Friday, May 31, 2013

Taking a mini-break

These past couple of days I have not been feeling the exercise and weight-loss thing. In fact, I'm kind of exhausted by it. So I've taken a break.

I've only worked out once this week (Wednesday) after the 40+ mile ride on Saturday, and I have no intention of doing anything until tomorrow, and that's only because I have to referee* this weekend, which involves lots of running.

I also have been craving stuff I don't normally eat anymore, like Mamba candy, delicious bread, and tater tots. So I allowed myself to sneak some into my diet this week, and it was delicious. I didn't need to stuff myself with any of those things (I ate 1/3 of the Mambas, 1/2 of the bagel, and didn't finish the tater tots because they had freezer burn) but I definitely satisfied the cravings...while still being under or just slightly over my calorie goal.

So although I haven't had the calorie deficits this week that I strive to achieve, I've held myself to a decent amount of calories while still eating what I crave. And that's a win in my book.

It's this balance that I try to accomplish every day, one between being satisfied, not feeling deprived, and having calorie deficits. Some days I fail, which is why I'm only losing 1.5 pounds per week when most days I'm on track to lose 2+ pounds. And other days I just can't do it anymore and need a break.

These breaks have led to utter failure in the past when I've given up entirely on weight-loss because I was frustrated with the process. Usually this occurred at the 3-week mark, so I'm kind of impressed that it's taken this long (6 months) to get to that point. But I've lost so much and worked so hard that I can't give up entirely on this process. I can take mini-breaks to regain my sanity, but I can't just quit altogether.

Luckily, I have a week-long vacation coming up beginning on Tuesday and I'm going to stick by my vacation rules from last time, since they seemed to work so well:
  1. avoid tracking calories because it will drive me crazy, and
  2. not gain any weight.

This gives me a break from obsessing about precisely how many fries I had with dinner or exactly how many Wheat Thins I snacked on in the afternoon. But it's still not the ideal situation.

Ideally, I'd like to see the day when I can eat whatever I want without consequences or feeling guilty, but I'm not sure that's going to happen anytime soon, or ever for that matter. I think I will always feel guilty about binging on fried mac and cheese bites or going on a three-day bender. But maybe someday when I've reached my goal weight I'll be able to do all that and then spend the rest of the week burning it off instead of depriving myself and stressing about numbers, as is the case right now.

*Every time I think about refereeing, I get really angry. I'm going to be doing the out-of-bounds part of reffing, which any joe schmo can do, so getting this assignment means nothing besides the fact that I was available. 

I'm incredibly frustrated that I haven't gotten much experience this season even though I was available to referee nearly every time there was a game. Guys that took the class when I did are at a much higher level than I am simply because they've done three times as many games as I have. And all of that is because I'm female.

And now I have to hang out with them all weekend and be resentful, even though they didn't do anything wrong. They just remind me of the unfairness of everything.

One of the guys that's in charge of identifying up-and-coming-referees was very impressed by my reffing at a tournament and said he'd put in a good word for me with the scheduler, who's a misogynistic asshole. But that's for women's college games, which had ended by that point, and I'm sure he'll forget about that comment by the fall when the season starts up again.

I will be sure to remind him, though, because I deserve to get those games. If I don't, I'm afraid I'm going to be stuck with all the bullshit high school girls' matches, also simply because I'm a girl. Hopefully they'll give me some higher-level women's matches as well, but there's not banking on that.

Wow, this is a lot longer than I intended it, mostly because I'm pretty pissed off about the situation. It doesn't help that the only advice the other woman in the referee society has given me is to be patient because there's nothing else I can do about it. Unfortunately, patience is not a virtue I possess. So instead, I stress about it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

These bingo wings have got to go

For as long as I can remember I've been embarrassed by my upper arms. For example, when I was at summer camp in high school, I was convinced the people laughing during pickup volleyball games were making fun of my flabby arms. Most likely they were just joking about our incompetence at volleyball, but I was convinced they were laughing at me.

