April progress, May goals

I know that April isn’t over yet, and there’s a possibility that I will lose a little more weight before Wednesday, but I figured this was as good a time as any for a recap of what’s happened this month in the weight loss department. It was actually a pretty busy month, after almost two months of complete inactivity. Where to begin? 

This month, I saw a gain and a loss, primarily due to the fact that I completely lost sight of my goals after going to London in February. Yep, I lost two months of progress after that trip, and hopefully I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I make such a trip, as soon as I get back home, I need to pick up where I left off and move on toward my goals. Anyway, I posted a gain of nearly three pounds at the first of the month (and it was higher than that at one point, but I think it was mostly water weight), but as of today, I’m down a net of 2.1 pounds. That means that I’ve lost a total of 21 pounds since I first started trying to lose weight. 

I also joined the gym and have been going to work out at least four days a week. On the days I’m not working out, I’m trying to make sure I move a fair bit by cleaning house, walking around the farmer’s market or the mall, or otherwise keeping my butt off the furniture. My work outs are really starting to take form, with a warm up of 20 minutes or so of cardio followed by either an upper or lower body work out. I alternate between the two, working each muscle set to fatigue. In the month of April, I lost 2.4 inches from my neck, waist, hips and bust. That makes me even happier than the weight loss, to be honest, because that means the results will start to be noticeable soon. Personally, I don’t see much of a difference in the way I look so far, and I’m looking forward to a time when I can see the difference. 

This month, I also joined a weight loss program at work, which provides a scale, a pedometer and one on one coaching. I’m really hoping it will keep me accountable to someone other than myself, and thus, keep me on track. In addition, I signed up for the Million Step Challenge at work – one million steps by the end of the year. So far, for this month, I have more than 130,000 steps, so I’m on track there as well. 

So, where does all of that leave me for May? 

  1. Lose at least five pounds in May. This one will be tricky because we have Memorial Day coming up and I totally love BBQ. That said, it’s just one day, so I need to be vigilant the rest of the month. 
  2. I’d like to see another 2 inches gone in May. I’m really sort of hoping for more, because I didn’t join the gym until the middle of April, and I’m hoping that consistent working out will give me the push I need here. 
  3. Track all of my food. This was also an April goal and while I didn’t do a great job at the first, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things and I’m weighing and measuring everything now. 
  4. Continue my push toward more whole foods and fewer convenience foods in my pantry. For us, the new normal is going to be “convenience foods” that we ourselves make. This weekend I’ve made homemade black bean soup that we’re canning. We’ve made our own tomato sauce and strawberry jam. This is going to become the way we eat all the time, because frankly, I think a big part of our problem is that we all eat too many processed foods. We’ll still buy some things – I’m not really interested in making my own cheese, though Chris mentioned he might try it – but canned foods are about to be history for us. 

All in all, I’m fairly pleased with my April progress. It could have been better, if I’d jumped back on the bandwagon sooner. And now I have an even bigger goal to watch – my daughter is getting married in November 2014, and I really want to be at my goal weight well before that time. 

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There are two primary choices in life …

To accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. ~Dr. Denis Waitley

We have become a nation of the “status quo” … in other words, we may complain about the things we don’t like – our political system, the homeless problem, the economy, our ever expanding waistlines – but most people don’t take responsibility for changing the things that they don’t like. I know that there are many people who think that they can make no impact to many of these situations, as they are “only one person.” But I think that people lose sight, myself included, of the fact that they absolutely have the ability to change themselves. Or maybe it’s that we don’t like to take responsibility for making changes, or that we’re unwilling to commit ourselves to making changes. Of course, you must know that I’m talking about weight loss and fitness.

I’ve heard people say that getting started is the most difficult part, but I disagree. I think starting is easy – I’ve started to make life-altering health changes 894,732 times. No, the most difficult part is sticking with the program you choose, and not letting yourself buy into the negative self-talk (as well as the negativity from others around you). And when you don’t see results immediately, it’s really easy to start taking on the “bro-science” advice on the internet – you know, all those meatheads out there who are more than willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how you can “fix” it. It isn’t that everybody is special and needs their own plan to make progress, but there really is not a one size fits all way to lose weight. The only constant is that the calories you burn must exceed the calories you take into your body. Beyond that, there are many ways to lose weight, exercise, and reach your fitness goals.

