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I am very sensitive to the idea of being on a fad diet, or a yo-yo diet. Plenty has been written and said about the negatives of fad diets or eating in a way that makes your weight fluctuate a lot. Being obese my entire life, I have tried a lot of different dieting options, but I’ve always stayed with conventional dieting – I’ve never (that I can remember) tried a fad diet.

All of my dieting throughout my life was based on counting calories and eating based on the food pyramid. I even saw a nutritionist when I was in high school and went through several tests and procedures to see how I burned calories and my physical fitness. Then we set an eating plan and calorie target to help me try to lose weight. Basically none of this ever worked, and I don’t think I ever lost more than 10 pounds before I was back into my old eating habits.

Fast forward to today: I am in the middle of my only successful diet plan so far in my life. That says a lot, because it is no exaggeration to say that I tried to lose weight at least once every single year from high school on. And the first 70 pounds I lost was based on conventional dieting – limiting high caloric foods and opting for low fat options. Lots of healthy grains, healthy vegetables and fruits, and small amounts of meats and fats. As you all know, that shifted in May to a paleo diet, which I would contend is better for me (note I said “me”, not an all-inclusive “you”), but it flips the conventional diet on its head. It focuses on meats, proteins, and fats, and shuns all grains.

I do not believe that paleo is a “fad diet” in the sense that it will come and go and then people will move on to a new eating plan. I have seen a lot of results for myself, and I really believe that it is a sustainable lifestyle (not strict paleo – that’s unsustainable for me – but I mean 80%/20% or 90%/10% ). But it is obviously a “fad diet” in the sense that it is new and gaining popularity quickly.

All this to say: it makes me nervous when I think about gaining weight again. As I’ve detailed in my last few blog posts, these last few weeks have not been kind to me diet-wise, and I made the conscious decision to not stress about it, but seeing the scale move in the wrong direction is starting to make me worry. I do not want my health or weight to yo-yo depending on a fad diet. I want this to be a lifestyle choice that I enjoy and am committed to. I am hoping that slipping up recently is just the perfect storm of coming off that rigorous challenge, the holidays, and my decision to enjoy these weeks without worrying about what I’m eating. But it does give me pause to make sure that this isn’t going to be an every 3 or 4 month thing.

The last thing I want to do is be on a fad diet, or to go through cycles of strict adherence and binging. I’m not panicked yet, because like I said: it is the holidays and there have been several other factors. But I am going to have to be very sensitive to it in February, March, and April. I am planning on doing a mini-challenge in January to help kickstart myself back into healthier choices, but if that just leads to binging in February, March, or April, then I will need to reevaluate several things. I’ll need to look at whether I am approaching things wrong, if my mindset or attitude needs to change, if I’m missing part of the equation, or whether or not this is truly a sustainable lifestyle for me.

Again: this is not a panicked post. Just a little insight into something that has been in the back of my mind the last few days. The holidays are the holidays, and unfortunately for me, even with Meg losing weight while not stressing about what she is eating, I am doing the opposite. At this point I plan on kickstarting myself back into gear in January and then evaluating my successes in February, March, and April. I wish the answers were quicker or easier, but unfortunately this type of decision and evaluation is just going to take time.

I hope everyone has a great holiday! I don’t know how much Meg and I will be blogging over the next week and a half since we both took it off, and we plan on relaxing with family, friends, and each other quite a bit over the next 10 days. I’m sure we’ll fit in a couple of posts, but they won’t be daily!

Do you find the holidays to be an exception to your fitness regimen, or do you find that you go through cycles throughout the year? Have you tried fad diets? What is your perception of paleo – sustainable or just another passing fad?

