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Archive for January, 2010

On the Ball (Or Not…)

January 31, 2010 3 comments

Well tonight it finally happened.  I fell off the ball with exercise.  Literally.

But first, I should ‘fess up that I haven’t totally been on the ball as far as exercise is concerned for the past week, in more ways than one.  Last Sunday, I intended to do strength training, followed by cardio, a combination that I’ve come to enjoy.  Instead of working out 6-7 days a week, I double up cardio and strength days, knock it out at once, and the cardio ends up being much easier, without the lead calves that seem to plague me for the first 10 minutes on the treadmill when I start cold.  So last Sunday, I finished my strength training and jumped on the treadmill, only to feel like I was either going to throw up or pass out once I got started – neither of which seemed like a good idea, as I envisioned myself flying off the back of the treadmill and crashing through the second story window behind me.  I went for 4 minutes, and I realized this feeling wasn’t going away.

Not wanting to be discovered unconscious in the bushes under said second floor window, with a helluva strawberry from the treadmill belt, I stopped and rested for a few minutes, but I still wasn’t feeling great.  I had a snack, thinking my blood sugars might be a little whacky, and it did help some.  But I ended up not doing cardio that day, and then I got super busy at work last week, coming home exhausted and not having the energy to work out (or so I convinced myself).  So I ended up only getting in two days of cardio in the past week, instead of my prescribed four, though I did get two days of strength training in, which is good.  So – no biggie – “bygones,” as they used to say on Ally McBeal.  Next week I’ll get back on track.

Which brings me to earlier this evening…  I was doing my strength training routine, and I got to an exercise called the Superman.  So far as I can tell, the name for this exercise has less to do with being strong enough to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and more to do with looking like a bit of a jackass in exercise clothes stretched out like you think you can fly.  Well I can’t.

To do the Superman, you lie face down on a balance ball, and you put your feet against the baseboard of a wall.  Then you stretch your arms straight out in front of you, holding on to a dumbbell, and you  lift your torso up in the air and off the ball.  I’d increased my weights tonight, and I had just finished a set of 110 crunches (an increase for me), so my body was adjusting anyway as I began to do the first couple of reps of the Superman.  To further throw me off, I had the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys duet version of Empire State of Mind playing, and I was really starting to get into singing along – distracting my attention from being the best Superman I could be.

Then it happened – I started to wobble a little to the left on the balance ball.  I remember letting a little “whoa!” escape my lips as I lurched to the right to try and stay on the damn ball, followed by a jerk to the left, another yell, and THUD.  Superman lying face down in the floor.  This is why I exercise at home and not in a gym.  Worse things could happen, though.  The ball could have burst, like I feared in my first session with my trainer.  At least I fell off of it and not through it!   But it seemed like a fitting end to a week where my exercise was a little unsteady.  Once I stopped laughing, I picked myself up and assumed the Superman position again, I quit trying to rap like Jay-Z, and I finished my routine.

Next week I’m back on the ball with exercise.  Seriously.

Defying Logic

January 30, 2010 5 comments

This morning was my weekly weigh-in, and I was a little hesitant to jump on the scales.  This week kept me busy at work (and this week unfortunately includes this weekend as I’m still working on a project at home today with a Monday deadline), and my schedule was thrown off for a few days.  Instead of brown-baggin’ it like I usually do, I ended up having lunch in the little cafe, and I use that term loosely, in my building.  The pre-packaged sandwiches there are somewhat akin to gas station fare or the ones you find in those little carousel automat machines in hospital corridors and basements of college libraries, but they got me through the day.  And then I got home too late and exhausted to jump on the treadmill on one of the days I was scheduled for it this week.  Finally, to top off a week that felt totally out of balance for me, I had dinner with a friend at a wine bar last night and had a glass of red wine called Layer Cake Primitivo.  Get out.  When the server brought us a splash of this featured wine and told us it was called layer cake, I couldn’t resist – it subbed for my dessert and made me feel like I was cheating.

Which brings me back to the scales this morning…  I was not looking forward to it.  But lo and behold, I got on, fully prepared to begin my old ritual of nose-blowing and hanging off toes to shave off a half pound.  And then I looked down – 4.5 pounds lost this week!  Say what?  I rubbed my eyes, convinced that glass of Layer Cake was more potent than I though, but there it was – 4.5 pounds down, for a total of 37.5 pounds lost now.  I stepped off and on the scale three more times just to verify, and there it was, in all its digitally displayed beauty – a great loss for the week.  I looked back over my food records, and I hadn’t done as badly as I thought.  Handling a busy week at work and still losing weight defies logic in my old fat guy mind – more evidence that I really am reconstructing thirty.

