July 2, 2011

Workouts: June

I've been looking over my data for the past month to figure out why I'm stalling. Go figure, you eat more and you move less and the scale stops showing results!

I had nine rest days in June - four of which were complete rest days, and the others I walked at least 5 miles. It's more than usual, but I gave myself permission at the beginning of the month to spend a couple of days hanging out with Matt and not obsess over missing the gym. Now that we're settling into a more normal routine of seeing each other once or twice a week, I have no excuse.

Here are a few graphs showing my June results compared with the data from other months.

Running:


Swimming (yikes):


Biking:


Weight training:


Wii Fit:


And last but not least, elliptical:


I'm not thrilled. My workouts were weak across the board - I had a few good long runs (and kicked crazy amounts of butt on my 10k in the beginning of the month), but focusing more on speed and less on distance had my mileage down for the month. The biggest hits were in biking (I had over 100 miles in May but under 40 in June) and the elliptical (workouts were fewer and less intense). Weights and swimming were both zero minutes/miles logged, which isn't crazy compared with other months, but I'm still not entirely pleased, and I'm going to do something about it for July.

I woke up early yesterday morning for my weigh-in, blogged about it, felt sad, and took a nap. I ran some errands, then came home and decided I wasn't going to go to the gym because my legs felt like they needed a break. Then, no joke, the voice of Dennis Duffy from "30 Rock" popped into my head:
Then get in the pool, dummy.
So I went, and I felt great. I forgot how much I love swimming ... and how hard it works the arms! It reminded me of a quote I've seen in various forms on quite a few blogs: you always regret overeating, but you never regret a workout. And it's so true. I ate well and was even a little under my calorie goal yesterday, had a fantastic workout, and this morning, I'm already seeing (and feeling) positive results.

For July, I'm making a comeback - back on track in every way. Big things are going to happen in the next month, I can feel it - all of which will be a direct result of the strong efforts I'm committing to put forth.

You heard it here first, folks. Expect big things from me this month. Who else is with me? What are your workout goals for July?

July 1, 2011

Roses and thorns

July, we meet again.

This time last year, I was about to hit rock bottom. Everything was coming to an apex - do or die - and I made the conscious decision to do everything in my power to get healthy. I stopped playing video games and started walking around my neighborhood. I stopped eating tons of garbage and started to eat better and eat less. I stopped drinking soda and started drinking water. In doing so, my life has changed entirely over the past eleven months.

Today, I find myself waking up feeling just as lousy as I did last July.

The scale, which flipped back and forth between 198 and 199 for the first half of the week, showed me 203 this morning, and I'm upset. It was an understandable 201 on Wednesday morning after my binge, and 200 yesterday morning after a good run and a successful day of on-plan eating. Yesterday I hit the gym, ate well, drank water, and went to bed early. So, a three pound gain overnight? And technically a FIVE pound gain from last week? I'm upset. I'm back in the two's, somewhere I never wanted to be again. 200 and 201 felt temporary - small fixable errors - but seeing 203 feels incredibly bigger, and just as bad as if it said 299. It's movement in the wrong direction.

The scale readout feels secondary, though, to how I'm really feeling these days, which is pretty down. Someone asked me point blank the other day, "When does the money run out?" It takes all I have in me not to tailspin. I want to go numb, but the problem is that I'm not the same person I was a year ago, so sitting around my apartment and eating myself sick isn't satifying anymore. I end up feeling more depressed because I know I am capable of so much more. I know how good it feels to do right by my body, to nourish myself properly, to break personal records, and to see numeric losses.

I hate not having good news to report - and I don't just mean with the scale, because if the scale wasn't moving but I felt fine, I'd be okay with that. But I'm looking at all the pictures from the past year of this smiling girl who just raced up the stairs of her office building, who just crossed yet another finish line, and I'm not recognizing myself.


When I feel myself slipping back into my dark depressed place, I see myself this way, no matter what the scale says:


Because this girl was sad. Faking smiles. Profoundly alone. Hurting beyond belief. And about to reach her point of no return.

But - this girl was also capable of great things - she just had to get started and learn how to make it work for her. And I just need to figure out how to recapture that drive and motivation in spite of less-than-ideal circumstances. There are a lot of really lousy things going on right now that I have no control over, but this is one thing I can determine the outcome of. I feel great when I work out and feed my body what it needs to do its best - so why wouldn't I do all I could to make sure I feel great? I can apply to thousands of jobs and hear nothing. I can write dozens of letters home and still not have progress. But it's impossible to eat better/keep moving and not do well.