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I’m stumped

When I tried calorie counting from August to October, I lost a total of 3 pounds. Over three full months. It took FOREVER and I felt like I was on a diet and it was not fun. When I decided mid November (right before Thanksgiving, actually) to quit counting calories and just eat when I was hungry and indulge in moderation, mostly on the weekends, I made that decision so I could maintain over the holidays and then pick up calorie-counting after New Year’s. Instead, I have lost another 3 pounds in about a month and a half’s time. Without really trying. And my pants are definitely looser, so I know it’s not just water weight.

I’ve had my share of holiday treats — but I’ve tried to limit those to once or twice a week. Yesterday, for example, was a Christmas lunch for my office so I enjoyed a sandwich, a pecan pie bar, wild rice casserole, and meatballs.  Today, I’m back to eggs for breakfast and meat plus veggies for lunch (pork & green beans) and dinner (roasted red pepper soup w/ sausage). (And a little white wine. The recipe calls for sherry… I don’t have sherry, but I have wine. And you can’t open a bottle and not drink some!) I eat “clean” the rest of the time — eating mostly unprocessed foods and the occasional grain.

I can’t figure out why I’m losing more weight now than when I was counting calories and was STRICT with how much I was eating, especially because I was eating the same type of food.  Here are my two conclusions:

  1. I upped my CF membership in November, going from 2-3 times per week to 4-5 times per week. Maybe with all the muscle I’m building, I’m burning more calories?
  2. I wasn’t eating enough (even though I don’t really believe that your body goes into “starvation mode” when you’re eating 1500 calories/day) and now that I’m giving my body what it needs, it’s cooperating?

Does anyone else have a more reasonable explanation? I’m so confused.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue drinking wine on the weekends, indulging in moderation, and eating unprocessed, in hopes that this continues to work for me. 3 more pounds until “goal”. And I’m really close to fitting into the very last pair of pants that don’t fit. Probably about 3 pounds worth 🙂

Anyone else lose weight when you least expect it? 

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It’s Bad Mood Food!

I have been eating a lot of non-paleo food lately. Not only have I been eating food that isn’t paleo, but I’ve been eating food that most people would say is “bad” food regardless of what dietary preferences you have: ice cream, chocolate, and sugary foods (like cookies, cinnamon buns, cake, etc.). As you can imagine, this is making the scale move in the wrong direction and led to my post on feeling a little discouraged recently. But this week I’ve realized that it’s not just my weight that has been affected, but it is impacting a lot of my everyday life.

I’ve already discussed many of the reasons I’ve been eating more bad food lately. Part of it is the rebound from depriving myself during the paleo challenge, part of it is the holidays and extra temptations, and part of it is my all or nothing mentality. I also think one of the reasons I’ve allowed myself to over-indulge these past few weeks is that I have made the conscious decision to stop focusing on my weight. I’ve discussed this before, but at this point in my fitness journey the number on the scale doesn’t mean much to me anymore. My athletic performance and how I look and feel means more. An unintended consequence of this change has become that the number on the scale doesn’t scare me anymore, and therefore I’ve gotten too relaxed with my dietary choices. You can guess what happens next: my athletic performance and how I look and feel have suffered because of it! It’s not rocket science to point out that the two are connected – if your weight is increasing (in a bad way – meaning your body fat is increasing, not muscle mass) then you’re not going to look and feel like you want.

Why am I bringing this up now? I’ve slowly been finding myself with less and less energy. It came to a head today. I couldn’t get out of bed for my 5am workout this morning, and it wasn’t one of those “hit the snooze button because I don’t want to” type of a decisions. It was a “I physically can not get out of bed this morning and it is actually a better decision for me to get more sleep because my body cannot function” decision. Even after over two additional hours of sleep, I still had 3 cups of coffee to make it through a 3 hour vendor presentation I had at work this morning. This afternoon I hit the post-lunch slump that I never felt while eating strict paleo.