A Foodie Wannabe

January 28, 2010 6 comments

I have one simple over-arching  rule about food – I don’t eat anything that tastes like it should be exiting instead of entering.  Sorry if that sounds crude, but my experience tonight reinforced this little maxim.  I stopped by a fantastic little gourmet market near home to pick up something for dinner from their pre-prepared counter.  Classical music was playing, their raspberries were golden instead of red, and their jars of marinara cost at least seven dollars and are purportedly made by cute little 97-year-old great-grandmothers who run small canning businesses out of their kitchens, but I bet have mafia ties.  I’m not knockin’ it, the place really does have great stuff that sucks me in everytime and is usually dynamite.

But just when I start to fluff my ascot and feel like I might actually fit in – enter skyr.  Skyr, you say?  I hadn’t heard of the stuff before tonight either, and frankly, I’ll be glad if I never meet it in a darkened alley again.  I had picked up a filet of grilled salmon, some lemon orzo, and dill marinated cucumbers – a nice, simple, healthy meal – and I was looking for a little something sweet to go with it.  I counter-intuitively steered myself away from the bakery section, and I came across the yogurt.  I was looking for a nice, light yogurt, and feeling gastronomically adventurous, I was drawn to a simple looking container of orange and ginger flavored skyr, which the label described as Icelandic style strained non-fat yogurt.  You could almost picture the dairy farmer coming in from the pastoral fields with his beloved cows, milking them by hand while sitting on an old-fashioned wooden stool, and then making the yogurt in an immaculately clean chilled white tile room.  And orange and ginger?  So different from your typical blueberry or strawberry yogurt.  I really wanted to love this stuff.

When I began reconstructing thirty, my nutritionist recommended that I give Greek yogurt a try, as it had more protein and would be more filling than regular yogurt.  I gave it a try.  It sucked.  Hard.  I’m not a big dairy fan, anyway, and I was in my late twenties before I could even eat the really sweet mass-market yogurts.  I always thought it tasted like liquid bad breath, and this Greek stuff tasted like straight up gastric acid.   The nutritionist told me if I didn’t like it, using the regular light yogurt was fine, with a spoonful of the Greek stuff stirred in for extra protein, and that actually was pretty good.  I have to admit, though, yogurt just isn’t one of those things I really like, so it’s gradually been replaced by other snacks for me, but tonight it sounded good – complementing the salmon and cucumbers as a really nice dessert.

When I saw that skyr is strained, I did wonder if it would have the same alarming pungency as that strained, thick Greek stuff I had tried just a few months before, but I was bowled over by the fancy package and the unique flavor of orange and ginger (I love citrus desserts), and I gave it a shot.  How cool would it be if it were really awesome, and I could all non-chalantly recommend that my friends and co-workers try this incredible thing called skyr?  That’s the foodie wannabe in me coming out.  But as I popped the top on the container, the “fragrance” escaped.  The dog, usually fascinated by anything on the kitchen counter, got a whiff of the stuff that led to an explosive canine sneeze, and then she quickly lost interest and retreated to her chair.  I think regular yogurt smells bad, too, so I wasn’t totally deterred; thinking the flavor of skyr may still be okay.  I took a small spoonful, and that’s when the excrement hit the oscillator (I can’t take credit for that – a colleague said it in a meeting the other day, and I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use it in my writing since).  This stuff had the consistency of tofu and a flavor that made the Greek yogurt I’d tried taste like Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.  My eyes began to water, my cheeks turned inside out, and I raced to the trash can,wondering if there were any mouthwash, chewing gum, or straight-up vodka close by.  My visions of making a foodie discovery worthy of being shared were dashed, and it took a full 39 minutes on the treadmill and watching the whole State of the Union address before the taste finally left my mouth.  Then I had a different dessert – a light ice cream sandwich.  Serves me right – foodie wannabe.

The Red Light District

January 26, 2010 3 comments

There it was, in bright red neon as I rounded the curve – “HOT NOW.”  I could almost hear the electrified crackle of that sign beckoning as I sat in my car a block away.  There are a variety of vices that proudly parade themselves up and down Ponce, a main thoroughfare through a part of Midtown Atlanta that would now be called up and coming (when I was in college, it was actually kind of smarmy), but none is as widespread as the addiction so many of us have to those pillowy mouthfuls of pleasure known as Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  And as Krispy Kreme goes, the location on Ponce is the mothership.  It’s a meeting place for people of all races, ages, classes, and creeds, as they suck down those addictive little pastries that serve as a common culinary bond – which are almost irresistible when illuminated by that iconic red neon sign.