As you can tell, this part of my body has haunted me for years and even though I'm starting to look better in clothes as a result of my weight-loss, my arms are still a point of major self-consciousness.

Exhibit A.
As a result, I've become determined to get rid of said bingo wings, or at least minimize them as much as my genetics allow. It's my next project on the list of ways to improve my lifestyle and body*.

Speaking of this list, so far I've accomplished the following:
  • Minimized mindless snacking.
    Now, I savor the junk food that goes into my body instead of stuffing it down my throat as fast as it'll go. I still get "the fix" but with fewer calories.
  • Made exercise a near-daily necessity.
    I used to have to force myself to exercise once a week. These days the normal is to go out for a ride or a run and the abnormal is to sit and do nothing. Getting into better shape definitely helps with that. It's not nearly as painful (mentally) as it used to be. The act of working out still hurts but it's a good kind of hurt. As they say, "It doesn't get any easier; you just go faster."
  • Became used to eating smaller portions.
    By now, I can't eat nearly as much as I used to be able to. I get full faster and am satisfied for longer. It's pretty awesome.
  • Started eating leftovers...and liking it.
    This makes it easier to eat out less because that delicious food I cooked the night before is still waiting for me in the fridge. I still get grossed out by certain things and won't eat anything that's sat for more than a couple of days, so there is more progress to be made. But I'm getting there.

So next is the Bingo Wings Project. I'll elaborate more on the plan of attack when I get one and/or stick with it for more than a week. This should be fun.

*With the most recent attempt at losing weight (i.e. this one) I've gone with the method of moderation. There have been no sudden changes in my life, but instead I've incorporated one thing at a time and only when I'm ready for it. That's where the list comes into play. Now that I've fixed the major things that make the greatest difference in weight-loss (diet and exercise), I'm ready to start tweaking the little things like my arms.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beans, beans the magical fruit

I've become obsessed with beans recently. Like, I'll cook up and eat a pound of beans each week. Mostly, it's a result of this fantastic recipe from the New York Times that combines black beans with corn tortillas. I ate this meal every day for a good 2 - 3 weeks straight, always craving more. No joke.

I think part of this of the reason for this obsession was because the black bean puree looked like chocolate, and I love chocolate, but also because it reminded me of all the corn tortillas I ate on my vacation to Mexico. Mmm...delicious food associations...

Anywhos, since my enfrijoladas binge, I've branched out to other types of beans. It helps that I've found a way to make delicious beans from scratch in about an hour and a half. Here's how (copied verbatim from The Paupered Chef):
  • 1 pound beans
  • 1/2 tablespoons salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 250 F. 
  2. Dump the beans into a large dutch oven or pot with tight fitting lid.  Pick out any broken pieces. Add the salt.  Top with enough water to cover the beans by an inch and a half.  Bring pot to a boil.
  3. Cover the pot, and set in the oven.  Cook for 75 minutes. 
  4. About 45 minutes in, check on the beans.  If they look too dry add some boiling water to the pot.
  5. After 75 minutes they should be done.

After a weekend full of booze, crappy cupcakes, and fried food, I'm really craving a salad and/or something unprocessed and mostly uncooked. That's where the beans come into play. With knowing how to make good beans quickly, I've been adding them to everything and they're a perfect filling ingredient in a salad.

(On a side note, it's weird to see how quickly my body has gotten used to "good" food and somewhat requires it when I haven't eaten well for a few days.)

So yesterday I made a white bean and chicken salad and today's dinner is a Greek-style salad with spaghetti squash. I used to object to eating spaghetti squash on principle (see one of the last paragraphs in this post) because I saw it as diet food. But The Roommie made a very delicious and simple spaghetti squash salad last week and I really liked the texture of it so I'm giving it another shot tonight.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mixing things up

Most of my exercise has been biking a few times a week with at least one day of hill running. The other day, I had no desire to do either of those things but I really needed (yes, needed) to do something physical.

There are plenty of hiking trails around here, but I abhor hiking...even more so than running, and you know how much I dislike running. But there's a trail just down the street from my house that's straight uphill and is pretty much a mile-long stair workout that just so happens to be in the woods.

