Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wedding getaway

A week at home and a wedding weekend resulted in some awesome relaxation but possibly a little bit of weight gain. I just cannot resist the blue cheese that my mom keeps in the fridge!

But I had an awesome time and I'm totally okay with how I did food-wise that weekend. Here are some photos:

Wedding day SCUBA diving with the groom.
My bridesmaid walk.
The kiss.

I haven't been able to get an accurate weight since I've been back because I've been drinking beer frequently and alcohol just throws everything off. Although I should be abstaining more than I currently am, I've been limiting myself to two beers for every drinking occasion so I've still been hitting my calorie deficit goals each day.

Right now I'm going by the 3-days post drinking weigh-ins because somehow I can't seem to stay away from alcohol for more than that. My weight is slowly going down, just not as much as they should be, which makes me think that I really did gain a pound while away.

Oh well. It was really relaxing and that's exactly what I needed. And in the grand scheme of things, one pound is really not that bad.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Having trouble pushing myself to go faster

I've noticed that I don't push myself on the bike as much as I used to. By that I mean that I don't go balls-to-the-wall and exhaust myself anymore. I do come home tired and my legs do hurt at the end of a ride, but I'm rarely gasping for breath these days and that's something I need to change.

Mostly, I want to get severely winded at least once a week so I can improve my speed. Right now I think most of the speed increases are due to my weight-loss and not necessarily any aerobic fitness I may have gained. On the other hand, my calves and quads are starting to show some real definition so perhaps there is some progress there after-all. Regardless, I need to push myself more and I'm struggling with that.

Part of this may be due to the amount of exercise I've been getting lately. My quads get so tired from the long and fast rides that they crap out before my lungs have a chance to catch on fire. Or maybe I'm just less tolerant of exercise-induced muscle pain. Either one of those is a valid explanation for me not wanting to push myself as hard.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Moderation, the key to my success thus far

This post is a follow-up to the note at the end of my last post. It became too long so I'm graduating it to its own thingamabobber. Pardon the length. I got a bit carried away.

Having been on some sort of weight-loss journey for the past ten years or so, or at least having thought about losing weight and feeling bad about not succeeding for that long, I've often been asked what changed to make this time so successful. After-all, I've lost nearly 40 pounds in six months without hating my life (for the most part). Something must've happened.

But, I honestly can't think of one trigger that led to this. Like many times beforehand, I made an effort to lose weight in the hopes that it would actually work this time. I made myself count calories, which I've done every other time I "started losing weight". I promised myself I'd ride my bike a few times a week, which is my exercise du jour. And I committed to completing the Couch to 10k program, like I've done at the start of nearly every rugby season for the past four years. The only difference this time around was that a month after committing to lose weight yet again, I was still sticking with my plan and wanting to continue. That's pretty much the only thing that changed.

Even though in previous attempts, I would see the scale change favorably, I would often quit after about three weeks of the new plan. Apparently that's the time it takes to develop new habits and I just couldn't make it past that threshold. I enjoyed seeing the numbers drop but the process for making it happen was so frustrating and hard that it didn't seem worth it to continue. So I "took a break" which really meant I quit and by the time I recommitted to losing weight again, I had lost all the fitness I had previously gained and had to start over again.

After so many cycles of this, I decided to try something different, which isn't different in and of itself because I resolved to change something about my plan each time I restarted it. But realizing that I can't change everything all at once (or even more than one thing) otherwise I get stressed out/become overwhelmed, prompted me to re-evaluate my approach to losing weight and resolve to make no more than one sudden change in my life.

Instead, I incorporated one thing at a time and only when I was ready for it. For example, I began with counting my calories. That's it. There were no limits on what I could and couldn't eat. I just had to write it all down. That eventually led to eating less junk because I saw how many calories I was wasting on crap and still feeling hungry.

I didn't eliminate sweets entirely because I need sugar and other carbohydrates to function, but I definitely limited myself to a couple of chocolate squares instead of the entire chocolate bar, for example. I would only eat chips, etc, while I was still craving them so if mid-snack I wasn't getting the "high" that caused me to reach for them, I would stop eating. The same went for ice cream and snacky foods.

Most impressively, I significantly cut down on my beer drinking, but this is a very recent development. To give you a time frame, I started calorie counting in November; it is now nearly June. So it took me the better part of six months of this journey to get to the point where I can say "No" to beer. Like I said, I only do things I'm ready for.