So there I sat, on my way home from work, finding myself seriously considering an illicit visit to this Atlanta institution.  Part of making true lifestyle changes as opposed to dieting for me is allowing myself to have things I really like, in moderation, and not cutting anything out of my diet completely.  But tonight, hungry, cold, tired, and not having had dinner yet, I knew after eating the one scrumptious doughnut I could have safely allowed myself, I would have been tempted to bring my nutritious day of food down in a blaze of glazed glory!

On “Skinny” drove.  Next time, baby.  Next time.

In It to Win It!

January 25, 2010 9 comments

I may have mentioned before that exercise is a lot more difficult for me than maintaining proper nutrition. I got my nutrition in line almost three months ago; the exercise is only going on one month. But I’ve been thinking lately that something must be wrong with me. You see, I’m beginning to…well…like it! “It” being exercise; crazy talk, I know. I must have pulled something in my brain during my last strength training routine, because this can’t be a sane individual talking.

I guess it’s not so much the exercise I like as the feeling I get that lasts from about 10-12 minutes after I start until long after I’m finished. It’s total energy, optimism, accomplishment, and confidence. And that’s pretty good motivation to get my formerly lazy hide on the treadmill or doing a strength training routine – that and the fact that the co-worker who complimented my weight loss on Friday has now taken to nicknaming me “Skinny,” which I assure you I am far from being. (The smile this has put on my face, though, may even make me break my two year old policy of not giving Christmas gifts to co-workers when the holidays roll around this year).

But…in what must have been an act induced by endorphin drunkenness, I e-mailed my trainer last week (who really is great – you can reach her website under “Resources” on the right hand side of the page – FITT Solutions – here in the Atlanta area) to do something I never thought I would do – I told her that my strength training routine had some exercises that were getting too easy for me. She e-mailed back and told me to increase the weight on a few of them – that sounded cool. But then she also told me to work my crunches up to 250-300 per session! Come again? Her fingers must have gotten a little slap happy on the keyboard and added unintended zeroes on the end of those numbers, I thought. Sheesh!

And then, in a split second, I decided that I was in this to win it, and I was going to do whatever she said, grin and bear it, and only complain if something physically hurt me. She is an expert, after all, and a really nice person to boot, so I just had to trust her on this one. I e-mailed back a simple, “Thanks!” proud of myself for my new-found resolve and commitment. (Though she also reads this blog on occasion, so I guess in some sense, the jig is up for yours truly looking like a happy camper on that one.) I’ve advanced from 40 crunches per session to 160 per session in the past week, and I’m damn bent determined to make it up to 300 before my next session with her in a couple of weeks – nothing like a good challenge to get “Skinny” motivated!

Body and Mind – Together Again

January 24, 2010 3 comments

When we’re kids, we’re very in tune with what our bodies are telling us.  Time to eat, time to stop eating, don’t do that because it hurts, don’t put that in your mouth because it tastes bad, etc.  Over time, though, at least for those of us who struggle with weight, it’s like the lines of communication between body and mind are cut.  We eat when we’re hungry and when we’re not, we eat until we’re full and then keep going, and we forget that underneath the layer of adipose tissue that separates us from the outside world there are actual muscles chomping at the bit to do something!  We know in our minds (and our bodies told us at some point, too) that we need exercise and that food is fuel, but somehow we’ve learned to ignore those signals over time.

It’s kind of like drinking coffee or beer, or eating raw oysters or blue cheese (the latter of which I still can do only in extreme moderation) – these are acquired tastes for most people.  You have to ignore the signals your body initially sends you in order to learn to like these things.  Obesity is, in some sense at least, an acquired taste, as well.  I don’t mean that any of us set out to become or remain obese, or like it when we get there, but we do often begin to ignore those basic signals like hunger, fullness, and needing to be active, that our bodies are sending us.

I think at some point, your body is so far from what you feel it should be, that it doesn’t even feel like a part of you anymore, and you just get out of touch with it.  It’s almost like your body and mind subconsciously have it out and quit talking to one another – maybe kind of like this:

Body:  Yo! Mind!  No more room in the stomach down here – if you could put the brakes on the Oreo’s, that’d be great!