As I started to reflect on that, I realized that my sleep has been subpar lately. Over the last few weeks I have had a handful of nights where I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and could not fall back asleep for 2 or more hours. At the time I attributed each sleepless night to stress: it has been a busy/stressful several weeks at work, the holidays bring about their own stress, keeping track of our social calendars has been difficult, we’ve been working through a new budget, and other factors have been weighing on my mind. But if I’m really honest with myself, I have to admit that my diet has probably also had a large impact on my sleep. My spikes in blood sugar, my energy levels throughout the day, and the subsequent caffeine I’ve been consuming as a result of everything cannot be helping my sleep patterns.

Furthermore, my mood has taken a bit of a sour turn this week. It could just be the result of the stress and the lack of sleep, but I also think my diet,  blood sugar levels, and just generally not feeling my best has had an independent impact on my mood (and the compounded impact of it causing sleep and energy issues). I have caught myself getting short with Meg several times the last two days. My normally passive-aggressive road-rage (usually just some sarcastic remarks and a general arrogance categorizes my typical road-rage) became full-fledged screaming at the cars around me road-rage on my way home from work yesterday. I’m finding less joy and optimism in my day to day activities, and it has been replaced with more cynicism and sarcasm in my interactions (which says a lot, considering cynicism and sarcasm are already prominent characteristics of mine). I’ve been more anxious and irritable.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is these last few weeks have been rough on me, and while food is not the only culprit, it is a major contributing variable to the equation. What am I going to do about it? Pretty much nothing!

Wait, whaaaat?? Here’s the deal: I’ve been making some poor decisions around what I have been eating recently, and I can fine tune some of those decisions and try to get better nutrition. And I do plan on doing that. But my eating is also not going to be perfect until after New Years, and frankly: I don’t want it to. I wrote before about lowering my standards during the holidays, and I really mean it! My energy levels and mood have suffered, but I don’t want to overreact either. I don’t want you to get the impression that I feel terrible 24 hours a day, because that’s not accurate. I felt amazing while on strict paleo, and now I don’t feel the same, but I also don’t really feel terrible either. I feel like I probably felt for 20+ years before I decided to make these lifestyle changes. I probably am overreacting to how I feel because it is such a stark contrast to how I felt last month, but in reality it’s not like I feel horrible.

And if I’m going to experiment with this approach of allowing myself to indulge a little more during the holidays, I need to do the full experiment. Let’s see how I feel on December 31st, and let’s see how arduous the road is back to a normal routine come January. Then I’ll make a final assessment on whether or not this was “worth it” and then I can strategize for how I will approach situations like this in the future.

I’m not advocating yo-yo dieting. Far from it. I am basically saying that I am still figuring out the lifestyle I have chosen (a mainly paleo diet supplemented with frequent, high-intensity exercise). I am learning what my limits are, what these choices do to my body, and whether or not I can suspend a large amount of this lifestyle for several weeks around the holidays without causing too much damage. And I don’t know the answers yet. But I have found out one answer: when I don’t eat paleo it affects more than just my weight, but it also has a large impact on my energy and mood. And that just solidifies my commitment to “clean eating.”

Just not this week 😉

Have you been more relaxed with your diet and/or exercise during the holidays? Have you noticed an impact on other areas of your life that you didn’t expect?

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When You Think You Can’t

Sometimes, I get really frustrated at CrossFit. I’ve been doing this for 8 months now, and I still have to use bands for pullups. I still have to scale most weights. I still have to do pushups off a box because after about 10, my arms won’t go anymore. And I still have one of the slowest times on the board, week after week.

It makes it worse when I compare myself to others. When I see people who started after me, and who do better than I do. When I see a few women in our class who are incredibly strong and fast, and I think to myself, “I will never be like that”.

But here’s the honest truth: I don’t go to CrossFit so that one day I can compete in the CrossFit games that you see on ESPN. I don’t go to CrossFit so that one day I can deadlift 300 pounds. And I certainly don’t go to CrossFit so I can be the strongest and the fastest. I DO go to CrossFit so I can exercise regularly. I do go to CrossFit so I can lose a few pounds. I do go to CrossFit because it’s improved my running.