As of this morning, I am officially down 20 pounds from my original starting weight. But it took me far longer to get here than it strictly should have, because I lost sight of what I was doing, and the reasons why I was doing them. If I had stayed the course back in February when I went to the UK, I could possibly be 30 or even 40 pounds down from my original starting weight. For some people a simple calorie restriction is the key to weight loss. Personally, I have to have at least four days a week of moderate exercise – five is even better. I joined the gym eight days ago and I’ve been four times – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday (I took Thursday and Friday off because I could barely move after my personal training foray on Tuesday). I’ve kept an eye on the calories I’ve eaten and dropped four pounds in that time. I probably had a little help from a water pill the doctor prescribed for me during my physical on Thursday, but a lot of the loss is from the changes I’m making to my lifestyle.

I know a lot of people think that in order to lose weight, they need to seriously restrict their calorie intake but for me that’s not true. In fact, I eat a fairly good deal of calories (around 2200-2300 on days I work out; about 1950 on days I don’t), keeping my body fueled so that I can continue to do the work outs without crashing. No 1200 calorie days here! I really don’t know how people manage on that small an amount, and it absolutely kills me to see folks on the fitness boards who claim they can’t possibly eat 1200 calories  a day because it’s just too much and they aren’t hungry! /whine whine whimper whimper  I’m sorry but I call BS because it’s highly unlikely they gained 40, 50, 60 or 100+ pounds by eating 900 calories a day for an extended period. In order to keep the body going, you have to fuel it. Do you expect to drive 500 miles on a quarter of a tank of gas? No? Then why do you expect to work out, run a home, raise a family, and work on 900 calories a day??

I know that for some people with medical issues, it isn’t quite this easy, but I think that the number of legitimate medical issues that prevent weight loss are probably pretty small. I would be willing to bet that the biggest issue is that people aren’t honest with themselves. I know I wasn’t, because I was probably drinking half my calories in the form of Dr Pepper. Once I kicked the regular soda habit, the weight started coming off, and I wasn’t really hungry anymore because I could eat a pretty good amount of food. It was during the time that I wasn’t controlling my soda intake that I gained most of my weight, and it was during that time that I was at my most resistant to change. Once I dropped 150 calorie a can drinks, I saw that I could actually lose weight. I do still drink diet sodas, which have issues of their own, and I am working to drink fewer of them, but the reality is, without the empty calories, losing weight is easier, and I’m able to maintain a course of action.

So, now it’s time to ask yourself – what choice are you going to make? The one that will bring change to your life, where ever you need it, be that weight loss, difficult relationships, financial, etc? Or the one that will maintain the status quo, where you are never really happy but loathe to do something about it? I know which one I choose …

The Dreaded Annual Physical

This week, I had my annual physical. I use a physician’s assistant (PA) in the doctor’s office, and I really like her, even though  I am not a fan of doctors, simply because it’s rare that I see one that doesn’t want to give me a shot of one type or another, and this time is no different. But more about that in a little bit. The primary take away from my physical this year is that I have to get serious about making sustainable lifestyle changes.

All in all, my physical results really aren’t that bad. Obviously, I need to lose weight. My blood pressure is a little high. My cholesterol is a little high. My B12 levels are very low. The theme for my physical was, Lose weight. Exercise. Rinse and repeat. And above all, be more aware of what is going on with my body, because I have this very bad habit of sort of ignoring warning signs.

First off, my blood pressure. They took it three times while I was in the office. The first time it was like 137/95; the second it was 142/95 and the last time it was 121/90. Clearly, it’s too high for comfort. The PA put me on a water pill, and I was ordered to start taking my blood pressure at home, so I went to Walmart and bought a blood pressure machine. My mom keeps saying, Those aren’t accurate, but this one seems pretty darn accurate to me. It’s running right in line with what the physical readings were, and the PA said it would be fine to use. I don’t know how to take my own blood pressure the “old fashioned way”, but this is working, and I’ll stick with it until I know it doesn’t. I’ve decided to take my BP first thing in the morning and then in the evening before dinner. I don’t know why; it just seems like these would be good times to take it. I’m using an Android app to keep track of the readings, and it’s pretty cool. It makes charts of your readings so you can track how your BP is trending, and you can take it to the doctor to show them how you’re doing.