I really hate complaining, and I hate that I've done so much of it lately. It gets me nowhere. So today, as I turn my calendar to a new blank page, I'm trying my best to be the cheery optimistic self I've enjoyed being this past year. I'm hopeful - great things are going to happen this July, I know it - and I'm fighting on. I have the tools I need to do well, I just need to use them.

What about you? What are your goals for the new month? What's your favorite summer exercise? It's a holiday weekend for lots of people - what's your favorite healthy summer celebration food?

June 30, 2011

Baseball

Last night, Matt and I went to a baseball game: Cubs vs. Giants at Wrigley Field. He loves the Cubs, and I have no real opinion on specific teams (except that I live on the Sox side of town). But I love going to games, so this was a lot of fun.


I haven't been to a pro game since I was a kid - we used to go to Red Sox games every summer that my uncle was in town. (Though I distinctly remember being mostly excited for our tradition of going out for Mexican food at Quincy Market afterwards.) There was a minor league team in the town I went to college in, so my friends and I would occasionally buy some tickets in the bleachers and just hang out and talk. It was a cheap escape from campus for a few hours.

Baseball is an exciting sport. At the game last night, it seemed like it would be over before we knew it - one out after another, scoreless for most of the night. But then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed. The Cubs scored a run, and the crowd went wild. But even that wasn't safe - they were doing well, they were ahead, but they still hadn't clenched the victory. Top of the ninth - the end is in sight, and suddenly, the Giants got their second wind. They scored a run, evening it all out, and it looked like the game would go on for extra innings. We stood up, cheering for the home team at the bottom of the ninth, and in the end, the Cubs got another run and took it, 2-1.

My dad used to talk about sports a lot when I used to get psyched out over grades when I was a kid. He told me that even if I did well on only half the things I tried, I'd still have a better average than any baseball player. It's not about being perfect every time they step up to bat, but about making sure that the ones they *do* hit go flying. Even if they don't have a single successful attempt during the whole game - they're still out there playing, so they'll still get paid. They don't quit the team because they struck out - they just head back to the dugout and wait for their next try.

Some interesting food for thought!

June 29, 2011

Case of the Mondays

Before I say anything, I'm going to let you know that there's a happy ending to this story. Or at least a plan for one.


Now, to backtrack a little.
It's okay to not be happy about slow/halted loss - but it's NOT okay to use it as an excuse to eat garbage.
I said that yesterday morning. Then, last night, I binged. Medium - not my worst, but definitely beyond simple overeating. I can't say this enough: the difference for me between overeating and a binge is my intention. I overeat when I am hungrier than usual or if I'm picking at something even though I feel full (or at least satisfied). When I binge, my goal is self-harm. It's like cutting myself, to be honest. I'm hurting emotionally, and I want physical pain to distract myself from what I'm feeling inside.

Looking at my food journal, it seems like I have the most trouble on Mondays. I thought that was odd, until I thought about the movie "Office Space." You know ... "looks like somebody's got a case of the Mondays!" I kind of have the opposite problem. Every time Monday rolls around, it doesn't matter. It might just as well be Wednesday afternoon or Saturday night, because I'm unemployed. Pretty much every day is identical for me:
I wake up, weigh myself, eat some breakfast, and check my e-mail for job updates. I clear out my Google Reader, comment on blogs, and think about what I need to get done that day. I eat some lunch, run my errands, hit the gym or head uptown to run on the lakeshore paths, and come home. I eat dinner, clear out my Google Reader again, draft a blog post, and go to bed.
On Mondays I meet up with some former students to help them practice speaking French, and some days I hang out with Matt or Lorelei, but that's only maybe once or twice a week. Most days lately, I feel like I'm just drifting. I'm keeping busy, but not with anything challenging or exciting. Not that I need constant excitement - but I need something, even one thing, to look forward to.

That said, yesterday was Tuesday ... I know. I fought the urge to binge on Monday and won, feeling incredibly powerful when I woke up Tuesday morning. But then I checked my Facebook and saw this:


That's my mom. And she didn't write that to me. It was to my sister Lisa, who lives at home. I got so mad, so frustrated, so incredibly angry ... I haven't actually spoken to my mother in months, though I wrote her a ten page letter - and from her? Not even a stupid Facebook wall post. I deserve at least that much, right?

I knew it was going to be a tough day, and despite fighting as hard as I could nearly all day, I lost control after dinner. My thoughts were overwhelming me, consuming me. I know a binge is going to make me feel lousy - but in the moment, that's exactly what I want. I'm focused on my stomachache and the pain in my mouth, so I'm not thinking about my mom or my job or any other life issues.

