March 19, 2011


Quite a few people commented on my post the other day asking about my workout - I had mentioned burning 1050 calories on the elliptical. So for today, I'm going to talk a little about my usual workout routines.

As I've mentioned several times before, I generally lead a solitary life. I am single, I live alone, and my friends and family are all either hundreds of miles away or full-time students. I work full-time also but there's still a lot of free time every day to fill. In the past, this meant cooking and eating big, rich meals and snacks and then watching movies or playing "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" until callouses formed on my thumbs and my stomach ached from fullness. But now, I usually spend my weeknight evenings at the gym. I'm usually there for about two hours, which includes time in the locker room and my warm up and cool down walks on the track above the basketball courts. sweaty and feeling fabulousIf I run, that usually takes 30-40 minutes, then I will bike for 30-40 minutes, then I just leisurely stroll around the track until I feel like leaving (usually when my water bottle is empty).

On the days when I don't run, I do my track walking but I also do a few turns on the elliptical trainer. I don't always do the full 1000 - sometimes I stop at 750 or 800, whatever I feel like doing for the day. If I don't feel like going all out, I don't - I don't want exercise to feel like a chore. If I am doing 1000: the first time, I alternate between a resistance level of 12 (with no incline) and 14 (with a medium incline). I stop at 450 calories - about 30 minutes - and drink some water. Then I start back up and alternate between 10 and 12 with the same pattern of inclines - about another half an hour. I stop at 350 or 400 calories and drink some more. Finally, I alternate between 8 and 10 for the last 150 to 200 calories to make for an even 1000 burned. The whole thing takes about 75 minutes but I don't get bored - I load up my iPod with great playlists and I zone out a little. Sometimes I wish I could bring a book to read but I don't wear my glasses when I work out, so that wouldn't work. Nevertheless, it's a nice little reprieve from the demands of my day.

Sometimes I mix it up and add a few minutes of weight training - or I ditch the gym altogether and play Wii Fit. My parents got me a Wii and the Fit Plus package for Christmas 2009 man i miss thisand I was so horribly depressed that I weighed too much to use it, so finally being able to play it was one of my first weight loss goals. I really love it because it helped me to understand exercise better - and it made me more aware of my posture and center of balance. The only thing I don't like about the Wii is something that I suppose is a backwards thing to be frustrated by, but because I've lost so much weight, it's not a really intense workout anymore. I used to burn about 600 calories an hour on it (I would do about 90 minutes a day) - now it's 300 at best. I guess it also depends on what activities you do, and since I forgot my nunchuck at my parents' house in Connecticut and they keep forgetting to send it to me, I can't do a lot of my favorite "calorie roaster" activities like Kung Fu, Rhythm Boxing, or the Rhythm Parade. I totally love skateboarding, so that's what I tend to do the most of these days.

On the weekends, my routine varies a lot. Sundays are my long runs, and while I used to follow them up with a few miles on bike, since my runs have gotten longer, I don't want to overdo it, so I just walk around the track afterwards. I do the elliptical on Saturdays but I don't always do a full 1000 because I spend most of the day running around Chicago, either on errands or just exploring. Something I love about Saturdays is that even my chores are a workout: it's a little under a mile each way to walk to the grocery store, and whatever I buy I have to carry home with me. So, cardio *and* weights! I don't usually do a big shop (about once a month I stock up on staples and "big" stuff) so it's not terribly heavy, just fresh fruits and veggies and any incidentals I might need.

March 18, 2011

Roses and thorns

Last week I had some great workouts that I pretty much wasted by overindulging on treats - I ended up with only a single pound loss. So last Friday, I declared this week to be No Treats Week, and I stood by it. It wasn't terribly hard avoiding them - if I don't have junk in the house, I'm no longer likely to go out and get some. That's a pretty big NSV for me!my st paddy's day green I kept the house stocked with fresh fruit and veggies to snack on and I resisted the candy in the office. I kept my calorie intake in check and logged some terrific workouts.

And the result? This week, I'm down 3 pounds to 225! Woo hoo! Especially after last week's loss, I'm feeling good. This makes a total of 120 pounds lost.