Next up is the cholesterol. My HDL is high, my LDL is low. This isn’t anything new to me, but I was hoping for better results this year. I’ve started eating fish more often, and we don’t eat a lot of fried foods. We’ve agreed to cut red meat down to once or twice a week, and I’ve read conflicting reports about whether or not pork is better or about the same as beef, but we have agreed to limit it to once a week as well. The other days will be lean chicken  and fish. Last night, the guy at the seafood counter told us that tilapia has absolutely zero nutritional value, so I need to check that out, because that’s the fish we eat most often, and maybe that’s why I didn’t see a change in my LDL levels. It’s disappointing because tilapia is cheap, it’s tasty and it’s readily available in our area. But salmon is also available and it’s not terribly expensive, so I guess it’s going to become our new favorite. According to the guy we spoke with last night,  cod is better for you than tilapia, and it is cheap but I’m not as fond of the flavor. But I guess I could eat it once a week. It does make excellent fish tacos.

Finally the B12. I have been wiped out lately, and just barely able to stay awake most days. I have zero energy and I hate it, because there is often something I want to do but just can’t drag myself out of a chair to do it. The lowest end of normal for B12 is like 232 and I’m at 234. The PA wants me to get monthly B12 shots (see, I told you they always find a reason to give me a shot and you didn’t believe me, did you) as well as take 1000 mg of B12 in pill form every day. But hey, if it fixes the fatigue issue I am all for it. Ok maybe not ALL for it – I mean, come on, I HATE needles – but I’d rather get a shot once a month than feel like I can’t walk up the stairs.

And of course, I got the usual lecture about losing weight and exercising more that so many people hear at their annual physical. However, I don’t buy into the type of diet that this PA was advocating – low carb, low fat, no breads, pastas, vegetable oils, sweets, sodas, fruits (!!) blah blah blah, yada yada yada. And no, I don’t think she knows more about nutrition than I do because that was clear when she told me that the reason why I don’t feel full on Weight Watchers is because I need to stop eating fruit. Ummm … yeah. Or it could be because on WW, I was eating less than 1300 calories a day, and that just does not work for me. But what do I know; it’s only MY body.

I have to go back to get my blood checked again in three months. I’m sure they are going to check cholesterol as well as the B12 deficiency, so I want to try to make some positive progress with getting the HDL down and the LDL up.

So here’s the plan

I joined a gym last week. I want to make it a point to exercise at least four days a week, but I will shoot for six. I am going to mix in cardio and strength training, but every day I will need to do at least a little cardio because I’m taking part in a million step challenge – I need to take a million steps between April 1 and December 1, and I’m not going to be able to meet that goal is I don’t spend a little time on a treadmill most days of the week. Strength training for a multitude of reasons – to make myself stronger, obviously, but also to lose weight, tighten skin and in general make myself look better. I also have a bum shoulder that was operated on in November 2009, and I have lost almost all the strength there, so I need to work on that as well.

I will do monthly updates on inches lost, weight lost, and general progress, holding me accountable for the lifestyle change I must make.

My Three Month Goals

Cholesterol under 200 (it’s 205, so it’s not like it’s way out of reach)

Ten pounds lost

Blood pressure dropped by at least a couple points for both systolic and diastolic

End of Year Goals

50 pounds lost

Blood pressure to a normal level

Cholesterol under 190

I am certain I can do this. I just need to focus on what I’m doing, and keep track of what’s going on. It’s going to be a wild ride, but it’s going to pay off in a very big way. Now, who’s in??

It’s fine to celebrate success …

but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. – Bill Gates

Before I went on my trip to London in February, I had made several changes to my eating habits and I was really flying high. “This isn’t so hard,” I told myself (and anyone who would listen). “I can do this, no problem!” And then the dreaded business travel came up and … I fell off the wagon. Big time, I fell off the wagon. It was so easy, I didn’t even realize I had fallen off.

I’m not a big fan of most of the food in London, so not over-eating there is easy enough for me. It’s when I got back from London, after not having logged any food for a week, that things got really difficult. I’d already fallen out of the habit of weighing and measuring everything in those seven short days, and when I got back to the States, it was like I gave myself a license to eat whatever, whenever, however I wanted. And now, eight weeks later, I’ve gained three pounds. I guess it could be LOTS worse than that, since I’ve heard of folks gaining that much in a week of unfettered eating, so don’t think I’m complaining about that, because really … I’m not.

What I AM doing here, is making myself accountable for the failure of the last eight weeks. This doesn’t mean that my entire program is a failure; what it means is, I need to get better about regulating what I eat even when I’m not at home, and even if it’s difficult to make the healthiest choices, I need to log them, even if I’m estimating how much of the food I’m actually eating. On the one hand, this may seem a little misleading, but for me, it’s more important to maintain those healthy habits of logging my food and exercise all the time, no matter what. This is an eye-opening lesson I have learned from the last several weeks, and one I need to embrace.