Anywhos, I still drink beer and I still love it. But after I put an "Alcohol" category in my food tracker and realized how many potential pounds I was drinking away, I realized it just wasn't worth it, which led to cutting out the afternoon beer. I'm still pretty heavy so it takes a lot of beer to get me drunk, meaning that a beer with dinner doesn't do much for me besides put me 200 calories in the hole. So now I either have a beer-drinking night where I go all out and have as much as I want guilt-free, or I abstain entirely. There is no middle ground...yet at least. Hopefully some day I'll get to the point where I get tipsy off 1-2 beers and then this will all change, but for now this way is working.

The same thinking went into my approach to exercise. I half-heartedly began Couch to 10k when I re-began counting calories in November but I didn't stick with it long. And that was entirely fine. I ran when I felt like I needed to but it wasn't something I felt guilty about skipping. After-all, it wasn't the thing I was focused on changing at the time. It wasn't until mid-January (~2 months into this) that I made myself go running, rain or snow or shine.

I hated nearly every one of the initial runs because it was so hard to keep a 11:00 min/mile pace for 2 minutes straight. But no matter how much it sucked, I still did it because that was the new change I had decided on and I needed to stick with it. Early into this I made a deal with myself that I could bitch and moan all I wanted about running only if I actually went. The Roommie, who sometimes accompanied me on these runs, suggested I should try being positive because that might actually help with wanting to go, but the negativity was therapeutic. It was a way to let go of my frustrations not only with my lack of fitness but also with letting myself get to this level of obesity. That was my way of looking forward to the torture that is running.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying that I finally tried moderation and it worked. Once I broke down my bad behaviors into manageable steps, I was able to get used to them one at a time and actually make some progress. This is not to say it has all been easy because I've struggled a lot along the way, most notably getting super impatient recently with the rate of my loss. But I'm still losing and not relapsing, and that's all that matters to me right now.

This post is already way too long, but I need to give credit where credit is due. The following things have had the greatest impact on my success thus far. They created the perfect storm that allowed me to see results without wanting to quit due to feeling overwhelmed and deprived.

1. MyFitness Pal:
It is soooooooooooo much better than all the other food tracking programs that preceded it. Not only is their food database really big but the phone app allows you to scan the barcode of whatever you're eating into your food diary. I've calorie counted many times before but have always quit because I would get obsessed with entering all the nutritional info for every product I consumed that wasn't in the database. Now I just scan it with my phone and it pops right up.

Also, because it's the most popular calorie tracker on the web, there are random things like bulk cereals from my grocery store that I normally would've had to enter myself. I can also copy my meals from different days very easily and find recipes I've entered. MFP makes calorie counting so painless that it's actually not a chore anymore.

2. Refereeing rugby:
I don't think I would've committed to running nearly as much as I currently am if it wasn't for my sudden interest in reffing. I finally found the time to do this (I had just finished going back to school full-time with a part-time job on the side last year) and I was convinced that I wasn't getting assignments because of my lack of fitness. Also, it's fairly obvious if the ref isn't in the right spot during a game as compared to being one of 30 players on the pitch. I mean, I'm wearing bright yellow and I'm kind of in charge.

So I started Couch to 10k for the 7th or 8th time, and stuck with it even though I hit some very low points around Week 3 and 4. I have continued running solely because I don't want to go have to go through that mental torture again. I ended up stopping at Week 5 because in a game I don't run longer than that distance (~3-4 miles) and substituted hill runs instead. But when I'm away from my bike I do 3' jog/1' walk intervals as a way to keep up my endurance. So I still go back to it sometimes.

3. Invisalign:
Yes, dental care is on my "Acknowledgements" page. In addition to the bingo arms, the other thing that I truly hated about myself was my crooked teeth. I never had braces growing up so I figured it was okay to splurge on these in my late-20s. While I've only had them on since February and I was successful in losing weight before then (I started around Thanksgiving), Invisalign has definitely kept me from snacking on things as much as I normally would, and thus has been instrumental in my getting thinner.

Brushing and flossing my teeth after putting anything in my mouth is annoying so I tend to save my junky snacks for mealtimes, which makes me choose them wisely, savor them once I do eat them, and helps with developing self-control. I hope I can keep this up when the "jaws", as I affectionately call them, come off for good in October. That might be the biggest struggle.


While I still have a long ways to go before I reach my goal weight (nearly 50 pounds, which is incredibly overwhelming for me), as long as I continue doing what I'm doing I should get there eventually. I may have to tweak some things--such as leading a less sedentary lifestyle--but overall I think I have developed pretty good habits that should get me through the rest of my weight-loss and hopefully lead to successful maintenance.

If this all stops working, though, I'll be sure to analyze it in great detail here, and I will surely kick myself in the butt for declaring a victory before I even made it halfway.