This loss means I met another goal (225) - next stop, onederland! I can't believe this is close enough to touch. It's so exciting! And speaking of touch: another NSV for the week, but a strange one. The bones in my hands are becoming more visible. It was too hard to take a picture of, but there they are ... a little strange, to be honest, but interesting!

I'm hoping to keep up this momentum as I enjoy my break and get ready for my little vacation. I won't be using the gym the one night I stay in the hotel, but I plan on getting my fair share of exercise the two days that I will be walking around seeing the sights - paired with not going overboard with eating, it should be good. I will get back to Chicago late Thursday night and I need to be mindful of my weigh-in the next morning!

March 17, 2011

Sick again

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and there is no corned beef on the horizon for me. I *am* wearing lots of green, though, because getting pinched would just make a lousy day worse. Emotionally I'm still incredibly happy and optimistic, but less than three weeks after my last cold, I'm back to being sick.

I have always bragged about how infrequently I catch colds, and now I find myself yet again with a horrible, wet, hacking cough. It's really awful - and teaching is the worst, I have had to bring my water bottle to class in order to stay hydrated enough to not hack myself to death while teaching. I went to the gym last night and cranked out 1050 calories on the elliptical with only minor coughing, but once I left it got much worse - and it was actually quite warm out, so I can't blame it on the cold weather. I ran a couple quick errands, then came home and snuggled up on the couch with my two sickness staples:

i prefer honey herb but they were out

season two = the best
I have absolutely no shame.

Seriously, though ... I used to get sick once a year at most! Perhaps my newfound lack of immunity to disease is from working with the public - a few of my students are sick now, too. Or from spending so much time at the gym - it's easy not to get sick when you don't go out and do things with other possibly sick people. I'd like to think this is not another thin person thing that I will have to get used to, because I'd be okay with crying over every new pair of jeans for the rest of my life as long as I don't have to cough myself to death so often!

Tonight I'm skipping the gym in favor of soup for dinner and early bedtime - as long as I feel better, I'll make it up tomorrow. I have to take care of myself and get well so I can fully enjoy my Spring Break! I'm looking forward to spring cleaning, and I'm hoping that the weather isn't as dreary as the forecast looks right now, because I'd love to go down to the lake for my first outdoor run in Chicago!

March 16, 2011

Having fun

It was still sunny outside when I left the gym at 6:30 last night, which was really nice.

I booked my train and my hotel for my trip to St. Louis next Wednesday and Thursday - it was really kind of exhilarating to click the "purchase" button and take a giant adventurous leap! This weekend, I'll revise my itinerary from last summer to make sure the hours and prices of things are still good. The weather is supposed to be incredible - high 50s, low 60s and sunny! - and I'm just so incredibly excited.

Somewhat surprisingly, I don't really have too much else to say today. Work is very busy on account of trying to get things wrapped up before Spring Break, so I've been doing an awful lot of grading. My workouts have been great and I've been eating well, so I'm feeling really great and hoping for a good loss this Friday!

Here's a video that I totally love - it always makes me feel better and helps me kickstart myself when I find myself in a rut. I have the rules written out in French over my desk so I always keep them in mind!

March 15, 2011


Yesterday was really, really wonderful. I went to the Field Museum for Free Day and marveled at the fact that the last time I went, I couldn't get through the whole thing without stopping to rest. This time I saw nearly everything, then I decided I didn't want to stand still waiting fifteen minutes for the bus, so I went for a two mile walk along the lake, through Millennium Park, and then downtown to catch a bus to get ahead on some work for this week.

I think that with all my race training, I may have forgotten how much I truly enjoy simply walking. I love exploring and adventuring, and I'm so lucky to live in a world city where there are always new things to see and discover.

lac mich - not salty, but i still love it
It was chilly along the lakefront, and the wind didn't help. But it was sunny, and that made it great. I munched on a banana and a 100 calorie pack of cocoa roast almonds and loved everything about who I am, where I am, and what I am doing with my life right now.