The second lesson of failure I need to embrace is that I MUST measure every single food item I eat, no matter whether I want to or not. Measuring my food out makes me accountable and opens my eyes to how much I’m eating, all the time.

The final lesson of failure I’m taking away from this experience is this – failure is not final. It’s not the end, nor is it the worst thing I could have done in the last seven weeks. Failure is just another opportunity to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try a different approach. That is perhaps the most important lesson of all for me. Even though I strayed for so many weeks, even though I sort of lost sight of my goals, and even though I don’t really have the enthusiasm to get back on the wagon, I’m going to do it anyway. Because as much as I don’t want to go back to being so regimented (it is totally outside of my nature to be regimented in any way), I know it’s the only way I’m going to be ultimately successful in the battle of the bulge.

So, where do I go from here? Well, a good start is to go back to myfitnesspal.com and start logging all of my food, good choices and bad, again. I’m not going to necessarily focus on what I’m eating nearly so much as just getting it written down every day. Then, when I have established that habit again, I will start to make better choices in what I eat. And then, I will start to exercise more frequently.

A word about the exercise thing – I’ve been really run down the last week, in large part because my body is fighting off an infection, and I just haven’t felt like doing much of anything. But hopefully, the antibiotics will take care of it and by the beginning of next week I should be back at full strength. Once I get back to that point, I will be in the gym, working out and weight lifting. I have a very weak left arm due to some surgery a few years ago and I need to strengthen it considerably. But my goal is to get back to lifting fairly heavy weights to burn fat and start sculpting muscle definition again. I know from past experience that when I work out, I just feel better. I will get back to that point, but it’s going to take some work to get there.

Celebrating success is important – I believe folks should definitely do that. But why not celebrate failures too? Because really, if you learn from those failures, you know what not to do next time, and isn’t that just as important as being successful?

My formula for living is quite simple …

I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.  – Cary Grant

Staying occupied really isn’t a problem for me of late. Last weekend, for example, Chris and I went to the farmer’s market and purchased a big box of tomatoes, which I spent Sunday turning into tomato sauce. I’ve made homemade tomato sauce before, cooking down tomatoes to turn them into spaghetti sauce, but I’ve never made a big batch to be canned before now. I will admit that I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. From about 12 pounds or so of tomatoes, I canned nine pints of sauce. I can’t wait to try it out in recipes. I think my mom was surprised that I didn’t season the tomatoes at all – no salt, no spices … just tomatoes and a bit of lemon, to raise the acidity of the jar contents. I used a couple of jars during the week to make spaghetti, which got great reviews from my family, and a jar was used yesterday in some ranch beans that turned out fabulous. I am happy!

I had plans to sew last weekend, but because of the tomatoes, I didn’t get around to it. This weekend, I managed to get a pair of shorts made for myself. They are denim, and I’m quite happy with them, except that they seem to be a little looser than I expected. I made a muslin prototype, but the actual shorts are bigger than I expected, but I’ll do a post on that later. My plan this week is to spend some time at the sewing machine making myself some t-shirts and a top. I’m not worried about the fit of the top, because it’s very blouse-y and not even close to fitted, and the measurements actually work with my body measurements, and the same holds true for the t-shirt pattern I’m using. Once I have these clothes together, I may make another couple pairs of shorts, because as I mentioned before, I can certainly use some summer clothing.

Our new furniture was delivered a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. One of the things I haven’t done yet is to put up drapes in the house, because for one thing, drapes can be quite expensive, and for another, I’ve had some trouble finding something I truly like. So I got this idea to go looking for fabric to make my own drapes, at Joann’s. I was browsing through their home decor fabric, congratulating myself on such a good idea because I found several pieces I really loved. Then I looked at prices and wanted to cry. Most of the fabric I loved was more than $60/yard. Considering I need about 20 yards of fabric to cover four windows, it was clear that this wasn’t going to work. It also gave me a greater appreciation for the cost of draperies at places like JC Penney and other big box type stores. Even with a 50% off sale, the drapery fabric would be in excess of $600 … so now I’m considering other options again. Ugh!

All in all, I feel like I have spent a lot more time in my studio over the last couple of weeks than I have in the previous five years combined. It’s probably not true, but I definitely have the sewing bug. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much, I am going to dig through my fashion fabric stash in the closet and see what I can find in there to put together!

Happy sewing,

Jill