Archive for May, 2009

Fat Bottomed Girls, They’ll Be Riding Today

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

I finally bought a bike!

For those of you who have just tuned in, I’ve been wanting a bicycle for quite some time, with the goal of completing a triathlon. Today, I got one.

My New Bike!

My New Bike!

It’s a Canondale Quick 5, and so far, I love it. The bike shop guy was very helpful, and after I told him about my goals and biking experience (I haven’t ridden a bicycle in about 15 years!) he recommended this bike. I took it for a spin around the parking lot and immediately knew it was the bike for me.

My husband went with me to the cycle shop, and decided he wanted one for himself as well. We left with two bikes, two helmets, a bike rack, and a lot of excitement.

We went down to one of the trails that runs alongside the river. We rode for just over an hour and covered almost 12 miles in that time. It’s amazing how much more ground you can cover on two wheels than on two feet. It was so. much. fun. but I was nervous and a little scared at first. Have I mentioned that I haven’t ridden a bike in 15 years?

As it turns out, it’s just like riding a bike.

It’s also quite a workout! Based on my weight and how long/fast we rode, I burned about 500 calories. For the most part, I didn’t even notice that it was exercise, but I did feel it in my quads when we climbed the few hills – for Pittsburgh, this was a very flat trail. The only parts of my body that are hurting now are my butt – I need to get a better seat or shorts with butt padding, and my face – I think I got wind burned… I was riding just that fast :) Tomorrow might tell a different story.

I think I progressed a lot in just over an hour – I went from being very nervous and wobbly to feeling reasonably confident and fairly steady. I’m sure that the more I ride, the better bicycler I’ll become. As with anything, practice makes perfect, right?

Owning a bicycle: The first step to accomplishing the biking portion of that triathlon. Yee haw!

Conspiracy Theory: The Gym

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Here’s my theory: Gyms (at least the one I go to) take nefarious steps to keep membership up. Allow me to explain.

Observation #1: Before I headed to the gym yesterday, I put on some workout clothes, including a new tank top. When I looked in the mirror I thought I looked pretty good. Good enough for the gym, at least.

I got to the gym and hopped on a bike for a quick 10-minute warm-up. The bike I was on faced a wall covered in mirrors, and I couldn’t help but notice that I. Looked. Awful. I looked much larger than I did at home. In fact, if I had seen the same reflection before I left, I would have put on something else.

When I returned home, I looked in the mirror again and found that I looked the same as I did before I left, but sweatier.

This leads me to believe that the gym has Fun House mirrors: Mirrors that are designed to make people look fat – but not so fat that it will be really noticeable – just enough that people will feel inclined to continue their memberships.

Observation #2: When I was at the gym on Wednesday, I noticed a disturbing trend: Studded throughout the gym – on the treadmills, using the free weights, stretching, on the weight machines, everywhere! – there were perfect-looking couples. You know the ones: a twenty-something girl with a fabulous body, great tan, shiny hair, even a cute outfit and her equally perfect-looking boyfriend: tall, muscular, tan, white teeth – the kind of people who should be extras on “The Hills”.

One or two astoundingly beautiful couples is understandable, but they were everywhere. I believe that my gym is paying perfect men and women to parade around making people feel bad about themselves, once again, in the hopes that people will maintain their memberships.

Conclusion: My gym sucks.

Weight Update – I Blame Stress

Friday, May 29th, 2009

No one actually marked my words after last week, did they?

This morning I was 180. It’s less than last week, so I’m not really upset, just a little disappointed. I was so hoping to dip down into the 170s this week.

If anyone had been watching me this morning they would have called the loony bin: Go to the bathroom, stand on scale – 180. Get off scale, take hair down, stand on scale – 180.5. Yelp, get off scale, put hair back up. Take off glasses, stand on scale – 180. Get off scale, nudge scale a little to the left, stand on scale – 180. Get off scale, nudge scale further left, stand on scale – 180. Sigh, reluctantly accept that this is not the week to make it into the 170s, get off scale and start day.