I go to CrossFit so I can do things I never thought I could do before.

Today, I finally Rx-d a full WOD*. It was my first ever Rx-d WOD. (Last week was my first time Rx-ing a weight, ever, but I had to scale the push-ups). The WOD called for 5 55 pound thrusters, 10 sit-ups, and 20 bar jumps. It was a 20 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) with a 1 minute rest every 4 minutes.

(*Rx-ing means that the WOD typically calls for a specific weight – this one called for 55 pounds women, 75 pounds men. If you lift that weight, then you “Rx”.)

When I started CrossFit, one of my very first WODs had thrusters in it. I used a 30 pound bar. Today, I used 55 pounds.

I’m not going to lie — I’m amazed at myself. I was never an athlete in high school or college, so when I do athletic things that I never thought I could do (run a 5k! run a 10k! run a half marathon! do ONE pushup!), I am in awe. I know it sounds like I’m bragging, and you’re right — maybe I am. But it’s only because it’s coming from a formerly overweight (nearly obese at one point) girl who could barely run one mile in gym class (including a lot of walking breaks), who hid in the outfield when she was forced to play softball, who had to take breaks during intramural floor hockey after two minutes of playing.

Listen, the point of this blog post isn’t to talk about how amazing I am. (Multiple other women in my CrossFit box used a 75 pound barbell today for their thrusters — that is truly amazing). The point of this blog post is to encourage you. You can do things you never thought were possible. You can run a mile. You can run 13 miles. You can deadlift 175 pounds. You can play sports. You can be fast. You can…. fill in the blank.

You can.

Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Lean on others for support. (I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without my husband, family, and supportive friends). Don’t compare yourself to others who are far better than you.

You can. And you will. You just have to try.

What do you think you can’t do? How can you make it happen?

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I would say that we have officially become the weird couple that treats their dog like a kid, but that ship has sailed a long time ago. Meg and I decided when we got married that we would wait 5 years until any decisions would be made on whether or not we would have children, and we still have a year and a half left on that agreement. In the meantime, we have our dog, a Brittany named Stanley that we adopted over two and a half years ago. And even though Meg’s parents and my parents are disappointed that we don’t have grandkids for them yet (or maybe at all), they’ve been good sports about loving their “granddog”!

That lead in is to justify the rest of this blog post – basically a bunch of recent pictures of Stanley. When we were at Meg’s parents for Thanksgiving we asked her sister, Katie, to take some pictures of Stanley. The great thing about this is that Katie is a photographer for the Observer-Reporter, a newspaper outside of Pittsburgh, PA. So her pictures are amazing, and she even used some of her high-tech, expensive equipment to make it all even better! She sent us the pictures she took about a week ago, and I had to share them with all of you, because I’m that weird dog owner who shares pictures of his dog like he’s my kid.

Also, Katie named all of the photos in the filename as something, and they were all pretty funny, so I’ll share those too.

Family Photos:

youalllookthesame

Our picture taking did not start out well, as we started with a great “Awkward Family Photo”. Katie’s title: “You All Look The Same.” Yes, we do all look the same: pretty awkward. I really have no idea what happened in this one.

thebreakaway

Stanley then decided to make a break for it, and that he did not want to take photos together. Katie, being the skilled photographer that she is, decided to catch this all happening. I love the look on his face – he wants to be anywhere but right there. Katie’s title: “The Breakaway.”

lookthesameagain

After we got him back under control he still squirmed a lot and tried to get out of our grip. He decided to start licking me to try to persuade me to let him go. Katie’s title: “Look The Same Again.” Indeed.

thetongue

I thought we had a good one here, but Stanley decided to stick his tongue out in this one. Katie’s aptly named title: “The Tongue.”

awkward

This one is pretty good, but once I read Katie’s title, I realized the problem. Her title was “Awkward”. When you look at Stan, he certainly does look awkward there. Or at least I think she was talking about him. . .

familylove

Finally, a good one of the family! Katie’s title: “Family Love”.

