On the subject of health and diet …

So I haven’t mentioned health and diet in the last few weeks because frankly, I haven’t really cared. I was taking some medication that kept me from losing weight, and all that did was discourage me. I was working myself into the ground, tracking food and exercising, and seeing no results. I stopped obsessing about it, and fortunately for me, I didn’t gain any real weight (I’ve fluctuated four pounds up and down but no permanent gain). Now I need to get serious again. Ugh.

The plan is simple … I don’t want to get to the same level of obsession because it was driving me nuts, so I’m going to, on Sunday every week, portion out lunch and breakfast, and have it ready to eat whether I’m at home or at the office. Dinner I am just going to manage portion sizes. Cut back on sweets and such between meals, and try to get in some form of exercise at least three times a week; four is better.

My only concern is the exercise bit. I really need to exercise to lose weight but my knee has been giving me hell lately, so strenuous work outs aren’t going to happen any time soon. In fact, even walking can be quite painful, so I might need to turn to the pool and the bike to get me through this period. My knee has given me trouble off and on for the last 25-ish years, so I’m sure I can work through it, but I don’t want to exacerbate whatever’s wrong with it, so I need to be cognizant of my limitations. This also means that many leg exercises might need to be modified or otherwise abandoned for the time being. I don’t think the problem is serious, though, and that with time, there should be less trouble with it.

My main reason for posting this is so that I once again I am publicly accountable for this aspect of my life. If I think people might have an interest, or if someone may ask about it, I feel like maybe I’ll stick to the plan more and post about it. It may become a regular Monday feature; we’ll see.

The one sure thing is this – if I’m not at least somewhat focused on losing weight, I won’t ever do it. I am encouraged that I was able to maintain within four pounds the weight I hit back in April before I started having trouble. If I can maintain like that once I lose the weight for good, I should be fine. And plateaus, starts and stops, are all inevitable when trying to lose weight – I mean, the holidays aren’t THAT far away, and I know that I will indulge then. If I can at least maintain my weight during those times, I will be happy.

If I lost weight at the same rate I lose my cell phone …

I would be SUPER skinny by now!

I haven’t written for nearly  a month primarily because I haven’t really had much to say. I still have a few days left in May, but I don’t really expect to hit my original goal of losing five pounds this month. The reason is, I let an appointment for a medical physical get in the way of my weight loss. That is to say, I have been reminded that medical professionals do not receive any nutritional training during their tenure in school! I’ve only seen a one pound loss so far this month, and while it is possible to lose four pounds by the 31st, I’d say it’s not very likely.

Nor do I know that I’ve lost much in the way of inches. However, I can tell you that I haven’t given up on my quest to lose weight, and I’m working on a training plan for the next three months. I’ve been to the gym at least twice a week, with several days of at least 5,000 steps interspersed. It occurred to me this week that while I try to get to the gym three times a week, it’s not always possible for me to do so. It’s inevitable that once a week, I will have an appointment, or something else that comes up, on a scheduled gym day. Toward that end, I’ve started looking for alternative training sessions I can do at home without a huge capital investment.

While I completely agree that strength training is very important for weight loss, body composition and peace of mind, I am of the opinion that more than three times a week is probably too much, at least for me. I am a big believer in recovery days, but that doesn’t always mean a complete rest day. In fact, my research pretty much agrees with this – strength training for the “average” person doesn’t need to exceed three times a week. Two or three days a week, cardio is a nice alternative. Toward that end, I’m considering the following training schedule.

Monday – Strength training: squats, dumbbell lunges, standing heel raises, abs (a combination of obliques & crunches)

Tuesday – Cardio: zumba

Wednesday – Strength training: Barbell incline presses, one-arm dumbbell rows, seated dumbbell presses, alternate dumbbell curls, lying triceps presses

Thursday – Cardio: yoga

Friday – Strength training: squats, dumbbell lunges, seated calf raises, abs (reverse crunches & decline crunches)

Saturday – Optional Cardio: zumba

Sunday – Rest day

The following Monday will be an upperbody strength day – the training schedule will just roll on.

I know that there are a lot of people who believe cardio is dead, but I’m not one of them. I still think you need to get at least some cardio in a few times a week to increase endurance, build lung function and train the heart. Call me crazy, but I’m not giving it up – I’m no fan of cardio, but I do believe there are definite benefits to it. And when the zombie apocalypse happens, I won’t be food for them because I will have the endurance to get out of their way. We’ll see how well those who only strength train do when they figure out they can only hurl so many things at a zombie! 😉

Saturday is an optional rest day. If I don’t make it to the gym one day during the week, or if I’m just inclined to train, I will. If I don’t feel like it, or I’m too busy, I won’t.

My goal with this training schedule is to increase my overall strength, lose weight, and increase my cardiovascular capabilities – I want to be able to walk all five flights of stairs at the office without being too winded to talk at the top. As crazy as it may sound, for my cardio, I’m employing the Nintendo Wii, which has several “games” for training. I like feedback, and the video game platform gives me that. If there’s something I want to do down the line that isn’t offered on Wii, no worries – I also have a PS3 and an XBox 360 at my disposal. I’m just using the Wii because it’s currently not utilized by anyone in the house. 🙂 And I figure it might be fun to learn Zumba.