I’m blaming my mere half-pound weight loss this week on stress (and not on the burger and fries I had for dinner on Tuesday!). This week has been more stressful than most for me, and it’s well-documented that physical, emotional or mental stress can hinder weight loss, and even trigger weight gain.

Yup. It was stress. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 170s next week for sure!

Why Not to Imbibe

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Everyone knows that there are calories in alcohol, and if you like mixed drinks or heavy beers the number of calories you consume through drinking could be significant. When trying to lose weight, many people switch to low-calorie drinks like light beer and rum & diet coke, but it’s not the calories in alcohol that are the biggest hindrance to your weight-loss efforts.

When you drink, a small amount of the alcohol is turned into fat. Even this isn’t the biggest problem though – less than 5% of the alcohol is converted into fat. The real problem is that your liver converts most of the alcohol into acetate which is then released into the bloodstream and burned as fuel instead of fat.

So, you’re eating right and exercising and you “save” enough calories to have a drink or two at the end of the day. Even though the calories themselves may not throw off your weight loss, the alcohol you’re consuming very well may sabotage your efforts by pushing your excess fat stores later in the “to burn” queue. We’re not just talking a little bit, either – alcohol can halt fat burning by up to 73%. That’s huge!

Is that drink really worth it? If it is, savor it, and skip the second. If it isn’t, switch to water and let your body burn that fat!

For further reading, check out this article: Why Alcohol Calories are More Important Than You Think.

Motivation

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation lately. I always hated the way I looked and had low self esteem. I wanted to lose weight, but I never wanted it enough. I love food. Plain and simple. And wanting to look better was never enough motivation to turn away delicious – and fattening – food.

It wasn’t until I really started thinking about all the things that I didn’t (or couldn’t) do because of my weight that I had enough motivation to do something about it. I actually made a list: Some of the items on the list I had previously told myself I didn’t care about, even though I secretly did. Other things had never even occurred to me that I was missing out on until I really thought about it.

The items on the list ranged from the very little – being comfortable crossing my legs or being able to tie a normal-sized towel around myself after a shower, to the big – being light enough to go skydiving (there’s a weight limit). Some of these things I couldn’t physically do because I was obese, and some I just felt uncomfortable doing. Either way, my weight was holding me back.

I was shocked at how many things ended up on that list. It made me sad and angry to see how much my weight affected my quality of life – and not just my appearance or self esteem. I was literally missing out on life because I was fat.

Even though I haven’t reached my goal weight yet, I have lost enough to be able to do a lot of the things on that list. For instance, I cross my legs all the time now (and I can’t believe how comfortable it is!) and I went skydiving last year (story to come!).

Making that list was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself; I refer to it often as I struggle to lose these last 35 pounds, and it is some serious motivation to keep going. It’s amazing how much my life has changed after losing 80 pounds, and in far more ways than just looking better.

Though I won’t lie – being told that if I were President, I’d be Babe-raham Lincoln feels pretty damn good.

Holiday Eating

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which means picnics and barbeques and parties, oh my. It can be very difficult to stay on track over a holiday weekend, but with a little effort, it can be done – while still enjoying the festivities.

Here’s how I decide what to eat when I’m at a party or special event – or even on vacation: If not eating something is going to make me feel like I really missed out, I’ll eat it (in moderation, of course). For example, if someone made homemade burgers at a picnic that everyone is raving about, I would feel like I missed out by passing it up, so I’d eat it. But, if it’s a run-of-the-mill frozen burger, I’d know I’m not missing anything and would choose another option. It all goes back to balance, which I talked about earlier. I’m not going to let eating healthy get in the way of life, because eating healthy is a way of life.

Let’s say you’re going to a picnic. You know there’s going to be typical picnic food – probably burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, etc. I suggest bringing a dish that you know won’t spoil your diet, like fruit salad, sugar-free jello or veggies with a low-calorie dip. This way, you know there’s at least one thing you can feel good about eating. Load up on your healthy option (and any others that might be available) and then a small sampling of only your favorites of the other dishes.