“Candid” Photos:

stanheartsgma

Katie took a few “candid” photos of Stanley over the weekend too, just kind of catching him in action instead of posed. This is a good one of him and Meg’s grandmother. Katie’s title: “Stan Hearts Gma”.

pleasesiriwantsomemore

It is no surprise that we have a photo of Stan in the kitchen. He spends a lot of time there, as both Meg and I often drop food because we’re clumsy when we’re prepping. He got some dropped food while we were at Meg’s parents too, but I’m not sure how much of the “dropped” food was an accident, and how much was intentional. Katie’s title: “Please Sir I Want Some More”.

Stanley’s Photoshoot:

imamodel

And of course, we wouldn’t be as ridiculous as we look if we didn’t give Stanley an all-out photoshoot. Katie got a bunch of good ones of him. The title of this one: “I’m A Model”. The absurdity of this photoshoot is made even better because he really does look like a model in these pictures, and it looks almost like he is posing in them.

imtoosexy

Katie’s title: “I’m Too Sexy.”

royalt

Katie’s title: “Royalty”

youlookinatme

Katie’s title: “You Lookin’ At Me?”

And of course, I had to save my favorite for last:

stan_01

That’s all for now – I hope you haven’t lost all respect for us. We’ll be in Bradford, PA again this weekend to celebrate Christmas with Meg’s parents and her sister, so maybe we’ll end up with more pictures!

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Friends, I have a problem. I have blisters underneath my callouses on my hands.

“But Meg,” you may ask, “How did you get callouses in the first place? And what are you doing to get blisters?”

Image

Well, you see, today, I learned how to “skin a cat” which requires grip. And I also RX-d my very first weight in a WOD and used 100 pounds for the deadlifts, which also requried quite a bit of grip.  (I couldn’t RX the entire WOD though since I suck at push-ups.) In case you’re wondering what RX means since that’s CrossFit speak, it means that every workout has a prescribed weight for men & women. Because I’m new, and don’t have very strong muscles, I usually have to scale back, or use a lighter weight. The WOD today called for 100 pounds on the deadlift, and I was able to do it!

It’s also from pull-ups. From ring rows.  From toes to bar. From anything that makes me have to grip something. I’ve grown pretty epic callouses, apparently.  One thing CrossFit does NOT do well for a woman’s body is the damage it causes to hands. I am afraid I will have callouses the rest of my life thanks to CrossFit.

Gross.

So does anyone have a solution? How do I treat blisters that form under callouses? #CrossFitProblems

So, in related news, the WOD today sucked. It was an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 9 deadlifts (100 pounds), 12 hands off push-ups, and 15 box jumps (20 inch box). It also didn’t help that I ate pretty crappy today, so my energy was way down.

We had a “Wassail Day” in the office today which means that everyone brings in something to share and keeps it at their desk so people come visit you and partake of whatever you brought. Because it was a special occasion and I wanted to share the experience with co-workers, I knew I would end up eating most everything. And I did. I had a cinammon roll (my co-worker puts ice cream on the top while it bakes so it infuses the cinammon roll with ice cream goodness — amazing), chips and black bean salsa, two chocolate truffles, veggies and hummus, two meatballs, a piece of peppermint chocolate bark, rye bread and dip, baguette bread and cheesy pizza dip, little pinwheel wraps with cranberries and cheese, and cheese, crackers, and olives. And a glass or two of hot mulled cider (which I brought). Needless to say, all of the food was delicious, but also detrimental to my digestive health.

Lesson learned of the day: Don’t eat crappy before a rough WOD. You won’t want to eat at all the rest of the night after the WOD because the thought of food makes you want to puke.

But seriously, has anyone out there had blisters under callouses before? I really do need your advice on how to heal them!