Mind:  Did I hear something?  Oh was that you, BODY?  The one who’s totally out of shape and doesn’t look a thing like we should anymore?

Body:  Um…yeah!  But that out of shape thing is your fault!  I’ve been telling your stubborn butt for YEARS that we were full and needed to go for a walk.  But do you listen to anything?  Noooo!

Mind:  I’m done with you!!!  We’re not speaking – ANYMORE!

Body:  Puh-leeze…

Thankfully, the body never really shuts up, and at some point in the past year or so, I began to realize that I was totally ignoring many signals (or more accurately, alarms and warning buzzers) my body had been sounding for a while.  I had a cough that wouldn’t go away, frequent backaches, and even gallstones that led to surgery last year.  In an odd way, I have these bad things to thank for helping me pay attention to my body again.  So began the wheels turning of my deciding to take my health back into my own hands, and it’s amazing how quickly your body and mind can become fast friends again.

When I started eating properly, I realized that feeling true hunger had become a rarity for me, and when I had felt hungry in the past few years, I’d often ignored it if I were busy with other things, leading to binges later in the day.  When I started exercising, I became aware once again of the body that’s underneath the fat – the muscles that need to be worked and the fit guy at my core that’s waiting to be set free.  Once you begin to realize that you really are connecting with your body again, it makes continuing with your weight loss journey that much easier.  Reconciliation is a good thing!

Body:  Gee, it’s good to have you back – wanna go for an ice cream?

Mind:  Not on your life…

Measuring Success

January 23, 2010 9 comments

This morning was my weekly weigh-in, and I was happy with a two-pound loss, bringing my total loss to 33 pounds!  But, if I’m being completely honest, I kind of thought that I’d bring in an even bigger loss this week.  I stuck to my food plan perfectly, and my exercise was spot on.  I really was hoping for a four or five pound loss.  So when I got on the scales this morning, and I saw my healthy, but a little less than I was expecting, two pound loss, I decided to walk around for a few minutes, visit the restroom again, blow my nose (every little bit helps – right?) and get on the scale again.  Two pounds.  Maybe my muscles needed to warm up a little more, I thought – so a little more milling around the house, then back on the scales.  I made sure my feet were in the same place I usually put them.  Yep – still two pounds.  I resisted the urge to exhale deeply and hang my toes off the edge of the scale (well – maybe I did hang them off the edge just a little).  Went up a pound!  I can take a hint – get off the scales, and accept the two pound loss.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m very happy with any loss.  I just had in my mind that this week’s might be a little bigger.  Anyone know that feeling?

Yesterday gave me a couple of other ways to measure my success that were great, though.  First, I was sitting in my office when a co-worker walked in to say hello, followed by, “You’re losing weight, aren’t you?”  This was someone I don’t see that often and don’t really know that well, but she said she’d noticed a difference when I got on the elevator with her the day before.  And when you’re busting your butt trying to lose weight, nothing feels better than someone with no ulterior motives whatsoever who has no idea about what you’re doing telling you they can tell a difference.  Score!

Riding the high of my compliment, and having had to hike my slacks, that are quickly beginning to look like blousy clown pants, up throughout the day yesterday, I stopped on the way home to do some clothes shopping.  I didn’t want to blow half a paycheck or buy a whole new wardrobe at this point, but I thought I’d just try on a few pairs of jeans.  This was smart, if I do say so myself.  Incredible to try on jeans in the size you’ve been wanting to get back into, and realize, not only are you back into them with no gyrations and gymnastics that make criss-cross abs and my machinations on the scale this morning look like child’s play, but they’re – get this – too big!!!  So I had to go a size smaller, and I even threw in a shirt that was a size smaller than I was in two months ago – which fit perfectly!  If you know me, you know I hate clothes shopping.  Probably because it’s always hard to find things that fit properly and look good – but this was a good confidence booster, and reinforcement after some hard work.

So now I feel like I’m measuring my success in a few ways, not just by the numbers on the scale, and that’s a good feeling.  It’s the way I look, the way I feel, how my clothes fit, how I’m progressing with exercise, and the pounds I’ve lost that are all giving me positive reinforcement now.  Today, maybe I’ll replace those blousy dress-slacks…  I put my cell phone in my pocket yesterday and literally thought for a minute that its weight could bring those loose pants down!  Now that would make for a dynamite story that I do NOT want to tell!