Part of growing up is realizing that there are a lot of things in life that we can't control. Stemming from that, two other major lessons are learning how to work with what we can control and how to deal with what we can't.

I can't control the lousy winter weather in Chicago, but I can try my best to make my own sunshine. I can try to make the most out of every day, no matter what the forecast shows for outside.

i will never not love taking pictures in the bean
I can't control my father's failing health, but I can try my best to prevent myself from ending up the same way. I can love him and help him in every way that I can, and I can try to not feel guilty or assume responsibility for his actions and his decisions.

I can only control Mary.

I can only make my own decisions.

And walking through the park yesterday, I made up my mind about my vacation.

Last summer, I had planned an overnight trip to St. Louis, MO. I made an itinerary with excruciatingly specific details (just like I like!) before checking the weather - 95-97Âș both days. That would have been tough for anyone, but I was 345 pounds and didn't want to be tired and sweaty in a strange city. So I saved the file and forgot about the trip.

Next week, I'm going.

It isn't foreign or fancy, but it should be fun and not bank-breaking - in fact, I can stay overnight and see quite a few sights for half the cost of a flight to Connecticut, so I could even take another small trip somewhere later this summer. I have worked incredibly hard this past year - finishing up grad school, working at my first grown-up full-time job, losing 117 pounds, and keeping semi-sane with all the emotional changes and identity redefinition that's been going on with all of it. I deserve this little reward, and it'll be really nice to get away - no guilt, no anxiety, just relaxing, exploring a new city, and enjoying my incredible life.

March 14, 2011

WWW: Week Eleven

My picture for the week:

my dad was in chicago for this picture. it was tough but i loved it.
Don't adjust your screens!

Every year for St. Patrick's Day, the Chicago River gets dyed bright green. I went downtown this year to take my annual photo from the Dearborn bridge, but I must have missed it, either too early or too late. This was taken last year, though I bet this year's would have been identical - the weather was totally yucky on Saturday.

What have you done this past week to help you achieve your goals?
(2) Long run of 4.5 miles yesterday - total success. Did it in 54:00 - 12 minute miles the whole time. The race is four weeks from yesterday, and I'm feeling really good about it!
(4) My teaching was pretty good last week - my students are studying comedy, so we watched a really great French film that they all loved and had really great discussions about. I love when it all comes together for them!
(5) I sent more Postcrossing postcards! I've also started learning how to say "thank you" in the languages of the people whose postcards I receive, which is goal #96.
(6) Today I am going to the Field Museum for their Free Day. I totally forgot I went to the Art Institute the first week of the challenge, so after this, I'll only need one more museum to finish this goal.
(7) I bought some new bras, and they finished off the part of my tax money that I set aside for clothes. My chest is (unfortunately) shrinking - I knew it would happen, but I didn't want to believe it. My bras last summer were 46DDD, the ones I bought at Christmas were 44DDD, and the ones I got Friday were 42DDD. So at least there's some consistency.
(9) When I bought the bras, I tried on some fancy dresses I had no intention of buying and I took some lovely pictures of myself in the dressing room. It felt nice to dress up and look lovely, even if the dresses aren't in my budget right now.

There are two weeks left in this challenge – what goals are you making priority?
I have to get to the opera! Next week is Spring Break and I'm hoping for a good deal during that week - they're doing "Carmen" right now, and I would love to see it! Last year during Spring Break, my sister Katie and I went to see "The Marriage of Figaro," and it was unbelievably good.

Many people are on or heading into Spring Break right now, do you find it easier or harder to stay on track when your routine disappears?
I try to stay as busy as possible so I don't stray too far from my usual patterns. Winter break was tough because it was a month away from my usual routine, but this will just be a week - I can handle this!

Tell us something positive about this challenge. Could be something that happened to you, you did, you realized, etc.
My #1 goal was to achieve my 100 pound weight loss - and I'm still sort of in awe over making it. When someone asks how much weight you've lost and you can say a number over 100 ... it's an interesting feeling. It makes me flashback over the journey thus far and how much sweat and tears had to go into those first hundred pounds - and that gives me strength to help me work towards the next hundred!