A section of the very beginning of the trail.

So the Roommie and I headed out to do that one Friday afternoon and it was glorious. It was a perfect evening to be out there and it kicked my butt. Perfect temperature, beautiful views, and good mindset on my end. I'm really glad we went!

On a side note, although I was more exhausted going uphill than coming down (duh!) and felt like I got more out of the trip fitness-wise going up, I burned more calories on the downhill part*. In hindsight it makes sense because I was going much faster going down and the uphill part was more of a weight-lifting workout almost. And you don't really burn that many calories lifting weights.

Overall, it was interesting to see that I don't need to be suffering from exertion to get my calorie targets for the day. A simple, albeit long, "hike" was enough to get me there.

*I have a calorie-counter (BodyMedia Fit) that I've been wearing for the past month. I'll write up a post about it sometime in the near future. The major problem I find with it is that it's not very accurate for cycling, which is my main source of calorie burning these days. But other than that, it's pretty awesome. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Crash and burn, and beer

Remember that ride I was going to do yesterday? The 42-miler, 10 of which was straight uphill? Well, I didn't just ride it. I led the 16+ mph group as well!

For the most part, it was fun. On the flats and downhills, we were cruising at 18+ mph. It was awesome! But the long slog uphill royally sucked. It sucked so much that I had to stop multiple times just to talk myself into continuing on. Had I not been with a group, I would've turned around during those stops no question. But I kind of had to meet them at the top so I kept going.

The road wasn't even all that steep. It only had a 3.3% grade, which is significantly more mellow overall than the mountain I did a couple of weeks ago. I actually enjoyed that mountain and the other hills I've been going up lately. But this uphill just wasn't for me.

I think it's because there was absolutely no change in scenery the entire way. We were on this winding canyon road that followed a creek so no matter how far you'd gone, everything looked the same. There was no visual reward for suffering for so long and the pine trees and rocks got boring very quickly.

Every switchback looked exactly like this.

As did every straight-away. Notice the lack of views.
At least climbing mountains leads to better views the higher you go.

Anywhos, the climb itself wasn't bad because there were many places where the road evened out and I was able to get some speed and relief from my burning quads. I was still getting passed by everyone, though. Except on the downhill, of course.

Lastly, I think the main reason for my grumpiness was lack of food. I had eaten a fairly light breakfast that didn't adequately prepare me for this distance and vertical gain. So on the ride uphill, I ate nearly every energy bar I had brought with me...some 500 calories. I was still hungry after all that but at least I wasn't hating my life anymore, and eventually I made it to the top, where I continued to eat my last bar.

Our group that made it to the top.
I'm in the bright green in the front, finishing up my last bar to give me the energy to get home.

After I got home, I lied down on the couch to muster some energy to shower. I didn't get up for about an hour and a half. I was that tired.

Eventually the shower happened and I headed downtown to a music/arts/food festival my town holds every Memorial Day, at which the rugby team serves beer at the beer tent. And that means we get as much free beer and food as we want. Dangerous!

So I indulged in 6 pints of deliciousness and 2 servings of soba noodles over the course of the day and still managed to have a calorie deficit for the day. I didn't really need that last soba bowl, but they are so delicious and can only be found at these kinds of festivals so I just HAD to do it. Had I abstained, I would've hit my calorie deficit goal (I'm at -300 right now, and shoot for -750 every day). But it's soooo delicious that it's incredibly difficult to pass up.

Although I gave myself a free weekend to eat and drink whatever I wanted, after seeing that I'd consumed over 3000 calories in one afternoon, I think I may have to hold back a bit. Like, no beer today or something. After-all I drank 1400 calories in alcohol yesterday. That's how much I usually eat in one day! Yikes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Going big this weekend

I bike with a women's group sometimes and every weekend they offer 3 rides of varying lengths: short, medium, and long. The distance for each length varies each week and progressively increases in each category as the season goes on.