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Ever since the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge ended, I’ve been a little. . .let’s say. . .”relaxed” with my dietary choices. It really has been the perfect storm of “bad” food: the combination of cravings from not having a single cheat for 9 weeks, holiday parties and get togethers, allowing myself to have alcoholic beverages for the first time in months, and my decision to lower my standards during the holidays.

I didn’t weigh myself this week as a way to help myself stop stressing about my weight gain these past few weeks, but I have been feeling pretty discouraged lately, and I know I’m up about 5 pounds or so (maybe more). Some of it is to be expected – eating food that isn’t good for me is going to have consequences. But it’s still disheartening to see the scale move in the wrong direction week after week.

Some of my choices to eat food that is “bad” for me are still good choices though. Like I talked about in my post about lowering my standards for the holidays, my main goal is to enjoy life and enjoy the company of those around me. So I don’t regret for one minute that I ate all different types of food at the progressive dinner Meg talked about the other day. It was delicious, and by allowing myself not to stress about what I ate it allowed me to have a better time and be more relaxed and just focus on what was important: friends. That being said, did I need to have a chocolate chip cookie yesterday on my lunch? Or two? No, I didn’t. But I still ate them, and that’s where I need to start focusing my efforts.

Not exactly a paleo poster-child while wearing my Flower City CrossFit hoodie!

Not exactly a paleo poster-child while wearing my Flower City CrossFit hoodie at the progressive dinner!

Maybe my personality is too much of an “all or nothing” personality. I can go 9 weeks without a single cheat, but as soon as I allow myself to cheat it becomes a free for all of beer, chocolate, ice cream, and pastries. I need to find a happy medium where I can still make good choices 90% of the time, but still enjoy myself with family and friends. I’m having a hard time balancing this out, but I suppose that if it was easy then we would all be doing it!

With all that being said, I’ve been feeling a little down about it even though I’m trying not to stress about it. I made baklava for work on Monday, and brought some over to my old department because they all really liked the baklava I made last year. Side note: I definitely ate way too much baklava. This is exactly what I’m talking about – I should allow myself to have some because it’s a special treat that I only enjoy during the holidays, and it reminds me of my grandmother. But that doesn’t mean I need to eat several pieces to enjoy it either.

This will be our second Christmas without Siti (my grandmother). I still use her baklava recipe - and it's delicious!

This will be our second Christmas without Siti (my grandmother). I still use her baklava recipe – and it’s delicious!

Anyway – I haven’t seen anyone from my old department for several months. So when I saw them to deliver the baklava they all gave me compliments about how good I looked. Even though I’ve been feeling fat and discouraged, I still had lost weight and was more fit then the last time they saw me. In a self-centered way: I needed that. I needed to be reminded that yes, the last few weeks haven’t been great for me fitness/health-wise. But I’ve still come a very long way. And a few weeks of bad choices aren’t going to undo everything I’ve worked hard toward. I should still be proud of where I am, and shouldn’t get too down on myself.

Don’t get me wrong – this is not a free pass to stop working out, to eat whatever I want all the time, to stop pushing to improve, and to stop striving toward my goals. I still need to make good choices, but I also need to keep things in perspective. Gaining weight sucks, but I’m NOT going to gain back the 100+ I’ve lost. I need to make the best choices I can, but still stay true to my goal of allowing myself to enjoy the holidays. So, if I eat another piece of baklava, I will savor every bite, and fondly remember my grandmother and everything she taught me. I will relish the time I spend with friends and the (literal) bread I break with them. I will enjoy the time I spend with my family both this weekend when we visit Meg’s parents in Bradford, and next weekend when we travel to Syracuse to visit my parents. And I will try to continue to keep everything in perspective: that I won’t be perfect during these holidays, but that doesn’t mean I’ve failed.

Do you have trouble keeping things in perspective? What can you do to keep a big picture view of things when you are getting discouraged?

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