The clocks sprung forward this weekend, does the time change mess you up or do you just go on like nothing happened?
My former Italian professor shared this wisdom this morning: "We lose an hour of sleep but who needs to sleep when there's so much to do and sunshine and spring and all those good things are on the way?" Love her positivity, and love sunshine. I would love both these days, in quantitĂ !

March 13, 2011

Wonton soup

There's something really wonderful about handwritten notes. I am endlessly in love with the mail. I'm a bit of a luddite, I suppose, but I'm pretty concerned that mail will become entirely paperless in my lifetime. I just completely love writing letters, notes, and postcards for people. The only thing I love more than sending mail is getting it. I've been sending lots of postcards via Postcrossing for one of my 101-in-1001 goals, so this week I received a card almost every single day! summer 2007, second best summer everrrI have received cards from all over the world: Poland, Belarus, Wisconsin (USA), England, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. It's really neat to see the different cards, the stamps, the handwriting.

A bit of a surprise with the mail this week: I also got a great letter from my best friend Jill back in Connecticut. We're serious letter writers: one summer we wrote each other constantly even though we were only about an hour away from each other, and that shoebox of memories is one of my most prized possessions. She covered a lot of topics in this letter, one of which was my weight loss.
You're a force and I'm so proud of how open and honest you are. I do hope you know that even if you never lost the weight I would have still continued to think you were beautiful and an amazing person. I don't look at you in photos and see an overweight unhappy girl. I see my best friend who makes me laugh ridiculously loud, takes beautiful photographs, speaks French! (one of the coolest things ever), is adventurous, hilarious, and completely lovely. I was thinking earlier of the sunset we saw in Paris ... behind Notre Dame and how incredible that moment was. Don't forget who you were before this because she was amazing - all 345 pounds of her!! But know that I will love you when you are 300 lbs, 200 lbs, 150 lbs, 130 lbs and whatever # you end up at you will be the most beautiful best friend I have ever had.
I haven't seen her since I was my heaviest, and I've been missing her even more than usual lately.

My dad called me yesterday and told me I should go to Connecticut for spring break. I'm not sure what to do. It would mean seeing Jill, and that would be incredible - fun adventures, great support, and a guaranteed ton of new lovely photos of me! But it would also mean time with my family - and all the good and bad things that fall under that umbrella. My dad said he'd pay for part of the ticket, so I could totally still take my all-about-me vacation this summer. I'm torn. What if I say no and something serious happens? I'd feel guilty about turning down the opportunity. *sigh* I'm a prisoner to guilt-inducing what-if's lately. I need to do some serious letting go - and letting loose! I've set a personal goal to figure out my spring break plans by the time I get to the office on Tuesday morning, so today will be full of big decision making.

And now, the food. Per Caroline's suggestion, this week's recipe was Asian-inspired. I decided to try and make wonton soup - an old favorite that seemed not too difficult. And you know what? It wasn't! It was really easy and delicious. I used a bag of Asian vegetables, low sodium chicken broth (that I cut down further with equal parts water), and homemade wontons that were amazingly good.

so delicious
I made the wontons with store-bought wonton wrappers and filled them with a mixture of minced pork (I minced it in my food processor), chopped fresh mushrooms, green onion, and garlic, plus an egg and a teaspoon of soy sauce. You put a little mix in the wrapper, wet the edges, press to seal, and drop them into boiling broth until they float to the surface. Easy and delicious! The only complaint I have was that the soup didn't keep very well - the wonton pasta was very thin, so while the soup was delicious the night I made it, it had pretty much completely fallen apart when I went to have it for lunch the next day. Also, the stuff-to-pasta ratio was a bit high, but that was mostly my fault for just trying to wing it instead of finding a real recipe.

I froze most of the wrappers for another day (I could feel them triggering the overeating part of my brain and stopped before it could start - very proud of myself), and I turned the majority of the meat mixture into Asian pork burgers. I cooked them up on the George Foreman grill and then froze them for quick dinners. I had one Friday night, and it was delightful - I'd even consider making the meat mix again just as burgers!