When I'm not busy with rugby, I sign up to lead a ride usually of medium length because that's about the distance I'm at on my weekday rides. I don't like going too long before I'm ready because then I just hate my life and stay away from the bike altogether for long periods of time, as was the case with an Olympic distance triathlon I did a few years ago.

Anywhos, this weekend the medium ride is going somewhere I've been way too many times in the past couple of weeks and I'm kind of sick of that route. The long ride, on the other hand, is going 43 miles (I haven't ridden that far in over a year) AND uphill.

By "uphill" I don't mean any ol' hill, but rather the ride that I've been afraid to do since I first began biking around here three years ago. I'll go up a mountain, but for some reason I'm too afraid to ride to Jamestown.

At the same time, my jaunt up Lookout Mountain a couple of weeks ago has given me some courage with regards to road bike climbing so I'm pretty confident I will be able to make it up there with minimal psyche scarring. After all, the average grade is only 3.2% for those 6.5 miles. It's not too bad.

Sometimes, though, I get embarrassed by my big butt trying to make it up these hills, and I imagine other cyclists thinking that I don't belong there and that it's no wonder that I'm going so slowly. In those cases I have to remind myself that during such a long and brutal climb, everyone is simply focusing on their own suffering and no one pays attention to anything besides the burning of their lungs and legs.

That self-centered thinking makes it all better. It's also the only instance where I applaud egotism, mostly because it helps me. Also, I'm going with a bunch of women who are all very supportive, which helps matters as well.

So on Saturday, I ride this:

I'm choosing to ignore the 6 miles of uphill leading up to the real climb. Those are just pesky details that should be disregarded for the sake of my sanity.

Also, I will be going with the "fast" group (16+ mph) because although I will slow down significantly on the uphill (like 6.5 mph slow), I'm pretty sure I can keep a 16 mph pace during the flats on the way out there, and everything after the climb is downhill for 17 miles all the way specialty!

Sometimes gravity really does work to my advantage.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Needing exercise

Right now is a very stressful time for me life- and future-wise and I've noticed that the days when I'm generally crabby are usually stretches of time I haven't worked out. I've figured out that if I haven't done anything active in three straight days, then my mood goes considerably downhill.

So I've been biking and generally exercising a lot more lately to prevent those feelings of unhappiness. I have a very sedentary job (and lifestyle) so on days when I don't do much of anything physically, I get antsy and feel the need to move around. A few months ago I would have been content with sitting around all day, but not anymore. It's like a crave exercise, which is a weird feeling for me.

Part of this need to exercise is due to not wanting to lose all the fitness I've worked so hard to get. While I don't mind being unfit on a bike (I don't like it by any means, but it's not entirely terrible), I absolutely hate being out of shape when running.

I've mentioned before that most of the activities I like to do require some sort of run fitness, so I can't afford to become out of shape because I will just have to start over. And beginning to run after some time off is excruciatingly painful for me, mostly mentally and less so physically. So that fear of having to start over is enough to get me out the door to run a dreaded hill at least once a week.

The dreaded hill and stairs that are my Tuesday nemesis.

Although I talk so much smack about this hill, there is a positive side to running it weekly: I don't have to do distance runs to get in better shape. I can get the torture that is running out of the way quickly. So far I've been running the stairs 5 times then the hill 5 times, and it takes me about 20 minutes to finish the whole workout. Short and sweet, just the way I like it.

I've been doing this for the past three months and I've noticed that it's becoming, dare I say, easy. So last week I gave myself a cutoff time for the stairs (20 seconds) and another one for the hill (25 seconds) and did each one until I couldn't make the cutoff time anymore. I wanted to see by how much I should increase my workouts since I feel like I can go longer now. I made it to 7 up the stairs, and 7 up the hill. So that's what I'm going to do for the next couple of weeks and then do this "test" again.

I may not be going faster than before (which is another problem I'll discuss in a future post), but I can definitely do more of these consistently.

That's another NSV (Non-Scale Victory) I'm very proud of!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kicking butt in bicycling

Time for a positive post! I've been pretty down lately due to my weight-loss and state of my life, but there is some good that I haven't shared yet.

