I'm going to yoga class and then, if there is still snow on my sidewalk, shoveling a little. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

No-buy February

Image from Wikimedia Commons
I feel like I have bought a lot of things lately. I got a new computer this summer, I got a new car in December, I recently bought two new purses, a new wallet, and I broke down and bought the jacket I liked. Plus I have Christmas presents and the clothes I bought for myself while shopping for other people...

It's making me feel selfish to buy so much stuff. Plus, I now have a new car payment to deal with.  I don't think it should be too challenging to stop buying things for a month, especially a month as short as February.

I will buy groceries. But I won't buy other stuff at the grocery store like skincare products, nail polishes, housewares, or the various other things that they stock at Kroger that have nothing to do with groceries (I saw an overstuffed chair for sale there today).  I will also try to use as much of the food we have in the pantry and freezer as we can before buying something new.

I figure a month off of spending will be good discipline for me and will help get our finances in order. I am looking forward to a tax refund this year that I plan to use to pay off some bills.

I'm sure this will be harder than it sounds, but it will also be good for me. Anyone want to join in?
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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