The other thing I really need to do is drink more water. I’m mostly concerned in this instance about being sure I’m ridding myself of the occasional transgression with sodium – last night I had pizza with my family, and this morning I can tell a definite difference in my body due to water retention. I’m sure I’m up a couple of pounds today but I know it’s just water, because even though I had pizza yesterday, it was well within my calorie allowance for the day. That’s another thing – I’m eating about 2,000 calories a day on this program. I believe that a big part of the reason why I didn’t lose much weight during May was because the PA that did my physical had me restricting so much to lose weight, I was below my BMR. Some folks can lose when they’re below BMR – I’m not one of them. My plan is to eat a net of no less than 1860 calories, which means that some days I could be eating at much as 2200 gross calories (my average training session burns about 300 calories).

I am going to give this a roll for three months and see how it goes. I know I need to lose weight, and as long as I’m creating a calorie deficit, I should do exactly that. Between the training schedule and my reduced calorie intake, I should see about a one pound per week loss. That will be 12 pounds in three months, and I’m good with that – it’s safe, attainable and sustainable. If I see a smaller loss, I will analyze my program based on other metrics – like inches lost, or strength gained. What I’m primarily looking for here is progress, in one form or another. Whatever happens, you won’t find me giving up.

I’m in this for the long haul.

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??

Will Climb Stairs for Cardio

I have two basic challenges when it comes to losing weight – drinking enough water, and getting exercise in. It isn’t so much that I can’t get my hands on water, I just usually don’t drink enough of it. And when it comes to exercise, these days I can’t claim I don’t have time to do it – it’s more a logistical challenge than anything. Water I can conquer, but exercise …

For Christmas, my lovely husband gave me a Fitbit One. I had asked for it, and he gave it to me, but I think he expected it to be largely unused. I am happy to say that I have used it every single day, though twice I’ve forgotten to put it back on after taking a shower (both times, I went without it for a couple of hours before I noticed it missing), and once the battery died on me so I had to take it off mid-day to charge it for an hour. Other than that, I’ve worn it all over the house, all over town, to work and even at night (it tracks sleep as well as activity). I decided when I got it that I wanted to see just how active I am in a typical day, so I didn’t try to do anything “extra” from Christmas until now. that gave me a little more than two weeks in which I could identify activity patterns, and let me tell you … it’s an eye-opener.

A lot of people here believe that many people who set their activity levels to sedentary are probably underestimating how much movement they get in a typical day. I’m not one of those people – not one who thinks people underestimate their activity, nor one who actually does that. Much to the contrary, the Fitbit has shown me that I AM sedentary – which isn’t a surprise to me. I have a very stressful job as a desk jockey, and it often doesn’t allow for me to take long periods of time away to be more active. During an average weekday, I spend 19 hours being sedentary. NINETEEN HOURS. That is a LOT of time to sit on one’s ass. The rest of the day, I’m either “fairly active” or “lightly active”. Rare is the day I hit the “very active” level. And while the weekends are more active for me, where I spend an average of 7 hours as lightly or fairly active, that still means I’m spending 9 hours as sedentary. Now the reason for that is that many of my hobbies – quilting, sewing, reading, and processing photos in a digital darkroom – are also done while sitting down. But I have realized this is neither good for me, or helpful to my weight loss efforts, so I have decided to “step up” my activity levels.

But how? I don’t have a gym membership and while I could probably afford one, I don’t really want to join right now – new year joiners and all that. The weather is terrible – thunderstorms and such the last couple of days, so walking outside is out. So today, I woke up and decided that I wanted to go for the next step badge the Fitbit offers – 25 floors. I don’t always work in my office, some days I work at home. But today, I am in the office, and I decided that once an hour I would get up and go downstairs and walk back up at least three flights (there are five in this part of the building) then come back to my desk. This will give me a chance to get away from my desk at least once an hour, I will get in my cardio, and it makes sure I move fairly often.

I have 2 hours and 45 minutes left in my work day and I am currently at 16 floors done. I am totally psyched about this, because I thought I would crap out about halfway through the day, honestly. But I didn’t – I’ve kept going. I missed the 9 am hour, but walked twice in the 10 am hour, about 30 minutes apart. And when I went downstairs to grab a bottle of water, I came back up and did all five floors. For me, that’s a pretty big deal. I have knee problems, but it makes going down much worse than coming back up, and I have decided I won’t let that hold me back. I’ve got three more hours in which to walk up the stairs at work, and I’m hoping that gets me to 25, but if it doesn’t, I live in a two story house, so I can get the rest of them at home. I can do this, and I realized that I can do it daily.

Is my solution perfect? Probably not. But it’s working for me right now, and I can always add more stairs. I plan to add weights as well, because I love working out with weights (I’m not a newbie to exercise, just very out of practice), but today’s workout is cardio, and I’m pretty happy with it. 🙂