I road biked up a mountain last week! This mountain to be exact:

That's never happened before. I know I've been getting thinner and thus faster (I'm consistently keeping a 17+ mph pace over 20+ miles, which I haven't been able to do before), but I didn't think I could make it up an honest-to-goodness mountain without passing out.

I used to be so scared of anything that was steep and continued uphill for more than a mile, but somehow I talked myself into it and I made it to the top! Hooooooolla!

Here's the elevation profile:

In case you can't see the scale because the type is super small, that's 6.5 miles of climbing over 1700 vertical feet which comes out to an average grade of 5.5%. And I made it to the top without falling over because I was going too slowly! (By the way, I can go as slow as 2.5 mph before that happens. How do I know? Because it's happened going up a small "mountain".) In fact, I kept a respectable 6.4 mph average. Not fast by any means, but fast for my big butt going up a MOUNTAIN.

And since I was able to do this and didn't suffer too much (as in, I wanted to do it again in the future) I looked into mountains closer to where I live. I found one that's about the same difficulty and distance. I'm still pretty terrified because big girls like me aren't supposed to make it up mountains like that, but since I did it once I think I can do it again.

Scratch that. I WILL do it again.

ETA: I make the "road biked up a mountain" distinction here because I have mountain biked up a mountain before. Several times, in fact. However, I had to stop numerous times during those rides and oftentimes I ended up walking uphill part of the trail. So this is definitely a new accomplishment.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ride the Rockies Training Plan, Harder Edition

I tend to follow the "official" Ride the Rockies Training Plan even though I'm not doing the ride, but I found this one on Outside Magazine's website.

It's a harder alternative that includes intervals instead of just saying what distances to ride. It's also more intense in that you're riding nearly every day as compared to 3-5 days a week on the other plan.

I might incorporate some of these intervals into my rides, but I definitely won't be following this plan strictly.

Rockies Training

Still frustrated with the scale

I've been kind of stressed out about my slow rate of weight-loss again. I'm still averaging 1-1.5 pounds weekly, which isn't all that much when I think about what other people at my weight are losing. The only good thing about this slow loss is that at least it's consistent...for now.

I haven't changed much since my last post on this subject about a month ago. I'm still worried that since I'm losing so little now when I'm still about 50 pounds overweight, it's going to slow down to nothing as I approach my goal. I've still kept my calorie intake at 1,500 a day because it's something I want to do long-term and is completely manageable for me. Some days I eat fewer calories and other days I eat (or more accurately, beer) more calories, but it averages out to about 1,500 for the week.

But I have become more and more aware that most of my day is spent on the couch either working or surfing the internet. While I make sure to get some vigorous exercise in my life at least 5 days a week, I live a very sedentary life. And that may be the difference in my slow loss as compared to that of others, so it's definitely something I can work on.

With it being warm and dry and me living in a smallish town, I should be biking and walking places instead of driving to the store or to work. I'm not sure how much good that will do because I don't really leave my house much these days. This is not because I'm depressed or due to other equally sad reasons, but because my life is currently on hold and thus I don't really do much during the day.

By that I mean that I work part-time with one other person so I don't have to be in the office practically ever and since most of my friends have real jobs, I end up working from home a lot instead of doing things. Like I said, it's a very sedentary lifestyle.

Anywhos, in an effort to not get bummed about my slow progress, I used to tell myself that I wouldn't get hung up on the numbers on the scale and go by other indicators of weight-loss instead, but even that's not helping. I'm just losing weight veeeeeeeeeeeery slowly and it's absolutely infuriating because it really sucks to feel deprived all the time (yes, I'm at that point) and not get much out of.

I work so hard to limit my calorie intake by not snacking on crap food all the time, staying away from beer, and making sure I get my exercise. But I just don't seem to get as much return as I put into this journey. Some days I want to say "Screw this!" and eat everything I've been craving without limit, but then I remind myself that I am still losing weight, albeit slowly, so there's no need to go backwards and regain all that I've worked so hard to lose. And that's what gets me through to the next day. And then the cycle continues.