A great trick is to use a dessert plate rather than a large plate. This forces you into moderate portion sizes – just avoid going back for seconds and thirds!

Before heading out for the festivities, I always try to get in an extra long workout. This way I know that I burned a good number of calories and won’t feel as guilty about indulging a little more than usual. Just remember that working out is not an excuse to binge on potato salad and pie. (mmm…pie…)

In addition to your morning workout, picnics are great for disguising exercise as fun. Bring a frisbee to your Memorial Day party and throw that around for a while with the other partygoers. You’ll burn approximately 100 calories in 30 minutes without even knowing it!

Above all, enjoy yourself. If you fall off the wagon completely, just dust yourself off and get back on! Eating well is a lifestyle, and it takes a while for it to become natural. Eventually, though, the fruit salad and veggie tray will become far more appealing than the brownies and fried chicken.

Trust me!

Weight Update

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Today I weighed in at 180.5. This is the lowest I’ve gotten since I was on my way up, but I’ve hit this number a few times. Each time I’ve gotten down to this number, I screw it up somehow: I eat too much or exercise too little and my weight creeps back up a few pounds. Then I do it all over again. It’s a vicious cycle.

I am DETERMINED to end the cycle, here and now. I will not screw it up this time, and will be in the 170s this time next week. Mark my words!

In fact, I have a friend who is getting married in a few months. Her goal is to lose 20 pounds by her wedding, and I told her I would do it with her. I’ve always found that setting realistic goals – manageable chunks of weight by a various date – is great for keeping motivation up, and at just under a pound a week, this is a very realistic goal. To meet this challenge, I have no choice but to enter into the 170s!

I can do this. Right?!

My New Favorite Breakfast

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

For a long time, I was eating a bowl of Total Cranberry Crunch for breakfast. It’s delicious and nutritious! I know that it basically has a multi-vitamin sprinkled over it, which isn’t technically getting your vitamins from food which is preferable, but a vitamin is a vitamin, right?

After close to two years of Cranberry Crunch for breakfast about 6 days a week, I was ready to switch it up. I’ve tried a few things – Special K Red Berries, cinnamon raisin English muffin, whole wheat toast with PB2 (more on PB2 later!)  – and while they were all good, I hadn’t found anything that really kept me going until lunch time.

Until now, when I’ve settled on my new breakfast habit, ironically an old classic: Honey Nut Cheerios with sliced banana (in skim milk). Like the Cranberry Crunch, it’s both delicious and nutritious. It doesn’t have a multi-vitamin sprinkled over it, but that’s ok. It naturally has a lot of vitamins and minerals, what with all those oats, and I’m pretty good about get my share of vitamins throughout the day anyway.

There’s just something about the combination of this cereal with the banana that tastes so good. Maybe part of it is that I remember eating – and loving – it as a kid. Maybe it’s an effect of advertising (I do love that bee!). Whatever the reason, I can’t seem to get enough of it. And it definitely tides me over for the three hours between breakfast and lunch. (Those of you who have a bigger gap between breakfast and lunch may need a little snack in there.)

The thing that used to hold me back on this breakfast is the bananas: They’re so fickle, and I’m so picky. I believe there is a very limited window of banana-goodness: I don’t like them at all green, and I don’t like them if there’s any brown on them. Just perfectly yellow. Also, a whole banana seriously ups the calories of the cereal (a medium banana has about 110 calories) so I would never eat the entire thing, and then I’m throwing away half right off the bat.

I’ve come up with a solution that avoids these issues and allows me to have my bowl of cereal with half of a perfectly ripened banana each day. It starts with shopping often, which is essential for healthy eating in general. I only buy 3 bananas at a time (if I’m the only one eating them), and I try to get them just on the verge of prime yellowness. When I prepare my cereal in the morning, I slice half of a banana into the bowl, and put the other half in a Ziploc bag or container and refrigerate it. The next morning, that banana is still just right, if a little cold.

The next day, I restart the process with the second banana, and then the third, which is usually right at the end of the banana-goodness cycle. It works like a charm! Now I’m not wasting bananas… or force feeding them to my husband.