As I stuffed my face with whatever I could find in the fridge and the cabinets, I tried to think of the last time I honestly cried, and I couldn't recall it ... not a good sign. I thought of Geneen Roth and what she has to say about that:
When we are bowled over by grief and our response is to eat a pizza, we halt our ability to move through the grief as well as our confidence that it won't destroy us. If you don't allow a feeling to begin, you also don't let it end.
I went to my computer and researched therapists in Chicago who deal with eating disorders. I only have two more months of health insurance, but anything would be better than nothing right now. I e-mailed a few doctors, then took a long hot shower and cried. And cried and cried and cried. And took pictures of myself to remember how unsatisfied I always feel after I binge. Peace with my mother is not in my cabinets. A job is not on the door of the freezer. So why do I keep searching there for answers to my problems?

I wish I were a weightloss rockstar, a superhero, an angel, and all the other things people have called me lately. Truth is, though, I'm just me. A kid, uncomfortable in a body she's never known as an adult. I'm trying my hardest to let go of old hangups and forge a new self. But I'm fallible. I'm vulnerable. I'm susceptible. And lately, I'm feeling very defeated.

I decided to make a plan for the next time I want to hurt myself - a portfolio of ideas of things to do instead of give in to my urge to binge. Between my own thoughts, a quick Google search, and a Twitter shout-out for ideas, I put together 50 slips of paper, all things to do instead of binge eating.


There's a good mix of activities - physical, mental, emotional - the most expensive of which will cost $1, so not only will they be better for me physically than a binge, but they'll save me money too; binges, even medium/controlled ones, are expensive when you're trying to make every dollar count.


So, today is Day One all over again. My water bottle is full, my running pants are on, and my canister of ideas is at the ready - I'm armed as best as I can be, even though I'm not sure what enemies will be attacking today and what tricks they'll be using to try and make me fall. I'm ready to give a heck of a fight, though, and surrender is not an option. I may be struggling with small battles, but I'm still winning my war - I absolutely have to keep that in mind.

June 28, 2011

Plateau

At the risk of sounding vain, I'm going to make a bold statement: I'm seriously in love with my legs.


They're amazing. These things carried me at my biggest - across the stage at my Masters program commencement ceremony, down the streets of Paris more than once - and now, slightly less burdened, they support me across finish lines. They curve with muscle definition in an amazingly sexy way, chiseled out by hour after hour of work on the elliptical machine and mile after mile of running on the treadmills and lakeshore paths. There's an odd tan line from my running pants and some trouble areas still on the inner thigh, but really, that's so trivial.

I was laying in bed the other morning doing one of my morning rituals: I always flex the muscles in my legs and feel them. It started by chance one morning maybe six months ago, and I was amazed that I could feel muscles at all. So now every day, I check them out. And the other morning, I could feel something new popping up - a new curve on my outer upper thigh. It was incredibly exciting, and I was quite happy.

Until I started my other morning ritual ... the one where I shed every stitch of clothing on my body and step on the scale.

For the past few weeks, the scale has fluctuated within the same three or four pounds. The lowest I've seen is one day last week at 196, but most days (and my official weigh-ins) have been 198-199. I'm not letting it ruin my mood these days - I can feel that my body is changing, going through something new; I know I'm eating well and staying active, so I can't possibly be upset. Frustrated, yes. But not upset.

I know I've been eating more lately - but not excessively, and not junk. I set 1200-1300 as a calorie goal daily, but lately I find myself needing more - like 1400-1500. I know the difference between a mindless craving and true hunger - and when I get a headache and my stomach is grumbling and my fifth 32-oz. bottle of water doesn't make it all stop, I need to feed myself. So I have some fruit or pick at veggies from the fridge, and it goes away. Too much of even a good thing can be a bad thing, I know. But again, it hasn't felt excessive - just enough to make the growling noises stop.

I haven't had a real plateau in eleven months - I've had weeks with small losses, but I usually come back in a big way the next week. In the beginning, the pounds melted off - 4-6 pound losses every week! - and they eventually slowed to smaller losses. The weeks where I lost less were always understandable - I knew I ate too much and/or didn't exercise enough, and the results of my weigh-ins reflected that. So to have the scale refusing to budge beyond one or two pounds these days despite hitting the gym hard and running like a fiend? Frustrating.

I'm going to just ride this out - I know it can't last forever - but the hard part is just making sure I harness my frustration. It's okay to not be happy about slow/halted loss - but it's NOT okay to use it as an excuse to eat garbage. As long as the scale isn't moving down, let's make sure it moves at all - up, up, and away! No way. I know I'm still working hard and the numbers will fall again - and I know *something* is happening even if the scale isn't reflecting it. My shirts are all too big and I'm running faster, just to name a few changes.