If you’re looking for a healthy, satisfying, delicious breakfast, give this a try. I think you’ll bee glad you did!

Losing Weight is Simple

Monday, May 18th, 2009

It may not be easy, but it is simple.

In my experience – which includes about 20 years of unsuccessful dieting and 2 years of successful weight loss – I’ve found that losing weight is not nearly as complicated as it’s made out to be. It’s basic math:

Calories In < Calories Out = Weight Loss
Calories In > Calories Out = Weight Gain
Calories In = Calories Out = Maintain Weight

Monitor what you eat (ie: keep a food journal and count your calories!). Figure out how many calories you burn in a given week (both through your normal daily activities and through exercise). Crunch the numbers. This can be tough to do by hand, so I recommend a website called My Food Diary which makes it all very simple.

I’ve been using MFD for the last few years and it helped immensely. It’s a great tool with a HUGE built-in food database that also lets you add new foods and build and story recipes. It also has an exercise calculator and forums full of people who are in a similar situation and can offer help and advice. It does require membership (with a $9/month fee) but I have found it to be worth every penny. Using the tools provided by MFD is the number 1 thing that helped me to lose 75 pounds in a year.

One of the best features MFD has is the Daily Report. After you’ve logged all your food and exercise for the day, it generates a report for you that says:

If every day were like today:
You would lose ____ pounds per week.
In 3 months, you would weigh ____.
You would reach your goal weight on ____.

That report everyday was SO motivating! On good days, seeing what my progress would be was really a good feeling. And if it was a bad day (and said I would GAIN weight or something awful like that) I knew that I really had to change what I was doing. I found the estimates to be remarkably close, too. It’s all based on information you enter when you sign up, including your age, sex, basic activity level, etc.

There are all sorts of features that are included in their service – too many to list here. There are other food journal websites that don’t charge a fee, but they don’t seem to be as comprehensive as MFD. I’m sure they’d be helpful if you don’t have the money to spend, but I’ve always found that if it costs money, I’m more apt to use it. And again, it was worth the money to have access to all of their wonderful resources.

So yes, losing weight is simple. Just do the math!

But, losing weight is not easy. In order to make the equations lean to the “lose weight” side, you have to burn more calories than you take in. A pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. Spread that out over the course of a week, and you need to have a calorie deficit of 500 each day in order to lose 1 pound per week. That’s definitely doable, but it requires eating a little less and exercising a little more. This requires some willpower and motivation. That’s the hard part, but I swear: Start by logging your food and exercise and see first what you’re actually putting in your body. Just learning what you’re doing right and wrong will head you in the right direction.

Oh, and did I mention that MFD tells you exactly how many calories you personally should be eating on a daily basis? And it’s updated automatically every time you log your weight. It’s brilliant, really.

I’m not trying to sell you on MFD for any personal gains. Rather, I’m the type of person who loves to share products and services that I have found helpful and which I think would help others, and MFD tops my list. MFD changed my life, and I know it can do the same for you as well.

I highly recommend joining My Food Diary (www.myfooddiary.com) if you’re ready to start losing weight. Let me know what you think!

Trampoline Fun

Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Trampoline Workout!

Holy cow, is jumping on a trampoline fun! While visiting family in North Carolina this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised – in a bright-eyed, little-kid sort of way – to see a GIANT trampoline in my brother-in-law’s backyard. As the first time I’ve had the opportunity to play on one of these, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

I immediately removed my flip flops and hopped on. Once I started jumping, I literally could not stop laughing. Hysterically. Wildly. Loony Toonily. It was the most fun thing I’ve done in ages! I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what was wrong with the poor Yankee girl who had seemingly lost control of her senses.

Besides it being incredibly fun, jumping on a trampoline is quite a workout! After just a few minutes, my heart rate was up and I was “feeling the burn” in my calves, thighs and butt. It burns about 50 calories in ten minutes, and again, that’s 10 minutes of insanely good fun.

Now I just need to get one for myself! Enter craigslist :)