And the legs - don't forget the legs!


What about you? Have you ever experienced a plateau? How long does one typically last for you? How do you push through it?

June 27, 2011

Sub-10

This is the only week of nothingness between the end of the Spring Fever Challenge and the beginning of summer's Beat The Heat Challenge, so a little update on my summer bucket list.

I haven't done too much just yet: I've been running and biking, but June will certainly not be my Ironman month. I lost my inspiration for a painting I started a couple weeks ago. I found some cute owl stickers, so I'll be writing a letter to my sister Lisa this week (she's owl-obsessed).

The best thing I accomplished this past week? Working towards my sub-30 5k. I did a medium-long run down by the lake the other night - 5 miles. It was an oddly chilly day - chilly enough that I wore one of my long-sleeve tech shirts! But it was perfect for running, and I could feel that it was going really well. I was totally loving life and feeling fantastic, and just ran the heck out of those paths. The results?


Holy smokes! A sub-10 minute mile pace?! Incredible. I could feel that the third mile was pretty slow but the first and fifth were fast enough that it evened out like this. I timed the last half-mile alone and it was 4:36 - unbelievable, really. I think it may have been a fluke - I'm not sure I could replicate this, at least not right away. I was definitely riding on the adrenaline high of a good morning that day, and it pushed me faster than I've ever gone before. We'll see what my next long run has in store for me.

I need a 9:39 pace to finish a 5k in under half an hour, so there's still much work to be done, but I'm certainly very optimistic about the sub-30 5k goal. This was nearly two miles longer than a 5k race will be - a shorter distance means I could push myself a little harder for speed.

I have an 8k coming up on the 14th, but no other races scheduled. So I need to register for a 5k soon and get some practice on a timed course!

What about you? What are your summer goals? What have you worked on this past week that you're proud of?

June 26, 2011

Cheap eats

Even though I will still be receiving a regular paycheck until September, I've been trying to live as frugally as possible, pinching pennies everywhere that I can so I can put as much money as I can into my savings in case I need to move out of my apartment - either to a smaller/shared space in Chicago, or back in with my parents on the East Coast. Neither situation is ideal, but I need to be prepared for the worst.

In terms of compensation, I didn't earn nearly what I should have at the university given my qualifications - but it honestly didn't matter, because I was so incredibly happy there. I loved the work and I made enough to pay my bills, eat well, and even have fun once in a while. I like being financially comfortable - you don't have the worry about making ends meet, and you're forced to appreciate things a little more when you have to work hard and save up for them.

I find times like these a little exhilarating - incredibly stressful, yes, but it's also an opportunity to really test myself, to see what I'm made of, to discover what things I truly value. This is an opportunity to refocus my priorities and take full advantage of things we don't always seek out when we're more financially stable. I can't justify day trips or too many nights out, but there are tons of free things to do in the city if you know where to look - concerts in the parks, free admission days to museums, tons of various cultural events, and more. And there's definitely something to be said for a night in, curled up on the couch with some air-popped popcorn and a movie from Netflix or the library.


My cooking has become much simpler these days - first, because it's been warm out and I don't much feel like standing over a hot stove. And second, because I'm trying to stick to basics while still eating as healthy as possible. Last summer I stopped ordering take-out because I didn't have a choice - money was tight (I taught summer school for 4 weeks and had to make the one check last all summer!) and my Chinese binges usually cost around $35 a pop, which is more or less my entire weekly food budget.

I don't have a new recipe this week, per se, but I've been eating pretty well and trying new things. This week has been full of salads - for $15, I get the ingredients for lunches for a whole week. Some favorite combinations: broccoli slaw/blueberries, spinach/strawberries/feta. Salads are delicious, filling, and a great way to maximize calories - I feel much more satisfied after 300 calories of salad than 300 calories of pizza, not to mention cleaner and healthier.

Dinners have been mostly sandwiches: a piece of grilled chicken on a roll, or homemade bean burgers and veggies wrapped up in a Flat-Out wrap. A simple but yummy meal, especially with a side of salad or fruit. I've also been making a lot of mixed bowls: usually a grain, a veggie, and a protein all together. It's inexpensive, delicious, healthy, and can usually last for a couple of meals. My favorite this week was mango, ginger, broccoli slaw, and wild rice. It was sweet but spicy and incredibly filling.

This week, my personal challenge is to find a few new recipes that are delicious and healthy while still low-cost. I love sandwiches and salads, the possibilities are endless, they're super versatile - but I still want to be expanding my culinary horizons a little.

What about you? What's your go-to "cheap meal" - inexpensive to make, but tasty, nutritious, and filling?